Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

The Church at Sin City

 

In Acts 17, Luke, writing under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives an account of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40-18:23a).  In the opening verses of the chapter we find him in Thessalonica, then moving on to Berea, before finally arriving in Athens.  Here, the Apostle is confronted by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers regarding the content of the gospel message which he was proclaiming

“And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Acts 17:18-20

These rival schools of philosophy found a common enemy in the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Epicureans rejected a belief in the afterlife, thinking that the body and soul were annihilated upon death.  On the other hand, the Stoics were more of a mixed bag regarding the afterlife, though a consistent denial of eternal life was common among them.  These were the chief opponents of the Apostle Paul’s message in and around the Balkan Peninsula.

As a consequence of their disagreement, Paul was escorted to the Areopagus[1] where he gives his infamous speech on Mars Hill regarding the “Unknown god” (Acts. 17:22).  Key to the context of our discussion here is Paul’s statement, 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

To which we read of the hearers response, 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”

All of this, by way of contextual introduction leads us into Acts 18, where we find Paul leaving Athens, traveling a short distance – about 50 miles – to Corinth.  The doctrinal continuity between Paul’s message in Acts 17, its reception, and Acts 18, is his proclamation of Christ’s resurrection.

By all respects, Corinth was a melting pot of immigration and subsequently varying religious views.  It’s political and economic hey-day had come during the Hellenistic period some 200 years before Paul’s arrival.  Prior to its collapse in 146 B.C. at the hand of the Roman Empire, Corinth had a population anywhere from 100,000-200,000 people (though some have suggested upwards of 400,000).

Left desolate after its destruction as a devotion to the gods, it was rebuilt 100 years later (~46 BC) under the administration of Julius Caesar and became one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire due to its location of 2 major ports on the sea.  Its geographic location was largely responsible for the migration of people (and their religious views), particularly Romans, Jews deported from Rome, and migrants from Athens.  Corinth was also home to the temple of Aphrodite, as well as a multitude of other temples and pagan shrines as noted in the paragraph below describing the tour of ancient Greece by 2nd century historian Pausanias[2]:

“Upon entering Corinth through the gate which probably bore the name of Cenchreae, Pausanias proceeded to the Agora, where the greatest number of temples stood. He mentions an Artemis Ephesia;–two wooden statues of Dionysus;–a temple of Tyché (Fortune);–a temple sacred to all the gods;–near the latter a fountain, issuing from a dolphin at the foot of a Poseidon in bronze;–statues of Apollo Clarius, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Zeus. In the middle of the Agora was a statue of a bronze Athena, on the basis of which were the figures of the Muses in the relief. Above the Agora was a temple of Octavia, the sister of Augustus.”[3]

Some accounts note that Corinth was such a drunken, lust-filled city that the name was actually turned into a verb, to corinthize, a derogatory term meaning to fornicate.  Others have stated that due to the high traffic, transient nature of the port city, visitors did not and could not bring with them enough money to satisfy all the desires of the flesh that Corinth offered.  Still others have recounted that the city was home to 1000 temple prostitutes that descended upon the city each night.

This was the climate into which the Apostle Paul was bringing the gospel.  The challenges that he faced are well documented in Acts 18, as well as the two epistles to the immature church at Corinth.  Understanding this cultural and religious background is helpful for clarifying what the Apostle was facing in during his Second Missionary journey and why he wrote the epistles to Corinth addressing the various errors that he did while asserting specific truths that they needed reaffirmed.

We sometimes think that our current cultural malaise is the worst in history, but we needn’t go far to find comparable if not substantially worse cultural times.  Yet despite that, the gospel was not thwarted and the light was not overcome with darkness.  If that was true then, how much more so is it in our day?  Let us not be afraid nor ashamed to take the gospel into the darkest, depressed regions and trust that in our day, though rejection and suffering may come, may God likewise say “for I have many in this city who are My people”. Acts 18:10

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagus

[2] http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/ancient/pausanias-bk2.asp

[3] http://www.bible-history.com/maps/romanempire/Corinth.html

 

“To Live is Christ”

“For me, to live is Christ to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

What a powerful verse.  In this passage, the Apostle Paul is in jail (yet again) and is writing to the church at Philippi.  His discussion here is that should he be allowed to live, it will continute to be for Christ, but should he die, his gain is heaven.  Paul is actually torn about which he should hope for.  As we read in verse 22-23, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” 

Paul realized the importance of his time here on earth spreading the gospel.  In fact, he referred to his imprisonment as being in chains for Christ.  Author C.S. Lewis offers this quote, “The glory of God, and, as our only means to glorifying Him, the salvation of human souls, is the real business of life.”  Both of these men understood that the “purpose” of our lives is to live for Christ, advancing the Gospel and spreading the message of Salvation.  How much more focused on Christ would our lives be if we had this outlook.  That even in the direst circumstances, of awaiting potential death like Paul, we can stand and say, “For me, to live is Christ to die is gain.”

Part 3: Build your House in ’09

The Roof

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve worked on our “house”.  First we laid the foundation with the Word of God, http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=5 next we built the walls through the Power of Prayer http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=26 .  Now it’s time to put the roof on and start to tie the house together.  The roof of our house will be built through the worship of our Lord and Savior.  For this discussion, I want to focus on the act of “corporate” worship and posture of our heart as we individually worship throughout our daily activities.  So what is worship, where do we worship and how do we go about it?  Why is it so important?  One author says this about worship:

“Worship in our time has been captured by the tourist mind set. Worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church. For others, it’s occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand our otherwise humdrum lives. We’ll try anything — until something else comes along.”

Does the tourist mindset describe your worship?  Hopefully you’re not just going through the motions, dragging yourself into church once or twice a week because you feel obligated.  No, instead it should be an opportunity to come together as a church body and worship God.  Just as we mentioned in the Prayer blog, worship is all about the posture of your heart.  17th century author Matthew Henry describes it this way, “It is not enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if we do not ourselves worship him, and that not with bodily exercise only, which profits little, but with the heart.”  Our heart should be defined by gladness and joy, seeking to worship the Lord in the “splendor of His holiness”. Psalm 29:2 Psalm 96:9 Psalm 100:2  We read in Hebrews that not only should we be filled with joy, but likewise present ourselves before the Lord with a reverent heart.  Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'”  Because of this attitude of our hearts, worship need not be confined to a building or structure, although this is primarily where our corporate worship takes place.  In Acts 17:24-25 we learn that, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”  When we come together in corporate worship, the church “body” not the church “building” serves as the place of worship.  After all, the church body is the body of Christ. 

When we unite in the House of the Lord for corporate worship, with the correct posture of heart, the Bible gives us some insight into how to act or what should take place.  Our worship is a time to glorify the Lord through song, prayer, and to receive instruction from the Word of God.  I Corinthians 14:26 describes it the following way, “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”  But is this worship merely confined to one day of the week?  I think one common misconception is that a “church service” is the only time of worship; before and after service we continue on with our daily lives.  I’ve been guilty of this attitude in the past.  We sit through an hour or two of service, feel somewhat convicted for the sins in our lives or the distance that’s come between us and God due to that sin and then we leave going on with our “old self” until the next week’s service.  Worship simply cannot be a week to week “activity”.  Early 20th century preacher/author A.W. Tozer illustrates it this way, “If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.”  That’s pretty a profound statement.  Think about exactly what that statement says.  More importantly, think about it next time you feel worship is only on Sunday mornings.

Worshipping the Lord throughout our daily lives can sometimes be difficult because we allow ourselves to be consumed with work and routine activities.  But what I think the problem for so many of us is perspective.  Rather than trying to create a specific time for structured worship, we should focus on creating an atmosphere of worship.  Much like the prayer discussion, I think we can worship without ceasing when this atmosphere is created.  What I mean by this is that it’s ok to go to that meeting or write that paper, bathe the kids, or prepare dinner.  But when we create the atmosphere of worship, we can carry a song of worship in our hearts, praise the Lord when we’re walking to that meeting, or pray just to praise Him.  Hey there’s a concept – praying without asking for anything, but just to glorify the name of the Almighty!

There is no doubt that a lack of worship in our lives, just like prayer, can significantly impact our walk with God.  A house cannot have just a foundation and still stand.  It has to also have strong walls, and a well-built roof that pulls everything together.  Each part is dependent on the other.  It’s this “roof” of worship that allows us to glorify the Lord in song and praise and to also receive His instructions for our lives.  Worship can be corporate with the church body, but should also be something individual that’s not only on Sunday, but everyday.  Andrew W. Blackwood offers this reflection, “The time has come for a revival of public worship as the finest of the fine arts…While there is a call for strong preaching there is even a greater need for uplifting worship.”  The Bible tells us that in everything we do, do all for the glory of the Lord I Corinthians 10:31, this includes worship.  In closing, I want to leave you with the divinely inspired words of the Apostle Paul, Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Have a Blessed Day!