The Christian and Race | The Voice 7.34: August 20, 2017

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The Voice

The Christian and Race

Few subjects prove as fraught with difficulty, pain, suffering, and awkwardness as race, especially race in the United States of America. Some people wish to deny the existence of race and/or racism; others conceive of their fellow man primarily and almost entirely in terms of race. Most people fall somewhere between the two extremes on the spectrum and attempt to sort out the matter of race relations in America.

Race is a social construct. Humans have found all sorts of ways to differentiate among various groupings of people, but have not always done so on the basis of the distinguishing characteristics normally subsumed under the idea of “races.” The idea of “races” as currently conceived is a product of the past few hundred years, often in the service of justifying European imperialism and slavery. These theories of race pervaded all Western thinking by the 19th century; it was taken for granted as “common sense” to white people that they were biologically racially superior to other people, a premise agreed upon by most religious and secular people alike. Only within the past 50 years have such theories regarding race been demonstrated as false through scientific inquiry; while there may be some genetic markers that are consistent among members of a given “race” and not seen in members of other “races,” one could say the same thing about ethnicities or other ways in which people might categorize each other. Therefore, race as conceived of in Western civilization is not biologically mandated or driven; it continues to exist according to social conventions.

We cannot find race as a form of biological or even social categorization in the Scriptures; where certain translations might use “race,” “birth” or “nation” would be more appropriate. Unfortunately Christians in past generations sought to justify their racial ideology with Scripture, appealing to “each according to its own kind” in Genesis 1:25, the mark of Cain in Genesis 4:15, and/or the curse of Ham and Canaan in Genesis 9:25. Such was a shameful distortion of the teachings of Scripture; other passages strongly insist on the singular origin of all humanity (e.g. Acts 17:26). In Acts 17:26 Paul indicated how distinctions among people are most frequently seen in Scripture: from one man God made every nation (Greek ethnos) to dwell in their distinct boundaries at distinct times. We derive the English term “ethnic” from ethnos; ethnos is often translated as “Gentiles” when contrasted with the “Jews.” Thus, in Scripture, we are all from different nations; we are not of different races.

Nevertheless, even if race is not an accurate category according to biology, race remains a culturally constructed reality in America. As Christians we cannot pretend that race does not matter; even if it has no significant biological grounding and even less Biblical merit, race remains a predominant means of categorization in American society and culture. Various forms and means of racial segregation persisted in America for many generations; should we then be surprised when people of the same “race” end up developing their own distinct culture or subculture within America, and maintain a form of racial identity? Numerous studies persistently show how Americans retain racial bias, even if often implicit or subconscious. According to Scripture we have every right to say that all of us are part of the human race (Acts 17:26); we have no right, however, to deny the differences which have arisen among people on account of the persistent categorization by race. Perhaps one day in America race will cease to be a predominant form of categorization in society; on that day we can lay race theory to rest fully; however, that day has not yet come, and Christians ought not to marginalize others because of it.

The New Testament is unambiguous about whether certain groups of people are superior to others: all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God, and in Christ, not only can all find salvation, but all stand equal in the sight of God in Christ (Romans 3:23, Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:1-18). Unfortunately, for many years, far too many Christians did not uphold this teaching, and on the basis of their theory of race advanced the cause of white supremacy. To this day certain groups claim white supremacy is consistent with the teaching of God in Christ; nothing could be further from the truth. As there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ, so assuredly there is neither white nor black in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:28). Christians must acknowledge the violence done to people of color in the name of white supremacy and lament how it was often done “in the name of the Lord.” Christians should take every opportunity given to denounce white supremacy wherever it may raise its head and to powerfully and unequivocally proclaim the Gospel truth of man’s fundamental equality before God.

Race proves particularly fraught for white people in America, for most white people do not really believe themselves to be a distinct race or manifesting a distinct culture. White people in America tend to presume their understanding of America and race is normative; they often have difficulty understanding how their experience is not “normal,” and often could never be “normal,” for people of color. White Christians do well to heed James’ advice and be quick to hear and slow to speak, proving willing to endure discomfort and to have their viewpoint expanded by the perspectives and experiences of people of color (James 1:19). Through such interactions white Christians may learn to see the world with a different set of eyes and recognize how so much they take for granted is a luxury many people of color have not been able to enjoy, and only because of this societal construct. White Christians can then work to advocate for and uphold the integrity of people of color, striving to make good on the Gospel truth of the equality of all people before God.

In Revelation 7:9 we are invited to see a beautiful picture: people from every nation, tribe, and people standing before God’s throne, praising Him. God’s goal for Christians in Christ is not to eliminate every difference or distinction, but to have all hostility among people killed through what Jesus accomplished on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-18). Paul did not cease being Jewish when he was converted (Acts 23:6); those of the nations remain part of those nations, yet maintain a stronger loyalty to the trans-national Kingdom of God in Christ (Philippians 3:20-21). Through the church God declares His manifold wisdom to the powers and principalities (Ephesians 3:10-11): people from every walk of life who remain very different people and yet are one in Christ (John 17:20-23). Christians are at their best not when they deny all differences among people but celebrate each person’s and each group of people’s distinctiveness, recognizing how the body of Christ is not a factory churning out thousands of the same part but made up of different parts all working to build up the whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-28).

Thus race may be a social construct but remains one acutely felt by Americans; as Christians in America, we must denounce racism and embody the Gospel imperative of racial and ethnic inclusivity, all in ways which glorify God in Christ. May we uphold the truth of God in Christ, strive to build up the body of Christ, and invite all to serve the Lord Jesus!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Philemon | The Voice 7.33: August 13, 2017

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Paul’s Letter to Philemon

Onesimus was a runaway slave. It was necessary to make all things right, but that could lead to injury or death. Paul leveraged all the influence in his command to assist Onesimus with his owner Philemon.

Paul’s letter to Philemon is the eighteenth book in modern editions of the New Testament. Paul and Timothy are listed as its authors (Philemon 1:1), but throughout Paul’s voice is manifestly pre-eminent. The presence of Philemon 1:19ff may indicate the rest of the letter was dictated to an amanuensis. Pauline authorship of Philemon is not seriously questioned even among scholars. Paul speaks of himself and Epaphras as “prisoners” of the Lord Jesus (Philemon 1:1, 9, 23); for this reason Philemon is reckoned as one of Paul’s prison letters along with Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Paul sent greetings from Epaphras and wrote not only to Philemon but also to Apphia, Archippus, and the church in their house (Philemon 1:1): Paul had a special message for Archippus in Colossians 4:17, said Epaphras was “one of them” in Colossians 4:12, and assured the Colossians that Onesimus would make know to them his affairs in Colossians 4:9. Philemon therefore is most likely a Christian in Colossae, of some means, able to host the church there in his house; perhaps Apphia and Archippus were his relatives (wife and son?), and were at least part of the household. We therefore believe that Paul wrote Philemon at the same time he wrote Colossians, most likely from prison in Caesarea, and delivered both letters by the hand of Onesimus the subject of the letter of Philemon (ca. 59-60; cf. Acts 23:23-26:32). Paul wrote to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave who converted to the Lord Jesus, to show mercy and clemency.

Paul began his letter with a standard epistolary introduction to Philemon, called “beloved” and a “fellow worker,” along with Apphia and Archippus and the church in their house, also suggesting the letter, and the pressure and influence suggested therein, was to be read before the whole congregation (Philemon 1:1-3). According to his custom Paul then gave thanks for Philemon in his prayers, having heard of and been comforted by Philemon’s love for his and encouragement and refreshment of his fellow Christians (Philemon 1:4-7).

Paul then made his plea for Onesimus (Philemon 1:8-22). Paul could have commanded Philemon in this matter, but preferred for the sake of love to exhort him (Philemon 1:8-9). Paul besought Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, considered as a child begotten in prison, previously of lesser value but now of greater value to both Paul and Philemon; Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon in order to make things right but could have continued to benefit from his ministration while in prison, so that Onesimus’ service would be as a freewill offering of Philemon to Paul, and not under compulsion (Philemon 1:10-14). Paul suggested Onesimus’ temporary separation from Philemon was fortuitous, to have him no longer merely a slave but now as a beloved brother in Christ (Philemon 1:15-16). Thus, if Philemon considers Paul a partner (in the faith), Philemon should receive Onesimus back as if he were Paul (Philemon 1:17). If Philemon has been wronged or suffered monetary loss on account of Philemon, he should charge it to Paul’s account; Paul wrote in his own hand how he would repay it and not so subtly reminded Philemon that he owed Paul his own life besides (Philemon 1:18-19). Paul most likely continued in his own hand to implore Philemon to provide him joy and refresh his heart in Christ, yet remained confident that Philemon would not only obey what Paul wrote, but would go beyond what Paul said (Philemon 1:20-21). Paul asked Philemon to prepare a place for him, for he intended to visit Philemon in the near future (Philemon 1:22). Having provided greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, Paul concluded his letter to Philemon with a standard epistolary conclusion (Philemon 1:23-25).

Paul’s letter to Philemon displays a masterful rhetorical hand addressing a challenging and fraught topic. Philemon has the legal right to do whatever he desires with Onesimus as a runaway slave. Paul appeals to Philemon according to the higher calling of God in Christ Jesus, encouraging him to welcome Onesimus as a brother in Christ, and giving the congregation in Colossae plenty of reasons to encourage Philemon to do the same. By professing confidence in Philemon to do the right thing Paul gave him the benefit of the doubt and provided Philemon every reason in the world to be generous and merciful and receive the commendation of God, Onesimus, and his fellow Christians for doing so.

Paul’s letter to Philemon delicately handled the extremely challenging topic of slavery in Christianity and Greco-Roman society. Paul neither justified the practice of slavery nor did he explicitly agitate for its abolition. Instead Paul addressed this individual slave owner and appealed to him in the name of God, love, his own salvation, and the higher bond of brotherhood in Christ to encourage him to take back his runaway slave and treat him well. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles made it their main purpose to overthrow existing societal structures. Nevertheless, over the subsequent centuries, it proved all the more difficult to maintain the institution of slavery when both master and slave would share equally in the faith and at the communion table of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Galatians 3:28). By the medieval period serfdom proved more culturally predominant than slavery; throughout the past two millennia efforts toward reduction or abolition of serfdom or slavery have most often been led by those influenced by Jesus and the teachings about equality of all people in the New Testament.

We have no insight as to the conclusion of the matter; Colossae would be struck by a major earthquake in 60-61 and the town would never fully recover. We would like to think that Philemon welcomed Onesimus back warmly; we have no idea whether they survived the earthquake and its aftereffects, although it is highly unlikely that Paul was ever able to visit with Philemon. Nevertheless somehow both Colossians and Philemon were preserved. May we all obey the Lord Jesus, serve one another, and glorify God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Inducements to Hearing the Gospel | The Voice 7.32: August 06, 2017

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Inducements to Hearing the Gospel

Many things pass for “evangelism” and “preaching the Gospel” which look very much unlike anything seen in the New Testament. Apparently, the time-tested means of the New Testament have not proven satisfactory to many, and so all kinds of other appeals are made than simply “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Apparently, in our modern society, it’s not good enough to have “merely” a spiritual message. If you don’t have the “stuff” that people are looking for, you won’t get “converts”. And so it is that well-meaning people seek to provide “inducements” for people to learn of Jesus: potlucks, gymnasiums, concerts, and all other kind of social and entertainment events, all done in the name of evangelism! Does any of this conform to what we see in the New Testament?

“But these things are popular, and how can they be wrong?”, many will argue. “After all, Jesus fed people.” Well, yes, He did. Let’s look at what occurred.

Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would. And when they were filled, he saith unto his disciples,
“Gather up the broken pieces which remain over, that nothing be lost.”
So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which remained over unto them that had eaten.
When therefore the people saw the sign which he did, they said, “This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world” (John 6:11-14).

Wow! Jesus fed the people and they recognized Him as a prophet! But Jesus departs lest the people make Him into a King (John 6:15)! When the people track Him down the next day, and they ask why He departed, He responds:

Jesus answered them and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed” (John 6:26-27).

Jesus then exhorts them to not labor for the bread that perishes, but the bread of eternal life: Himself. He then teaches them “difficult things,” the need to eat His body and drink His blood, and yet also the suffering and sacrifice He would endure. And what was the result of this preaching?

Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, “Would ye also go away?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).

Jesus fed five thousand people, taught a spiritual message, and left with fewer followers than before He began! Only the original Twelve, not induced with food, remained. The people were more than willing to accept Jesus as the prophet when He gave them physical bread; when it came time to hear the message of truth, one that causes unease on account of the need for sacrifice and suffering, they fled.

It is a truth, then, that when you preach with food, you get converts to food. This applies to any physical enticement; after all, as it is written:

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It is exceedingly difficult to convert people to eternal life when you offer them but temporal things. When evangelism is reduced to food drives, hospital care, childcare, and other “social services”, people equate “churches” or “Christians” with such things, and not the matters of the Spirit.

We have been commanded, individually, to assist others. The judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46 is presented in terms of whether one has assisted those in need or not. On the other hand, helping those in need is a way by which you reflect Christ’s light in you (Matthew 5:13-16), leading people to the spiritual message. Thus, feeding and caring for people is well and good, and might well provide an opportunity to preach the Gospel, but feeding people is not the preaching of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and on its own is not our ultimate goal. When social services are substitutes for the Gospel, people may be physically helped, but are not saved; the great has been sacrificed for the good.

How, then, should the Gospel be preached? Look at how the message was delivered in the first century! Yes, the Apostles did work signs and wonders, but that was not preaching the Gospel: that was demonstrating the fact that God had given them authority. People were brought to the Gospel because of the message. They heard the message and desired to respond. People were to accept or reject the actual Gospel message: Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross, raised on the third day, ascended to heaven, rules as Lord, and will return one day. The Apostles did not need to stage a potluck. They did not have to set up a concert to get people to come. They simply went out and presented the message to whomever would hear.

We have the same charge to this day (Matthew 28:18-20). We do well to go out, embody Jesus, and proclaim His message. We do well to not expect the preaching of the Gospel to be done by social systems, collective, collaborative projects, or merely by evangelist, but take up our burden and tell people how to get out of sin and death. People are no less in sin today than they were 2,000 years ago. The antidote to sin is also still the same. May we proclaim Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and prove fruitful in the Lord’s vineyard!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Pliny to Trajan on Christians | The Voice 7.31: July 30, 2017

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Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan on the Christians

God has made Himself known through Jesus of Nazareth, and, as Paul declared to Agrippa, the things which God accomplished through Jesus and His people did not take place in a corner (Acts 26:26; cf. Hebrews 1:1-3). The Apostles relied upon the people’s first-hand knowledge of what God did through Jesus (Acts 2:22, 10:36-43). Thus we do well to explore the various forms of evidence which exist for Jesus and Christianity.

One such piece of evidence does not come from a Christian but a pagan Roman named Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (popularly known as Pliny the Younger). Pliny was elevated to the role of governor of the province of Bithynia and Pontus (the northeast section of what is today Turkey). His correspondence has been preserved throughout time and has proven of great value to historians. Among his correspondence is a letter which he wrote to the Emperor Trajan regarding Christians in his province, as well as Trajan’s response (ca. 112 CE; Epistulae X, 96-97). These letters represent the earliest documented reaction to Christianity from the pen of a Roman.

These letters can be accessed, in Latin and in English translations, here and here. In Epistulae X.96 Pliny began by establishing the purpose of his letter: he wanted advice from Trajan in regards to how to handle situations in which a person is accused of being a Christian. What should happen if they prove penitent and offer sacrifices to the gods? If they remain impertinent, should they all be punished alike?

Pliny then spoke of recent circumstances: some had been brought before him and accused to be Christians. They confessed they were, and were punished for their obstinacy. Soon afterward all sorts of charges began to be brought against many people. Many of those charged were actually lapsed Christians, and proved willing to worship the image of Trajan and to curse Christ (and Pliny noted that true Christians do not speak curses against Christ).

From these lapsed Christians Pliny said he learned the following:

They affirmed how the sum of their error or guilt was this: they used to convene on a stated day before dawn and sang together a song to Christ as a god and swore with an oath not to commit sin, or fraud, or theft, or adultery, or to break a pledge, or to deny funds placed in trust. Having performed these things it was their habit to leave and then return later to take a meal, mixed together although innocently; which they desisted doing after my decree which forbids societies, which follows your edict (Author’s Translation).

Pliny would not trust their testimony alone; he also found out the truth by torturing two women called ministrae (servants or deaconesses), but only discovered an “intemperate and depraved superstition.” He stopped his investigation to seek counsel from Trajan since a great number of the people in the cities, towns, and countryside had fallen prey to Christianity, and a many more might fall under its spell. Pliny was confident the superstition could be curbed, and spoke glowingly of how once-deserted temples were again filled and the food offered to sacrifices once again had buyers.

Trajan’s reply to Pliny is preserved in Epistulae X.97. Trajan assured Pliny regarding how he conducted himself in terms of Christians: there cannot be one hard and fast rule. Christians must not be searched out, but if accusations are made and confirmed, they must be punished. Anyone who changed their minds and prayed to the pagan gods should be pardoned. Anonymous lists, however, must not be permitted; they represented a bad example, especially in their day.

Pliny’s Epistulae X.96-97 represent powerful testimony regarding many elements of Christian practice in the early second century, and all the more because the sources are not sympathetic to their cause. Perhaps some of the details are confused because of the perspective of the apostates as well as the attempt to make Christianity comprehensible to a pagan ruler; nevertheless, we can see important continuity between many of the things we see in the New Testament period and how things are done in Bithynia and Pontus in 112. Christians are meeting on a specific day (Sunday; cf. Revelation 1:10, Justin Martyr First Apology 67); on that day they sing together songs praising Christ as a god (cf. Ephesians 5:19, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 3:16); they would share a common meal independent of their assemblies until it was decreed otherwise, indicating that such meals went beyond the Lord’s Supper, able to be forsaken without difficulty (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34); they also proved willing to obey the decrees of earthly authorities (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-18). They agreed to avoid sinfulness, evil behavior, and fornication, consistent with Ephesians 4:25-28 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; whether the binding by oath was an innovation contrary to the spirit of Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12 or merely an accommodative explanation to Pliny about Christian commitment in exhortation cannot be satisfactorily decided with present evidence. Christians held firm against participation in pagan temple rites and avoided eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Revelation 2:14); their message spread with sufficient strength so as to alarm Roman officials!

The text does mention two women serving in the role of ministrae, or deaconesses. One might try to suggest that such terminology could refer to their roles as servants of Christ, but the phraseology in the letter strongly suggests that these women did indeed serve as deaconesses in a church in Bithynia or Pontus in 112. The question is whether such is consistent with New Testament practice or was part of the innovations in leadership being introduced into the church at this time; it is worth noting that Ignatius of Antioch is a contemporary of both Pliny the Younger and Trajan, eventually finding martyrdom at the hands of the latter, and Ignatius is one of the most influential agitators toward having one bishop preside over the elders and a local church, contrary to what is seen in Acts 14:23, Philippians 1:1, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.

In the early second century Christianity was well established in many parts of the Roman world and had attracted sufficient numbers of adherents to cause distress to local pagan religion and local governors. We can say such things with confidence on account of the witness of Pliny the Younger in his correspondence with the Emperor Trajan. May we hold firm to the faith of God in Christ and be saved!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Works Consulted

Pliny the Younger,” Early Christian Writings (accessed 25/07/2017)

Pliny’s Letter to Emperor Trajan,” (accessed 25/07/2017).

Basic Hermeneutics (1) | The Voice 7.30: July 23: 2017

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Interpreting the Bible: Basic Hermeneutics (1)

God expects us to seek to understand His will and purpose for our lives; He has revealed such things in His Word (John 8:32, 2 Timothy 3:14-17). We therefore do well to study the Word of God. The first part of studying represents the reading of the text and attempting to gain the basic understanding of what the passage means. While reading is extremely important, there is more to studying than just reading: we must attempt to understand the message of the author and establish how we are to apply it to our own lives. This is how we are able to handle the word of truth properly (2 Timothy 2:15)!

It is necessary, therefore, for us to not just read but also interpret the Scriptures; another term for the guidelines and process of interpretation is “hermeneutics”. The process of interpretation is very old (cf. Nehemiah 8:8), and we cannot imagine that we can interpret at our own whims according to our own desires (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-5). There are many recognized guidelines for interpretation; we do well to explore some of them.

1. Interpret the text literally unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. The most basic way to understand any given text is to accept it at face value. John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” is a good example of this: when we read this statement, we have no reason to doubt that Jesus actually and physically cried tears. Likewise, in Genesis 1:1, when the text indicates that God created the heavens and the earth, we are not given any good reason to doubt that God truly and literally did so. When the text is consistent on a literal basis and makes sense in a literal way, we should interpret it thus literally.

We must proceed carefully, however, and recognize that some parts of the Bible are not always supposed to be interpreted literally. There are many times when God speaks to mankind in figurative language; this does not mean that what God is communicating is any less true, but that God is trying to help us understand His will in a different way. When Jesus speaks about a man gaining the whole world in Matthew 16:26, we recognize that it is not possible for a man to have the whole world literally, and we understand that Jesus is exaggerating, using hyperbole, for effect. Likewise, Jesus is not literally a grapevine in John 15:5: He uses a metaphor, speaking of Himself in terms of the grapevine, to help the disciples understand their relationship to Him. Likewise, when Jesus speaks in parables (e.g. Matthew 13:3-8), He is speaking in metaphor about spiritual truths. What God says is no less true simply because it is in figurative language: we just have to recognize it and interpret it properly!

While we must be on the watch for specific examples of figurative language, as shown above, we must also be sensitive to other ways that God establishes that He speaks more figuratively. Many times a particular context demonstrates that God speaks in more figurative language, such as in Daniel 7:1-14 or in Revelation 4:1-22:6. These texts indicate that Daniel and John respectively have seen visions (Daniel 7:1, Revelation 9:17); while we do not deny that they actually see the things they record, we are to understand that what they see represent something else. Likewise, if reading a given passage literally makes it seem absurd or would contradict another teaching of God in another place, we must be open to the possibility that God is speaking figuratively. When Jesus speaks in Matthew 12:29 about binding and plundering strong men, we recognize that to understand this as a literal command would be absurd and contradictory; likewise, when Isaiah condemns the practices of the Jews in Isaiah 1:10-18, we understand that God is not condemning the Temple worship that He established per se but the immorality the Jews were practicing outside of the Temple.

Examples of figurative language include:

  • Allegory (metaphor involving real persons/events): Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar (Galatians 4:24; cf. Galatians 4:21-31).
  • Hyperbole (exaggeration): Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalm 51:5).
  • Metaphor (understanding x in terms of y): Jesus said unto them, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
  • Metonymy (using a part to stand for whole): In like manner also [He took] the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
  • Parable (true-to-life story in metaphor): “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matthew 13:44).
  • Simile (comparison): As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God (Psalm 42:1).

The importance of proper discernment of literal and figurative language within the Scriptures can hardly be overstated; many have gone down the paths of error by interpreting literal truth figuratively and figurative truth literally. Let us strive to properly discern God’s Word, being workmen without need to be ashamed, properly handling God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Christian and the Body | The Voice 7.29: July 16, 2017

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The Christian and the Body

Western culture and society, and all those influenced by them, have a love-hate relationship with the body.

By all accounts and appearances Western culture loves the physical body and its desires. Everywhere we look it seems we find an alluring figure selling us everything from chewing gum to automobiles. People give full expression to the desires of the body in terms of consumption of food, drink, and drugs as well as sex. Billions of dollars are spent for makeup, surgeries, gym memberships, and health products in the drive to obtain the perfect body.

The drive for the “perfect body” manifests a strong hatred in Western culture for bodies as they are in reality. Many people deemed “beautiful” by society wear so much makeup that you would not recognize them without it. The images we see in advertisements are “Photoshopped”; even the people whose bodies are ostensibly on display do not really look that “good”! All of us, men and women alike, judge our bodies according to these impossible standards, and therefore all of our bodies fail miserably to reach the standard. We incessantly focus on our “flaws” and “imperfections”; precious few have a positive view of their body. Furthermore, no matter how well or poorly we treat our bodies, as we age, the body begins to decay and fail at many of its functions; we are not able to function the way we did before; we feel as if our bodies are letting us down. Western culture and society upholds ideal bodies; any body not near the ideal, on account of appearance, size, age, or disability, is disparaged, dishonored, and marginalized. “We” don’t want to see such things!

All Christians who live in Western culture or society are subject to this love-hate relationship with the body; this is proving increasingly true for Christians in other cultures and societies as well on account of the strong influence of Western media. How, then, should Christians navigate these cultural trends? How should Christians view and treat the body?

Christians do well to understand how both paganism and Greek philosophy, especially from Plato, lay underneath Western cultural assumptions and beliefs about the body, and they ought to reject both of them. The influence of Greek philosophy proves pernicious, even among those who profess to follow the Lord Jesus; it is manifest in quotes as the following: “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” This quote is often attributed to C.S. Lewis, but more likely comes from George MacDonald. It seems spiritual and thus well and good but it is really Gnosticism, a Christian form of Greek philosophy, repudiated by Scripture. Embodiment is essential for the human experience; we are not humans with bodies, but humans because we have bodies. The breath of life with which God inspired Adam was not human; when the breath of life was breathed into the body which God had made, Adam became human (Genesis 2:7). The Word of God was not human before He took on flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus of Nazareth; at that point He became human, the Son of Man, and in His resurrection maintains a transformed body and thus remains human (John 1:1, 14, Acts 7:55-56, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Timothy 2:5). For good reason David praised YHWH for how wonderfully and fearfully he was made; and what did God make but his body (Psalm 139:13-16)?

Therefore God has made us as human beings with bodies; not only did He make humans as a category, but His hand was involved in the shaping of us as individuals. Yes, because of sin and death our bodies have been corrupted, and we likely all suffer from physical challenges, disabilities, and “imperfections” (cf. Romans 5:12-20, 8:19-24). And yet each of us can glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). We can appreciate our differences without judgment or condemnation, recognizing that all have different abilities that can be used to serve one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, 1 Peter 4:10-11). We do not need to fear or hate our bodies because they do not reflect some impossible or unsustainable standard; yes, our bodies not only manifest imperfections but will decay and die, but our hope remains in the resurrection and transformation of these lowly physical bodies for eternity in Jesus, the redemption of the body (Romans 8:23-25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-58, Philippians 3:20-21). God did not give us bodies to oppress us or to cause us constant distress and grief; instead, being in the body is an essential aspect of being human, and Christians do well to reflect good stewardship of the bodies which God has given them (1 Timothy 4:8).

Nevertheless for good reason did Paul speak of sin in humans in terms of the flesh: so much of our difficulties with sin revolve around the satisfaction of bodily desires (Galatians 5:17-24; cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Too many in Western culture reflect the decadence consistent with paganism: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32; cf. Romans 1:18-32). Excessive living is “in”: excessive exercise, excessive eating, excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol, and/or excessive expressions of sexuality fueled by pornography. God’s will for the Christian is sanctification, manifest according to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 by abstaining from sexually deviant behavior and possessing his or her “vessel,” or body, in sanctification and honor, and not in the passions of lust. Therefore Christians must maintain self-control and self-discipline in all things: avoiding all sexually deviant behavior, indeed, but also manifesting healthy and moderate behavior in terms of food, drink, and exercise.

In a culture of excess God calls the Christian to moderation and sobriety. The Christian ought not be excessively devoted to the body; neither should the Christian hate the body, ignore it, or act as if it is unnecessary. Christians do well to recognize that to be human is to be in the body, and we do well to act as good stewards of the bodies God has given us, establishing healthy disciplines in terms of food, drink, and exercise. But Christians also know the body will decay and die no matter how well they take care of their bodies, and their hope and trust must be in God in Christ for the resurrection when we will no longer experience suffering, pain, or decay, but enjoy eternity in transformed bodies. May we live so as to obtain the resurrection of life and be saved!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Titus | The Voice 7:28: July 09, 2017

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Paul’s Letter to Titus

Paul maintained great confidence in Titus; he had given the younger evangelist quite the tall order. Cretans were notorious for lying and gluttony; Titus would do well to set all things in order and exhort them unto righteousness. To this end Paul wrote to Titus.

Paul’s letter to Titus is the seventeenth book in modern editions of the New Testament; along with 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus is considered one of the “pastoral letters,” featuring counsel for preachers in how to work among the people of God. Paul is listed as its author (Titus 1:1); it would seem as if he wrote the letter personally. Pauline authorship of Titus is strongly contested by scholars on the basis of style and content. Nevertheless Christians of the late second century believed it to be genuine, and differences in style and content can be easily explained in terms of Paul’s later age and different audience. The letter is undated. Paul exhorted Titus to meet him in Nicopolis for the winter (Titus 3:12), which could be in Epirus, Thrace, or Cilicia; regardless, we have no evidence from the book of Acts of Paul spending the winter in any of these areas, and thus it is believed that Titus was written after Paul’s first Roman imprisonment but before the second (ca. 61-64 CE). Paul wrote to Titus to give direction regarding appointing elders and exhorting the Cretans to righteousness.

In his epistolary greeting Paul spoke of himself as a servant of God who cannot lie and who promised eternal life through the message of His Son Jesus of whom Paul was an apostle charged to proclaim His commandments for the faith of the elect according to the knowledge of truth (Titus 1:1-4). Paul then explained the reason why he left Titus in Crete: to set in order that which was wanting and to appoint elders in every city; Paul then again set forth qualifications for the overseers, concluding with their ability to teach the healthy doctrines; in Crete many Jewish people, perhaps even Christians, were unruly, deceptive, and overthrowing houses by teaching doctrines they ought not for the sake of riches (Titus 1:5-11). Paul then characterized Cretans according to the testimony of Epimenides of Crete, considering them as liars, beasts, and gluttons; on account of this Titus must reprove them so they may be healthy in faith, no longer following Jewish myths and traditions (Titus 1:12-14; cf. Epimenides of Crete’s Cretica). Paul reminded Titus how all is pure to the pure, but to the defiled nothing is pure (Titus 1:15).

Paul encouraged Titus to teach healthy doctrines (Titus 2:1), providing specific exhortations for Christians in various circumstances: older men (Titus 2:2), older women (who themselves were to teach younger women; Titus 2:3-5), and younger men (Titus 2:6). Titus himself was to display in himself an example of good works and faithful teaching so as to cause shame on any who would speak in opposition (Titus 2:7-8). Paul provided further exhortation to Christian slaves to remain faithful to God and subject to their masters (Titus 2:9-10). God’s grace appeared, bringing salvation to everyone, instructing those who would hear to deny ungodliness and lust and live soberly, righteously, and godly while awaiting the return of God our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for His people: such grounded Paul’s exhortations to Christians, and Titus was to proclaim them with all authority, allowing none to despise him (Titus 2:11-15).

Titus should also remind Christian to remain in subjection to rulers and authorities, obedient, ready to do good works, speaking evil of none, not contentious but gentle, meek to all (Titus 3:1-2). Christians are to live this way because they also were once disobedient, deceived, living in malice and envy, hated and hating in turn, but had received salvation through the kindness and love of God manifest through Jesus; this salvation is not based in works Christians did in righteousness but through God’s mercy in baptism and the Holy Spirit so that Christians could be justified by grace and inherit eternal life (Titus 3:3-7). Paul affirmed these things so that Titus could affirm them as well so that believers in Christ would maintain good works which prove profitable; nevertheless, contentions, strife, foolish questions, and speculations about the Law are vain and unprofitable (Titus 3:8-9). Anyone proving to be factious should be warned twice and then rejected or refused, since such a one proves self-condemned in their sins (Titus 3:10-11).

Paul concluded with specific directions for Titus: Paul would send Artemas or Tychichus to take his place, and he was to meet Paul in Nicopolis where he planned on wintering; Titus was to provide for whatever Zenas the lawyer and Apollos might need on their journey (Titus 3:12-13). Cretan Christians were to maintain good works and not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14). Having given final greetings, Paul ended his letter with a standard epistolary conclusion (Titus 3:5).

Paul’s letter to Titus provides Christians with a glimpse of the kind of instruction and exhortation the Apostles provided to those commissioned to continue to teach the Gospel of Christ after them. To this day many continue to teach things they ought not for monetary gain and obsess over speculative issues and myths; to this day those who proclaim the Gospel must insist on the healthy teachings about Jesus. Christians continue to need exhortation to remember from whence they have come and on what basis God has saved them so they may be fruitful with good works; Christians continue to need reminders about how to interact with one another, to avoid the lusts of the world, and to live righteously and soberly as they await the return of the Lord Jesus. To this day churches require things to be set in order and to maintain Scriptural leadership and organization with elders in local congregations. With a few detail changes an older preacher could write almost the same letter to a younger preacher today! We do well to take heed and uphold the healthy doctrines of God in Christ, encourage each other unto good works in Jesus, and await the return of the Lord Jesus!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Sinner’s Prayer | The Voice 7.27: July 02, 2017

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The Sinner’s Prayer

If you have much experience at all with evangelical Christianity, you have heard of or perhaps have even prayed the sinner’s prayer. The sinner’s prayer is purported to be a prayer to pray when a person comes to faith in Jesus for the first time or wishes to rededicate themselves to faith in Jesus as a response to God in Christ done by faith. While there is no one set edition of the sinner’s prayer, the version Billy Graham encouraged people to pray proves representative of the genre:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name, Amen.

You may be astonished to learn that no one in the New Testament prayed the sinner’s prayer; no Apostle exhorted people to pray such a prayer; the sinner’s prayer has no basis or ground in Scripture! There may be seventeenth century antecedents for the sinner’s prayer, and some editions may have been in use in the nineteenth century, but the prevalence of the sinner’s prayer has only been established in the past century. If one needs to pray the sinner’s prayer to demonstrate how they have been saved in Jesus, what will become of all of those who lived for 1900 years before the prayer became popular?

Most of its advocates admit that the sinner’s prayer, as such, is not found in the pages of Scripture. They often appeal to Romans 10:9-10 and Revelation 3:20 to justify the practice, suggesting the sinner’s prayer is the means by which one would confess with the mouth unto salvation and to open the door to the heart to allow Jesus to enter. Unfortunately, this reasoning seems to wish to justify an existing practice more than to make sense of what Paul and Jesus were addressing. The confession of which Paul spoke in Romans 10:9-10 is not of sin, which, while true, is not said to lead to salvation in the New Testament; instead, Paul referred to the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, a profession of that which one has now come to believe through the Gospel (cf. Matthew 16:16, 1 Timothy 6:12-13). Jesus did declare to the Laodiceans that He stood at the door and knock in Revelation 3:20, but no specific reference is made to the heart; instead, the metaphor is that of sharing a meal at a table, a demonstration of association. In context Jesus wanted to give the Laodiceans assurance: if they repented, Jesus would again dwell in their midst, and would consider them as part of His people. Jesus certainly continues to invite people to come and abide with and in Him, but the sinner’s prayer is nowhere considered the means by which this would transpire.

Furthermore, to what end does the sinner’s prayer exist? After all, those who tend to advocate for the sinner’s prayer also advocate for salvation by faith alone. Many will in fact stress how the sinner’s prayer itself does not provide salvation but is designed to be a response a person can make in order to have some kind of moment they can point to as the moment at which they became saved. When the sinner’s prayer is offered at type of “altar call” it also becomes a public demonstration of one’s faith. Thus the sinner’s prayer seems to exist because it provides a type of experience which demonstrates the change inherent in the point of conversion.

James the Lord’s brother warned us against the idea that anyone is justified by faith alone (James 2:24); nevertheless, Christians are saved by grace through faith, since none of us can earn salvation by any works we might do for merit (Romans 3:20, Ephesians 2:1-8). As Revelation 3:20 would suggest, Jesus stands at the door and knocks: He has done all that is necessary for us to be saved if we would only accept His salvation according to what He has set forth for us.

How did people respond to the Gospel message in the first century? We find a consistent pattern throughout the pages of Scripture. When people open to the Gospel message heard the declaration of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, lordship, and imminent return, they recognized Jesus as Lord and Christ by first believing in Him, trusting Him as Lord, then confessing that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God and repenting of sin and committing to follow Jesus as Lord, and then were baptized in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38, 8:35-38, 16:31-33, etc.).

It is good to see that those who would advocate for faith only nevertheless recognize that there ought to be some action or means by which one’s conversion is memorialized, both for the believer him or herself and for others as well. And yet God anticipated such needs already and has established prescribed actions and behaviors in His Word to this end: confession and baptism. These represent ancient practices which have been maintained consistently for as long as Christianity has existed. On what basis should we prefer a twentieth century innovation over what was proclaimed by the Apostles in the name of Jesus?

The sinner’s prayer cannot provide salvation; it cannot attest to salvation; it has no standing or even purpose according to what God has made known in Christ through the Scriptures. Instead, the only “prayer” of the sinner is to believe in Jesus, confess Jesus before others, repent, and to be immersed in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of his or her sin (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7, 10:9-10). The prayer, or appeal, of the sinner is accomplished in the act of baptism, defined as an appeal to God for a cleansed conscience through the resurrection of Jesus, and for salvation in 1 Peter 3:21. May all seek to be saved in Christ by the means which He established from the beginning, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized, and thus put on Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Bible Study Basics | The Voice 7.26: June 25, 2017

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Bible Study Basics

Christians generally recognize they would do well to study their Bibles. They have been told over and over again by elders and preachers to do so; they perceive a need to be better acquainted with the message of Scripture. While some do not read because of a “heart problem,” not desiring, for whatever reason, to put the effort into Bible study, far more manifest a sincere desire to study their Bible and to understand God’s Word, but for whatever reason have some difficulties in understanding exactly how to go about studying the Bible. We thus do well to explore some basic principles of how we might effectively and profitably study the Scriptures.

What type of Bible study is beneficial for us at this time? All Bible study is not the same: there are different types of Bible study to suit different purposes in understanding. The three primary types of Bible study feature survey studies, textual studies, and topical studies.

Survey studies are useful when starting out or when trying to get a better understanding of the “big picture” of the Biblical story. In a survey study of the Bible, you get to see the whole Bible and the major themes contained therein. Survey studies, however, only scratch the surface of the text: the very broad scope of such a study, and the restraints of time, hinders any attempt to dig deeply into any given text. Having the “big picture” is very helpful, nevertheless, and there are many programs in which the student reads the Bible in one year to this end.

Textual study is the standard type of Bible study. In a textual study, a person selects a book of the Bible and begins to dig deeply into that text and try to understand everything going on in that text. While studying one book will not provide a broad picture of the entire Bible, such a textual study will fill in a part of that big picture. Just as one begins building a house by building a frame and then finishing each room in turn, it is profitable to first have an idea of the entire picture of the Bible and then fill in the details in good textual study (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

Topical study works well when attempting to ascertain what God desires for the Christian to do in regards to some specific element of life. A topical study is a study of all the various Scriptures that speak of a given topic. One must always try to keep the various contexts of the different passages in mind while engaging in a topical study, lest one come to a wrong conclusion, but topical studies on the whole can be very beneficial.

Once we have determined what type of study in which we want to engage, we must then dig into the text and try to determine what the text is trying to communicate to us. The first goal in any Bible study is to understand the text in context: once the text is understood in its own right, we can then derive appropriate applications. If we are to understand the text, we are going to have to ask questions of the text and seek to find answers to them.

We must first seek to learn what we can about the author of the text. Yes, God is the ultimate author of the entire Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), but the Bible was written by men “moved by the Holy Spirit” to write (2 Peter 1:21). Different authors wrote to different people at different times for different reasons. To understand any given text, therefore, we must determine who was the author, about what time was he writing, when were the events of which he writes, to whom is he writing, and why he is writing. While we read the text, we must continue to ask ourselves these questions as they relate to the specific context. Does the audience change while the author writes? Why does the author present the material in the way he does? What is so special about a particular speech or story? We must answer these questions according to the text itself based on what is explicitly written and what we must infer by necessity.

After gaining an understanding of the author, audience, and specific purpose of what we are studying, we can then go on to read and ask questions of the material.

Who is involved? Who is speaking or acting? Who is hearing or receiving the action? Many times we can get easily confused because texts feature many different people simultaneously. If this is the case, we do well to take a piece of paper, and write down each name we find, and begin to write down what the text says about that person: who s/he is related to, what s/he does, etc. In this way we develop notes notes to help us sort out who is whom in the text.

When are the events occurring? This question is easier to answer if we have already determined when the author wrote and when the events of which he wrote occurred. Nevertheless, texts on occasion will give you a big picture and then go back to fill in detail (e.g. Genesis 1:1-2:24), will present a collection of sayings that are not dated and may not have been presented in exactly that order in time (e.g. Isaiah 1:1-39:8), or the text may present a series of events in proper chronological progression.

What is going on? If we cannot understand the basic message of the text, we cannot make much sense of anything else about the text! We must establish a basic understanding of what the text is trying to relate. When there is a speech, what is the message of that speech? When there are events chronicled, what happened in those events? When these basic questions are understood, we can move on and gain a deeper understanding of the text at hand.

How do various matters relate? Why are things said or done as they are? Once basic understanding of the text is achieved, we can then try to relate the material in the text to itself. Why does a person respond to another in the way he does? How have previous actions led to the current situation, and what will be the result of the actions now taken? Why are various things said and done as they are? Answering these questions will help greatly in understanding the meaning of a text.

These are just some of many concepts that must be taken into consideration when studying the Bible. They are not necessarily easy, and they may require frequent re-reading of the text. It is important for us to get as many of these answers as we can from our own study of the text and from the text itself. May we come to a better understanding of God’s purposes in Christ and be workmen without need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Christian and Culture | The Voice 7.25: June 18, 2017

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The Voice

The Christian and Culture

We hear a lot about “culture” these days. People commend or decry various “cultural trends.” We recognize that certain people are significant “cultural influencers.” There seems to be no end of discussion regarding “cultural differences.” How should the Christian relate to culture?

Discussions of “culture” are fraught with many dangers. For starters, there is no one monolithic thing we can call “culture,” because culture exists at every level of society. We could speak of a culture of all humanity; each nation-state has its own form of culture; each ethnic group, speakers of a language, a particular race or class all have forms of culture; cultures change based on regional or local differences; religions have forms of culture; even families have their own culture. A given person will find him or herself relating to multiple different cultures at once, and few of these cultures exist in isolation. They all influence each other for good or ill.

Each person is not only a product of the cultural milieu in which he or she was born and raised but also is shaped by their posture and relationship with their own culture and other cultures which they experience. We all have different cultural markers we decide to privilege for various reasons. We strongly and actively identify according to some cultural markers while equally strongly condemning certain other markers; at the same time, we are just as much manifesting various cultural indicators which we may not even notice.

Christians tend to take a defensive posture against culture. Such is an understandable, and often necessary, position. Christians are not to be conformed to the world or to love the world (Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-17), and cultures are very much things of the world. Those shaping “greater culture” seek to marginalize “Christian subculture”; this trend is quite evident in the early twenty-first century, but it was there throughout the twentieth century as well, and in some way or another has existed ever since the days the Lord Jesus walked the earth. These days Christians warn against prevailing cultural trends regarding the justification of sexual immorality, consideration of the lives of children as if they are elective choices of the parents, the role and value of faith in society, as well as a host of other issues, and for good reason: our culture does not truly respect God, life, or healthy sexuality, but then again, few cultures have (Romans 1:18-32).

Nevertheless the Christian must remember that he or she cannot escape life in culture or participation in culture. Wherever there are humans there is culture; such is how humanity establishes its existence and hands down meaningful expressions of existence and identity. Even if someone attempted to set up an “anti-culture,” seeking to resist the establishment of any kind of cultural norm, the whole project would become, in and of itself, the “anti-culture” culture! As Christians we develop and maintain a culture within the church, both in the universal and in the local sense; Christian families develop their own culture as well. It always has been this way; even in the resurrection we will maintain some sort of culture as the people of God! Jesus was part of a culture; the Apostles were part of a culture; we cannot escape culture.

We cannot presume that any given culture, regardless of its scope, is fully righteous or fully depraved; every culture is a “mixed bag,” as is consistent with all things related to fallen humans made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 5:12-21). In every culture, great or small, many of its values and principles are consistent with the revelations of God in Christ and in the Word; likewise, every culture enshrines certain attitudes or behaviors which are not consistent with godliness in the Lord Jesus.

This is, unfortunately, no less true in the church than it is in the world. Christians often manifest the pretense of the ideal, as if the church is perfect because the Lord has sanctified it, and therefore it represents all it should (Ephesians 5:22-33). It is true that the Lord has sanctified His church, and its constituent members are cleansed by the blood of Christ (cf. Titus 3:3-8); nevertheless, each local congregation is made up of people, and such people remain imperfect. A given local congregation is very likely reflecting, at any given moment, cultural attitudes intentionally postured against certain prevailing cultural norms while at the same time unconsciously maintaining and upholding other prevailing cultural norms. Ideally, faithful Christians would maintain a posture “for” all prevailing cultural norms that are good and honorable, and “against” those which are wrong, contrary to God’s purposes, and unhealthy (Romans 12:9, 17); and yet we all fall short of the ideal, and in certain respects we accept or are resigned to certain unhealthy cultural norms, and rail against certain cultural norms which we may find uncomfortable but actually may have much to commend them.

Christians do well to remain circumspect about themselves and culture at all levels. Christians must cling to what is good and abhor what is evil at every level of culture, including the cultures among themselves and in their families (Romans 12:9). Christians are easily tempted to condemn whatever they perceive is contrary to their interests; there may be times when that condemnation is right and just, but at other times such condemnation reflects inappropriate prejudice. Likewise, Christians may commend among themselves what they would condemn in others; many times Christians do not even seem conscious of the pervasive influence of culture, and all too easily associate the faith once delivered for all the saints with a particular cultural expression of that faith.

For good reason God has made one body in Christ from people of every nation, land, and culture (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28, Ephesians 2:11-18, 4:11-16): different perspectives can help open our eyes to our heretofore unrecognized implicit attitudes and biases. Christianity is a religion designed to transcend cultural differences: Christians can faithfully serve the Lord Jesus in any culture in any time or place, and must work out in faith according to the Scriptures what they are to honor within their cultures and what they must resist. God’s purposes in Christ demand that His people reflect the diversity of humanity (Ephesians 3:10-11); we must resist any and all attempts to homogenize the church, its constituents, and its culture. May we all strive to glorify the Lord Jesus in our specific cultural contexts, encourage others to the same end, and obtain the resurrection of life!

Ethan R. Longhenry

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