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The Old Testament gave elaborate ceremonies for the ordination of priests, but the New Testament contains none. There is no New Testament ordination ceremony because the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. Speaking to Christians (not clergy), Peter wrote, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). He adds, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Under the Old Covenant, the priest interceded between God and man, and offered the necessary sacrifices to God. Christians, “lively [living] stones,” are “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.” Paul speaks of our sacrifices: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). God condemned King Saul for taking it upon himself to offer unauthorized sacrifices (1 Samuel 13:12-13; 15:22), so the priesthood of all believers is a significant change.

The emphasis of the New Testament is that every individual member of the church is important. “For as we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5). As individual members of the body of Christ, all Christians, as a “royal priesthood,” and a “holy priesthood,” have a ministry to the world. There is no need for any other earthly priesthood to intercede for us with God. We all may approach God directly through prayer. At the same time, each member of this “holy priesthood” has a responsibility to seek out opportunities to minister, living a life of purity before the world.


Webster defines it this way: con•text \ n [ME, weaving together of words, fr. L contextus connection of words] 1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light upon its meaning 2: MILIEU, ENVIRONMENT.

One of the most important elements to consider in hermeneutics [a fancy word for Bible interpretation] is context. The context often makes all the difference between understanding and misunderstanding a passage. The Bible has been divided into chapters and verses for our convenience. Without these divisions, it would be much harder to find things in the Bible. It also causes many problems, though, because the chapter and verse divisions tend to make us ignore context. We tend to think that the verse or chapter stands alone, which is almost always not correct.

Our communication is based on letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. Many Bible verses are simply parts of longer sentences, and thus cannot be properly understood without considering the rest of the sentence. Further, a sentence often cannot be understood without considering the paragraph in which it is found. Beyond this, a paragraph often cannot be understood without considering the surrounding chapters, the whole book, or the entire Bible. All of this is context.

Consider this example of stringing together individual Bible passages without consideration of context:

“Then Judas, which had betrayed him … cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5). “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). “And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).

Consideration of the context is so important, because without it, we run the risk of making the Bible say what we want it to say. Instead, we need to let the Bible speak, and learn what it really says, not just what we want or expect it to say. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Context would tell us that it is not just any truth that makes us free, but the truth of God’s Word. And if we love truth as we should, we will make sure that we consider context.


In her best-selling book about punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,  Lynn Truss made a striking point concerning the way punctuation can change a sentence (New York: Gotham Books, 2004, p. 74). She cites Luke 23:43 as an example. The King James Version renders the verse, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Thus Jesus promised the repentant “thief on the cross” that they would be together in paradise that day. 

As Truss points out, however, the preferred Roman Catholic rendering of the verse is “Verily I say unto thee this day, Thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Notice the subtle change by moving the comma. While the KJV gives the understanding that Jesus and the thief would be together in paradise that very day, the sense of the Catholic rendering is that while Jesus and the thief would be together in paradise at some point, the time is unspecified. 

Why does this comma make any difference? The reason the placement of the comma matters is the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, defined as a place intermediate between heaven and earth, where the dead who have not done sufficient penance in life may endure suffering for a certain period of time to satisfy the demands of justice left from life. Under current teaching about purgatory, the righteous on earth can pray, burn candles, and do works of penance to help those in purgatory make that last step from temporary suffering to heaven. 

The choice of where to put the comma in Luke 23:43 is one that the translators have made, since the original autographs of the Greek do not contain commas. (Biblical Hebrew does not even have vowels!) Wherever we place the comma, however, there is no mention in the Bible of purgatory. Two false doctrines—original sin and salvation through meritorious works, made the idea of purgatory necessary. Let us be sure that we do not read into the text those things which are not there!


Researchers have settled that pressing question we have all been asking: “How many licks does it take to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop (or Tootsie Roll Pop)?” Doctoral students at NYU determined it takes about 2,500 licks, as revealed in an article in the Journal of Fluid Dynamics, “Shape dynamics and scaling laws for a body dissolving in fluid flow” (World, March 7, 2015, p. 23). I don’t know how they did their research, but it was probably more fun for the lickers than for the lick counters!

I suspect everyone was counting when Naaman went down into the Jordan. His story is found in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a great man, captain of the host of the king of Syria, a mighty man of valor, “but he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1). Learning that the prophet in Samaria could recover him of his leprosy, he got the king’s approval and took ten talents of silver and six thousand pieces of gold to buy his healing from the king of Israel. The king could do nothing, but Elisha had a simple, though seemingly ridiculous command: “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (10). 

 Seven is a number of perfection in scripture. Genesis tells us of a seven day creation. There are seven signs in the gospel of John, seven letters to churches in Revelation 2-3, seven trumpets, seven seals, seven beatitudes, etc. in Revelation. Israel marched around Jericho for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. 

The issue for Naaman, though was not the number seven as such, but the necessity of doing exactly what he was told. Dipping seven times in the Abana or Pharpar of Damascus (12) would have better suited him, but it would not have been obedience to the command.

Naaman was angry at receiving such a ridiculous command, expecting Elisha to put on a big show of power, but his servants reasoned with him that he would have done some great thing if asked. “How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (13). Did it really make any difference how many times he washed in Jordan? Would it have been enough to wash five or six times? Of course not. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (14). The Lord said,  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). There is no other choice.

Peter commanded the multitude on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). How many were included in “every one of you”? We don’t know, but “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). There must have been many who did not “gladly receive the word,” and did not obey. If Naaman had been there, he would have obeyed. How about you?


One Sunday, during the Lord’s Supper, the plate of unleavened bread was being passed down our pew when my then 3-year-old son loudly announced, “Dad, I want some!” Now, this was nothing new. He had been doing it for almost as long as he had been able to speak. But that day, my usual response of, “Son, this is just for Christians”, did not suffice. He fixed me with a very knowing and confident look for a toddler and declared, “Dad, I know it is just a cracker!”

Even though I later tried to explain these things to my little boy, he continued to believe we were trying to trick him and keep this little snack for ourselves. My son, in his innocence, could not grasp that the cup and the cracker represented something far more. He is not the only one who has struggled with this distinction. Adults can also lose sight of what the wafer and the cup signify.

It is not just a cracker, it is an emblem. While the bread and fruit of the vine do not become the body and blood of our Lord, as some falsely teach, we must never look at them as “common” things (Hebrews 10:29). They serve as powerful symbols that call to mind the death of the Lord. 

Christians partake of these emblems with these words in mind “this do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). “With just a morsel of bread and a few drops of grape juice, we draw our hearts back to Him who died for us.” (Christopher Stinnett). The Corinthian church once lost sight of this purpose and made a mockery of this act of worship. They failed to observe it as a memorial but instead turned it into a common feast, thus earning the Apostle’s rebuke, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

It is not just a cracker, it is an examination. Paul taught, “…whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). The Lord designed it to be a time, at the beginning of every week (Acts 20:7), for one to examine his or her life in relation to the Cross (James 4:8).  

It is not just a cracker, it is communion (1 Corinthians 10:16). Communion means fellowship or joint participation. Jesus indeed promised, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29. Cf. Lk 22:28-29). The church is His kingdom (Mark 9:1, Acts 2:47, Colossians 1:12-13). We must never forget that as we come together on the Lord’s day to partake of this memorial meal, Jesus is our unseen guest.

It is not just a cracker, it is a proclamationIn our observation of this memorial, we proclaim our faith in the saving power of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and His future coming. Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26). 

No, it is not just a cracker and a bit of juice. It is so much more! It is a meal shared with our Lord, which looks backward to His death, inward in self-examination, and forward toward His future return.


Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society rocked the world of astrology on January 13, 2011, when he revealed that the traditional “star signs” used to determine horoscopes are wrong for most people.

It seems that the astrological signs codified by Ptolemy in the second century have changed since then, shifting most people to another sign. (For instance, I have changed from an “Aquarius” to a “Sagittarius.”) This means that the 25% of Americans who believe in astrology have been reading the wrong horoscopes all of their lives. Some professional astrologers claim they have always known this, but their followers certainly have not (Belinda Luscombe, “Zodiac Switcheroo,” Time, January 31, 2011).

You may have looked at a horoscope some time out of curiosity. The ones I have seen are written in such generic terms that any particular reading could apply to just about anyone, so it wouldn’t really make much difference what “sign” you were. And of course, it doesn’t make any difference anyway, because it is all nonsense at best and idolatry at worst. A newspaperman once told me that the two most read parts of the average newspaper are the letters to the editor and the horoscopes. I guess that explains why in our enlightened twenty-first century, most American newspapers, including ours, continue to carry their horoscope columns.

When Job gave his “oath of clearance,” defending himself against the charge that his suffering was the result of his sin, he denied, among other things, being engaged in astrology: “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above” (Job 31:26-28).

Astrology is in the same category as New Year’s good luck superstitions and number 13 bad luck. These superstitions put people in bondage to ignorance and deny the power of God. God is in control—not the stars (Romans 8:28).


There is no doubt that the man we know as Neil Postman described serious problems in modern culture in his insightful 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. His thesis was that public discourse has been reshaped to such an extent by television and entertainment that thoughtful discourse is missing. Show business hype has affected advertising, politics, and religion. Postman’s conclusion is that none of these changes have made for improvement.

In our entertainment-oriented culture, many churches find themselves trying to out do themselves with more and more elaborate additions to worship. What began as special music by a choir becomes a full orchestra with professional soloists. A dramatic reading necessitates a full Broadway stage production. And as long as those who come to worship enjoy what is offered, anything goes. The expectation is that sermons will be shorter, wittier, and more uplifting. Anything in worship that cannot be “jazzed up” must be abandoned as boring-and there is nothing worse than being boring, we are led to believe.

The problem with this entertainment orientation is that the very object of worship is forgotten. God is the audience in worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that ignorant worship was unacceptable to God, even though it may have been sincere or enjoyable. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit and truth means that worship must be from the heart, not just outward acts, and that it must be done in exact obedience to God’s commands. The worship must be directed to Him, not to the whims of the worshipers.

God’s regulations for worship as set out in the New Testament are neither boring nor out of date. They are God-centered, while entertainment is man-centered.

Cultural relevance is important-thus many churches are implementing modern technology such as projection systems to enhance sermons, and there is nothing wrong with the worshiper enjoying worship. God intended for worship to bless His children, but when worship is merely window dressing for an entertainment performance, it cannot please God. The apostle warned, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 1:9). Paul condemned things that “have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship” (Colossians 2:23). “Self-imposed worship” is that worship fashioned after man’s desires. – Bob Prichard

Harvest Workshop 2013

We had a wonderful soul-winning workshop this year. Many of you have been asking for copies of the lessons, so I am posting links to the Videos.

The Growing Need for Everyday Apologetics
(Tim Hall, Johnson City, TN)

Common Sense Arguments for Creation
(Tim Hall, Johnson City, TN)

Common Sense Arguments for the Reliability of the Bible
(Denny Petrillo, Denver, CO)

Sharing the Uniqueness of Jesus
(Rick Kelley, Prestonsburg, KY)

Questions and Answer Session:
(Denny Petrillo, Tim Hall, Eddy Craft)

Answering Alleged Bible Discrepancies
(Eddy Craft, Elizabethton, TN)

I Believe in the One they call Jesus!
(Eddy Craft, Elizabethton, TN)

I Believe in the Church that Jesus Built!
(Keith Kasarjian, Prattville, AL)

I Believe in the Power of the Gospel!
(Denny Petrillo, Denver, CO)