Biblical Exposition

He was chased out of the city and barely escaped under the cover of night. Local friends are good to have at times like this—they can find the city gates in the dark. Traveling by the light of the moon Paul and his companions arrived with the morning dew in Berea only twenty miles to the west.

But his enemies in Thessalonica quickly discovered Paul had escaped to Berea and was again teaching—they came after him again. This time Paul was rushed off to the coast and escaped by the Aegean Sea, sailing to Athens. All he wanted to do was share the Good News, but not everyone wanted to hear it—in fact some wanted to kill the messenger. His companions Silas and Timothy stayed behind but soon joined Paul in Athens 200 miles to the south (Acts 18:5).

The Jews in Thessalonica had been furious to hear that a Galilean man named Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God had come to earth to save the Jews and Gentiles by being assassinated on a cross. What blasphemy! And to make it worse, the one preaching this message to the Jews was a Jew himself!

And to make it even worse this Jewish preacher was telling the Gentiles, of all people, that the Jewish God was welcoming them into a new covenant. And to make it even worse than that, he was telling the Jews they could be reconciled to God without circumcision and without following all 613 commands in the Law of Moses! No wonder they were furious.

Paul had arrived in Thessalonica (in modern day Greece) around ad 50 and went directly to the Jewish synagogue since there was a sizeable Jewish population living in the city (Acts 17:1). But the Jews were very defensive of their unique identity and didn’t want some itinerant preacher coming along and stealing their people away, or trying to include unclean Gentiles into the community.

They argued with Paul as he proved from the Jewish scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. They rejected Paul’s new revelation that God had revealed to him (1 Thes 2:13; Gal 1:16).

After denouncing him and scowling at his teaching of Jesus, they became jealous because some of the people believed Paul, both Jews and Greeks, especially some of the well-to-do Greek women (Acts 17:4). They treated Paul with contempt and violence—they threw him ignominiously out of town.

Why? “For three weeks he [Paul] reasoned with them from the scriptures” in the synagogue as was his custom. They did not revile Paul the first week, or the second, rather, they listened and discussed, but ultimately they rejected what he had to say. They had listened, compared his “new teaching” to the Old Testament scriptures, and then decided that Paul was wrong.

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Colossians, Christ the Head of the Church

by Steve Ray on July 9, 2017

Pick your god. They are all worshiped here. Choose your favorite from the pantheon. Greek gods, Roman gods, Hittite and Eastern gods and even the Jewish God. Temples abound.

Enter and worship the Ephesian Artemis, the Egyptian Isis or Serapis. Bow down to Zeus, Athena, or a fertility goddesses. Purchase an idol to enshrine in your home. Even enter a synagogue, after getting circumcised of course, and worship JHWH with the Jews. There’s surely a god for your liking-isn’t it grand!

Your robes are dusty and your sandals are worn. You have entered an ancient city in the land of the Hittites, governed by Rome and with a mixed population of Greeks, Romans, Jews, and a smattering of others—Asia Minor (known today as Turkey). You have traveled about 100 miles inland from the great city of Ephesus and the gates open as you walk into the 5000-year-old city of Colossae.

In the agora, or town square, a man is shouting from the speaker’s platform (bema), and everyone is shouting back. He is preaching about a god you’ve never heard of before. It appears the Colossians aren’t pleased to hear about this god. The speaker’s name is Epaphras and he’s a native of Colossae (Col 4:12). He is preaching about a man as though he were God and a God as though he were a man. It is very confusing-especially with all the shouting.

So you linger as the crowd wanders off. A group gathers around Epaphras and you are invited to his home to clean up and share a meal. You readily agree. You are hungry hungry from your travel, hungry also to learn. By the end of the evening you believe in this man’s God and Jesus, this God’s son. You are baptized in water, and welcomed into the group-a group they called an ekklesia (church).

Epaphras has learned this good news from a Jewish scholar named Paul who is living in Ephesus. Through Paul all of Asia is hearing about Jesus (Acts 19:10-11) and many are astounded by his words and the miracles he performs in the name of this Jesus. Paul had never visited Colossae and never would (2:1), but his influence in Asia Minor, and in Colossae, was profound.

For the whole intro to Colossians, cliche HERE.

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Philippians: Joy and Rejoicing with St. Paul

by Steve Ray on July 3, 2017

It was the strangest thing they had ever heard. It was not necessarily the singing¾they had heard that before. It was the time of the singing¾midnight¾and it was the place of the singing. This was no temple or amphitheater. The men were down below, where rats scurry over their faces in the darkness and the bugs scamper under their clothing and bite.

It was damp and cold and foul. The wounds from the severe beatings were swollen and discolored. The shackles clamped on the ankles would usually incite cursing. They had heard screams and cursing from the jail before¾that was nothing new. But never had they heard joyous singing.

But it was the earthquake that scared the jailer. The ground shook and prison doors flew open. He saw the open door and was ready to fall on his sword, afraid the prisoners had escaped.

He knew the penalty for allowing prisoners to escape¾instant execution. From the depth of the prison he heard a voice calling: “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The city was Philippi in Macedonia and the year was about ad 51. Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for preaching and for casting an evil spirit out of a young slave girl–a girl exploited by her masters for soothsaying and great profit.

Having been spared by the two men rejoicing in chains¾and the power of God¾the trembling jailer fell to his knees before Paul and pleaded, “What must I do to be saved?” He was baptized that very night with his whole household. They soon joined Lydia and her household who had heard Paul’s message earlier and believed (Acts 16:14-15). The church in Philippi was born.

It is now about ten years later, between ad 61-63 and Paul, again in chains, writes a joyful letter to the young church that he had established in Philippi. They had been the first to hear the gospel in Europe. Paul was writing from prison, in Rome, confined by chains and guards (Acts 28:16, 30-31). But again, he was joyful. In fact, in his short letter to the Philippians he uses the word “joy” or “rejoice” an unprecedented sixteen times. His heart could sing with joy even though his body groaned in pain. He was teaching by example—rejoice always; keep your eyes on Jesus.

The early Church was full of singing; it was the verbal expression of the joy within. Singing was probably different than we know it today—probably a melodic chant led by a canter and repeated by the people. Christians did not invent hymns. They were sung by pagans to honor and laud their gods and heroes. In the Church hymns were sung as a natural expression of Christian joy, and, based in part on Jewish synagogue practice, an integral part of worship. Paul exhorted his friends in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4).

Not only were these ancient hymns sung as an expression of joy, but they were also used to instruct the faithful, providing a creed, so to speak, memorized as a song.

For the whole story, click here.

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Ephesians: The Body of Christ, both Jew & Gentile

July 2, 2017

He was under arrest. Those in squalled dungeons had it worse, but chains are never a good thing. He was confined to his own rented quarters with a Roman soldier on guard day and night. Caesar was busy and no little hurry to hear the appeals of a wandering Jewish preacher. Unable to travel and […]

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Galatians: the Heart of Paul’s Gospel of Freedom

June 30, 2017

Fathers can be gentle and warm but they can also be tough and severe at times. I remember every spanking I received from my father—and I always deserved it. His hand was so large and so was its impact upon me (no pun intended). It always redirected my behavior and brought about a commitment to […]

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Holy Father – is he Holy?

June 29, 2017

A young man stood up at my conference in the Philippines a while ago and parroted (yelled out) the Fundamentalist mantra: “The Pope is a sinner like everyone else; why do you call him ‘HOLY Father’?” I leaned into the microphone and said to the young man in front of 2,000 people, “You should really […]

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St. Paul did not Write to Us!

June 28, 2017

When arguments about salvation arise between Catholics and Protestants, the Bibles are usually opened to Galatians and Romans. Are we saved by faith alone or are works involved? Protestants quickly accuse Catholics of teaching a salvation based on works and Catholics quickly point out that Protestants have swung the pendulum too far in the other […]

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Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

June 27, 2017

Pastor Bob Preaches The Word (or does he?) By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious […]

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2 Corinthians: St. Paul Bears His Soul

June 26, 2017

(In this article I emphasize Paul and his apostolic calling along with the actual letter. In 1 Corinthians I emphasized the city of Corinth, the immorality and the actual letter.) The water was cold and his legs were numb. His skin was wrinkled after the many hours of bobbing in the waves desperately clinging to […]

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1 Corinthians: Standing Firm in a Pagan Culture

June 25, 2017

(In this article I emphasize the city of Corinth, the immorality and the actual letter; in the next article on 2 Corinthians I will emphasize Paul and his apostolic calling along with the actual letter.) It was a wicked city. The sandals from travelers of every country in the Empire trudged over its cobblestone streets. […]

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Alcohol, Mary, & Miracles — Hard Verses with Steve Ray, John 2:1-12

June 24, 2017

Last week Marcus Grodi invited me to Coming Home Network to record a new episode of EWTN’s “The Journey Home” which will be aired the 1st week of Febrary. We also recorded a segment of Deep in Scripture. We discussed John 2, Alcohol, Mary and Miracles (audio below). Check out the Coming Home Networks website […]

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Meet St. Paul as he Writes to the Romans; A Brief Study to Make it Easy

June 23, 2017

I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will […]

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Does John 3:16 Teach “Faith Alone”? (Link fixed)

June 22, 2017

 My mother asked me, “How would you like fifty cents?” I quickly responded, “I would like it very much.” What a silly question to ask an seven year old. Of course I would like fifty cents. Fifty cents was a lot of money when I was a little boy. My mother continued, “Here is a […]

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Acts of the Apostles: The Birth of the Catholic Church

June 21, 2017

Being seasick is terrible. I experienced it earlier this year while fishing all night on the Sea of Galilee. Fishermen and travelers in the first century were often nauseated while bobbing up and down on the seas of the Roman Empire. St. Paul’s most faithful of friends was writing the life of Christ and the […]

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St. John’s Gospel: Spiritual Depths of a Master Story-Teller

June 19, 2017

St. John’s Gospel: the Theological and Spiritual Gospel By Steve Ray Eagles soar high above the surface of the earth. Their eyes survey the farthest reaches of the horizon — the connection of heaven to earth is in perspective from their lofty vantage point. From our earthbound perspective, the eagle is suspended between heaven and […]

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Luke’s Gospel: Greek Physician, Historian & Friend of Mary

June 18, 2017

Her face shone as she related the stories—the words were vibrant, and though older now, her memory was excellent. He sat enraptured as she brought the past into living color. He had traveled a long way to see her and he sat motionless, with furled brow, taking careful notes on his parchment. He spent hours […]

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