Category Archives: Articles

Lessons from the Adulteress

by Peter Ditzel

A detail from the painting, Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, 1888, oil on canvas, by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov (1844-1927)
The scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress to Jesus to entrap Him, but Jesus used the occasion to teach important lessons. (Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov [1844-1927] Jesus and the woman taken in adultery, 1888, oil on canvas [detail])

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, John tells us about the incident of the woman the scribes and Pharisees caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus. Most people who have read John 8 likely remember that Jesus ended His encounter with the woman by telling her that He didn’t condemn her, and, “Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” We see forgiveness, but we also see a command to stop sinning. This leaves a question: Was Jesus’ forgiveness dependent on the woman’s obedience? The answer to this question teaches us much about the relationship between grace and works.

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Fifty-one Theses for the Twenty-first Century Ekklēsia

by Peter Ditzel

Painting of Luther nailing the 95 theses, by Julius Hübner, 1878.
This 1878 painting by Julius Hübner of Luther nailing the 95 theses is narrative art. It depicts the story, showing Tetzel in the lower left receiving adoration and money from those who have purchased indulgences by enriching the pope. This is contrasted with starving people who could better use the money begging on the church steps. Luther’s disciples are on the left teaching the people and followers on the right receive his message with enthusiasm. Luther’s enemies are seen in the lower right running off to inform the pope. Of course, this is all fanciful. Luther probably hung the theses as a matter of routine to inform other scholars that he would like to discuss these points. It wasn’t until scholars realized that the theses implied a challenge to the authority of the pope that the document caused a stir.

October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.

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The Worship Service and the New Testament Assembly

by Peter Ditzel

A contemporary worship service with green stage lighting, music performers on stage, and people raising their hands.
Is this what meetings of the New Testament assembly are supposed to look like?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.

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Why I Won’t Be Signing the Nashville Statement

by Peter Ditzel

On August 29, 2017, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) issued the Nashville Statement. You can read it on their site here or in this PDF version. The initial signatories include many prominent leaders from Christian Conservatism/American Evangelicalism. According to its preamble, it was written “in the hope of serving Christ’s church and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture.” Thus, CBMW wrote the statement not just to the Christian community who would, hopefully, understand it in the context of the Gospel and, in fact, all Scripture. It was also written to the public at large, which we must assume is not well-versed in Scripture and internal Christian jargon.

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What Is the Law of Christ?

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a horse in deep water with a wet dog standing on its back. Overlaid words: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
In love, Jesus bore our burdens of sin. We are to bear one another’s burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Although it is alluded to in other Scriptures, this is the only place in all the Bible that uses the phrase “law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? As Christians, we should have more than vague ideas about something so connected to Jesus Christ as His law. Is the law of Christ a set of commandments like the Ten Commandments? Is it one command, love, that can be expressed in slightly more detail as “bear one another’s burdens”? Is it the law that Jeremiah prophesied God would put in our inward parts and write on our hearts? (Jeremiah 31:33). Let’s find out.

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The Dangers of the Christian Personality Cult (part 2)

by Peter Ditzel

A quote of 1 John 4:1: Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Testing involves comparing what someone says to the known revelation of God, the Bible. No one, whatever superstar status he or she may have in the eyes of the world, is above this testing.

(<Part 1)

Test the Spirits

When the people of Berea heard even Paul and Silas preach, they “received the word with all readiness of the mind,” they didn’t just reject it without first hearing it, but they also examined “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11). For even such prominent speakers, the Bible does not berate the Bereans for comparing what was said with Scripture.

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