New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches



NT Church Proliferation Digest Monday, October 21 2002 Volume 02 : Number 185
[NTCP] Dedication, Commitment, Devotion
Re: [NTCP] synagogue
Re: [NTCP] His walk, our walk

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2002 14:37:23 +0000
From: goodwordusa * att
Subject: [NTCP] Dedication, Commitment, Devotion

Dedication, Commitment, Devotion.

These are words/ideas often associated with various professions. Often they
are mixed in with other words and ideas, like success, accomplishment,
achievement, and even wealth, fame, and power. Behind such ideas is also the
idea of competition.

Men and women who succeed and excel in their work must possess some measure of
devotion, dedication, and/or commitment to a standard, or to a goal, or both.
It seems to work that way in almost any kind of work: Selling real estate,
being a musician or singer, politics, medicine, building, research,
craftsmanship, or whatever.

Church organizations can be called successful. Sometimes we hear or read of a
group or denomination or movement being praised as among "the fastest growing
Christian" groups, denominations, or movements. Such success by numbers is
also achieved by the hard work of individuals, and dedication to a cause.

The world respects and applauds success. People often have a desire for
success and the various benefits it tends to bring with it.

The Bible presents God's idea of success. The Bible gives us examples of
devotion, dedication, and commitment.

For instance, take a look at what Paul writes in relation to two men of God --
and what he also says about the majority.

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also
may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who
will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things
which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son
with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him
at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I
myself shall also come shortly.

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother,
fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who
ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed
because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto
death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I
should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that
when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive
him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;
because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his own
life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. (Philippians 2:19-
30)

It must have been tough to work with Paul. The apostle had one goal, one
ambition, only one desire in life -- to do whatever it took to please Jesus.
And I sense that he accepted nothing less from anyone associated with him.

I've seen similar commitment to "the ideal", "the goal", and "the high
standards" in the men and women of this world. I know men and women who are
committed to the success of their cause, their organization, their political
party, their agenda, their brand name, and so on. And this is admirable. They
devote themselves -- their whole lives -- to the success of their dreams.
They're like the old Roman soldiers who once lived and died to achieve honor
and glory for Rome -- no matter the personal cost.

In his remarks about Timothy, Paul says: "For I have no one like-minded, who
will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things
which are of Christ Jesus." And in his comments on Epaphroditus, Paul writes
this: "Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier... ...hold
such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not
regarding his own life..."

Paul honored these two men of God. He trusted them above the majority of those
who claimed to be serving God. Did you notice what he said about the
majority? "For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus."

The Lord Jesus once said the same thing of Peter. He rebuked Peter sharply,
saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of [you do not care
about] the things of God, but the things of men.î (from Mark 8:33) Jesus said
this because Peter had opposed all talk of his Messiah suffering and dying at
the hands of the religious leaders.

In calling Peter "satan", Jesus was calling him the adversary, the opposer, the
one who fights against or contends with us. He was not necessarily calling him
the devil. But the end result is the same. We're either struggling to do what
we want, or we're pushing ahead to do what God wants. In seeking our own will,
our own ideas, our own plans, we can actually end up as an enemy of God,
because we oppose whatever His Holy Spirit is saying or doing.

Paul says this very thing: "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and
now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their
shame --who set their mind on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18, 19)

All of us are dedicated to something. We're committed to certain things in
life. We are all devoted to something.

It may not be that we're looking for success as the world thinks of success.
We may simply desire comfort, or safety, or relaxation and rest from our
cares. Maybe we seek above all things to be loved and respected by others.
Maybe we want fame of some kind, or wealth, or power over other people.

The kind of success that the Bible seems to promote is faith toward God. I see
this in the story of Abram/Abraham. I see this in the account of Jacob. It's
easy to see this principle in Joseph's life. In Moses it is also evident. And
in David, the shepherd boy who became king. And so on. (See also Hebrews,
chapter 11.)

The Bible shows us men and women who believed God, who placed their trust in
whatever God was saying and doing in their lives. Even outcasts, such as
Naaman the heathen leper (see 2 Kings 5), are offered in Scripture as examples
of faith. And the New Testament has even more to say about faith, in the
Gospel accounts, in the book of Acts, and in the letters to the churches.

It is not always easy to believe God or to follow Jesus Christ. Adversity to
such faith and obedience can be very great. The temptation to forsake what God
says is always present. But whoever believes what God says will know how they
should live in this present age. They will see the standards of excellence
that God Himself has raised, they will press toward that mark of the high
calling of God in Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:7-17).

Dedication to any kind of earthly goal may be commendable and worthy of
respect. But devotion to God's will and commitment to His cause is the only
life that offers an eternal reward -- not only for those dedicated to God's
will, but also for the lives they may touch each day. The success of such
commitment may never appear in this life. But in the life to come we will see
and know the reality of all things (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Do not expect to be in the majority if you dedicate yourself totally to Christ
and His Gospel. Jesus told us how it would be:
ìDo not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring
peace but a sword. For I have come to ëset a man against his father, a
daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawí;
and ëa manís enemies will be those of his own household.í (Matthew 10:34-36)

ìAssuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or
sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the
gospelís, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and
brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions --
and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and
the last first.î (Mark 10:29-31)

ìIf the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you
were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of
the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Remember the word that I said to you, ëA servant is not greater than his
master.í If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My
word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for
My nameís sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me." (John 15:18-21)

The results are all in God's hands. We may seldom see much in the way of
results. There may be no way for us to measure our "success" as men and women
of God. But God measures success, I believe, by what He sees in our hearts.
He knows the heart that is truly devoted to Him. And He is not fooled by the
heart that seeks only the things that satisfy the flesh (see Galatians 6:7-10).

We are therefore free to serve God with all that we are. We never need to be
discouraged by the numbers of people who seem to like us, or agree with us, or
hate us, or fight against us. All we need to do is trust in Jesus, being
devoted to His will. As we are faithful to follow Him, He will do His own work
in us and through us.

As far as I know, Timothy and Epaphroditus never made a circuit of talk shows,
or wrote books, or set up organizations in their own names, or became well
known as public speakers. They were simply men devoted to Christ Jesus. They
were men who put God's will, and the good of others, above their own wants --
and even above their own lives.

That's devotion. That's commitment. That's dedication.

And the apostle Paul was pleased to know them and to name them as true men of
God. Even today they continue to stand as examples for all of us.

Jim


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Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 13:37:37 +0200
From: "Deborah" <deborah.millier * juccampus>
Subject: Re: [NTCP] synagogue

Link H. wrote:

> Doesn't Edersheim write that synagogue
> buildings were used as courthouses and
> that elders of synagogues judged cases
> in Jesus' day?

Yes he does ... and I of course defer to him (Alfred Edersheim, THE
LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishers, 1883;
SKETCHES OF JEWISH SOCIAL LIFE. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishers, 1876) in
most matters related to 1st century Judaism-- except where he is dated and
new information has been uncovered. After all, he did write over a century
ago, pre-Cairo Geniza, pre-Dead Seas Scrolls. When archaeology was in it's
infancy. In the case of synagogue buildings serving as courthouses however,
he was right. It's witnessed by several ancient Jewish sources. No
argument there.

Looking back on what I've written on this thread and the types of
responses I've received, it is apparent that I haven't communicated clearly
enough. So please allow me to clarify a bit.

My objection to David's "SUNAGOGE = 'court' in Jam. 2:2" defense
(against my claim of *some* early Church special buildings) is that in the
NT the Greek *word* SUNAGOGE doesn't *mean* "court session"-- it means
"synagogue". More often than not, it means a synagogue with a *building*.
As I've mentioned before (and David's research has confirmed), the word
originally meant "assembly" or "gathering". Of any kind. It nevertheless
became specialized in usage and so SUNAGOGE developed the meaning of an
"assembly" with a minimum of 10 Jewish males who had gathered together to
study Torah (Law) ... and, later in history, to pray.

There was a secondary meaning, however, that was derived from the
first-- i.e. the *place* where that "assembly" gathered (e.g. Luk. 7:5).
During the time of Christ and the first Christians-- including Paul--
synagogue *buildings* were used for various functions: (1) places for men
and women to hear and study the Torah, plus recite together a few blessings
and prayers, (2) places for men to engage in more intensive Torah study
(BATEY MIDRASH), (3) places where children went to school, (4) places where
Jewish way-farers throughout the Roman empire could catch a kosher meal and
sleep (like today's hostels), and (5) BATEY DIN, i.e. courts.
This fifth category is what David's commentator had in mind. However
(sorry I've deleted the message, so can't produce specifics), the jist of
what he wrote implied that the *word* itself, "SUNAGOGE" was taken over
*from* the Jews *by* early Christians who held court so that the legal
*session* between Christian plaintifs and Christian defendents-- not the
place itself-- was called SUNAGOGE. This is incorrect. James was writing
to *Jewish* Christians (Jam. 1:1)! And SUNAGOGE does not mean "court
session".

Each Jewish court was called (Heb. BEIT DIN) "a house of judgment," or
in the NT courts were called KRISIS, KRITERIA, HEMEROS, or AGORAIOI (perhaps
brother Mike S. can think of a few other terms). Sessions might have been
held (indeed we know that were) in this or that SUNAGOGE (building), but
such legal gatherings were never called SUNAGOGAIS. To repeat for emphasis,
they might have been held in a SUNAGOGE (synagogue building), but that's not
what the legal sessions were called. Do you better understand my objection
now?

The fact that James mentions SUNAGOGE in a legal context doesn't sway
me to David's position, and shouldn't sway you, because SUNAGOGE
*unqualified* still means "synagogue," not "unbuilding-ed" court session.
The early Jewish followers of Jesus might have been holding *court sessions*
in synagogues-- from the context, that's what it seems to mean-- but this
only bolsters my point that the Jewish Christian groups (Jam. 1:1) to whom
James is referring in 2:2 were meeting in a *building* or *tenament room*
modified for synagogue services ... and court sessions. In other words,
special buildings. One more time: the Greek word SUNAGOGE does not mean
court session (devoid of a building) but "synagogue," almost certainly (in
this context) *WITH* a building.

Now can we all say that on *some* occasions it might be okay for
Christians to meet together in special buildings? Christ will build his
Church-- with or without the edifaces of humanity. That's his promise (Mat.
16:18). But to be unbending on the issue of special buildings, making the
Bible "against" what it is not against, is to promote needless division.
Something an already fragmented Body of Christ could use less of.

Jay F. wrote:

> Flesh can relate to the buildings
> of men. It takes the cross to relate
> to the building of God.

Thanks for proving my point. You're still fixated. Move on, please
...

Michael
Jerusalem


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Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 12:55:34 EDT
From: Steffasong * aol
Subject: Re: [NTCP] His walk, our walk

David,

Thanks for the essay clip; that was helpful.

I understand your ponderings on the man, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and his
choices.
I have the same questions. It's a tough call though. What's the
difference between a nation banning together to rid the world of an evil
dictator or one man helping in a plot to do it? I can't imagine making the
conspiratory choices that DB made, but what is our personal responsibilty
beyond prayer? What is the church's responsiblity?

God only knows what each of us might do in response to the face of evil, so I
hestitate to even state my opinion. One of the things I discovered at the
Florida Atlantic University Holocaust Research Room (through speaking with a
living survivor) is that those churches that were near the tracks could hear
the cries of the Jewish prisoners as the trains carried them down toward the
extermination camps. Many of the churches were annoyed by the noise and
closed their window shades and turned up the music when the trains of Jewish
prisoners went by because they didn't like hearing all the ruckus.
Silence.
Can you imagine?

My goodness, -- what evil took place there, and what response from the
church!

Whether we are living in the church, building up churches, or laying the
foundation for the church, what IS our response? Can the Sermon on the Mount
be interpreted in more ways than one? What if some evil comes up to fly in
the face of our own child? Man, I'd get a wrought-iron frying pan and bang it
flat steady right over the head!

Anyway, [long breath] my studies involve DB's ontological changes while in
the prison cell, particularly as seen through his correspondance. He seemed
to rethink just about everything, and grew in his understanding of the need
for waiting on God and just being still.

Thanks for your thoughts, fine bro!
SB


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