Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trouble in Paradise (or Corinth)

This week in the Bible Challenge we take up Second Corinthians.

Relations between Paul and the congregation in Corinth has gone down hill since he wrote First Corinthians.  He had mentioned in First Corinthians coming to visit them and it seems like that didn't happen.

Much of Second Corinthians is dealing with issues of emotion and hurt feelings that are not resolved in the letter.  That makes the arguments hard to follow sometimes.

Pay attention to chapters 10 to 13 these are a defensive by Paul of himself and his work.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bible Challenge - First Corinthians

This is another of the letters attributed to Paul that was actually in all probability written by Paul.

The letter describes the issues of a particular local congregation - in this case one in Corinth - right around 55 AD.

Corinth was one of the most important cities in Roman Greece.  It was near Athens and Sparta - but it was one of the major trading ports on the Mediterranean.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city.  It was made up of people from all over the Roman Empire and a variety of cultures, religions and ideas came together there.

Paul himself carried the message of Christ to Corinth and had done most of the work of establishing the church there.  Reading between the lines of the letter it seems as if his later relations with the church had not been smooth - there had been some tension between them.

Much of this letter is focused on dealing with divisions and problems between the people in the community of Christians in Corinth.  Paul is answering their questions about a variety of things.

We see in this letter the tension in the first century church (that continues to this day) of how to find the right balance between being enough a part of the culture that people around them were willing to listen to the message of Christ, and being separate enough from the culture that it was clear that they were different and set apart.

Pay attention especially to chapters 1, 13 and 15 for Paul's teachings on the cross, love and resurrection

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Bible Challenge is Back!

Welcome back to the St. Paul's Bible Challenge.

This year we are starting with the Epistles.  The word epistle means letter

These are the letters to the earliest congregations of Christians.  Most of these letters were written from the earliest leaders of the Church to some of the earliest believers.  Because paper was so expensive - and letters were hard to send, the letters tended to be copied and shared with other groups of Christians and read over and over.

Over time some of the letters got read more than others.  As the years went on there came to be a "core set" of letters that nearly all the groups of Christians read and another group of letters that only a few groups of Christians read.

Around 330 AD Christianity had become legal and the Emperor and the Bishops both wanted to have a defined set of writings that could be called the Scripture of the Christian Church.  Over about 150 years the leaders of the church discussed and debated which of the epistles should be included in the Scripture.  By about 500 AD the Scripture was settled and included 21 epistles.  These are the books that we are going to be reading this fall.

We are starting with the book of Romans.  It is the longest and most influential of the letters attributed to the apostle Paul.

Unlike some of the others, that were in all likelihood written by a student of Paul, sometimes after his death.  Romans was probably written (or at least dictated) by Paul himself.  It was probably written between 54 and 58 AD to the congregation in Rome.

The focuses of the letter are the world's need for redemption and the saving work of Christ and the new life that results from it.  He also touches briefly on the role of the Jewish nation in the plans of God and some ethical teachings.

Pay special attention to the 8th chapter.  It has been said that if all of the rest of the Bible was lost, Christianity could be reconstructed from the 8th chapter of Romans.