Loose Canons

Reading through the news today, I came across an article on one of the presidential candidates wherein one of his former military commanders had said that he was a “loose cannon.” Just the other day, one of our members was telling me about a man who claimed to be a “loose cannon” religiously; we took that as meaning that he didn’t attend at any one particular “church.” And just the other day, I was listening to a CD narrative of the battle of Gettysburg which we purchased while we were on our family vacation this year; it reminded me of just what a “loose cannon” was. When the soldiers attending to a cannon were all wounded, captured, or killed, then the cannon would be turned around by the opposing force and aimed in the other direction back at those to whom it originally belonged. A “loose cannon” can be a very dangerous thing.

Just from looking at these thoughts behind the idea of a “loose cannon,” three different pictures emerge. The first idea represented is that of lack of respect for authority. That is, the individual who is described by his superior as a loose cannon doesn’t know how to respect the chain of command; he is an authority to himself, but respects no other authority. Second, the individual who described himself as a “loose cannon” represents himself as having no affiliation with one side or another. And third, the actual loose cannon on the battlefield represents the idea of something that has been captured and is now being used by the enemy. Christians ought not to be “loose cannons” in any of the senses indicated above.

First, Christians are to respect authority. We are first and foremost to respect the authority of our Lord who has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18) over all flesh (John 17:2). We respect Christ’s authority by looking to His word for everything that we say and do in service to Him in His kingdom (Colossians 3:17). Second, we are to respect the authority of those who are in places of authority such as parents (Ephesians 6:1, 2), elders (Hebrews 13:17), and government leaders (Romans 13:1-6). Jude says of those false teachers in his day that they are those who do not respect authority (Jude 1:8). Let’s not be guilty of being a “loose cannon” in not respecting authority.

Second, Christians are to be affiliated with something, namely, Christ and His church. All those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13), which is His church (Colossians 1:18). Christians belong to Christ and are members of his body, the church. Unfortunately, denominationalism has blurred many people’s understanding regarding the one true church of Christ, and caused them to think that they need not be “affiliated” with any “church”/denomination. Truthfully, no Christian ought to be affiliated with a denomination, but all ought to be affiliated with Christ’s church. To not be affiliated with the church of Christ is to abandon the head of the church himself, Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:22). It is to take oneself out from among the saved (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 5:23). It is to remove oneself from those who are called saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). Let’s not be guilty of being a “loose cannon” by not being affiliated with the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18).

Third, Christians are not to be captured and used by the enemy. We have an enemy, no doubt! (Matthew 13:39) And we, as Christians, must take up the whole armor of God and fight! (Ephesians 6:11) Our enemy is not flesh and blood but that which exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). How tragic, then, should we be captured by our enemy and turned to fight God! Yet some have done this very thing. How? 1) By seeking worldliness. The friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). 2) By being apathetic toward God (Revelation 3:16). We’re not supposed to be lukewarm as Christians. 3) By looking to satisfy self (Philippians 3:18). We’re not of those whose god is their belly. Let’s resolve not to be captured by the enemy, and never be a “loose cannon.”

Being described as a “loose cannon” is not something of which I would be very proud, whether that was in respect to authority, affiliation, or being captured by the enemy. Each one of us has a responsibility to respect authority, maintain fellowship with God and each other, and fight against the enemy in our life, whereever that enemy may give battle. “Loose cannons” have no place within the ranks of Christ’s army. Let us not so be.

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What Day Did Jesus Observe the Passover?

Did Jesus observe a different Passover than the Jews? John 19 seems to indicate that the Jews observed the Passover on Saturday whereas Jesus observed it on Thursday night.

John 19:14 states, “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” and verse 31 of the same chapter states, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” Upon initial inspection of these verses, this seems to indicate that the Passover was going to be observed by the Jews on Saturday. However, Luke 22:15 suggests that Jesus ate the Passover with the disciples on Thursday evening. So who ate the Passover and when? Did Jesus observe it early? Did the Jewish leaders put it off until late? What is the significance of these verses and wherein lies the harmony?

Believe it or not, there has been controversy regarding these verses since the 2nd century A.D. and almost every single commentator has his own opinion about this particular question. There are some principles that we know to be true that will help us understand the meaning of these verses. First, the Bible does not contradict itself. It can’t be the case that the Passover (the eating of the Paschal lamb) occurred both on Thursday and Saturday. Second, Jesus would not have eaten the Passover on a day other than the appointed day. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17) and would have eaten of the lamb at the appropriate time.

Let’s turn back to the instituting of the Passover in Exodus 12. Notice particularly verses 3, 6, and 15-18. Verse three tells the preparation day of the Paschal lamb. That day was on the 10th of Nissan. Verse six tells of the actual day in which the Paschal lamb was consumed. That was the fourteenth. Verses 15-18 tell of seven subsequent days in which unleavened bread was to be eaten on each day. They were to begin the seven days of unleavened bread on the 14th. The entire period of days from the 10th to the 21st were considered the festival of the Passover. Now according to verse sixteen no work was to be done on the first of the seven days of unleavened bread and no work was to be done on the seventh day of the days of unleavened bread. Additionally, we know that no work could be done on the Sabbath. However, John tells us that the day Jesus was crucified was a day of preparation–a day in which work could be done. So Friday was neither the first day of unleavened bread nor the Sabbath. This means that the day of the eating of the Paschal lamb, which was also the first day of unleavened bread, had to be Thursday. For what were the Jewish leaders preparing that they had to dispose of the executed bodies? They were preparing for the Sabbath that occurred during the Passover festival. So the day of the eating of the Paschal lamb was Thursday. This was the 14th of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish year. The day Jesus was crucified was Friday, the 15th of Nissan. The Sabbath day was the 16th of Nissan.

So what do we make in regard to the statement regarding the Jews in John 18:28 that the Jewish leaders did not go into the judgment hall so that they would not defile themselves so that they could eat the Passover? This refers, no doubt, to one of the days of unleavened bread which was still considered part of the Passover festival. The statement in John 19:14 regarding the preparation of the Passover also refers to preparation in regard to observing the days of unleavened bread on the Sabbath day. Since no work could be done on the Sabbath, they had to prepare everything for the feast of the unleavened bread on the Sabbath on Friday. So they were preparing on Friday for the part of the Passover that they would observe on the Sabbath. As far as I can tell, this is the best explanation for the sequence of events and the statements that John makes that harmonize with the other writers of the gospel accounts. I may be overlooking some information, and I would be happy to hear anyone else’s comments on this. This, however, should be sufficient to show that there is no contradiction between the New Testament writers.

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Lawful Crown

“And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor.9:25 ASV).

Perhaps you have watched some of the Olympic Games this past week. If you have, then you have watched while athletes from all over the world have competed to win the coveted gold medal. Several athletes have won multiple medals. Competing in the games, however, is not the sum total of the efforts these athletes have expended. Some have trained for many months, others for years, simply to participate in the events. But to win a medal, well, that is an honor above honors.

You may have noticed in watching some of the awards ceremonies that the athletes have been receiving crowns made of olive leaves. In former years, we have not seen this at the Olympic Games. It is something that is unique to the games being in the nation of Greece. In the original Olympic Games (which were held from around 770 B.C. to 300 A.D., a period of over 1000 years) it was this crown of olive leaves for which the athletes competed.

In 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul alludes to these games with which the Christians at Corinth would have been familiar. Some of these Christians may have known a friend who participated in these games; some may have participated themselves. They were familiar with these games through their own personal experience. They, like we, knew the efforts and struggles expended in order to compete and win the prize. The word for “strive” in this verse is the Greek word “AGONIZOMAI.” One can almost hear the word “agonize” when pronouncing that word. So when Paul makes reference to these games, they, and we, know the degree to which we must go to be faithful to Christ and to win the crown.

In the Greek language, there were two words for “crown.” The word used in this context is from the Greek word “STEFANOS.” We get the English name Stephen from this word. Matthew, Mark, and John use this word to describe the “crown” of thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion. In addition to 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul uses the word to describe the saints at Philippi for whom he labored (Philippians 4:1), the saints at Thessalonica as well (1 Thessalonians 2:19), the crown of lawful victory (2 Timothy 2:5), and the crown of righteousness which all the faithful will receive at life’s end (2 Timothy 4:8). James uses this word to speak concerning the Christian’s crown of life (James 1:12), Peter, the crown of glory that the chief shepherd will give (1 Peter 5:4), and Jesus, the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

In discussing our efforts to obtain this crown, Paul makes it clear that we cannot obtain this crown unlawfully. 2 Timothy 2:5 states, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” As Christians, we must ensure that we are striving, training ourselves on a daily basis, and doing so lawfully, that is, under the banner of Christ’s covenant today. Sadly, there have been some athletes who have not participated in our Olympic games because of unlawful activities. It would be even sadder still, for one who professes to be a Christian to enter eternity in such a situation. Let us resolve, therefore, to discipline ourselves each day, to strive for the crown, and to do so lawfully that one day we may have that crown of righteousness!

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