"Prof" Howard Hendricks on Motivation

Sometime in the Summer of 1970, "Prof" Howard Hendricks spoke to a group of students from Campus Crusade for Christ.  He spoke on motivation and his lecture was recorded.  

A 13-year-old boy listened to the recording of that lecture over and over again.  In fact, he memorized it and applied it to his ministry for years.  He later became a student of Dr. Howard Hendricks at DTS.  Imagine his delight when, more than 40 years later, the cassette tape (for those of us who remember what those were) was found in his mother's belongings.  Even better, he now has the ability to share the lecture that was instrumental in his ministry success over the years. 

My friend had the tape remastered and made into a digital copy.  He sent it to me with the idea that Hendricks' lecture might prove helpful for my ministry.  I listened to what to the Prof who taught at DTS for more than 60 years had to say about motivation back in 1970.  Then I listened to it again.  My friend was spot-on right! 

How could it be so simple that one lecure could rock my thinking?  How could we be missing it today?  I listened again.  Nine things.  Nine, simple things.  Amazing!  

Hendricks looks at what really motivates a person within the Christian life.  If you are in any position of leadership, or you want to faithfully follow the teaching of Jesus and be a disciple that makes disciples, you really need to listen to Hendricks' lecture.  I mean it. 

Download or Listen Here:
Dr. Howard Hendricks on Motivation

*Thanks Dr. Swanner for sharing this lecture with me and allowing me to post it here. 

Make Disciples

At least five times in the Bible Jesus puts his disciples on mission to proclaim the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8).  The text in Matthew gives us an interesting instruction:  Make disciples and teach them all that Jesus commanded.  This suggests that making disciples in about inviting a lost person to be a Kingdom citizen and then teaching him or her the Kingdom ethic in which we are called to live.  

Over the past few months, Jared Jenkins, Brett Ricley, and I have been discussing both sides of the Great Commission coin.  This discussion resulted in a Salty Believer Unscripted series called, "Make Disciples" and will likely be the seeds of another series called, "Grow Disciples."  

In this series, we stick to the evangelism side of making disciples and deal with six spheres of evangelism as Joel Southerland teaches.  We fully recognize that it would be gross negligence to see someone saved and then just abandoned them to learn and grown alone; however, we kept this series to the first part of making disciples--sharing the gospel and introducing lost people to Jesus. 

All three of us grew in area of evangelism during this series and we've shared our journey along the way.  I learned how necessary a wide variety of methods is when we live in a world so full of diverse thinking and attitudes.  We have and are trying all of these methods at Redeeming Life Church to find out what works for us in our context.  It's been extremely interesting and informative.  But through it all, I've really come to see the importance of simply being faithful. 

You can find Salty Believer Unscripted on iTunes, subscribe to the non-iTunes feed, or listen here: 

Make Disciples
-- Part 1, An Introduction audio
-- Part 2, Snatching Some From the Fire audio
-- Part 3, A Biblical Relational for Missions and Evangelism audio
-- Part 4, 6 Spheres of Evangelism audio
-- Part 5, Prayer audio
-- Part 6, Personal Evangelism audio
-- Part 7, Revival audio
-- Part 8, Event Evangelism audio
-- Part 9, Service-Driven Evangelism audio
-- Part 10, Sunday Service Excellence audio
-- Part 11, A Mission to the Nations audio

Early Mark Manuscript Closer to Validation


On May 22, 2012 I published a post on this website about the potential of a First Century manuscript fragment of the Book of Mark.  (You can find that post here).  Now it seems that we are getting closer to validating that find.  These things take peer-review and that takes lots of time, but LiveScience.com posted an article with more details about this discovery.  (You can find that article here.)

It turns out that the manuscript pages of the book of Mark were used as something like a paper mache (or more appropriately a papyri mache) Egyptian mask.  The mask, like the one pictured in this post, was much like the more popular gold masks only for those of a lower income.  Even then, papyri was expensive so it made sense to use recycle papyri.  It's just going to be painted anyway, right?  Dr. Craig Evans has reported that he has found numerous documents contained in the recycled papyri in these masks, including business documents, classical greek works, and this very special manuscript of Mark.

Why is this a big deal?

Here's why.  It's a document of Mark that's much closer to the original.  Critical scholars will often argue that the Gospels were written hundreds of years after the event.  This manuscript disputes those claims.  It's also fascinating where it was found.  It would seem that in order for the document to turn up in Egypt, it had to have been copied from another source (or the original) sometime earlier.

This is a remarkable find and will likely shake up the academic world as this makes its way through peer review.  Keep your eyes open and on the lookout for more information to come.

*The mask pictured in this post is an Egyptian funerary mask located in a museum in Vienna, Austria. The photo is in the public domain.

Playing the Bride

Many little girls fantasize about their future wedding day.  They dream of an amazing dress, flowers, a big beautiful cake, and dancing.  In their aspirations all eyes are on the bride.  Everybody is saying, "isn't she beautiful!"

Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women.  They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation.  But something serious is missing--the groom.

How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow?  How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?"  I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms.  It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.

As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day.  Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.

It's so easy to be busy.  It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church.  Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for.  We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom.  We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives.  We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance.  Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands.  All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus.  At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.

The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom.  We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.

Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride.  It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).

Jesus makes his bride beautiful!

How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right?  How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line?  The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool."  Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').

While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church.  Jesus is our senior pastor.  And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.

(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.) 

*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission. 

The Forgotten Mission Field

Missions and evangelism--really one in the same--are important.  At least five times Christ called his people to reach the world with the gospel (John 20:21, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:46-48, and Acts 1:8).  This means we should be reaching the world around us as well as collectively reaching every corner of the globe.  Some have taken up this call and faithfully dedicated their lives to this purpose.  Others use their vacation time to serve missions a couple weeks of their year; while still others use missions as a "religious cover" for a vacation. Whether in our communities and at the work place, or around the world, the life of the Christian should include some kind of answer to this call. (This however is not the entirety on the Christian life as some passionately argue.)

Many of us in American gravely overlook, even forget an obvious mission field.  It's the ministry to children in our local churches. The Bible clearly shows that parents have a responsibility to teach their children, but this is not to say that the local church can't be there to help.  And what about the families where parents aren't Christian but may attend a local Christian church?  I went to church as a child but wasn't a believer until I was 25. What about guests?

Working with children can be difficult, but not always. 

A teacher or servant-hearted volunteer working with children could have an impact on the next generation and maybe many generations to come.  He or she may also impact this generation because the child could potentially be how God reaches the parents.

If you feel called to teaching, preaching, missions, or evangelism, deeply consider a ministry that reaches children.  I'm sure there's a children's ministry that could use your help.

*Photo by Cosey Tutti is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission.

Lord, Help My Unfaithfulness!

Mark 9:14-29 shares a account of a father who takes his demon possessed son to Jesus for a healing. At one point, the man says to Jesus, "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us" (Mark 9:22b, ESV).  In the next verse Jesus responds, "If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." And we are left with a picture of doubt and hope.

Prayer, at times, might also look like an act of doubt and hope.  At times, as we pray, we may find ourselves wondering, "God, if you hear me. . . "  What a statement!  Based on the picture in Mark, I suspect God's response is "If I hear you!"  But the amazing statement from the man with the demon possessed son should be our model in these moments of doubt in prayer.  That man responded, "I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24b, ESV).

In our moments of doubt in prayer, we should cry out in prayer, "God, I have faith, help my lack of faith!" 

More on Ordination

Some time ago, I wrote on ordination.  Recent events and additional study has afforded me more opportunity to think about the topic and add some additional comments.

Although the practice of commissioning, setting apart, or ordaining is found in both the Old and New Testaments, I believe that the best understanding for Church operation today is found in the New Testament. There is a long tradition of ordination within many Christian denominations, yet the Bible must be our authority above tradition.  And interestingly enough, I don't think many of our traditions hold closely to what we find in the Bible, which is why I can use commissioning, setting apart, and ordaining as interchangeable words, whereas many traditions cannot. 

In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus choose and appointed twelve servants to do a number of tasks including preaching and casting out demons. Acts chapter 6 shows that seven servants were chosen to minister to the Church as deacons. Once identified, they were presented to the Apostles. The Apostles then “prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6, ESV). An event recorded in Acts 13 shows that after worshiping and fasting, the Apostles were instructed by the Holy Spirit to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2, ESV). Here, God called and set apart two individuals for His appointed tasks. The Acts 13 passage continues, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3, ESV). We see that prayer and fasting came after God’s call but before sending Barnabas and Saul off to do the work for which they were called. A picture of submission to God’s call for Barnabas and Saul, unity among the body, and communal support, prayer, and encouragement is presented as the leaders laid hands on those called to a specific God-appointed task.

Therefore, it seems that a commissioning, setting apart, or ordination of a team or individual is a public recognition of God’s choice and calling for a specific ministry purpose, varying in qualifications, scope, duration, and authority. As we find in the Bible, this purpose may be as diverse as going ahead of Jesus and proclaiming the gospel in every town, leading as an elder, distributing bread, or embarking upon a missionary-church planting journey. Each of these callings served the church in different ways, for differing periods of times, requiring different qualifications, with different levels of necessary authority. And each of these tasks, some being more specifically defined while others less so, held criteria and qualifications that were to be met within the individual, primarily dealing with character. However, in every case, it is clear that ordination is nothing more than acknowledging a calling already set by God.

We often seek a single qualification for the role of ordination.  We ask questions like, "Who can be ordained?"  Often conversation turns toward the question, "Does this church or that church ordain women?"  The difficulty with these single issue questions is how much broad-brush thinking they require.  We need to take a deeper look at our definitions and the qualifications set for the various callings.  And within the proper definitions and qualifications, understand the reasons necessary for ordination.

The ministry of a deacon, for example, greatly varies from that of the elder, as does the ministry of many other ministers within specific Church related service. By God’s design, the qualifications and responsibilities are as equally diverse as the various callings. It is my understanding that called men and women of godly character may serve as commissioned ministers within the Church, still working under the leadership of the elders. Godly men and women who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 may serve the Church as deacons. And called, godly men who meet the qualifications 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16 may serve in the leadership office of elder. All of the Lord’s faithful servants are equal in value, regardless calling, although he or she may be called to different ministries for the benefit of the Church and glory of God.  And when we view ordination in this light, it helps us solidly answer many of the questions that seem so divisive lately.

* The photo of "Ordination of a Bishop" was taken by M. Bastien is registered under a creative commons license and is used by permission.

Recently Discovered New Testament Manuscripts

The gospels and letters that make up the New Testament were authored in the latter half of the First Century, between roughly AD42-98.  Finding manuscripts like P52, a papyri fragment of the book of John containing chapter 18:31-33, is a really big deal.  It was discovered in 1920 and greatly changed the way scholars think about the book of John and the New Testament. P52 (pictured to the right), is a Second Century manuscript dated roughly to AD125-150 and  is presently considered the oldest known fragment of the New Testament--but that may be soon to change.  Dr. Dan Wallace claims to have discovered a manuscript of the book of Mark that he and others say dates to the First Century! 

Conservative biblical scholars date the authorship to Mark between the mid-AD40 and 60.  This would mean that at most, this newly discovered manuscript is no more than 60 years older than the autograph, but it may be less.  The Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) located in Münster, Germany has cataloged over 5,750 New Testament manuscripts.  Some of these are very close to the autographs (originals, which have yet to be found), but none as close as what Wallace is claiming of his team's discovery.

Apparently, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) was granted access to a national archive in Albania to photograph 13 manuscripts.  The country has previously denied western scholars access to these documents.  When the CSNTM team arrived, they learned that there were more manuscripts at the archive and some of them are remarkable!

Besides the manuscripts they expected to photograph, they discovered seven more manuscripts never-before seen or cataloged by western scholars.  Most notable is the Mark papyri as well as an early Second Century Luke fragment and four manuscripts from Paul (and the author of Hebrews) that date to late Second Century or early Third Century.  Details are slowly being released as the scholars are exercising caution in how they present this new find.

In the video below, Dr. Mike Licona introduces Dr. Dan Wallace who discusses this fascinating discovery in a more detail:

Buzz about these manuscripts is present, but you have to look for it.  They will have a significant impact on scholarship but it's highly unlikely that these manuscripts will change our understanding of the gospel message.  Even when more details are published, most people will hear little about this discovery (if anything) and that's okay.  For us theology geeks, it's exciting to add 7 more manuscripts to the INTF catalog, especially the really early ones.  It's also thrilling to think about the possibility of finding even earlier manuscripts and getting closer to the originals; but in the bigger picture, the gospel as we have understood it for 2,000 years will continue marching forward as we faithfully serve God toward the advancement of his Kingdom.  Indeed we must remember, the manuscript collection does not bring saving transformation--the message contained within the manuscripts is what must really excite us.

*Photo of the Rylands Papyri, also know as P52, is in the public domain. 

Get to Know Your Neighbor

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record an exchange between Jesus and a lawyer.  The lawyer wanted to test Jesus so he asked him which law was the greatest.  Jesus told him that he is to love God and love his neighbors.  Interestingly, the lawyer tried to split hairs about who his neighbor might be.  In Luke, this transitions the conversation to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  

I wonder what Jesus would think about our behavior today.  We know who our neighbors are, but we don't know them.  And when we don't know our neighbors, it's really hard to love them.

This video and others like it are available in the Resources section of this website. Please check it out regularly as more content will be added often.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer iTunes Podcasts: Video | Audio
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* While there may be some overlap, the content of the Video and Audio Podcasts are not the same. 

He is Alive! Confirmation on the Road to Emmaus

(And Exegetical Look at Luke 24:13-45)


Jesus had been crucified. He was dead. Joseph of Arimathea had laid his beaten and lifeless body in a rock tomb. That was Friday. On Sunday, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James, and other women went to tend to Jesus’ body. But when they arrived at the tomb, Jesus was not there. Instead, they encountered two angels proclaiming that Jesus had risen—he was alive! The angels reminded the ladies of what Jesus had told them, saying, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:6b-7, ESV)1.

The women returned and reported these things to the eleven—Jesus’ closest disciples—and “to all the rest” (Luke 24:9b). But the most of the men thought these women were spinning wild stories and they chose not to believe them. Peter however, ran to the tomb and looked in, first seeing that the stone had been rolled away and then that the only contents remaining were the linen cloths that once wrapped Jesus’ body. He returned to the others and reported what he had seen. On the same day, two people (one unnamed and the other identified as Cleopas) were walking and discussing the various events concerning Jesus when a stranger appeared to them. As it turned out, they encountered the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus.

Volumes of been penned about the Emmaus encounter. Generations have dissected Luke’s account of Christ’s revelation of himself to these two witnesses. Some, it seems, have hunted for clues and codes beyond the most significant and obvious story, while others cannot even seem to accept that two people walking to a nearby town encountered the risen Jesus on the third day. Luke however, makes it very clear—Jesus is raised and he presented himself to these two witnesses on the road and in a home, as they were about to eat.

This post will closely examine the Emmaus road encounter as recorded in Luke 24:13-35. First, the passage will be summarized. Following the summation, and introduction of the author will be provided along with some background of the time and audience in which he was writing. Then the purpose of the book of Luke will be surveyed, and the context of the passage will be discussed. Once this foundation is laid, the content of Luke 24:13-35 will be the focus, starting with the most obvious message of the text: Jesus is alive! This and other aspects of the text will be offered by way of synthesis of the various ideas from the passage itself and commentaries on the passage. But this is not the ending point of the post. A practical application for today’s students of the Bible (the ultimate reason for study) will serve as the conclusion.


On the same day the women saw the angels, Cleopas and an unnamed person were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which is about seven miles from Jerusalem. (13, 18). They were talking about all the things that had recently happened, that is, likely the things concerning Jesus, to include his mighty works and teaching, his trial, his crucifixion, the report from the women about their experience with the angels at the tomb, and the men who found the tomb empty (14, 19-24). They had hoped Jesus was the one to redeem Israel (21). Just then, Jesus came near, likely from the direction of Jerusalem, but the two travelers were kept from recognizing him (15-16). He asked the two people what they had been discussing and they stopped walking and were visibly sad (17). Cleopas then responded, as if in shock or just wanting to push away the stranger, asking Jesus if he were a visitor that had not heard anything about what had been going on in and around Jerusalem (18). Jesus replied, “What things?” and they told him about the many things regarding Jesus and the women and the empty tomb and that it was, on that day, the third day since Jesus died (19-24). Jesus responded, calling them “foolish ones” and “slow of heart to believe” the prophets (25). He then began explaining how all of the Scriptures were about himself (26-27).

As they approached Emmaus, it seemed that Jesus was continuing on, but the two people encouraged Jesus to stay with them. It was almost evening so Jesus went in to stay with them (28-29). Sitting at the table, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the other two (30). At that moment their eyes were open and they recognized Jesus; then he vanished (31). The two started talking about it and they realized that their hearts burned while they were talking with Jesus on the road as he opened up the Scriptures to them (32). Although it was getting dark, they returned to Jerusalem that same night and met with the eleven and the others gathered around. The eleven told the two, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34). After this proclamation, the two reported what they had witnessed on the road and how they recognized Jesus as he was breaking the bread (33-35).


Who is the Author? According to Carson and Moo, “Most scholars agree that Luke and Acts were written by the same individual.”2 The strongest support comes from Theophilus, or rather, the author’s introduction to Theophilus found in both Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2. Morris states, “Tradition unanimously affirms this author to be Luke.”3 While Morris, Carson, and Moo deal with the convincing proof that Luke is the author of the book that bares his name and its sequel, this post will agree with tradition for the sake of space.

Paul refers to Luke as a physician in his letter to the Colossians (4:14). Luke’s profession seems consistent with minor details of medical interest found throughout his writing. For example, when Luke discusses the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, it is a “high fever” but Matthew and Mark only say it is a fever (Luke 4:38, Matthew 8:14, Mark 1:30). In addition, Luke appears to be a meticulous, detail-oriented man as he claimed to have “undertaken to compile a narrative” of the “eyewitnesses” and “followed all things closely for some time past” so that he could then “write an orderly account” for Theophilus in which Theophilus could have “certainty” concerning the things he had already been taught (Luke 1:1-4). While only speculation, it seems logical that this would require meeting eyewitnesses for interviews, likely reading anything else written about Jesus, listening to stories, and traveling to places where the events happened. Notes would likely be taken and organization would be necessary. And in fact, it is seen in portions of Acts that Luke was along with Paul and others on parts of Paul’s journeys.

In addition to his profession and likely mental capabilities, there is also a possibility that Luke was a Gentile Christian. This support comes from Colossians 4:10-14, where first Paul lists the names of those with him who were circumcised (Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus) and then lists others to include Luke. It can be assumed that, Luke, not being among the circumcised list, would be a Gentile. And being a companion of Paul, along with writing a positive book about Jesus in order to show Theophilus the truth of the things he had already learned, there is great cause to think that Luke believe the content of his two books and was a Christian. And for what it is worth, Foxe recorded in his Book of Martyrs that Luke was “hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priest of Greece.”4

The Time and Audience. Just as much can be said about the scholarly work of the authorship of Luke, so too is the case of the date of its composition. Two strong hypotheses exist—one for authorship some time in the early 60’s and the other for a time between AD75-85.5 Either way, the time of authorship is sometime in the first century between 60 and 85, which is close enough in regard to the passage being examined in this post. Although the time of the passage itself takes place sometime between AD30 and 33, the most significant aspect of these dates is that many of the people identified in Luke would have still been alive at the time of its authorship. And as Luke set out to write a theological historical narrative of the accounts, his book would have been greatly challenged if it misrepresented the facts.
Luke lived in a mix of Jews and Gentiles and was likely writing for an audience of both. Carson and Moo speculate that even though Theophilus was the singular, primary audience, “it is almost certain that Luke had a wider reading public in view.”6 But given that Luke ties Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam and assumes no Jewish tradition, it is likely that Luke was writing much more for the Gentiles than the Jews. In addition, much of Luke has a broader implication than just the Jewish people. And some of the cultural matters, such as including women in the narratives, suggest that Luke was writing from and to a culture other than the Jews. And if indeed Luke traveled with Paul, as this author believes, than it seems probably that Luke may have shared Paul’s desire to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

Purpose and Context. As already stated above, Luke’s purpose for his book was to provide and accurate account of the events of Jesus so Theophilus could have certainty in the things he was already taught. Considering the content of the book of Luke, it would seem that the things Theophilus was taught was likely the gospel of Jesus Christ and the way to salvation. The purpose of Chapter 24, of which the Emmaus road experience is a part, is to show that Christ has indeed risen and appeared to a variety of witnesses. It should be noted that of the three sections of this chapter (the angels’ declaration to the women, the Emmaus road experience, and Jesus’ appearance to the eleven and others) the Emmaus road event is the longest and vividly detailed.

The Emmaus road narrative is sandwiched between and account of the women, which the men did not believe, and Jesus’ climatic appearance to his group of disciples. In this context, the prospective of the two on the road serves as a bridge between the disbelief and the outright empirical testing of Christ’s resurrection. In the first panel (the story with the women), Jesus is not seen whatsoever. In the second, Jesus is seen but not recognized until the end. Here he must be heard and believed by faith more so than believed with the eyes. And finally, in the third panel, the disciples were able to touch and see Christ, and even witness him eat!


Jesus is Alive! As one reads Luke 24:13-35, it is easy to get sidetracked. Why were the two people restricted from recognizing Jesus? Was the breaking of the bread a communion service or just a meal, and why was Jesus serving it rather than the host? Where exactly did this event happen; can we pinpoint it on a map? Was the other witness Luke, or maybe Cleopas’ wife, or some other disciple? Why does Luke withhold the name of the second person? If the two disciples had not insisted on having Jesus stay, where would he have gone? Was Jesus presenting some kind of falsehood or lie by acting as if he was going on? All of these are interesting questions, but no other question from this text is worth anything if Luke’s most important and obvious point is not understood and accepted. The Lord is risen! Through the entire twenty-forth chapter, Luke is presenting accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, in detail, locations pointed out, witnesses named (mostly).

The Emmaus road account opens with two people discussing recent events, trying to make since of them. It is unknown why they were going to Emmaus, but it is possible that they lived there and were returning home from Passover as Culpepper and O’Day suggest.7 Regardless of their reason for travel, it is clear from verse 24 that these people were with the group that heard the account from the women. And they knew of Peter’s finding of an empty tomb; yet they did not remain in Jerusalem with the eleven and the rest of the disciples.

From the perspective of the two, a stranger came along side them. This stranger could see that they were carrying on a conversation and asked them about it. “The two disciples,” writes Geldenhuys, “would no doubt at first have felt offended at the obtrusiveness of the unknown Stranger, especially since they were talking so earnestly while they were walking and were so sorrowful and despondent.”8 But the stranger asks them another question; “What things?” he asks, showing that he genuinely is interested in the matter causing them such grief. And at this, these two confess their love of Jesus. They believed he was going to redeem Israel according to verse 21. Not knowing this man, they even take a risky position by placing blame for Jesus’ crucifixion on the Jews. To this Morris writes, “Notice that it is not the Romans but our chief priests and rulers who both delivered him up and crucified him. The reference to his being condemned to death implicates the Romans, but the chief blame is put squarely on the Jews.”9 They continue to express that this is not simply a matter of a prophet being put to death, but the one in which they had placed their hope.

A curious addition is the mention that this was the third day since Christ’s death. This would be of no value to the stranger unless they also told him what Jesus had taught and what the angles had reminded the women in verses 6-7: “that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:6b-7). It seems it must, at least at that moment, have been on the minds of these travelers. John Calvin argues, “For it is probable that he mentions the third day for no other reason that that the Lord had promised that after three days, he would rise again. When he afterwards relates that the women had not found the body, and that they had seen a vision of angels, and that what the women had said about the empty grave was likewise confirmed by the testimony of the men, the whole amounts to this, that Christ had risen. That the holy man, hesitating between faith and fear, employs what is adapted to nourish faith, and struggles against fear to the utmost of his power.”10

The stranger rebukes them for not trusting in what the Scriptures taught about the Messiah and the stranger begins to take them through the Law and Prophets showing them how these things were about him, about Jesus. As this was happening, the men experienced a burning within, according to verse 32, but this was still not enough for them to recognize Jesus. Verse 16 says, “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). Barclay argues that they were blinded and could not recognize Jesus because they were walking west toward the sunset and therefore blinded by the brilliance of the sun.11 While Barclay attempts to focus on the how, Morris simply points out, “On this occasion the implication appears to be that the disciples were somehow prevented from recognizing Jesus. It was in God’s providence that only later should they come to know who he was. Perhaps Luke wants us to gather, as Ford suggests, ‘that we cannot see the risen Christ, although he be walking with us, unless he wills to disclose himself’.”12 Once the three of them were inside and sharing bread, their eyes were opened and the recognized Jesus as their resurrected Lord. Duffield and Van Cleave see this scripture as pointing to the “uniqueness” of Christ’s resurrected body in that “it was not recognizable at times.”13 However, most commentators and theologians, even including Duffield and Van Cleave are in agreement with Driscoll and Breshears, who use verse 31, when the disciples’ eyes were opened to argue, “Jesus’ resurrected body was the same as his pre-resurrection body. His disciples recognized him as the same person who had been crucified.”14 The most important thing is not how or why the people on the road did not initially recognize Jesus, instead, it is that when they eventually did, Luke presents it as a proof of Jesus’ resurrection.

The reaction of the two disciples was so great that despite that evening was near, they absolutely had to go back to the eleven and others in Jerusalem and testify that Jesus has risen, he was alive and they had encountered him. Their conviction was overwhelming. This was not a specter or spirit they walked and talked with. It was not a vision that broke bread and gave it to them. It was the alive and physical Jesus. These two witnesses were excited to tell others and Luke used this event to convince his audience that Jesus was and is alive.

Jesus Revealed Himself. While the primary point of the passage, the most significant aspect that should be preached above all else, is that Jesus is risen, there are some other significant aspects of this passage worth investigation. The first is that Jesus revealed himself. The two people were walking together when Jesus came upon them. Verse 15 says he “drew near and went with them” (Luke 24:15b). He asked them the first question. He could have chosen not to reveal himself. He could have chosen not to ask them the first question. Instead, he not only chose to reveal himself to the two travelers, he chose to use them as witnesses to others.

The Reaction of the Witnesses. The next point worth a brief mention is the reaction of the two people once they recognized Jesus. Jesus had just handed them bread and this in some way helped them recognize him (Luke 24:35). But then he vanished. At that moment, the two quickly reflected on their encounter with him on the road; however, they did not remain in discussion about the past for very long. That very hour, they went back to their friends to testify that they had encountered Jesus. This was an event that must be shared. And just as they had shared what they understood about Christ with a man they believed was a stranger, their initial reaction was to share their experiences and encounters with this stranger.

Who Were These Witnesses? Luke names one of the witnesses, Cleopas, lending more credibility to the account as Culpepper an O’Day point out.15 Many commentators have offered different speculation as to the identities of the unidentified traveling companion in route to Emmaus. Some, including Morris, say the unnamed person was Luke because the detail is so vivid.16 Another suggestion is that the other traveler is the wife of Cleopas. Still another idea from liberal arguments is that the particular witness no longer would testify that he saw the risen Christ so Luke left him unnamed. However, if this were the case, why would Luke include the account at all? There is the possibility that these two where the two disciples mentioned in Mark 16:12-13, but in that account, the rest did not believe the two disciples. How could these be the same accounts with such a discrepancy? In any case, it is significant to see that Cleopas is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. The other person is not even named. These two are likely regular people; and although there is no solid indication of such, most commentators address them both as men. In light of the larger point, it might be best to let the unnamed disciple remain unidentified as Luke intended.

Breaking the Bread. Some commentators, especially of much older publications, cast a light of communion upon the breaking of bread in this text. This author believes Morris best addresses this aspect of the text, writing,
Bread was commonly broken at the prayer of thanksgiving before a meal. Some have seen here a reference to the breaking of bread in the communion service, but this seems far-fetched. It would have been a very curious communion service, broken off in the opening action and as far as we can see never completed. And it would have been quite out of place. In any case the two were not present at the Last Supper (cf. 22:14; Mark 14:17) so they could not have recalled Jesus’ actions then.17

However, there may have been something significant about the breaking of bread or it may have simply been the timing because Luke 24:35 says, “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was know to them in the breaking of the bread.18 There is also the possibility that the disciples were present at another meal with Jesus or that something else unique to Jesus—maybe a mannerism—had something to do with their eyes being opened. However, this author is inclined to think that it was in the teaching of Jesus, which may have culminated at that moment, to a point where faith came through hearing.


While there is much to examine in this vivid text, it is important that the primary point Luke presents is addressed. Without seeing this point, the other points will offer nothing of value. Christ revealed himself to two travelers on the road after he had been crucified and buried. It was on the third day, just as he had promised. Jesus is alive, indeed!

As present day readers examine this passage of Luke 24, they, like the travelers, are faced with the decision to examine both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, see the accounts of Jesus, and answer the question, Is he the Savior? Readers must ask themselves if they believe if Jesus is risen? Are the accounts of the witnesses true? The travelers on the road were contemplating the testimony of the women and the report that Peter found the tomb empty. As they were contemplating, Jesus met them on the road. While it may not be that Jesus will physically manifest himself to those contemplating Christ, he does meet us where we are to reveal himself to us. He opens our eyes. The remaining question then, is will we believe; and if so, will we share our encounters with Jesus with others?

Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries. Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Vol. XVII. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2009.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
Crossway Bibles. ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles,
Culpepper, R. Alan, and Gail R. O'Day. The New Interpreter's Bible. The Gospel of Luke, the
Gospel of John. Volume IX. Nashville, Tenn: Abingdon, 1995.
Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, Ill:
Crossway, 2010.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los
Angles, Calif: Foursquare Media, 2008.
Foxe, John. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Edited by William Byron. Accordance 9.1.1. OakTree
Software, Inc, Version 1.4.
Geldenhuys, Norval. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. The Gospel of
Luke. Grand Rapids (Mich.): W.B. Eerdmans, 1979.
Morris, Leon. Luke. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

1  Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references in this post are taken from the ESV. Crossway Bibles, ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
2  D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 203.
3 Leon Morris, Luke (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 19.
4 John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Edited by William Byron (Accordance 9.1.1. OakTree Software, Inc, Version 1.4), Ch I, xiv.
5 Another argument places the authorship sometime in the early second century, but the evidence is not convincing and therefore will exclude this date hypothesis from this post.
6 Carson, 210.
7 Alan R. Culpepper and Gail R. O'Day, The New Interpreter's Bible. The Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John. Volume IX (Nashville, Tenn: Abingdon, 1995), 476.
8 Norval Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary On the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids (Mich.): W.B. Eerdmans, 1979), 633.
9 Morris, 356.
10 John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. XVII (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2009), 358.
11 William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 294-295.
12 Morris, 356.
13 Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angles, Calif: Foursquare Media, 2008), 203.
14 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010), 289.
15 Culpepper, 477.
16 Morris, 355.
17 Morris, 358-359.
18 Italics added for emphasis. 

*The painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch is in the public domain.
This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.   

Don't Neglect Salvation? Hebrews 2 & 3

Hebrews 2:2-3 provides a warning against neglecting such a great salvation, that is, neglecting the great message the author and his readers have heard, which is being introduced in the previous chapter of Hebrews. This is the message of the gospel and the author of Hebrews says, “don’t overlook it.” The word the ESV translates as ‘neglecting’ comes from the Greek word amelesantes (a transliteration), which is derived from ameleo (also a transliteration). Strong’s states that its meaning is to neglect, make light of, ignore, and even be negligent of (Strongs 2001, 1590). The word appears four times in the New Testament—in Matthew 22:5, 1 Timothy 4:14, Hebrews 2:3, and again in Hebrews 8:9.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, the warning is to avoid neglecting the gift that was given to the reader. In Hebrews 8:9 the neglect or ignorance was God’s approach to the people of the exodus who did not continue in his covenant. Matthew 22:5 however, seems to shed some light on the Hebrews 2:3 passage where there is a picture of a neglectful attitude toward salvation. In this passage, Jesus shares a parable of a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. Everything was ready, but when the servants went out with the invitation, the people paid them no attention—the messengers were rejected, turned away, treated poorly, and in some cases even killed. The king was angered by this reaction so he sent his troops to kill those who murdered his messengers and then he had their cities burned. Eventually, the king sent his messengers into the streets to invite anybody the messengers could find.

The author of Hebrews is cautioning his readers not to neglect this message for he knows the consequences are grave. But he is not acting as if he has received this invitation and that is the end of it. He includes himself in the warning saying, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1, ESV). It seems that paying much closer attention is to understand the details. And it also seems that we need to follow this warning to the extent that the author takes it, later writing, “Take care, brothers, lest there be any of you of an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-3, ESV). Paying much closer attention would appear to be an ongoing thing; and being an ongoing thing, it seems that neglecting the message of salvation and the blessing that come from it is a very serious matter.

This warning in Hebrews 3:12, is a warning to be cautious and even avoid having an unbelieving heart. This unbelieving heart the author warns about, it seems, is evil and can cause one to fall away from, or even rebel against the Living God. In verse 13, the reader is encouraged to exhort one another daily to avoid the hardening of the heart caused by sin. Genesis 8:21 says, “ the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (ESV) and Deuteronomy 11:6 warns “Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (ESV). Therefore, it seems that the default or natural desire of the human heart is toward this hardened state, and this hardness causes our faith in, and love for God to be less than our 'all' as Deuteronomy 6, 10, 13, and 30 instruct (which Jesus teaches as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.)

Hebrews 3:13 shows that the way to avoid this frightful hardening is to engage in daily exhortation with, and among other Christian believers of the living God. (In light of Hebrews 1 and 2, this faith should be in Jesus, to be more specific.) It is a daily effort in study, prayer, discussion, openness, honesty, and accountability with the other believers that fights the natural desire of the ever-hardening, sinful heart. This will hopefully help the reader follow the instruction of Hebrews 3:14 to “hold our original confidence firm to the end” (ESV).

In addition, this message was written to believers so while it could be a discussion about completely forfeiting salvation after one is regenerated (or born again), it is a strong possibly that is is about missing out on the many good things God has for his people.

While verses 12 and 13 are counted in Chapter 3, they seem to fit better heading into Chapter 4 because the call to take courage and keep the heart soft and faithful is compared to God’s people who stepped in faith to leave Egypt but eventually sinned by turning from God. They eventually took their faith and placed it elsewhere, in other words, they allowed their hearts to return to the default hardness and unbelief of all God was doing for them. While they still counted themselves as God's people, they did not trust that he had their best interests in mind. The result of this sin was a prohibition of the blessings and rest found in the Promised Land. The author continues to compare rest (or lack thereof) to the condition of the heart, and those with no rest had hard hearts. The author is encouraging the readers (then and now) to take caution and avoid the same pitfalls of those who did not remain completely faithful to the end.

Strong, James, John R. Kohlenberger, James A. Swanson, and James Strong. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2001.

Eternity is a Long Time

There is an idea cropping up among some Christians that I think is worth some discussion.  It's a thought that the biblical concept of eternity is not actually an idea of forever, or a time without end.  Just recently in fact, I read a statement by a controversial author that actually argued that eternity is not a concept found in the Bible.  And these arguments are almost always centered on the doctrine of hell.

Now, to be fair, this is not the same argument as annihilationism.  Annihilationism is the idea that God is merciful and allows a person in hell to eventually be snuffed out rather than suffering forever, enduring eternal flames and being eaten by the worm that never dies (Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 25:41, Mark 9:48 for example).  The person is just no more, completely consumed by fire and the worm, and is eventually without suffering.  Dr. Clark Pinnock was a champion of this view.

But this recent argument is not annihilationism.  No, this other argument addresses the idea that eternity is not really forever, but maybe just for a long time, implying that there is something after the punishment.  And both annihilationism and this other argument are based in the stand that God is not worth worshiping if he is willing to punish his enemies without end.

But before this 'eternity is not forever' conversation runs wild, there are at least a couple problems we should examine. 

First, if eternity does not apply to hell because eternity is not a biblical concept, than neither can it apply to heaven.  It's just that simple.

Second, eternity is a biblical concept.  Those who argue against it might discuss the New Testament Greek word aion without having considered another New Testament Greek word, aionios. 

Let's start with aion.  According to Strong, aion means, "properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future): — age, course, eternal, (for) ever(-more), (n-)ever, (beginning of the , while the) world (began, without end).  And Thayer says it can be both an age and "an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity," among other things.  Here are the New Testament passages where the word aion appears (some are in the negated form often translated as 'never'): Matthew 12:32; 13:22, 39–40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Mark 3:29; 4:19; 10:30; Luke 1:33, 55, 70; 16:8; 18:30; 20:34–35; John 4:14; 6:51, 58; 8:35, 51–52; 9:32; 10:28; 11:26; 12:34; 13:8; 14:16; Acts 3:21; 15:18; Rom 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 12:2; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2:6–8; 3:18; 8:13; 10:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 9:9; 11:31; Gal 1:4–5; Ephesians 1:21; 2:2, 7; 3:9, 11, 21; Philippians 4:20; Colossians 1:26; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10, 18; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 1:2, 8; 5:6; 6:5, 20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28; 9:26; 11:3; 13:8, 21; 1 Peter 1:25; 4:11; 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:17; 2 John 1:2; Jude 1:13, 25; Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9–10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; and 22:5.  Look at these passages and note the context and translational use.

But wait, there's that other word that gets completely neglected when people want to downgrade eternity, especially an eternity in hell.  The word is aionios. Aionios has that has the eternal, forever, time marching on without end aspect.  Regarding this word, Strong says it means, "perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well): — eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began)."  But you don't have to know Greek to see this.  Look at where this word appears in the New Testament, and notice its context, usage, and English translation: Matthew 18:8; 19:16, 29; 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 10:17, 30; Luke 10:25; 16:9; 18:18, 30; John 3:15–16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2–3; Acts 13:46, 48; Romans 2:7; 5:21; 6:22–23; 16:25–26; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:1; Galatians 6:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:16; 6:12, 16; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:10; Titus 1:2; 3:7; Philemon 1:15; Hebrews 5:9; 6:2; 9:12, 14–15; 13:20; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:11; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20; Jude 1:7, 21; and Revelation 14:6Aion and aionios are not the same word and they each carry their own meaning.  Notice that these two different words appear in the same books by the same authors.  Sometimes they appear in the same paragraphs, and in a couple cases, even in the same sentence! (See Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30 for example).

It is easy to understand why someone would want to think of hell as something temporary, but this is not what the Bible claims.  And what value is a god that we create with doctrines we control?  Certainly it is the God of the Bible that saves, not one of our own making. And God has reveled in his own Word to us that both heaven AND hell have an aspect of eternity, forever, time marching on without end, regardless of how we would otherwise want to think of it.

Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 3)

[This review is a review in parts.  If you are just joining this review, start with "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Prolegomena)."] 

Rob Bell explores his thoughts about hell in the third chapter of his book, Love Wins.  With a part of this chapter he challenges the traditional Christian view of a place of punishment, sorrow, and anguish, and it also seems that he is laying the ground work for a future argument about the everlasting aspects of the biblical hell.  But Bell also uses this chapter to present an idea of hell on earth, maybe something like his ideas of heaven on earth. However, this twisted idea of hell that Bell shares speaks against the Gospel of Christ and against the biblical idea of hell; it is a heretical argument and a tragic concept with the potential for epic devastation, a message which no Christian preacher should ever suggest, preach, or teach.

Bell argues that hell on earth is for victims. 

How can this be good news?

(At this point, I realize that readers who love and support Bell and his book will be tempted to stop reading this review, and that's okay.  But it is my hope that those readers remember arguments that they themselves might have made.  "Don't pass judgment," they might have argued, "and don't form an opinion until you've read the book."  Some also argued that I would have to get to the end of the book to see the entire picture.  So if this is you, I hope you continue reading this review.  I hope you are willing to see it through to the end. I invite comments and questions via e-mail or in person.  Please feel free to contact me. And I realize I have just leveled some serious claims about Bell's ideas; so Mr. Bell, I invite you to contact me to discuss your ideas so I can better understand. Come out to Salt Lake so we can discuss this over a cup of coffee.)

In this chapter, Bell shares some of his observations and experiences he has had as a pastor--a trip to Rwanda, a time sitting with a rape victim, a question from a boy about his father who had just committed suicide, the look of a cocaine addict, the ripples of a marital affair, and a cruel dead man.

When Bell was in Rwanda, he witnessed many teenagers missing hands and legs.  They were victims of brutal treatment, forced upon them by no fault of their own. Bell says this was a tactic of a person's enemy.  Cutting off your enemy's hand or leg leaves a brutal reminder of what you did to him.  He is reminded of you every time he looks at his child.  To this, Bells says, "Do I believe in a literal hell?  Of course. Those aren't metaphorical missing arms and legs" (71).

Bell also asks if his readers have ever sat with a woman as she described what it was like when she was raped.  In another question he asks, "How does a person describe what it's like to hear a five-year-old boy whose father has just committed suicide ask, 'When is daddy coming home?'" (71).   

But here's the problem with these examples.  In the common vernacular, one might suggest that a hot stone massage is "heavenly" or maybe it's a piece of chocolate cake the warrants such a high description.  I even remember once buying a honey-baked ham from a company called Heavenly Ham, but I really don't think I bought a ham from heaven, not even heaven on earth.  This is metaphorical hyperbole.  Heaven is the greatest thing one can think of so we use it to describe great things, as if to say there is nothing better.  But in reality, the biblical heaven is not a hot stone massage or a piece of cake or a ham or even the commercial building where I bought the ham.  That's not what these kinds of statements are attempting to say.  We use the word and idea of hell in much the same way.  Hell is the worst thing we can think of so we make statements like, "War is hell."  We want to dramatically declare that it just doesn't get any worse than this.  So in that usage, armless, legless boys and rape victims and mothers who hear very difficult questions could easily say, "This is hell;" but that would not be the hell described in the bible.

What these horrific examples demonstrate is sin, or rather, the effects of sin.  See, the teens in Rwanda and the raped woman are the victims of sinful acts thrust upon them.  These are examples of sin in motion, the sin of humans; it's sin in the fallen world in which we live.  However, in the model Bell gives us, Abel would have been in hell during the few moments while Cain was murdering him (Genesis 4).  Stephen would have been in hell as he was being stoned to death, despite that the Bible says that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man was standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7).  In this model, it seems that the early Saints were passing into a hell on earth while Saul was ravishing the Church (Acts 8).

And let us take a look at a parable Jesus shared about a rich man who died and was in Hades. (Bell also examines this parable, but for a much different reason.)  Luke 16:19-31 tells us a parable of this unnamed rich man and a poor begger named Lazarus.  Lazarus sat out side the rich man's gates starving.  Dogs licked Lazurus' sores, while the rich man did nothing for him.  In the parable, Lazarus ends up in heaven while the rich man ends up in hell.  There is a chasm between the two that does not allow anyone to pass from one place to the other (Luke 16:26).  But looking through the paradigm Rob Bell is giving us, it seems that before the two died, Lazarus was in hell, not the rich man.

In this parable, the dead rich man calls out to Abraham (who is with Lazarus) for mercy, but Abraham reminds the suffering man, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received the good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25, ESV).  And even later, the rich man begs that his brothers be warned so that they may repent (Luke 16:30) and avoid this . . . this what?  The rich man says "agony." Agony for what?  Could it be punishment?  But punishment for what?  His sin.  Maybe for neglecting the poor; maybe neglecting Jesus as Jesus discussed in Matthew 25 (another passage Bell examines for entirely different purposes in the previous chapter about heaven).  Doesn't this make sense in light of Romans 6:23 which states that the wages of sin is death?  Doesn't this make the gospel, that is, that Christ created a bridge across this chasm, seem like amazing news!  The painting that was so frightful to Bell is the bridge, and the reason it is a cross is because that is how Jesus made the bridge.

As I thought about those Rwandan teens, I couldn't help but think about the people inflicting "hell" upon these children.  They may have actually lived rather well, like the rich man.  And what about the rapist? And what about the religious people who stoned Stephen to death?  What about Saul?  It doesn't seem that there was a punishment or agonizing hell on earth for them.  Bell's hell on earth seems only to be agony and suffering for the victims.  Does the Bible really teach that the victims suffer hell on earth, a biblical hell, for the sins committed against them?  Or as with the rich man, does it seem that this judgment and punishment comes in the afterlife?

And what about the feelings and experiences of a cocaine addict or how the suffering a man might feel after he has sinned by having a marital affair?  Has God cast any of these living people in to hell, or at least a hell on earth? (And again, we can't say Mahatma Gandhi is in hell but it's okay to declare that these living people could be in hell?)  The answer is no, God has not cast these living people into hell on earth.  For the victims, we might think of this suffering in light of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 and Romans 8:28.  These victims are not cast away from God.  And for the perpetrators who are suffering as a result of their own sin, we might call this conviction in some cases, or it may be that the law is acting like a schoolmaster (Galatians 3), all for the benefit of their salvation.  God may feel distant to them, but only because they have pushed him away, done as an act of their own self punishment.  But God has not cast them to the burning trash heap of hell, not yet anyway.  God is not neglecting them; he loves them and desires good things for them.

It may seem that the Bible only talks of hell as a garbage dump as Bell tries to present it.  (He says that the only mention of hell is the Greek word gehenna. But even staying on the surface of semantics, this argument neglects 2 Peter 2:4's use of the word tartaroō.)  And of course it would seem that there are very little mentions of hell or any kind of punishment if we only look for the word gehenna.  And if we neglect Jesus' parables and much of the symbolic hints of punishment and reward, and even much of the direct statements about a punishment for sin after death, we might think that hell is not that big of a deal.  We could falsely draw the conclusion that Jesus wasn't that concerned about hell.  But that would be a mistake.  Before you incorrectly draw that conclusion, read some passages in the Bible again, without anybody's commentary.  Here are just a few examples; there are many more: Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Numbers 16:30, 33; Deuteronomy 32:22; 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Samuel 22:6; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psalms 6:5; 9:17; Matthew 3:12; 5:22, 29–30; 7:23; 10:28; 11:23; 13:24-30, 42-43, 47-50; 16:18; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 25:32-33; Mark 9:43–47; Luke 3:17; 10:15; 12:5; 16:23; John 15:6; Acts 2:27, 31; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 9:2; 14:9-11; 18:8; 19:20; and 20:13–15

And I propose that if we are to look for any example of hell on earth we must look to the specific moment while Christ was on the cross as a propitiation for our sins; that is, taking on the sins of the world which were laid upon him (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  In that moment, when it appeared that Jesus was isolated from the Father, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).  In that moment, Jesus was making a way for us.  And if anything were going to make an argument for hell on earth, it must be this moment.

Next up, "Love Wins by Rob Bell (Chapter 4)."

* I have no material connection to Rob Bell or his book, Love Wins.
** Photo of "The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door" by James Joseph Jacques Tissot is used with permission from the Brooklyn Museum.

What is the Kingdom of God?

I once taught a class where the kingdom of God was of chief interest.  For the sake of time, we didn't read all of the Scriptures listed below, but I did print this material as a handout to the class and I felt it would be worth posting here.  The question at hand is, what is the Bible referring to when it mentions the kingdom of God? 

A Systematic View

The kingdom of God (nearly interchangeable with kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, kingdom of our Lord, and sometimes just the kingdom) is discussed often throughout the Bible. It can seem complex, because it is inside creation, outside creation, and above creation. Like the Trinity of God, there is no earthy analogy to adequately describe it. Presently, we only see it in bits and pieces but our understanding of it comes through faith.

“[The kingdom of God] is simply the reign of God in human hearts wherever obedience to God is found.”1

The Kingdom of God is not the Church. “The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and, derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In the biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men.”2

The kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) is not strictly speaking of the afterlife or future place or future existence. It has an “already/not yet” aspect about it present in many of the discussions about it throughout the Bible.

The kingdom of God should not be mistaken with the sovereignty or rule of God. God is sovereign over all of creation. However, presently, one can be inside or outside of the kingdom of God. And we do not truly, positively experience it until we are within the kingdom of God.

There are 66 uses of “kingdom of God” in the New Testament. There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43; Mark 1:15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14–15, 23–25; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1, 10; 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62; 10:9, 11; 11:20; 13:18, 20, 28–29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20–21; 18:16–17, 24–25, 29; 19:11; 21:31; 22:16, 18; 23:51; John 3:3, 5; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31; Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 4:20; 6:9–10; 15:50; Gal 5:21; Col 4:11; 2 Th 1:5.)

There are 32 uses of “kingdom of heaven” in the New Testament. There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19–20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11–12; 13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44–45, 47, 52; 16:19; 18:1, 3–4, 23; 19:12, 14, 23; 20:1; 22:2; 23:13; 25:1.)

There are 2 uses of “kingdom of our Lord” in the New Testament. (2 Pet 1:11; Rev 11:15.) There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “kingdom of our Lord.”

There are 3 uses of “gospel of the kingdom” in the New Testament, and all of which are found in Matthew. (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). There is no Hebrew use of this term that translates into English as “gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew also uses the “word of the kingdom” in Matt 13:19.

There is 1 use of “The kingdom of Christ and God” and it’s found in Eph 5:5.

Not every use for kingdom without the various above qualifiers in the New Testament is referring to the kingdom of God, but many do. (There are 55 uses of kingdom not followed by either "of God" or "of heaven.") Significant examples include Matt 4:23; 6:10; 8:12; 9:35; 13:19, 38, 41, 43; 16:28; 20:21; 24:14; 25:34; 26:29; Mark 11:10; Luke 1:33; 11:2; 12:31–32; 22:29–30; 23:42; John 18:36; Acts 20:25; 1 Cor 15:24; Col 1:13; 2 Tim 4:18; Heb 1:8; 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Pet 1:11; Rev 1:6; 5:10; and 12:10.

The Hebrew word for kingdom is used though the Old Testament mostly for earthly kingdoms but there are references to the Kingdom of God. Examples include: Ex 19:6 (Kingdom of Priests), 2 Sam 7:10–16 & 1 Chr 17:9–14 (near/far picture of Kingdom), Psa 45:6; 103:19; 145:11–13 (Blurred lines between Sovereign rule and the Kingdom of God), Dan 4:3 (everlasting Kingdom), and Dan 7:18, 22 (future view of the Kingdom).

1 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 1998), 1163.
2 George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament; quoted by Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 863.

* Photo by Niall McAuley is registered under a creative commons license.

What is Love?

Not too long ago, someone asked me, "What is love?"

What a question!

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied that it is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He then said the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-41, Mark 12:28-13, Luke 10:25-28) All of the Law—that is, all of what was understood at the time as the instructions from God—hangs on these two principles, and both principles require love. In fact, they demand love. But what is love? That’s a challenging question.

Some might say that love is a chemical reaction in the brain and body, nothing more. Of course anybody who has loved another--be it a parent, spouse, child, or friend--knows that love is something more. And anybody that has ever loved another with no hope of gaining anything knows that there is no logical reason for love to be reduced to something of an instinctual biological reaction.

In addition, our society uses love to extreme degrees. One can say, "I love dark chocolate" and in the next breath say, "I love his wife."  To a teenage girl headed to junior prom, love means something substantially different than to the 85-year-old man standing beside the grave of his wife of 63 years.

Love is an interesting gift. It is spectacular and special. It connects us to one another in ways often unexplainable. There is nothing else in the world like love, which should not come as a surprise considering that John tells us that not only is love from God (1 John 7) but that God is himself love (1 John 8). In addition, Jesus taught his disciples that there is no greater love than one who lays his life down for his friends (John 15:13).

Love is complex and for many, this answer will not suffice.  Too often people have a picture of love as some kind of euphoric feeling they get from having that one and only special someone in their lives.  But this picture is not really correct because it's selfish.  This picture of love is about a person wanting to be loved and getting something from it. No, love is something more.  It's not selfish and it's not about getting.  Love is an action word.  It is a relationship.  I've even heard it said that love is a verb.  So no matter how people try to explain love, I find it's best to turn to the Bible because where we see Jesus (in any book of the Bible), love will always be nearby.

*Photo by Stephen Poff is registered under a creative commons license.


Ordination—from the Latin word ordinare—means, “to set in order,” “to arrange,” “to organize” (Elwell 1984, 869). This is not exactly how we understand the word when we think about ordination in terms of a pastor. But Elwell says, “In later Latin [ordain and ordination] came to mean ‘to appoint to office” (ibid.). Criswell defines ordination today as, “the setting aside of a God-called preacher for a particular office, it may be that of a pastor, or of a chaplain, or of a staff assignment, or of an evangelist, or of some other specified assignment in the church or in the denomination” (Criswell 1980, 219). Some, having seen an ordination ceremony, might think it nothing more than a public ceremony; others claim ordination is something more than that. The question for this post, however, is if ordination as we see it today is scriptural. It is if we see it not as a title but an attitude toward a person and ministry.

Although ordination is found in both the Old and New Testaments, the best understanding of the concept for pastors is found in the New Testament. In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus choose and appointed (epoieson in the Greek) twelve men to do a number of tasks including preaching and casting out demons. Eventually most of these twelve also became the leaders of the Church as Apostles. In this instance, it is seen that Jesus, that is, God incarnate, “called to him those whom he desired” (Mark 3:13, ESV). In today’s vernacular, pastors often feel called by God in to ministry. What is not seen in the account recorded in Mark is any kind of public ceremony, likely because there was not one.

In Acts chapter 6, seven men were chosen to serve the Church as deacons. Once they were selected, they were presented to the Apostles. The Apostles then “prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6, ESV). In this instance, there is a lying on of hands associated with the ordination of the deacons. Another event recorded in Acts shows that after worshiping and fasting, the Apostles were instructed by the Holy Spirit to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2, ESV). Here, God called and set apart two men for his appointed task. The Acts 13 passage continues, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hand on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3, ESV). This event of ordination demonstrates both calling at a public ceremony of sorts. Note, there is first prayer and fasting after God’s call. On the matter of prayer and fasting in nearly every case of ordination, Grudem states that it is “perhaps in connection with the process of selection of elders (Grudem 1994, 918). Calvin says, “It is certain, that when the apostles appointed anyone to the ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. This form was derived, I think, from the custom of the Jews, who, by the laying on of hands, in a manner presented to God whatever they wished to be blessed and consecrated” (Calvin 2008, 708). Therefore, it seems that the ordination is first God’s choice and calling, followed by the public acceptance of God's calling which is often little more than a public announcement and conformation of God’s will.

Paul, in instructing Timothy, outlines the qualifications for selecting elders and deacons. First Paul says, “If any one aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task,” suggesting that the desire should be present, likely a calling from God (1 Timothy 3:1, ESV). However, there is also a list of criteria, indicating that the selection, possibly like the duel nature of scripture, is also inclusive of man’s actions and choices. It is probably that the selection is influenced and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul also told Timothy that he should not be “hasty in the laying of on of hands,” indicating that the selection, public announcement, and conformation of God’s called one should not be done without serious prayer, fasting, consideration, and contemplation (1 Timothy 5:22, ESV).

In conclusion, given even the brief treatment of Scripture here, it is clear that ordination as seen as a setting apart for the purpose of ministry is not only biblical, it is necessary and should be conducted in accordance with the Word of God. An elder-pastor (and even deacons) should be installed to office only after prayer and fasting, in order to know and work in conjunction with God’s calling upon his people. It is not a suggestion of Scripture; it is a direction.

Calvin, Jean. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.

Criswell, W.A. Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman Press, 1980.

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker reference library. Grand Rapids,
Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester,
England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

* Photo by Niall McAuley is registered under a creative commons license.

Into Hildale-Colorado City: Reaching Unreached People Groups

Depicted in the film, Peace Child, Don and Carol Richardson ventured deep into the jungles of New Guinea to share the gospel with a small cannibalistic tribe that placed treachery as its highest value.1 The year was 1962 and few people could have imagined the success that the Richardson’s would experience. Seminary and Bible college students viewing this film today in comfortable classrooms, nestled safely in American communities, probably see missions of this caliber as only available to those who wish to canoe up piranha-filled rivers to visit tribal people who speak an unknown language, where they will have to eat insects, risk malaria, and translate the New Testament. These students do not likely imagine that pockets of unreached people groups exist in America; but the reality is they do. One such group is the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamist community situated on the Utah-Arizona border. On the Utah side is the smaller community of Hildale; its larger counterpart is Colorado City, Arizona. This totalitarian community—recently famed by the media’s coverage if its leader’s legal troubles, Warren Jeffs—is a community basically void of any Christians. Hildale/Colorado City is essentially a community of polygamists and nothing else. It is an unreached people group within the United States.

Few missionary efforts to reach an unreached people group could be done with so little time and travel expenses as a mission to Hildale/Colorado City. Certainly reaching and evangelizing to a group such as the polygamists is no less important than the Richardson’s efforts in the jungle, but this mission comes without a language barrier, bugs, or cannibalism. There are nearby Christian churches in neighboring towns, likely ready to offer support. And there happens to be a small group of former polygamists that could serve as an access point in understanding the theology and culture, even provide a bridge to opportunities. In what follows, this post will offer a background of the Hildale/Colorado Community, a brief survey of the mission work or lack there of already being done, and a proposal for a mission to this American unreached people group.

 Located on in Washington County along the southern border of Utah, Hildale is the smaller northern portion of the Hildale/Colorado City community. The 2000 Census reports that Hildale’s population was 1,895 people. It is a small town, covering only 2.9 square miles.2 Considering that in 1970, the population was reported at only 480 people, this town has experienced a consistent growth with each new census.3 Just over the Arizona border—which cuts through the northern third of the community—is Colorado City. Originally named Short Creek, the town remained a small cattle rancher gathering, until approximately 1930 when “a group of religious fundamentalists came from Utah seeking refuge and played a major part in pioneering the community to the thriving little city that it is today.”4 They renamed the town Colorado City, and in 2008, the Arizona Department of Commerce and the US Census Bureau listed its population at 4,042. Krakauer however, argues that this joint Utah-Arizona community has nearly 9,000 inhabitants, and “all but a handful of the town’s residents are Mormon Fundamentalists.”5 At least three Mormon Fundamentalist or polygamist sects call Hildale/Colorado City home according to Krakauer; one of them being the world’s largest and most well known sects, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also know as the United Effort Plan or simply FLDS.6 “They live in this patch of desert” Krakauer writes, “in the hope of being left alone to follow the sacred principle of plural marriage without interference from government authorities or the LDS Church.”7 

The Primer, a guidebook by the Attorneys General of Utah and Arizona, written for those working with Fundamentalist Mormon families states, “there are approximately 37,000 people (residing primarily in the Rocky Mountain region) who consider themselves to be Fundamentalist Mormons. This means they adhere to the religious doctrines of early Mormonism which include polygamy or ‘plural marriage’, sometimes called ‘The Principle’.”8 As McConkie explains, “In the early days of this dispensation, as part of the promised restitution of all things, the Lord revealed the principle of plural marriage to the Prophet [Joseph Smith]. Later the Prophet and leading brethren were commanded to enter into enter into the practice, which they did in all virtue and purity of heart despite the consequent animosity and prejudices of worldly people.”9 Brigham Young, the next LDS prophet, continued teaching the ordinance of plural marriage, which was openly practiced among Mormons in Utah until 1890 despite outside pressure. McConkie writes, “At that time conditions were such that the Lord by revelation withdrew the command to continue the practice, and President Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto directing that it cease.”10 But this did not end the practice of plural marriage among Mormons. Krakauer argues, “For the next two decades members of the Mormon First Presidency privately advised Saints that polygamy should be continued, albeit discreetly, and top leaders of the church secretly preformed numerous plural marriages.”11 In 1910—after the Salt Lake Tribune cast light on the underground practice, and under tremendous pressure, the LDS Church finally ended plural marriage among its members. However, “a significant number of dedicated Saints,” writes Krakaur, “were convinced that Wilford Woodruff had been grievously mistaken when he’d issued the Manifesto, and that heeding it ran counter to the religion’s most sacred principles.”12 Holding to the prophecy of Joseph Smith, this group of entrenched Mormons eventually came to proudly call themselves Mormon Fundamentalists. With the exception of plural marriage, the Fundamentalists initially shared in the faith and practice of the mainline LDS; but over time, shifts in theology and practice, along with splinters in leadership birthed not only many different sects of Fundamentalists Mormons, it also caused a divergence from the mainline Mormon religion.

Today, Fundamental Mormon residents of Hildale/Colorado City are highly shaped by the direction and teaching of their prophet-leaders and the actions of the outside world beyond their city lines. It is probably not easy for the residents to forget 100 police officers raiding Hildale/Colorado City, arresting the men and bussing frightened women and children to southern Arizona, even if it was 1953. And although not in the same community, recent raids in Texas have likely stirred the memories of those living in Hildale/Colorado City. “These events have resulted in deep scars among Fundamentalist Mormons” states The Primer, “and helped to foster a fear of government agencies and a distrust of ‘outsiders’.”13 There is a high likelihood of mistrust of anything with the appearance of a government agency and the polygamist group tends to prefer “non-traditional therapies, including herbs, reflexology, massage, homeopathy, naturopathy, spiritual healing and lay midwifery.”14

The influence of religious control might be shocking to many Americans. Most of the land is owned by a trust called the United Effort Plan, which until recently, was ran by Warren Jeffs and five other leaders of the FLDS organization. A strong influence over the local government agencies also tends to keep the community homogenized. The Primer states, 
The community values obedience to leaders. For many years, church members have occupied roles in most phases of civil government in the twin towns. This has led to some criticism that opposing voices have little opportunity for influence. It has been alleged that the FLDS Church controls the police force, city council, city government, and elected officials.15

The grip of church leadership also holds strong control over the community’s ability to receive outside information. Members of the FLDS, at least in Hildale/Colorado City “are forbidden to watch television or read magazines or newspapers.”16 The Primer continues, stating,
Those who have left the community have reported that popular music, radios and television are considered “worldly” and are thus inappropriate and forbidden in this community. Children are usually home-schooled or attend a church school until junior high, after which time they are assigned “work missions” or they get married. Former members state that they did not receive sex education, they were taught the Holocaust never occurred and that the government fabricated the story of man’s landing on the moon.17

Few members of the FLDS leave Hildale/Colorado City voluntarily; and if they do, family and friends are forbidden from communicating with them, they often lose their land, and are excommunicated from their church.18 “Former members say that leaving is seen as a terrible sin,” reports The Primer, “and may incur the most severe punishment and divine condemnation.”19 Wives may even be reassigned to other men in the community.20 Disagreements with leadership or leaving the dominant religion may result evection from the community. And for whatever reason, the community has forced hundreds of boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17 (dubbed “The Lost Boys”) to leave Hildale/Colorado City without any support.21

Women dress with a distinct appearance, very modest, covered from neck to toe. Their hair is kept long, but styled in such a way that it is not free flowing. Long pants and collared long sleeve shirts are typical of the men.22 Jewelry is unthinkable. Clothing is about function, not fashion, but then, there is little reason to create an impression with apparel. “Dating or courting are forbidden” and the women tend to marry very young—often to older men—and children bearing begins immediately.23 Author Elissa Wall paints a chilling picture in her book, Stolen Innocence, narrating how she was forced to marry her 19-year-old first cousin at age 14.24

Fundamentalist Mormons may use Christian terminology but they have altered the definitions. They are not, by all standards of doctrinal orthodoxy, Christian. Those living in Hildale/Colorado City are not only geographically isolated in the middle of the desert, they are imprisoned by their own religious culture. Converting to Christianity may likely result in a complete separation from family and friends, termination of employment, removal of all property, and potentially banishment from the city. And without much of an education and a mysterious upbringing void of social norms like the Internet, television, and magazines, leaving the city is likely a frightening proposition. For those who have never lived outside Hildale/Colorado City, there is a good possibility of never having heard the gospel. This is a mission field no less significant than Don and Carol Richardson’s jungles of New Guinea.

While there is a small number of secular organizations publicly reaching out to the people of Hildale/Colorado City, it is difficult to determine what the missional work of the Christian Church might be. Because of the reluctance to trust outsiders, and because the state of Utah is already a population grossly short of Christians25 (making the entire state a potential mission field), the Christian mission efforts to evangelize Hildale/Colorado City are few and generally kept out of the public awareness.

Presently, there are no local and openly public Christian churches located in Hildale/Colorado City. Being substantially removed from any other Arizona cities, the closest reasonable churches are located 25 miles north in Hurricane, Utah; but even then, there are a couple small Christian churches within the neighboring community—First Southern Baptist and Northbridge Chapel. St. Paul Catholic Center is also located in Hurricane. Approximately ten miles to the north of Hurricane (which is a total of about 35 miles from Hildale/Colorado City), is La Verkin, home to a single Christian church called Mountain View Bible Church. Ten miles to the southwest of Hurricane is St. George, the largest city in Washington County. There are just under a dozen or so Christian churches located in St. George, which includes the Catholic assemblies.

Examining Washington County—of which most of its population resides in St. George—the Association of Religious Data Archives reports that in 2000, only about 2.4% of the population were either evangelical or mainline Christians.26 This number is nearly half that of the entire state of Utah (which is only 4.3%), both being substantially lower than the national figure of 46.7%.27 Because Utah has such a low number of mainline and evangelical Christians within its boards, the churches that are working to evangelize their communities are already facing a large mission field on limited resources. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the few Christians living in St. George and Hurricane are working to reach their immediate neighboring cities and have little time to venture into the neighboring, untrusting community of Hildale/Colorado City. This is not to say, however, that there is no Christian mission work targeted at Hildale/Colorado City.

Various secular cooperative groups such as Safety Net and Tapestry Against Polygamy are working to eliminate the atrocities that can arise in polygamist families, but these groups do not generally focus on theology or spiritual matters. Additionally, many Christian churches are working with organizations such as Holding out Help, which provides housing for women and children that flee polygamy. And some churches have even developed ministries targeted specially to Fundamentalist Mormons living throughout Utah. One such ministry, A Shield and Refuge, produces a local television show that seeks to answers the questions of polygamists. Main Street Church of Brigham City supports it. Other ministries work to generate awareness about Mormonism and Fundamental Mormonism and occasionally conduct evangelism efforts directed at these groups. These ministries include Standing Together, Mormon Research Ministries, and Utah Lighthouse Ministries. But secular or not, this author is aware of no recent Christian organizations to have directed efforts into the geographic area and people group of Hildale/Colorado City.

The overarching purpose of any mission strategy should be the fulfillment of Jesus’ command commonly known as the Great Commission. Jesus told his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”28 Mark’s writing of this commission might be more encouraging to missionaries headed to Hildale/Colorado City. It simply reads, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”29 Therefore, a strategy must be developed in order that the gospel is proclaimed to the people of Hildale/Colorado City.

While the purpose of evangelism into any community is to share and proclaim the saving gospel of Jesus, some special consideration is necessary for Hildale/Colorado City. The community is not only an enclave of Fundamentalist Mormons, it is a totalitarian city with a specific design to exclude and persecute those not of the same faith as well as those no longer submitting to the authority of the FLDS. As The Primer indicates, those leaving the faith may face immediate needs and challenges to include “no means of transportation, no income (no food, clothing or household goods), no housing arrangements (in some cases for numerous children), no education arrangements, incomplete birth or Social Security records, no family or friends for support, an uncooperative or combative relationship with an ex-partner, legal custody conflicts, fear of reprisals, no knowledge of how to seek social services assistance, and ostracism from the former faith or congregation.”30 Therefore, any Christian effort in Hildale/Colorado City must also be prepared to help overcome these difficulties. That may be in the form of direct help or guiding the individual or family to other agencies that may be of assistance in specific trouble areas.

Being willing to go into the Hildale/Colorado City community and realizing the magnitude of need that may arise upon conversion, the first and most important step is prayer. “In prayer” writes Grudem, “God allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important. When we pray, the work of the kingdom is advanced. In this way, prayer gives us opportunity to be involved in a significant way in the word of the kingdom an this gives expression to our greatness as creatures made in God’s image.”31 An example of the early Church praying before mission work is found in Acts 13:1-3. Here, the Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul for missionary work and then the disciples still prayed some more before sending them. And not only will prayer among those venturing into Hildale/Colorado City be important, it will be necessary that the missionaries have a support network regularly entering into prayer for the community and the missionary work.

The next step of the mission strategy is investigation and reconnoiter. In order to get an understanding of the area, it will be important for the missionary or missionaries32 to journey to Hildale/Colorado City for short mission trip simply to look around and get a “feel” for the community. There are no lodging options so the missionaries will need to find a hotel in Hurricane or St. George. It may be beneficial to visit with the local churches of Hurricane and St. George to find out if they are engaged in any missionary work in Hildale/Colorado City, and if not, determine what kind of support they may be able to offer, if any. Then as much time as possible should be spent in Hildale/Colorado City. Meals should be eaten in the few restaurants such as Mary Wives, the lone sit-down restaurant on the Hildale side of the border, and at The Border Store, the highway gas station. If possible, purchases should be made at the single grocery in town. A visit to the city park might also be in order. If asked, missionaries should be honest about the reason for their visit, saying, “We are followers of Jesus Christ and have been praying for your community. We wanted to come here to see if we might be able to serve you in some way, pray for you, and share the love of Jesus Christ with you.” Missionaries should be prepared for any reaction. In addition, the missionaries should use this time to ask if there is anything they might pray for the person.  Also, the missionaries should try to make time to pray for the Holy Spirit’s work in the city, and they should engage in some prayer walking. While this trip is primarily for the missionaries, they should also have material to leave with residents if the opportunity arises.  However, this material should not be argumentative-style tracts. 

Following this initial trip, the missionaries should continue to pray about this mission. They should also use any preparation time to read and learn as much history of the FLDS and their theology as possible. Materials that can be left for people in the community should be selected, such as Bibles and other helpful guides in understanding the gospel. These materials should be small enough that the curious polygamists can easily hide them and prevent any unwanted trouble. Support from churches and fellow believers should be well established so the missionaries are able to afford food and housing for a long-term mission. Housing should be secured in Hurricane or St. George until the missionaries have established enough acceptance to be granted housing in Hildale/Colorado City. Likely, the missionaries will never be accepted as part of the community. And the missionaries should have transportation reliable enough to travel back and forth between Hurricane and Hildale/Colorado City.

Before starting a long-term mission, the missionaries and supporting churches should determine if they know any former polygamists who have converted to Christianity but may still have family members living in Hildale/Colorado City. If so (and if the former polygamists are willing), they should meet with the missionaries to share their backgrounds, conversion stories, present situation, magnitude of Christ’s influence in their lives, and anything else they may wish to share with their family still entrenched in Mormon Fundamentalism. The missionaries should ask the former polygamists to commit to regular prayer for the FLDS community, family members, the missionaries, and the mission efforts. The former polygamists should also be encouraged to send e-mails, letters, and photos to the missionaries. Additionally, a system should be instituted so that in the event that the Holy Spirit creates opportunities, the missionaries can act as an underground communication vehicle between disconnected family members willing to break the command of no communication. (Hopefully, this small rebellion directed at learning about a loved one could prove to be a critical relationship opportunity for the missionaries.) It might also be helpful for the missionaries to have a small digital camera so they may take photos to send back to the former polygamist.

Finally, the missionaries should familiarize themselves with the various programs that offer assistance to fleeing polygamists. They should introduce themselves and make a small list of contact numbers and information they can give out if necessary.

Once the missionaries have their support in place, it is time to move to Hurricane. While the option of finding employment is an easy possibility in Hurricane or St. George, they should refrain from working unless they can find employment in Hildale/Colorado City; and even then, employment should only be seen as a way to get close to people in the mission field. Regular routines of life should be established. They should try to eat every meal in the few public places, becoming “regulars” at every place possible. In doing so, they should not only remain accessible, they should be intentional about initiating natural conversation with the other patrons and staff. Asking about the specials or what the waiter likes best could be good starter questions. The missionaries should also determine if one of these locations might be appropriate to engage in a short Bible study together. Eventually as the missionaries develop routines, they will understand those of the staff and community and potentially have the opportunity to notice when something has changed in the routines of others. This opens the door for personal questions, such as “I missed you on Wednesday; were you on vacation or out sick, or was it something else? It’s not the same around here without you.” Missionaries should also attend events that are open to the public such as town meetings. And they should start a regular routine of prayer walking.

Another possibility (as determined by the missionaries) might be to turn back to open-air style preaching from time to time. In the early years of American history when entertainment was sparse, people attended tent meetings for something to do. This may be a possibility, but not at the cost of other missional efforts in the community. If a missionary is musically gifted, this kind of entertainment might also be tried. But again, this is only after the missionaries have been in the community long enough to determine how effective it may be and whether or not it is appropriate.

It is possible that the Holy Spirit will act quickly and results could be surprising; however, it is likely that missionaries will see little success and few open opportunities for a long time, potentially even years. The significant key however, is sticking with the mission over a great duration. Therefore, the missionaries should establish routines and rhythms of work and rest that will prevent discouragement and burnout. This should include daily Bible reading and study as well as ample prayer throughout the day. They should seek opportunities to worship God.

As missionaries are able to establish relationships and proclaim the gospel, hope should be held that entire families are saved and wish to remain in the community rather than flee. Should this occur, an effort to set up worship gatherings and services with the believers must take place. On the other hand, should converts desire to leave the community, the missionaries should be ready to connect the new believers with any services they may need and a good Christian community wherever they my desire to go.

No piranhas can be found on Highway 59 between Hurricane and Hildale/Colorado City. The FLDS are not cannibals. Everybody involved speaks English. And the mission field is in the United States. But as Bible college and seminary graduates are getting fired up about gallivanting into tropical rainforests to take the gospel to unreached people groups, they should not overlook Hildale/Colorado City. Sure, the residents might frequently use the name of Jesus, but they do not know him and have never heard his gospel, the real gospel of the Bible. There are potentially 8,000 to 9,000 unreached people only 5 hours away from Salt Lake City, only 3 hours from Las Vegas, and under 6 from Phoenix. There is no language barrier. Nobody eats bugs. And still, this people group is waiting to hear the gospel, waiting to meet Jesus. It is the hope and prayer of this author that the unreached people group of Hildale/Colorado City are no longer unreached, but reached, and gloriously praising the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Association of Religious Data Archives. “County Membership Report: Washington County, Utah.” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/counties/49053_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010).

Association of Religious Data Archives. “State Membership Report: Utah.” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/state/49_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010).

Association of Religious Data Archives. “U.S. Membership Report.” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/US_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010).

AZ.gov. “Colorado City.” A “Community Profile” listed under “Community Profile Index.” http://www.azcommerce.com/doclib/COMMUNE/colorado%20city.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010).

Krakauer, Jon. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. New York: Anchor Books, 2004.

McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966.

Multnomah University. Peace Child, DVD. Directed by Rolf Forsberg. Worshester, PA: Vision Video, 1972

Offices of the Utah and Arizona Attorneys General. The Primer: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement and Human Services Agencies who offer Assistance to Fundamentalist Mormon Families. Updated August 2009. http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/cmsdocuments/The_Primer.pdf.

Utah.gov. “Census 2000: 235 Utah Cities Ranked by Land Area and Population Density” under “Documents.” http://www.governor.utah.gov/dea/Rankings/Cities/00CityDensity.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010).

Utah.gov. “Office of the Attorney General: Mark Shurtleff.” “The ‘Lost Boys’ Law” under “Press Releases.” http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/298.html (accessed October 12, 2010).

Utah.gov. “Utah Municipalities / Census Designated Places” under “Documents.” http://www.mountainland.org/Demographics/Historic_Data/Utah%20Municipalities%20-%20Unincorporated%20Areas.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010).

1.  Multnomah University, Peace Child, DVD, Directed by Rolf Forsberg (Worcester, PA: Vision Video, 1972).
2.  Utah.gov, “Census 2000: 235 Utah Cities Ranked by Land Area and Population Density” under “Documents,” http://www.governor.utah.gov/dea/Rankings/Cities/00CityDensity.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010), 2.
3. Utah.gov, “Utah Municipalities / Census Designated Places” under “Documents,” http://www.mountainland.org/Demographics/Historic_Data/Utah%20Municipalities%20-%20Unincorporated%20Areas.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010), 5.
4. AZ.gov, “Colorado City,” a “Community Profile” under “Community Profile Index,” http://www.azcommerce.com/doclib/COMMUNE/colorado%20city.pdf (accessed October 11, 2010).
5. Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (New York: Anchor Books, 2004), 18.
6.  Krakauer, 18.
7. Krakuaer, 18.
8. Offices of the Utah and Arizona Attorneys General, The Primer: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement and Human Services Agencies who offer Assistance to Fundamentalist Mormon Families, Updated August 2009, http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/cmsdocuments/The_Primer.pdf, 7.
9. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966), 578.
10. McConkie, 578.
11. Krakauer, 255.
12. Krakauer, 255.
13 The Primer, 8.
14. The Primer, 6.
15. The Primer, 18.
16. Krakauer, 11.
17. The Primer, 19.
18 The Primer, 18.
19. The Primer, 18.
20. The Primer, 18.
21. Utah.gov, “Office of the Attorney General: Mark Shurtleff,” “The ‘Lost Boys’ Law” under “Press Releases,” http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/298.html (accessed October 12, 2010).
22. The Primer, 19.
23. The Primer, 19.
24. Elissa Wall, and Lisa Beth Pulitzer, Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2008).
25. When members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are excluded from the definition of Christian.
26. Association of Religious Data Archives, “County Membership Report: Washington County, Utah,” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/counties/49053_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010).
27. Association of Religious Data Archives, “State Membership Report: Utah,” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/state/49_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010), and Association of Religious Data Archives, “U.S. Membership Report,” http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/US_2000.asp (accessed October 13, 2010).
28. Matthew 28:19-20, ESV.
29. Mark 16:15, ESV.
30. The Primer, 5.
31. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 377.
32. No indication of how many missionaries should go will be given in this paper. It should remain in the hands of those willing and able as well as those sent by the Holy Spirit. While this author believes there should be no less than two, it will be assumed that this strategy is for multiple missionaries.

* Photo is registered under a creative commons license.
** This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website. 

When the Hype Lets You Down

Salt Lake City recently had a national blizzard warning.  This warning was a big deal because these warnings rarely, if ever happen.  Early on, the Salt Lake media started their "blizzard watch" around-the-clock news coverage.

Residents were warned to stock up on batteries, water, blankets and other supplies.  We were told that this blizzard was massing power and intensity and would shut down Salt Lake City.  It had the potential of being the worst storm to hit the area in fifty years, they said.  The news was even breaking into regularly scheduled programing to provide updates hours before the storm arrived.  A scrolling banner was constantly moving across the bottom of the television screen to alert residents of emergency Red Cross locations. They hype was reaching overwhelming proportions.

But when the storm arrived, it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary for Salt Lake.  There was very little wind and about 2 inches of cold, dry snow.  A week before, enough heavy snow came down to cause my neighbor's old tree to collapse in my driveway.   The week after the "blizzard," Salt Lake was covered in two feet of snow.  (It took me nearly three hours to shovel my driveway and sidewalks.)

The new outlets however, were not about to allow the hype (which they created) to fall short.  As the supposed blizzard started, they had reporters outside doing live broadcasts.  These reporters would say things like, "As you can see, nobody is outside because it's so dangerous."  Had they been in that same location on any other day, there still wouldn't have been anybody out, but not because of any blizzard danger.  At one point, the news put up images from a highway video camera.  In the shot, one could see about 3/4 a mile down the highway.  It was dark and there was a light snowfall.  Cars seemed to be traveling 30 or 35 miles per hour.  But the report stated that it was "whiteout conditions" and visibility was "zero."  "Cars were at a standstill" he said. 

After the storm, the news outlets in the Salt Lake area lost all credibility.  Not only was the storm nothing significant (showing the meteorologists' inability to accurately predict the weather), we also witnessed the reporters' inability to accurately report the news.  The next morning as the city was realizing that the blizzard was anything but, the news was still reporting that were lucky to be alive.

It seems that Christians do this from time to time when they share Christianity with those who do not know Jesus.  Intentional or not, there can sometimes be an unrealistic picture presented of what a life walking with Jesus looks like.  "Before I knew Jesus, I was a drug addict with lots of problems, but after I met Jesus, my life was great and I never faced any problems at all."  The prosperity gospel the worst culprit.  "I was poor before I new Jesus, but now look, I drive a Lexis and have lots of money."  But the truth is, life with Christ is not free of problems.  In fact, the Bible teaches that Christians will face trials.  (For examples, see James 1:2, Matthew 13:21, Mark 4:17, Luke 22:28-32, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 8:35-39.)  We cannot expect that God will keep promises he never made to us.  At other times, Christians over-report the wonders of Christ's influence in their lives.  Emotion runs high and the hype grows to overwhelming proportions.  (I'm sure I've been guilty of this.)

So the best thing Christians can do is report the gospel accurately.  The gospel is life changing; no hype is necessary.  However, if we, like the news, create too much hype or incorrectly present the picture, we will lose all credibility and the gospel will be the victim.  And if we lose credibility, people will change the channel or read a different news paper.  Looking at America today, it is not hard to see many people changing the station because they do not see the Church as credible anymore.  It is important we remain honest and accurate if we are to be good ambassadors of the Kingdom.  Nobody should be left shoveling an inch of snow and three feet of cow manure because a Christian was more concerned about ratings than the truth of the gospel itself. 

*The photograph is in the public domain.

Is it 'Okay' to Get Divorced?

Not too long ago, I was asked "Is it okay to get divorced?"  This is a huge question.

We first need to ask what is meant by "okay." If okay means entry or exclusion from heaven, I want to be very clear: getting a divorce or staying married has no baring on entrance to heaven or hell or one's ability to pray to God.  Even one sin without Christ's grace will keep a person out of heaven. Faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, who he says he is, and in his death and resurrection dictates entering heaven or being cast to hell.  This is the key to entry in to heaven, not any work, like staying married. Without Christ, even one sin is "not okay." However, we all sin (act in ways that are contrary to God's wishes for us), a lot. If we need to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact me.

So then the real question is if you were considering divorce, and God were sitting with us having coffee, how would he advise you in your situation. If this is you, I recommend you put lots of time to honest prayer, just as if he were sitting with you having coffee. Ask him what you might do to improve your marriage. Ask him to show you areas in your own life that may need repentance.  Ask him how you can show your spouse grace.  Ask him to fix your marriage. After you've had that conversation for a while, and if you feel that his involvement and advice is making no difference, ask him why. If you are already praying about this, pray more.

In the Bible, God presents his ideal. His ideal is that people remain married. And if not for humanity's ugly brokenness, we'd all meet this ideal with little effort. But because of the mess that we are, we have to work at it--some much more than others. The entire Bible is full of stories about people trying to work together in some kind of relationship. Paul writes letters to entire churches trying to help them have healthy relationships in work, play, marriage, etc. Obviously, it's hard and it's messy to meet this ideal.

God wants us to meet his ideal, but we won't, we can't. We are too messed up. This is why Christ died. So now we can find grace in our mess, through Jesus.

The overly religious people of Jesus' day, the Pharisees, came to Jesus and asked him if it was okay for anybody to get a divorce. (You can read about this in Matthew 19:1-9 and Mark 10:1-11.) Here's how it went down (I'm greatly paraphrasing):
Religious people: Is it against God's Law to divorce your wife for any reason?

Jesus: Haven't you read the Law? [He's referring to the Scriptures, specifically to what the Jews called The Law, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, written by Moses. These 5 books include lots of stories; it is not just a book of rules like we think of the law today]. God created men and women to be together. A man should leave his family and get married. He should hold fast to his wife. [Paul once wrote that a man should love his wife like Christ loves the church, and Christ died for the church!] God has joined them together so nobody should separate them. (See Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:6, Ephesians 5:23-33.)

[Jesus pointed out the ideal and expressed that it should be taken seriously.]

Religious people: Oh really, than why did Moses say a man can divorce his wife? [They were trying to trap Jesus or demonstrate that he was teaching counter to the Scriptures.]

Jesus: It's because you have a hard heart. [This is his way of pointing out our ugly, brokenness.] But it was not intended to be this way from the beginning. But you should know, anyone who gets divorced outside of infidelity will commit adultery.

Jesus also explained that even the very act of looking with lust at another person is committing adultery with that person (Matthew 5:28). I am not saying that committing adultery is okay with God; in fact, the opposite is true and society's definition of adultery and God's definition are quite different.  However, you should understand how it's being discussed in the Bible. And ultimately, the religious people were asking if a person will still be okay with God if they got divorced. Jesus is our intermediary so we can always be right with God through Jesus, divorced or not.

That being said, divorce is against the ideal; it's against God's desires for us. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). The Bible teaches that we should not take the matter lightly; and if you are considering divorce, you should try at all cost to work through the messiness.

Maybe this is not the answer you wanted to hear, and that's okay.  I realize I didn't give a simple yes or no, but that's because it is not a simple matter. I suggest that you go back to that table at the coffeehouse and talk with God often.  Read his Word in the Bible.  Pray. Communicate with your spouse. And pray together.

*Photo taken by Flickr user, jcoterhals, is registered under a Creative Commons license.

The Lord's Supper

Introduction. Acts 2:42-47 states that the believers of the early Church met together daily to preach and teach, pray, worship, and break bread (also see Acts 5:42 and Hebrews 10:25). They were following the example and instruction of Jesus who instituted the rite and symbolic meal (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20). In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul confirms that the Church continued to share the Lord’s Supper (also called communion or the sacrament) together in remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). And in fact, Paul quotes Jesus saying, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25, ESV). Therefore, if we are to follow Christ’s example and join in this tradition, we should understand the meaning and symbolism of the Lord’s Supper, communion, sacrament, or even the Eucharist as it is sometimes called.

What is it; what does it mean? In the simplest of definitions, the Lord’s Supper is bread and wine, shared communally in an intentional ceremony, done as instructed by the Bible. In practice, it comes in many forms, such as wafers, unleavened, or loaves, wine or non-fermented juice, handed to all or torn form the loaf, passed in baskets or dipped in the cup, and so on. Jesus said the bread symbolizes his body that is broken and the cup represents his blood that was spilled. And as stated above, the rite has many names. In their book, Doctrine, Driscoll and Breshears write,
“The real issue is not the name but the fourfold meaning of the sacrament itself. It is a dramatic presentation that (1) reminds us in a powerful manner of the death of Jesus Christ in our place for our sins; (2) calls Christians to put our sin to death in light of the fact that Jesus died for our sins and compels us to examine ourselves and repent of sin before partaking; (3) shows the unity of God’s people around the person and work of Jesus; and (4) anticipates our participation in the marriage supper of the Lamb when his kingdom comes in its fullness. Practically speaking, Communion is to be considered as participation in the family meal around a table rather than as a sacrifice upon an alter” (Driscoll 2010, 326-327).
Both Grudem and Erickson also discuss the multi-faceted meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Grudem says, “The meaning of the Lord’s Supper is complex, rich, and full” Grudem 1994, 990). He identifies seven things symbolized by the Lord’s Supper: Christ’s death, our participation in the benefits of Christ’s death, spiritual nourishment, the unity of believers, Christ’s affirmation for his love for us, Christ’s affirmation that the blessing of salvation is reserved for those who believe, and our affirmation of a faith in Christ (991). Erickson on the other hand identifies aspects agreed upon by all believers and points of disagreement. Significantly, most agree that it is established by Christ, should be repeated, is a form of proclamation, provides a spiritual benefit to the partaker, should be restricted to only followers of Christ, and that there is and aspect of Church unity (Erickson 1998, 1117-1121). The disagreements are many. While some hold that there is a physical presence of Christ in the bread and cup, many protestant and evangelical positions see the Lord’s Supper as a commemorative act that serves to fulfill the many aspects covered by Driscoll and Breshears, Grudem, and Erickson.

How should we do it and how often? There are many different ways to present and partake of the Lord’s Supper, but the most important thing is that however it is done, it is within the instruction that Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. And regarding how often the Lord’s Supper should be shared, the early Church shared and partook daily. Calvin answers this question well, stating, “What we have hitherto said of the sacrament, abundantly shows that is was not instituted to be received once a year and that perfunctorily (as is not commonly the custom); but that all Christians might have it in frequent use, and frequently call to mind the sufferings of Christ, thereby sustaining and confirming their faith; stirring themselves up to sing the praises of God, and proclaim his goodness; cherishing and testifying toward each other that mutual charity, the bond of which they see in the unity of the body of Christ” (Calvin 2008, 929).

-  Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody,
Mass: Hendrickson, 2008.
-  Criswell, W.A. Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman Press, 1980.
-  Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, Ill:
Crossway, 2010.
-  Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1998.
-  Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester,
England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

* This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.  

** Photo is the property of flickr.com user, WELS.net and is registered under a Creative Commons license.