When Paul says that we are saved by “the faith of/in Jesus Christ,” what does he mean? Paul believed this faith was a faith that tore down walls, not a faith that built walls up. Paul believed this faith removed the demarcations that had divided the community, instead of being a faith that further splintered communities. This was not any faith, this was the faith of Jesus Christ – it is the Lord’s faithfulness that offers righteousness and claims us as God’s children.
The English language often fails to speak to the breadth and depth of the original Biblical languages. A deeper look at the Greek and Hebrew makes very clear: the Biblical Word is not Lord; the Bishop is not the Lord; the Church is not the Lord; Jesus Christ is Lord.
It’s time we stop using the Biblical Word to exclude people who have been called – gifted, inspirited, and empowered – to serve God. Though the English translation has been used to silence women in the church, a quick study of the Biblical text shows that God has always called women to lead the faithful. We cannot hide behind faulty translations; we must proclaim the good news of great joy in Jesus Christ, that all people are called, empowered with wisdom, and instructed to be found mature in the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul had a specific focus in his teaching, and it wasn’t covenantal, faithful, sacred, and permanent relationships between two people of any gender … it was acts that abused, broke covenant, and forced unfaithful, non-sacred, adulterous sexual acts on others. To claim the Biblical truth, we must look to the historic text, and claim a more faithful, long-standing, and traditional understanding of Paul’s teaching.
The Biblical witness can not be summed up by any one passage of the scriptural text. When passages are cherry picked, it most often leads to a watered down gospel or failed truth that does not stand the test of the Gospel on the whole. How we treat the word “slave” is a key example.
This nuances of the Greek language are important. When we read 2 Thessalonians 3 to be speaking of “idleness,” as in “not-working,” it makes space for poor Christian euphemisms such as, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s not what the text is saying. A deeper reading is necessary for a faithful understanding.
2 Thessalonians is written to remind us of what matters most: that we hear the words of Christ, that we follow the teachings of the Lord, that we share God’s love with everyone around us, and that we rejoice in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for each of us.
To understand Paul’s writings, you have to understand the art of letter writing. Paul wasn’t writing a collection of instruction books for the whole of Christianity, he was writing as an apostolic leader to communities of faith he planted. How we understand his writings will be wholly dependent on how we understand why he wrote.
“We’ve always done it that way” is one of the least faithful responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit gifts us for far greater freedom than being slaves to our past. There is a more faithful way.
We need to rethink our usage of the word “evangelical.” Evangelism doesn’t require that we tell others how sinful their lives are. Evangelism stems, from a Biblical perspective, from acknowledging that in Christ we are a new creation, and are, as such, gifted with the ability to see others through God’s lenses.