The Orchard Christian Church

The Orchard Christian Church__________ "where Fruit of the Spirit grows"____________________________ north Montebello ______________ Matthew & Kumi Perri

Monday, June 29, 2009

Model for ministry ??

The apostle Paul wrote: “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” [Galatians 2:11] I agree with other Evangelical Christians that Peter was clearly in the wrong. However, does that have to mean that Paul was 100% clearly in the right, and we should “be like Paul” and model ourselves after Paul’s action here? Should we automatically assume that Paul’s method of handling this situation was 100% correct, without examining him in the light of his own inerrant teachings and the inerrant teachings of Jesus? Are we saying that we should rebuke an older man harshly, publicly bringing an accusation against an elder without any other witnesses and without talking to him privately first, and then brag and boast that we were victorious in a fight with a famous man and we proved him wrong? Or is it possible that, like all Christians, Paul was a work in progress, and he had some room for improvement in his walk to become more like Jesus?

Paul wrote: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” [1 Timothy 5:1] and “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” [1 Timothy 5:19]

Jesus said: “ If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” [Matthew 18:15-17]

Pastor Tony Evans, who founded Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas Texas, has been quoted as saying “Where the Bible bumps up against blackness, blackness has got to go.” Building on this concept, I would say that where Jesus and the inerrant teachings of the 66 books of the Bible bump up against the imperfect life and ministry of Paul the Pharisee, Paulism has got to go.

Personally, I have blind spots when it comes to the Bible. What are they? If I knew that, they would not be blind spots! I can almost surely guarantee you that if you take any Born Again, Spirit-filled Christian who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, and sit me in a room with him, I will agree with him on all the major points. But if we talk long enough, there will be at least a few minor points of interpretation and application, where, in the eyes of God, he is right and I am wrong. And you know what? That is OK!

I’ll close with the words of our only perfect model for ministry, Jesus Christ. “I have spoken openly to the world” … “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong.” [John 18:20-23]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The hardest words to say

When I was studying at Dallas Theological Seminary, I remember people quoting this saying: “You can always tell a Dallas grad, but you can’t tell him much.” Maybe this saying tends to apply to me, and also my brothers the Calvary Chapel pastors, or other Born-again Spirit-filled Christian believers like me who believe in the inerrancy of the 66 books of the Bible and teach it verse by verse. I think the saying would also apply to the Pharisees, of whom the apostle Paul was one.

We are in agreement about the inerrancy of Scripture; God, Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and Holy Spirit; faith in Jesus as the only way of salvation by grace, the realities of heaven and hell, in the beginning God created us male and female, all the teachings of the Bible, including everything that Paul taught others to do; The Gospels, most of the other New Testament books, and the entire Old Testament. So what don’t we agree on?

The interpretation and application of the apostle Paul’s personal life, ministry, and comments about himself in the inerrant Bible record of 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and the second half of Acts. If Paul, (or Jesus or another author of Scripture) clearly teaches one thing, but the Scripture clearly shows that Paul did the opposite, I believe that Paul’s action was wrong. Paul didn’t always practice what he preached. That should not surprise us, because none of us do perfectly, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The “traditional” interpretation in most American Evangelical circles now is, essentially, that none of Paul’s mistakes or sins are revealed in Scripture. Traditionalists will say, “we should be like Paul” without examining his life, because if Paul did it, he must have had a good reason, he was the world’s greatest missionary, he wrote most of the New Testament, he suffered a lot for the Gospel, etc. I admit that it is easier to teach Paul’s life as if it was the perfect life of Jesus- but we are called to be Christians, not Paulists. We should try to be like Jesus- He is the center.

What are the hardest words to say? “Maybe I was wrong.” In my zeal for the Word of God, maybe I was trying too much to “be like Paul” instead of trying to be like Jesus. God and His Word have not changed, and my beliefs and opinions about God and His Word have not changed- but my opinions about the apostle Paul have changed. God used Paul mightily in many ways, just as He used Mary, Jonah, Solomon, and others. But Paul wasn’t perfect, he made mistakes, and those mistakes are revealed in Scripture. In the power of the Holy Spirit, who will guide me into all truth, I want to know God and His Word more and more as I follow Jesus every day. I confess that I don’t understand the Bible perfectly, and in this life I never will, but I want to receive God’s truth every day as he reveals his infinite character. I want to be like Jesus.