The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Chapter One

Introduction

The purpose of this study is to compare the practical functioning of the ancient Jewish synagogue and the New Testament church,1 to determine if and to what degree the structure and workings of the church are patterned after the synagogue. While the origin and historical development of the synagogue in the period before the coming of Christ is a subject of considerable interest, as is its development in the post-New Testament era, these are outside the parameters of this present study.

The chief source of information for both synagogue and church practices will be the New Testament Scriptures, supplemented by post-New Testament literature. For the synagogue, this will be primarily the Mishnah (ca. AD 200) and the Babylonian Talmud (completed ca. AD 500), while for the church, the writings of the early church fathers will be the most accessible and valuable source.

The necessity of comparing the synagogue as presented in the NT with the church as presented in the NT is immediately apparent. The destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the Temple there in AD 70 necessitated radical changes in Jewish religious practices. Among other things, it led to the standardization of the consonantal Biblical text, and the systematization and codification of traditional Jewish religious practices in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and other rabbinic literature of the second and later centuries AD.2 Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)

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Book Review - Unashamed to Bear His Name

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Image of Unashamed to Bear His Name: Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian
by R. T. Kendall
Chosen Books 2012
Paperback 208

If you are not familiar with R.T. Kendall, you should take the time to learn about him. He is probably not on most fundamentalists’ spiritual radar screens. Brother Kendall replaced Dr. Glen Owen, who followed “the Doctor”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as the pastor of the historic Westminster Chapel in London, England. R.T. Kendall was the senior pastor there for 25 years (to the day) before he retired on February 1, 2002. Since his retirement, he has devoted the majority of his time to writing. He is the author of over 50 books which include Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649, The Parable of Jesus, and the subject of this review Unashamed To Bear His Name: Embracing The Stigma Of Being A Christian.

Overview

In this short work (201 pages), R.T. Kendall has written with compassion and conviction. He states his main purpose as follows: “My goal in writing this book is to bring you to rejoice as Peter and John did, when they embraced the privilege of suffering for the shame of Jesus’ Name” (p. 34). He says that the value of this purpose is found in three principles: Read more about Book Review - Unashamed to Bear His Name

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If Adam Smith Ran a Christian School

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Adam Smith is acclaimed by historians as being the “father of modern economics.” His 1776 treatise, The Wealth of Nations, is still published and widely read, and its influence seems hardly diminished over time. Its ponderings have bolstered generations of subsequent economic thought. Margaret Thatcher was reportedly such a devotee that she would regularly carry a copy of Nations in her ever-present handbag.

Among Smith’s lasting contributions to microeconomics is the concept of “economies of scale.” Theorizing about the characteristics of free-markets, he coined the enduring idiom “the invisible hand.” What can those who lead 21st century Christian schools possibly learn from an 18th century economist? My belief is “Plenty!”

A tale of two schools

Trinity Christian School sits at the crest of a gentle hill in a largely residential suburb. Founded in the mid-1960s, Trinity moved from the inner-city to its present location slightly more than a decade ago, after the members of its sponsoring church voted to rebuild on more acreage. Its current facility—a wing of the new church complex—is spacious and well-equipped. Nevertheless, the decentralized new location likely hastened declining enrollment. Students once numbered over 600; today there are about 200. The school’s budget is now stretched tight, with revenues scarcely meeting essential expenses. Raising tuition to increase revenue doesn’t seem feasible; the administration fears that doing so would force some current families to leave. Although there is no imminent crisis, church elders have privately discussed the possibility of closing the school should its financial situation worsen. Read more about If Adam Smith Ran a Christian School

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The New Coach: A Parody on Sanctification

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“OK, men, everyone gather around, and let’s get this football season under way,” Coach Paul deTarsus bellowed out.

As the young recruits swaggered over, jostling each other manfully, Coach deTarsus continued gruffly, “This year the school steering committee has asked us to try a totally new approach to the game developed by a new assistant coach they’ve hired for me—Coach Terry Trzwijiasck. He wants you to call him Double T, so do it.” With that, the grizzled old coach turned to a young fellow standing nearby: “Double T,” he said, “They’re all yours.”

As one, the recruits turned to give their attention to Double T.

The new coach smiled winsomely and began speaking. “I know that you’re used to working hard, striving to meet the team’s high standards, and knowing the rulebook and playbook from cover to cover. But this year, we’re trying a new approach,” he said. “And the key to the new approach is to remind yourselves over and again that your coaching staff accepts you no matter what. Win or lose, we accept you. Fumbles or first downs, we accept you. Turnovers or touchdowns, we accept you. And when you’re laying flat on your back after you’ve missed that game-saving tackle, don’t despair. Just remind yourself one more time that we accept you. Winning is fine, but when it’s all done, it’s not about what you do. All that matters is that we accept you. Any comments or questions?” Read more about The New Coach: A Parody on Sanctification

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The God-Man

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(About this series)

CHAPTER V: THE GOD-MAN*

BY THE LATE JOHN STOCK

Jesus of Nazareth was not mere man, excelling others in purity of life and conduct and in sincerity of purpose, simply distinguished from other teachers by the fullness of His knowledge. He is the God-man. Such view of the person of Messiah is the assured foundation of the entire Scriptural testimony to Him, and it is to be irresistibly inferred from the style and strain in which He habitually spake of Himself. Of this inferential argument of the Saviour we can give here the salient points only in briefest presentation.

1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. We meet with this title in the Book of Daniel. It was used by Nebuchadnezzar to describe that fourth wonderful personage who walked with the three Hebrew confessors in the fire (3:25), and who was, doubtless, the Lord Jesus Christ revealing Himself in an assumed bodily form to His heroic servants. This majestic title is repeatedly appropriated to Himself by our Master. (See John 5:25; 9:35; 11:4, etc.) In His interview with Nicodemus He designated Himself, “The Only Begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

When confronted with the Sanhedrim, Jesus was closely questioned about His use of this title; and He pleaded guilty to the indictment. (See Matt. 26:63, 64, and 27:43; cf. Luke 22:70, 71, and John 19:7.) It is clear from the narrative that the Jews understood this glorious name in the lips of Jesus to be a blasphemous assertion of divine attributes for Himself. Read more about The God-Man

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Was the War on Poverty Too Ambitious?

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Can the War on Poverty be won in America? That depends on how you define what victory looks like. If you are the eternal optimist who presumes that somehow our government, or the free-market, or church and private organizations will eliminate poverty during our lifetime and one day relegate it to a history museum, then you may be sorely disappointed. That does not mean that we should wave the white flag and surrender the fight against poverty. Nevertheless, we need to step back and gain a wide-angle view of the interwoven web of multiple moral, social, and economic issues that perpetuate poverty.

Poverty is a much more complex enemy than “pundits” compel us to believe. It is much more than “a lack of money, period” as left-wing social commentators Cornel West and Tavis Smily have passionately declared in their poverty manifesto. And it is so much more than a series of bad choices and habits by the poor, as Christian financial guru Dave Ramsey recently insinuated in his article, “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day.” Such sweeping generalizations and simplistic solutions do not paint a realistic portrait of 21st century poverty in America, but rather reinforce the tired old stereotypes within political debates between the left and right that dominate traditional and social media. Read more about Was the War on Poverty Too Ambitious?

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What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 2)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Biblically independent churches strive to be loyal to Christ and His Word rather than to any organization. However, the First Century apostles of Christ also encouraged cooperative interdependence between local churches.

  • Greetings were extended throughout all the New Testament between independent churches, indicating a relationship with other churches in other regions (example in Romans 16:23).
  • Paul instructed the church at Rome to assist Phoebe in her visit from Corinth (Romans 16:1-2).
  • Paul instructed the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia to collect offerings for the poor believers in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:1-2; Romans 15:25).
  • Barnabas was sent by the Jews of the church of Jerusalem to be an encouragement to the Gentiles of the church at Antioch (Acts 11:22-24).
  • The Gentiles in Antioch sent an offering to help the Jewish believers in Jerusalem during a famine (Acts 11:28-30).
  • An inter-church conference was held in Jerusalem in order to clarify doctrinal teaching regarding what is to be the true understanding of salvation (Acts 15:1-21).
  • After the inter-church conference in Jerusalem, Paul and others were sent to inform the new churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of the resultant teaching (Acts 15:22-23).
Read more about What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 2)
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What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission.

Let’s face it: American pastors are constantly being asked questions about whether the local church is important and why church attendance is necessary. There are those who advocate that the modern American church is broken: why not fix it with a Starbucks-style makeover?

Some people are saying “the typical Sunday morning service of half lecture and half sing-along isn’t a useful way for me to connect with God. What if, instead of the church being like a theater, a police station, or a seminary, it was more like a coffeehouse?”1

Those are definitely questions that need to be answered, especially when asked sincerely. But those are really questions about form and methodology when there’s an even more basic question that needs to be asked first: what’s so important about the local church? Can we ditch it altogether? With technology offering Bible teaching through the Internet on your laptop or iPad or iPhone, what’s wrong with virtual, web-based Christian communities? Can your iPad serve as your pastor and your friends serve as the source of your fellowship and accountability?

What’s so important about the local church? Read more about What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

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