Three Resurrections: Making All Things New

May 24, 2023

Texts: 1 Corinthians 15:21-28; 50-57; 2 Peter 2:11-13

Days 75-77 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

The voice from the throne announced, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Ultimately and finally, God makes all things new through resurrection.

Though Jesus was seemingly defeated by the powers in his death, God vindicated him through resurrection. When Jesus came to life again, this was no mere resuscitation but the birth of new creation itself. The body of Jesus was transformed from a life animated by flesh and blood into a body animated by the Spirit of God. His human resurrection body still participated in creation (materiality) but was now enlivened by the immortal life of God’s Spirit.

The resurrection of Jesus is the first fruit of a new humanity as part of this new creation. When we were baptized into Christ, we were baptized into his resurrection to walk a new life in the present and participate in his new creation resurrection in the future. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus entails our resurrection. Our mortal bodies will be transformed into likeness of the immortal body of Jesus the resurrected Messiah. His resurrection is our resurrection.

Furthermore, the resurrection of the children of God through the resurrection of Jesus entails the resurrection of creation itself. Both the body of Jesus and our bodies are part of God’s good creation. They are work of God’s creation and participate in the reality of creation. When God renews our bodies according to the pattern of the resurrection of Jesus, it involves the renewal of creation itself. It is, in effect, the resurrection of creation from death to life, from the bondage of decay to the freedom of liberation. It is a new heaven and new earth—a new creation. New creation resurrection bodies live in the new creation.

In this new (resurrected) heaven and new earth, the resurrected people of God will live and reign with the resurrected King Jesus in the cosmic temple of God upon the new earth forever.

Life in the Spirit: The Work of the Spirit Among Us

May 17, 2023

Texts: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 13:13; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Days 68-70 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

For many the Holy Spirit is an impersonal, imperceptible, and indiscernible force.  Cloaked in mystery, many find it difficult to “get a handle” on the Spirit. The Spirit has no “face” like Jesus nor any personal metaphors, such as parent, mother, or husband, like Israel’s God.

Our desire, of course, is not so much to control or manipulate the Spirit as much as it is to have a way of conceiving or visualizing the Spirit’s identity. Without any framework for understanding, we are at a loss to even identify what the Spirit does in our lives much less experience God through the Spirit.

Our pneumatic imagination needs a little help. Paul, I think, offers such. The Spirit appears in practically every chapter of Paul’s letters, and saturates his theology. While “God in Christ” is the center of Paul’s theology, the Spirit is a living, enabling, and enriching presence that connects redeemed humanity with the Redeemer God. We have access, Paul says, to God in Christ “by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18).

Without some understanding of the Spirit, then, our experience of God remains in a conceptual wasteland. That is not only lamentable but dangerous. Spiritual discernment entails that we “see” the Spirit at work in our lives or else we will mistake other spirits for the Holy Spirit.

So, what does Paul offer us by way of a conceptual landscape that will help identify the Spirit in our lives. I “see” in Paul a three-fold typology for thinking about the Spirit’s work. This typology is not a box in which to enclose the Spirit, nor is it a gizmo to manipulate the Spirit. Rather, it is a tool to unmask our eyes so that we might “see” what the Spirit is doing–to recognize the Spirit in our lives.


The Spirit’s foundational function is to facilitate communion between God and us. Our communion with God is the “communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:12).

Jesus did not leave us as orphans; instead, God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the church. This out-pouring is the gifting of God’s presence among us. We are inhabited by God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22); we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit is the one through whom we experience God in the present. The Spirit’s presence enables our communion with God; more than that, communion in the Spirit is communion with God.

This presence, which is the fulfillment of God’s presence in the temple in Israel and anticipates the fullness of divine presence in the new heaven and new earth, is how we now live in fellowship with God. We worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3), we pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), and we are washed in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11).  We are “in the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells” in us (Romans 8:9). The Spirit is the air we breathe, and every breath is communion with God.

This communion, of course, is not merely vertical. It is also horizontal, that is, we commune with each other by what we share in the Spirit (Philippians 2:1). We love each other in the Spirit (Colossians 1:8). Because we have all been baptized in the Spirit and have drunk of the same Spirit, we are one body where ethnic, economic, and gender barriers are transcended (1 Corinthians 12:13;  Galatians 3:28).

We “see” the Spirit when we enjoy the sweet fellowship of others, experience the peace and joy of the Spirit in communion with God, and encounter God in the assembly of God’s people as we worship in the Spirit. We must not secularize these moments as if they are produced by our own internal powers. Rather, we relish them and delight in them because we know, by God’s promise, that the Spirit is present to generate them. They are moments where heaven and earth meet in the Spirit.


The Spirit communes with us, and this communion is transformative. The Spirit is no passive presence. On the contrary, the Spirit is an active, enabling and transforming presence. The Spirit dwells within us so that we might live in the Spirit.

Salvation involves transformation. Because we are children of God, God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts and we experience the intimacy of divine communion. But this is not the end game; it is not God’s goal. This intimacy includes a shared life, and it transforms us. We are increasingly, by the Spirit, transformed (metamorphized!) into the image of Christ from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Holy Spirit is the presence of divine holiness within us, and this holiness bears fruit. Paul called it the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). This is what it means to “live by the Spirit,” that is, it is to manifest a life of love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Spirit leads us into a such a life by renewing our hearts, empowering our souls, and moving our wills.

The presence of the Spirit is a necessary first step for such a life, and without that presence there is no transformation that images Jesus who himself was led and empowered by the Spirit. The reality of that presence, however, is evidenced in a holy life as we are “sanctified by the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

We “see” the Spirit when we are patient with the stubborn, when we are kind to the ungrateful, when we are at peace in the midst of the storm, when we are generous with the poor, and when we are gentle with those who disagree. We must not secularize these moments as if they are self-actualizations. Rather, we give thanks that the Spirit is at work in our lives to empower them. We credit the Spirit rather than our programs, our will power, or our own goodness.


God gives the Spirit as a communing and transforming presence. God created to commune with us, and God redeems to transform us. And God goes one step further. God gifts us so that we might participate in the transformation of the world.

“Through the Spirit,” Paul writes, God gives the body of Christ the capacity to serve each other and the world. These “manifestations of the Spirit” are for the “common good,” and the gifts are “activated” and distributed by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:7-8, 11).

It is important, however, to note that presence comes first, then transformation, and finally giftedness. We might think of this as a spiral of activity where there is reciprocity but also movement toward a goal. God dwells in order to commune. That communion transforms us, and, as people in the process of transformation, God gifts us so that we might participate in the mission of God. The gifts are best used by transformed people. This is why 1 Corinthians 13 comes between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Giftedness without love is useless; more than useless, it is detrimental. Transformation must shape the use of the Spirit’s gifts.

Too often the lists of 1 Corinthians 12 become the focus when talking about gifts. Romans 12 also has a list of gifts. The two lists are not the same; in fact, there is little overlap. Neither are exhaustive, and together they are not exhaustive. They are illustrative.

Gifts are whatever capacity we have to participate in the mission of God. Whatever “talent” we use to further the mission of God–whether it is software programming, musical ability, environmental passion—they are divine gifts. Too often we talk about “talents” as if they are natural dispositions independent of God’s work among us. One of the reasons we feel so distant from the Holy Spirit is because we secularize our gifts; we minimize the Spirit’s role. Giftedness, inclusive of “talents,” is a manifestation of the Spirit!

We “see” the Spirit when transformed people (or, better, people in the process of transformation) use their gifts in service to the mission of God, which is the transformation of the whole world. We “see” the Spirit when an environmental biologist cares for the creation, when a nurse compassionately cares for the sick, when a debt mediator reconciles a creditor and a debtor, and when an actor embodies the gospel in a drama (even if the drama never mentions God at all). We “see” the Spirit’s gifts in action when brokenness is healed.


Often we don’t “feel” the Spirit in our lives, and sometimes we misinterpret what the Spirit is doing. There is no promise that we will always “feel” the Spirit, and there is the persistent danger that we will misinterpret what the Spirit does. This is why is it is important to “see” the Spirit through the lens of the biblical narrative, the story of God. Whether we feel the Spirit or not, God has promised the Spirit’s presence, and God has provided a narrative that frames our understanding of the Spirit’s work so that we might “see” the Spirit.

The most significant danger we face, I think, is the minimization of the Spirit. We minimize the Spirit when we secularize what is, in fact, the Spirit’s work. We often fail to “see” the Spirit because we attribute whatever goodness, joy, or warmth we experience to powers other than the Spirit. We fail to “see” the Spirit because we are blinded by our own pride.

The Spirit is personal, discernible, and visible. The Spirit is God among us to transform us into the image of Christ and to gift transformed people with good works for the sake of the body and the world. We “see” the Spirit every day, if only we have eyes to see what God is doing.

Moffitt: Rethinking the Atonement

May 15, 2023

I have now read the fifth of twelve books suggested by FB friends. This one was recommended by Michael Asbell This is my summary.

David Moffitt, Rethinking the Atonement: New Perspectives on Jesus’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2022).

While the term “atonement” is most often used to describe the cross of Jesus as the focus of God’s atoning activity, Moffitt suggests that “atonement” is more inclusive than the cross itself.  Rooting his argument in the homily we know as Hebrews, the work of atonement involves not only the cross but Christ’s resurrection and ascension.  God reconciled the world through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah. This is a more wholistic picture.

Moffitt argues that Hebrews, while proclaiming the death of Christ as the sacrificial slaughter for our sins, focuses more attention on the ascension of the resurrected Christ into God’s holy sanctuary to present the blood offering and to take up residence in that holy space as the high priest who presently and continually intercedes for the saints. His point is that in addition to the cross, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus are “themselves fully and robustly salvific” (p. 5). All of these events in the life of Jesus are atoning. God saved us through the death of Christ “but even more by rising, ascending, and now interceding for them at the right hand of the Father” (p. 6).

Hebrews patterns the work of Christ on the model of the Levitical sacrificial system, though Christ is actually the archetype and Leviticus is the type.  The sacrifices were slaughtered, the blood was poured at the altar, and then the blood was taken into the most holy place and sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. Through the blood offering, the high priest interceded for the people.

The preacher in Hebrews understands the work of Christ in this way. Jesus is slaughtered on the cross and poured out at that altar, but then the resurrected Jesus ascends to the most holy place (the heavenly sanctuary) to present the offering before God. As high priest, Jesus remains in the presence of God to intercede for the people. Though Jesus could not be a priest on earth because he was from Judah and not Levi, he is a priest in the heavenlies according to the order of Melchizedek continually interceding for the people. In this way, Christ’s atoning work continues in the presence of God, and Christ is present to God as the embodied resurrected Messiah, our high priest. Consequently, the church lives with confident boldness as it journeys through the wilderness of life because it knows that its heavenly high priest stands before God as its intercessor.

Typically, the cross is understood as the singular place where Jesus offered himself as a bloody sacrifice and on the cross presented himself to the Father. Moffitt, based on Hebrews as well as a few other texts, wants to understand those two movements in a sequence. Christ first shed his blood on the cross and thus offered himself as one who bears the sins of the people, and then the resurrected Christ offered himself in the heavenly sanctuary when he ascended to the heavenly sanctuary. Hebrews teaches “Jesus is the one who died as the sacrifice, rose as the sacrifice, and ascended into the heavenly tabernacle to offer himself to God as the sacrifice” (p. 65).

Moffitt rejects claims that Jesus is the object of divine wrath. The function of the shedding of blood is not about turning away God’s wrath. Rather, the sacrifice suffers the covenant curses for the people, and so did Jesus. He suffered as a representative in solidarity and identification with the people. Jesus was the obedient representative of the people who renewed Israel’s covenant with God through the sin-bearing function of his death, and gave this renewed covenant eternal meaning through the presentation of his offering in the heavenly sanctuary as an eternal high priest, the resurrected Jesus, the Son of God.

While the Son came to earth to bear sins (as in bearing them away), he will come again without sin and for full salvation. The work of reconciliation (or atonement) is not done until Christ returns and fully deals with sin in all its consequences.

Through the lens of Hebrews, Moffitt’s book is a welcome acknowledgement that atonement is a fuller concept than simply the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus is both victim and priest, both sin-bearer and intercessor, both the offering and the offeror.  

The atoning, or reconciling, work of God in Christ by the Spirit is the full story of the gospel: incarnation, life, cross, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and return.   

Chosen Conversations

May 6, 2023

Season 1, Episode 3.

Available on Apple Podcast here.

Available on Vimeo here.

Stan Wilson, Haley Villacorta, David Villacorta, and I have begun a series of podcasts/videos about “The Chosen” produced and directed by Dallas Jenkins.

These conversations seek to explore one dimension of “The Chosen” per episode. This week we focus on Peter and Eden in the first season.

Peter’s personality is aggressive but submissive when he encounters Jesus. Eden saw Peter’s potential yet lived with a frustration with him only eased by Peter’s encounter with Jesus. Peter and Eden provide a way for many to enter the story of Jesus and reimagine their own lives in that story

Join us for the conversation!

The Husband of One Wife: “Enough Said” (Part 2)

May 4, 2023

John Mark Hicks (Outline, Harbor Lectures, Pepperdine, May 4, 2023)

Audible Available Here

My Contextual Understanding of 1 Timothy 2-3

  1. The Gender Inclusiveness in Paul’s Letters. For example, in Romans 12:6-8 there are no male pronouns though masculine gender is used throughout in an inclusive way. Paul regularly says, “brothers” but includes women.
  2. Context in Ephesus: False Teaching and Deception. Understanding 1 Timothy 2:11-15. A response to soft complementarian readings, click here. My understanding of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, click here. Or, this 60 minute presentation on 1 Timothy 2:8-15, click here.
  3. The Connection Between 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Timothy 3. Let the women learn, and “she” will be saved as long as they continue in faith, love, holiness with modesty. Desiring to be a bishop is a noble task. Therefore, “if anyone” . . .

An Inclusive Understanding of 1 Timothy 3:2

1.“If anyone” is gender neutral, inclusive of both male and female.

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone desires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1, ESV, italics=added text).

2. There are no male pronouns in the virtue list.

Idiou (one’s own; “his own” in ESV in 1 Tim 3:4[2x], “their own” in 3:12) is used instead of male pronouns.

3. There is nothing explicitly male in the virtue list.

Teaching, violence, and managing a household are not exclusively male behaviors.

4. The named virtues are also explicitly expected of women in 1 Timothy.

5. Deacons, including female deacons, must be “one-woman men.”

Their wives, likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own (idiōn) households well” (1 Tim 3:11-12, ESV, italics=added text; underline=interpretative).

6. “One-woman man” is an idiomatic exclusion of infidelity.

7. “One-woman man” functions as a generic masculine for marital fidelity.

The generic masculine is the default practice of the NT in accordance with Greek grammar (“brothers, sons of the family” [Acts 3:25], “love your neighbor as yourself (masculine)” [Gal. 5:14], “blessed is the man (aner) who remains steadfast under trial” [Jam 1:12], “double-minded man (aner)” [Jam 1:8], “for the anger of man (aner) does not produce the righteousness of God” [Jam 1:19], “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man (aner)” [Jam 3:1], “those who desire to be rich” [1 Tim 6:9], or “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” [Luke 9:23]).

Reading with New Lenses: Seeing What Was Previously Obscured

  1. Gifts of Pastoring/Leading/Teaching (Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8)
  2. Female Household Leaders (Lydia, Nympha, Mary in Jerusalem, Elect Lady of 2 John; Prisca and Aquila; Philemon and Apphia)
  3. Female Presbyters (probably Titus 2:1-5; possibly 1 Timothy 5:1-2).
  4. Ordained Female “Office-Holders” in Early Centuries of the Church.[1]

[1] See Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, “Colleagues of Apostles, Presbyters, and Bishops: Women Syzygoi in Ancient Christian Communities,” in Patterns of Women’s Leadership in Early Christianity, eds. Joan E. Taylor and Ilaria L. E. Ramelli (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 26-58; Ute E. Esien, Women Officeholders in Early Christianity: Epigraphical and Literary Studies, trans. Linda M. Maloney (Liturgical Press, 2000); Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2005), and Lynn H. Cohick and Amy Brown Hughes, Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second Through Fifth Centuries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017). For brief introduction, see Marg Mowczko, “Women Elders in Ancient Christian Texts (Part 1),” “Women Elders in Ancient Christian Texts (Part 2),” “Women Elders in Ancient Christian Texts (Part 3).”

The Husband of One Wife: “Enough Said” (Part 1)

May 2, 2023

John Mark Hicks (Pepperdine, Harbor Lectures, May 3, 2023)

Audio is available here

 Four Broad Approaches: A Matter of Hermeneutics

  1. Culturally Enmeshed: Bounded by Ancient Patriarchy.
  2. Culturally Accommodative: For the sake of the Gospel.
  3. Theological Inclusivism: New Creation Theology.
  4. Blueprint Exclusivism: Replication of the Text.

Theological Framework

  1. Men and women share the same human identity (image of God) and human vocation (Gen 1:26-27).
  2. The complementary differentiation of male and female enriches their shared vocation as priests and shepherds (co-rulers) within the creation (Gen 1:28).
  3. Both male and female acted foolishly and introduced moral chaos into God’s good creation, resulting, among other disorders, in male domination of females (Gen 3:16).
  4. God managed the redemptive economy of Israel within Ancient Near Eastern patrilineal culture while also signaling God was not bound by it (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Esther).
  5. God acted through the Son in the Spirit to form men and women into the image of Christ as co-heirs of the Abrahamic promise experienced through the transformative, empowering, and gifting presence of the Spirit (Gal 3:26-29; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:1-40).
  6. God gifts both men and women as co-workers in God’s mission through the ministry of new creation, embodying the present yet future reign of God (Rom 12:6-8; Eph 4:11-16).

Context of “Husband of One Wife”

Three Questions for Understanding the Framework of the List.

  1. What is the nature of this list? Ad Hoc
  2. What is the function of this list? Virtue List
  3. What is the structure of this list? Reputation Among Outsiders

Three Questions for Evaluating Translation and Understanding.

  1. Does it fit the function of the list?
  2. Is it coherent with the meaning of the feminine converse in 1 Timothy 5:9?
  3. Is it consistent with Pauline theology as a whole?

The Meaning of “Husband of One Wife” (One-Woman Man, Man of One Woman)

  1. Does this require marriage, excluding singles? – “the husband of one wife” (Tyndale, KJV, ASV, CEV, RSV, NASB, ESV). [This translation was rarely interpreted as excluding singles, but it is the translation that was used for that claim generally.]
  2. Does it prohibit second marriages of any sort? – “have only one wife” (NIV, 1984) or “husband of but one wife” (NCV, NIV-1984), GNB, or “married only once” (NRSV, NAB).
  3. Does it only require faithfulness to one’s present spouse?[1] – “faithful/committed/true to his wife,” (NIV [2011], NLT, CEV, CEB, NEB, CJB).

[1] Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodore of Cyrrhus, David Lipscomb, Collins, Knight, Fee, Köstenberger, Marshall, Towner, Hutson, Keener, Courtney A. Bailey, Glosscock (BSac, 1983, 244-458) and Page (JSNT, 1993, 105-20].

Chosen Conversations

April 27, 2023

Season 1, Episode 2.

Available on Apple Podcast here.

Available on Vimeo here.

Stan Wilson, Haley Villacorta, David Villacorta, and I have begun a series of podcasts/videos about “The Chosen” produced and directed by Dallas Jenkins.

These conversations seek to explore one dimension of “The Chosen” per episode. This week we focus on Nicodemus in the first season.

Nicodemus is a seeker filled with wonder and the capacity to transcend his traditions. Yet, he cannot fully and publicly commit.

Join us for the conversation!

Missional Mandate: Fill the Earth, Subdue the Powers, and Shepherd the Creation

April 26, 2023

Texts: Acts 6:7; 4:23-31; 12:24; Revelation 5:9-13

Days 65-67 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

When God created the cosmos, God invested in humanity a particular vocation:  fill the earth, subdue the chaos, and shepherd (rule) the creation (Genesis 1:28). As participants in the new creation, the people of God extend this human vocation into the life of the kingdom of God as part of the new creation.

The goal is to fill the earth. Ultimately, this is not biological but filling the earth with the glory of God. The goal is for Jesus the Messiah to “fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). Participants in the new creation, fill the earth by continuing in the basic human vocation of living to the glory of God but also by making disciples as the church flourishes. Just as God intended both humanity and Israel to be fruitful and multiply, so God intends to fill the earth through the growth and multiplication of disciples (the verbs of Gen. 1:28 in the Greek translation are the same as in Acts 12:224, for example).

One aspect of filling the earth with God’s glory is subduing the chaos and/or the powers that oppose God’s reign in the world. Just as the part of the original human vocation was to overcome the chaos in the world for the sake of human flourishing, so part of the vocation within the new creation is to subvert the reign of the powers. This subversion includes naming the idolatries, liberating the oppressed, and living in missional communities that bear witness to the new creation. The early church, as in Acts 4, boldly proclaimed the message of the Lordship of Jesus that identified the powers and their evil.

Shepherding the earth was also part of the original human vocation and as we still live in a good creation and the human vocation is still our task in the present creation, new creation disciples also care for the earth. Further, the creation will participate in new creation, and even now the creation participates in the praise of God and the Lamb who is worthy. Disciples of Jesus are priests within the creation, for the sake of creation, and groaning for the liberation of creation.

The Formation of Community: Shared Generosity, Communal Prayer, and Giftedness

April 23, 2023

Texts: Acts 2:42-45; 3:1; Eph 4:7-8, 11-12

Days 62-64 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

Previously, we have seen the formation of community through a shared initiation (baptism), shared faith in Jesus the Messiah (through the apostles’ teaching), and a shared table (breaking bread). These were communal moments in Acts 2. Together, 3000 were baptized and then gathered in the temple to listen to the apostles and in homes to break bread.

Alongside the above three, community was also formed in other ways in Acts 2: communal prayer, shared generosity, and giftedness for the sake of the body.

When Acts 2:42 names “fellowship” (koinonia) it uses a broad word that encompasses many dimensions. Last week we concentrated on “breaking of bread” as one expression of that fellowship.

Another expression of that fellowship is an active community in their life together. They held all things in common (koina). This was the sort of fellowship meant people sold their possessions in order to meet needs within the community. It was, apparently, need-based, but it was a communal sense of shared life that generated resources to meet these needs. Indeed, the Jerusalem community was able to become what God always intended in Israel: “There was not a needy person among them” because “they had everything in common (koina)” (Acts 4:33-34; cf. Deuteronomy 15:4). The proceeds from the sale of property, including fields and homes were “distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:35). This generosity is expressed by the assembly of Jesus throughout the book of Acts (for example, Acts 11:29).

Another expression of fellowship was communal prayer. Acts 2:42 refers to “the prayers.” This identifies a particular set of prayers or timing of prayers, or perhaps a pattern of praying among the early believers. When Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer (“the prayer of the ninth hour” or 3:00 PM), it refers to a specific moment in the temple courts when devout Jews gathered to pray. Peter and John joined them there. Apparently, it was their habit to do so. (Three in the afternoon was the time of daily evening sacrifices.)

Of course, this was not the only time the church gathered to pray. In Acts 4:23-31, believers assembled to pray for boldness in the face of hostile powers advancing against them. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” The assembly of Jesus continued to pray throughout the rest of the book of Acts (for example, Acts 6:4; 12:12; 14:23).

Another expression of fellowship is gifted leadership. The Apostles are highlighted in the first chapters of Acts. Their “many wonders and signs” inspired awe among the people (Acts 2:43; 5:12-16). The shared resources were placed at their feet for distribution (Acts 4:35; 5:2). The people selected deacons or administrators to help distribute these resources (Acts 6:1-6), and evangelists were sent out to surrounding areas like with Philip to Samaria (Acts 8:4-8; 21:8). Along with these evangelists, God raised up prophets and teachers (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9) and appointed elders in every church (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 22; 20:17). God gifted the community with leadership—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are the leaders of the renewed Israel. This gifted leadership equips the body of Christ for ministry (Ephesians 4:8–16).

Through a shared life together, led by people gifted by God, the assembly of Jesus prays together and shares their resources with the needy among them. It is this kind of community that has the favor of people, and people want to become a part of it (Acts 2:47).

Reading the Bible: Christocentric Lens

April 19, 2023

How, then, might we read the Bible in a healthier way? This a brief introduction to reading the Bible through the lens of the story of God in Christ by Spirit. Some practical suggestions at the end.