By Timothy Sparks
Some are trying to operate as though they were scattered due to COVID-19 and telling people they can worship in small groups and remain part of the congregation from which they were scattered, however long that might be until they can come together again as the same congregation. Notice there is no biblical example or pattern for such teaching. We actually find a completely different pattern in Scripture:
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
Congregations were formed in places like Judea and Samaria, as is apparent in our next passage:
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
It is clear that those who were scattered from Jerusalem were no longer members of the church at Jerusalem. They became members of other congregations. They assembled to worship together as a congregation, not as a small group that was somehow still part of the church at Jerusalem.
Notice another passage, where we see the same pattern of (1) being scattered, (2) the gospel being preached and (3) a congregation being formed, which was not part of the church in Jerusalem:
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
By Timothy Sparks
Jesus replies to “It is not profitable to marry” (Mt. 19:10). Not everyone can receive Jesus’ difficult teaching about no divorce of a God-joined union (Mt. 19:6-9). Those who contemplate marriage must do so knowing that marriage is for life. Some of the disciples thought it would then be unprofitable to marry. Jesus says there are three categories of those who can abstain from marriage: those born with a physical defect, those castrated unwillingly and those who willingly practice extreme self-control for the kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 19:10-12).
QUESTION by R.: Who baptized John the baptizer?
ANSWER by Timothy:
I do not recall anywhere in the 1,189 chapters of the Bible that we are told who may have baptized John the baptizer.
QUESTION by R.: The thief was not baptized, so why was Yehoshua and all those who the apostles baptized if the old law was still active? The only ones that were baptized previously were proselytes and John was not one, he was a Jew.
ANSWER by Timothy:
Many assume the penitent thief on the cross had not been previously immersed, but he may have been as he may have been previously commanded to do so: “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mk. 1:4-5).
We simply are not told whether or not the penitent thief was immersed. However, we do know that Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins (Mk. 2:10) and that Jesus was able to pardon him (Lk. 23:43).
It is clear that some rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been immersed by John (Lk. 7:30).
What seems to be important for us today is that under “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2), among other things which Scripture says saves, “immersion also now saves us” (1 Pet. 3:21). Both Jews (Acts 2:38-41) and Gentiles (Acts 10:48) are immersed into Christ to clothe themselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27).
Hope this helps in your search of the Scriptures.
By Timothy Sparks
God as “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25), commands humans to repent or they will be lost (Lk. 13:3, 5). God, being God, can and does dictate that to receive his forgiveness of our sins, humans must repent. God’s forgiveness is conditional. We will receive his forgiveness only if we repent of our sins. God alone has the power to forgive sins (Mk. 2:7, 10). Humans can forgive wrongs committed against them.
Some believe what is true of God’s forgiveness of our sins is also true for us individually. That is, a person who has wronged me must repent in order to receive my forgiveness of the wrong committed. Does God teach us to have this kind of forgiveness? Which kind does God teach: conditional or unconditional forgiveness?
Some believe, based on Lk. 17:3, that when we are wronged, we either cannot forgive or do not have to forgive unless a person repents. Concerning Lk. 17:3, the negative inference fallacy would be to assume: “If he does not repent do not forgive him!” Please see the following research on the negative inference fallacy and address of Lk. 17:3, https://timothysparks.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/negative-inference-fallacy.pdf.
Please consider that the Greek word ἀφίημι (aphíēmi) translated “forgive,” means “to send away, leave alone, let go.” We do have the ability to let go of a situation and leave it alone, even if the offender does not repent. Hard, yes. Impossible, no.
Notice God’s teaching concerning forgiveness (Scriptures taken from NKJV, unless otherwise noted):
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt. 6:12).
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt. 6:14-15).
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'” (Mt. 18:21-22; other translations, “77 times”).
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Mt. 18:35).
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mk. 11:25-26).
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk. 6:37).
“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Lk. 11:4).
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:3-4).
Love “thinks no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5) [Footnote: “keeps no accounts of evil”]. Also note the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC): “it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].”
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:12-13).
Scriptures Compiled by Timothy Sparks
Radical Evangelism—The First Century Way—Meeting People Where They Are
(As Opposed to Inviting People to Come to Us)
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Mt. 4:23).
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt. 9:35).
“Now when he had departed from there, he went into their synagogue” (Mt. 12:9).
“When he had come to his own country, he taught them in their synagogue . . .” (Mt. 13:54).
“Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk. 1:21).
“But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.’ And he was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee . . .” (Mk. 1:38-39).
“And he entered the synagogue again” (Mk. 3:1).
“And when the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue” (Mk. 6:2).
“And he taught in their synagogues . . .” (Lk. 4:15).
“. . . . And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day . . .” (Lk. 4:16).
“And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee” (Lk. 4:44).
“Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that he entered the synagogue and taught” (Lk. 6:6).
“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath” (Lk. 13:10).
“These things he said in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum” (Jn. 6:59).
“Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing’” (Jn. 18:20).
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house…” (Acts 2:46).
“But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’ And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught” (Acts 5:19-21a)
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
“Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues . . .” (Acts 9:20).
“And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant” (Acts 13:5).
“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down” (Acts 13:14).
“Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed” (Acts 14:1).
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
By Timothy Sparks
Notice the text (NKJV):
1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them [b]to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
We ask the question, “Did Jesus use food as a hook to attract people to the gospel?” Interestingly, John tells us, “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased” (Jn. 6:2). Jesus was not using food to attract the crowd to hear the gospel. Rather, Jesus performed signs for people to hear and obey the gospel that they might have eternal life. Jesus did not feed them to attract them—they were already following him “because they saw His signs which He performed . . .”
According to the text, the feeding of these thousands was not about attracting people to a teaching opportunity, nor simply about filling their stomachs. The purpose of miraculously feeding so many accomplished yet another sign: “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (Jn. 6:14). The sign accomplished its purpose of creating belief in Jesus as God’s messenger, with God’s message, that they would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, they may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31).
What does ὀρθοτομέω (orthotoméō) “rightly dividing” or “correctly handling” (2 Tim. 2:15) mean?
McFall notes, “When the writings of the New Testament were first written down the writers followed the normal conventions which meant that Paul’s epistles (and the Greek Old Testament) were written down in capital letters (uncial script) with no spaces between the words, which throws light on Paul’s expression ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15). The Greek verb means ‘to make a straight cut, to dissect’. The difficulty of knowing just where to divide continuous text can be illustrated in the English sentence: HESAWABUNDANCEONTHETABLE. This can be divided up to read: HE SAW ABUNDANCE ON THE TABLE, or, HE SAW A BUN DANCE ON THE TABLE. Only the context will decide which of these two divisions is correct. There were plenty in Paul’s day who did not rightly divide the text into its proper words, and created mischief for him. A continuous Greek uncial text of the NT was published by The Concordant Pub. Concern (1926, 1930, 1955, 1977) called Concordant Version. The Sacred Scriptures, with an interlinear English translation” (McFall, https://www.headcoveringmovement.com/Dr-Leslie-McFall-Good-Order-In-The-Church.pdf, p. 508, n. 1002).