Paul’s apostleship was a matter of some debate because he did not meet all of the requirements for apostleship set forth in Acts. The criteria for apostleship included being: (1) a disciple of Jesus during His earthly ministry, (2) an eyewitness of the Resurrection, and (3) called and commissioned directly by Christ. Paul was not a former disciple, and his vision of the resurrected Christ occurred after Jesus’ ascension. Paul was not an eyewitness of the Resurrection in the same way the other Apostles were. Nevertheless, Paul was directly called to the office by Christ.
Since twelve of those who were disciples of Christ later became His Apostles, the two terms disciple and apostle are often confused. Although the terms are used interchangeably, they are not exact synonyms. A disciple is defined in the Bible as a “learner,” one who entered into the fellowship of Jesus’ rabbinic instruction. Though the Apostles were disciples, not all disciples became apostles.
An Apostle enjoyed a special office in the New Testament church. The term apostle means “one who is sent.” Technically, however, an apostle was more than a messenger. He was commissioned with the authority to speak for and represent the One who sent him. The chief apostle in the New Testament is Jesus Himself. He was sent by the Father and spoke with the authority invested in Him by the Father. To reject Jesus was to reject the Father, who sent Him.
Likewise, the Apostles were called and commissioned directly by Christ and spoke with His authority.
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By Alan Shlemon — 11 months ago
There’s an endless set of principles and prohibitions that are conveniently written down by our Maker and made available in our “owner’s manual.” Could it be any better? Despite the easy access to our Maker’s teaching, Christians often look for ways to sidestep his precepts. We’re tempted to believe anyone other than our Maker when it comes to how to live, how to identify, and how to behave sexually. Maybe we think we know better, but it seems we want to listen to man to justify our penchant for sin.
Whenever I watch an ad for a GoPro camera, my life feels boring. If you don’t know, GoPro is the company that makes those tiny video cameras that capture footage of extreme sports. Their promotional videos show people surfing massive swells, skiing off cliffs, and jumping cars—all while the action cam is mounted on their helmet, surfboard, or under a wheel well. It’s impressive.
But I have some questions. How far underwater can you take a GoPro? What’s the lowest temperature it can tolerate? What’s the best way to optimize its battery life? Is there a way to mount it so it doesn’t fall off accidentally? Any GoPro owner needs to know what this action camera can handle.
Who is the best person to answer these questions? Would it be a sports star, a news anchor, or the president of the United States? None of them is qualified, obviously. The best people to answer my questions would be the engineers at GoPro. They’re the ones who decided what materials to use, designed the device, and fabricated it. They know its limits and how to optimize its performance. After all, they’re the makers of the GoPro camera.
That’s why every GoPro camera comes with an owner’s manual that’s informed by the makers of the device. It tells the camera owner how far underwater you can take it, what temperatures it can tolerate, how to optimize its battery life, and many more important limits and features. Failure to heed the directions in the owner’s manual will lead to damage or catastrophic failure.
In the same way, there are a lot of questions we humans have about ourselves. How are we made to function? How should we build relationships like friendships and marriages? Should there be any boundaries for sexual activity?
By Russ Vought — 2 years ago
Life is confounding. Faithfulness requires us to seek truth and to pray constantly for shrewdness in approaching the world around us. To do so, we must gain the moral clarity of a dissident. And when we do, we will be able to reason toward a consensus with our fellow Christians on how we should then live.
Almost two years into a worldwide pandemic, amidst at least a decade of bitter partisanship in society, and increased confrontations over race and what to do about it, the American evangelical church is extremely divided. While Christians work hard to stay unified and respect each others’ consciences throughout the turmoil, the lack of any Christian consensus on how to approach the prevailing issues of the day is stark. What explains it?
One important explanation is that it stems from a lack of Christian shrewdness. Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I am sending you as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Perhaps no verse in the Bible presents so simply the duties for Christians living in the modern age. It recognizes that the world around us is fallen and opposed to God’s truth, and that discernment is therefore paramount if we are to understand and properly respond to events.
Many Christian elites skip this call for shrewdness and suffer from profound naivety. The fall did not just result in a world marked by evil—it created massive confusion and disorder. Humanity is left searching for some foundation beneath its feet. For Christians, that bedrock is the word of God, providing the mind of God to filter all of reality. But this is difficult because we often accept and bring the world’s categories of understanding to the process. Our posture is not appropriately and biblically oppositional, and therefore we lack the moral clarity of, for instance, a dissident. A dissident is one who is opposed to what an evil regime stands for because he understands its true nature. That critical assessment creates clarity that must then be matched with shrewdness.
One of the great challenges to answering our intuitive question—“what is actually going on in our world?”—is that our culture’s categories have become utterly confused . Take the example of a ladder. A ladder’s purpose is to be a series of connected steps that allow one to climb up or down. But at some point, a ladder may lose all connection to its purpose, and to continue to speak of it as such has no meaning. Of course, one can still climb a ladder if the first rung is broken. But what if all the rungs are broken? It’s now just wood—some hardware may still be on it, but the wood has been robbed of its purpose. We can think of other, more serious examples in this vein as well: marriages, homes, communities.
Now consider some of the categories of our modern policy debates: the role of experts, the media or even the government itself.
By Zachary Garris — 11 months ago
When people think of the Book of Exodus, they often think of the 10 plagues upon Egypt or Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Yet as important as these events were, they do not dominate the Book of Exodus like the themes of slavery and Sabbath.
Deliverance from Slavery unto Sabbath Rest
After Israel had settled in Egypt under Joseph’s leadership, a new Pharaoh arose who enslaved them (Exodus 1:8-10). Pharaoh “set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens,” and the Egyptians “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves,” which made “their lives bitter” (Exodus 1:11, 13-14). This slavery included Egyptians beating Israelites, which led to Moses killing an Egyptian (2:11). But God saw the “oppression” and “afflictions” of His people and “heard their cry.” As the Lord said, “I know their sufferings.” And He promised to deliver them from slavery and into a good land of milk and honey (3:7-9).
God “heard the groaning” of the Israelites who had been made “slaves,” and thus He would “remember” His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is, He would act upon that covenant by delivering Israel unto the land of Canaan (Exodus 6:3-5). God declared:
I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD. (Exodus 6:6-7; cf. 16:12; 29:46)
So God’s promise to Israel was to take them to be His “people” and deliver them to the land of Canaan, as He “swore” to the patriarchs—“your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years… To your offspring I give this land” (Genesis 15:13, 18; cf. 17:8). But the fulfillment of this promise first required that God deliver Israel from slavery, from under the “burdens” of Egypt. God would not only deliver Israel unto the Promised Land, but He would also deliver them unto Sabbath rest. However, entrance into the Promised Land would take some time, and although Moses and that generation would not even experience it, they would all still experience God’s Sabbath.
The Sabbath stands in stark contrast to the “burdens” of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 2:23; 6:6-7; 21:2-11). Instead of oppressive work, Israel would now have a weekly day of rest, along with seasons of rest (16:23, 30; 20:8-11; 23:10-19). This theme of slavery to Sabbath is seen even in the Ten Commandments, which begin with God proclaiming, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2). This point should not be missed. The foundation of the law of God—the Ten Commandments—begins with God’s proclamation of deliverance from slavery.
Notice God specifically says He delivered Israel from the “house of slavery.” Instead of dwelling in the “house of slavery,” Israel was to build a “house of Yahweh” (Exodus 23:19; 34:26, LSB). Thus, God not only delivered Israel from “slavery” to Sabbath rest (seen in the Fourth Commandment), but He also gave them a new “house” (tabernacle) in which He would dwell with them—“And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8). The deliverance from the “house of slavery” to the “house of Yahweh” is seen in a clear division in the Book of Exodus, as the Ten Commandments are given in the very middle (Exodus 20). Israel had been in Egyptian slavery from the beginning of the book until the Passover and exodus in chapter 12, followed by the crossing the Red Sea and time in the wilderness. But after this deliverance from the “house of slavery,” God gave extensive instructions for His “house.” The second half of the Book of Exodus is dominated by the law (Exodus 19–24) and the tabernacle, as instructions for the tabernacle were given in Exodus 25–31 and then the tabernacle was built in Exodus 35–40.
Slavery in Exodus and Beyond
Exodus shows that Yahweh is the God who redeems slaves who cry out to Him. Yet God also protects slaves, seen in His provision of laws regulating slavery and freeing slaves. Modern men and women are often appalled at the practice of slavery, which makes the Bible’s teaching on it difficult to address today. Yet slavery was a common practice in ancient world, often serving as a last resort when a man had to sell himself into slavery because of debt or when a man sold his daughter in hope of a better life for her. The modern West has abolished such slavery but ironically still practices a form of slavery by locking criminals in prison for extended time or even life, a practice foreign to the Mosaic law. Contrary to modern imprisonment, God’s law implemented the death penalty for severe crimes and restitution for lesser crimes. While God did not abolish slavery but permitted it as part of this fallen world, He also placed important restrictions on its practice.
After the Ten Commandments, God gave mishpatim that Moses was to set before Israel, a term that can be translated “rules,” “ordinances” or “judgments” (Exodus 21:1). These “rules” were circumstantial case laws deriving from the foundational Ten Commandments. They are found in Exodus 21:1–23:19 and as a whole are called the “Book of the Covenant” (24:7).
The rules of the Book of the Covenant include 10 laws on slavery—five laws for male slaves (Exodus 21:2-6) and five laws for female slaves (21:7-11). Of the subsequent laws concerning violence (21:12-36), many also concern slaves (21:16, 20, 26, 32). While man-stealing was a capital crime, the purchasing of slaves was lawful (Exodus 12:44; 21:2; Leviticus 22:11; Deuteronomy 15:12). Hebrew slaves could be purchased because a man voluntarily sold himself into slavery for debt or he was involuntarily sold because he was a thief who was unable to pay restitution (Exodus 22:3). Non-Hebrew slaves could be purchased from traders or taken from war (Leviticus 25:44-45; Numbers 31:26-47; Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
As for redemption from slavery, Hebrew slaves were required to be freed after six years, on the seventh Sabbath year (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12), unless the slave wanted to remain with his master and the wife that his master acquired for him (Exodus 21:4-6). However, this was not the case for a non-Hebrew (foreign) slave (Leviticus 25:46), though he was still to be circumcised (Exodus 12:44; Genesis 17:12-13). The non-Hebrew slave had the right to purchase his freedom (Leviticus 25:49). Otherwise, he with his children were to be freed every 50 years in the Year of Jubilee, which was a Sabbath of Sabbath years (7 x 7 = 49) (Leviticus 25:54). Severe injury to a slave required freeing him (Exodus 21:26-27), while the murder of a slave required punishment (21:20). (Exodus 21:21 teaches the delayed death of the slave assumes the master did not intend to kill him, and thus the loss of the slave was its own penalty.) If an ox gored a person to death, the ox was to be stoned to death itself, and the death of a slave was to be compensated financially (21:28-32). The stealing of a man and selling him as a slave, and even possessing the stolen man, warranted the death penalty (21:16).
If a man sold his own daughter as a “female servant,” there were additional protections upon her that were not placed on male “slaves” (Exodus 21:7). This “female servant” (amah) is different from the word for a male “slave” (avad), as the woman was purchased to become a wife or concubine (unlike the “Hebrew woman” sold only for labor in Deuteronomy 15:12). If she displeased her master, she was not to be sold to foreigners but given the right to redemption (Exodus 21:8). If she were married to the master’s son, then she was to be treated like the master’s daughter (21:9). And if the master (or his son) married her and took other wives along with her, he was still to provide for the wife, including meat (“flesh” in Hebrew, not “food”), meaning she was sold to a wealthy family and to eat meat like they ate (21:10). The woman purchased as a wife was not to be demoted in marriage and doing so required her freedom (21:11).
When we come to the New Testament, we see that there were Christians who were slaves—“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Paul did not tell them to flee, but rather they were to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1). Christians could also be slave masters, but they were to treat their slaves with fairness—“Masters, show to your slaves what is right and fair, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1, LSB). Thus, there will be slave masters in Christ’s kingdom, and we cannot condemn them as doing evil when God did not do so. The Bible does not condemn slave masters so long as they treated their slaves “justly and fairly” (Colossians 4:1, ESV). Yet the Bible also provided the framework for the regulation of slavery and its eventual demise. Earthly slavery points to the spiritual slavery that humans are born into (John 8:34). But like God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery, He redeems those who are enslaved to sin and makes them instead “slaves of righteousness” and “slaves of God” (Romans 6:16-22).