Two Doors and a Window
Colfax, Indiana, USA
I am flabbergasted that any true Christian could so abuse Scripture. That they do strongly supports my suspicion that many American Christians are Americans first and Christians second. And as a Christian theologian I believe you cannot be a Christian and change the very words of Scripture to support a political agenda or nationalism.
— Read on www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2020/08/abusing-scripture-for-personal-or-political-purposes/
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we are attending real church in a real building with real other people this morning. I believe it was February the last time we attended church.
Everyone will be wearing masks, so it will still be weird. But we will be putting on real clothes, getting in the real car, driving on real roads, parking in a real parking lot, walking through real doors, sitting in real seats.
I hope we remember how to do it.
Among the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, these two—Ephesus and Pergamum—have opposite issues.
Ephesus was death on false teachers. They remind me of hyper-reformed churches that insist on certain details of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and that discipline folks for holding ideas that are not approved.
Like those churches, the Ephesian church had lost its witness in the community. They held the church together in a strict dogmatic way, but they lost their first love and had become ineffective.
Pergamum was a witnessing church, even to the point of death. They remind me of a conservative evangelical church that is fervent in reaching out to the community and getting people saved.
Like many of those churches, the Pergamene church had begun accommodating itself to the culture. It allowed some to teach that dabbling in the cultural part of polytheism was a necessary part of daily life.
If this trend continued, the church at Pergamum was have it’s witness watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.
The church today has both problems at the same time. We are so individualistic these days that we do not realize that Jesus will come and judge the whole congregation. If our church loses its first love, or if our church compromises with the culture, we are all responsible.
The church is persecuted when it refuses to blend in with its social context. The modus operandi of our church is to blend in and to not be noticed.
Thus, we avoid persecution but we also avoid our mission. If you wonder what Jesus thinks of churches that accommodate the culture, read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
When we neglect the context, it’s easy to end up studying the Bible as if it were Old MacDonald’s farm: here a verse, there a verse, everywhere a verse, verse. But as we pay attention to what surrounds a verse—in the text and in its cultural setting—we can get a clearer sense of what God is saying to us.
The good news is not that Jesus is taking America back for God. Rather, the good news is that Jesus, the Lord of Peace, is at work to create a global “fellowship of difference” (to borrow a phrase from Scot). Indeed, there is only one Christian nation in the world, and that nation is called the ekklesia (church)—it is multi-cultural, borderless, weaponless, and the primary context in which God is at work to pacify enmity between humans and God and humans and one another.
The Bible was written for communities of people living in the ancient world to pass down the Story of Yahweh, then Jesus and the Church. These communities were all facing their own specific issues and conflicts. As we approach reading and especially interpreting the Bible, we must consider the context.
I have a growing concern for my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Many of you have become so embroiled in the political process that politics (in whatever form you espouse) has become an idol to you. You may say that you are doing it in the service of the Lord, but you have left him behind and have put your hope in a bunch of flawed people instead.
Please, please, please, in the name of Jesus, examine your commitments and check on your priorities.
The Israelites accommodated the culture around them and fell into idolatry. They were exiled because of it.
If you are not a believer, this is not directed to you. People who do not claim to be in Christ are not held to the same standards. But people who do follow Christ have no leeway when it comes to putting God first.
Some of you have a political addiction problem that is as troubling as a drug or porn addiction. Pray to the Lord to be healed.
I started my study of Revelation on Saturday and today I completed the first chapter. This book is so different from any other in the Bible, and I love it. But I would never want to teach it in a Bible study with people who see modern events in Revelation. I doubt if I could stay sane.
The thought I had as I read through this chapter is that you can’t read a sentence without running into an Old Testament allusion. You simply cannot read Revelation without a modicum of familiarity with the Old Testament. The symbols will make no sense without that knowledge.
John the Seer is so steeped in the OT scriptures that it just oozes out of him. It reminds me of Joseph Smith’s “Book of Mormon” in that way. I don’t know if you ever tried to read it, but Smith (who was by many accounts illiterate) was so familiar with the King James Version that his supposed translation of the supposed golden tablets sounds like it was written by Shakespeare. Revelation is like that, except for the comic element.
Along with my study I’m reading G K Beale’s commentary in the New International Greek Text Commentary series. I haven’t seen anything better at connecting Revelation with its OT allusions. Highly recommended, even if you don’t read Greek.