Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Simeon Network National Launch

The Simeon Network is a group of Christian academics and post- grad students at Australian universities who seek to make a stand for Christ. They're not necessarily doing Christian, theological research; they just want to unashamedly demonstrate they're Christian commitment while they teach, research & study.

The network's name comes from Charles Simeon. He was a minister at Trinity Church, Cambridge, and a resident and fellow of Kings College Cambridge, in the late 1700s-early 1800s. He evangelized, discipled and trained students in the days before organised student ministry like AFES. He was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society.

The Simeon Network's National Launch will be on Saturday, 6 February 2010, at the Ryde Anglican Centre, 42 Church Street, Ryde. 6:30pm for 7:00pm dinner. Cost: $65 per person, $45 for students. Professor Michael Spence, the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University, will be the speaker. RSVP by Monday, 1 February here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

What authority did these other Christian missionaries & church planters have?

This concludes my series on apostleship.

My previous post noted that the new testament extends apostolic terminology and privileges to people who were not part of the twelve, or Paul. These apostles seem to have the same authority as Paul and twelve to proclaim the authoritative word of God, but they are not given the same status as being personal touchstones of doctrine. This is because, as noted above, the twelve plus Paul have a unique role in salvation history, of being God’s Spirit-empowered foundational witnesses to Christ. But this foundational testimony, once established, comes with the authority of its ultimate author – ie: God – not merely its human authors – the apostles – nor whoever speaks it – missionaries, evangelists etc.

While the Holy Spirit performed a unique work in the twelve and Paul, consistent with their unique place in salvation history, that same Spirit operates in every believer, and can gift and lead them to truly and authoritatively proclaim that same gospel. God is free, through his Holy Spirit, to empower his messengers to perform miracles to validate the message, if and when God pleases to thus empower them. I do not think miracles have to accompany authentic evangelism; but they may do so.

Missionaries need to be sent to proclaim this authoritative doctrine, not in their own name, nor even the name of the original apostles, but in the name of God, whose gospel it ultimately is. In that sense, as they, in the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaim the true gospel of Christ, they are God’s apostles.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Other Christian missionaries & church planters

This continues my series on apostleship.

Others beyond the twelve and Paul are also given the title Apostle, and are sent (“apostled”) by God an a manner similar to the twelve and Paul.

Before God sent Paul anywhere, he sent (Greek apesteilen) Ananias to Paul (Acts 9:17). God used Ananias to heal Paul’s blindness and give him the Holy Spirit by the laying on of Ananias’ hands. Ananias thus shared apostolic privileges, at least on this one occasion.

Similarly, Philip – not an apostle but one of the table-waiters (deacons?) (Acts 6:1-6) – performed the apostolic function of proclaiming Christ, and performing miracles, in Samaria (Acts 8:5-7). Barnabas is differentiated from the apostles in Acts 4:36-37, but is called an apostle alongside Paul in Acts 14:4 and 14. Paul placed Barnabas alongside himself as having the same rights as the other apostles and the “Lord’s brothers” and Peter (1 Cor. 9:1-6). Paul does not here explicitly describe Barnabas as an apostle; but the extension of apostolic privileges to him strongly indicates that Paul considered him as one.

Andronicus and Junias are probably deemed apostles in Rom. 16:7. The phrase may mean “esteemed in the apostle’s opinion”, without according them a place among the apostles – but this goes against the tenor of Romans 16, where Paul goes out of his way to honour people as his fellow-workers, not distance himself or the other apostles from them.

Similarly, by using plural pronouns, Paul places Silvanus and Timothy alongside himself as Christ’s apostles to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:6). James the Lord’s brother received a resurrection appearance personally (1 Cor. 15:7), is termed an apostle in Gal. 1:19, and placed alongside Peter and John in Gal. 2:9. Paul notes that people will not hear the gospel unless preachers are sent (apesteilen) (Rom. 10:15). John requested Gaius to send (Greek pempo) unnamed brothers, previously unknown to Gaius, who went out (Greek erkomai) for the sake of the name. These unknown brothers were probably itinerant missionaries.

Apostleship: the story so far

A summary of the posts on apostleship so far:
  • Christ is the pre-eminent apostle;
  • he chose the twelve apostles to be with him during his earthly ministry and be witnesses of his resurrection;
  • these twelve, empowered by the Holy Spirit, carried out God’s initial evangelistic mission;
  • Paul shares this divinely commissioned evangelistic ministry;
  • the twelve plus Paul are therefore uniquely, divinely authorised and empowered to proclaim Christ to us, which proclamation is preserved in the new testament.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Paul’s apostleship

This continues my series on apostleship.

Paul’s apostleship is both similar and different to the twelve. On the one hand, he was adamant that although he had not been with Christ during his earthly ministry, his apostleship was as authoritative as the twelve. Paul had seen, and been commissioned by, the risen Christ (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1; 15:8; Gal. 1:1, 11-24). Acts repeats Paul’s conversion three times, each time linking it with a divine commission to preach Christ (Acts 9:1-25; 22:3-21; 26:12-23). Paul’s own report of his divine commission is that God in Christ apostello him (Acts 22:21; 26:17; 1 Cor 1:17). Luke, Peter and Paul himself are at pains to demonstrate that Paul and the other apostles share a common, authoritative testimony to Christ (Acts 9:26-27; 1 Cor. 15:8-11; Gal. 2:6-9; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul insists that the Holy Spirit authorises his written words as being God’s commands (1 Cor 14:37). Therefore, we must accept Paul’s testimony to Christ as equally authoritative as the twelve.

On the other hand, he is aware that his apostleship is different from theirs, in at least two aspects. Chronologically, they were apostles before him (Gal. 1:17). Secondly, his background was that of an opponent and persecutor (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1-2; 22:3-5; 26:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:12-16). The twelve had been disciples – wayward, misunderstanding and unreliable, but disciples nonetheless. Hence Paul’s sense of being ‘abnormally born’ (1 Cor. 15:8).

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The unique role of the twelve apostles

This continues my series on apostleship.

The twelve apostles have a unique role in salvation history. Everything we’ve surveyed in previous posts – their personal knowledge of Jesus and his teaching, his commissioning of them, their post-resurrection encounter with him, his equipping of them with the Spirit, and the miracles they were enabled to perform in his name – all point to them being Christ’s unique, authorised representatives, through whom we can come to know him – incarnate, crucified, risen, and now seated above all heavenly and earthly powers. This normative teaching has been preserved in written form in the New Testament. This is consistent with the picture of the early church listening to the apostle’s teaching in Acts 2:42. It may be also what Eph. 2:20 means when it refers to God’s united household being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The twelve apostles: their post-Pentecost mission

This continues my series on apostleship.

The mission of the twelve apostles expands after Pentecost. While there is continuity with their pre-Easter role and mission, two factors mark a decisive new beginning: the resurrection, and the bestowal of the Spirit. Hence, the disciples are re-commissioned for world mission (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) and re-empowered with a new dispensation of the Spirit (John 20:22; Acts 2:1-4; 4:8; 5:32). Their mission is just like Jesus’: as the Father sent (apostello) Christ, so Christ sends (pempo) them, and whoever receives them receives Christ, and in him, the Father (John 13:20; 17:18; 20:21 cf Matt. 10:40; Luke 9:48; 10:16).

The apostles therefore play a vital role in the book of Acts. The risen Christ met with and taught them (1:2). Matthias took Judas’ position (1:26). They preached fearlessly at Pentecost (2:37) and afterwards (4:33), even in the face of persecution (5:18, 29, 40; 8:1, 14). The early church was founded upon their teaching (2:42). They performed miracles (2:43; 5:12), and administered the welfare of the poor until handing it over to others (4:35-37; 5:2; 6:6). They investigated the expansion of the gospel to the Samaritans, and God demonstrated the unity of the church through giving the Spirit through their hands (8:14, 18). They played a key role in accepting Paul (9:27) and, along with the elders, accepting Gentile converts (11:1; 15:4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). The apostolic-presbyterial decree concerning Gentiles indicates that its human authors, and the messengers entrusted to deliver it, regard the decree as being ultimately authored by God and therefore divinely binding upon believing communities: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28). All of this was under the direction and empowerment of the Spirit (eg: Acts 4:31; 15:28; 16:7).

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The twelve apostles: their appointment and initial mission

This continues my series on apostleship.

After Jesus, the most obvious group of missionaries are the twelve apostles. They were chosen by Christ, were with him for the duration of his earthly ministry, and were witnesses of his resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Mark and Luke note how Jesus appointed twelve of the disciples to be apostles (Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13). The Apostles would later become witnesses of all that Christ did and said, especially of his resurrection. It is entirely appropriate that they would need to spend time with Christ, learning from him, before being sent out as his representatives. John does not recount the appointment of the twelve, but does highlight how Christ had chosen them himself (John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19). This inner ring of disciples are regularly referred to as ‘the twelve’ (Matt. 10:1, 2, 5; 11:1; 19:28; 20:17; 26:14, 20, 47; Mark 3:14, 16; 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; 14:10, 17, 20, 43; Luke 6:13; 8:1; 9:1, 12; 18:31; 22:3, 20, 47).

Jesus sent these twelve on a mission to Galilee (Matt. 10:5-8; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6) – just like Jesus’ mission was limited, at least in his earthly days, to the lost sheep of Israel. He gave them authority over evil spirits, and sent them to proclaim the kingdom – again, just like Jesus has been doing. This preparatory mission is a miniature of their future task in the wider world.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Jesus, the pre-eminent apostle

This continues my series on apostleship.

Jesus is only explicitly termed an apostle once: Heb. 3:1. Nevertheless, the Gospels demonstrate that he was fully aware of having been sent, “apostled” (Greek apesteilen) by God, and that people’s response to him is their response to God himself (Matt. 10:40; 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; 9:48; 10:16). In John’s Gospel, Jesus both states that he has been sent (apesteilen) by God the Father (John 3:17, 34; 5:36, 38; 6:29, 57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21), and speaks of the Father as the one who sent me (Greek pempo) (John 4:34; 5:30, 37; 6:38, 39, 44; 7:16, 28, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29; 9:4; 12:44, 45, 49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:26; 16:5; 20:21). Paul notes that God sent (apesteilen) his son to redeem and adopt (Gal. 4:4). In three key texts in his first epistle, John states that God sent (apesteilen) his son to be the saviour of the world and propitiation for our sins, so we could live through him (1 John 4:9, 10, 14).

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

“Sending” terminology in the New Testament

In the new testament, the word “send” translates the Greek verbs apostello and pempo. The title Apostle comes from the noun apostolos.

At their most basic, pempo and apostello simply involve the movement of someone or something from one place to another. For example, apostello can be used of the movement of demons (Matt. 8:31; Mark 5:10); animals (Matt. 21:3; Mark 11:3); slaves (Matt. 21:34, 36); angels (Matt. 24:31); a sickle, with the purpose of harvest (Mark 4:29); a delegation (Luke 19:14) and spies (Luke 20:20). Pempo can also be used of sending demons (Mark 5:12); slaves (Luke 20:11, 12); an army (Matt. 22:7); Paul as prisoner (Acts 23:30; 25:25; 25:27); and the sickle to harvest in judgment (Rev 14:15, 18).

So, these terms are not in themselves religious or ‘theological’. Their religious use comes from the person who sends these apostles, these ‘sent ones’ – God – and the nature of the message they’re sent with – God’s authoritative message, his gospel.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Apostleship in Sri Lanka

I’m off to Sri Lanka for two weeks, to attend a friend’s wedding. Meanwhile, through the power of post scheduling, I'll put up some thoughts on apostleship – from a project I did late last year as part of my Presbyterian ordination studies. Enjoy!

Where to, now?

My previous post said I was leaving MEPC - now I have to 'fess up where I'm going!

Here's the background: I've finished all the training to become a full Presbyterian minister. I'm in the process of being appointed to my own church. All going well, I'll start on 1 Feb 2010. I can't publicly say which church it is yet, because we're still finalising arrangements. Terribly sorry.

In the meantime, I'm off to Sri Lanka to attend the wedding of a close friend. Hopefully, when I return, all the official arrangements will have been made & I'll be able to start my new ministry - and make it public, so you'll all know what I'm up to.

Or, it might all fall in a heap & I might return to discover I'm unemployed. That's unlikely, but not impossible. Never mind. I know who really holds the future. :)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I hate goodbyes

Today, I say goodbye to Merrylands East Presbyterian Church. I've only been there a year - which is long enough to get attached to people, but not long enough to get to know them deeply. Worst possible combination.

I hate goodbyes. Because if I’m saying goodbye, that means I’m moving somewhere. I might be moving jobs, or moving house, or moving church – like I am now. Once, I moved continents – that’s when I migrated from Sri Lanka to Australia.

Moving breaks relationships. When we move someplace new, we can’t keep up with people like we used to. We don’t seem them as much. We don’t talk to them as much. Little by little, we lose contact. We don’t know how they’re going. We don’t know what’s happening in their lives.Electronic networking methods – like Facebook – they’re good, but it’s not the same thing as meeting people personally. I remember seeing one of my Facebook friend’s update that he’d just had his fourth child, and I thought “what the – four kids? Last time I checked he only had two…”

It’s worse if we change church – like I am – ‘coz I’ll need to get to know all the people in my old church. And spending time with my new friends means I can’t keep up with my old friends. It’s just physically impossible. We don’t have enough time.

Every time relationships break like this, it’s a little bit like death. Death is the final goodbye.When people die, we never see them again. We can never talk to them again. We can’t say we love them, or say sorry for something we’ve done, or anything. It’s too late. They’ve moved on – forever.

When Jesus was arrested, put on trial, stuck on the cross, and died, the disciples didn’t get to say goodbye. That’s because they were too chicken – they’d already deserted him and run away (Matt 26:56b; Mark 14:50). They left it up to a small group of women, who came to Jesus’ tomb to say goodbye to Jesus, by giving him the final dignity of being properly embalmed (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). And that’s when they got the shock of their lives. Because instead of them saying goodbye to Jesus, Jesus said hello to them (Matt 28:9; John 20:16).

And that’s why Jesus’ resurrection is so exciting. ‘Coz he promises that if we trust in him, then what happened to him will happen to us (1 Cor 15:42-56; Php 3:21). If we trust Jesus, we can be confident that one day he will raise us up from the dead, with new bodies that cannot die. And we’ll live forever with him, and each other, in a place with no goodbyes.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Another book review in CASE Newsletter

In the latest CASE Newsletter (Issue 21), mum & I review Just Sex, a book by Guy Brandon. Brandon is a researcher with the Jubilee Centre, a Christian sociological think-tank at Cambridge.

Brief summary: it's a good book, read it. Full review downloadable here.

But don't just download it - become a CASE Associate and get the whole mag! This issue's on "otherness" - what it means to be different. Excellent articles on disability, deafness, theologian Miroslav Volf, and more!

Friday, 8 January 2010

What's in a name?

At almost every church or ministry I've been at, I've earned myself a nickname.
And this year? Let's wait & see...

Friday, 1 January 2010

Today is 22

Follow my logic, here.
Today is 01.01.10, right?
In binary language, 010110 = 22.
So today is 22.

PS: Happy new year!