I’m Going To Jail

Recently one of my racquetball buddies and I were talking after a match. “Will you be here tomorrow?” he asked. I told him no because I would be in jail. This piqued his curiosity and he wanted to know what I meant.

I told him about my ministry as a volunteer chaplain with Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministry. He kept asking questions. He seemed to really want to know what it was like. I described the sixth floor chaplain’s office at the Oklahoma County Jail. I shared how the inmates come there because they want prayer, they want hope, and they want to hear from God’s Word.

This led to a frank conversation about the gospel, the Lord’s offer of forgiveness and new life in Christ. He listened respectfully as I told him that this is what we all need, whether we are prisoners in a jail or “respectable” people on the outside. We are all sinners. I told him about the Lord’s gracious offer of eternal life through faith in Jesus the Savior. He’s thinking about all this and I am praying for him.

One of the questions he asked had to do with why I would want to do this. I told him I do this because I have been blessed with a great spiritual heritage and excellent training. Most of the people I meet in the jail have not had these advantages. I feel a responsibility to share the blessings I have been given.

Another thing I told my friend is that prisoners are human beings created in the image of God. As such they have value in his sight. I told him what George Rennix said some time ago: “When I go into the jail I want  to consider those inmates more valuable than myself,” commenting on Philippians 2:3. I want the same thing. I think one reason prisoners want to see a chaplain is that they are treated with respect as they are told about God’s love for them.

As a retired pastor I have the Bible knowledge, the desire to share the gospel, and the discretionary time which allows me to serve. The inmates are spiritually hungry, and most of them are receptive to the message. There is a great need for chaplains, and it is a privilege to serve the Lord in this way.

I also told my friend about the joy I feel when a person, broken by sin and repentant, opens his heart to Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life through faith alone. There is joy in the presence of the angels (Luke 15:10), and there is joy in the Oklahoma County Jail.

I appreciate the prayers in the little book Valley of Vision. Here is one that sums up my motivation for ministry in the jail.

Thou hast knowledge of my soul’s secret principles and art aware of my desire to spread the gospel.

Make me an almoner (one who gives generously) to give thy bounties to the indigent,

comfort to the mentally ill,

restoration to the sin-diseased,

hope to the despairing,

joy to the sorrowing,

love to the prodigals.

Blow away the ashes of unbelief by Thy Spirit’s breath and give me light, fire and warmth of love. Amen

For more information about Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministry, go to www.ojpm.org, or call 405-917-2242.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Why Didn’t Paul Condemn Slavery?

Critics of the apostle Paul point to the fact that he refers repeatedly to slaves and masters but makes no attempt to call for an end to the institution of slavery. It is also embarrassingly true that American slave owners and their preachers used Paul’s texts to justify their beliefs and practices.

To compare the shame of the North American and British slave trade with first-century Roman slavery is a case of false equivalency. Brian J. Dodd has pointed out that slavery in the Mediterranean world of Paul was vastly different. (1) Slaves could and did earn their freedom. (2) They were not distinguished on the basis of race or color. In fact, it would have been difficult to tell, on the basis of appearance, the difference between a slave and a free person.

(3) Unlike the slaves in the American South, those in the Roman world had legal rights, including the right to appeal in the case of unfair treatment. (4) In some cases slavery was an opportunity for social and economic advancement. Some people sold themselves into slavery in search of a better life. (Paul discouraged this practice in 1 Corinthians 7:22-23.)

(5) Slaves in Roman society were often well educated and highly skilled. They occupied such trades as tutors, scribes, clerks, bookkeepers, civil servants, physicians, and household managers. (Slaves who worked in the mines, as gladiators and as galley-slaves on Roman ships were mostly prisoners of war or criminals.) (6) Slaves could own property and save money. This allowed many to purchase their own freedom and eventual Roman citizenship.

(7) Sometimes slaves in prominent households preferred to remain in this position rather than to seek emancipation because it was advantageous to them to be treated well under a kindly master.

Ben Witherington has added that as we try to understand Paul, it is useful to remember that no ancient government considered abolishing slavery. No former slaves or philosophers wrote attacking the institution. The slave revolts we read about in ancient history were not attempts to overthrow the institution but to improve working conditions or to protest abuses. Manumission (buying freedom) was so common in the first century that Caesar Augustus set up laws to restrict it. There is evidence in early Christian writings that some Christians gave sacrificially to purchase the freedom of fellow church members who were slaves. (The Paul Quest, InterVarsity press, 1998)

So what are we to make of Paul’s instructions to Christian slaves to obey their masters and do their work for the Lord (Colossians 3:22-25)? How are we to understand his words in 1 Corinthians 7:21-24, 1 Timothy 6:1-4, and Titus 2:9-10? We must begin by setting aside any thought that Paul would have condoned the kidnapping, violence, brutality, and inhumanity of the British and North American slave trade. We must, rather, interpret his writings within the context of his own world, the Greek and Roman world of the first century.

To that world, Paul brought the radical teaching that Christian slaves and masters are brothers in Christ, freed from sin, and liberated to serve Jesus. In the church, they are equals. They are to see themselves as an alternative society, part of a new humanity in which ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Paul went out of his way to identify with slaves. He called himself a “slave of Christ” (Philippians 1:1). He most likely worked alongside slaves when he plied his trade as a tentmaker. He dignified them by regarding them as persons of value, teaching them the virtue of work done for God. His short letter to Philemon was an appeal for the restoration, and possible liberation, of a runaway slave who had become a Christian, and whose service to Paul had been invaluable.

Brian J. Dodd has written: “It would be naive to fault Paul for not making an all-out, frontal assault on the institution of slavery. What would a meaningful protest have meant in a stratified society where there were no referenda, no public opinion surveys, no democratic process for the masses? Furthermore, a protest against slavery as such would have been interpreted as treason and sedition. It probably never occurred to Paul to lodge such a protest, and it is anachronistic for us to fault him from our social-legal position that cherishes the right of free speech. On Paul’s side of the interpretive bridge, such rights did not exist… .” (The Problem of Paul, InterVarsity Press, 1996; cf. S. Scott Bartchey, “Slavery in the NT,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed.)

Paul knew that slavery was an economic institution upon which Roman society depended. Any attempt to overthrow slavery would have been met with instant retaliation and the most severe punishment. Instead, his strategy was to undermine injustice with Christian love and mutuality. Even as Paul taught respect for the institutions of government (Romans 13:1-7), he knew that the good news of Jesus would penetrate Greek and Roman social structures with the influence of unselfish love. Paul’s calling was to proclaim the powerful gospel of Christ. He knew that it would change people’s hearts and create a new society.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Did Justification Originate with Paul or Jesus?

Did Justification Originate with Paul or Jesus?

There are skeptics who believe the apostle Paul invented Christianity. They claim that Paul shaped the early Christian message so that he, “not Jesus, was the primary innovator of many things we think of as ‘Christian'”  (“Did Paul Invent Christianity?” Kindle Afresh, The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding).

Rudolf Bultmann has been quoted as saying that “the teaching of the historical Jesus plays no role or practically none in Paul.” This contradicts what Paul said when he claimed to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). That he was a messenger of Jesus is plain from his “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you…”( 1 Thessalonians 4:15). I believe Paul, not Rudolf. Here’s why.

Let’s take the doctrine of justification by faith as an example. Paul’s detractors say he came up with it on his own. One scholar wrote, “Jesus did not preach justification; Paul did.” But if we read the acts and words of Jesus in the gospels, we can tell they are infused with grace, the favor of God toward the undeserving. It is not hard to see how these truths form the basis for Paul’s elaboration on the theme of justification.

Look at Jesus healing a leper in Mark 1:40-45. In the gracious act of touching the diseased man, Jesus pictured the essence of the gospel message of forgiveness and full acceptance. In our Lord’s parables, we may see grace applied in the same way, to those who are willing to receive it.

The parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20:1-16 illustrates this beautifully. The ones hired at the end of the workday received the same pay as those hired to work early in the day. Jesus illustrates the generous love of God who is free to be gracious to whom he will.

In the parable of the two debtors in Luke 7:41-42, one owed a lot and the other less. Neither had the money to pay back what he owed. So the gracious creditor, (Jesus is teaching us about God!) canceled both men’s debts.

In the familiar parable of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32, the boy slunk home in disgrace after squandering his father’s money in wild living. The father in the story interrupts his sorrowful boy as he tries to bargain his way back as a hired worker. The father will have none of it! He embraces him, kisses him, dresses him as a family member, and throws a big barbecue to celebrate his return. This is pure grace. Jesus is teaching us about ourselves and about God.

The first mention in the New Testament of justification is from the lips of Jesus, not Paul. In Luke 18:9-14 we see the familiar contrast between the self-righteous, religious person who tries to impress God with his respectability and the repentant sinner who has nothing to offer to God but faith. In this parable, Jesus made clear the terms of approach to God. Only the one who humbly prayed for mercy “went home justified,” Jesus said.

Jesus, not Paul, was the first to designate a sinner who believes as justified in the sight of God. Paul received this doctrine from Jesus and built upon it. His letter to the Romans is an exposition on this theme. It is an invitation to all people to be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

This is for you, too, if you will receive it. It is offered “freely” (without cost). To be justified is to be declared right with God. This gift of grace was purchased through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus when he died on the cross. After his resurrection, Jesus authorized his apostles, including Paul, to make this message plain to all people, including you.

Kenneth Berding (cited above) wrote, “The things Paul sought, the thoughts he thought  and the words he taught were in agreement with and sometimes directly dependent upon the teaching of Jesus.” Paul taught and wrote what Jesus told him to say.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Paul Wrote about Sex

Paul Wrote about Sex

Paul wrote about sex. Much of what he wrote cut across the grain of first-century pagan society. For the same reason, many people reject his teachings today. His 2000-year-old views are considered out-of-date and unworkable in today’s world.

Why should the opinions of a first-century Jewish rabbi influence how we conduct ourselves in the privacy of our own bedrooms? Because he speaks for Jesus. The Lord Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me” (John 13:20).

In this space, I have been writing about apostolic authority in the ministry of Paul. He taught and wrote like an inspired delegate of the Lord himself. His writings carried the authority of the Lord Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12). When he wrote about sex it was because sexual immorality was a problem that needed to be addressed in the churches he founded in the world of the Roman Empire.

What did Paul mean when he told Christians to avoid sexual immorality? The word he used, porneia, is an inclusive word denoting all sex outside of heterosexual marriage. This is a term which included prostitution (1 Corinthians 6:13-20), incest (1 Corinthians 5:1),  and homosexual practice (1 Corinthians 6:9). It is easy to see why people today want to try to explain away, reinterpret, or discredit Paul’s teaching.

His influence is unpopular because American society is moving in the opposite direction of God’s moral law. Many people are embracing the practices and beliefs of those who do not know God.  They are taking their cues from movies, TV, social media, and from a morally vacuous intellectual elite.

On the other hand, Paul writes about faithfulness in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 because God upholds the sanctity of marriage. He writes about moral purity in 1 Thessalonians 4 because God wants his people to reflect his holy character. He writes about homosexual practice in Romans 1 because it is a violation of the natural order of God’s creation. Immoral practices are offensive to a holy God “who will punish all who commit such sins” (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Paul instructs us “how to live in order to please God … It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3-5). Paul writes the way he does because he knows that God still has a say in this matter. 

He added that “anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).  That statement reflects his authority as a spokesman for Jesus Christ.

Now for some questions.

Was Paul a prude? Was he against pleasure? Not at all. He always agreed with the  Hebrew scriptures. The Old Testament said that marital intimacy was for pleasure as well as procreation (Genesis 18:12). The scriptures celebrate this in Proverbs 5:18-19 and Song of Solomon. Nothing Paul says contradicts this. In fact, he took a firm stand against asceticism and legalism in his writings (Colossians 2:16, 20-23, 1 Timothy 4:1-4). He consistently affirmed the beauty and mystery of human sexuality in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:36, Ephesians 5:31-33).

Did Paul hate homosexuals? To be sure, he condemned homosexual behavior (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10). It was the act or the practice of homosexuality against which he wrote so clearly. But the apostle who told us to speak the truth in love, did that very thing when he cared for the souls of all men and women saying, “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy2:4). God does not hate homosexuals and neither did Paul.

He taught that sexual expression is for marriage, and, like Jesus (Mark 10:6-9), he taught that a true marriage is a union of a male and a female. This was established by the Creator when he instituted marriage (Genesis 1:27, 2:24). Gay marriage is not wrong because straight people feel that it is wrong. It is wrong because God’s Word says so. To agree with God’s Word is not bigotry or hatred. It is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

What did he mean by the term “flesh”? The physical flesh of the human body is not sinful. The word “flesh” is often used metaphorically to refer to the sinful nature in human beings. Paul is not saying that the body is evil or pleasure is wrong when he listed the sinful “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Sexual sins are included in the list but there are other offenses that are just as damaging, such as hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfishness, drunkenness, etc. Paul was not obsessed with sex. He was addressing specific problems in the Christian communities of the Greek and Roman world of the first century.

Shouldn’t these teachings on sex be interpreted in a culturally limited way? Admittedly, some of Paul’s instructions in the New Testament have a limited application to specific places and circumstances. Examples include eating foods sacrificed to idols, head coverings in worship services, certain spiritual gifts, and what Paul says, and doesn’t say, about slavery.

Paul’s teachings on sexual conduct for Christians are not limited to one place or time. The same teachings were written to churches in different locations all over the world. They were consistent with the teachings of the Old Testament and those of Jesus. They are rooted in God’s created order and as such are to be applied universally. His picture of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a sublime illustration of Christ and his bride, the church.

When Paul wrote about sex, he did so to steer us away from the damage and penalties that follow a lifestyle of immorality. His teaching guides us into a life that aligns with God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12: 1-2).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring