Tag Archives: Chase Green

Paul’s Converts At Athens And Corinth — Chase Green

The cities of Athens and Corinth are located on opposite ends of a small isthmus in Southern Greece. Together, they made up two of Greece’s most important commercial centers. Thus, Paul’s missionary activities in these two cities were an important stepping stone in spreading Christianity to Greece and beyond.

When Paul arrived at Athens, he found the city wholly consumed with idolatry (Acts 17:16). This must have been disconcerting, for he had just come from Berea where those noble people had readily received the Word and searched the Scriptures daily to see if they were being taught the truth (v. 11). Athens, on the other hand, would be much more difficult to influence.

Of import in verse 17 is that Paul “disputed” in the synagogue with the Jews and other devout idolaters, and daily in the marketplace. There are those among us today who claim that we must avoid confrontation at all costs, even at the expense of truth. This cannot be true because we read repeatedly in the Bible about the importance of contending for the Truth (Jude 3; Acts 9:29; Neh. 13:11, 17, 25). There is a difference between the sinful, prideful contentions (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:11) and proper contention for the sake of truth.

Thus, Paul made it a point to confront Athens’ idolatry. Paul also had to deal with the vain philosophies of men. Those of the hedonistic Epicurean and philomathic Stoic faiths confronted Paul with implied intent to humiliate him (v. 18). To their credit, though, these groups were genuinely curious about hearing “some new thing,” Christianity (vs. 19-21). Thus, Paul seized the opportunity to preach Christ.

From the middle of Mars Hill, a craggy prominence also known as the Areopagus, Paul addressed the crowd: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious (or “superstitious,” KJV); for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (vs. 22-23).

Of course, their understanding of the unknown God and Paul’s understanding quite differed. These men were, to their credit, highly aware of the need to worship someone, but instead of worshipping the one true God and Him alone, they worshipped anything and everything – so much so that they wanted to make sure that they didn’t accidentally leave someone out! Paul took this opportunity to point out to them that they had, in fact, left Someone out.

Paul made an interesting comment in verse 23 about this Someone “whom you ignorantly worship” (KJV). The reader does not need to confuse this “worship” of sorts with worship done in spirit and truth, the acceptable worship that we read about in John 4:24. Rather, Paul is saying that, by their altar to an unknown God, they had inadvertently acknowledged the existence of the one true God even though they didn’t know Him personally.

Then in verses 24-25, Paul gave a resounding condemnation of idolatry when he said, “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things…” In other words, the one true God is not a physical being made with men’s hands, like the idols to which the Athenians were accustomed. No, the God by whom we all are made (v. 28) is not “gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (v. 29).

In verse 30, the extent to which God overlooked some things is admittedly not understood by this author. Yet one does not have to understand this perfectly to know that now God “commands all men everywhere to repent.” Why? “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (v. 31).

As Paul’s sermon concluded, some of these philosophers utterly dismissed Paul, mocking him because of his teaching about the resurrection (v. 32). Thankfully, however, there were others who said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” Verse 34 tells us that “some men joined him and believed.” Although baptism and the other steps in conversion are not mentioned, when taken in conjunction with the rest of the book of Acts (and the rest of the New Testament for that matter), it is implied here that “believed” is a metonymy for the entire conversion process. There is simply too much New Testament evidence for the necessity of repentance, confession, and baptism to conclude otherwise.

Moving on from Athens, Paul next visited Corinth (Acts 18:1). It is here that Paul was introduced to the Jewish converts Aquila and Priscilla, who like Paul were tent makers by trade (vs. 2-3). We learn in 1 Corinthians 16:19 that there was a congregation that met in their house. Paul referred to them as his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 16:3).  Evidently, Aquila and Priscilla were very knowledgeable in the Word, for they helped to explain to Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (v. 26).

In Acts 18:4, we learn that Paul reasoned with and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. This is the job of every gospel preacher. Paul would later write: “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). In preaching, the stakes are high, and thus we must not take it lightly.

In verses 5-6, we find that sometimes a preacher must no longer waste his time preaching to an audience who has made up their mind to reject the truth. Paul shook his raiment, reminiscent of what Christ had told the apostles to do in Matthew 10:14. Paul would not be responsible for the fate of this rebellious group. They had judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” (cf. Acts 13:46). Thus, Paul would turn his attention to the Gentiles.

From there, Paul lodged in the home of a man named Justus, who lived adjacent to the synagogue (v. 7). Justus was a worshipper of God, possibly already a Christian (it is difficult to tell with the information provided). In Justus’ house, Paul met a man named Crispus, who was chief ruler of the synagogue (v. 8). This man, along with his whole household, believed on the Lord. Again, the word “believed” here is indicative of the entire process of conversion, but this time we have a more in-depth description of what that entailed: “Many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed, and were baptized.

These good and honest hearts heard Paul’s preaching, responded to it by believing what he had to say, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. This is, perhaps, the best passage in the Bible for showing the progression that takes place in one’s obedience to the gospel. Sometimes, as it seems to be the case here, people hear a sermon or two and then respond in obedient faith. Other times, however, a person may hear sermons for years before finally obeying the gospel. This is where we must remember to “exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2), praying that the Lord will give such individuals enough time to obey. We must remember that we cannot force obedience on anyone, as much as we wish we could.

In verses 9 and following we find that Paul would experience some difficulties at Corinth, but the Lord was with him. The Lord reminded Paul that He had many people in this city. Paul spent a year and a half there in Corinth (v. 11), building up the congregation with the Word of God. Even when a violent Jewish insurrection occurred, Paul was kept safe (v. 12). Although the Jews tried to get Paul in trouble with Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, Gallio would have none of it. It ended up being the Jewish leader, Sosthenes, who was punished (vs. 12-17). This goes to show that the Lord indeed was with Paul, just as He had promised the other apostles in Matthew 28:20. Paul then dwelt in Corinth for a little longer, before departing into Syria (v. 18).

When examining the conversions at both Athens and Corinth, it becomes apparent that there are many different reactions to preaching. Some respond favorably in obedience to the gospel, while others are indifferent, or mock the preacher, or even threaten him. Gospel preachers must remember that this will always be the case. The gospel is polarizing. The Word is sharp, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). Thus, we must expect these various reactions, remembering that the Lord will be with us, just as He was with Paul in Athens, Corinth, and beyond.

Chase is a 2017 graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching and preaches in West Monroe, LA, alongside his wife and children.

The Generational Gap In The Church — Chase Green

One does not have to obtain a degree in advanced statistics to see that the church has a major problem in retaining young people. The evidence is all around us in an alarming number of congregations.

I recently conducted a very unscientific poll of several gospel preachers and asked them the approximate percentages of the following age groups in their congregations: under 30 years old, 30-60 years old, and over 60 years old. The results were about what I expected: a large number of our congregations are aging. Yet perhaps it is what I was not expecting about these results that is most interesting. I will address that at the end of this article.

As one of the few of my age group still left at my congregation, I have long felt as if my generation was the “lost generation” of the church. I can remember being one of several people my age who attended my congregation when I was younger, but now most of them have gone off into the world. I know that my congregation is not the only one experiencing this phenomenon.

The question becomes: What can we do to “stop the bleeding,” so to speak, and turn things around for the future? In the medical field, there is a word called panacea. A panacea is a “cure-all,” or a “wonder drug” that is supposed to remedy all problems. Of course a true panacea for all of the world’s medical ills does not exist!

The same is true regarding the problem of the church losing its young people. Yes, if all of our young people loved the Lord and abided by His Word then the problem would be cured, but we know that sadly many of our young people will choose to leave the Lord’s church.

I don’t believe that there is some sort of panacea for keeping our young people interested in the church, but I do believe that there is room for improvement so that we stand a better chance retaining them.

First, it is imperative that our congregations become less inwardly focused and more outwardly focused. What do I mean by this? If we aren’t careful, the church can gain a “me, me, me” mentality to the point that we are more focused on being served ourselves, rather than serving others. To illustrate this point, think about the following. Do your church members typically turn out better for a VBS or a fellowship meal, or for a door-knocking? If the answer is the former, then there may be too much inward focus. To remedy this, our congregations need to take the attitude of Paul, who said he became all things to all men, so that by all means he might save some (1 Cor. 9:22). We need to stop at nothing to try to reach out to our communities for benevolence, biblical education, and evangelism. If we do this, perhaps our young people will realize that they have an important place in the church and are needed for its success.

Next, we need to be careful not to get caught up in erroneous doctrinal extremes. What I mean by that is this: We cannot allow ourselves to react to a false doctrine in such a way that causes us to go too far the other direction and end up preaching something false to the other extreme. For example, we may, in an effort to avoid grace-only theology, allow ourselves to go too far the other direction and completely avoid talking about God’s grace. Perhaps, on the other end of the spectrum, we might emphasize God’s grace to the point that we no longer teach on the seriousness of sin. If this be the case, then a reading of Romans chapter 6 is in order! We need to make sure we don’t turn off our young people from hearing the truth by ignoring certain subjects that have been corrupted by those who are either too far to the left or to the right; we need to teach “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Finally, we need to make sure that we are not trying to keep our young people faithful through means of entertainment. The old adage is true: if it takes a gimmick to get them to come, it will take a gimmick to keep them! The church cannot compete with the entertainment the world has to offer, so it would be foolish for us to try! Rather than trying this approach, we need to instill in our young people a deep love for God and a realization that this world is not their home! “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:14-15). We need to teach our young people to put God first in every aspect of their lives (Matt. 6:33). We need to teach them to prefer one another (Rom. 12:10) rather than their worldly friends. We need to teach them wisdom (Proverbs), and we need to show them through our actions that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the whole of man (Eccl. 12:13).

Now, back to the results of my survey! As I said before, I was not surprised to see that the majority of congregations polled had mostly people in the 60+ age group. Yet what was surprising is that there was a lot more variation than I had thought. There were plenty of congregations who still had a good mix of the under 30 and 30-60 age groups. What I learned from this is that I was looking for results based upon my own biases. Rather than expecting the results of every congregation to look like my own congregation, I should have waited to see the data before trying to make my own conclusions.

You see, there isn’t any one generation that is the “lost generation.” Why is that? Because every generation who does not know the Lord is lost! We need to be reaching the masses with the gospel of Christ! Age? Well, that’s just a number!

Chase is a 2017 graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching and preaches in West Monroe, LA, alongside his wife and children.

 

Why God’s Word Needs To Be In Our Heads — Chase Green

Ask any preaching student what was his most daunting task in preaching school, and he very likely may say, “Memory work!”  I can still remember the first time I saw a syllabus for a class in the Memphis School of Preaching.  My heart sank.  How was I going to memorize that many verses in such a short period of time?  And to think that this was just one class!

Memorization of Scripture is generally recognized as one of the most basic requirements for a gospel preacher, but this practice should not be limited to preachers only.  The Bible contains many reasons for this.  For instance, consider Psalm 119:1-3:  “How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You(emphasis mine).  The blessed man described in Psalm 1:1-3 delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates in His law day and night.  The diligent parent described in Deuteronomy 11:18-23 lays up God’s Word in his heart and soul and teaches it to his children, speaking of it when he sits in his house, when he walks by the way, when he lies down, and when he rises up.  Furthermore, consider also that the teaching, admonishing, and singing mentioned in Colossians 3:16 is predicated upon individual Christians letting the Word of Christ “dwell” in us.  With these and other verses in view, the importance of Scripture memorization can be seen.

In times past, I believe this concept was better understood among members of the Lord’s church.  It used to be said that members of the church of Christ were walking Bibles, that we were a people that lived “by the Book.”  (If you want evidence for this, I would suggest that you search for the video of Garland Elkins’ magnificent defense of the truth on the Phil Donahue Show.  Notice also how ably the members of the church who were in the audience quoted Scripture.)

So what has changed in the last few decades?  I believe that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is that our modern technology has become a crutch upon which many of us lean.  Why memorize verses, chapters, and whole books of the Bible when we could just memorize bits and pieces of those verses and then do a quick search on our phones?  Why spend hours memorizing Scripture when said search can be accomplished in a matter of seconds?  These are legitimate questions that need answered, and the best answer for them lie again in the verses already mentioned.

The Bible doesn’t say that we should hide the Word of God in our iPhones; it says we must hide it in our hearts Ps. 119:11; Deut. 11:18).  The Bible doesn’t say that we should meditate with tablet in hand, with fingers at the ready for a verse search; it says we are to meditate in the law of the Lord “day and night” (Ps. 1:2), implying the desire to ruminate over the Word while awake and asleep.  The Bible doesn’t say to let the Word of Christ dwell in our computers, resulting in teaching, admonishing, and singing; it says to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” resulting in those things (Col. 3:16, emphasis mine).

With that said, the Bible is clear that the noble task of Scripture memorization takes effortStudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, emphasis mine).  Even though it is not easy, Scripture memorization is a task that is worth our efforts, and it can be accomplished through diligent study.

One may ask, “But how do I go about memorizing Scripture?  What is the key to being able to do this?”  The answer is simple: repetition, repetition, repetition.  If you can memorize a phone number or an address or someone’s name, you can memorize Scripture!  While it is true that memorizing Scripture takes some getting used to, I believe you will find it easier than you think.  Just keep working at it, and don’t give up!

For the remainder of this article, I would like to offer some tips that helped me tremendously in learning how to memorize Scripture.  First, aim small, miss small.  What I mean by this is that you must start down the path of Scripture memorization by focusing on small, easy-to-memorize verses.  If given the choice between John 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:10-12, choose John 3:16!  Chances are, you will be much more familiar with the passage in John, and it will aid you in building confidence in your memorization.  Then once your mind has warmed up to memorization, you can tackle the more difficult verses.

Another tip that I would recommend is to focus on important doctrinal passages.  Do not get me wrong, every passage in Scripture is important and is there for a reason!  That said, it is much more useful to memorize passages regarding baptism or worship or truth rather than passages such as genealogies or salutations of an epistle.

Next, I would say it is crucial to memorize the verse by breaking it down, phrase by phrase.  For instance, rather than trying to memorize the whole verse, try memorizing John 3:16 one phrase at a time:  “For God so loved the world — that He gave His only begotten Son — that whoever believes in Him — should not perish — but have everlasting life.”  By breaking the verse or passage down phrase by phrase, a daunting task becomes much more attainable.

Finally, it is important to take regular study breaks and sleep on it after you have studied.  The human brain is capable of storing a tremendous amount of information, but even the smartest among us can have a difficult time if our brains become overloaded with too much information all at once.  Therefore, when studying a passage of Scripture you want to memorize, make sure you put it down and go do something else in order to give your brain time to process the new information.  Then go back to memorizing and you should find it easier the second time around!  Also, realize that your brain will process this information while you sleep at night, so when you come back to study the passage the next day, you should find the ability to memorize it much more smoothly.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if members of the Lord’s church once again became known as “people of the Book”?  Let us renew our efforts be more like Christ Who answered, “It is written.”

Chase is a 2017 graduate of MSOP and preaches in West Monroe, LA, alongside his wife and children.