Daily Devotion for November 12, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew, 18:15
The things you accept on earth
"The things you accept on earth will have been accepted in heaven; and the things you reject on earth will have been rejected in heaven."
Comment on the Scripture
This verse has traditionally been translated, "Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." Using the verbs "bind" and "loose", however, makes the verse practically incomprehensible. Half the people in the United States don't even understand the distinction between the adjective "loose" and the verb "lose"! And even people who understand the verb "to loose" are unlikely to understand its use in an archaic idiom. I'm sure most people have no idea whether being "loosed" is even a good thing or a bad thing (and I bet a majority would get it wrong). Anyway, I've used "accept" and "reject", which are not perfect but are at least readily understood. After all, the idea of translating the Bible into English in the first place was "to cause the plowboy to know the Scriptures."
There are two very different ways to interpret Matthew 18:15 (and 16:19), no matter what verbs you use. I try to steer clear of theological disputes, but in today's lesson, there is no way around at least admitting that the dispute exists. There are two fundamentally different ways that this verse is interpreted.
It can be read, "Whatever you accept on earth will be accepted in heaven", meaning that if the disciples approve of something on earth, their approval signals approval by God. The (Roman) Catholic Church and Orthodox churches interpret the passage this way. It is the basis of much of their doctrine, such as the sacrament of confession, performed by a priest whose authority to forgive sins extends back to Peter.
On the other hand, Protestant theologians, such as Charles B. Williams, argue that the Greek is more properly understood to mean that the disciples must limit themselves to what has been decided in heaven. The first translation grants enormous power to the disciples and, many argue, to their successors (the "apostolic succession"). The second translation is almost the opposite, severely restricting the power of the disciples; the passage, using this interpretation, has been translated "whatever you decide on earth must be what has already been decided in heaven", i.e., ministers must make sure that what they say has a firm basis in the Bible.
There is also some middle ground; some Protestant churches retain the notion of apostolic succession for sacramental reasons, such as requiring anyone who performs baptisms or celebrates communion be ordained by a bishop whose authority extends back to the apostles. The most notable example is the Anglican Church, which was started by Henry VIII of England, and was similar to the Catholic Church except in its rejection of Papal authority and its translation of services into English rather than Latin.