St. Irenaeus Ministries (podcasts)
Scripture Studies brought to you by the St. Irenaeus Center.
St. Irenaeus Ministries - a center of orthodox Catholic mission and renewal in Rochester, NY

It may be tempting to be proud of the gifts that God has given us, especially if they are striking gifts, like the gift of prophecy, but we have all been given gifts and these gifts do not make us great, but rather reflect back on God who has given them to us. These gifts must be administered with virtue.

Paul gives a list of things that Christians must do, among them to hate evil, love good, and to repay evil with good. If you do that, those who do evil against you will either bring distress upon themselves or take the first steps to becoming converted to a Christian viewpoint.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans11b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:39am EST

Paul asks us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Some religions claim that the body is evil and thus that we should be ascetics. Others claim that since our bodies are not of any consequence, we should be free to do whatever we want with them.

Christianity tells us that this is wrong, and that since God has created our bodies good, they are good, and we must not defile those bodies by committing evil acts with them.Our bodies will rise again, as perfected bodies, on the last day. Thus, we should present our bodies as a sacrifice, not dead, like the sacrifices at the temple, but alive.

The bodies we have are to perform specific functions, as well. We cannot be jealous of the other members, but be humble and accept the gifts that we have been given for the common good.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans11a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:42pm EST

God foreknew some of us who would be saved. These are people who are granted salvation through God's grace, not through any other means. Paul declares that he is an apostle to the Gentiles and that he magnifies his ministry in order to stir his fellow Jews jealous and thus to save some of them. Some of the chosen people were broken off because of their unbelief, but Gentiles should also be concerned, since they are an artificial graft onto the branch of Israel, while Israel naturally belong that branch. All Israel will be saved, and those who do not persist in their unbelief will be grafted in.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans10b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:48am EST

So has God rejected His people? No, God has used a people (or rather, a group who are no people) to provoke them to jealousy. The Psalms declare that God will not abandon His people. Paul notes that God had preserved a remnant in Elijah's time, and God is doing that at the time of Paul's writing. These people are not chosen by their achievements, but rather by the grace of God. There are some who refuse to knowingly reject Christ, and are satisfied that He was put to death. Those have hardened their hearts, and they are not part of the elect. It is so for every age, where some are tempted to falsely believe that they are not prone to the same sorts of errors in judgment as their ancestors.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans10a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:04am EST

People cannot know Christ unless men are sent to preach His gospel to them. This must convict us to proclaim the Gospel to the world. Mission cannot exist without striving to convert the people. God says in Torah that He will stir Israel, a foolish nation up to jealousy to those who are not a nation, and in Isaiah, God says that He will be found by those who did not seek Him. They have heard His Gospel, and for those who have not accepted Him, God has forged a new nation out of the Gentiles. We must take care to not fail to take up His mission. The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans09b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:09am EST

Paul's desire is for all to be saved, both Jew and Gentile. This would not seem to have been accomplished, since there were many who tried to kill him when he returned to Jerusalem. Paul tells us that the Jews were not reckoned the promised land for their own righteousness, but that this righteousness comes from God. Paul also reminds us that Moses has petitioned for the Hebrews, asking God to have mercy despite their sinful ways. When you combine this with the fact that the prophets tell us that everyone who calls upon the name of God will be saved, it is clear that salvation is being offered to all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans09a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:27am EST

God has allowed some people throughout history to become vessels of wrath so as to make examples out of them, as He did with Pharaoh. Even in such cases, however, God does not make such a person commit evil: it is still his own choice. It is for this reason that God still finds fault in such people, and why we cannot blame our behavior on our being unable to resist His will. The reason for this is beyond our understanding, but it is something that we can see evidence for from the time of Isaiah.

Direct download: Romans08b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:06am EST

Paul is troubled by the fact that the Jews have not come to Christ, and he says that if it were possible, he would cut himself off from Christ to save all of them. To the Jews belong sonship of God, still to this date. The covenants and the law belong to them as well. The lineage of Christ by the flesh comes from the Jews.

Paul looks a little more closely at the lineage, and notes that there is more to it than simply birthright, and that some descendants of Abraham are not part of the Jewish people, and thus to parse the promise that way could lead to some troubling implications for the Jews.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans08a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:00am EST

After you have entered into life in Christ, returning to the life of flesh will only result in condemnation. Even though our bodies are dead, our spirits will remain alive, and the body will arise on the last day. We have become heirs to God, provided that we suffer with Him.

Flesh is subject to decay, but this decay shows us that there is something coming, something greater that will show the glory of the undecayed world. Without something to show us what hope will bring, there would be reason to hope.

God has provided for those he has called, and will conform them to the image of His Son, and since we are being provided for by God, we have nothing to worry about, if we allow ourselves to be conformed, and no thing could possibly separate us from the love of God.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans07b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:40pm EST

If we are in Christ, then we cannot be subject to condemnation, since Christ's death had taken on all that we could be condemned for. To say otherwise would mean that Christ's death was not effective. Jesus took on the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, the appearance of Christ's flesh was that of the flesh of sinful men. Paul points out that what is in the flesh is opposed to God, and that Christians are now in the spirit, not in the flesh, or else we could not please God. If we do not set our minds on the spirit, but rather, on the flesh, we will reap corruption, not eternal life.

God knows what we are capable of, but He tempers us and tests us so that we may be refined to become what we are.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans07a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:13am EST

Grace is just another name for the Holy Spirit. When we live under grace, our lives are transformed by Him, and we must not be idle, but rather keep embracing Him and bringing grace into our lives.

Paul laments the fact that he is still in the flesh, sold into slavery to sin. As such, Paul still does things that he does not want to do. No good comes from the flesh, but bad things come from the flesh. We are, in a sense, dragged along by sin, and yet we choose to do these things we abhor. As long as we choose not to be commanded by grace, we are in that state. None can rescue us from that state, but Jesus Christ.

Paul ends chapter seven by saying that he's mentally a slave to Christ, but physically a slave to the law of sin. This cannot be taken to be an excuse to seek anything short of perfection, since Paul tells us that we must reject the ways of the flesh.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans06b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:21am EST

Paul says that Christians can expect to triumph over sin, but that it remains possible that some may still sin, but some may incorrectly interpret this that Christians will never sin, or never be tempted to sin, or conversely, that no one can ever triumph over sin. Paul is joined by I John in this assertion.

Our original sin was completely destroyed in baptism, and we are no longer enslaved to sin, but we are all tempted, even Christ. We are given a spirit of love and discipline to resist this, and we must use that grace to strengthen ourselves.

We are bound by the law in this life, but not after death, as a woman may remarry after the death of her husband. The law was thus written not to save, but rather for sinners to understand why they were subject to death. Our master is no longer the law, but our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we were under the law, our sinful passions were aroused by the law. The law, as taskmaster, has brought us to Christ, but now that Christ has come, that part of the law has passed away. This does not make the law sin, for without sin, we would not have known what sin is.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans06a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:14am EST

Paul tells us that the Christian ought no longer to be slave to sin, which is a very powerful statement indeed. Since Jesus died one for all and died to sin once for all, we, too are to be like Christ and put to death the sinful parts of ourselves, and not a wasting death, but a final, decisive excision. This does not relieve us of the burden of temptation, but God gives us the grace to reject sin, if we act on it.

We are no longer under the law, but under grace, but we still have the duty to avoid sin, since we become slaves of whatever we obey, whether that be righteousness or sin. We had been free from righteousness, but now that we are slaves of righteousness, we receive the grace of sanctification, and avoid the wages of sin, which is death.

We need God's gift of faith before we can begin on this journey.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans05b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:24am EST

Chapter 6 of Romans starts a new section in Romans, dealing with the necessity of using our faith to be conformed to the Lord's will. We must thus strive for holiness, apart from which no man will see God. We must increase in love to establish ourselves unblameable before God and make holiness perfect in the fear of God. Paul thus makes it clear that our souls must grow or else we cannot be doing God's will.

Some have chosen to selectively quote the first five chapters to mean that works are not necessary to life in Christ, but the rest of the Bible tells us that this is wrong. Works of the law do not justify us, but works of faith are essential. James rails against this belief, telling us that faith is not of any worth if it isn't evidenced by works. James calls that dead, in fact. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are made to do good works. We are certainly saved by grace alone, but we are given a faith that works through love.

Some misinterpreted the statement that where sin increased, grace increases all the more that we should sin to increase grace. Paul denies this, since we have died to sin, and sin should be antithetical to our existence. Our sinful selves died with Christ, and we must not go back to that state.

Not only did we die with Christ, but we were buried with Him in our baptism, a sort of miraculous circumcision of the heart, but made without hands. This baptism puts certain obligations on us, as well.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans05a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:33am EST

Sin entered the world through Adam, and we know this because all men sin. Our flawed nature is a consequence of that sin. Sin existed before the law, and although sin is not counted where there is no Law, that does not mean that we do not have any guilt for that sin. Indeed, the Law came to increase the trespass of the sin that already existed. Cain, for example, remained culpable for his actions and the Flood came as a consequence for sin.

Some may not recognize that their sin is sin against God, and those people do not have the same sense of sin as Adam, but they are culpable nonetheless. Adam's sin was especially heinous, since he knew in a very unique way what he was doing through that sin. Yet sin continued through people who did not know sin in the same way.

Jesus is also one man, but instead of condemnation, this new man brings the grace of God. By one man's disobedience, all men became sinners, but now, through one man's obedience, all men become righteous. Even so, we must be at peace with God to accept the grace that God is offering us.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans04b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:51pm EST

Paul continues explaining that we are justified by faith, or as the council of Trent describes, by God's grace. Not only do we need God's grace, but without it, we cannot even grope after God, and that we must use our free will to accept or reject that grace.

This grace puts us at peace with God. Since sin is a natural tension with an all-holy God, this grace puts us at peace with Him. This should give us hope, and we should exult in our hope, but also in our sufferings. Our sufferings produce endurance, through that, character, and through that, an even greater hope.

Finally, this justification through faith gives us fruit of love. God has shown his love in that He died for us while we were still sinners. If only we will allow God to love us, we will allow ourselves to be at peace with God.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans04a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:52pm EST

Paul shows us that Abraham was not justified by his works, since his faith was not earned, but rather reckoned to him, and since we are not reckoned what we are owed, this could not have been something that was owed to Abraham. Moreover, the sacrificial system is not really a way to earn any salvation, since the remission is only a gift from God and not something earned.

Abraham's faith was not a naive faith, either. Hebrews tells us that Abraham knew that since God's promise was to come through Isaac, and that God would have to raise Isaac to fulfill the promise.

Abraham's faith was reckoned to him before his circumcision, which was a seal of the covenant, and thus he is an example of faith for both the Jew and the Gentile. Just as Abraham's faith was reckoned to him, so will it be reckoned to us if we believe.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans03b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:24am EST

Paul tells us that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, apart from the Law. This is a recurring theme in Romans. All have sinned, and all require Christ's salvation. God gives us this redemption as a gift, and we are justified through faith, apart from works under the Law.

This cannot be used to support overthrowing the Law, as Paul states here and elsewhere in Romans. We are no longer under the bondage of the Law, but we are still obliged to be holy, for God is holy.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans03a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:13am EST

Paul tells Jewish Christians that if they think that they are righteous by the Law, they must follow the Law, otherwise the gain they boast in is actually judgment against them.

This is not just a litany of prohibited acts, either. The Law must penetrate into the hearts of those who profess it, as well, and it is precisely this circumcision of the heart that Christians are bound to through Baptism.

For those who do not follow the Law they claim to be heirs of, their circumcision becomes uncircumcision, and it is because of such people that the name of God is blasphemed. Those who loudly condemn certain acts and then commit the same acts cause others to see the faith as a trivial thing and invite such blasphemy. This, however, does not mean that Jewish Christianity is without merits.

Paul tells us that there are some who claim that Christians desire evil so that good may come. This philosophy is condemned, as when we sin, we sin against God and God alone, and all sin offends God. Likewise, we cannot do good works to compensate for our sinfulness, but neither can we deny the fact that God has given us the ability to do good works as a way to lead us back to Him, and we cannot abandon our obligation to do His will.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans02b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:53am EST

Paul reminds us not to judge others, since we are doing the same things, i.e. sin, even simply by savoring the thought of sin in the heart. This way of thinking may be indicative of a belief that we will somehow escape God's judgment. Those who do such things are storing up wrath in Heaven.

God's judgment will come to both the Jew and the Greek, so none will be spared because God shows no partiality. The fact that some have not yet been punished is evidence of God's forbearance and kindness that He is giving us time to repent.

Those who simply refrain from immorality are not necessarily thereby holy, and while those who follow the law will be judged by the Law, those who do not have the Law (Gentiles) will still be judged by the law written on their hearts. The sins committed in the heart will be made plain by the Judgment.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans02a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:32am EST

Paul thanks God that the Church in Rome is spoken of highly, and prays that he might come to visit them so that he can strengthen their faith, and they can strengthen his. Though he has not been able to get to Rome, yet, Paul has taken this time to preach to the Greeks, the non-Greeks, the Jews and the Gentiles. Salvation, Paul says, is to "every one who has faith."

Paul reminds us that it is written that "He who through faith is righteous shall live," meaning that God's will is made manifest through faith, as His will directs the actions of those who have faith. Those who do not have faith will incur the wrath of God. This wrath is not a petulant whim, but rather the natural tension that exists between God, who holds out life, and one who would reject it. Man has been turning away from God since the Creation, but man has always known through natural law that God exists, so he has no excuse.

We can also see from natural law that there are certain acts, namely homosexual acts, that are evidence that men have turned away from the natural order. The men of Sodom were particularly known for this act, though some in recent years have made the sin out to be inhospitality or some other sin. The act is what Paul says is sinful here, not the inclination. Paul is not focused on sexual sins, and continues to give other sins that may debase the mind.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans01b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:35am EST

Paul's epistle to the Romans was written in 35AD from Corinth to the Church in Rome, a group that Paul had not visited at the time he wrote the letter. Paul was returning to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey and viewed Rome as a necessary base through which he could extend his ministry further to the west. Rome was a well-established church at the time, and may have been the cause of agitation over "Chrestus" that Suetonius mentions. Paul was not going to build a church on top of the existing Church there.

Paul intended to send the letter as a contribution to the Romans before going up to Rome himself. To this end, he talks about his mission to the Gentiles and the pitfalls of antinomianism, which is opposed to Paul's explanation of the obedience of faith, and legalism. Romans also was an important text the interpretation of which led the Protestant faiths to break away.

Paul begins by calling himself a slave of Christ, and this implies a certain authority for Paul. Paul also calls himself an apostle, a word used to signify the twelve and also anyone sent on a missionary journey. Paul can claim to have an authority similar to that of Peter, though his mission was to the Gentiles while Peter's was to the Jews, so both would apply to him.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Romans01a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:52pm EST

Not all scriptural resources will be accurate, and we must take care to study them prayerfully to determine their accuracy. An example of this is the use of the word ''friend'' in Matthew. Some sources claim that this is a kind term, but its use would indicate that it is more civil than truly kind. Similarly, the term ''evil eye'' is a term used in reference to jealousy within the Church, and not particularly to witchcraft.

We must also make sure to not view the Scriptures legalistically, since legalism cannot be the foundation of a religion.

Finally, we must be sure to weigh the Great Commission appropriately. It instructs us to instruct our children in the ways of the faith, and we must take care to obey this command.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew9b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:45am EST

The civil and religious authorities have asked to seal off Jesus' tomb because He has promised to rise from the dead. The fact that the authorities recognized this but not the disciples gives some indication as to how much of a shock the events must have been.

The women take on a major role as they return to anoint Jesus' body. Upon arrival, an angel appears telling the women that Jesus is no longer in the tomb, and that the women must tell the disciples that He will meet them at the appointed place in Galilee.

In Galilee, the disciples meet Jesus on a mountain, and worship Him, but some doubt (the word here also means to hesitate). Jesus comes out to meet them and gives them the Great Commission, telling His disciples to make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in the Trinitarian formula of Father Son and Holy Spirit, and to observe all that He has commanded.

The Gospel of Matthew was probably not conceived as a manual for converts, and the organization of the book suggests that a main theme was the progression of Jesus' teachings and how increasing tensions affected His ministry. This does not preclude reading Matthew as such a manual.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew9a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:01am EST

Jesus leaves His disciples after the Last Supper and goes to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. This must have been the most stressful time for any human, since He knew the pain which He was about to endure and He knew that He could avoid it, simply by dropping you and refusing to die on the cross. The disciples, exhausted by the events of the day and drained from the heavy conversation, fall asleep and Jesus chastises them for doing so.

Judas returns with a group of people and gives them a prearranged sign by kissing Jesus. The men arrest Jesus, but Peter draws his sword and attacks the slave of the high priest, cutting off the ear. Jesus immediately stops him and heals the ear, suggesting that we are not the ones to police the Kingdom of God. The soldiers take this opportunity to avoid a riot and they get Jesus and get out.

Jesus is taken to the chief priests, and He refuses to speak, knowing that there would be no benefit. The priests then demand He speak, and when He does, the high priest tore his garment. They mock Jesus and send Him to Pilate, who had the authority to sentence someone to death.

During this time, Peter denies Jesus three times and Judas, remorseful and despairing, commits suicide.

Pilate, no friend of the Jews, initially doesn't want to kill Jesus, but fearing a riot, lets the crowd do what they want. Jesus dies, and various miracles occur, including the bodies of the dead being raised and the sanctuary veil being torn in two. This causes one of the witnesses to declare that Jesus truly was the Son of God.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew8b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:46am EST

Jesus tells His disciples that the temple will be destroyed and speaks in stark language about the coming times in the Olivet discourse. His disciples don't fully understand what Jesus is saying, and expect that these events will come quickly. The chief priests and elders, also hearing the things that Jesus is saying, decide that they must arrest Jesus and kill Him. Jesus, knowing this in advance, prepares His disciples for the coming time.

At some point, either on Saturday, Wednesday or possibly both, Jesus is anointed with oil, and His disciples question this. Jesus explains that this is a good deed, and has prepared His body for burial. Judas is particularly upset by this and goes to the chief priests asking for money to turn Jesus over to them. He is offered thirty pieces, which recalls the 11th chapter of Zechariah.

Jesus and the apostles then go to the Passover meal. The Messiah was expected to be revealed at the passover, whence the origin of the cup for Elijah, and Jesus does indeed reveal Himself at this point, in the breaking of a portion of matzoh that has been hidden from the beginning of the meal. Judas was not present at this end of the meal, having ostensibly left for supplies sometime after Jesus identified him as the betrayer.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew8a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:44am EST

Christ calls the Pharisees a "Brood of vipers!"; the lament over Jerusalem; glory departing; The Olivet Discourse and the end of the age; wise and foolish virgins; the talents; separating the sheep from the goats.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew7b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:36am EST

In Jerusalem, Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees, who send their disciples and some Herodians to see Jesus. These disciples ask Jesus if it lawful to pay taxes in an attempt to ensnare Jesus, knowing that He will lose popular support if He pulls His punches and favors taxes and that the Herodians will take offense if He does not. Jesus tells them that civil authority has its place, but that the affairs of God take precedence.

The Sadducees later confronted Jesus on the matter of the Resurrection of the Body, which is strongly expounded in the New Testament. They present an implausible case of a woman who is widowed seven times and remains childless. Whose wife would she be in the Resurrection? Jesus tells them that there is no marriage in Heaven and that the Resurrection must be accurate, since God is the God of the living, and those who have died are still described in the present tense in the book of Exodus.

The Pharisees send in another to challenge Jesus: what commandment is greatest? Jesus responds that the first is ''You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,'' and the second is ''You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'' The implication is that you cannot love God unless you love your neighbor. Both of these are part of the Jewish tradition, but after this, the two are very commonly linked.

Jesus then asks the Pharisees whose son the Messiah is. When they answer that he is David's son, Jesus asks them why David calls the Messiah ''Lord'' if a father would not call his son "Lord." The Pharisees leave and do not dare to ask Jesus any more questions.

Jesus then speaks out against those who would claim titles like rabbi, teacher, or father for themselves. Some of these people lay burdens on others but do not act to move their own burdens. These have turned the law into a system of punishment, turned the things of devotion to God into things of ostentation, and turned gifts of God into personal aggrandizement. This is a strong argument against a certain type of clericalism, but it should not be considered the end of clerics. Indeed, there are clear examples of teachers and fathers in the Scriptures. Instead, all the teaching is the teaching of God and should be identified as such.

Jesus then lists several woes for the Pharisees. The Pharisees are locking people out of Heaven, stop others from going into Heaven, and the converts that they attract are twice the children of Hell than the Pharisees. Those who swear oaths liberally will be held liable to God. Those who obey the minutiae of the law or purify the visible but ignore the weightier matters or fail to purify the inner structures are ignoring what is truly important.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew7a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:21am EST

When Jesus is preparing to go to Jerusalem, the mother of James and John asks Him to appoint her sons to prestigious positions in the kingdom. Jesus responds that this is not His to give, but only from the Father. He then goes on to say that those who want to be great should aspire to serve others.

Jesus then goes up to Jerusalem, meeting large crowds making a pilgrimage for the Passover. Along the way, He heals two blind men who recognize Him as the Son of David, a messianic title. This recognition becomes even more vivid as He comes into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people rush out to greet Him as a prophet, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.

After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus drives out the money changers from the temple, and even continues His healings during this time, which leaves the scribes and priests indignant. Then we see a living parable of Jesus' power of judgment when Jesus curses a fig tree, which withers instantly. When the people ask by what authority Jesus does these things, He asks them what authority John the Baptist baptized. When they refuse to answer Jesus, Jesus refuses to answer them. Jesus continues by giving several parables about who will be chosen in the time to come, and the Pharisees, sensing that Jesus was talking about them, plot a way to entrap Him in what He says.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew6b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:06am EST

Jesus is asked again about marriage and divorce. He says that when two are married, they become one flesh, and incapable of separation. This is a difficult teaching and Moses allowed divorce because the people were hard-hearted. Jesus then goes on to say that there are men who are eunuchs from birth, who are made eunuchs by others, and who become eunuchs by devoting themselves to the kingdom. This includes not only priests, but others who are working for the kingdom.

Some children are brought to Jesus, but the disciples speak out against those who brought them. Jesus asks that the children be brought and He blesses them because their devoted parents have brought them, similar to how parents speak for their children in baptism.

After this, a rich man asks what he must do to have eternal life. The man already follows the commandments, but Jesus asks him to give up his possessions and follow Him. The man is not capable of showing such devotion, since he has many possessions and is not willing to give them up.

Jesus then tells another parable, about laborers in a vineyard. Some laborers work the whole day, but others are contracted later; all receive the same pay, causing the ones who worked longer to complain. The master tells them that they all have been paid fairly. God's grace is similar: those who have been faithful all their lives receive the same reward as those who become faithful late in life.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew6a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:19am EST

The Pharisees and Sadducees again ask for a sign, shortly after Jesus has performed many miracles, and Jesus refuses, calling them an evil and adulterous generation, and likening the Pharisees and Sadducees to yeast, which was a symbol of contamination.

Jesus names Simon Peter for his profession that Jesus is the Son of God, but then rebukes Peter for failing to realize that Jesus must suffer and die; Jesus also says that any one who wishes to follow Him must deny himself and take up his cross.

Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountain, where He is transfigured and shines with an intense light and Elijah the prophet and Moses the lawgiver appear next to Him. A cloud overshadows Jesus and a voice proclaims Jesus as the Son. This gives these three stronger faith in the coming kingdom.

After this, Jesus rejoins the rest of His disciples and tells them that they must become like children. Jesus also tells the people that they must seek out those who are lost, and forgive those who have sinned against them.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew5b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:58am EST

John the Baptist has been arrested, and as a gift to Herodias, Herod reluctantly kills John. Many of John's disciples become disciples of Jesus shortly after this.

Jesus then performs the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, whereby thousands of people are fed by a few loaves of bread and some fish, illustrating that Christ has the ability to control matter, which He would do again at the Last Supper. When the people whom He had fed began to agitate to make Jesus king, He asks His disciples to sail from the shore. After Jesus quiets the crowds, He comes to the ship, walking on the water. When Peter sees this, he is cautious and asks Jesus to bid him to come. Jesus tells Peter to come, and Peter begins to walk on the water, but when he gets part of the way out, he becomes frightened and begins to sink. Jesus saves him and the disciples begin to worship Jesus as the Son of God. Only two chapters later, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is.

Jesus is then confronted by the Pharisees because His disciples don't wash their hands before they eat, but Jesus replies that this precept is a tradition of man, and not a commandment of God. After this, Jesus meets a Canaanite woman who asks that Jesus would cast out a demon from her daughter. His disciples ask Him to send her away, and He challenges her, saying that it is not right to give the children's bread to the dogs, but she persists, and for her persistence, Jesus casts out the demon.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew5a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:13am EST

Jesus begins to exorcise demons and some claim that He does not do that by God's power but by the devil's. Jesus notes that it would make no sense for the devil to drive out more of his own demons than the other exorcists are doing, and warns them not to take their declarations too far and blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then gives several parables, including the parables of the soil, the tares, the leaven, and the mustard seed. Taking some of the disciples aside, He describes the parables as a way to deliver knowledge to those who will hear, and then He explains the parables to the disciples.

Jesus then visits Nazareth and meets several of His kinsmen there who cannot believe that someone that they knew is capable of such wisdom and deeds, and for this sort of disbelief, Jesus does not do many deeds of power there.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:15am EST

John the Baptist hears about Jesus' deeds from prison and asks if He is the messiah. John's questions do not belie a cynicism, but rather the actions of one who is seeking Truth and wants to confirm his beliefs. Like John, we should not be afraid to ask questions to make sure that we are not being led astray. Jesus responds that John should look at His works. Jesus then tells people about John the Baptist, who came in the power of Elijah, fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi, who foretold that Elijah would come before the day of the Lord.

Jesus then performs two acts on the Sabbath, about which the Pharisees ask him, and to explain why, Jesus comes as close as possible to declaring Himself the messiah as He can without actually saying it. For this, the Pharisees seek to destroy Jesus.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:28am EST

Matthew continues with a brief account of the healing of a paralytic, who is brought to Jesus by his friends. Jesus, touched by their faith, forgives the man's sins. The Pharisees took issue with this, since only God can forgive sins, but Jesus does not back down, instead claiming the messianic title Son of Man and healing the paralyzed man.

Jesus then calls 12 disciples whom he gives the authority to drive out spirits and heal sickness. These apostles are given instructions about how to perform their mission, and told to expect that many will treat them harshly. The same is true for all who proclaim the Gospel, even to this day.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Matthew3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:33am EST

Shortly after Jesus begins His ministry, John the Baptist is arrested and Jesus begins to ramp up His ministry, proclaiming a message of repentance, and in fact manifesting His power with the very intimate healing of a leper and the healing of a Gentile centurion's servant.

Jesus has some very strong teaching on mission, telling men that they must leave behind all earthly things if they wish to become His disciples. The mission is difficult work, and involves relying on the hospitality of towns to allow Jesus and His disciples to enter and work miracles there. Even after He heals a demoniac, the Gadarenes beg Him to leave the area because His healing disturbs them.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Matthew3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:45am EST

Matthew and the other synoptic gospels emphasize Jesus' mission in Galilee, where most of the Gospel was spread. Jesus sought to keep this ministry moving slowly so that the ministry would not be derailed. In this part of the ministry, He healed people of physical and spiritual illnesses and preached a compassionate message to the poor, including the Beatitudes. This compassion is not simply being nice to each other, but requires action on our part. We must be pure-minded in seeking out God, we must forgive people and not hold grudges, and we must not make a show of our faith.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Matthew2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:19am EST

The Gospel that Jesus preaches is recounted as being preceded by John the Baptist, who came in the mode of Elijah and preaching a baptism of repentance. John was a fairly ascetic man, and his coming as a voice crying in the wilderness heralds the time of the Christ. John's message is quite stark, warning that the God will soon make a harvest of souls.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized, but John objects, declaring that he needs to be baptized by Jesus. Jesus allows Himself to be baptized to ''fulfill all righteousness,'' and in doing so, blesses the waters and transforms them into the waters of the sacrament. At this point, the Spirit of God descends like a dove and a voice declares, ''This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.''

Jesus then leaves for the wilderness to be tempted or tested for forty days and forty nights. Satan tests Jesus, but He beats the devil back on all counts. When John is imprisoned, Jesus begins to proclaim the Gospel and seeking out apostles.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Matthew2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:41am EST

According to the Targums, we know that the prophecy that a ''young woman'' or ''virgin'' would bear a son was translated by the Alexandrian scholars as meaning ''virgin,'' and that there was an implication that this was an unusual sign, as high as Heaven or as low as Sheol. A young woman having a son would not be such a significant sign.

The fact that the sign appears as a star to pagans tells us that God wants to give his message to those who are seeking Him out. The fact that the Christ comes from Bethlehem is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah that Bethlehem is 'not the least, for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people.' There is similarly a notion in John that the Christ must come from Bethlehem.

Mary was going into labor and so the Holy Family sought out any shelter they could. Finding a stable in which she could give birth, shortly thereafter they sought out family in Bethlehem and stayed in that house. This is where the Magi find Christ. This event surely must have come after the Presentation in the Temple, since it would have been difficult to journey to Egypt and back in secrecy within the short span of 40 days.

Like Pharaoh of old, Herod sought to kill the entire male population, and the similarities to Pharaoh are very strong.  There is a prophecy about Rachel, who died looking to Bethlehem, and Jeremiah delivered a prophecy about a cry going up from Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, which is fulfilled by Herod's slaughter of children in that same city. The prophecy that ''He shall be called a Nazarene'' seems to be a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1, as there is a similarity between the root of the words ''branch'' and ''Nazareth.''

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Matthew1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:02am EST

St. Jerome tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, and that it was reworked into a Greek version later, which is supported by some evidence. Jerome also tells us that Matthew was the first gospel, but the actual order of composition is not clear. Matthew is also associated with a winged human in ecclesiastical symbolism, though this is not part of the inspired text.

The initial genealogy is abbreviated and separated into 3 sets of 14 generations beginning with Abraham, which provide a synopsis of Jewish history. Three women are mentioned in this genealogy, which is unusual for Jewish genealogies: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.

Matthew then begins the infancy narrative. Mary is a virgin who is betrothed to Joseph, which was more like marriage than a modern-day engagement. When Mary is found with child, Joseph resolves to divorce her privately, but an angel tells Joseph to remain with Mary and the child, who is to be called Emmanuel, which is translated for the benefit of Greeks as 'God with us.'

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Matthew1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:13am EST

After the death of Antipater, Antigonus became high priest after mutilating the high priest Hyrcanus. Herod had been quickly rising to prominence, marrying into the house of Hasmon, sending his wife into exile, and Herod sought to have the Romans proclaim him leader of the Jews. Rome did declare him King of the Jews, a title never before declared for someone who was not of nobility. To ensure that the Hasmonean dynasty never returned to challenge his position, the remaining heirs to the Hasmonean dynasty suspiciously died.

Alexandra, the mother of one of these heirs, sent to Rome to request an inquiry, and Marc Antony requested that Herod defend himself. Herod went to Rome, but left instructions that if Antony killed him, his wife must die as well. His wife discovered this plan and this caused much intrigue and eventually his wife's death when Herod returned alive.

Herod built a new temple in Jerusalem and also several temples to Roman gods. It is against this backdrop that the magi arrived in Jerusalem and ask Herod ''where is the king born of the Jews?'' Herod, who was not born king, was outraged at this and sought to eliminate this threat. After he died, Herod was buried near the cave where Jesus was born.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_5b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:42am EST

The Romans came to rule Judea in 63 BC. Leading up to that, the high priests of the Hasmonean Dynasty were the de facto kings in Israel, though their official title was Ethnarch. This dynasty began from the Maccabees, and lasted roughly eighty years. They did not want to be seen as usurping the rightful place of the line of David, since they were dependent on the pious Jews. The line of David was still known through this period, but it had fallen into obscurity. In this sense, the Hasmonean state is a biblical anomaly, lacking any leaders truly chosen by God. These rulers tended to be despots of a sort similar to Oriental and Hellenistic despots. These rulers were also expansionist, reacting to the rising birth rates of the neighboring countries. These circumstances give rise to a large upsurge in Messianic hope.

Salome Alexandra instituted a number of changes that pleased the Pharisees, and was fondly remembered by them for this. Her sons, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus, fought for the high priesthood. At this point, Pompey comes to Israel and seeks an alliance with Hyrcanus, since Israel had sought such an alliance before. Hyrcanus was confirmed as high priest, but the position of king was saved for Rome, with local political authority resting in Hyrcanus' minister, Antipater the Idumean. Antipater made his son Phasael governor of Jerusalem and his other son Herod, who would be called the Great, was made governor of Galilee. Then, in 43 BC, Antipater was poisoned and the two sons battled for control of Judea.Messianic hope in the days of the Maccabees; the rise of the Pharisees and Salome Alexandra; Roman History.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_5a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:09am EST

Out of the Maccabean revolt, three rulers rise successively, Judah Maccabee, Jonathan, and then Simon. Simon and two of his his sons were murdered, and only John Hyrcanus was left to rule. Various other rulers rise and fall, but Salome Alexandra is the only woman in antiquity to rule Judea and be praised for it.

During this time, Israel was consolidating power and various cities were breaking from Seleucid empire. John Hyrcanus rules as high priest and ethnarch, annexing Samaria and the remnants of Edom (now the Idumeans), forcing the people to become Jewish and be circumcised. The leading families of the Idumeans would become important, including the family of Herod.

During the later times leading up to Roman rule, the Jewish rulers start calling themselves kings, and their courts populated by Hellenized Jews. Several factions emerge, including the Pharisees and Essenes who react against these rulers. The Pharisees have a number of beliefs, such as belief in the resurrection and in oral tradition, that mark them as very different from the beliefs of the ruling class, which would include the Sadducees.

The Pharisees also had leaders who were not priests, but rather what would become the modern-day rabbi. The tension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees reached a head when the Pharisees demanded that the king choose between being a king or being high priest. The king sided with the Sadducees, which led to a civil war and suppression of the Pharisees.

Be sure to look at the image embedded in the MP3, which will make it much easier to follow.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:24am EST

The period between the Maccabean Revolt and Roman rule of Judea is not represented by any writings in the Scriptures, but like all things that touch the history of Israel and Christ, it is worth studying. The Hasmoneans, named after the house of Hasmon, are not related to David, but are a priestly family from the tribe of Levi.

The Maccabean Revolt started when Mattathias, a Hasmonean, refused to offer sacrifice to pagan gods, with the eventual result that the Temple was purged and rededicated an event the Jews celebrate at Hanukkah for eight days.

After the fighting had ended and Roman and Spartan rulers had expressed their support for Simon Maccabeus as high priest, and King Demetrius confirmed Simon as high priest and afforded him most of the traditional effects of a king, though Simon was not granted that title.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:22am EST

At the time of the Greeks, the Davidic line passes into obscurity, and the political power in Israel is held by the high priests. One such high priest, Onias II, refuses to pay taxes to the Ptolemaic empire. The Tobiad family steps in to cover the debt, and winds up becoming responsible for the tax collection in Israel. The Seleucid Empire takes over Israel, and gives the Jews certain concessions for their assistance.

Onias III becomes high priest, and owing to a dispute with the governor of the Temple, receives a favorable preliminary ruling from the Seleucid Empire. Onias tries to confirm the ruling, but while he seeks out this confirmation, a new emperor takes power, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In Jerusalem, a new group of rulers also takes over, and a man named Jason becomes high priest. Jason was not a particularly pious man, and allows certain Hellenistic influences into Israel, most notably a gymnasium. In this gymnasium, the men exercise naked, and in order to appear more like the Greeks whom they exercise with, some Jews begin to have cosmetic surgery to reverse their circumcisions.

Meanwhile, a man named Menelaus convinces the Seleucids to assassinate Onias III and remove Jason to have himself named high priest. Menelaus starts selling off temple vessels, and the people riot. Menelaus seeks help from the Seleucids, who put down the riots bloodily. To keep the peace, the Seleucids conscript some Jews to build a garrison near the temple, and decide to begin construction on a Sabbath to prevent riots. This backfires and there are even more riots. The pro-Greek populace moved into the garrison and only left to enforce the edicts of the empire. People fled Jerusalem, since it was not safe for either orthodox or liberal.

Antiochus wages a preemptive war on Egypt and wins, but the cost of the war causes him to despoil the Temple. As Antiochus attempts to completely conquer Egypt, Rome intervenes and turns Antiochus back, who now places the blame for this failure on the disunity in the empire caused by the nonconforming Jews.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:30am EST

After the Persian period, the Greeks conquered a vast empire, spreading Hellenistic Greek culture throughout the area from Rome to India. Alexander the Great conquered the area from Rome and Egypt to India, including Israel. This land would be divided after Alexander's death, and the area including Israel was known as the Seleucid Empire, ruled by Ptolemy. The Jews found themselves increasingly in opposition to these new Greek rulers in Israel. This sets up the conditions which will result in the Maccabean revolt.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:12am EST

Period history up to the beginning of 1 Maccabees.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:35am EST

The return to the land of Israel was an event which really broadened the world of the Israelites. When Jews began forming a Diaspora, it clarified the concept that God was not just a local deity, but rather the God of the universe. Babylon, in particular, appears as a true cosmopolis until the time when Revelation was written.

As previously stated, the Persians, unlike the Babylonians, allowed a moderate amount of home rule, which was eventually exploited to build a second temple around 522BC, after prodding by Haggai and Zechariah. This second temple was much smaller than the temple built by Solomon, and those who had seen the first temple were struck by the difference between the two.

Zechariah and Haggai prophesy that Zerubbabel will see the completion of the temple, and for that, he is part of the earthly lineage of the Christ. While the people set about funding the rebuilding of their own homes, they do not do all they can to fund the rebuilding of the temple. God, through Haggai, chastises the people for not funding the process and afflicts the land with a drought as punishment. The rebuilding of the temple takes seven years, and then 50 years after that, Nehemiah, the governor arrives in the land. Ezra proclaims the law to the people, and for the Jews, this triumphant echo of Moses forms the end of the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:14am EST

The Persians under Xerxes invade Greece, and have some success until Greece expels them. It is during this period that the Book of Esther takes place, a book that has great significance when considering the tensions between the many cultures in the Middle East at the time. After Xerxes, the Persia is ruled by Artaxerxes and Artaxerxes II (among others).

From a more religious perspective, after the return to Israel, Malachi rails against the dullness he sees in the religion as people were practicing it. This should not be surprising, since every generation needs to be evangelized, lest the people fall into a civic religion. It is during this period that the Book of Esther takes place, a book that has great significance when considering the tensions between the many cultures in the Middle East at the time. The prophets and writers of this time period, including Jesus son of Sirach, should remind us that we must refresh our faith today with the same vigor that was demanded by the prophets.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:32am EST

The Jewish canon ends the Hebrew Scriptures after the return from the Babylonian Exile. While the canon continues for Christians, there is not much Scripture for the 500 years between the return from Babylon and the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. There are many events that occurred in this time, and placing them into a context is important.

The return from exile was did not result in all the Jews returning, nor did they return to a land empty of their kinsmen. Many Jews remained in Babylon, which would remain there for many years after, even compiling the authoritative Babylonian Talmud there. Many lower-class people were allowed to stay in Israel when they were taken into exile, and the influx of that many people posed problems for them. After the conquest of the northern tribes, foreigners came into that land and promoted a form of worship that would become the Samaritans.

The temple had been destroyed, and the rebuilt temple was only a shadow of its original glory. After its completion, Ezra gathered the Jews and read them the Law, which chastened them and convinced them to return to the worship of the true God.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: FBTB_1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:24am EST

This was recorded at the 2009 Rochester Chesterton Society Conference.

It is very easy to allow ourselves to experience wonder on a purely intellectual basis, which misses the point, since wonder is too powerful to be experienced merely through the intellect.

We should wonder at some of the amazing things written in the Scriptures and at what they should mean to us: if we are created in God's image, how wondrous must that be!

There is also a hierarchy of wonders. While we can and should regard the things God has created and holy artifacts with wonder, these things are only temporary and we must regard the eternal with a greater wonder, and nothing can be as wondrous of the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are commanded to wonder at these things, in part by the Shema Yisrael (Deut 6), which instructs us all to love God with all our heart, soul and might and think on this always and to teach this to our children.
Direct download: HigbeeWonder.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:56am EST

This was recorded at the 2009 Rochester Chesterton Society Conference.

As we grow older, we lose our grasp on a sense of wonder in the world. Wonder is modulated by time and repetition, but there are three cases unaffected by time: youth, art and eternity, and it is by studying these three cases where we may reawaken our sense of wonder.

GK Chesterton, CS Lewis and others have commented on how wonder works in our lives. CS Lewis, for example, writes that angels cannot truly grasp the wonder in such simple acts as breathing, since they lack a corporeal form. There are many things for men to wonder at in the world, if we would only take the time.
Direct download: TomHoward_Wonder.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:33am EST

St. Irenaeus Ministries was invited to be a guest on the Life on the Rock program on EWTN on September 4, 2008. This is a recording of that portion of the program.

St. Irenaeus Ministries is a Rochester, NY based apostolate promoting orthodox Catholic faith named after St. Irenaeus, an early Christian bishop and writer only two generations removed from the time Christ walked the earth who spoke out against heresies. We discuss our activities, with special focus on the practical implications of evangelization, such as conversion. Special attention must also be paid to promoting renewal, and strategies for promoting renewal and a real, living, active faith include paraclesis (the act of walking beside) and challenging men and women through ministries such as Bible study, discipleship counsel, fellowship, and religious teaching, which are discussed thoroughly.

It is the duty of all Christians to bring the message of Christ to the world, not just through programs, but by bringing the message out of the pews and shining forth Christ to everyone we meet, personally and one-on-one. Christ's message is a radical one and requires a radical commitment to His message, and we need brethren to encourage us.

You can also watch this interview on YouTube.

To purchase a copy of this episode of Life on the Rock on DVD, visit the EWTN religious Catalogue.
Direct download: IrenaeusLifeOnTheRock08.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:56am EST

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells us that there will be wars and rumors of wars that many will wrongly think to be the coming of the end. This suggests that the end will be many years from the time of the Discourse, and thus it is appropriate to focus our attention on how the Apocalyptic impacts our lives today.

We should look to this present time not as a time of delay or a time of anticipation, but as a time when God is making the preparations for the time to come. We must not see this as a time to relax, but it is also unwise to look for numerology or hints to the time of the end. This present time is one where troubles happen, and some of these troubles may have to do with God's plan for the end times, but many will not. God has graciously given us this time so that we may repent, but we should be living it as though the end times are imminent.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: ChristianApoc2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:35am EST

The early Church viewed the apocalyptic writings as vital to the faith. Early Christians saw the end times as imminent, though not necessarily coming soon, as suggested by the exhortation to preach the Gospel to all the nations. In the same way, faulty wiring might pose an imminent danger, but it might not actually cause a catastrophe for many years.

We also look in-depth at the circumstances surrounding the Olivet Discourse and some prophecies in Daniel.

Every generation should see itself as standing on the precipice of the end times, an end which God has delayed through His mercy so that we may have time to repent. We must keep our attention on the end and keep Heaven as our goal.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: ChristianApoc2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:28am EST

Continuing the discussion of Christian Apocalyptic literature, we read excerpts from Daniel, who prophesies the coming of the Christ, the pseudepigraphal Enoch, which expands on the Sons of God mentioned in the book of Genesis.

The Olivet Discourse is another example, where Jesus expounds on the last days, as a capstone to a series of questions He was asked.

Like the early Church, we do not know when the End Times will come, but we must assume that the end may be coming at any time, and we must look for the signs that it is coming.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: ChristianApoc1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:30am EST

This is a direct continuation of the series on 2 Peter and Jude.

Apocalyptic literature refers to writings that reveal the hidden things of God. It is a new term, not one that apocalyptic writers applied to themselves, and there is some debate as to which works are apocalyptic and which are merely prophetic. It is found in canonical and extra-canonical writings of both the Old and New Testaments, mainly after the Babylonian Exile, usually in times of persecution, especially the time from 200BC to 200AD, and deals with the end times (eschatology).

Apocalyptic visions are dramatic and often wild and highly symbolic, and often mediated through an angel. There is no definitive list of apocalyptic literature, but commonly cited as examples are Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Revelation, 2 Thessalonians, The Olivet Discourse (found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke), as well as the extra-canonical books of 1 and 2 Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, 4 Esdras, 2 Baruch, The Testament of Abraham, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The extra-canonical books are called pseudepigrapha (or falsely ascribed writings) to distinguish them from the deuterocanonical books sometimes called apocrypha by Protestants.

Apocalyptic eschatology differs from prophetic eschatology in a few ways, but one difference is that some see prophetic eschatology as more personal and more naturalistic, while apocalyptic eschatology is more obviously supernatural and deals with God breaking into history in cataclysmic ways coming from above. Others would note that even in prophetic eschatology, it is God's will which the prophecy follows. Apocalypse is often less well-accepted into the mainstream than other prophecy, but none of these criteria should be viewed as absolute; there is much room for dispute.

Some believe these apocalyptic writings were composed in part to give an answer to why the pious were continuing to be persecuted and the end of prophecy. This is probably true of the pseudepigraphal works, though it must be clear that apocalyptic prophecy is given by God, and not brought down by man. There was a rise in apocalyptic writing in the 19th century in an attempt to understand why some Christian sects were becoming more liberal.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: ChristianApoc1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:49am EST

In verses 6 and 7, Jude identifies the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as unnatural lust, and not just in-hospitality. Although the ancient world had no real equivalent to the modern conception of sexual preference, it cannot be said that the Bible has no preference regarding sexuality.

Throughout the passage here and later on in verse 14 there is a reference to the apocryphal book of Enoch (verse 14 goes as far as quoting the book) and the ''sons of God'' in Genesis 6. It is unclear what Jude thinks of the book as a whole (the Church eventually rejected it from the canon), but he seems to think the verse he cited was a prophecy.

Jude then speaks against those false teachers who have ''reviled whatever they do not understand,'' and who ''follow their own lusts'' and flatter ''people to gain advantage.'' These worldly people are devoid of the Holy Spirit.

It is notable that Jude refers to Moses and Enoch, both of whom were assumed into Heaven, and that both Sodom and Gomorrah and Korah's rebellion are cases where the Earth opened up to swallow up something into Hell. Much of the language here is similar or identical to that in 2 Peter, suggesting that these authors are consulting a common source (an apostolic memo, perhaps).

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: Jude_b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:49am EST

This short lesson on Jude and the one that follows it are a direct continuation of the series on 2nd Peter.

The epistle of Jude is very short, but Jude does not shy away from controversy. Jude is the English translation of the Greek name Judas, which ultimately derives from the Hebrew word Judah. We translate it this way to avoid the association with Judas Iscariot, though the name was common in that time. Jude is identified as the brother of James, the bishop of Jerusalem, who is often identified as James the Less (though this identification is difficult to support in the light of 1 Cor 15).

Also noteworthy in the introduction: Jude appears not to see himself in the role of apostle, since he does not identify himself as one, unlike most of the other epistles. Jude appears to be writing while James, who died in the early 60s, is still alive, thus dating this epistle very early. The fact that the issues of false teachers were pressing and were being dealt with at such an early time should be a comfort to those of use who see false teachings today.

Jude says that these false teachers were bound to be, and thus we should not to be scared, since our Lord expected this. The manner in which Jude describes these false teachers is very similar to the way that this is described in 2 Peter, suggesting that there was some collaboration, possibly by a now-lost rubric for dealing with these errors.

Jude then states that the faith has been imparted once for all, implying that there will be no new doctrines, and that those teaching new doctrines are false teachers who have crept into the Church. Jude then goes on to explain that the Hebrews leaving Egypt were likewise fully informed and many fell away, which puts an end to the concept of ''once saved always saved.''

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Direct download: Jude_a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:05pm EST

Peter discusses the teaching of some who claim that Jesus will not come again and deliberately ignore what Jesus has said concerning this. The people Peter is writing about are unhappy with spiritual power and turn not only from the teaching on the end times but also the prophets and the commandments. God created the world out of nothing, and He covered it in the Flood, so He is surely powerful. What is more, God is not slow in His coming, but rather in His mercy has delayed His return to give us time to repent, and some have chosen to see this mercy as a sign of aloofness. This is not out of ignorance but rather a deliberate denial of certain inconvenient facts.

To the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, but when the end comes, it will be like a thief coming in the night. If we are looking forward to that day, we may hasten it by living godly lives. When the end does come, God will take care of His people, not by preserving them from death, but in some cases reserving them for martyrdom. These people will receive their reward in the resurrection of the body.

How much are we and even some teachers in the Church exhorting our fellow Christians to be mindful of these facts today?

Peter then reminds the people to be without spot or blemish and to consider this time of delay as salvation. He tells them that some of Paul's writings have been twisted by the ignorant and unstable to their own destruction. In doing this, Peter tells us two things. First, Paul's epistles are scripture to Peter, and second, though there may be tensions between the apostles, there was never any rivalry or animosity. Peter then concludes by returning to the themes of growth, knowledge and journey.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

Peter concludes his message which he was probably writing in the final days of his life, racing to give his fellow Christians a final exhortation before he joins the Church Triumphant. In chapter 2, Peter spoke at length on the false teachers and schismatics, and in the third chapter, he narrows his focus to those who were concerned that Jesus had not yet come again. Peter addresses two issues that the people scoff at, namely the words of the prophets and the teachings of Christ, and we can see the same issues today in the people. People can be uneasy with supernatural religion, since it is not on their terms.

Some in the ancient Church were claiming that since the Second Coming had not yet happened, it would never occur, and they were using this to follow their own passions. Peter denounces this by first stating that the statements of the apostles and the prophecies of the Old Testament are both equally the word of God. These scoffers existed in the ancient Church, Peter tells us that they will be with us in the last days, and they are with us today because the people are extraordinarily resilient and desire to go back to normalcy, even in an abnormal situation. Peter echoes Jesus in noting that this is much like the people in Noah's time.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:25am EST

Peter says that the false prophets have come, but that the false teachers will be, which may suggest that he sees the time of the prophets as over. He then speaks out about the destructive heresies (or schools), which by their very nature cause division in the Church. In this sense, the heretic and the schismatic are first cousins, one offends the holiness of God, while the other offends the wholeness of God's plan, as the early Church has stated. Some of these operate in the Church (as even Judas shows), and while we trust the mind of the Church not to lead us into error, we must remain alert to the actual teaching that those that claim to come in the name of Holy Mother Church to make sure that it is in line with what she teaches. This is said that we might not have opportunity to be led astray, and that we might attend to our own formation.

Again we look at the methods of those offering false teachings which often come secretly or from the side, and perhaps contain a kernel of truth and then distorting it. In some cases, these heresies come from people who do not accept their role in God's plan, which we have seen leading to every type of heresy. The Old Testament speaks extensively to the unsavory consequences of those such as Uzziah who try to usurp the authority not given to them. Some heretical teachers are called ''false brethren'' by Paul in Galatians 2:4. These would infiltrate the Church as far as they could, but then break with it. God will punish those who are willfully wicked or do not live the Truth, but He will look after those who look to Him.

Peter narrows his comments here, referring specifically to those who attack those who are new to the faith and refers to these teachers as waterless clouds and mists driven by storm, completely lacking in any good teaching. Those who follow these teachers would have been better never knowing the Truth than to have turned away from it. We must listen to and live by the teaching that we have been given throughout the Apostles, and not to those that would lead us astray.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55am EST

We must examine the things that are being taught, regardless of who teaches it to us. 2 Peter chapter 2 deals with this extensively, discussing the teachings of heresies, or sects of people who disagree with the orthodox teachings.

Peter speaks about false teachings that were extant at the time he was writing, but there are false teachers even today. Though these false teachers may not know that they are teaching error, they are a diabolical force on the world and the Church. There are a numbers of condemnations of these destructive heresies, warranting a comparison to great judgments in the Old Testament.

Looking at the sources of heresies, we find that people were looking for answers at that time, and many were seduced by a misreading of Christ's message that was either ascetic and denied the flesh or hedonistic and denied the ability for the flesh to impact the spirit. Leaders were only too eager to help because the received rewards of money, the flesh, or power.

It is sometimes easy to turn a blind eye to this, but we must never forget that there are real consequences to error that affect real people that will cause real suffering. Many of these false teachings come in "from the side" in a clandestine manner and appear in some position of authority. These people betray their true beliefs when they claim to remain faithful while encouraging others to join them in their error. To honor someone who is making a shipwreck of his or her faith simply because of the office is actually to do dishonor to the office.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

Peter proclaims that he is a servant of Christ like the rest of us and makes a very explicit statement that Jesus is the God and Savior which is not as common in the Gospels as more oblique references. He then turns to his theme for this letter, which is that knowledge of God is not enough; we must also act on it. No addressee is named, and the traditional thanksgiving prayer is omitted from this letter. This may mean that this was written for multiple audiences toward the end of Peter's life as the persecution was being stepped up.

Peter then notes that divine power has assigned to them all things related to eternal life and godliness and by this we may escape our passions and partake in the divine nature, a form of apotheosis. Peter then sets up a series of supports for faith that build upon each other: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.

This is a map for spiritual progress and we must keep moving forward on it, or risk our faith mutating into something else and the way Peter discusses this indicates that this was a well-known formula in first century Christianity.

Peter then recounts the events of Christ's baptism and transfiguration to show that they have been eyewitnesses to His majesty as evidence that these stories are not myths but rather a message like a bright light shining in a dark place.

No prophecy of Scripture, Peter then compels us to understand, came from human will, but rather from the Holy Spirit.

Peter ends with a discussion of the coming of Christ, which is more characteristic of the early Church than the modern Church. This more pilgrim Church should serve as the sort of bright light that Peter mentions in the first chapter, and we would do well to follow this example in the modern Church.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

This begins a series entitled ''Second Peter, Jude, and the Christian Apocalyptic". While each the three sections can stand on its own, they share many common themes.

Second Peter is a pastoral letter with some apocalyptic elements traditionally attributed to St. Peter. It and and Jude share so much each other that some have questioned Second Peter's authenticity. There are many arguments on how to date the text and how to identify the author and the author's motives, but an internal analysis of the text does not permit that the author had any of the usual reasons for creating pseudepigraphal works. It is cited by many of the early Church fathers. The Church has declared Second Peter to be canonical and has cited it extensively in its arguments on pastoral issues, and our faith in Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tell us that the text is accurate.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Peter1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:20am EST

Paul is welcomed by the brethren in Jerusalem, and is shown many Jewish converts to Christianity who are zealous for the law. Many of these had heard that Paul advises converts to forsake Moses, and Paul is told to -- and does indeed -- help some converts to perform a purification ritual to prove that this accusation is untrue. (Paul in fact writes in Galatians that the circumcised should live according to the circumcision.)

Some Jews from Asia see Paul in the temple and mistakenly believe that the converts are Greek Gentiles and that Paul has defiled the temple by doing this. A riot breaks out across Jerusalem, and Paul is arrested. The tribune asks Paul to speak to the crowds, which he does, though the crowds erupt again when Paul tells of the mission to the Gentiles. Paul is then taken away again, but when they find out that he is a Roman citizen, the Roman authorities send him to the Sanhedrin. Paul then pits the Pharisees and the Sadducees against each other and gets off.

Forty men then take up a plot to kill Paul. Paul discovers this and is then taken to Caesarea, where he is shuffled around various rulers (Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa II) and then makes an appeal to the emperor, which means that his case must be heard by the Emperor. On his way to Rome, he is shipwrecked on Malta, where he spends the winter and makes a strong impression on the people there.

Paul then arrives at Rome and the believers meet him as he is in chains. He then makes an impassioned plea to the local leaders of the Jews, who have not heard much about him other than general news of the sect. Some listened but others turned away when Paul claimed that the Gentiles were to be preached to as well. He lived in Rome for two years and sent several letters in the next few years, including one to Timothy where he dispatches several people to preach the good news and asks for material to continue to study. Beyond this, we do not have any definitive information on the life of St. Paul.

Paul's life challenges us to think of the Church as something more than a social group, and to shine forth Christ. If we see the Church as merely a denomination, we do a disservice to the true Church of God. We must keep an active life of mission to bring people to the truth of God and work to form a community to spread the word of Christ.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Allemanda-Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com

The end of our Life of St. Paul series coincides with the end of the Church's observance of the Year of St. Paul. We hope that this year of Pauline material has been beneficial to you. As always, your feedback and comments can be directed to podcast@siministries.org, and are very much appreciated.
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul4b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

After a brief of discussion Corinth and how it is important as one of the most detailed descriptions of the early Church, we move back to the second missionary journey, describing how Paul corrects some of the errors of Apollos other Ephesians. While in Ephesus, several people who had in the past practiced magic publicly burned their magic books. The silversmiths, not happy with the loss of business that the Christians were causing to the temple of Artemis, cause some trouble and Paul leaves Ephesus.

Following a missed rendezvous in Troas, Paul receives word from Titus that Corinth is at peace with him and he continues on to winter in Corinth for three months. It was here that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, intending full well to continue on. A plot against Paul turns him around to return by land through Troas, rather than by water as he had expected. Paul then speaks about how the Holy Spirit tells him that imprisonment awaits him in every city, and Jerusalem in particular. Paul then talks about how he has not withheld any portion of the gospel and thus that he is not responsible for the blood of the people.

Then, after exhorting the Ephesian elders to watch for wolves, Paul goes up into Caesarea and then Jerusalem.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Allemanda-Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul4a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:34am EST

After Paul leaves Perga, his company arrives in Antioch in Pisidia (a different Antioch than the great Syrian city). Soon their ministry to the Gentiles spreads throughout this entire region. Such success brought much consternation to a number of Jews.

In every synagogue and Gentile gathering, Paul takes every opportunity to boldly proclaim the Gospel. His powerful proclamation of the Word excites much joy and many conversions among some. Others are enraged by his message and frank approach.

Ministering to Gentiles ever proves to be an exciting endeavor: in Lyconium, Paul is mistaken for Hermes and Barnabas for Zeus and only with great difficulty do they convince them not to offer sacrifice on their behalf.

Paul’s adversaries in each city tend to be Non-Christian Jews and Judaizers, those Christians who say circumcision is necessary for salvation. The issue of circumcising Christians becomes a hot-button issue, and it is eventually addressed by the Council of Jerusalem. At this council the early Church rules that Gentile Christians must abstain from eating meat with blood in it, engaging in fornication, and practicing any type of idolatry. After attending this council, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch.

From Antioch, Barnabas asks Paul to join him in a visit to all the churches they had planted on their first Missionary Journey. The two argue whether or not to bring John Mark on the journey, and part company over the issue. Paul and Silas then begin the Second Missionary Journey, picking up key disciples like Timothy as they travel.

When the Holy Spirit prevents Paul from entering the Roman province of Asia, he journeys to Europe. It is during this period that the Gospel first reaches the major metropolitan cities of Corinth and Ephesus. It is at this time that he meets Priscilla and Aquilla. He also incites even more negative reaction from the Jews.

His ministry becomes increasingly dynamic during the Second Missionary journey. With the exception of Athens, it seems that the larger the city he enters, the greater the fruit. Possessing orthodox theology, awe-inspiring miracles, deep learning and mature pastoral skills, he is nothing short of a marvel. This missionary-statesman inaugurates a new chapter in Christianity.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Affettuoso, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul3b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:19am EST

Having powerfully witnessed Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul finds his zeal redirected and renewed towards the Gospel. But who in the early Church (which was almost entirely Jewish) could have imagined the great outpouring of faith upon the Gentiles that came from the ''First Missionary Journey''?

After praying and fasting, the leaders of the Antioch Church sent off Saul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel, ''the work to which [the Holy Spirit had] called them.''

Their setting sail from Antioch to Cyprus (an intentional invasion of Gentile territory to convert the world) was nothing short of revolutionary and entirely unprecedented in the Jewish world.

Shortly thereafter the missionaries become known as ''Paul and company.'' They depart for the further travels, eventually traveling to Europe. As the journey continues, the grace-inspired genius of this missionary strategist comes to the fore.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:17pm EST

The persecution of ''the Way'' that followed the stoning of Stephen spurred a large Jewish Christian diaspora. Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem spread all across the Mediterranean world. While many of them kept solely Hebraic social circles after settling into new homes, the exceptions were the inhabitants of Cyprus and Cyrene (a region in North Africa). Likely traders or Mediterranean businessmen, these men began speaking to Gentiles about Jesus. Some of these Gentiles were ''Godfearers'' familiar with Judaism, and others were pagan intellectuals and their family members.

At this time in Church History, the conversion of Gentiles to ''the Way'' was still a controversial issue. The quesiton of whether or not they had to become Jewish first was fiercely debated. While the inclusion of Cornelius was largely accepted (who would argue with the Holy Spirit?), he was just one Gentile; the potential inclusion of thousands of Gentiles posed a very real difficulty for many Jewish Christians who treasured their doctrine and blood-lines. Rampant racial prejudice in this region also contributed to the problem.

The largest Gentile contingent in the early Church was in Antioch. Barnabas enlists Saul of Tarsus to help catechize this large number, which was in the thousands. For an entire year, these two men teach the people. Saul has been instructing people in ''the Way'' for a dozen years at this point, though this is his first ''class'' of Gentiles.
By this time, he is a profoundly spiritual man, a worker of miracles.

Paul's dynamic (at times ballistic) ministry style was a force to be reckoned with. The Judaizers, Peter, and many others were recipients of his straightforward arguing. His strategizing mind and spiritual heart are peerless among the saints. His ongoing conversion to Christ is the source of his great motivation.

By Paul's influence, Antioch becomes a major church and the missionary spirit take off in the early Church. His catechetical ministry was simply remarkable.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55am EST

Biblical data on Paul's life in the first years after his conversion can be found only in Acts and Galatians. In the latter source, Paul affirms that the basis of his Gospel is Jesus Christ's personal revelation coupled with his rabbinical study. No individual, in Jerusalem or elsewhere, taught Paul the Christian way during these initial years. Parts of three years of his post-conversion life were spent in Arabia. Here he acquired some disciples, and taught the Gospel to all who were willing.

After returning from Arabia, he went up to Jerusalem to speak with Peter. The brethren quickly asked him to leave the city, considering him still to be a wanted man. Paul then returned to Silicia, the region of his birth for a lengthy period. By some reckonings, he may have spent eight or nine years in Silicia preaching a group of disciples and maturing. Though the Church has no specific knowledge of his activities during this period, one might consider this to be Paul's period of preparation for ministry.

Fourteen years after his conversion, he returned to Jerusalem. The motivation for his trip was likely to provide famine-relief from Antioch to Jerusalem. By this time, Paul had been preaching with Barnabas in Antioch for a year with wide acclaim. It is during this trip to Jerusalem that he finally received approval from the apostles to preach to the Gentiles.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeOfStPaul2a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:43pm EST

In His Providence, God equipped Paul with many of the skills that he would need to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, long before he fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. Just a few of these skills included a great Jewish memory, proficiency in Greek, and training in philosophy.

Physically, this man of medium height and medium build had a thorn in the flesh that he thrice asked to be removed.

It is likely that Paul is in his late 20s or early 30s when he first appears in the Book of Acts. If Stephen died in A.D. 34, Paul would have to have been born sometime between A.D. 1-8.

His primary instructor, Gamaliel was a master of the Hillel school of Pharisaic Judaism. This tolerant and learned teacher of the Law would later remark that if the Christians continued to flourish, it is proof that they have Divine commission.

Paul was not nearly as tolerant as his old teacher, but a firebrand who was extremely zealous--to the point of violence. Phillippians 3:4-7 shows his extreme Pharisaic piety, yet he considers it rubbish when compared with the Gospel.

The Tarsus-born lad grew up in Jerusalem amidst a culture of religious extremism and fastidiousness. He learned from the Pharisees that Jesus was certainly a fraud that taught false doctrines. He considered those who followed ''the Way'' to be Jewish heretics whose errors needed to be vehemently opposed. He spent roughly a year rounding up Christians for the high-ranking Pharisees.

While on his way to round up Christians in Damascus he was struck down by a light brighter than the Palestinian mid-day sun. The three accounts of his conversion each provide key details. Taken together, they depict arguably the most dramatic conversion in the history of the Church. He fasts for three days in repentance, and is soon Baptized to wash away his sins. Immediately Paul begins proclaiming the Gospel, though he is too controversial to be employed by the Apostles in Jerusalem.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Andante, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeofStPaul1b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

Analyzing the years during which Passover fell on a Friday, Christ died either in A.D. 30 or A.D. 33. David Higbee tends to lean towards the latter. One of his main reasons is that Pilate would have still had a Roman protector in A.D. 30, thus his capitulation to the Jewish leaders in crucifying Christ indicates that the later date is more likely.

Using A.D. 33 as a bench-mark for the crucifixion places the stoning of Stephen at A.D. 34-35. His martyrdom marks the entrance of Paul into the Scriptures. His career as a Christian persecutor would not have lasted more than four years after this death.

Higbee will attempt to illustrate the mind and heart of God's missionary instrument, Saul of Tarsus, though it will not be in the style of a modern biography. His hands-on approach to the apostolic work was never fully recreated. The author of at least a third of the New Testament, his mark on the Church is unparalleled. Because few have Jewish-Christian origins, most all Christians are indebted to Paul, the apostles to the Gentiles.

The most controversial figure in the New Testament (excepting Jesus) seems to have been a short feisty fellow from Asia Minor. At first he is a Rabbinical student in Jerusalem who is focused and dramatically hateful towards his enemies. On the road to Damascus, Christ profoundly calls Him to repentance and discipleship.

Before his conversion, he advanced in Judaism above and beyond his peers. Acts 14 shows that he is mistaken for Hermes/Mercury, a short, quick, talkative man. The apocryphal works the Acts of Paul and Thecla may also reveal something of his physical appearance.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Vivace, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: LifeofStPaul1a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:17pm EST

Certain items stand out from a review of the Corinthian correspondences. So dynamic was Paul's pastoring of this dynamic and diverse community that in an initial eighteen-month mission and a four-year period of intercession and periodic communication that it has left a mark on Christianity forever.

He encourages Christians to separate themselves from the world and its uncleanness. He references the words of Isaiah 52:11, ''Depart, depart, go out thence, touch nothing unclean [...] you who bear the vessels of the Lord'' and reminds them of their identity as vessels of the Lord, temples of the Holy Spirit.

Fellowship among brethren, agape love, interaction between those who are married, and sexual morality are just a few of the other topics he aptly addresses. He also exhorts generosity for the sake of the Church and for the poor. Dispensation in the spiritual life and the experience of the Spirit in relation to the law appear with the attributes of a genuine apostolic ministry are key sections.

Paul shows it is necessary to uphold the standards of God in a congregation. He will not cover up sins within the Church and will not tolerate sub-standard missionaries. Even more powerfully, he rejects those who adulterate the Word of God. His instruction will be forever remembered and demands serious study.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Aria-Larghetto, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor6b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30pm EST

The epistle provides a sort of living picture of an apostolic Church. In this particular letter Paul's passionate words rival only those in Galatians. After a summary of the early apostolic period, one can see that Paul suffered much before meeting the Corinthians.

A proper context for the Corinthian letter makes for a more comprehensive study. One will see that Paul's fiery ministry, the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church, and many other historical truths are significant factors into the problems that Paul addresses by his second epistle to the community.

He first enters Corinth during the Second Missionary journey, at a time when he was wishing to know only Christ and Him crucified. This city would perhaps seem an unlikely location for Christian mission. The city was renowned for its commerce, government, and sex-industry. Likely five times the population of Athens at this time, in this bawdy city that Paul meets Priscilla and Aquilla as well as a number of other leading members of the synagogue. Full of moxie, Paul sets up his ministerial center in the house next door to the synagogue, a move that loses him friends and alienates him from the Jewish population, to say the least. His ministry takes place over only 18 months.

Trouble with the Jews in Corinth lands Paul in court. Providentially, this shrewd proconsul of Achaia, Gallio, cuts the trial short and Paul escapes without harm. At that point he leaves Corinth and vows to arrive in Jerusalem by early the next year to celebrate the Passover. In April of A.D. 52, he fulfills his vow and then begins his Third Missionary journey, finally reaching Ephesus. It was at this time that Apollos enters the Corinthian Church, an eloquent man who only recently learned Christian doctrine of baptism.

While in Ephesus, Paul hears of the tumult within the Corinthian church, and writes his first letter to the Church. This letter is not to be confused with what we now refer to as the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and scholars continue to debate the exact content of this first letter.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Aria-Affettuoso, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor6a.mp3
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Paul's argument in the 11th chapter of Second Corinthians is similar to the one he uses in Galatians against the Judaizers. He writes ''if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.'' He then derides the so-called ''superlative apostles'' and boasts how he provided the gospel free-of-charge out of love for God. He juxtaposes his apostolic efforts with those who do not support themselves with their hands, but who claim to be apostles.

With wit and sarcasm, Paul continues to establish the merits of his ministry versus the failures of these ''superlative apostles.'' His argument then takes on a frantic tone: ''Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.'' He describes the terrible sufferings and beatings he has endured for the mission. Throughout his toil, he also contends with the daily anxiety for the welfare of the churches.

In chapter 12, he reluctantly reveals some of his spiritual revelations he has received. He also gives an account of how ''to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.''' He then resumes his defense of his ministry through the 13th chapter, one that has the utmost credibility. He then closes the letter with exhortations to repentance and holiness.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Gavotta, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor5b.mp3
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A marked shift in topic and tone appears within the last four chapters of Second Corinthians. Regardless of whether or not these chapters were added to the epistle after its original composition, its apostolic authority is unquestioned.

These chapters are a reaction to the Corinthian situation: trouble making evangelists agitating the impressionable church. These missionaries establish themselves by targeting Paul's recent converts and casting doubt upon his credibility. Sarcastically calling them the "super apostles," these bold Christians preach a different gospel than his, one that has a rather Jewish bent. Although we undoubtedly know him as St. Paul, in his time, the apostle's authority was consistently doubted and ridden with turmoil.

The difficulties within the Corinthian church are expounded by the makeup of the congregation: a progressive, almost antinomian faction and a legalistic, Judaizing faction.

In the tenth chapter, he humbly asks, if not begs, the church to reflect on the genuineness and fruitfulness that has always accompanied his ministry. He hopes to reestablish order and will later single out those responsible for creating the troubles between these two groups. Paul will not be put to shame by those who criticize him and addresses their claims with bold strength. His speech was "not eloquent," but this does not necessarily mean he could not command an audience. In the rest of the chapter, he shows the failings of his foes and the strength of his own ministry.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Gigha, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor5a.mp3
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Returning from his quick diversion to stress that God's people must be consecrated to the holy and sacred (cf. 6:14-7:1), Paul writes, ''I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. With all our affliction, I am overjoyed'' (7:4). He continues by accounting his troubles in Macedonia and how he received comfort from Titus and the Macedonian church. He recounts how he regreted, at the time, having to write his ''tearful letter'' to the Corinthians, but upon seeing how it moved them to repentance, he no longer has regrets (cf. v. 8). Paul masterfully illustrates how a healthy amount of grief which can lead to repentance, in contrast to the evil of worldly grief (cf. v. 9-11).

To get an insight into the mind of Paul, consider ''So although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your zeal for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all'' (v. 12-13). He used to boast to Titus of his own band's apostolic efforts, and now he boasts in the fruit of Titus' apostolate. He repeats a previous statement to conclude the seventh chapter, ''I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you'' (v. 16). His confidence in them, however, will not be nearly as apparent throughout the rest of the epistle.

In the eighth chapter, he addresses the collection to Jerusalem and how the poor Macedonian Christians gave abundantly for the needy within the City of David. He commends the Corinthians to likewise give alms with a number of arguments and illustrations (cf. v. 7 ff.). He then explains that Titus will be arriving shortly to assist with this collection and exhorts them to generosity by adding, ''So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift. The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.'' (9:5-8). Paul promises that this almsgiving will benefit the saints, the giver, and the glory of God. The abundant charity of the first Christians is a worthy of emulation by Christ's faithful in every age.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Minoetto I-III, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor4b.mp3
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An intensely personal epistle, Second Corinthians has a great deal to say about the Christian life, its requisite hope, and its standards. By itself, the law can only lead to condemnation, as God's holiness is inaccessible. Yet, the law is always preceded by God's promise of instruction and grace. After the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Christians gained access to the Father and the Gospel; Paul's entire life was devoted to spreading this Gospel. How devoted are American Catholics to this mission?

In chapter six, Paul concludes his argument that he has remained available, open, and honest with the Corinthians and that his ministry has the integrity of God (v. 11-13). Shifting entirely, he then focuses on the need for Christians to remain separate from secular men. Chapter seven, verse two resumes the thread of 6:11-13 seamlessly, leading scholars to speculate whether Paul's exhortation to leading lives of holiness and separation was inserted within the epistle at a later date.

To expound on the ''separation'' section of 6:14-7:1, these verses are sufficiently Pauline. Being unequally yoked refers to a Christian marrying an unbeliever; this directly follows the Levitical prohibition on mixed-breeds or plowing with an unequal yoke. As plowing a field is hard work, so is a marriage; God deigns that Christians bear the labor of marriage with another believer rather than with one who does not follow God's will. Paul's words here are strong: ''For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Be'lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?'' (v. 14-15). Because the average citizen has some involvement in immorality, Paul does not instruct every Christian to become a hermit, but rather to avoid unnecessary interactions with those who are immoral. His approach is somewhat Pharisaical, except he hates immorality, not Gentiles.

Since Christians are the temple of the living God, this requires an extreme holiness (which is entirely a gift from God) and, thus, a lack of any defilement. Not a static location like the Temple Mount, the Christian body is the movable temple--Christ inside man, a holy glory. Not only is Christ in each individual, but He is present wherever two or more are gathered. For all these reasons, tolerating immorality or nonessential association with immoral people must always be avoided. Making allusions to the Old Testament he writes, ''Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty'' (v. 17-18). Christ has fulfilled many prophesies by making sons of His followers. ''For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith'' (Gal 3:26). Therefore, it is not the nature of the Christian to touch or associate with anything unclean.

Music: Boismortier's Sonata 4 in D Minor - Adagio, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor4a.mp3
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The all-holy glory of our Triune God is weighty and substantial, never ''fluffy.'' To illustrate this, one can look to Moses' veiled, radiant face after having seen God's glory. Paul takes up this image of veils and radiant glory in chapter three. He also contrasts the ''dispensation of death'' with the ''dispensation of the Spirit'' (v. 7-8). What is passing away contains an ephemeral glory, but what abides is situated in a glory that is eternal (cf. v. 11). In this, Paul does not wish to abolish the old covenant, but fulfill it with the Gospel of Christ.

He writes, ''Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor'' (v. 12) and ''Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom'' (v. 17). Powerfully, ''And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit'' (v. 18). He then explains that this ministry strives to be wholly centered on the glory of God, unveiled and holy.

As any faithful minister, Paul carries within his body the death of Jesus so that he might bring life to his flock.''For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison'' (v. 15). This invisible glory manifests itself in faith, hope and charity. Paul is impatient to move towards a more substantive epoch: eternity.

Music: Johann Gottfried Conradi's Prelude in D Minor, from the album Allemande, performed by Edward Martin. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor3b.mp3
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Paul discusses two main ideas in chapter three. First, he discusses the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Second, he explains the principle of living in the spirit.

The dynamic church of Corinth contains bona fide Christians with numerous spiritual gifts, however troublesome they may be for Paul. Analyzing his interaction with the community illuminates at least twelve items worthy of reflection:

A minister must be: sincere, faithful and holy as God is holy; a firm leader without being a tyrant; willing to serve sacrificially; ever see his parishioners as the children of God; one who cares and loves sincerely like a good parent loves his child; one who exhibits transparent sincerity in all respects; one who is able to be true to his word; one who speaks the truth in love; one who is willing to appropriately confront the difficulties with people; one who never gives up on the responsibilities of his divine orders; one who does not allow his integrity to be derided by gossip or dissenters; one who does not change or diminish the Word of God for any reason.

The vocation of a pastor is far more than a 9-5 job, but a holy order that demands no less than his entire life. Further, Christians who continue to accept weak or lazy leadership from their ministers are negligent, cheating themselves and the larger Church from receiving true pastors.
 
Chapter three begins with Paul explaining that he has no need to provide a letter of his credentials, for ''You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your [our] hearts, to be known and read by all men and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.'' (v. 2-3). One does well to confer this with the covenental prophesies of Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26. God's grace alone will enable one to keep a covenant.

Paul knows that he must minister as purely as Christ does and that it is only through grace that he can do this. His confidence in and reliance on the Spirit of the Living God is striking.

The New Testament is the Word of God, but Paul knows that ''the written code [by itself] kills, but the Spirit gives life'' (v. 6) because knowledge of God is not sufficient to save unless it is lived through love, worship, and witness. The content of the Law combined with the sacraments of Jesus Christ is the abundant channel of grace offered to the modern Christians, far more abundant than those who lived only under the Old Covenant.

Lest one think that Paul is an antinomian, he says ''the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good'' (Rom 7:12). Inasmuch as the law explicates God, it is worthwhile, but it is not strong enough to carry one to salvation unless it is accompanied by a life in the Holy Spirit.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Melodie printaniere, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

Note: When this episode was posted there was a problem with duplicate audio.  If your file is 61 minutes long instead of the proper 51 minute length, either skip to 9:39 to begin or re-download the corrected file.
Direct download: 2Cor3a.mp3
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Paul transitions from the first to the second chapter of Second Corinthians by finalizing his account of the pastoral role he has as an apostle. Masterfully illustrated by his actions, the Godly pastor is one who ever acts with the mind, heart and soul of Christ Himself. Even while conducting administrative endeavors like payroll and paperwork, a pastor of God keeps the divine purpose of his life in mind. True pastors neither lord their power over a flock nor negligently allow their flock to go astray. One does well to be mindful of the many tears and toils Paul endured for his beloved congregations, but also bear in mind his words "If anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure--not to put it too severely--to you all" (v. 5).

The way Paul addresses pastoral issues seems wholly superior to the modern approach seen in many Catholic parishes: the former is the highest outpouring of earnest love and patient instruction, while the latter tends to be predominantly bureaucratic and lacking a personal touch. After dealing with a pastoral problem, Paul goes further to completely eradicates the source so that Satan may not have a foothold.

He writes, ''For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life'' (v. 15-16). Paul then contrasts himself with those whom he calls ''peddlers'' or ''swindlers'' of God's word. Never watering down or altering the message of the Gospel, his words indict all types of unworthy ministry and those who participate in it. Truly, any religious minister who does not tremble before the Word of God is a sham and will suffer harshly under the judgment of God.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Serenade, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor2b.mp3
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Though the constitution of the Church cannot change, the Corinthian church is extraordinarily different than the average American parish. An community of converts founded by Paul himself, the factionalism among those Christians in this multicultural trade hub presented the apostle, Timothy, and Titus with a series of daunting pastoral challenges.

The first chapter of Second Corinthians contains many doctrinal nuggets amidst Paul's response to chaotic situations. One should note contextually that Paul wrote a total of four letters to the Corinthian Church. Additionally, one must bear in mind that Paul traveled north to the Troas in order to determine the outcome of Titus' mission to Corinth.

Paul's religious language is not rhetoric, it is the truth expressed through tough love. He explains his reason for the delay in coming to the Corinthian church by way of Macedonia. Seeking to establish his credibility through precise, direct language that is neither flowery nor verbose (at least not for one with a rabbinical education). Although heresy, wild immorality and revolt are almost certainly not the issues Paul addresses here, he is nonetheless a father addressing important issues within his family. He addresses them with a clear conscience, reminding them that he is proud of them and never toiled among them for selfish reasons, perhaps in response to criticisms laid against him.

Paul did not change his mind and postpone his visit to Corinth for any selfish or mixed motives. He knows that the promises of God are absolute and that he who serves Him must have the same integrity. Never one to vacillate on ‘’yes and no,’’ his ‘’yes’’ holds the full weight of an ‘’Amen’’ before God Himself.

Finalizing his argument of his apostolic credibility, he states, ‘’But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me--it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith’’ (v. 21-24).

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Berceuse, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor2a.mp3
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Paul establishes both his apostolic leadership and the Church's universality in the first verse of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. What he writes to Corinth will be read not only in that city, but also in the various churches throughout Achaia.

The second item within the epistle is a prayer of thanksgiving and an exposition of physical suffering, the comforts Christ provides, and the comfort and compassion present among Christians. Genuine Christian life is one of plentiful crosses and frequent tribulations, for these sufferings are a requisite for entrance into the Kingdom (cf. Mark 8:35, Acts 14:22, 1 Pt 5:9). Suffering conforms one to the life of Christ more than any other spiritual exercise and deepens the bonds of true fellowship within the Church.

Using testimony from his apostolic travels, he reveals the comfort of Christ in the midst of extreme trial by stating, ''For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.'' (v. 8-9). Possibly the riot in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:24 ff.), Paul's response to the event here mentioned is instructive for every reader.

Second Corinthians is an exceedingly noteworthy epistle that is often overlooked or merely skimmed. If the spiritual implications of this letter do not challenge the Christian, it is likely he is not reading the text with any proper, prayerful depth.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Elegie, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor1b.mp3
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In order to properly understand Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthian Church, one must bear in mind a number of items. Chronologically, it is likely that the Second epistle was written just months after the First. An exceedingly intriguing epistle, it showcases Paul's life and personality in a way unparalleled among his other works.

One can only imagine the rapped attention with which the Corinthian Church listened to Paul's second letter. He divides his message into three parts after a brief introduction: he covers a myriad of points in the first, the topic of collections for the widows and orphans of Jerusalem in the second, and the presence of false Apostles in the third.

Some scholars question whether or not Paul composed this epistle as a united document, or if it is a composite of two separate epistles. Their suppositions are in response to the marked differences in tone that exists between the first nine and the last four chapters, although these arguments may not be as strong as some contemporary Biblical scholarship would have one believe.

Music: Gerard Satamian's Chansons sans paroles op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 2Cor1a.mp3
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Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians contains a number of key themes that a reader might overlook.

The fact that so few lay Catholics in America deliberately choose celibacy is a sign of a worldly church. Marriage was, is, and will always be a wonderful vocation, but many early lay Christians chose celibacy as an alternative to marriage, rather than simply a preparation for it. Too frequently the consecrated life is seen as a calling reserved for clergy and religious.

Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to associate with immoral men who claim to be Christian. He knows that Christians ought to judge the bad that is among their community (Cf. 5:13). American contemporary Catholicism is so far removed from Paul's pastoral spirit that those who seek significant reforms must be excruciatingly prudent in their judgments and actions. The duty of a Christian is to be his brother's keeper, but never a busybody.

Charismatic gifts are prevalent within Acts and First Corinthians. These gifts are always at God's disposal and proper spiritual discernment is always a requisite. One must never forget that the greatest of gifts is love.

One must not contextually dismiss Paul's views on women and sexuality as irrelevant to this age. He ever seeks to have men and women compliment one another properly and avoid unnecessary contesting of leadership. One must never forget Paul's exhortation in the Epistle to the Ephesians, ''Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ'' (5:21). It is a tragedy of our age that self-assertion is the new golden rule.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 4 Moments Musicaux Op. 84 - Maestoso, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor9b.mp3
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Paul's great pastoral epistle is especially instructive for the Church in modern America.

Written to a Church often beset by infighting, immorality, and individualism, the timeless messages of forbearance, freedom from sin, and fellowship are a much-needed salve.

These final inquiries into First Corinthians revisit the issues of how bad the Corinthian Church really was, whether our time is any worse than other times in history, and the Church's current practice on women's veils.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 4 Moments Musicaux Op. 84 - Moderato e grazioso, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor9a.mp3
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In chapter one, Paul introduces himself as an encouraging father. Chapter two shows a more corrective side, outlining the immaturity of the Corinthian community. He highlights their faults even more centrally throughout chapter three. By the end of the letter, he establishes himself as an honorable father who will ever speak honestly to his children, correcting faults when necessary.

In chapter 16, he says, ''I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer'' (v. 16). He cites Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus as examples of holiness and leadership within the Church.

He closes the letter with, ''I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love will be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen'' (v. 21-24). When Paul says ''If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed,'' he instructs the Church not to tolerate immorality and godlessness.

Ever present throughout this letter is the mind and personality of St. Paul. The letter contains vivid and notable snapshots of the Church that hosted the great missionary-pastor for 18 months, and one can never reach the bottom of its depths. The letter's contents compel the reader to spiritual progress as well as discipleship, service and love. It also demands the resolution of interpersonal disputes and the establishment of the highest standards of sexual morality. The role of women, spiritual gifts and the nature of the Eucharist all have profound places in this letter. Although the letter's chapters build into a sort of crescendo of pastoral correction, Paul always writes with great and genuine love.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andantino, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor8b.mp3
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This chapter describes a wide-spread collection of funds for the Church in Jerusalem. Giving sacrificially for Christ - who gave Himself for the human race - was ever on the mind of these early Christians who always gave well beyond the 10% tithing requirement. Tithe money never paid for ecclesial luxuries, but for pressing needs like furthering effective missionary activity and sustaining widows and orphans. The offering described in this chapter is a sort of precursor to what we now know as Peter's Pence; Paul and many young men from the various churches throughout Christendom would later carry their offerings to Jerusalem to lay them at the feet of the apostles. Paul also presents the Gentile Christians to the Lord in the Temple, an act which fulfills a prophesy from Isaiah 60 but incites a riot and leaves him imprisoned.

Paul cannot leave his post in Ephesus until Pentecost, but hopes to return to the Corinthians after passing through Macedonia (cf. v. 5-9). He urges the church to ''Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love'' (13-14).

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians is not a manual of Christian doctrine or rubrics but a personal letter to a specific church with particular predicaments.

Extremely personal, the letter is a riveting apostolic work that arises from love and compels the properly disposed reader to recollect and repent. Although one may not be privy to all the details of the particular Corinthian situation, studying this letter is always profitable. Although focused study is necessary to undermine the full weight of this letter, one's study must never remain purely intellectual but must penetrate to one's spirituality and daily life.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andantino, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor8a.mp3
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Out study continues with the great Resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, verse 23. Christ is the Messiah whose reign must continue until he has triumphed, when eternity begins (cf. v. 23-27). The Father is the font of divinity without having any chronological or hierarchical priority over Jesus Christ. A close reading of this chapter will reveal that there was no "generic God-substance" that created Christ, but rather the one God, a personal moral being who is all-powerful and who eternally begets the Son.

Note that verse 29 does not speak to the common Mormon practice of Baptizing the Dead, and is the only reference of any such a baptismal practice in the Bible.

Paul knows that one is ruined by the bad company he keeps (v. 33), and he mentions it within this chapter for the good of the Church. He chastises them by saying "Come to your right mind and sin no more" (v. 34).

He answers a number of the Corinthians' questions on the resurrection of the dead in verses 35-44. He writes, "Just as we have born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (v. 49-50). In this, he states that all who are raised to heaven will be changed, a change that occurs in the blink of an eye. He concludes the chapter by stating "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (v. 58).

One must never forget that the goal of the Christian life is to remain with the Lord in heaven. With this perspective, one has a life-changing motivation.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Andante cantabile, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor7b.mp3
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Sometimes termed "the great Resurrection chapter," 1 Corinthians 15 accounts just that and more. Certain members of the Corinthian Church, perhaps because of a Greek heritage that often disparages the flesh, take issue with Jesus' resurrection. From the initial verse, Paul affirms that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel.

He expresses that Christ died for our sins and rose to give us eternal life, appearing to many (v 2-6). Note that Cephas [Peter] is mentioned specifically as well as being included in those "twelve" apostles who witnessed Him (v 5). Paul uses the terms "the twelve" and "the apostles" as two separate categories (v 7). These precise groupings of witnesses serve help establish facts, adding credibility to Paul's argument.

It was only the resurrected Christ who dramatically changed Paul from the Church's greatest persecutor into one of its chief workers. Paul reminds them that a Christian's resurrection will be one of both the spirit and the body, urging them to never overlook the resurrection of the body on the last day. He writes in response to those who question the resurrection of the body, "If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (v 16-17).

Christ has trampled upon death through the resurrection and lifts believers from the dead and from sin. By thinking deeply about heaven and the resurrection of the dead, Christians remain focused on their final end throughout the battle against sin.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 3 Moments Musicaux Op. 7 - Allegramente, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor7a.mp3
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Chapter 13 of the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians begins with Paul's address to those who speak in tongues. Unless love is the controlling virtue in one's life, a spectacular faith, a powerful prophetic message or even the gift of tongues are of no value (cf. v. 1-3). He infers that love and the peace of Christ are to ever remain the arbiters among disputing peoples.

Characterizing love, he notes how it is "patient and kind," neither jealous or boastful; nor arrogant or rude; and never insisting on its own way (cf. v. 4-6). Further, love "does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things [without ever being wishy-washy], hopes all things, endures all things. [Divine] Love never ends" (v. 7-8). Paul knows that divine love does not come naturally to humans; rather, it is always a gift of purely supernatural grace.

He writes, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up my childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (v. 10-12). Our American connotation of "love" pales in comparison to the love expressed through deeds of self-sacrifice that Paul speaks of in this chapter.

He again addresses the gifts of tongues in Chapter 14. He places the gift of prophesy as more valuable than the gift of tongues, except in instances where the tongue is interpreted, because prophesies edify the whole church (cf. v. 5). If all spiritual gifts are given for the common good, he observes that those who speak in tongues should speak in intelligible tongues and pray for their tongue's interpretation (cf. v. 7-10). Note that the interpretation of tongues does not mean a translation, for interpretations always convey a spiritual message beyond the jots and tittles of any message. When in church, Paul would rather "speak five words with [his] mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (v. 19).

He heightens his tone by urging the Corinthians to maturity and wisdom (cf. v. 20). To understand the larger context of his powerful statement in verse 22, "Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers," one must thoroughly digest Isaiah 28. He concludes the chapter by masterfully instructing his wayward church on the proper use of tongues, prophesy and silence in their worship and communal life.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 4 Moments Musicaux Op. 84 - Animato ma non troppo, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor6b.mp3
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Paul addresses spiritual gifts in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. He knows the Church does not realize their low level of spiritual maturity; but their arrogant, impatient and factious ways indict them. So misguided is this Church that they act against the teachings of both Paul and the Council of Jerusalem. This chapter showcases him again pleading with the people like they are close family members.

He knows that the Corinthians have a good foundation of catechesis, but that many are either practicing dead-letter religion or are misappropriating their gifts. He addresses this by reiterating that all who are of Christ receive spiritual gifts and they must be exercised for the common good. A variety of gifts among individuals in a community provide the essential elements of Christian life. He lists numerous gifts, but "all [...] are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who appropriations to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (v 11-12). Paul's language makes one question whether this factious Church was marginalizing individuals who had particular spiritual gifts as less important than those with other gifts. He stresses the equality of the people of God, for "the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable" (v. 22). Because the members of the Corinthian Church are one body, Paul chastises them for their disunity and urges them to love one another.

A loving, family life is so characteristic of genuine Christian life, as expressed in the thirteenth chapter. Sadly, this type of love is so uncharacteristic of modern Catholicism in America. Paul exhorts the Corinthian Church to this love and what love is and what it is not (cf. v. 4-8). He also makes it clear that they must all love more genuinely.

Music: Moritz Moszkowski's 3 Moments Musicaux Op. 7 - Tranquillo e semplice, from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor6a.mp3
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The character of Paul's language changes distinctly in Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians as he attempts to reassert his role as an apostle. Some among the brethren of Corinth felt apostles would not need to work to support themselves, and viewed his working to support his ministry as a demerit on his authority. He responds by saying "I [am an apostle] to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" (v 2). He continues by asserting the rights of an apostle through a series of rhetorical questions.

Using sound rabbinical arguments, he asserts that God allows the workers to partake of the fruit of their labor (Cf. v. 8-12). These statements are not Paul's attempt to amass material gains, but assert his authority as an apostle. As he continues, his temper begins to reveal itself in the verbiage (Cf. v 14). He hits on the cornerstone of his argument when he states "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" and "What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel" (v 16, 18). Always trying to save as many souls as possible he reflects how he "became all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (v 23). He closes the chapter with a lively exhortation that the Corinthians strive for holiness through self-restraint and exertion like an athlete strives for victory (Cf. v 24-27).

Returning to his previous language-style in Chapter 10, he uses the example of their Jewish forefathers to instruct the troubled church. After illustrating the sacramental gifts that the Israelites received from God he warns the people not to partake unworthily or without gratitude, lest they die like many of the Israelites. He ever attempting to bring the conceited Corinthians to greater holiness, he provides hope against temptation by stating "God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (v 13).

Returning to his railing against idolatry, he asks "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?" so that he may come to his eucharistic theology "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (v 16). This is to establish that one cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, and that meat sacrificed to idols is inherently demonic.

He instructs the Judaizers by saying "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful" (v 23). He also allows that "if one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question" except it becomes clear that this meat was sacrificed to an idol (v 27).

Finally, in the beginning of Chapter 11, Paul addresses the issue of women's head coverings.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 - Adagio sostenuto from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor5b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:50am EST

The beginning of an extremely challenging portion of Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 8 edges towards discussing liberty and constraints. Chapters 8-11 showcase Paul's pastoral nature, for rather than writing a polemic list of do's and don't's to a church of diverse believers with questionable devotion, he has devised an all-embracing construct for Christian life, worship and the spiritual realm. The implications of these chapters are more radical than the sexual ideals put forth in chapters 6-7.

The issues of enforcing ecclesial norms plagued the Corinthian Church just as it plagues the Catholic Church in America. One central issue emerges: eating meat sacrificed to idols. Rather than burn or discard meat used for ritual purposes, pagan temples and local markets sold vast supplies of cheap, edible meat. It was common in Corinthian culture for one to eat his meal right at the temple, and the vast quantity of meat made these temples a sort of banquet hall for trade guilds; in either case these affairs were tainted with pagan idolatry.

Paul prepares the groundwork for his argument by beginning chapter 8 very carefully; writing across the Aegean Sea to a church with which he has a deep spiritual bond, he is like a careful parent not trying to lose control of rebellious teenagers. As an Old Testament scholar, he knows the need to eradicate idolatry among God's people. Certain Corinthian Christians had long argued it was licit to eat meat sacrificed to idols, since they knew there was only one true God, but the early Church's harsh treatment of those who burned incense to the Roman gods provides a proper precedent against such a practice. Nevertheless, the Corinthian Church was in turmoil over this issue, dividing families and splitting the church.

For a bit of history, the Christian faith came to Corinth after the Council of Jerusalem which insisted that uncircumcised Gentiles refrain from eating meat with blood in it or that had been strangled, avoiding all things associated with idols and all forms of sexual immorality. Blood was so stringently avoided primarily because of God's commandment to Noah and his sons, not Israelites, of whom we are all descendants. Now, the Corinthians bristle at Paul's authority and perceived "legalism" in regards to meat sacrificed to idols.

He offers a valuable lesson, "'all of us possess knowledge'. 'Knowledge [without love] puffs up, but love builds up'" (8:1). After discussing love and knowledge, he concedes that "although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' -- yet, for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (v 5-6). He follows with "not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol" (v 7). The mature Christians must bear patiently with their co-religionists who do not possess the knowledge in verses 5 and 6; the alternative is to sin against Christ (Cf. v. 12). He then finishes the chapter by edging up to a prohibition on eating meat sacrificed to idols which he will state definitively in chapter 10.

As an aside, when Paul says "all things are lawful," he is not being an antinomian [law-abolisher], but instead referring to those who have the full life of Christ and never act except in accord God's perfect will. This statement is also an attempt to warm those who respond negatively to legalism to his pastoring.

Music: La Cornara from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor5a.mp3
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In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addresses another set of issues that rend unity among the Corinthian Church. Brothers are regularly asking secular magistrates to settle their disputes (cf. v. 1-2). The actions of these neophytes show they place self-assertion before the virtues of Christian sacrifice, prudence and charity. Paul informs them that choosing to stand before worldly authorities to settle these matters is a clear sign of their spiritual decay (cf. v. 4-6).

These brothers "wrong and defraud" their "own brethren" and are deceiving themselves (v. 8). He warns them that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom" of God and that "neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts [the original Greek here lists two separate terms to include homosexual offenders and those who freely allow themselves to be homosexually offended], nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God" (v. 9-11). Paul knows that some of the Corinthians were previously chained to the sins listed above, and urges them to remember that they have been "washed," "sanctified," and "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (v. 11).

"'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything [...] the body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.'" When Paul says this, he makes a masterful distinction between function and purpose. Any function of the body – which will be resurrected on the last day – must never lead one to forget that their bodies are "members of Christ" (v. 15). Violations of one's body are offenses against that body and the person and purpose of Christ. If the purpose of human sexuality is that "the two shall become one flesh," then the function of uniting with a prostitute is an extreme aberration (cf. v. 16). There can be nothing immoral within Christians because they are, at the core, of Christ's body.

In Chapter 7, Paul answers the questions posed him by the Corinthian Church. He begins "It is well for a man not to touch a woman" (v. 1). Knowing that men are weak and tempted to immorality, he writes that "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" when necessary (v. 2).

Neither commanding nor legislating the conjugal union between marital couples, he seeks to alleviate selfishness and other problems relating to intimacy (v. 3-5). He wishes "that all were as I myself am [celibate]. But each has his own special gift from God" (v. 7). He establishes that divorce and remarriage should not be commonplace among the Christian Church (v. 8 ff.).

He uses Jewish regulatory language to describe the ramifications of a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever (v 10 ff.). He writes, "the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy" (v. 14). Note that the "consecration" he speaks of here does not refer to a salvific grace, but instead to that grace which allows such a couple to live under the same roof and raise legitimate children who are able to be baptized.

Paul writes, "if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace," but he does not here advise the believer to remarriage (v. 15). Generally, he instructs the people to avail themselves of every opportunities live the fullest Christian life possible without compelling slaves, married men and others to unnecessarily disrupt their state in life (v. 20 ff.).

He then offers advice similar to that given in Matthew 19, where Jesus advises those who are able to become eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom to do so. He explicates Christ's message in greater detail, saying "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin [...] Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that" (v. 27-28).

His urge that "those who have wives live as though they had none," is not a call for universal celibacy within marriage, but instead a warning against living a married life as an ordinary man, but as a fully integrated Christian (v. 29).

A man with a family has more responsibilities than the unmarried man, and meeting the demands of the kingdom may be more difficult. Paul stresses that he wishes "not to lay any restraint upon [the Corinthians], but to promote good order and to secure [their] undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35). He concludes "he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better" (v. 38).

Music: Gagliarda Terza from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor4b.mp3
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1 Corinthians 5 reveals a distinct shift in the epistle, for here Paul begins to address the scandal of a Corinthian Christian living with his father's wife (v 1). Such an action is forbidden in Torah, prohibited in Roman law, and is in clear contradistinction with the call of Christ; it should have long been addressed by the Corinthian leaders, and Paul upbraids these leaders for their negligence. It is clear that this immoral person is adamantly persisting in his sin and shows no sign of leaving the church.

To this, Paul demands, "Let him who has done this be removed from among you" with all his apostolic authority, for "though absent in body I am present in spirit [when you are assembled together], and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing ... with the power of the Lord Jesus you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (v 2-3, 5). Thus a total excommunication removes him completely from the protective umbrella of God's Church until he bears the fruit of genuine repentance. One should note that men can regularly repent from sexual sin through grace; Paul's terrifying excommunication is a deliberate attempt to dissuade these sins.

Throughout the entire scandal, the Corinthians have been boasting of their spiritual acumen (cf v 6). He reminds them that as "a little leaven leavens the whole lump," unfettered evil quickly spreads throughout the Church. Referencing the festival of deliverance, the Passover, he writes "let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (v 8).

Paul knows that greed, robbery and idolatry are in the world, but demands that Christians not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of egregious immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler (slanderer), drunkard or robber (v 11). His attempt is to raise the standards of holiness for Christians, never to execute vindication or to mete out punishment on non-Christians for immorality. When he says they are "not even to eat with such a one," he challenges the Corinthian Church to address grave sin for the good of the whole body, even if doing so painfully breaks the norms of social etiquette. Rather than tolerate evils that will poison the flock, Christians must "Drive out the wicked person from among you" (v 12). One will best do this through frequent examination of conscience and by speaking the truth in love.

Music: Avanti Il Quarto Brando from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor4a.mp3
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Paul's indictment of the Corinthian Church reaches new depths in 1 Cor 3:17 as he warns against troublemakers within the Church, "And if anyone destroys God's temple [the Body of Christ], God will destroy him." He continues, "Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'the Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile'" (v 18-19). Paul then upbraids the Corinthians for not acting as those who are Christ's possession (cf v 22-22).

A strong leader, Paul then asks the people to examine his conduct for blame or error, professing a clean conscience (cf 4:3-5a). Knowing that it is the Lord alone who will judge, he stresses that the Christian must never pass final judgment on another in his own heart. Note, however, that the Paul's Epistles frequently call on the Christian to judge between right deeds and wrong deeds.

In response to the boastful ways of the Corinthians, he asks "What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" (v 7). After being blessed with every spiritual gift in the heavens, they are acting like sniveling misers. He calls them to be what they really are, "a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men" (v 9).

Paul teaches that Christians are "fools for Christ's sake" and thereby possess true wisdom (v 10, cf 3:18). Citing the good example of the Apostolic band, he states "we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world ... I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children ... For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me" (v 12-16).

Paul so steadfastly lives in Christ and Him crucified that he is able to overturn all pride, arrogance, factionalism. He warns the Corinthians he "will come to [them] soon" to pastor those who speak with arrogance and remind them that "the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power" (v 18-19). He forcefully concludes the fourth chapter by asking "What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" (v 21).

Music: La Maltese from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor3b.mp3
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Christianity must ever remain mission-minded, seeking to save souls, lest it lose its saltiness. Clear standards and expectations of progress are necessary and reasonable in order to achieve practical gains. Spreading the Gospel must always come before seeking self-fulfillment and, non-coincidentally, those who lovingly spread the Gospel will experience the most fulfillment.

All Christians must beware not to squander the gifts they have received or neglect the responsibilities that come with their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is God's gift to the believer and He provides additional gifts in order that one might cooperate with Him, repent, genuinely love Him and evangelize.

The Corinthian Church contains individuals at various stages of immaturity, whereas a vibrant Christian community contains a mixture of mature veterans and immature new-comers. After accepting the gift of salvation and numerous spiritual charisms, Paul upbraids the Corinthians for letting let the cares of the world distract them from living a mission-minded faith. Additionally, they have not put to death the desires of their fleshly minds and act like busybodies who point fingers at others but never examine their own lives. Paul knows that these men are not wholly un-spiritual, but are spiritual men acting upon the desires of their flesh. In contrast, a genuine Christian spirituality is a life lived in regular experience with the Holy Spirit.

He writes, "But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?" (1 Cor 3:1-3) Wrapping themselves in their human leaders Paul and Apollos, they withhold honor due only to God who alone provides the Christian's growth (cf v 4). Paul understands that he is but a humble servant who thankfully responds well to God's grace by grace. Mindful that no one can earn his salvation, he knows laborers for the Kingdom will receive wages according to their works (cf v 8).

Jesus Christ Himself is the only foundation upon which the Church can be built (cf v 13, Eph 4, 1 Pet). To the extend they do this, the work of the Christian will be made manifest on the Day of Judgment (cf v 14-15). The man whose work is unworthy and is "burned up" will "suffer loss, though he himself will be saved" after a period of purgation (v 15). All Christians must see themselves as they truly are and fess up to their sins, whether this revelation occur in this world or in purgatory.

Music: La Zabarella from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor3a.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST

After a difficult mission in Athens, Paul comes to the Corinthians not with a lofty intellectual message, but having "decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). Despite suffering from "weakness and in much fear and trembling," he successfully ministered to the Corinthians in "demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (v 3, 4). His intent was "that [their] faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (v 5).

Paul brings wisdom to those mature Corinthians, but this wisdom is a "secret and hidden wisdom of God" that "none of the rules of this age" could understand (v 6, 7).

Referencing Isaiah, Paul states "no eyes has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (v 9-10). God's ways are unsearchable, except to that man to whom "God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (v 10).

Speaking of his own ministry, he states "we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit" (v 12-13).

He contrasts the "unspiritual," natural man with the spiritual man, the latter of which "judges [discerns] all things, but is himself to be judged [discerned] by no one" (cf. 14, 15). In other words, the unspiritual man cannot understand the reasoning of the spiritual man. For no one can know the mind of the Lord unless He gives his sons "the mind of Christ" (cf. v 16).

Paul addresses the men of Corinth as "men of the flesh, as babes in Christ," feeding them with "milk, not solid food" (3:1-2). He writes, "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?" (v 3).

Modern Christians do well to discern the extent that they behave like ordinary men and discarding jealously and selfishness for the mind of Christ. Without a genuine spirituality, Christians will not be ready for solid food, but will remain among those of the flesh.

Sorry for the audio quality this week, this was digitized off of a cassette tape. Everything will be back to normal in the next episode.

Music: La Moneverda from the album Italian Music of the 17th Century, performed by Altri Stromenti. www.magnatune.com
Direct download: 1Cor2b.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:55pm EST