23 October 2020

Teaching and Healing

Ever since my first reading of the two books, I have struggled to believe that the author of Romans is the same Paul that wrote 1 Corinthians. The two books are different in tone, voice, and theology. Reading Romans, it is full of signs and "mysteries," to the point that it reads almost like a Gnostic text. Then there are portions that read more like 1 Corinthians with its well-reasoned arguments and appeals to the scripture. The books read as if they are written to two different denominations, as if Romans were written to a charismatic (Pentecostal, etc.) church while 1 Corinthians was written to a non-charismatic (Baptist, Church of Christ, Catholic, etc.) church.

Paul himself addresses this in 1 Corinthians 1:21-25. He states that "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom." This is perhaps the oldest division in the church. Are we prophetic or apostolic? Does God speak through prophets today or only through scripture? Are there other sources through which God speaks? Are there still miracles? How we answer these questions determines a lot about how we approach scripture, as well as how we structure our churches, and what we believe about Jesus, God, and the role of the church in the world.

In one statement, Paul neatly captures the source of the largest division in Christianity, from the First Century to this day. You might not know which side you align with: do you see the world as a wild chaos which is only sometimes tamed by God's miracles, blessings, and curses, or as a naturally ordered creation, full of both reason and wonder?

Some see this dividing line as being between the supernatural and science. One of the greatest joys, and hardships, of being a Christian, is that we can believe in both. Since we can believe in both, lets assume that we do and see how it affects our reading of scripture.

In Mark 1:14, Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming the Gospel, "repent and believe!" He then calls his first disciples and then goes to Capernaum to begin teaching and performing miracles (16-21). His first miracle is to cast out an unclean spirit (22-26). When the spirit leaves the man, the crowd that was gathered to hear Jesus teach says amongst themselves, "What is this? A new teaching? For with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him!" (27).

Jesus did not perform miracles separate from teaching. His miracles either supported his teaching, or were lessons themselves.

Next week, we'll look at some of these miracles in depth and see what teachings of Jesus we have perhaps neglected in our traditional separation of Jesus' words from his actions.

Until next week,
Peace be with you.

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