Bible Study Moment

I definitely don’t understand why Acts 4:32 – 5:11 is not all in the same chapter. It has two examples of stewardship, one very good and the other bad. Acts 4:32-36 tells how those with property would at times sell some property and donate all the proceeds for the apostles to distribute to those in need in the church, with Barnabas’s sale given as an example. Then Acts 5:1-11 tells of another couple, Ananias and Sapphira, pretending to do the same thing except they have kept some of the money while saying they were donating it all. Somehow Peter knows what is going on because he confronts first Ananias and later Sapphira in ways that I’m confident seminaries do not teach. Both of them drop dead. Then as the CEB translation puts it “Trepidation and dread seized the whole church and all who heard what had happened.”

Luke seems to be giving an example of what is in Galatians 6:7 (and Sen. Sam Ervin quoted during the Watergate Hearings almost 50 years ago) “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Ervin of course was quoting the King James Version. If you need a modern translation the CEB says “Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant.”

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

In my opinion the 3rd chapter of Acts should go from Acts 3:1 through Acts 4:31. The first 8 verses tell of a person who is crippled asking for money from Peter & John, and instead Peter heals him! The rest of chapter 3 tells of Peter speaking to the crowd that has gathered with more people deciding to follow Jesus. Then in Acts 4:1 the Sadducees confront Peter & John. Thinking back to Luke 20, we know that the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection and so they are upset because Peter & John are announcing that the resurrection is already happening because of Jesus’ resurrection. (The Sadducees along with the Pharisees represent two of the leading schools of thought in the Jewish religion.)

Acts 4:19 & 20 are significant verses in this story – Peter and John responded, “It’s up to you to determine whether it’s right before God to obey you rather than God. As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Then in verses 23-32 Peter & John go to the other Jesus followers and tell them about their day. The group prays and the Holy Spirit responds so that the building shakes and all gathered are filled with the Holy Spirit and speak the word of God with boldness.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

I’ve read that Acts is among the least studied books in the New Testament by churches. Liberal churches tend to emphasize the Gospels while evangelical churches put more emphasis on the epistles. I don’t understand why that is. Acts is an historical record of some of the ways the earliest followers of Jesus acted. It is like studying our personal history.

In Acts 1:1 the book is addressed to Theophilus, as is the Gospel of Luke in Luke 1:3. Therefore most biblical scholars conclude that the two books were written by the same person. I’ll refer to the author as Luke since that name has been attached to the gospel. If I could re-order the books of the Bible I’d put Luke after John, so it would be Luke then Acts.

Some people believe Theophilus was an actual person of social standing, perhaps a Roman official. Others, including me, look at the meaning of the name which is “friend of God” or “loved by God” and believe Luke is using the name to state that all his readers are loved by God.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Pentecost snuck up on me. I think it is because of our trip in May. Let’s look at Acts 2.

I remember reading a certain liberal theologian stating that clearly the 3,000 baptized on Pentecost is an exaggeration because Peter would have to be baptizing a person every 15 seconds. My thought was “Why do you think Peter was the only one baptizing on Pentecost?” At a minimum there would have been the 12 apostles, and maybe more of the 120 or so who were in the upper room when the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire with the mighty wind.

Peter quotes one of the more inclusion passages of scripture, even in the King James Version that sounds so male dominant: (emphasis added) Joel 2:28-29, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon ALL flesh: and your sons and your DAUGHTERS shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my HANDMAIDENS I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and THEY shall prophesy:”.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

I recently saw a video of Abby Wambach’s commencement address at Loyola Marymount University. Her understanding of the golden rule, Do unto others as they would do unto you, in Matthew 7:12 is a little bit different than what I remember hearing but I think she’s right. We are called to fight for those people who have been dismissed as “others” by society or significant parts of society, whether it is by gender, race, body type, or any of the seemingly endless ways some people belittle and bully others.

She also talks about flipping tables, following Jesus’ example.

 

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Then in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter”. This is the main passage that keeps me from fully embracing the idea stated in the old hymn “When We All Get to Heaven” might literally be true. And Jesus goes on to say that those who won’t make it will have done things like prophesy in his name, and cast out demons, and do many other miracles in his name. Not exactly the evil doers we may picture being in hell, but some that we might be inclined to think of being especially spiritual, kind of a super-Christian.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Matthew 7:13, 14 says “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.” As a child I was taught that this was talking about getting into heaven after death, but what if it really is talking about life here and now; like the Beatitudes earlier, or the peace that passes understanding that Paul wrote the Philippians about in Philippians 4, or the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, or in John 10 where Jesus says he came so that his sheep could live life to the fullest.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Matthew 6:25-34 says to not worry. It might be summed up by a couplet in a Larry Norman song that says “It never helps to worry, it never hurts to pray.” (Norman is one of the earliest Jesus Music-CCM- musicians.) Around the time he wrote that I was living in the dorm at college my freshmen year. There was a group of us trying to actively follow Jesus living in the dorm who had become friends. During finals week one of the girls was worried about a final of hers later that day. Some of us referenced this passage, and if I remember correctly I turned to it and read it, including the last sentence, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” which didn’t really help her that much.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study: Lord’s Prayer

Back to going through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, I’m where Jesus talks about prayer including the Lord’s Prayer in 6:5-14. I’ve been aware that Protestants tend to use the version here from the King James Version while Catholics use the shorter version in Luke 11. I’ve just noticed that in the more recent translations Matthew’s version does not include the ending, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” with a footnote that the most ancient manuscripts do not include that ending. So it looks like some ancient scribe copying the text felt led to add it, even though Jesus talks about the bad example of babbling on using many words. That seems ironic to me.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment: Barnabas

Let’s look at an overlooked person in the Bible, Barnabas. First, his name is really Joseph but the apostles renamed him Barnabas meaning one who encourages. He is first mentioned in Acts 4:36, 37 when he sells some property and gives the proceeds to the apostles.

Then in Acts 9, where Saul’s conversion is told, Barnabas seems to be the first one to believe that Paul is now not an enemy, when in verse 27 and following Barnabas brings him to the apostles, being a witness to the change in Saul that leads him to go by his other name, Paul.

Next, in Acts 11:19-26, there are disciples in Antioch who start proclaiming the good news about Jesus to Gentiles as well as to Jews. When those in Jerusalem hear the news they send Barnabas to Antioch. After a while in Antioch Barnabas goes to Tarsus to get Paul, who had gone to his hometown for his own protection. They come back to Antioch and it is there where the disciples of Jesus are first called Christians. He and Paul go back to Judea with gifts received from those in Antioch for those in Judea who might need them in anticipation of a predicted famine, and they both return to Antioch, where in Acts 13 the leaders of the church there sense the Holy Spirit telling them to send Paul and Barnabas to Cyprus to share the good news of Jesus. As part of the preparation for them to go the leaders fast and pray, laying their hands on Barnabas and Paul. They have John Mark with them as an assistant but in Acts 13:13 he leaves them and goes back to Jerusalem.

Continuing their journey, in Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra where Paul heals a man with a disability. The people there decide that Barnabas and Paul are the gods, Zeus and Hermes. After returning to Antioch, in Acts 15:36-38 they decide to revisit those followers from their first journey; Barnabas, the encourager, wants to bring John Mark with them again but Paul doesn’t, and the two end up going separately, Barnabas with John Mark, and Paul with Silas.

Since the rest of Acts is basically the adventures of Paul, we don’t have any more biblical record of what Barnabas does after that. Mark, the one Paul wanted to leave behind does get mentioned in some of Paul’s letters as being a great help to Paul.

Mark Phillips

For Tabatha’s Installation Service this Sunday, where I anticipate there will be some laying on of hands following the example of the church leaders in Antioch, I will wear my necktie with the winged lion, the symbol for St. Mark, aka John Mark on it.