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News, a Free Ebook, and the Role of the Apostles
October 31, 2011
I am very delinquent in sending out this newsletter.
First, the news on my health:
As most of you know, I was diagnosed with acute leukemia in June. I have been hospitalized for a total of six weeks since with a minimum of two visits per week to the hospital in between. I am just finishing my third round of chemotherapy, which means I am sitting on my couch at home with virtually no immune system except the antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral pills that Vanderbilt Medical Center have prescribed me.
The plan is that in about three weeks, I will receive five days of chemotherapy and six full-body radiation treatments. The goal is to completely destroy my bone marrow. I will then be given an IV drip, which will only take about half an hour, of stem cells from two umbilical cords and placentas that were donated by parents to whom I shall be forever grateful. (No babies are harmed or cloned in cord blood research.)
The stem cells apparently just know to go from my blood system to my bones and replace my bone marrow. It then can take up to four weeks for the new bone marrow to provide an entirely new, leukemia-free blood system.
Oh, if you don't know, your bone marrow produces all your blood cells.
The paperwork I signed says that I have a 20% chance of dying from the preparation treatment and about a 15% chance of dying from complications afterward. The doctor says the odds are a bit better than that.
My church, my friends, and I all confident that God intends for me to live through this treatment. Even my family doctor told me, "I don't know why, but I've just been sure from the first day that you're going to make it through this."
On the other hand, none of us are promised tomorrow, and the Scriptures say that numbering our days is part of the process that leads to wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
This newsletter is not, however, about my health. You can follow my news and the work of God through this journey at my blog, Thrilled to Death.
My book, In the Beginning Was the Logos, is now on Amazon. You have to look it up under my name (Paul Pavao), as even searching by title doesn't turn it up.
In return for a promise that you will at least try to read and then review it, I will send you the ebook for free. I am speaking of the .pdf electronic version, not the paper book. The paper book costs me nearly as much as it costs you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me that you read of my free ebook offer in the Early Church Newsletter.
If you want the paper book, it's cheaper at Lulu.com than at Amazon. Again, I really don't have any choice in that sort of thing.
I only feel safe making this offer until November 20. I don't mean to be gruesome, but there is some possibility I won't survive November (see above). However, assuming, as I am, that I am still alive after November 20, I will still send you the ebook for free if you mention this offer.
Again, I apologize if that's a little more honest than you are used to. I'm getting used to talking about things I never talked about before.
This newsletter is primarily about church history and especially early church history. So let me give you a bit of that.
Some of you may not realize that the earliest Christians never held a council to sit down and "feel" which Christian writings were inspired. As the Gospels, letters, and writings that comprise our New Testament were accumulated, only one question was being asked.
Was this written by an apostle or the companion of an apostle?
Note that all writings which I quote can be found at http://www.ccel.org/fathers among the writings of The Ante-Nicene Fathers
We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III:I:1, c. A.D. 185)
Note that the Scriptures, to Irenaeus, are the public teachings of the apostles handed down later in writing. He then goes on to explain that God gave the apostles "perfect knowledge."
After our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down; They were filled ... and had perfect knowledge. (ibid.)
How important is apostolic teaching to Irenaeus?
If anyone does not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation. (ibid., par. 2)
Irenaeus is not unique among the earliest Christians. Justin Martyr, when he wanted to quote with authority, refers to "the memoirs of the apostles."
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them. (First Apology 66, c. A.D. 150)
The reason that Justin could refer to the Gospels as the memoirs of the apostles is because to the early Christians, Mark's Gospel carried the authority of Peter, for Mark was Peter's companion in Rome for a time. Luke's Gospel had authority because he was the companion of Paul.
Even after A.D. 250, when most churches would have closely agreed on the canon of Scripture, Cyprian, head pastor (using modern terminology) of the church in Carthage, appealed to apostolic authority as though synonymous with Scriptural authority in his dispute with Stephen, head pastor of the church in Rome.
From where is that tradition? Does it descend from the authority of the Lord and of the Gospel? Or does it come from the commands and the epistles of the apostles?(Letter to Pompey, found in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, Epistle LXXIII)
Cyprian's follows that sentence by stating that "those things that are written must be done," and he quotes Joshua 1:8, referring to "the Book of the Law" to prove it.
Clearly, in Cyprian's mind, the New Testament Scriptures consist of the Gospels and the commands and epistles of the apostles.
It really could not be otherwise, until time and history allowed us to forget. We tend to think that there is some mystic feeling that allows us to know what is inspired. No, writings are always tied to men. Isaiah's prophecies are Scripture not because they feel inspired, but because Isaiah was recognized as a true prophet by the people of God. Isaiah was inspired, not just his writings.
It is for this reason that Jeremiah's writings could be destroyed and then rewritten and still be the word of God (Jeremiah 36). Anything Jeremiah prophesied was to be received as Scripture because he was a true prophet of God.
For the apostles it was the same way. They were inspired, not just their writings. That is why Paul could tell the Thessalonians to hold fast to his traditions, whether by letter or by mouth (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is also the reason he could tell the Corinthians that anything he wrote to them was the command of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:37).
One of the earliest Christian writings, addressed from the church of Rome to the church at Corinth though it is known as 1 Clement, explains the feeling in the apostles' churches about the role of the apostles:
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent by God and the apostles by Christ. (ch. 42)
At Christian-history.org, I have put a modern English rendering of the very early and anonymous Letter to Diognetus. Reading it and other early Christian writings—which you can read for free in modern English at Christian-history.org or in a free, century-old translation at ccel.org—will let you see how consistently the early Christians speak of the apostles in this way. Note that I have only a few writings on my site, whereas almost every early Christian writing will be at ccel.org.
I hope this has been enlightening to you.
Even for those of us with leukemia, Romans 8:28 remains true, God is always in control, and he means everything—literally everything—for good to those who love him and are the called according to his purpose.
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