Summary: Apostles, Pt. 2


Christianity is many things to many people. Some identify Christianity with the liberation theology and the social gospel of the 60s and 70s, when liberal priests and theologians fuse political activism with church doctrine, especially in the areas of social justice, poverty and human rights. These advocates were not beyond arming the oppressed to overthrow dictators, fight injustice and even topple governments.

Some associate Christianity with “positive thinking” of the 70s and 80s, the self-help model pioneered by Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Sin is a dirty word to them. Basically, Schuller defines sin as “a lack of self-esteem,” “a lack of faith,” “deep lack of trust,” or “anything that robs us of our “divine dignity.” (Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 14)

The 80s on were a fertile ground for prosperity gospel, otherwise known as the “Health and Wealth” or “Name It and Claim It” gospel, as preached by Jimmy Baker and Jimmy Swaggart in the 80s and Joel Osteen, the standard bearer in the 21st century. In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, and a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. 31% agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.

One of the most intriguing literary devices in Hebrew thought is to use parallelism. In English works, especially in poetry, it is pretty common to see the A, A1 rhyme or pattern in the next line. In Hebrew structure, however, it is common to see the structure of A, B, C followed by a reverse C1, B1, A1 structure. John 1:43-51 was written in the C1, B1, A1 structure to parallel to the previous story of Andrew. Andrew’s story begins with “Rabbi” (John 1:38) while Philip’s end with “Rabbi” (John 1:49). In the middle of two stories, Andrew and Philip say “Come and see” (John 1:39, 46). Andrew exclaimed at the end of the first story, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41) and Philip stated early in the second story, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law” (John 1:45).

Who is Jesus? What draws people to Him? Did He come to start a religion? Well, He was not the guru, rabbi, teacher or even religious founder the disciples initially had in mind.

Christianity is About the Revelation of God

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. (John 1:43-51)

The earliest telling of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” was to describe what religion was like to six different people. One of the six blind men touched the elephant’s side and described the elephant as a wall. Another stroked its tusk and said the elephant was like a spear. The third squeezed its trunk and swore it was a snake. The fourth pressed its legs and countered that the animal was like a tree. The fifth, who touched its ear, argued that it was like a fan. The last grabbed the tail and was very sure it was like a rope.

There is a crucial difference between Christianity and Buddhism, Islam and folk religions. Christianity is a revelation, not a religion. Religion is men seeking God, while Christianity is God seeking and finding men (Warfield). Men’s effort to seek and find God is an impossible task, because God is holy and man is sinful. Christianity is about revelation –God with us (Matt 1:23), the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). Through the centuries and generations man, to the best of his ability, made idols and images to express his understanding of God and chase after every glimmer or possible sighting of divinity in creation, but they are like blind leading the blind. Christianity is the “religion of revelation” and “the only revealed religion.” (“Christianity and Religion, Benjamin B. Warfield) It is about God making and taking the first step to disclose and declare Himself to man.

Bethsaida is a city in Galilee, on the NE coast of the Sea of Tiberias (John 1:44; 12:21) in the north. It was the home of Peter, Andrew and Philip, and a frequent resort of Jesus. On the other hand, Bethany (John 1:28), where Jesus was baptized previously, was a mile from Jerusalem in the south. One of Jesus’ objectives traveling north was to find Philip. Philip was a blessed apostle in more ways than one; he was the only apostle Jesus came to “find” (v 43).

Philip was most impressed with Jesus. Jesus had traveled from Bethany in the south to Galilee in the north, more than 100 miles, just to look for him. In those days they traveled the old-fashioned way - by foot or by donkey. The speedier horse was out of the question.

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