Come to our open morning!

12 February 2018

You are warmly invited for free tea, coffee, and cake at our open morning on Saturday 24th February, 10.00-11.30am.

We’re a Christian church that has just moved into the old ‘Grove Chapel’ building on the corner of Rawling Road and Kelvin Grove (our address is 186 Rawling road, NE8 4QU).

We’d love to meet you! All welcome.

 

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

1 Timothy: an introduction

What is 1 Timothy?

1 Timothy is a short (6 chapters) book of the Bible, found in the New Testament after 2 Thessalonians and before Titus. It is a letter (also called an ‘epistle’), one of the so-called ‘pastoral epistles’ (along with 2 Timothy and Titus), which were written to specific church leaders.

Who wrote it, and to whom?

1 Timothy is written by the apostle Paul to the young pastor, Timothy (see the first two verses of the letter). You can read about Paul’s life in the book of Acts, from 7.58 onwards. Previously called Saul, Paul had been an hardened enemy of Christianity, pursuing and persecuting Jesus’ followers. The risen Lord Jesus appeared to him (the ‘Damascus Road’ event, recorded in Acts 9), and Paul was powerfully converted. He subsequently became a preacher of the gospel, and an itinerant apostle, planting churches across the Roman empire (much of the second half of the book of Acts follows his journeys). In Acts 16 we read that he met Timothy, a Christian young man, in Lystra. His mother was a Jewish Christian and his father was a Greek. We read elsewhere that his grandmother, Lois, was a believer too (2 Timothy 1.5). Paul took Timothy as a travelling companion and evidently acted as a mentor to him, a relationship which is warmly apparent from Paul’s two letters to Timothy. It is likely that Timothy was given a hard time as a pastor by certain groups of Jewish-background believers, both on account of his young age and of his Greek father (he would have been considered not a ‘proper’ Jew). Note how much encouragement Paul gives him in 1 and 2 Timothy. For instance, in his greeting at the very start of 1 Timothy, Paul gives Timothy the profound affirmation of calling him his ‘true child in the faith’.

Where?

Verse three orients us to the place; Timothy is to stay behind in Ephesus. Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) was a major centre in the ancient world. Among other things, it had a famous temple to the goddess Diana (also known as Artemis), was a centre of commerce, and had a sizeable Jewish population. We read the account of the gospel taking root there in Acts 19-20. Evidently God blessed the ministry of the gospel with such widespread response that the city’s economy began to be affected, as people stopped buying idols. This caused the famous riot in the amphitheatre.

When?

Whilst we do not know with certainty, the traditional understanding of when 1 Timothy ‘fits in’ is that Paul probably wrote this letter sometime in the years AD62-66, most likely after his imprisonment (at the end of the book of Acts) and release, but before his second imprisonment (which ended with his martyrdom).

Why?

It is evident as a repeated theme in 1 Timothy that the church in Ephesus was being troubled by false teachers. Paul immediately begins to address this after his initial greeting (see 1.3), and numerous subsequent verses give us more information (e.g., 1.3-7, 1.19-20, 4.1-3, 4.7, 6.3-5, 6.20-21). In fact, Paul had already commented earlier in the Bible in his ‘farewell address’ to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20) that ‘from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.’ Now, perhaps 15 years later, Timothy is charged to lead and teach the church away from error and back to the true gospel. This is why the theme of ‘waging good warfare’ features so much in 1 Timothy, since that is exactly what Timothy must do (e.g., 1.18, 6.12). Later in the Bible, in Revelation 2.1-7, the Lord Jesus charges the church in Ephesus that they had ‘abandoned the love they had at first’. Nevertheless, correcting error is not the only thing Paul has in mind. Rather, Paul states why he has written it in 3.14-15:

‘I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.’

Paul begins with the foundation of the gospel: God, in Christ, is our Saviour and our hope (1.1-2, see also 1.15, 2.3-6, 4.10). Because of this great gospel, we (the church) must live and relate in a distinct way as those who are in God’s ‘household’. In summary, we might say that the ‘pressing symptom’ of false teaching in Ephesus prompts Paul to write a letter which gloriously unpacks how the church of God is to behave as his church.

Breakdown

We will go through 1 Timothy in the following chunks:

  • 1 Timothy 1.1-2 and introduction – 7th January 2018
  • 1 Timothy 1.1-7 – 14th January
  • 1 Timothy 1.8-20 – 21st January
  • 1 Timothy 2.1-7 – 28th January
  • 1 Timothy 2.8-15 – 4th February
  • 1 Timothy 3.1-7 – 11th February
  • 1 Timothy 3.8-13 – 18th February
  • 1 Timothy 3.14-4.5 – 25th February
  • 1 Timothy 4.6-16 – 4th March
  • 1 Timothy 5.1-16 – 11th March
  • 1 Timothy 5.17-6.2 – 18th March
  • 1 Timothy 6.3-10 – 25th March
  • Easter Sunday – 1st April
  • 1 Timothy 6.11-21 – 8th April

‘ The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever.’ (1 Timothy 1.15-17)

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Introducing our new series in Acts (part 2)

22 August 2016

The Structure of Acts

Acts has a clear structure and shape. At base level, as we have already seen, Luke has explicitly set out to give us a true, reliable, orderly account of what Jesus continued to do after He ascended. The structure of how he gives us this account is previewed in 1.8, when Jesus says this to His apostles:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

What follows is the account of the gospel reaching Jerusalem and Judea (chapters 1-7); the gospel reaching Samaria (chapters 8-12), and the gospel reaching the Gentile world, through Asia and Europe, and finally ending in Rome (chapters 13-28); exactly as 1.8 had said. God used Luke, who was well-educated and well-travelled, to compile this account of the gospel spreading out to the ends of the earth. ‘He has the broad horizons of the Graeco-Roman world, its history as well as its geography. So he sets his story of Jesus and of the early church against the background of contemporary secular events. And he uses the word oikoumenē, ‘the inhabited earth’, more often (eight times) than all the other New Testament writers together.’[1]

In addition, as the narrative progresses along this trajectory to the ends of the earth, Luke places ‘growth markers’ along the way, which indicate key points of growth or transition. Here is a summary of these growth markers:

  • 2.41,47 [the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost] – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
  • 4.4 [Peter and John imprisoned after preaching, but many converted] – But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
  • 6.7 [the apostles focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word] – And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
  • 9.31 [after the conversion of Saul] – So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
  • 11.21 [the gospel takes root in Antioch] – And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
  • 12.24 [after Herod’s persecution and death, and preceding Paul and Barnabus’ first missionary journey] – But the word of God increased and multiplied.
  • 13.43-44,49 [Paul and Barnabus in Pisidian Antioch] – And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord… And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
  • 14.21 [Paul and Barnabus in Derbe] – When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch…
  • 16.5 [as the decisions of the Jerusalem Council are communicated to the churches] – So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
  • 19.20 [in Ephesus, the last of Paul’s pioneering church-plants] – So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
  • 28.23,30 [the end of the book] – When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets… He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

When did all this happen?

Here is a summary of dates (although some of these dates are still being debated by scholars), given by year AD, with the related chapters in Acts given in brackets:

c. 33 Pentecost (2.1-11)

33-34 Stephen’s murder and the dispersion (8.1); Paul’s conversion (9.1-19)

35 Paul’s first post-conversion visit to Jerusalem (9.26-28); Antioch church established (11.19-21)

43/44 James executed (12.1-2)

46/47 Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem (11.27-30)

48 Paul’s first missionary journey (chapters 13-14)

49 Council of Jerusalem (15.1-35)

49-52 Paul’s second missionary journey (including staying in Corinth 50-52) (15.36-18.22)

52-57 Paul’s third missionary journey (including staying in Ephesus 52-55) (18.23-20.38)

57 Paul visits Jerusalem (chapters 21-23)

57-59 Paul imprisoned in Caesarea (chapters 24-26)

59-60 Paul’s voyage to Rome (chapters 27-28)

65 Death of Paul in Rome

Where did all this happen?

A comprehensive map, including all of Paul’s missionary journeys and his journey to Rome, can be viewed at https://bibleatlas.org/isv/paul.jpg

What are some of the repeated themes of Acts?

That God saves people from all nations of the earth, through His Son Jesus. Peter says this in Acts 4.12; there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Jesus promises this in 1.8. The clear manifestation of the gift of the Holy Spirit to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles in chapters 2, 8, and 10 respectively underlines this point, that Gentiles are included in the church, God’s true Israel. The centrality of the Jerusalem Council, and the repetition of Paul’s conversion testimony and commissioning as apostle to the Gentiles, underline this theme in the book.

That God uses the seeming obscurity and insignificance of individuals and families to work His purposes out. Note, for example, how the gospel first came to Europe in Acts 16. A lady called Lydia (and her household), and an unnamed jailer and his family were the first converts to Christianity. The subsequent enormous European Christian heritage lies ‘downstream’ from their faith. Similarly, the first church plant (Antioch) came about through unnamed, everyday disciples moving and taking the gospel with them.

That God’s gospel is unstoppable, despite opposition or apparent failure. The book of Acts charts the growth of the ‘Word of the Lord’ through sometimes staggering opposition. Is it not profoundly encouraging to remember that, within the first few decades of the church, the gospel had already prevailed, despite[2]:

  • External religious opposition (4.1ffl 5.17ff; 6.8ff)
  • Economic opposition (16.16ff; 19.23ff)
  • Internal hypocrisy (5.1ff)
  • Church friction (6.1-7; 15.36-41)
  • Persecution (5.17ff; 8.1ff; 12.1ff; 13.49-52; 14.19-20; 17.1ff; 21.27ff)
  • Martyrdom (7.54-8.4; 12.1-4)
  • Storms and shipwrecks (27.13ff)
  • Courts (4.5ff; 18.12-17; 24.1ff; 25.1ff)
  • Imprisonment (12.5ff; 16.16ff)
  • Orthodox religious tradition (15.1ff)

Do any of these obstacles seem familiar today? Let us take heart. Related to this theme, in Acts, we can’t miss the fact that the church – since its very earliest days – has existed within a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and religions. As we read through the book we come across followers of the Greek gods Artemis, Zeus, and Hermes; sorcerers, fortune tellers, and exorcists; the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and adherents to the Greek philosophical schools of Stoicism and Epicureanism. As we follow the narrative, we see the gospel – God’s ‘Word of Grace’ – cross boundary after boundary as it spreads out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Time and again, we are thrilled to see God’s grace reach the most unlikely converts. The UK today is a melting-pot of numerous different worldviews, including communities which seem impossibly opposed to the gospel. Let us remember that this is familiar territory for the gospel, and our Lord Jesus continues to be mighty to save. Numerous verses tell us explicitly that God is absolutely sovereign in salvation:

  • God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life’ (11.18)
  • ‘all who were appointed for eternal life believed’ (13.48)
  • The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message’ (16.14)
  • ‘I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city’ (18.10)

That God desires our prime focus to be on Jesus . Above all, Jesus is the absolute centre in Acts. David Cook comments,

‘We would love to go home with the Ethiopian treasurer, to see how differently he now administers the treasury. We want to see how the families of Cornelius, or the Philippian jailer, develop after their conversions. We are intrigued as to how Sergius Paulus will operate as a Christian proconsul. But…Luke is relentlessly focused on the gospel. It comes via human messenger, touches people profoundly, and then moves on to its next encounter…Luke’s purpose is to show the gospel reaching out, carried by Spirit-empowered messengers, under God’s superintendence, to Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile. This is the melody of Acts: the fulfilment of God’s plan to gather in His people from the far reaches of the earth. Christ is ascended, but He continues to direct His church and empower it through His Spirit. This is why the book of Acts has been a great encouragement to gospel-bearers through the centuries.’[3]

Acts gives us a superb guide to how to read our whole Bible, since in the book of Acts we see the church, sent by Jesus and empowered by His Spirit, proclaim the Word of God across different cultural boundaries, in all kinds of different settings. And time and again we see that Luke uses ‘Kingdom of God’ as a kind of shorthand for proclaiming all of God’s plans and purposes, fulfilled and now available in Jesus[4]. So the gospel – the good news that is being announced to all the world, beginning at Jerusalem – is all about Jesus; it’s the announcement of God’s reign in Christ. To every set of people, the same Jesus is proclaimed:

  • At Pentecost, Peter preaches about Jesus to people from all nations (2.14-39)
  • When the lame man is healed, Peter preaches about Jesus (3.6)
  • Peter preaches Jesus to the God-fearing gentile Cornelius and his family (10.34-48)
  • The apostles preach Jesus to conservative Jews (14.3)
  • Paul preaches Jesus to sophisticated Greek philosophers (17.31)
  • Paul preaches Jesus to disciples of John the Baptist (19.4)

Above all, Luke wants our prime focus to be on Jesus[5].


[1] Stott, John R. W. 1994. The Message of Acts : The Spirit, the Church & the World. Leicester  England;Downers Grove  Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, p31.

[2] This list is found in David Cook’s introduction in his helpful book, Teaching Acts: Unlocking the Book of Acts for the Bible Teacher.

[3] Cook, David. 2007. Teaching Acts : Unlocking the Book of Acts for the Bible Teacher. London: PTMEDIA, p24.

[4] Note how Luke mentions the Kingdom of God in 1.3, 8.12, 14.22, 19.8, 28.23, 28.31.

[5] Further references to emphasise this point in Acts: 1.1; 2.36, 38; 4.8-12; 5.42; 8.12,35; 10.36; 11.20-21; 13.38-39; 15.11; 16.31; 18.5, 28; 19.4; 20.24; 24.24; 28.31

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Introducing our new series in Acts (part 1)

21 August 2016

An Introduction to Acts

Acts was written by Luke, who was a Christian in the early church, a companion of Paul for some of his journeys, a medical doctor, and the author of the gospel of Luke. He probably wrote Acts around AD 62-64. Although Luke and Acts are separate books in our Bibles, and were written as separate books by Luke, they are fundamentally linked. Here is how Luke begins Acts:

In my first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach… (v1)

Luke clearly sees his second book, Acts, as a direct continuation of what began in Luke, his first book. This is why we have called our series, Acts: what Jesus continued to do by His Spirit. The original book was written without a title. ‘Acts of the Apostles’ is a name it was given by the later church, although Luke’s clear emphasis is that it is the risen Lord Jesus acting, by His Spirit, through His church and apostles. The beginning of Acts, with the ascension of Jesus in chapter 1 and the giving of the Spirit in chapter 2, make this the unmistakable foundation.

Moreover, this explicit connection to Luke’s gospel means that we can assume Luke had the same intentions in volume II as he did in volume I. Here is his introduction to volume I (his gospel):

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

In volume II, Acts, we have a continuation of this ‘orderly account’, which serves to give us ‘certainty’ about this gospel of Jesus Christ. Can we trust Acts to be historically reliable? Yes! Luke spent more than two years in Palestine, during which time he researched his accounts and gathered eyewitness testimony. John Stott wrote,

‘Luke arrived in Jerusalem with Paul (21.17) and left with him on their voyage to Rome (27.1). In between was a period of more than two years, during which Paul was held a prisoner in Caesarea (24.27), while Luke was a free man. How did he use this time? It would be reasonable to guess that he travelled the length and breadth of Palestine, gathering material for his Gospel and for the early Jerusalem-based chapters of the Acts. He will have familiarised himself as a Gentile with Jewish history, customs and festivals, and he will have visited the places made sacred by the ministry of Jesus and the birth of the Christian community…he will surely also have interviewed many eyewitnesses. Some of them will have known Jesus, including perhaps the now elderly Virgin Mary herself, since Luke’s birth and infancy narrative, including the intimacies of the Annunciation, is told from her viewpoint and must go back ultimately to her. Others will have been associated with the beginnings of the Jerusalem church like John Mark and his mother, Philip, the apostles Peter and John, and James the Lord’s brother; they will have been able to give Luke firsthand information about the Ascension, the Day of Pentecost, the early preaching of the gospel, the opposition of the Sanhedrin, the martyrdom of Stephen, the conversion of Cornelius, the execution of the apostle James and the imprisonment and release of Peter…we have good reasons, then, to have confidence in Luke’s claim to be writing history…’[1]

This is what A.N. Sherwin-White, Reader in Ancient History at Oxford University, concluded about Acts:

‘The historical framework is exact. In terms of time and place the details are precise and correct. One walks the streets and market-places, the theatres and assemblies of first-century Ephesus or Thessalonica, Corinth, or Philippi, with the author of Acts. The great men of the cities, the magistrates, the mob and the mob-leader are all there…It is similar with the narrative of Paul’s judicial experiences before the tribunals of Gallio, Felix and Festus. As documents these narratives belong to the same historical series as the record of provincial and imperial trials in epigraphical and literary sources of the first and early second centuries AD…for Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail  must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.’[2]

The Link Between Luke and Acts

Consider these verses from the end of Luke’s gospel:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24.44-49)

It is often – and quite rightly – pointed out that verse 46 is a good summary of Luke’s gospel, while verse 47 is a good summary of Acts. When we read this passage alongside Acts 1.8 we see that there is a clear bridge or seam between the two. Luke recorded what Jesus began in his gospel – in particular, His suffering, death and resurrection, and he recorded what the risen Jesus continued in the book of Acts – in particular, the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in His Name to all nations. There are numerous other parallels between Luke and Acts; for instance, both begin with a period of prayer and waiting, before the coming of the Spirit (at Jesus’ baptism in Luke and at Pentecost in Acts). In Luke the flow is towards Jerusalem; in Acts, the flow is away from Jerusalem. Here is how John Stott put it,

‘[Luke] does not regard volume one as the story of Jesus Christ from His birth through His sufferings and death to His triumphant resurrection and ascension, and volume two as the story of the church of Jesus Christ from its birth in Jerusalem through its sufferings by persecution to its triumphant conquest of Rome some thirty years later. For the contrasting parallel he draws between his two volumes was not between Christ and His church, but between two stages of the ministry of the same Christ. In His former book he has written about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, since He was ‘powerful in word and deed before God and all the people’; in this his second book (he implies) he will write about what Jesus continued to do and to teach after His ascension, especially through the apostles whose sermons and authenticating ‘signs and wonders’ Luke will faithfully record. Thus Jesus’ ministry on earth, exercised personally and publicly, was followed by His ministry from heaven, exercised through His Holy Spirit by His apostles. Moreover, the watershed between the two was the ascension. Not only did it conclude Luke’s first book and introduce his second (Acts 1.9), but it terminated Jesus’ earthly ministry and inaugurated His heavenly ministry.’[3]

[1] Stott, John R. W. 1994. The Message of Acts : The Spirit, the Church & the World. Leicester  England;Downers Grove  Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, p24-25

[2] Sherwin-White, A. 1963. Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

[3] Stott, John R. W. 1994. The Message of Acts : The Spirit, the Church & the World. Leicester  England;Downers Grove  Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, p32.

 

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Introduction to Titus

18 July 2016

Introduction

This short letter was written by the apostle Paul to Titus, his gospel co-worker. Titus is mentioned in Galatians 2.1-3, where we learn that he was Greek, and in 2 Corinthians 8.23, where Paul describes him as his ‘partner and fellow-worker’. Although we do not know for certain, it is quite possible that it was written in the mid-60s AD, much the same period as when 1 Timothy was written. Paul has completed a missionary journey through the island of Crete[1], and fledgling churches have been planted. He left Titus behind to help establish these churches, and in this letter Paul gives him instructions to help and guide him in this task.

In particular, Paul emphasises the inseparable link between the Christian gospel and Christian life. Although we do not know the specific details, we learn clearly from the letter that Titus faced a context where false teachers posed a huge threat to these church plants (see 1.10-16 and 3.9-11). A key barometer of false teaching was that it led to ungodliness; ‘they profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works’ (1.16). Paul repeatedly emphasises how, in clear contrast, sound Christian doctrine leads to godly living. In doing so, he gives us a concise summary of what a healthy church looks like, as Paul deals with healthy teaching, healthy correction, healthy pastors, and healthy Christian life at different ages and stages. The backdrop culture to these Christian communities in Crete was one of great immorality; this is explicitly stated in Paul’s letter (1.12), and we also know that Crete was a major centre of worship of the pagan god Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), the god of alcohol and revelry.

Some historical background to Crete

Crete was a key part of the ancient Minoan civilization, and also features heavily in numerous ancient Greek myths (as told by Homer and other ancient writers). For instance, the Palace of Knossos (in Crete) was, in ancient myths, the place where the ‘labyrinth’ was built, to hold the terrible monster Minotaur – which was eventually slain by the legendary king, Theseus. Icarus is another famous mythical character associated with Crete; he was held captive there by Crete’s king, Minos, and escaped by flying away with feathers made from wax by his master-craftsman father. However, he became overconfident and (very famously) flew too close to the sun, melting the wax and falling into the sea to drown.

Historically, Crete was conquered by Rome in 69 BC following the lengthy series of Mithridatic Wars, and became a Roman province, clumped together with Cyrenaica[2] (an area in the modern-day east coast of Libya).

‘Know and Live the Truth’

We’ve chosen ‘Know and Live the Truth’ for our series tagline, since Paul repeatedly emphasises the truth and ‘soundness’ of the gospel, in contrast to the ‘lies’ of false worship in Crete. Note that in his introduction to the letter he explicitly writes, ‘God, who does not lie’. As Christians we must know the truth. But furthermore, Christians are to live out this truth; this truth leads to godliness. As we read the letter we find a repeated emphasis on ‘good works’, as a natural and essential consequence of knowing the true gospel.

This is how the ESV Study Bible sums it up:

The theme of Titus is the inseparable link between faith and practice, belief and behaviour. This truth is the basis for its critique of false teaching as well as its instruction in Christian living and qualifications for church leaders.

Titus at TCC

At TCC we know and delight in the fact that ‘all Scripture is…useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3.16-17). This is the case whether or not we can initially see clear points of connection to our current context. With this series in Titus, however, a number of themes are particularly pertinent to us in central Gateshead:

  1. Our conviction that the gospel shapes all of life. We are a ‘gospel-centred church’; we will see how Paul makes this clear in showing how receiving the grace of God in the gospel leads inseparably to godly living. Rather than ‘moving on’ from the gospel, the grace of God in the gospel continues to ‘train’ us for ongoing godliness (see 2.11-14).
  2. The current phase in our church plant of discerning, developing, and ordaining pastors. You cannot have a healthy church without healthy pastors!
  3. Our wider cultural backdrop is not dissimilar to Crete; a combination of reckless self-indulgence (paganism) on the one hand with dangerous false teaching (fake gospels) on the other. And yet in the midst of this, by the grace and power of God, healthy gospel-centred churches are being planted!

We will preach through Titus in six parts. Why not read through the whole letter a couple of times as we begin the series? Note the words and phrases that seem to crop up a lot. What does Paul really want to get across? Why? Note the things that seem surprising or confusing to you. You can then refer back to these notes on Sundays and during community group gatherings over the next six weeks.

[1] We are not told about this journey in the book of Acts, although it is quite clear from this letter to Titus that he had made this journey. The book of Acts is not an exhaustive account of Paul’s journeys, nor does it claim to be.

[2] This region took its name from its capital, Cyrene, from which various New Testament characters are mentioned – see e.g., Mark 15.21, Acts 2.10, 11.20, 13.1.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Introduction to 1 John

27 September 2015

Who, why, and when?

1 John was almost certainly written by Jesus’ close friend and follower, John (the apostle John). In fact, if you read the gospel of John alongside this series in 1 John you will notice plentiful links, similarities, and connections between the two books. It’s likely that John was writing to several churches across Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) sometime in the late 1st century. He states his purpose for writing clearly in the letter:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (5.13)

It appears from the letter that false teachers and false teaching about the gospel were causing Christians to have doubts about their salvation. For this reason, John opens the letter with a heavy emphasis on the truth of the Incarnation (where the ‘Word became flesh’, John 1.14), and his authority as an eyewitness of Jesus. Nearly all heresies through history have some roots in a denial of the true incarnation – either reducing the full humanity of Jesus, or the full deity of Jesus. John speaks as an authoritative witness to the physical incarnation of the Son of God in the flesh; Jesus of Nazareth. It is the person and work of Jesus that is this ‘word of life’, the non-negotiable core of orthodox Christianity.

What’s the letter about?

From this core of the true, historic Jesus and His work (in other words, the ‘gospel’), flow three essential tests of true Christianity. These weave throughout the letter. These are 1) the doctrinal test of true, orthodox belief centred on the person of Jesus; 2) the moral test shown in obedience to God’s commands and a desire for righteous living; and 3) the test of love shown primarily in love for our Christian brothers and sisters. We must realise that it is possible for someone to come to church, call themselves a Christian and yet not display these marks of true Christianity.

Thus, John’s purpose is to give Christians certainty (also known as ‘assurance’) of the life they have in Jesus (in contrast to their doubts raised by false teachers/teachings). Implicitly the letter also gives a challenging wake-up call to complacent ‘Christians’ to examine their life and doctrine, and to make sure that they really are in possession of what they claim: the word of life. For the Christian, when we are walking in sound doctrine, obedience to God, and love for one another we can not only be assured of our salvation, but know true joy from true fellowship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Note that 1 John fits in perfect harmony with the rest of the New Testament. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone; it is the person of Jesus Christ, and what He achieved in His life, death, and resurrection that saves us. We add nothing to it, and can only access all this by faith (this is a key argument in the books of Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians for instance). Yet, through trusting in Jesus, our faith ‘gives birth’ to a new way of life. True faith is demonstrated by its works. This is a key argument made in the book of James, as well as here in 1 John. Whilst James seems primarily written to wake Christians up from a false, lazy, double-minded Christianity, 1 John seems written to give assurance to Christians who were struggling with doubt and uncertainty. We look to faith in Jesus alone for our salvation; we look to the effects of our faith in our life for assurance of that salvation. 1 John is particularly about the latter.

You can follow along with our series in 1 John by going to the series page here.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Conference: Behold the Man!

11 March 2015

This post is about an upcoming conference. To go directly to the booking page, please click here.

We live in an exciting time. The gospel is running and being glorified all over the world – including Europe. As we point people to Jesus Christ – Behold the Man! – the gospel is planted, and as the gospel is planted, so churches are born. It was always thus, and will be until the Man from heaven comes to claim his rightful inheritance.

This conference in Nottingham, 21-22 April 2015, will inspire and unite us in the gospel. We will have church-planters, teams and churches from Ireland to Turkey, from Denmark to Italy. United by the gospel and passionate for seeing the gospel planted all over Europe. Keen to find out how local churches can enter into partnerships with other local churches in different European countries.

Plenary sessions from Darrin Patrick and Vaughan Roberts will challenge us to think biblically and culturally about the church-planting mission on European soil.

Two of our European church-planters will bring Europe’s rich and varied history in the gospel to bear on current practice and theology of church-planting.

Break-out sessions will bring the gospel to bear on the nuts and bolts of planting healthy churches : getting started, raising funds, managing your time, training leaders and planters, preaching, evangelism & apologetics, community and discipleship and more.

Breakout Sessions are listed below:

  • Starting from Scratch
  • A Week in the Life
  • Word and Community
  • Keep Going
  • Evangelism
  • Persuasive Evangelism
  • Islam in Europe
  • Islam in Turkey
  • Contextualisation in Post-Protestant Europe
  • Contextualisation in Post-Catholic Europe

Our resource-pack and tables will give everyone the chance to leave the conference with helpful material to get started or keep going in God’s mission strategy for the world.

Please note there is no lunch provided at the conference. Lunch can be purchased at one of the cafes near the venue.

If you’re travelling from Mainland Europe to the conference, there is a special reduced rate. For more information, please click here. Or click here to book.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

An Introduction to 1 Samuel

20 February 2015

What happens in 1 Samuel?

First Samuel basically tells the story of how Israel went from having no king to having a king. The events happen around 1050 BC.  In the first few chapters, we meet Hannah, a godly woman who becomes the mother of Samuel, and Eli, an elderly priest. Later on, Saul is anointed (by Samuel) as Israel’s first king. As Saul turns away from God, young David is appointed by Samuel to be the future king.  David later famously kills the giant Goliath.  He goes on to become the leader of Saul’s armies, which makes Saul increasingly jealous.  Before the book ends, things have gone from bad to worse for Saul, culminating in his death in battle, while things continue to get better and better for David.  The book ends on the cusp of David beginning to reign over the people of god.

What is the main message of the book?

The big idea of this book is that God honours those who honour Him. We see this in the life of Hannah who honours God in the midst of her suffering, and God blesses her with a baby boy. We see this in the ministry of Samuel as he honours God wholeheartedly and is used tremendously in the life and leadership of Israel. We see the principle that God honours those who honour him in the contrasting lives and leadership of both Saul and David.  Saul does not ultimately honour God and so, despite his privileges, has his kingship and life taken from him.  In contrast, David the shepherd boy honours God and God raises him up until he is the imminent king of Israel.  Therefore the key lesson for us today is simply, profoundly and certainly that God honours those who honour Him.

An overview of 1 Samuel: 

There are four main sections in the book.  Chapters 1-3 describe Samuel as a little boy and the context into which he is born and raised.  Chapters 4-7 see Samuel established as a judge over Israel.  Chapters 8 to 12 are the heart of the book, covering the transition from judgeship to kingship.  This section begins with the request for a king from the people and ends with Samuel’s long speech in which he hands over leadership of Israel to Saul.  The final section is the longest, from chapter 13 to 31, and covers Saul’s reign from its beginning to his death.  In this final section Saul progressively disintegrates whilst David progressively becomes stronger. Hannah’s song in chapter 2 is a richly theological passage, which summarises the essence of the books theology (Mary’s song in Luke chapter 1 echoes Hannah’s song).  In summary, Hannah’s song in chapter 2 and Samuel’s speech in chapter 12 are two key pillars of the theology of the book.  They can both be summarised in the phrase ‘God honours those who honour him’.

Read more in our 1 Samuel series booklet

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

What is Advent, and why celebrate it?

30 November 2014

Today is the first day of Advent. Please feel free to download and use our Advent Devotional in the run-up to Christmas.

What is Advent?

Since the 4th Century, Christians have been celebrating Advent to intentionally place their focus on the implications of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As all of the holiday hustle and bustle starts to set in, it’s far too easy to wake up on Christmas day thinking about everything but Jesus. Advent helps us fix our attention back on the One who matters most.

When we celebrate Advent, we re-live all of the longing and yearning for the coming of the Messiah that our ancestors in the faith experienced before us. We look back and remember the people of the Old Testament as they waited for the Saviour that God had promised through the prophets. Advent reminds us that God became an infant by sending His Son, Jesus, to the world to live the perfect life that we could not. Ultimately, Jesus came to redeem His people by dying on a cross, as our substitute, for our sin so that the wrath of God the Father would be completely satisfied, and we would be fully accepted. Jesus came and was born ultimately to go to a cross and die in the place of His people.

Advent also reminds us that one day, Jesus will return to the earth, not to suffer for sins again, but to bring us home to the Father and destroy His enemies. It’s during this season that we look forward to and anticipate Jesus’ second Advent where He will put an end to all pain, suffering, and death.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which simply means “coming” or “arrival.” But when we use the word Advent, we are referring to the long-awaited arrival of Jesus Christ, who entered our world as a crying infant 2,000 years ago. Followers of Jesus have celebrated His miraculous birth (and the anticipation of it) for centuries during the season of Advent, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.

In summary, this is why we celebrate Advent:

  1. To re-live the anticipation of the Old Testament saints
  2. To remember the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ
  3. To fix our eyes back on Jesus during the busy Christmas season
  4. To grow in passion and desire for the return of our Saviour

Our Advent Devotional has readings for each day and week of the Advent season.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.

Introduction to the Book of James (part 2)

28 November 2014

Over the next few months, we’ll be covering the book of James in our Sunday preaching and in our community groups (click here to follow along with Sunday sermons). This post, and the previous post, give a short introduction to James.

What is James about?

Although a short book, James is incredibly hard-hitting. We’ve summarised its message in this series as, ‘What real theology looks like’. In five short chapters, the following themes are particularly emphasised:

God

God is highlighted as generous, unchanging, perfectly good, and gracious. He is the one lawgiver and judge (4.12).

Eschatology

James has a sustained focus on the coming judgement. ‘The Judge is standing at the door’ (5.9) and as such James is keen to spur Christians on to holy living. At the same time, the ‘already’ reality of Jesus’ Kingdom is emphasised in tension with the ‘not yet’; 5.3, translated ‘in the last days’, emphasises that the last days have already dawned.

Faith, works and justification

James is perhaps most famous for its apparent contradiction with what Paul has to say about ‘justification’: Paul teaches that we are justified by faith, yet James seems to say that we are justified by ‘works’ (see 2.14-26). On the surface of things, it appears we have a total contradiction – and this is partly what has caused James sometimes to be viewed with suspicion. However, we will see that James’ aim is to ‘resolutely oppose any form of Christianity that drifts into a sterile, action-less “orthodoxy”. As important and necessary as is “right belief”, it is much less than true Christian belief if it is not accompanied by works’ (Douglas Moo). Moreover, the same word used by Paul and James has a crucially different meaning in each place: we are declared righteous (justified) by faith (as Paul affirms, e.g. in Romans 4), and we are also shown to be righteous (justified) by our works (as James affirms). Thus, there is no contradiction, but rather a glorious and incisive challenge made by James that ‘faith, apart from works, is dead’ (2.26).

The law

James is keen to help us have a right understanding of the place of God’s law in the Christian life. He says we must be ‘doers of the law’ (4.11) and maintains that ‘the whole law’ will be the standard of judgement (2.9-12), and failure to obey one part of it is to be guilty of all of it. He frequently uses the phrase, ‘the law of liberty’. James upholds the authority of the Old Testament law as fulfilled in Jesus’ teaching and work.

The Christian life

‘It is the condition of “doubleness”, man’s condition of being divided between his loyalty to God and the attractive lure of the world, that bothers James more than anything’ (Douglas Moo). It is this concern that links together so much of the letter, which might otherwise seem as though it is a fairly random collection of challenging sayings. Highlighting this ‘doubleness’, and showing how true theology is to be lived out in all areas, leads James to attend to speech, doubting, wealth, good works and faith, prayer, wisdom, and more.

Poverty and wealth

Biblical scholar Douglas Moo gives four helpful points of background to help us understand what James says about wealth and poverty, and our attitude towards them in the Christian life. Firstly, in the Old Testament, God has a particular concern for the poor and downtrodden; He is the ‘Father of the Fatherless and protector of widows’ (Psalm 68.5). Secondly, therefore God’s people must be concerned for the poor; one of the most frequent indictments against Israel in the Old Testament was that they had not cared for the poor (e.g. Amos 2.6-7). Thirdly, ‘the poor’ are often identified with the righteous, especially in the Psalms (see, e.g., Psalm 10); ‘economic lack and social persecution become closely related to religious piety’ (Douglas Moo). This leads to the fourth piece of background, namely that the wealthy are often identified with the wicked. In light of all these, James urges that care of the orphan and widow is ‘true religion’ (1.27) and warns of judgement to the rich (5.1-6), while calling Christians to wait for the Lord with patience for their deliverance (5.7-11). Note that James does not condemn the rich simply for being rich, but rather for the specific sins that they, in their wealth, are committing – including selfish hoarding (5.2-3), exploiting workers (5.4) and persecuting the righteous (5.6).

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.


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