For the past decade, “How Great Is Our God” has been one of the most popular worship songs in the United States.
The song’s success helped to make Chris Tomlin the world’s top worship leader, and turned his co-writer Ed Cash into one of the most sought-after Christian music producers in Nashville.
It also helped launch what former members are calling a cult.
-Bob Smietana, December 14, 2015
“I Am Called a Cult Leader. I Really Don’t Care”
I recently heard a pastor of a large American church say matter-of-factly that the average person in his church attended one out of three Sundays. Sadly, he wasn’t saying it was a problem. He was simply making an observation.
It’s an observation that stands in stark contrast to the admonition in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
–Bob Kauflin, December 15, 2015
“Why Church Isn’t Optional for Christians”
You may be wondering what these two stories have to do with one another. The former (a very long but worthwhile article) describes what most of us would call a “cult,” a domineering religious community run by a single individual who allegedly demands absolute control over his followers’ lives, and the latter, espousing the value in believers regularly gathering with one another to worship God and for mutual edification.
I recently wrote about the good and the bad of religious community. Actually, that blog post was mainly about the bad. The first story about Wayne “Pops” Jolley, “a prosperity gospel preacher with a history of alleged spiritual and sexual abuse,” and sole owner/operator of The Gathering International, is much, much (allegedly) worse than the two Pastors I described in my previous write-up.
He’s (allegedly) a monster and, if the facts in the story are accurate, he should be in prison.
In reading that story, I found myself amazed that anyone would fall for Jolley’s lines and allow themselves to come under his control. The first “red alert” should go off for any Christian right here (on page 2 of the 10 page “Christianity Today” article):
Jolley’s followers are asked to make a lifelong covenant with him and God, where they pledge their obedience and financial support to him as their spiritual father. In exchange, he pledges to pass on God’s messages and blessings. (emph. mine)
Lifelong commitment to God I can understand, but lifelong commitment to obey and throw money at Jolley in exchange for him passing along what God has to say and His blessings to me? That’s outrageous.
There’s a popular meme I sometimes see on Facebook: “Jesus didn’t say ‘follow Christians’ He said ‘follow me’.”
You can click the link I posted above to read all about what “Christianity Today” has to say about Jolley and find out why he (allegedly) makes my skin crawl.
The flip side is the small article written by Bob Kauflin, and which probably leverages content from his book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.
The blurb on the book’s Amazon.com page says in part:
Nothing is more essential than knowing how to worship the God who created us. This book focuses readers on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author, a pastor and noted songwriter, skillfully instructs pastors, musicians, and church leaders so that they can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles, not divisive cultural trends.
I especially took note of the line, “can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles…” True, a lot of churches are very “program” oriented and seem to be searching for ever more ways to make going to church “popular” if not a thrill-a-minute, but I react to the phrase “unchanging scriptural principles” as written by a Christian, the same way as I do to “sound doctrine”. What you believe the Bible says depends a great deal on your interpretive traditions rather than (necessarily) on objective analysis.
I know that probably sounds harsh, but then again, I’ve participated in the eisegesis wars more than once.
And while I don’t doubt that Kauflin is a good, sincere, devoted, and compassionate disciple of Jesus, he definitely is writing from a highly specific point of view; a very traditionally Evangelical Christian point of view.
You can read his eight reasons why Church attendance isn’t optional by clicking this link. I’ll present my responses here.
1. Jesus came to save a people, not random individuals.
Well, sort of. Jesus came (it’s a lot more complicated than a simple Christian understanding of the purpose of Christ relates) for the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) to call them to repentance because of the “nearness” of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 4:17).
To expand on this a bit, he came at that place and that time to show Israel (the Jewish people) that God’s New Covenant promises (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36) were indeed going to come true. He did this by being a living (and dying and then living again) example of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:13:17), the forgiveness of sins (Romans 11:25-27), and the resurrection (Colossians 1:18).
Bottom line, Jesus came to herald the emergence of the Messianic Kingdom into our world, dramatically unveiling the redemption of all of Israel. He didn’t so much talk about the rest of the world. Of course, post-ascension, he commissioned Paul with that task (Acts 9).
That means the reason Jesus came had little or nothing to do with going to church each week. That said, in late second Temple Israel, there were the moadim or the times when Israel was to gather in Jerusalem (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and so on), there were specific occasions for offering additional korban at the Temple, and Jews regularly prayed and studied at the Temple and at their local synagogues and study halls. Being a Jew was and is a corporate experience, and Paul did gather the Gentiles together to also worship as specific local groups.
2. We need to rehearse and be reminded of the gospel.
I’d probably expand this to include regularly attending places where the Bible is preached and taught. I love a good sermon, although I have a tendency to write copious notes and then blog my reviews of them, and certainly there is a great advantage to attending Bible classes and being able to discuss views and insights on the scriptures, including the Gospels and other Apostolic Writings.
If I understand Kauflin correctly, he’s also recommending that believers come together to encourage each other to practice the good news by living out lives that reflect the teachings of our Rav and the promises that are sure to come.
3. God’s Word builds us together.
It seems like this is strongly related to item 2 if not just a rewording of the previous rationale for meeting regularly.
Maybe I’m missing something.
4. We were made to serve and care for one another.
I agree that we can serve each other in corporate gathering, but there are just tons and tons of other occasions and venues in which to do this, sometimes ones that are better than church. After all, how better to serve someone than to visit them when their ill in the hospital, when they’re depressed and alone in their homes, when they’re bereaved, and under many other circumstances? You don’t need to regularly meet in church to do this.
5. We become more aware of God’s presence.
I’d agree with this with the caveat that some people have a greater awareness of God when they are alone. Yes, I have felt the presence of God both in church and in the synagogue, but I have also felt it when praying alone, so church isn’t the only place you’ll find God. Sometimes you’ll find him in the most unlikely places.
Also, I find Kauflin’s use of “the Church” being the “new temple in Jesus Christ” to be somewhat limited. We know that Messiah will re-build the actual, physical Temple in Jerusalem and re-establish worship there (Jeremiah 33:18), and Paul referring to the “body of believers” as a “temple,” is more or less metaphor, just as we are also referred to as individual bricks in that temple.
One does not replace the other. I think many Christians take poetic language and try to make it a literal thing in order to map to prevailing Church doctrine which historically, was created to remove the Jews and Judaism from any association with Rav Yeshua (I’m sure Kauflin isn’t deliberately “dissing” Jews and Judaism, merely teaching what he was taught).
We demonstrate our unity in the gospel.
This is basically correct, at least in principle. As I mentioned above, Judaism, both in Rav Yeshua’s day and now, has a strong corporate worship and study component (although today, the home is always the center of a Jews worship of and devotion to Hashem). As Jewish community defines its distinct covenant relationship with the Almighty, you can also say that Christian community defines the non-Jewish disciples of our Rav as those who, even as we are not named participants in the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:27), are nonetheless by God’s grace and mercy, granted many of the blessings of the New Covenant. We also have the promise of the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the resurrection in the world to come.
However, I do object to the following:
Most of us instinctively (sinfully?) like to be with people who are a lot like us — people who like the same music, eat at the same restaurants, and shop at the same stores. But God is glorified when people who have no visible connection or similarity joyfully meet together week after week. They do it not because they’re all the same, but because the gospel has brought them together (Romans 15:5-7).
At least in my experience, Christians actively seek out churches that are composed of people who are just like them socially, politically, economically, “denominationally,” and in most other ways. It’s not like you could take 100 random Christians gathered from across the country, put them together in a building every Sunday, and have them automatically form a cohesive community of believers. Depending on their theology, doctrine, politics, and such, they’d probably split in a dozen different directions, and heaven help the poor Pastor who tries to preach to this eclectic bunch.
People choose churches in part because the majority of the members/attendees have many interests and perspectives in common.
Of course, this isn’t just a Christian trait, it’s a human trait. In a municipality with a sufficiently large Jewish community, the following joke is applicable:
A [Jewish] man is rescued from a desert island after 20 years. The news media, amazed at this feat of survival, ask him to show them his home.
“How did you survive? How did you keep sane?” they ask him, as he shows them around the small island.
“I had my faith. My faith as a Jew kept me strong. Come.” He leads them to a small glen, where stands an opulent temple, made entirely from palm fronds, coconut shells and woven grass. The news cameras take pictures of everything – even a torah made from banana leaves and written in octopus ink. “This took me five years to complete.”
“Amazing! And what did you do for the next fifteen years?”
“Come with me.” He leads them around to the far side of the island. There, in a shady grove, is an even more beautiful temple. “This one took me twelve years to complete!”
“But sir” asks the reporter, “Why did you build two temples?”
“This is the temple I attend. That other place? Hah! I wouldn’t set foot in that other temple if you PAID me!”
-Wikipedia: Jewish Humour
Everybody has their ‘druthers.
7. We can share in the sacraments.
My opinion on the Lord’s Supper or Communion is conflicted at best (I’m being polite), and my thoughts on baptism or immersion is that it’s more appropriate and Biblically sustainable when done in a river or other flowing body of water or, if it needs to be conducted indoors, in a mikvah-like environment.
It might be more appropriate to say that Number 7 is to share common ceremonies and traditional praxis. For instance, with Christmas fast approaching, churches all over the U.S. and in other nations are gearing up for their big Christmas presentations and worship services.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but Christmas is a tradition, not a Biblical event. Yes, I am aware that the Rav’s birth is recorded in the Bible, but how the Church celebrates Christmas today, both in individual Christian homes and in corporate assembly, little resembles the scriptural record, nor do we see anything like a directive to actually observe or celebrate Christ’s birth.
8. We magnify God’s glory.
Corporate assembly to lift up our God and to give glory to His Name. I can’t object to this one.
Of course, Kauflin’s bio describes him as “a songwriter, worship pastor, and the director of worship development” (and you can find out even more about him at his blog), so it would seem corporate worship has a special place in his heart. He couldn’t do a lot of what he does without a church full of people.
Also, as I previously mentioned, he wrote a book on the topic, so he’s invested in promoting corporate practice.
Why am I posting a comparison between two widely different men and radically distinct worship venues?
In spite of what Kauflin said in his article, you can’t always find appropriate community just by popping into the first church you see as you’re driving down the street. Certainly doing so by going into Jolley’s group would (allegedly) be a recipe for disaster. There are some places that should never be called a “church”.
But even under more optimal circumstances, in places of worship truly devoted to Christ, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fit in. I can only imagine that Kauflin and I would have a “spirited conversation” if we got together and started talking about the Bible. I’ve already outlined in some detail how I see his reasons for going to church every Sunday to not always hold water.
Also, I’m kind of wary of famous Christians and their books because being a well-known Christian writer just means you’re communicating a popular message to the majority of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Charismatics, or whatever subculture of Christians to which the author belongs.
Which goes right back to what I said before about how Christians will tend to associate with other Christians with whom they have the most in common. I’m not sure how this would have initially played out when the Apostle Paul was “planting churches” in the diaspora, but it’s pretty evident today, at least in the western hemisphere.
I’m not entirely sure why I felt compelled to write all this. The world would go on just fine if I didn’t give expression to these thoughts. I’ve certainly got other things to occupy my time.
I suppose I’m continuing to be a voice for the outliers, the ones who don’t quite fit in to a church…any church. While I find myself sometimes missing certain aspects of going to church (I said I loved a good sermon and I enjoy discussing/debating the Bible, though this almost always gets me in trouble), in addition to how my being a church-goer impacts my Jewish family, even after my two-year sojourn in a church, I never fit in, and both church and I decided to get a semi-amicable divorce.
Kauflin says worship matters. For some of us, it’ll have to matter alone. The alternative spans the range from awkward to ghastly.
14 thoughts on “Why Worshiping Alone Matters”
Wasn’t the Epistle to the Hebrews written to Jews who were just kicked out of the Temple, not Gentles?
Noahide laws are mandatory for gentiles, but no fixity punctual in time or space is every really commanded to Gentiles. Telling G-d Fearers/Christians they must go to church seems like a form of One Law, but for Christianity. As thought attendance carries the weight of a mitzvah. There does not seem to be a blessing/cursing relationship to attendance.
Liturgically, I don’t really see how gentiles can/should partake of the sacrament of Eucharist/L-rd’s Supper when it symbolizes a covenant exclusively given to Israel. Under the same logic barring them from the Pesach, it seems taking the cup of the New Covenant is also an act appropriation by gentiles of a covenant that is not theirs. 1 Corinthians 11:25 seems inconsistent with Jeremiah 31:31. That would explode a major reason for mandatory meeting, I reckon. Given that Christians take the Cup of the New Covenant (a covenant act in a covenant ritual) Sunday after Sunday, small wonder they think Jesus’ covenant is with everyone who believes and not Israel.
For me, the beauty of Judaism and my friendships there are far more satisfying as a mere spectator than as a full participant in church, a place which is equally silent on gentile identity as Judaism is, while less connected to the holy text.
Better to serve in Heaven than rule in…
You seem to be worshiping Him with your writing and optimism. Keep it up. There really is a temple in your mind.
@Drake: According to Lancaster’s sermon series on Hebrews, you are correct, and I’m inclined to agree as well. Probably most Christians, both the clergy and the laity, would disagree or would say it doesn’t really matter because everything in the “New Testament” is directly addressed to all Christians.
While I would say that the covenant Hashem made with Noah (all living things really) is automatically incumbent on all humanity, we do have to ask ourselves what additional responsibilities we take on board when we non-Jews become disciples of Rav Yeshua.
I think it was at least implied by Paul that believers should associate with one another. In the early years, Gentiles met with their Jewish counterparts in synagogues because that’s the only place they could hear the Torah being read and be able to come to an understanding about what Yeshua was supposed to mean to them, as well as what role they had/have in the Kingdom.
However, nearly twenty centuries have passed and both Judaism and (Gentile) Christianity have taken radically different courses through history. What the early Gentile believers understood as learned from their Jewish mentors has been dramatically altered, so that when Christians to meet to listen to sermons and study the Bible, they embrace beliefs that would have seemed alien to Paul.
The concept of the sacraments is an early Christian innovation. It’s doubtful the early Jewish Messianic believers saw things any differently than their Jewish counterparts who belonged to different branches of Judaism, with the exception of the revelation of Messiah and adopting an unusually liberal policy about the admission of Gentiles.
You bring up an interesting point about Gentiles and Passover. I’ve pretty much understood that we would be forbidden to partake of the lamb sacrificed in the (future) Temple (though there would be plenty of other food to consume), but I hadn’t thought of the cup of the New Covenant. I suppose it would be possible for us to consume it as a symbol that, even though we are not named participants in the covenant, we nevertheless, by God’s grace and mercy, are granted many of the blessings of said-covenant.
I see you are up on your Milton…or is that Star Trek?
“Given that Christians take the Cup of the New Covenant (a covenant act in a covenant ritual) Sunday after Sunday, small wonder they think Jesus’ covenant is with everyone who believes and not Israel.”
Worse…they think that everyone who believes in Yeshua is saved, and they take hold of the Covenant by remembering Yeshua with communion. Strange, I thought that was just what Isaiah told foreigners to do :
Isaiah 56:1-8 (CJB)
1 Here is what Adonai says: “Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed.”
2 Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing any evil.
3 A foreigner joining Adonai should not say, “Adonai will separate me from his people”; likewise the eunuch should not say, “I am only a dried-up tree.”
4 For here is what Adonai says: “As for the eunuchs who keep my Shabbats, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant:
5 in my house, within my walls, I will give them power and a name greater than sons and daughters; I will give him an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to Adonai to serve him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant,
7 I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
8 Adonai Elohim says, he who gathers Isra’el’s exiles: “There are yet others I will gather, besides those gathered already.”
Contrary to what you think, Drake, people in the Nations are doing their best to be available for G-d’s gathering of them. They are badly taught and less than concerned with the details of Judaism, but just because they are not Jews, and not able to get to a Synagogue on Saturdays, nor understand why they might want to go to a synagogue if one is available does not make them unable to be gathered by G-d. That is His decision, not yours, and not even the Jews.
I keep walking separately from Christianity for the same reason Jame’s does – because they don’t know what I know, and don ‘t want to talk about what I want to talk about. But I listen to good Christian Sermons as much as I try to find good Jewish Sermons, and I praise G-d at home with Christian Rock, and you know, Adonai blesses me, even though I am less than letter perfect in keeping the Sabbath each week, and cannot tell if I have sinned at all unless the Ruach haKodesh convicts me for not performing mitsvot that I have not learned yet, nor practiced enough to be sure of doing well in them.
I do not however, keep separate from Jews on purpose…there are none around me to keep company with.
And as for ruling and reigning with Yeshua…I am not under any covenant that makes me eligible for such a position, and serving in the Kingdom is what both Jews and Gentiles will be doing, whether as a representative of the King, a Priest in the Temple, or as a street sweeper!
I think you guys are ignoring or have forgotten Peter’s vision. To understand what God is doing you must understand it. If one only studies what went before (i.e. the sending of the Messiah to Israel, the making of the new covenant, etc.), but ignore what happened later, it seems like some Star Trek time warp. Peace 🙂
So, if you understand Peter’s vision, you will understand that God can do what he pleases, in this case, he accepted to himself gentiles. Why? Wasn’t he aware of the things you are saying in this post? Did he forget who he sent Yeshua to or who he made covenant with?
Because, he is not a “respecter of persons.”
It is important to understand the profoundness of Acts 10. The gentiles received the Ruach HaKodesh. The Spirit of the Living God. Gentiles are not just some beggars come lately.
I know this is rather long, but please permit me to copy/paste this portion of Acts 11:
“I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘Yochanan used to immerse people in water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh.’ Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as he gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
On hearing these things, they stopped objecting and began to praise God, saying, “This means that God has enabled the Goyim as well to do t’shuvah and have life!”
Well, isn’t that wonderful, what God has enabled?
@Steven — G-d already “did what He pleased” when He made gentiles to begin with. Peter’s vision does not, however, change HaShem’s plan from what Rav Shaul described to the Roman assembly as “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (cif: Rom.1:16; 2:9-10). It does not obviate the ancient Torah covenant nor HaShem’s promises to Avraham about his descendants through the line of Yacov. Insisting on HaShem’s distinctive special assignment for Jews is not standing in any gentile’s way, nor standing in G-d’s way, but it is rather a matter of *walking* in G-d’s Way. Hence the discussion above about how the vision of Is.56 may affect a gentile disciple’s approach to the “new” covenant that Jeremiah describes as being made only with the houses of Israel and Judah (i.e., Jews only) is a meaningful one. Peter’s vision does not change Rav Yeshua’s statements about being sent only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (cif: Mt.15:24;10:5-6). His vision merely corrects a potential error of presuming that HaShem’s focus on Jews might have caused Him to forget that He intends to redeem the rest of humanity as well. That was the reason for the astonished expression presented in Acts 11:18.
While it is true that G-d is not a “respecter of persons”, in the individual sense, He most certainly respects the promises and commitments He has declared to the body of the Jewish people in the aggregate.
Now another interesting discussion could arise also from considering why Rav Shaul chose to single out the “Greek” (i.e., the “Helleni”) while writing to the Roman assembly. He didn’t use the generic Greek term “ethnos” for gentile peoples in general, nor did he specifically include Romans or Babylonians or anyone else. Acts 1:18, on the other hand, does address the more generic term “ethnesin”. However, perhaps this discussion is a bit off-track from the present one.
While I have my own criticisms of the gentile Christian sacrament called Communion or Eucharist, and I agree with James that eating the Paschal lamb is reserved for the circumcised, one might ask whether the notion from Is.56 of grasping or embracing HaShem’s covenant, by those who are not actually named participants in it (per Jer.31), might allow such b’nei-nechar (foreigners) also to grasp hold of the covenant symbolically by taking at least the third cup of the Seder that represents personal redemption.
One of the lessons and blessings that gentile disciples should be able to derive from the Jewish covenantal example is the value of forming communities and regularly meeting together for study, prayer, socialization, and mutual encouragement, just as did the gentile assemblies to whom Rav Shaul wrote. But, as James has pointed out, that is sometimes easier to say than to do.
So there is something positive to be said in favor of virtual assembly and fellowship on-line, which is an option that is only a very recent technological addition to the capabilities of human socialization. It is, nonetheless, limited by its technological constraints. For example, we have the caution in Prov.27:10 that in difficulty it is better to be able to turn to a physically-nearby neighbor than to try to rely on a more distant relative. When the technological infrastructure breaks down, as it is wont to do, virtual communities will break along with it and disciples will need to be able to locate others physically in order to obtain help.
There is a lessen in the example of the Shabbat that survivalists would appreciate. The requirement to prepare in advance of Shabbat, and to avoid the use of technologies during the course of the Shabbat such as lights and other devices unless they can operate entirely unattended during that period, requires individuals and groups to practice short periods of independence from the normal infrastructure. Similarly, the sabbatical year impels the notion of storing provisions for a period when normal cultivation and harvesting is suspended. Thus, likewise, it behooves Rav Yeshua’s disciples to be able to “assemble” even without the support of normal technological infrastructure, as well as to be able to stand alone when needed — and to be able to interface socially with neighbors who may not (yet) share the same religious outlook.
I’d focus on point 2, “We need to rehearse and be reminded of the gospel,” but not for the reason stated, rather for the clarified definition of the word. A correct understanding of “gospel” is indeed a true life-changer.
“Gospel” is not about Jesus dying for our sins & going to heaven when we die. If that was the definition then Rome would have left the apostles and believers alone, for every religion makes some provision for an afterlife.
“I am perfectly comfortable with what people normally mean when they say “the gospel.” I just don’t think it was what Paul means. In other words, I am not denying that the usual meanings are things that people ought to say, to preach about, to believe. I simply wouldn’t user the word “gospel” to denote those things.” N T Wright, Simply Good News
“To imagine a gospel that has forgotten about creation and covenant; to imagine a gospel with an angry deity who is pacified only by the blood of an innocent victim; to imagine good news that, instead of restoring and completing the work of the world’s creation, is prepared to throw away the world and take some people (“souls”) to a different location, namely a disembodied heaven – this picture looks far more like a complicated form of paganism than genuine biblical Christianity.” N T Wright, Simply Good News
“The gospel fits within the context of God re-creating his world and renewing all things. The gospel only makes sense within that context. If we ignore that story, then the gospel gets distorted, which is what has happened in salvation culture.” Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel
“One reason so many Christians today don’t know the Old Testament is because their gospel doesn’t need it.” Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel
@Questor: Just a reminder that I’m not writing this to bash all Christians everywhere. There are many fine people in the Church who are walking in the footsteps of Messiah by feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick, and many of the other things we see our Rav doing in the Gospel accounts of his life in ancient Israel.
But as you say, their apprehension of Rav Yeshua is distorted, and right now, most of them have a very difficult time comprehending the true relationship between King Messiah, Israel, and the nations.
@Steven: I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the meaning of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 and subsequent events. By God’s grace and mercy, even the Gentiles have access to salvation through repentance, but we still aren’t named participants in the New Covenant as it is recorded in Jeremiah 31, nor do we become “Israel” when we accept discipleship upon ourselves in the name of our Rav.
God wants the whole world to become reconciled to Him, but that reconciliation always begins with Israel.
@Jim K: I agree that the “Gospel” or “good news” is a great deal more than what is taught in most churches. I also read McKnight’s book and reviewed it here. It’s not perfect but it certainly a step on the right direction. I wish I could make it required reading for every church-going Christian.
James, “God wants the whole world to become reconciled to Him, but that reconciliation always begins with Israel.”
Thus the time warp. God already started with Israel, as you stated, he sent Yeshua only to the lost sheep of Israel. Then he started with the Nations when he sent the Apostles into all the world to make diciples and baptize them into the *name*. To the Jew first is way past.
There is no “always begins” as though God begins again and again. You can only begin once?
“Time warp”, Steven? Do you think the repeated phrase “to the Jew first” is merely chronology, that you should dismiss it as applicable only to a limited period of time that occurred only long ago that it should be no longer valid? Do you also dismiss HaShem’s statement in Mal.3:6 “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” as something that was true only “once upon a time”? Do you likewise dismiss Rav Shaul’s statement in Rom.11:2a “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew…”? I think you underestimate the eternal nature of HaShem, that makes His promises forever affirmative and reliable as stated in 2Cor.1:20 (although the English translation tends to be a bit awkward in its expression). The quote in Hebrew 13:5 of Deut.31:6 is a demonstration that after 15 centuries the writer then viewed this promise as being just as fresh as when HaShem first stated it. Since Rav Yeshua also stated that even the smallest details of the Torah remain valid as long as heaven and earth endure (viz: Mt.5:18), and since the heavens and earth are expected to remain with us until sometime after the thousand-year messianic kingdom has run its course (viz: Rev.20:6 & 21:1), we can still rely on the validity of this promise as well.
I think maybe you’ve been influenced by supersecessionists or dispensationalists, who seem to think that G-d changed His Mind some 20 centuries ago. It ain’t so.
Like many writers responding, I listen to Hebrew roots teachers, church sermons, and rabbis. I can’t give the source, sadly, only recollection from all the above. A man asked, “How did Christianity travel through Europe so quickly?” answer, “Through the synagogues.” Think on that. I read about the French Huguenots already having epistles from the Apostle Paul when the Roman church invaded. Because they would not convert, the pope ordered them killed and all records destroyed. Is this true? I don’t know. But now I understand how they could have had epistles from the Apostle Paul before the Roman church invaded, through the synagogues. There is a lot of ‘golden calf worship’ going on in many assemblies and they are saying, “This is the Jesus that died for your sins.” I know the readers here will understand my analogy. It is indeed difficult to find a fellowship to not forsake. Once again, thank you for your blog.
You’re welcome, Cynthia. I wonder if anyone can confirm the story about “Christianity” rapidly spreading throughout Europe through synagogues?
Honestly, James, I don’t know. I listen to various sources while I am doing other things. A Baptist preacher in the early ’80’s shared a history of Christianity, a book he said was out of print and no longer available. It was so long ago, I can’t remember the title or author. I can’t confirm if the story of the French Huguenots is true.
PL, I think you have a good point. I was thinking about the phrase “to the Jew first” in the context of the giving of the good news. After reviewing your statement and the scripture in Romans, there is a judgement “to the Jew first” that happened but is also coming. One thing that struck me about the context is that Paul was saying God does not show favoritism between Jews and Gentiles.