Luke Wilson | | General Articles, Early Church | 0 comments
2 November
Nov 2
2nd November 2018

Take a journey through the first 400 years of Church History in only 40 days! "40 Days with the Fathers" is a daily reading plan/devotional spread out over forty days; and over the course of this reading plan you will read extracts and commentary on 23 different early Church texts from a selection of some of the most influential Church Fathers, such as: Didache, Diognetus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, and Leo the Great. These people who came before us, those great men of faith, many of whom suffered persecution and martyrdom to preserve the Church and Christ's mission, bridge the gap between the Bible and the present day. They fill the void we sometimes wonder about when we get to the end of reading Acts or the Epistles and think, “what happened next?” or “what happened to the Ephesian church after Paul left?” — well now you can read for yourself and see how God continued to grow His Church! Revised Edition includes: a chronological timeline of the Early Church texts, a map displaying where the New Testament and early texts were written and sent, plus a map of Ignatius’ journey to martyrdom in Rome. As a small added bonus, at the end of each chapter there is now a "Notes" section so you can jot down any thoughts you have whilst doing your daily reading. Available Now From: Download a free sample chapter! Preview Photos      ...

| | Current Events, Missions | 0 comments
3 December
Dec 3
3rd December 2018

You've probably seen it in the news lately: John Chau, the American guy who tried to evangelise the secluded Sentinelese tribe off the coast of India. Much of the debate in secular media has centered around the grief of his friends and family; how he could have brought outside disease to the tribespeople and potentially killed them all (despite this not being their first contact with outsiders, with no known ill effect), or that he ventured there completely in ignorance with no preparation or wisdom — something which the missionary agency, All Nations, has recently debunked. But the question I want to look at is this: was Chau's mission total madness or is he a modern-day martyr? Well first, what is a martyr? The dictionary definition is simply: “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs”, and the word itself comes from ancient Greek meaning “witness”. For those who may be unfamiliar with the whole story (as much as we can see), John Chau had said since 2011 that he felt called by God to go and tell the good news of Jesus to the Sentinelese people. After many years of preparation, about two weeks ago in late November, he succeeded in getting to the remote island via a fishing boat (which was illegal to visit under normal circumstances). But after a few attempts at making contact, he is believed to have been killed. The fishermen saw some tribespeople dragging Chau’s body across the beach, so it has been assumed that he is dead – and no one knows any differently to date. So in the strictest sense as the definition above, he may not be a martyr as he wasn’t necessarily killed because of his beliefs, as the tribespeople couldn’t even understand his preaching, and on the face of it, it does seem like madness. In the broader sense of the word, I think it’s fair to call him a martyr, as that would be one who “sacrifices his or her life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause”. His cause was Christ, his principle was to spread the Gospel and he sacrificed his life for it. This was living out the message of Jesus to its fullest. Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. There are those who argue that he died purely because the islanders were hostile towards any who would try and step foot on their land, and his death had nothing to do with whatever purpose Chau went there with, therefore he wasn’t technically martyred. But if that is the case, then you could make the same point about many of the early Christian martyrs who were killed by the Romans. Sure, there were times of specific and targeted persecutions against the Church, but there was also times where persecution was more of a by-product of the Roman Empire’s hostility to those were disloyal to the Emperor. The men and women who were killed during those times were still seen and declared to be martyrs for the faith since they stood strong in their convictions in the face of death. For example in the early centuries, on pain of death, the people of the Roman Empire had to swear loyalty to the Emperor and publicly perform some act of worship and veneration towards him. This wasn’t an attempt to root out Christians necessarily, but they did refuse to partake due to their beliefs in worshipping God alone and not committing idolatry by performing an act of worship towards the reigning Caesar. As far as the Romans were concerned, the Christians were traitors and committed a treasonous act. It didn’t really matter why, only that they couldn’t be convinced otherwise and were killed for it to be an example to others. Were these early Christians martyrs or completely mad? How you answer that, I suspect, will inform you of how you view young John ...

| | General Articles, Sin | 0 comments
19 November
Nov 19
19th November 2018

Sin is like a mold on us, like a rotting, black skin disease. If only we could see it on us, we'd be disgusted and repulsed! Zombies are popular on TV etc. right now, think of the grossness of those images and realise that when we sin and keep sinning, that's what we end up looking like before God! We are living stones, together building up the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Cor 6:19). Think about that for a moment. Think of the splendor of Solomon's temple when it was built (re-read it again if you can’t remember: 1 Kings 6:14-36). We are that and SO much more! But now imagine it with mold and mildew and all that horrible black damp growing and spreading across the walls. Totally unbefitting of a holy temple for the Lord! You'd clean it up straight away if that happened in your home, but for some reason we just let it fester in the temple of God like it's no big deal. But what happens if it's left? It can destroy the wall with rot and become poisonous causing sickness. These days we can just buy some spray to squirt on the walls and wipe clean, but how did God command his people to deal with mold and mildew in the Old Testament? Leviticus 14:45He shall have the house torn down, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and taken outside the city to an unclean place. Pretty drastic, right? But it's a serious thing! And sin is an even more serious thing to God, much more than mold in a house, but if WE are that house and WE have that mold then how much more serious will God take that? How much more will God tear down our bodies in order to save us from the disease festering in our lives? Look at what Paul told the Corinthian church to do with a man living in sin: 1 Corinthians 5:5you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Did you catch that? They were to hand this person over to Satan! How? By putting them out of the church— excommunication, basically, so that the "rotten" one wouldn't infect the rest. 1 Corinthians 5:13God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.” Deuteronomy 17:7 So you shall purge the evil from your midst. God takes sin amongst his own people very seriously, as you can see from the verses above. And he will deal with us as he sees fit so that he can form and shape us into the image of his Son, Christ Jesus. That is the aim and purpose of our salvation (cf. Phil 2:5; Rom 12:2). As Irenaeus (and Athanasius) said: Jesus became what we are so that we might become what He is! In other words, we are to be renewed and transformed into the image of Christ so that, as Peter wrote, we “may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Remember, judgement begins with the house of God! (1 Peter 4:17). We aren't spared from God's judgement simply by being Christians; no, if anything we will be judged more! We represent Christ on earth (2 Cor 5:20), we should be doing good works in the power and name of Jesus for the glory of the Father. God will judge those works and our lives as Christians (Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10; Rom 2:13), which is a different kind of judgement to non-believers. Consider the following verses; God will judge and destroy any of those who destroy his temple! Are we exempt from that judgement simply by being that temple if we are still partaking in that destruction through our sin? 1 Corinthians 3:16-17Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. We can have hope though, if we are judged, because the Lord doesn't judge us without purpose or just to punish for the sake of it, but he does it for our own good and salvation; so that we are disciplined in order not to be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:32; cf. Rev 3:4-6) — sometimes that judgement includes ...

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13 November
Nov 13
13th November 2018

Free Early Church Resources I've created a few resources to aid with your studies or interest in the Early Church. The below maps are converted from the appendices in my book. I'll also soon add some hi-res versions as A3 poster size to purchase as well. Below the maps is an interactive chronological timeline of when the New Testament and Early Church texts were written. At the time of writing, I have covered most of the Ante-Nicene (pre-325 AD) period. Geographical Locations of Early Church Texts Approximate locations of where the NT and Ante-Nicene texts were written (or sent). Blue book icons represent the New Testament books, the red crosses are a selection of the Early Church Fathers texts. Zoom in and click on the icons for more details.   Journey of Ignatius to his Martyrdom The whole journey covers about 1524 miles (2454 km)! Blue pins are the known route that Ignatius took Green pins are where he stopped to write his epistles (zoom in and click the pins for info) Red pins are the conjectured route   Chronological Timeline of the New Testament and other Early Church Texts and Events A timeline of when the New Testament and other early Patristic works were written*, plus significant historical events which may have influenced certain writings. KEY:Orange = New TestamentDark Green = Apostolic Fathers (c.70 - c.150 AD)Light Green = Ante-Nicene Fathers (pre-325 AD)Light Orange = Post-Nicene FathersBlue = Significant Historical EventsBlack = Major Time PeriodsTeal = First Seven Ecumenical CouncilsRed = Widespread PersecutionsLight Red = Localised/Regional PersecutionsGrey = Disputed FactsYellow = Major Schisms * Much of the dating and research has been taken from the works of Schaff, Lightfoot, Harmer et al. Powered by Time.Graphics  ...

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11 October
Oct 11
11th October 2018

The Apostle's creed — what is it and why is it called that? Outside of the New Testament, this is one of the oldest creeds we have, dating back to the sixth – eighth century in its current form that is commonly known today, but having its origins much earlier — as far back as the second century in a shorter form known simply as the “Old Roman Creed”. The Apostles creed is also sometimes referred to as the “Rule of Faith” as it is a summary of the Gospel and is the basis for pretty much all modern theology. The points of the creed cover all the major pillars of the Christian faith which aims to safeguard what is true orthodoxy (right belief), which one must agree and adhere to in order to be counted amongst the Christians. Most often, the need for creeds arose in opposition to heresy so that the Church could point to what was historically taught by Christ and the Apostles to show what was ancient and true, as opposed to new and “novel” doctrines. The Old Roman Creed The text of the Old Roman Creed survives in a letter from a bishop Marcellus of Ancyra, which was sent to Julius, the bishop of Rome, dating back to around 340–360 AD where it was mainly used as a baptismal text in the Roman church. Roughly 50 years later, Tyrannius Rufinus (an Italian monk) wrote a commentary on this creed whilst translating it into Latin, where he made a note about the view and belief that this creed had been originally written or determined by the Apostles themselves shortly after Pentecost and before they left Jerusalem, hence the name this creed eventually came to be known as. I mentioned last week in my introductory post to this series, that there’s a handful of creedal statements within the New Testament, and one in particular in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is similar in structure to the Apostle’s Creed, though not necessarily in wording. Let's take a look at the Old Roman Creed and the Apostle’s Creed side by side to have a look at what developed and was expanded on later in time, and also to see the Apostolic link to this creedal statement from Scripture: Old Roman Creed The Apostle’s Creed Scripture I believe in God the Father almighty; I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; Genesis 1:1; Genesis 17:1; Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 40:28; and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord, And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Matthew 14:33; Matthew 16:16; Mark 3:11; Luke 1:32; John 1:34; John 1:49; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 1:5; 1 John 5:20; Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary, Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:34-35; Galatians 4:4 Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, Matthew 27:1-2; Matthew 27:24; Matthew 27:57-59; Mark 15:15; Acts 4:27; 1 Timothy 6:13   descended into the grave (Gk. hades), Acts 2:31; Ephesians 4:9; 1 Peter 3:18-20 on the third day rose again from the dead, on the third day rose again from the dead, Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-6; Luke 24:5-7; John 20:8-9; Acts 2:31; Ephesians 1:20 ascended into heaven, ascended to heaven, John 3:13; John 20:17; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9; Ephesians 4:8,10 sits at the right hand of the Father, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, Matthew 26:64; Mark 12:36; Mark 14:62; Mark 16:19; Luke 20:41-43; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:25; Acts 2:33-34; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22 whence he will come to judge the living and the dead; thence He will come to judge the living and the dead; Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5; Revelation 20:11 and in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, Matthew 3:1...

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29 September
Sep 29
29th September 2018

I’m starting a new four part series over the coming weeks which will be looking at the different historical creeds of the Church which have been recited, used and handed down for two millennia, beginning with the very first formal creed: the Apostles Creed. This series will be a mixture of historical background plus a commentary on the creed itself to see where each statement is based in Scripture, and why we can trust them to accurately portray the Faith. What are creeds and why should we accept them? The word “creed” comes from the Old English crēda, and from Latin crēdo meaning “I believe”. A creed is basically a set of beliefs which you profess; a statement of faith. Many non-creedal (or non-denominational) churches have a ‘statement of faith’ on their websites to highlight and specify where they stand on certain doctrines – which is essentially just stating their own type of creed instead of listing an ancient and historically accepted one. Even those who declare “no creed but Christ”, or “I just believe the Bible”, are ironically making a creed, albeit a short one with no solid definition. The Church has been declaring creeds for as long as it has existed, despite the sometimes common accusation that creeds are “unbiblical” or “non-biblical”; statements which couldn’t be further from the truth! Even in the Apostles time they were making statements of faith in short creedal formats, and a few of them are preserved in the New Testament, primarily in Paul's letters. One of the longer examples can be found in the first letter to the Corinthians, and has a similar form and wording to what came to be known as the Apostle’s Creed: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:that Christ died for our sinsaccording to the Scriptures,that He was buried,that He was raised on the third dayaccording to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas,then to the Twelve.Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;most of them are still alive,but some have fallen asleep.Then He appeared to James,then to all the apostles.Last of all, as to one abnormally born,He also appeared to me. That places this creed well within the first 20-30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection, and is thus one of the earliest examples of orthodoxy and eye-witness accounts we have, possibly pre-dating the writing of the New Testament itself. The way Paul begins this passage with the “I passed on what I received” formula shows that this was an already existing set of established beliefs which were passed onto him, and which he now passes onto the Corinthians. Paul wasn’t just making this up, or summarising what he believed – no, this was, and is, a great example of the faith of the Early Church most likely passed around as oral history, which was handed to them by the eye-witness Apostles themselves. These creeds were eventually used in the daily liturgy and worship of the Church as part of baptisms and hymns, and were also expected to be committed to memory by new converts to the faith. Another well-known example of what could be arguably a creed of sorts, is found in Galatians 3:28 which, upon further inspection, appears to contradict and oppose the more popular expressions and "blessings" that were used by Greeks and Jews of his day. Contrast Paul's wording to the Galatians... "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Apostle Paul, Gal 3:28) With that of the Greek and Jewish sayings: “There are three blessings for which I am grateful to fortune: First, that I was born a human being and not one of the brutes; Next, that I was born a man and not a woman; Thirdly, a Greek and not a barbarian” (A quote attributed to Socrates or Thales; Diogenes Laertius, Thales 1.33). “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not cr...

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