Of Mission and Teaching

(This reflection was posted on my class learning portal regarding my previous mission trip)

Well, I was asked to share about my trip just now in class and I thought that I should have done a better job in sharing what happened. Consider this as part of my reflection on the Greek class as well.

So, as most of you know, I went  to teach in an underground training center which was run by a Singaporean pastor. It’s the same place we went to for our mission trip in 2013. And this time, I was there to teach a class of 18 students from churches from other parts of the country on the book of Ephesians.

I must say that knowing Greek first and foremost really helped me in my preparation, primarily because I was using some rather very technical commentary that sprouts Greek all over the place. So being able to read Greek helped me to understand most of the contents that the author was writing about. Also, during the class, as I was teaching the book, some students asked me about other similar words that occurred in other parts of the NT if the original words in Greek were the same. It helped when I could refer to the Greek text and double confirm the words.

Part of the testimony comes from some of the “near-misses” that I encountered during the trip. As most of you know, I left for the airport after lesson last week but as I was waiting at the airport, the zip at the bottom of my travel backpack broke. Just as I was in distress, cos it was past midnight and I thought I didn’t have any solution, God gave me the idea to go home and grab another bag by taking cab. I ended up taking cab and spending another SGD 70 just to travel to and fro but I must say that at least I got to shower and grab some other supplies that I did not bring along with me.

Another near-miss was that the police showed up on one of the nights at the hotel I was staying in. They were “checking” the room and I got a bit nervous and had to hide my books on apologetics into my bag (cos I was preparing the notes for an apologetic class which I was supposed to teach when I return). But for some inexplicable reason (and it must be God’s blessing in the midst), the police did not knock on my door.

The other near-miss was that my luggage got delayed. I took Malaysia Airlines and I was supposed to transit at KLIA. However, my flight out to KLIA was delayed by one hour and as a result, I had to rush to the departure gate when I reached KLIA. The airport didn’t even have time to transfer my luggage to my connecting flight. Hence, I did not see my luggage at the carousel at Changi when I reached. Thank God all my valuables are in my bag so I could just go home. For those who are on my Facebook, you would have seen that I commented that it was a fortunate misfortune as someone else will transport my luggage to my home instead of me carrying all the way from the airport to my home at Bukit Panjang.

The last incident that I want to relate is something that happened to me. While I was walking on the street (at this famous Street), I was approached by no less than 4 pimps (or massage parlour rep) who wanted me to go and “take a look” at their parlours, in hope that I could procure their special services. Thank God He gave me the wisdom to fend them off by speaking to them in English. After seeing that I speak to them in English, most of the pimps left me alone. I was only reminded that the spiritual warfare is real as the Devil attempts to derail us by tempting us and drawing us into sin.

Lastly, I just want to share that this is the first time I took an entire class and an entire “module” by myself, including the design of the syllabus. Attending the class on Advanced Teaching Seminar earlier this year helped in the preparation. And it was indeed tiring for me as I almost lost my voice after the first day. But more importantly, I experienced what Paul said in Ephesians 3:2-13, when he described his ministry to the Gentile as God’s grace to him, despite him being the least of the apostles. I was reminded that it was indeed a privilege to serve Him in such a setting, equipping leaders in His Body so that His kingdom can advance. Throughout the trip, I experienced His grace and strengthening as I saw how the students responded to the teaching, as the students think about how to apply the Scripture accurately in their own local setting.

Of GE2015

I have once again failed to post on a regular basis as I have wished to. Part of the reason is because I have been busy with preparation on several studies. I just did a teaching in classroom setting on James 3:1-4:12 and am currently working on a book study on Ephesians that I will be teaching in another classroom setting in another country. All these works, trying to figure out the word of God, have already taken up a lot of my mental energy, though I would love to share some of these findings in near future. Alas, I have so much outstanding posts which I want to write.

But I’ve thought that I want to throw in a few thoughts on GE2015. As most of us know, it has been an unexpected result for the incumbent party to win at such a high margin. Someone in my office was saying that “confirmed they will lose another 2 more GRCs”. I don’t know where that confidence came from but that support partly stemmed from his personal friendship with Paul Tambyah and the outward appearance of a certain CSJ who shall not be named. Several thoughts come into mind.

Firstly, we may be seeing a reverse in opposition position. I’m not saying that people no longer want opposition in the parliament, but more on opposition may be the ones who have lost touch with the ground. After the result was announced, we hear the opposition saying that the results did not match up to the voices they hear on the ground. One would want to ask if they were only hearing what they were wanting to hear. The end result suggested otherwise. This is thus a serious question that voters need to ask: are you necessarily voting in voices which truly speak for you?

Secondly, we see the unreliability of social media. All over the place we seem to be seeing from the social media that the opposition voice is flooding the world. That being said, most of my friends remain pro-PAP, so that was not so much of my reality from what I see on my newsfeed. But articles from such as States Times Review and The Online Citizen seem to hype up too much fluff that even opposition parties themselves got dubbed.

Thirdly, I saw sore losers denying the reality of which they face. Right from the start, we have a man who claim that his best team will cause nightmare to the Prime Minister. The fact that the PM did not even give a damn on his opponents in his ward during his lunch rally is a testimony of the delusion. This is not to mention that we have people claiming that Singaporeans have given a mandate for authoritarianism and brain washing and that this is the kind of result only seen in North Korea and China. For information, the vote garnered for Kim in North Korea is usually around the region of 100%. I believe our incumbent still has a long way to go. Some, for example, also claim that they lost in very undemocratic environment. Such denial only shows the laziness on the part of the opposition in trying to understand what they need to do on the ground. It is my view that an election is won and lost on the ground. You want to wrestle votes for yourselves, you get involved in grassroot immediately after the election, and not during the campaigning period. You get yourselves seen on the ground doing something on a regular daily basis, not just appearing once in a while selling magazines.

Fourth, I think the results show that PAP has really done well compared to a few years back. And I am glad that they learned the lessons from 2011 and did well. I simply cannot imagine another few oppositions winning seats and hence forcing the PAP to become populist. Already, back in the old days after 2011, I was almost seeing the government heading towards that direction but the trajectory was slowed down because we have civil servants who faithfully worked their analysis.

These are not my only thoughts but overall, it is a milestone for the PAPA and the opposition alike. For the latter, perhaps the question of relevance comes into play. Are oppositions remaining relevant to a more politically savvy crowd? Even the Worker’s Party is not spared, what more the more insane ones?

Scandals and Learning

As a result of what my lecturer mentioned last week about him going to an overseas church which has been previously split apart by a scandal to preach to them about faith, I began reading up on a church split that I have heard about some years back. The incident was not that high profile internationally and therefore it was not being widely reported in international Christian news site. Moreover, despite the apparent success of the church internationally, the church remained isolated for most part of its history from other churches. Nevertheless, the church was considered one of the most successful churches in its own home country and had been pretty controversial in terms of its practices. 

The summary of the whole incident stemmed from accountability. This is one concept that most people do not like to hear but unfortunately, it remains so important in our Christian life, especially when we are dealing with money in church and human lives in our koinonia. In the church, financial lapses worse than what we see in City Harvest was reported and the leaders began to preach on stuff which will make a certain Joseph Singh looks tamed in his teachings. But no one was able to hold the main leaders accountable and eventually, the church split into three major factions and today, it remains a shadow of its former ‘glory’ though I am reading that the remnant churches are being used by God in different ways. 
This makes me think about accountability as a leader. How should he account his own behaviour to his members and how should he account his life to his overseers? How much do we allow people to question our lives and how much do we allow them to step in and correct us? Do we need to choose who and do we need to exclude people? 
It is sad to read a story of church split and as I was reading, I was just praying that I do not end up like the leaders involved. The truth is that no one knows the whole story and the reports I read came from fragmented records and are fairly one-sided. But if the reports are true, and paper documents seem to suggest so, then it presents a lesson, in my opinion, on how a striving ministry can go wrong due to the waywardness of leaders leading the ministry. 

Translation

It has been a long time since I posted anything here. The frequency is getting lower but things have been getting busier over at my side. Work wise, there had been a lot of happenings there and that contributed a bit. Study wise, I have to work on my assignments every week and that leaves very little time already. On top of that, I need to work on a few bible studies that I will be teaching over the course of August to October.

Nevertheless, I am just sharing a snippet of my view on a recent hot topic that has been spreading like wild fire – the issue of the NIV translation. In some sense, the issue is not new, and in fact, I had discussed this with an ex-colleague before over some very heated discussion. The key problem with this partly lies with the “King James Only” movement, which states that the KJV is the only English translation worth trusting, for many various reasons. For some who are unaware, the Bible-Presbysterian church is one tradition that apparently embraces this movement (or at least the conclusion from this movement). Various websites and doctrinal statements from different churches and institutes have listed their argument for a KJV only doctrine.

They key accusation behind this hot topic is that the NIV wilfully omitted a number of verses and hence has committed a grievous sin. Not to help in their case is that the parent company of Zondervan, Harper Collins, also publishes (apparently) several volumes that may have relations with Satanism. This drew the conclusion that the devil is actually behind the scene manipulating the publishers to remove certain words from the NIV translation.

One of my major contentions behind this conclusion is whether any major doctrines in Christianity have been compromised as a result of these omissions. Any sane readers (even New Atheists, if they ever read the Bible) would have said no. The omissions do not result in the presentation of a different God from the KJV translation (assuming that the readers of the KJV understand Shakespearean English).

And when we look deeper into the issue, most of the people who are drawn into the conclusion, or ended up confused, are people who do not understand the process of translations. Without going much into details, we need to understand that all translations (including KJV) are not exactly word-for-word translations and all translations depend on a set of manuscripts for their translation words. What most of the KJV movement people dislike was that the main manuscript used by NIV translators was compiled by people who believed in evolution (or at least these people claimed so). What they also don’t tell you is that the translators depend on other manuscripts for counter-reference as well. And what they don’t tell you even more is that the KJV isn’t very accurate on several counts of translations, even if I grant the language being used.

And we are just scratching onto the surface of the issue.

This is not a post to outline all the issues in detail, but I just want to voice out that encountering such a topic is not an opportunity for Christians to get confused. Instead, it is an opportunity for Christians to dwell deeper into the Scripture that they are believing in and understand how it came about. This calls for the perseverance of the saints to study their Bible.

In fact, this is where I wished I had said the same thing to the ex-colleague. She asked me point blank if believers need to then go into the original language (Greek and Hebrew) in order to understand the Scripture fully. I stopped short of a yes. But now at this point, I would say that if the believers really want to know the Scripture for themselves, then they ought to learn the original language and see for themselves what the translators have translated, in all the versions, be it NIV, NLT, TJB, KJV etc.

How many reasons does it take?

I personally like this song by Matt Redman, “10000 Reasons” and I think it helps to remind us of the reasons why we should bless the Lord. Here’s my 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord for your reference:

  1. My salvation in Christ
  2. My salvation in Christ
  3. My salvation in Christ
  4. My salvation in Christ
  5. My salvation in Christ
  6. My salvation in Christ
  7. My salvation in Christ
  8. My salvation in Christ
  9. My salvation in Christ
  10. My salvation in Christ
  11. My salvation in Christ
  12. My salvation in Christ
  13. My salvation in Christ
  14. My salvation in Christ
  15. My salvation in Christ
  16. My salvation in Christ
  17. My salvation in Christ
  18. My salvation in Christ
  19. My salvation in Christ
  20. My salvation in Christ
  21. My salvation in Christ
  22. My salvation in Christ
  23. My salvation in Christ
  24. My salvation in Christ
  25. My salvation in Christ
  26. My salvation in Christ
  27. My salvation in Christ
  28. My salvation in Christ
  29. My salvation in Christ
  30. My salvation in Christ
  31. My salvation in Christ
I think you get the idea. The point, which I learned previously, is how many reasons does it take for us to bless the Lord? If we go through good time, blessing the Lord is easy. But how about bad times? How can we give thanks in all circumstances then if there are no good reason? 
But for all times, for those of us who are in Christ, the Scripture says it very clearly:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 hemade known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:3-14

What spiritual blessing we have in Christ? Many! We are chosen for adoption in Him, redeemed by His blood, have our sins forgiven, lavished with grace, sealed in him with the promised Holy Spirit etc. None of these has to do with our external circumstances but all have to do with our salvation. At the end of the day, then, for us as believers is what do we thank God for in our lives? For what reason do we bless the Lord and how many reasons does it take?

It takes 10,000 reasons and I sum it up to one: our salvation in Christ.


Of Serving in Some Ministries

I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend, and we were talking about serving in ushering, or more particularly, leaving ushering as a ministry. On reflection of the conversation, I realised that at least in my own church, we have a tendency to use certain language that betrays how we think of the different ministries. Here’s a replicate paraphrase of what roughly transpired during the conversation:

A: I heard that you left ushering 

Me: Yeah, there were certain circumstances. I was asked to leave so that I can focus on other ministries. 

A: Yeah, me too. I left sometime back. They asked me, “so when am I going to move on” and I think I got the signal…

Then I realised that we inevitably use words and phrases like “move on” and “advance” and “other ministries” to describe our experience on leaving ushering. Other languages which we used to use back in my younger days are “I will start off with ushering and see where God leads me”, “Ushering is a good starting point”. I begin to wonder if we are seeing service in ministries as ushering as lowly and we subconsciously rank the different ministries.

But make no mistake. I do and still feel that ushering, given its low entry requirement, is an excellent ground for anyone to start serving in church, on top of what they may be doing within their own lifegroup. What I am feeling uncomfortable is that sometimes we may be tempted to ask someone to “move on” from ushering or other ministries so that they can “advance” to other ministries. If we do so, and I admit I used to bear these thoughts, then what is the message that we are sending to our people? Would it not be surprising that people flock to more prominent ministries like life leadership, worship leading, backup singer etc? And again, just to disclaim, I have nothing against these ministries. In fact, it would have been a waste if someone with their respective gifts are not being allowed to be released to serve in where they can edify the body of Christ the most.

We just need to be cautious that we do not subconsciously rank all these ministries. With regard to this, I can only be reminded of the exhortation by Paul:

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.- 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

To a church that is increasingly displaying pride over the manifestation of the more “spiritual gifts”, Paul stated that different kinds of gifts and ministries are given by the same God and Holy Spirit and thus are all the same before the eyes of God.

And that is the reason why I have argued, when I was still leading the ushering ministry, that ushers are important as they are the first level of contact for any visitors to the church. If the ushers are not serving well, visitors’ impression of the church might have been formed before they even get to experience the worship session or hear the sermon.

A few things about a relationship and looking for your life partner

The stuff that I want to say in this post is partly sparked by this post: https://pastorpeterko.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/why-i-wont-date-you-an-imaginary-letter-to-a-non-christian/. I thought, as I reflect upon some relationship lessons that I have been through over the past two years, it may be good to list it out somehow. As some of you may notice, some of these points are probably reflected somewhere else in this blog.

  1. You simply have to discriminate

One of the pet peeves when people of different faiths get together is that you shouldn’t be exclusive in your dating and narrow your choices so much to only those in your faith. I must say that this is really a convenient excuse for people to get together, as the argument self-destruct upon closer scrutiny. Unless you are effectively a bisexual who have no preference, you already excluded half the world’s population the moment you set out to look for a relationship/life partner. A man will naturally look for another woman and not include other men into his selections. To be consistently inclusive, you have to include all the sexes, young and old, married and single into your selections. But even this has its own problem: the moment you make your choice, you exclude the others.

The main point is that you have to discriminate when you are choosing a life partner or getting into a relationship. Discrimination here, as it is being used, is a neutral term. It means filtering those who ‘cannot make it’ out of the net. This practically applies to everyone who is looking for a life partner. And a more practical application from this is that one might as well make a list of criteria to filter out those whom you will never want to spend your lives with. Note that this may not necessarily apply when you are just out for a good time and just want to date without commitment. In that case, it may be good to date your pet hamster who will probably provide a higher marginal utility. Just saying…

  1. Discriminate too much and you find yourself in a difficult situation

I advocate discrimination but there has to be a limit in how you filter. Imagine a guy making a list of criteria as followed:

  • As pretty as an angel (my note: which theologically and biblically poses an issue if you read how an angel is being described in the Scripture)
  • Share the same faith
  • Share the same vision
  • Similar family background
  • Attend the same church
  • Serve in the same ministry
  • Have the burden for the same people

You get the idea, the more filter conditions you apply, the lesser the group of people you are targeting and this runs into a problem for you because you essentially end up with fewer choices. This is a difficult situation but not entirely wrong. But I have seen situations where a person applies too much conditions and find himself in a situation where he is so desperate that he cannot find anyone. But because he is so hard up over application of these filters, he just cannot find anyone and under such circumstances, the church or God gets the blame. I wonder if it is really necessary to get oneself in such a situation. This, I must say, happens too much with the two genders.

  1. Get too desperate and you end up having less market value

There was this Ted talk video I saw sometime back, that a study was made and it was found that desperation generally decreases someone’s attractiveness to the opposite gender. Now, when you read this, you may not think that this applies to you as you may think that desperation means you start stalking people. I must say that this is generally not the case. Desperation manifests in very subtle ways that most people don’t realise and in very harmless ways. There is simply a vibe that people get when you get desperate to be hitched and it is being socially awkward. Many times, from what I have observed, desperation manifests in the form of attempts in accelerating the relationship and rapid recovery from lost causes (i.e. you switch targets too fast). I would like to think that there is leery look in the eyes of a desperate person. But this actually can be very counter productive for people.

  1. For guys, she wants and needs security

And my fellow species, if you get involved with a girl, you owe it to the girl who agrees to go out with you the security that allows her to feel secure with you for the rest of your life. This may mean that you seek some stability in your life. This stability comes in different forms. For me, I decided to seek stability in ensuring that I do not get involved in too many things in church so that I get enough rest for my body. For others, it may mean that you stop your emo gigs and take responsibility over your emotions. For some, it may mean getting a stable job and stop pursuing hot air balloon dreams. For some, it may mean that you need to stop running away from God and be stable enough to lead your future spouse spiritually. Whatever the case, I learn that without stability, the future is bleak for any couples. I have seen relationships broken up because there was simply no stability in the relationship. And by the way, stability does not mean absence of disagreements and conflicts.

  1. For girls, you need to consider that you are fundamentally different from the guy

Girls, let’s admit it. Everytime you look for a boyfriend, you implicitly look for another girlfriend who can connect with you emotionally and who can engage you like how you are being engaged in a girl’s hangout. This is no fault of yours, as this is how God has created the female species. And I must say, part of the price for getting you to agree to commit to a relationship with us is to be your buddy for emotional downloading. But this takes time. You need to take note that we guys are by nature not people who sit down and talk all day long and I am not suggesting you does that, by the way. Guys tend to do things together and we tend to express our thoughts in more concise terms, and we are simply not wired to seek deeper conversations if we get the answers we are looking for. This means that if we ask you how’s your day, and you give an ‘ok’, it is not our nature to probe deeper.

The good news for you is that guys can be conditioned to connect with you emotionally, but this takes time and you need to practice part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is forbearance. And even so, the tendency for guys to zone out and enter into boxes continues to remain high. I am saying this because I am observing that most girls really want the security they can find in a guy but also want to connections they normally find in another girl. So you might really want to consider what you expect from the guy and help the guy to grow rather than blaming him for not meeting your needs.

Ten Year Series Answers

As students in Singapore, we are familiar with this thing called the “10-year series” which is really a series of past-year examination papers from the GCE O and A’level. The assumption is that the questions do not vary too much and hence it is possible to practice from these past papers and gain a familiarity of the kind of questions that will come out in our final papers. In a society that focuses much on grades (where a bad result in PSLE condemns you to a hell that even the Devil shutters), the mastery of the 10-years series means a difference between a fail (which is B) and a pass (which is A+++, in order to get distinction, one must obtain 200% of the score as a sign of one’s godlikeness in the GCE).

I am of course exaggerating here. But this is to spring off to another issue that I am concerned about. For many years in my walk in the church, I have heard the same 10-year series label being applied to Christian answers to difficult situations. This refers to standard answers given to situations that people encounter. To give another illustration, this is akin to giving a standard hamburger to everyone who wants a burger. But not everyone just wants a hamburger. They may need a hamburger, but they don’t like it to be a standard one. Some want to have sesame buns, some want nacho cheese in their patties, some want triple patties and some want wagyu beef in their patties.

My illustration here also serves to make a point. Most of the time, the so-called 10-year series answers are what the people need but because people think that their situations are unique to them, they reject the 10-year series answers and require answers more customised to them. Yet, no matter how I customised it, a hamburger remains a hamburger, whether I add nacho cheese or use waygu beef. At the end of the day, you are satisfied with receiving a customised hamburger but it is still fundamentally a hamburger.

I am not advocating for 10-years series answers here but I think a lot of the accusations towards such answers are often a knee-jerk reactions. Because many think that they are facing situations unique in the history of the entire universe, most cannot accept that standard theological answers help to address their issues. Agree that standard answers may not be directly applicable in individual situations but by rejecting “standard answers,” one may find himself contradicting with the very faith he is believing in and he has to come face to face with his own consistencies. Even if an inept person shares a “standard answer,” the listener can still adapt the answer to his own situation. The key, I feel then, is not a rejection of “10-years series” but really for the sharers and listeners to understand the ramifications of standard biblical truths. This we do not do very often and even when we do, we do it superficially.

Grace upon Grace

While I was walking to office this morning, I was reminded of a story that was written by G.K Chesterton, which I mentioned in this blog some time back. This is the story in full, as told in his book “Orthodoxy”:

“I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book.”

The main point of the story for GK Chesterton is that what he was going to write were not new discoveries but many people have derived the same conclusion as him many generations back. It is the same feeling that I had whenever I read of other people’s theological insights which aligned nicely with what I derived independently from them. One such insight, as I was reflecting, was the insight of grace in the OT. In John 1:16-17, it is written:

16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Reading in isolation, verse 17 may seem as if that there is a dichotomy between the law and Jesus Christ, which seems to agree with what Paul ‘seem’ to say in his epistles. But to read it this way is to read the whole passage out of context. In its immediate context is verse 16, which mention that there is already a grace given and out of the fullness of God, a grace is given on top of the grace already given. The grace already given, as seen in verse 17, is the law and the grace given on top and in place of the grace already given is the grace and truth through Jesus Christ. What this mean is what I have also mentioned in this blog, that the law is given by God as a show of His grace.

I shall not dwell too much on the specifics here but in view of this finding, I hope to highlight another problem that too many Christians are ready to jump on before even thinking or reading their own Scripture – the false dichotomy between the OT and the NT. One of the common arguments that a casual reader of the NT will tell us is that we are leaving in the age of grace and not in the age of law, i.e. new time, not old time, new testament not old testament. More intrinsic in this argument is that we need to show grace to people, not impose law on them like what happened in the OT.

I am of course oversimplifying the argument but that is roughly the gist. This really sounds right to the casual reader of the Scripture but unfortunately, it may prove theologically inconsistent from what we read in the Scripture. Firstly, God is immutable. In the NT that these Christians so proudly flash around, it is written that God is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Theologically speaking, this means that the God we worship cannot change and hence must be the same God in both the OT and the NT. This is also one reason why studying the OT is so important as believers of Christ.

Secondly, all Scriptures is Spirit-inspired (2 Tim 3:16). At the point of writing, Paul was actually referring mainly to the OT from which most NT writers derived their theological insights from. Paul definitely used the OT extensively. James wrote with much implicit references to OT and Jewish literatures. Likewise, Peter and John used OT scriptures, John especially used a lot of OT imagery in Revelations. Even Luke used OT narratives as a foil for his Gospel account. To push the OT aside therefore in favour of NT is therefore akin to telling people that you just need two years to obtain your GCE A’Levels. While this sounds true, one forgets that you need another 10 years of foundation before embarking on a A’level education. The OT was the foundation from which the NT writers based their works on and to discount it is plain folly and unprofitable to the Christians.

At the heart of all these is a lack of Scriptural knowledge, or rather biblical illiteracy, which is showing implicitly in the Christian population in Singapore. This is not helped by preachers who are determined to preach their favourite topics at the expense of sound exegesis. Normal Christians are no better. I remember there was one sharing session in my office and we were talking about verses that talk about importance of Bible, prayer, fellowship and evangelism and to my surprise, most of my colleagues struggled in providing biblical references. And we are talking about Christians who are serving God full time professionally. What more should we say of Christians in the churches?

But we are in the process of growing and becoming more Christlike and hence we need to allow people the space to grow. The only point I want to emphasize is that as believers, we owe it to ourselves to study our Scripture and know the Word of God. No one can do it for us. And the Word of God is given to us as His grace to us, the grace already given is the OT, the new grace is the NT. Treasure them, and we will do well as His disciples.