Friday, May 18, 2012

Are You Bowling Alone? (Part 1)

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In his iconic 2000 book, Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam asserts that America is in decline because America is abandoning her "social capital."  "Social capital" is the ability and desire to publicly interact with other people by means of family, church, civic organizations, sports and politics.  This kind of interaction has been in steep decline since the 1980's and is now reaching alarming new lows.  America, instead of interacting as she once did, is "cocooning."   The author came to his books title by discovering that even though interest and participation in bowling is near all time high levels, the percentage of people participating in bowling leagues is falling off the charts.  People no longer prefer to bowl together...they prefer to bowl alone.  Americans, it appears, are preferring to do most everything alone and interacting when there is no way to avoid it.  Not only does this trend indicate a danger to society as a whole, it has potentially disastrous implications for the Lord's church.  Satan, as it were, is moving in through the side door unnoticed.  His lies are convincing more and more of us that we can be "solitary Christians."  But can we?

Before we discuss the spiritual implications of these matters, let's observe the spectrum of human preferences regarding a total solitude mindset on one extreme and a total community mindset on the other.  In the center is total neutrality towards both solitude and community.  

Serving as examples: total solitude is very clearly illustrated by life in New York City on the one hand and the Amish community clearly illustrates total community on the other.  New Yorkers have little social interaction, spend as much time as possible alone and avoid contact with strangers.  They cherish their solitude and avoid community.  Quite the opposite, the Amish treasure interpersonal interaction in nearly every activity of life.  They eat together, work together, play together and worship together.  They cherish their community and avoid solitude.  For our purposes we will call these two extremes "Solitude:"and "Community."  We will construct a graph to illustrate.  Here we go:

  NYC  1       2       3       4       Neutral       (4)       (3)       (2)       (1)  AMISH  

Here's the graphs representations:

Solitude (NYC)
1 Withdrawl from Community
2 Fear of Community
3 Discomfort with Community
4 Preference for Solitude
(4) Preference for Community
(3) Discomfort with Solitude
(2) Fear of Solitude
(1) Withdrawl from Solitude
Community (AMISH)

In the long ago God issued a prime directive regarding the optimum condition for mankind.  "It is not good for man to be alone." - Genesis 2.18b  There we have it.  Community is normative and solitude is not.    Jesus Christ on occasion sought solitude but he aggressively sought community far more often for as he said; "I am come to seek and to save that which is lost."  What is lost?  Mankind.  Though man needs rest and solitude on occasion, it is within community that God calls him to live for the majority of his time here on earth.   The very first community was composed of God, Adam and Eve in what we today call the marriage covenant.  Later God called His chosen people to a community that met God publicly at the "tent of meeting" a.k.a. the Tabernacle and later at the Temple in Jerusalem.  After returning from Babylonian captivity God's people met weekly in what we today call the Synagogue.  Finally, since the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us everywhere to community with Him in the ecclesia, the church of Christ.  Why?  "It is not good that man be alone!"

On Tuesday night, June 26, 2012, there will be a group discussion of the book Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam.  The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Archdale church of Christ, 2525 Archdale Drive, Charlotte, NC 28210.  The public is invited.  We will focus on just how does the community of Christ's church address the growing trend among Americans to isolate themselves from personal interaction.  In preparation for this important discussion, you can obtain a copy of Putnam's book to read very inexpensively from  Here is your link:

We will look forward to seeing you there!  Questions?  Just e-mail Russ McCullough at


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who Are the Unbelieving (apistos) of Revelation 21?

A Word Study in Context

The purpose of the exposition of Scripture is to teach doctrine which has as its purpose to “fall backward, break us, take us and ensnare us” for God.  This is detailed by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 28.13;

And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

God is planning on separating His people from their home for 70 years so that He will have their complete attention so as to instruct them fully in His doctrine.  That is how we should study His Word as well.

The original word. Apistos [pronounced app-i-stos], means (A) – without + (Pistos) – faith.  Succinctly, it is “active unbelief” or a state of unbelief beyond credibility in the light of the facts.[1]  Whoever the “unbelieving” (faithless ESV) are, they shall not inherit the Kingdom of God and instead will experience the “second death” and be thrown into the “lake of fire and brimstone.”  The NT uses this word elsewhere and collective usage gives us a very good idea of its meaning in context.

(1)        Act 26:8  Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

The word translated “incredible” is apistos.  The Jews rejection of the Resurrection was an active unbelief that was shocking to Paul.

Conclusion: Those who reject the reality of the Resurrection are part of the apistos.

(2)        Mat 17:17  And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me."

The word translated “faithless” is apistos.  We learn in vs. 19 that Jesus rebukes his disciples, not for their “active unbelief” but for their “unbelief” by default.   Apistos in this context can apply to those who have some measure of faith but a faith that is lacking.

Conclusion: Believers who are content with a state of doubt demonstrate a fruitless faith to the outside world.  Such are in danger of not pleasing their Lord and “may” become fully apistos.

(3)        Mar 9:19  And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."

A parallel passage to Matthew 17 noted above, Jesus uses the same apistos word.  Again, it is used in a warning sense that even the apostles were in danger of choosing the way of unbelief and faithlessness.  In fact, ALL the apostles…to one extent or another…became apistos during the passion of the Christ.  Fortunately, they all returned from the brink save one, Judas Iscariot.
Conclusion: Even those strong in pistos “may” become apistos.  Truth be told, we all flux between faithfulness and faithlessness much of the time.  We need to take these warnings to heart.
(4)        See also Luke 9.41 for the 3rd parallel of this event

(5)        Luk 12:46  the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful

In Luke 12, Jesus contrasts His servants various stages of readiness at His return.  Some are and some are not.  In fact, some are so apistos as to take extreme advantage of other servants as the Lord’s return is delayed.  Their fate?  Metaphorically “cut into pieces” and then numbered with the apistos where they will be cut off from God for eternity.

Conclusion: The apistos include some servants of Christ who abuse their fellow servants while in this lifetime.

(6)        Joh 20:27  Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."

In this passage the resurrected Christ appears to the apostles, this time including Thomas who was absent previously.  It is made plain that being either faithful or faithless is a conscious choice to be made by free moral agents.
Conclusion: Whether one is pistos or apistos, it is a clear, conscious and un - arbitrary choice we all make.  No one is “sent” to hell, it is full of those who choose it.

(7)        1Co 6:5  I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,
1Co 6:6  but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

Paul here is exhorting the Corinthians to stay out of secular court with their disputes.  He enjoins them to settle them within the confines of the body of Christ rather than to drag them before the apistos, the unbelievers.

Conclusion: The apistos contains all those outside of the church, the body of Christ as used in this context.

(8)         1Co 7:12  To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 1Co 7:13  If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 1Co 7:14  For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 1Co 7:15  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

Paul is commanding the Corinthians concerning the disposition of marriages between the pistos and the apistos.  One has become a Christian and one has not.  Paul allows for a separation in such cases “IF” the unbelieving partner insists upon leaving.  The so called “Pauline Exception” does not, however, allow for any remarriage except by death or by sexual immorality as does our Lord  in Matthew 19. 

Conclusion: The apistos contains those who have rejected the gospel, any person choosing NOT to be baptized in the Name of Christ for the remission of sins.

(9)        1Co 10:27  If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Paul is here presenting biblical principles for Christians who were wrestling with whether or not to eat meat that had been part of a pagan sacrifice.  That is how meat came to market in the ancient world.  The apistos here refers to the non-Christian, any unbaptized person who invites the Christian to dinner and serves what is ordinary and common in that place and time.

Conclusion: The apistos includes all un-believers, all unbaptized persons of accountable age.

(10)     1Co 14:22  Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 1Co 14:23  If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 1Co 14:24  But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,

In this passage Paul is contextually calling upon Mark 16.20.  The reason tongues existed in the 1st century was to confirm the Word.  The apistos here are those persons, currently unsaved, who are being urged to become Christians and are witnessing “signs and worders” confirming the veracity of the words spoken by the Christian(s).

Conclusion: The apistos includes those who are close to becoming Christians but have not made the decision to become such.  These were in need of further encouragement.

(11)     2Co 4:3  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 2Co 4:4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Paul describes the reason as to why many continue to rebel and reject Christ.  These unbelievers continue to have their ears stopped to the gospel.

Conclusion: The apistos includes those who are spiritually blinded by the lies of Satan.

(12)     2Co 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2Co 6:15  What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

An encouragement to Christians not to partner with those belonging to false religions.

Conclusion: The apistos includes the adherents of false religions.

(13)     1Ti 5:8  But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Paul names the Christian who refuses to support his family as a “denier of the faith” and is considered worse than an unbeliever.

Conclusion: The Christian who denies the faith by neglecting his family is not only apistos, he is WORSE than apistos.

(14)     Tit 1:15  To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

Paul tells Titus that “to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure but THEIR minds and THEIR consciences are defiled.”  The unbelieving are part of a group identified as “THEIR.”  Who, therefore, is THEIR?  Paul contextually defines “THEIR” as Christians who teach false doctrine concerning circumcision in vs. 10.

Conclusion: The apistos includes those Christians who are willingly engaged in the promotion of false doctrine.

(15)     Who, then, are the “unbelieving” of Revelation 21?

a.   Those who reject the resurrection
b.   Those are content in a state of doubt
c.   Those who remain fruitless
d.   Those who abuse their brothers and sisters
e.   Those who refuse belief in the face of the facts
f.    Those who are outside of Christ for whatever reason
g.   Those who reject the gospel as presented by those that love them
h.   Those adhering to any other faith outside of Christ
i.     Those who have been shown the gospel but are hesitating submitting to it
j.    Those who are spiritually blinded by Satan
k.   Those who adhere to false religion
l.     Those who refuse to love and protect their families
m. Those who openly promote and teach false doctrine

Lesson Sheet Handout:

Revelation 21 Revisited – Who Are The Unbelieving?

1.  What is the purpose of exposition?
2.  What is the purpose of doctrine?
3.  What is the process of teaching and learning of Scripture?
4.  The word translated “unbelieving” in Revelation 21 is the Greek word A____________ which is the combination of two words which mean what?____________________________
5.  What will happen to those so designated?
6.  The NT’s collective usage of this word does what for our study?
7.  Acts 26.8 Description:______________________________
Acts 26.8 Meaning: ________________________________
8.  Matthew 17.17 Description:__________________________
Matthew 17.17 Meaning:____________________________
9.  Mark 9.19 Description: _____________________________
Mark 9.19 Meaning:________________________________
10.              John 20.27 Description: ________________________
John 20.27 Meaning:___________________________
11.              I Corinthians 6.5 Description: ___________________
I Corinthians 6.5 Meaning: ______________________
12.              I Corinthians 7.12 Description:____________________
I Corinthians 7.12 Meaning: _____________________
13.              I Corinthians 10.27 Description: __________________
I Corinthians 10.27 Meaning: ____________________
14.              I Corinthians 14.22 Description: __________________
I Corinthians 14.22 Meaning: ____________________
15.              II Cor. 4.3 Description: _________________________
II Cor. 4.3 Meaning:____________________________
16.              II Cor. 6.14 Description: ________________________
II Cor. 6.14 Meaning:___________________________
17.              I Timothy 5.8 Description: _______________________
I Timothy 5.8 Meaning: _________________________
18.              Titus 1.15 Description:__________________________
Titus 1.15 Meaning: ____________________________
19.              Who are, then, the “unbelieving” of Revelation 21?
c. ________________________

[1] Source: Spiros Zodhiates, Gen. Ed. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN, 1992) pg. 214, entry 571

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