Stir the Water or Stir Up Trouble?

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by swaimj, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. swaimj

    swaimj
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    Today I preached on John 5:1-16. In my opinion, (and I say with a completely clear conscience) the best evidence indicates that John 5:3b-4 was not originally in the text. Having come to that conclusion, how should I have handled the passage when I preached it. The choices I came up with were:

    A. Ignore the fact that I don't think it should be there and preach it anyway since the congregation uses the KJV (though they are not KJV only and frankly probably wouldn't know what that means).
    ButI have a problem with this because the verse is clearly outside the bounds of what we know about angels from the rest of scripture.

    B. Tell the congregation that I don't think it should be there and proceed to preach around it.
    Butthis will shock the audience because they will think I am deleting a part of the Bible, causing a quiet but audible murmer in the congregation which distracts them from the rest of the sermon.

    C. Don't tell the congregation that I don't think it should be there, but, in the sermon, interpret the verse in such a way that I subtly indicate that I think it is spurious and does not mean what, at face value, it clearly says.
    Butthis tecnique will be caught by the more critically minded in the audience who will draw the same conclusion as in "B" and call the other members this coming week and tell them that I am a heretic.

    D. Skip this passage and preach on something easier!
    Butdo I really belong behind the pulpit if I am a coward?!?
     
  2. JamesJ

    JamesJ
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    Hi swaimj, What specifically is your concern about this part of the text concerning the angel? Didn't angels appear to Lot? Didn't Jacob wrestle with one? Don't angels carry out God's commands in the book of the Revelation?
    It would seem that they are very powerful and capable indeed?
     
  3. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
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    While I have some respect for textual criticism, I am very skeptical about some of the conclusions regarding what is considered original and what is presumed to be a later addition.

    How would doing this change the focus of the passage, that there was a man who wanted to be healed and he was so desperate for any cure that he stayed around the pool hoping for a chance to be healed? You could compare it to those who go to see faith healers…

    Maybe, maybe not. The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about angels. While I don’t quite understand what the passage is trying to say about the angel disturbing the pool, I don’t let that distract me from the main point of the passage.

    If you have a history of it, it won’t shock them too much. Even if you don’t think it should be there, you shouldn’t preach around it. You should deal with it head on and explain why you think it was added later. Use the reason you believe it was added there later to help you explain the text.

    This is a wimpy way to deal with scripture. I hear it from time to time from preachers from all sorts of perspectives, including fundamentalist, conservative, moderate and liberal.

    Deal with the text as written. If you don’t believe it, then you need to say so.

    If you are not willing to take a stand on what you believe or be honest about your struggles as a teacher/preacher of the Bible, you should not be behind the pulpit.

    Have courage. Trust the text. Preach what the text teaches. Let God handle the outcome.

    Remember, you don’t (and won’t) understand everything the Bible teaches and presents. That should not stop you from preaching and teaching the truth you do understand.
     
  4. Steve K.

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    All I can tell you for sure is that if you correct the bible or question the bible in a church that I am in you can be sure that I will approach you on the matter personally at that time.However I run in quite an exclusive circle so I do not see that happening. Have a nice day.
     
  5. swaimj

    swaimj
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    Thanks for the replies thus far. Here are my responses to some of the comments.

    James J
    Good question. Let me clarify my objection to what is being said here. In the verse, we have an angel who is randomly healing people in a manner that does not direct them to God. Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation The angelic activity describes here is not directed to the elect. All of the people you named who were ministered to by angels, Lot, Jacob, and we could add Abraham, were part of the elect. Consequently, the activity described seems to fall outside of the bounds of biblical theology. That is my objection to it on doctrinal grounds.

    Baptist Believer,
    I'm skeptical of textual criticism as well, but in this case, the arguments against this verse and a half are pretty compelling, in my view.
    Thanks. That was one of the comparisons I made.
    Good suggestion.
    Good advice. Just to follow up, I gave three possible ways that I could think of to deal with this problem. I am not clear as to which specific one you are recommending.

    Steve K
    I am not questioning the Bible, Steve. I am questioning a textual variant and whether it should be included. Since the Bible says "Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee and thou be found a liar" I think the question of whether this verse is an addition to the text is pretty important!
     
  6. Dr. Bob

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    Agree that this is a spurious passage. It is too bad some English translations include it and confuse readers.

    I would just explain it that way. You do not want to take away confidence in the Word of God, but you have to be honest with a TRANSLATION of the Word of God.

    No translation is like the originals and perfect in every nuance. Those who would believe that have to accept a second work of inspiration of the translation . . shakey, shakey theological grounds.

    Find that Joe Average Christian will accept solid teaching.
     
  7. TaterTot

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    I, too, agree about the verses in question not belonging. Too much compelling evidence. I would probably say, "Some scholars and textual research research suggest..." then unload it. But the point of the passage does not change. If I were in your church, and you knew this about the passage, I would at least want you to teach me about textual variants such as this one.
    So what did you do??
    TaterTot
     
  8. blackbird

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    Brother Swaimj--(I still wonder how you came up with that screen name!!!)

    I preached the same text several years ago--along the lines of what TaterTot just explained above--and you know what?? It cost me my job!! I told what I considered to be the truth--and it cost my job! There was a doctrinal detective in our midst who was at the end of the runway--and when he heard me explain it--buddy--he took off--he zoomed on down the runway--all four jet engines roarin'--and when he came in for a landing later on---I no longer was preachin' there!!

    Let me get my thoughts together and I'll pm you with my sermon I preached that fateful day--and I'll guarantee you--there'll be some doctrinal detective on the board who'll want to run me off or over---one of the two!! Be back later!

    Your Southern Baptist preacher buddy,
    Blackbird
     
  9. swaimj

    swaimj
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    I did a version of "C". When I got to the point of explained verses 3b-4, I explained that this comment was not an actual statement of what the angel was doing, but was a reflection of a legend that people believed. I gave two reasons for my view. I explained that, based on archeological findings, there were springs that fed the pool and made the water move. I also referred to Hebrews 1:14 and stated that nowhere in scripture do we have precedent for angels performing random miracles for unsaved people. Their work is to bring clear revelation from God to men and to minister to the saved. I considered getting into the textual issue, but felt I could not do it justice as a parenthetical topic within a sermon of 30-35 minutes. It would have been a completely new topic for the audience.

    I had one lady question this after the service in a quasi-hostile way, but got no other comments on it. Her comment was "If the Bible says it was an angel, then it is an angel and you should not contradict it." You can see how a person who is not familiar with textual issues could conclude quickly that I am a liberal. I suspect I need to revisit the subject quickly to put out any fire the one lady may start.

    Blackbird, looking for your sermon notes & would welcome any other feedback.
     
  10. Paul of Eugene

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    Every liberal in existance, no matter what the issue, thinks that way because, like you, he is persuaded by the evidence. Or maybe he is following somebody else who was persuaded by the evidence.

    But standing up for the truth is worth it, not because it is safe, but because it is true.

    The decision to depend on tradition instead of reason may sometimes be the right choice and may sometimes be the wrong choice. We cannot be smugly sure we are right no matter what we do. Now we see in a glass, darkly.

    Make your references to the textual problems very concrete. "If I go to the library in London, and view XXX, I read YYYY in the original. If I go to the library at the Vatican and view ZZZ, I read AAA in the original. Faced with this, I go along with BBB when they say . . . "

    Mention that you are doing the best you can with what you've got.

    Works for me!
     

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