Attacking Brothers with Blessing

Paul usually included a benediction of grace and peace in his letters. “The God of peace be with all of you. Amen” (Romans 15:33). “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Here our greetings convey both human love and divine favor. Paul was not merely talking about a blessing; he was imparting it. In doing so, Paul was drawing on a rich Old Testament tradition. The “blessing” was standard practice among the people of God from the very beginning. Fathers pronounced a blessing on their children, a leader on the people. The blessing was given through prophetic utterance or the change of a name. Such a blessing communicated God’s favor. The loss of blessing was considered a terrible curse, as we learn from Esau, who wept bitterly when his father decided to let the blessing on Jacob remain, even though he had received it under false pretense.

Esau’s cry-“O Father, bless me!”-has echoed through the centuries in the hearts of those who have never received a greeting that carries the blessing of God. Children, parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues and friends want to know that our love for them reflects the love of God, that our love for them channels the love of God. People want to know that God’s favor rests on them. They depend on us, at least in part, to receive that blessing.

Our Christian enemies need that blessing too. I am not proposing that we ignore or dismiss tensions in the church today, but I am suggesting that we mitigate them by praying the favor of God on our Christian opponents whenever we meet them, whether in cordial or adversarial situations. They belong to God, as we do; they believe in God, as we do; they stand in need of God, as we do. The substance of our disagreements might not change, but the spirit of the relationship often will if in our greetings we bestow God’s blessing. We need to remind our opponents that though we differ with them in theology or practice, we still regard them as Christian brethren.

Gerald L. Sittser. Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (Kindle Locations 316-328). Kindle Edition.

The Context of True Love

English: folio 150 recto of the codex, with th...
English: folio 150 recto of the codex, with the beginning of the 1. Epistle to the Corrinthians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This text, like all Scripture, should be read in context. If you tug on 1 Corinthians 13, you quickly find that it is tethered to the rest of the epistle and resists being torn from it. This isn’t rocket-surgery, but 1 Corinthians 13 comes between 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14. There is a reason Paul includes this here. Paul has begun a discussion about spiritual gifts in chapter 12. He has written that the body of Christ is composed of many members with different functions, and that every member’s role (no matter how big or small it seems) is indispensable. The hand can’t get rid of the foot and expect to be productive, and the eye can’t make its exit from the body and hope to have any use except for disturbing Halloween pranks. The Spirit has distributed these tasks throughout the church and has equipped every believer with abilities to serve the people of Christ. And then, in chapter 14, Paul wants to put forward a principle that will determine how the church operates in spiritual gifts, particularly with prophecy and tongues. That principle is that everything must be done in the gathered church in order to build up others. This is the idea he repeatedly presents in chapter 14.

It is his constant concern: “… the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (v. 3) Continue reading “The Context of True Love”

A primer on Canonicity

Apostolic Authority in antiquity

The Old Testament is approved holy writ by the testimony of the Lord Himself.

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...
The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Testament manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew. Most likely originated in Egypt. Also part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P. oxy. 2) Currently housed in: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

This three-fold division is clearly recorded by the Jewish authorities and their specific contents are also recorded and align with the modern Old Testament of the Protestant Bible, though in a different arrangement. Jesus also affirmed the Common Tradition of Scripture by his statement that all the blood from Abel to Zechariah would be visited on the Jews in Luke 11:50-51. This starts with the first Murder and ends with the last murdered prophet in the Jewish bible.

For the New Testament, the teaching and example of the Lord and his apostles, whether conveyed by word of mouth or in writing, had axiomatic authority for them. If writing was the work of an apostle or of their disciples it belongs to the apostolic age. Later writings, whatever their merit, could not be included among the apostolic or canonical books. Continue reading “A primer on Canonicity”