Cultural / Historical Background: In Galatians Paul confronts “another gospel.” Those objecting to Paul and his gospel worked to undermine his message of salvation in Jesus Christ by demanding that converts to Messianic Jesus must also become practical Jews. It means that they urge Christians to maintain the ritual expression of the Jewish faith consisting of the “works of the law.” The book of Galatians is Paul’s answer to this threat. Here Paul challenges those who want to “be under the law” (4:21) to consider carefully what the law actually says. It seems that the believers have not fully “bought in” the Judaizers’ idea but tend to accept their opinions.
Contextual Background: The proposition of Paul is stated in 2:15-21, then there are supportive discussions from 3:1 to 4:11, mainly focused on two topics: (1) True Righteousness not “through law” (3:1-18); (2) True faith is not “under law” (3:19-4:7). Afterwards Paul stated his Apostolic Appeal in two aspects: (1) Against Legalism (4:12-5:12) and (2) Against Libertinism (5:13-6:10). The text of 4:21-31 is one of the three appeals against legalism. The other two appeals are (1) Appeals from Paul’s experience (4:12-20) and (2) Appeal to Steadfast Freedom (5:1-12). This section is a logical solicitation to the Galatians to recognize the futility of following after the Judaizers.
Contextual Background: This passage starts without transitional links to preceding text. But it joins directly into the gnomic collection of sayings in chapter 12. It belongs to the section of 12:1-15:13, which talks about living together according to the gospel so as to sustain the hope of global transformation. Christians’ attitude toward government and authority is a key to earthly life. This passage emphasizes order, authority, civil obedience, payment of taxes or revenue, and honor for civil authorities as “God’s servants.”
Cultural / Historical Background: The passage has been interpreted as a warning not to participate in Jewish zealots, in revolutionary agitation, or create unrest that would jeopardize. It’s also has been seen as a warning against Christian enthusiasm that believed the requirement of a state was no longer necessary. Up to the time that Paul wrote there had been no official persecution of Christians in Rome (Fitzmyer, 662). Paul seems to have learned something about the situation and reaction of Christians at Rome to the conduct of the publican and the general tax-situation under Nero.
Contextual Background: (1) The significance of 12: Jesus called the Twelve as an identifiable group (Luke 6:12-16) to signal the reorganization and restoration of Israel (Luke 22:29-30). So the number of 12 has important meaning to Luke’s narrative on how Jesus restores the kingdom to Israel. (2) “These days” at the beginning of the text refers to the period after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of Holy Spirit (chapter 2). This is the first time Peter took the initiative as a leader. Based on 1:12-14, the agenda of the meetings focused on prayer.
Structure: According to Schnabel’s notes, the text consists four incidents: (1) Peter’s initiative (1:15-22), which is also Peter’s first speech; (2) The nomination (1:23); (3) the prayer (1:24-25); (4) the decision (1:26). Most other commentaries generally agree with it.
Original Language Observation: (1) Western text uses present tense (δεῖ) in verse 16. Both Conzelmann and Schnabel, and other commentators think the past tense of ἔδει should be used here. The past tense indicates that the Scripture is already fulfilled by the death of Judas, while the present tense relates it to the replacement of Judas that has to be fulfilled. In Luke’s writings, the verb is used to stress the idea of compulsion that is inherent in the divine plan — a stress usually accompanied by an emphasis on human inability to comprehend God’s workings (Longenecker, 726). (2) verse 19-20 are tied with the context and the language in Lukan. Luke does not have Peter speak for the hearer of his own time, but for the reader of the Gospel and Acts: “in their language”. (3) It is unclear how they nominated the two. MS D and Latin versions read the verb as singular ἔστησεν indicating “he (Peter) setup” thus enhanced the role of Peter in the early church. (4) vv.25, the aorist infinitive λαβεῖν indicates the purpose of God’s choice. Schnabel also suggests that διακονία and ἀποστολή are not synonyms. διακονία speaks of the commission of the twelve and of the actual execution of the commission, ἀποστολή denotes the sending of the Twelve. The first τόπος means an open “place”, while the second τόπος describes Judas’s destiny. (5) “casting lot” (δίδωμι), which means “give” with the dative αὐτῶν has suggested to some that those present “gave their votes for them”. (Schnabel) The precise method used is not known for certain. But Conzelmann think it’s “lots shaken in a cloth bag or in a vessel until one fell out (page 12). It should be observed that they did not cast lots randomly among the 120. They first select the two men whom they judged worthiest to fill the vacancy. In this case the casting of lots was a very reasonable way of deciding (Bruce, 51).
Contextual Background: Mark 4 contains four parables of Jesus: the parable of the sower and its interpretation (vv. 1-20), the parable of the lamp (44.21-25), the parable of the secretly growing seed (vv.26-29), and the parable of the mustard seed (vv.30-32). Parables are widely used in both Old Testament and the writings of the rabbis, but it’s the first time that Jesus teaches in parables. Of the four parables in this chapter, the parable of sower is the most important not because it’s the longest, but because Jesus privately explains to his disciples the reason he speaks in parables and he also interpreted the parable. The key theme throughout the chapter is the need to hear and respond to the truth. The repeated command of “Listen!” and “he who has ears to hear, let him hear” is used several times. Before this chapter, the narrative has described the initial proclamation of the Kingdom of God through miracles and teachings. The responses have been surprisingly varied. There are enthusiastic followers (3:13-19) and enemies (3:20-22). We can also notice that not all people who follow and listen to Jesus are faithful followers. This might be the reason for preaching in parables (4:10-12)
Cultural Background: it has been widely claimed that in first century Palestine sowing preceded plowing. The farmer sows seed randomly in broadcast fashion and expecting to return to plow it into the soil later. Jesus in this case might be implying that the good news is being sown far and wide (regardless of the motivation and intention of the audience) in the hopes of drawing a harvest from every possible corner (Wessel and Strauss, 752).
Before chapter 5, most of Peter’s teaching is on the problem of suffering. Starting from 3:13, he mainly discusses the topic of suffering due to righteous living. There are two major sources that he relies on to interpret the suffering in his reader’s present life. The first source is Christ (3:13-4:6), and the second source is the Eschatology (4:7-19). The link between eschatology and Christian ethics reaches the peak in the exhortation of 4:17. Since the Eschatology states that the judgment will start within the house of God, which is the church. Then in what follows the writer redirects the teaching to those who oversight the church because they are responsible for the spiritual developments of the church. He also talks to those who are younger in the community and then all members of the community in 5:1-11. Structurally speaking, this text serves as the conclusion of the whole book. He recapitulates by bringing together each of his perspectives on suffering that surfaced earlier in the letter.
This section also reveals the type of shepherd-leadership in the early church. In Peter’s teaching, the leaders are responsible for overseeing the church in a godly way, and the flock is asked to submit to the godly leadership. Since this teaching of the church structure follows the eschatology of judgment starting from God’s church, it is naturally to think that Peter is teaching that God’s judgment is not solely on the individual Christian’s ethics, but also on how God’s house is managed.
Grudem suggests that the letter was written before AD64 when the wide persecution under Nero had not begun yet. From the text it is indicated that the original readers were probably doubting about God’s work and were facing the temptation to step back on their faith, thus the major theme of the letter is to encourage them to “Stand firm in it” (5:12). Peter also expresses his compassion for the readers of the letter and encourages them to think about eternal things, instead of focusing on temporal trials. On the problem of theodicy, he explains that God is still sovereign while His people are in temporal suffering, and God is still carrying on His plan (1:5-9).
The text being studied in this paper is 3:13-17. The major theme of this section is regarding the problem of being persecuted or accused by unbelievers because of the Christian faith. Though it’s the major problem that Peter is trying to solve in the letter, it is the first time that he focuses a section of the text on this topic. The center of 2:13-3:12 is to glorify God by doing good, which is to show respectfulness and obedience in all human relationships. Then Peter quotes Psalm 34 in 3:10-12 as basis for Christian ethics to further support that God’s will is for His people to do good, and God is against even Christians who do evil. It is natural that the readers might start to wonder why God does not protect His people who are doing good, or whether the unjust suffering is from God because we are not good enough. Peter starts to deal with the unjust suffering immediately after applying the quotation to the current situation of his readers.
Colossae was located in the Roman province of Asia, currently in the territory of Turkey, in the Lycus River valley. It’s about 120 miles east to Ephesus, close to Laodicea and Hierapolis. The three cities formed a kind of triangle. It appears that in Paul’s day Colossae is much smaller than its nearby cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis. However, according to geographical research, it was “well positioned on a major trade route and well known for the purple hue of its wool”.
Bible does not tell us how the gospel was preached to the city of Colossae. However 1:4-7 indicates that Paul learned from others about the situation of church in Colossae. Moreover, since in 2:1 Paul mentioned the believers in Laodicea and other believers “who have not met me face to face”, it is widely believed that “the establishing of the church in Colossae is influenced by Paul’s ministry among Ephesians, when ‘all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10)”. According to 1:7, a coworker named Epaphras was responsible for overseeing and ministering the church. And when Paul was writing the letter, he was in prison (4:3, 18) and he had never got the opportunity to see the congregation face-to-face.
Our heavenly father, thank you for gathering us and being with us again in this afternoon. Your word is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged swords. I pray that this afternoon you can use your word to prick into our hearts. Help us to realize our sin and change our mind in order to be used by you. I also pray that you would use me to preach your word, and bless my tongue to speak English fluently. I pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I believe most of us have experienced a kind of disunity in the church. There are different levels of disunity in the church. The result of some disunities caused believers holding different opinions to feel angry against each other, or maybe they won’t talk to each other any more in the church. If they have to talk, they will speak with eyes staring at another object. Some disunity will cause some leaders to leave and join or start another church. We usually call it “unexpected church planting”. The most serious disunity I have ever seen is that one side not only left church but also wrote articles on Internet criticize another side as “heresy” and “false church”. These are sad stories that not only hurt God’s people, but also brought shame to God’s name. However, it’s easy to criticize others who cause the disunity, but have you ever thought one day you will be one of those “troublemakers”?