Weekly Lord’s Supper at Kosmosdale Baptist Church

Kosmosdale Baptist Church now takes the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis. We were doing it the first Sunday of each month, but there are biblical and theological reasons for increasing the frequency.

  1. The early church had the Lord’s Supper with their meal together, and they gathered each week to do so (cf. Acts 20:7; 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:20, 23-24).
  2. Paul said we proclaim the Lord’s death whenever we partake of this ordinance, so wouldn’t we want a weekly proclamation? (1 Cor 11:26).
  3. It is a visual aid for the Gospel. The bread represents Christ’s body, and the cup represents his blood. Body broken, blood shed–that’s Gospel content.
  4. It maintains the distinctiveness of God’s people. The Lord’s Supper isn’t for unbelievers, so the weekly partaking of that ordinance serves as a reminder of God’s people being set apart through their faith in the Savior.

Usually pushback comes in a couple ways:

  1. Won’t a weekly Lord’s Supper make the service longer? I don’t think this is a good objection. After all, omitting an offering, excluding a public reading of Scripture, dropping some of the worship songs, and cutting the sermon in half would all make for a shorter service, but is that really what we’re after? No, of course not. The Lord’s Supper might add a few minutes to the service length, but if you start on time and do announcements efficiently, you might not be able to tell at all. In the end, don’t you think we should seek to conform the content of our worship to the practice of the early church as much as we can discern it?
  2. Won’t a weekly Lord’s Supper become void of meaning? This objection doesn’t stand either. The content of a worship service shouldn’t be defined by what we find maximum meaning in each week. That measuring stick is too relative. Not everyone finds the sermon as compelling each week. Not everyone is equally moved by the songs chosen for worship. Probably not everyone will give rapt and total attention to the public Scripture reading. Nevertheless, churches do weekly things in a worship service that may not always be exciting to every person every time. Our subjective enjoyment in an element of worship does not determine whether it should or shouldn’t become a corporate and frequent practice. Rather, I think we should consider the pattern of the early church and seek to follow their lead. And if it is correct that the early church took the Lord’s Supper each week, then they apparently didn’t believe the frequency nullified the meaning of the ordinance.

See the excellent reflections on this topic by Jim HamiltonRay Van Neste, Mike Willis.

The Exalted Status of Jesus in Galatians 1:1-5

The opening of Paul’s first letter, Galatians, has a high view of Jesus.  I see five christological points to make:

(1) Jesus is more than a mere man.  Paul contrasts his apostleship as being “not from men nor through man” but “through Jesus Christ…” (Gal 1:1).  Paul certainly believed in the humanity of Jesus (see Gal 4:4; Phil 2:7-8; Col 2:9), but he believed that authority from Jesus was different from the authority of people who were men only.  Jesus is both divine and human.

(2) Jesus is risen from the dead.  The Father is the one “who raised him from the dead” (Gal 1:1).  This vindication is something no other dead person has received.  Jesus received a glorified body when the Father raised him, while all other dead people await their resurrected bodies (see 1 Cor 15:23).

(3) Jesus is a source of grace and peace.  “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:3).  Jews believed that grace and shalom came from God, and here Paul–a Jew!–says that they come from the Father and the Son, a dual source.  Paul did not abandon monotheism when he became a Christian.  Rather, his understanding of God’s being now included the exalted person of Jesus.  For Paul, saying grace and peace came from God was the same as saying that they came from the Father and the Son.

(4) Jesus and the Father are united in purpose.  Since the Son is exalted with the Father, it makes sense that they are not persons with different plans.  Rather, there is harmony and unity between the Father and Son.  Paul’s authority came from Jesus and the Father (Gal 1:1), grace and peace came from the Father and Jesus (Gal 1:3), and Jesus died for our sins in obedience to the Father’s will (Gal 1:4).

(5) Jesus is Lord.  Paul calls Jesus “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:3).  Paul doesn’t use that title in 1:1, but its use in 1:3 further bolsters his exalted view of Jesus.  Jesus is the ruler, the sovereign, the king.  He is Lord of all.

The exalted status of Jesus was no late invention of the early church.  It is clear that the introduction to Paul’s first letter demonstrates a high christology.  As a representative of the early church’s teaching, Paul believed Jesus was the risen Lord who was united in glory and power with the Father.

Facts about Paul’s 3 Missionary Journeys

Let’s start with the question: why does he have three so-called “missionary journeys” when it seems he was engaged in mission work (Acts 9:19b-20, 23, 26-27; 11:25-26) before the dating of the “first” journey?

The three journeys of Paul do not indicate when he first commenced mission work.  The three journeys, instead, have a common launching point: Antioch of Syria.

Paul’s first journey from Syrian Antioch is highlighted in Acts 13–14 (13:1-3; 14:26-28).  He launches from, and then returns to, that city.

Paul’s second journey from Syrian Antioch is highlighted in Acts 15:36–18:22 (15:36-41; 18:22).  Paul launched from, and returned to, that city.

Paul’s third journey from Syrian Antioch is highlighted in Acts 18:23–21:16 (18:23; 21:16).  Although Paul launched from Syrian Antioch this third time, he didn’t return there.  Instead, his journey ended with his arrival in Jerusalem (21:17), soon after which he was arrested (21:27-36).

When scholars talk about Paul’s three missionary journeys, then, they are referring to the three mission ventures that were each launched from Syrian Antioch.

Now let’s talk dates (which, of course, are probable estimates):
(1) AD 46-48, Paul’s first journey from Syrian Antioch (Acts 13–14)
(2) AD 50-52, Paul’s second journey from Syrian Antioch (Acts 15:36–18:22)
(3) AD 53-57, Paul’s third journey from Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:23–21:16)

At the beginning of the second (16:1-6) and third journeys (18:23), Paul revisited churches in southern Galatia that he established during the first journey (13:4–14:26).

In his second missionary journey, Paul mainly focused on Corinth (18:1-18), remaining there for a little less than 2 years.

In his third missionary journey, Paul mainly focused on Ephesus (19:1-41), remaining there for almost three years (20:31).

Understanding these aspects of Paul’s three missionary journeys is important, since their narratives comprise almost all of Acts 13–21 (the exception being the event and outcome of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-35).  Therefore, neglecting study of Paul’s missionary journeys will handicap one’s grasp of a large chunk of the Book of Acts.

Heresy, by Alister McGrath

In this book, McGrath converges Christian history and systematic theology in ways that are insightful and instructive.  I loved this book.  It was thought-provoking, and there were many “aha” moments.

Basically, Heresy is about what its title indicates.  McGrath discusses the nature of heresy, the rise of heresy, some classic heresies, the reemergence of heresies in our day, and much, much more.

Some of the more emphasized points in the book include these:

(1) Classic heresies were not advocated by people who thought of themselves as deviating from Christian orthodoxy–in their minds, they were trying to uphold Christianity, not subvert it.

(2) Over time, heresies are recognized to be such because they (if left unconfronted) would pose a corrupting and destructive threat to Christian orthodoxy.

(3) In the first few centuries of the church, it is clear that orthodoxy triumphed over heresy because of the intellectual and theological veracity of the truth, not because of political or social powers who had an agenda.

(4) Heresies do not go away; they simply reemerge in different packaging.

In 10 chapters, McGrath treats the topic of heresy in a way I have not yet encountered before.  His treatment has references from the patristics, all the way to our present day with authors like Dan Brown and Richard Dawkins.

I learned a great deal from this book, and I think every Christian will be immensely helped by chewing through its chapters.  Get and read Heresy.  You will love the truth more as a result!

Examples of Escalation in Acts 1–7

There is a theme of escalation in the opening chapters of Acts 1–7.  Here are three examples that stand out clearly:

(1) Escalation in Arrests: Peter and John are arrested (4:3); all the apostles are arrested (5:18); all the apostles are rearrested (5:26)

(2) Persecution against the Apostles: the authorities arrest Peter and John (4:3), the authorities warn Peter and John (4:18, 21), the authorities oppose all the apostles (5:18), the authorities want to put them to death but do not (5:33), the authorities flog them (5:40), the authorities kill Stephen (7:57-58). 

(3) The Response of “the People”: the people favor the apostles (2:47), the people’s favor pressure the authorities (4:21), the people highly regard the apostles (5:13), the people’s pressure keep the authorities from using force against the apostles (5:26), but the people turn against Stephen (6:12).  In Acts 2, then, the people still favor the apostles.  But by the time Stephen dies in Acts 7, the people have turned against him.  

Through elements of escalation, Luke shows continuity between the stories in Acts, as well as the growing opposition against the gospel and its proponents.  Escalation also presses to a climax, which comes in Acts 7 with the death of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr.