Apostolic Mindset – 1 – Introduction

xMindsetToday we begin a three part series (Introduction, Application, Observations) on the mindset the apostles adopt in their epistles and when they speak to their church audiences. It is an attempt to find common ground among all the epistles which assume their listening audiences consist primarily of believers.


Apostles Theology and Practice

The epistles themselves are examples of apostolic practice.

They are pastorally focused letters and concern specific situations in history. Behind each of the epistles the author is working from their own Christian theology. Or I might say their explanatory function.

Apostles Theology Practice

The authors and epistles of the New Testament are;

  • Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon),
  • An unknown author (Hebrews),
  • James (James),
  • Peter (1 & 2 Peter),
  • Jude (Jude), and
  • John (1,2 & 3 John and Revelation).

I expect all the apostles to have the same core beliefs in common with one another. These should undergird any attempt to compare and contrast their writings with one another.

How does your churches theology play itself out in its practice?

Compare and contrast this with general epistles like Ephesians and Colossians.

Church Audiences

Dividing all people into two groups. People either believe the gospel or they don’t.

Consisting primarily of believers

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians he says;

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor 14.23-25)

Paul is fairly clear that he expects church audiences to consist primarily of believers. People who have believed the gospel. The occasional unbeliever may be in attendance. But the majority in his opinion would be believers.

I extend this to all of the epistles. The epistles were written assuming their audiences are primarily believers.

Overall, I also assume they think church audiences:

  • are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Spirit),
  • have believed the Gospel (believing heart, enlightened mind),
  • have turned to God and away from sin (repentance),
  • have received the benefits associated with both (initial salvation), and
  • have become part of God’s kingdom (baptised, membership).

Do you assume your church consists primarily of believers or unbelievers?

How does that affect how you view and speak to its members?

Names and Identity

The apostles refer to their audiences in a variety of ways.

Paul likes referring to his audiences as ‘Saints’ (‘Holy Ones’; Rom 1.7; 8.27; 15.25-26,31; 16.2,15; 1 Cor 1.2; 6.1,2; 14.33; 16.1,15; 2 Cor 1.1; 8.4; 9.1,12; 13.13; Eph 1.1,15,18; 2.19; 3.8,18; 4.12; 5.3; 6.18; Phil 1.1; 4.21,22; Col 1.2,4,12,26; 1 Thes 3.13; 2 Thes 1.10; 1 Tim 5.10; Phm 5,7).

By far the most common term associated with God’s people in the scriptures is ‘the righteous’. It is commonly contrasted with ‘the wicked’ and ‘sinners’.

For example;

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Ps 1:5–6)

Here’s a quick table of some names given the different groups.

Pagans People of God Examples
Unrighteous Righteous 1 Cor 6; 1 Pet 3.18
Sinners the righteous Gospels
Wicked the righteous Psalms, Proverbs
Saints Paul’s Epistles
Ungodly Godly
Goats Sheep Mt 25
Children of the Devil Children of God 1 Jn 3
Sons of Disobedience Eph 2
Children of Wrath Eph 2
Slaves of sin Slaves of righteousness Rom 6
In the flesh In the Spirit Rom 8
The elect Gospels, Rom 8.33; 11.7; 2 Tim 2.10
Gentile Jew Gal 2.15
Uncircumcised Circumcised
Without the law Under the law
Adherent of the Law Rom 4
Offspring of Abraham Rom 9
Children of Abraham Rom 9
unbelievers believers
darkness light

Its common in the scriptures to distinguish between these groups by various names.

What is the most common term your church uses to describe believers and unbelievers? ‘Sinners’? ‘Brothers’? ‘Friends’?

What kind of mindset and behaviours do you think this will reinforce?

Compare and contrast this to apostolic practice in the epistles.

Conversion (C2)

Conversion is a change in which one adopts a new religion, faith, or belief. When someone is converted their beliefs change. With a change in belief, so is there a change in behaviour. Conversion also differentiates the two groups of people above.

102 Conversion

I made a series of assumptions on what the apostles believe of their church audiences:

  • indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Spirit),
  • have believed the Gospel (believing heart, enlightened mind),
  • have turned to God and away from sin (repentance),
  • have received the benefits associated with both (initial salvation), and
  • have become part of God’s kingdom (baptised, membership).

Lets have a look at some scriptures which show the difference between C1 sinners and the C3 righteous brought about by the event of conversion.

Difference in Spirit

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Rom 8:9)

All the apostles may not mention the Holy Spirit in each of their writings. But I assume all the apostles believe in the Holy Spirit and that he dwells within people who believe the gospel. Its through the power of the Spirit and the word of God people come to believe (1 Thes 1.5).

Difference in Heart

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Rom 10:9–10)

With the heart people believe the gospel. Heartfelt belief is not simply intellectual. It involves feelings, emotions and the will. Believers hearts are circumcised (Rom 2.29). The evil flesh is cut away. Believers obey from the heart (Rom 6.17). Common to all the apostles and their audiences is a shared belief in the gospel. They expect this belief will affect their intellect, emotions and actions.

Difference in Mind

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Eph 4:17–18)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:3–4)

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Tit 1:15)

When people are converted their minds change. C1 Sinners do not believe Jesus rose from the dead or confess him as Lord (Rom 10.9-10; 1 Cor 12.3). The C3 righteous do. C1 Sinners cannot understand the ‘word of the cross’, believing it folly (1 Cor 1.18). The C3 righteous do. The C1 Sinners do not know God (1 Cor 1.21) or understand his power (1 Cor 1.18). The C3 righteous have a relationship with the LORD. Non-Christians simply cannot think like Christians, because they do not have the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2.16).

Difference in Behaviour

20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (Acts 26:20)

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 Jn 3:6–10)

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom 4.23).

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Co 5:9–11)

All have sinned at some point in their lives. When the C3 righteous are converted they realise how bad sin is. Their understanding about sin changes and they repent. Whenever the C3 righteous sin its normal for them to repent. Its also normal for the C3 righteous to make a regular practice of righteousness.

Passages like the above suggest the apostles believe the C3 righteous will not continue in sin, rather they will make a regular practice of righteousness. Whereas C1 Sinners keep on sinning (Jn 8.34). The main reasons for the difference in behaviour are the Holy Spirit, heartfelt faith and their different understanding about God and morality. When the apostles see believers sin they see something unexpected and wrong. They may think the person is not a believer after all. Faith and sin cannot coexist (Rom 14.23).

What kinds of difference do you expect conversion to make in some ones life?

Future Judgment (C4)

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:6–11)

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (Jn 5:28–29)

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet 1:14–19)

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Lk 3:7–9)

Its common knowledge among Jews and Christians there will be a future judgment of all people. The just and the unjust (Acts 24.15). The living and the dead (Rev 20.12-13).

Do you expect conversion to make a difference in how a person will approach judgment and how they will be judged?

Christian Framework

All the apostles believe most people in their audiences have been converted (C2) and that there will be a future judgment (C4).

Below is a framework illustrating the beliefs of Christians (particularly Paul). The framework takes into account conversion and future judgment with respect to believers. A significant element of both frameworks is that they differentiate between the ‘Sinners’ (1) and ‘the Righteous’ (3), and their relation to end time events (4,5).

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Locating People on the frameworks

I have created the framework to put into perspective the beliefs of the Righteous with respect to conversion and inaugurated eschatology. This framework distinguishes between past, present and future states and events in the spiritual life of a believer. Throughout the whole paper I will be referring to this framework and its C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5 sections.

As indicated, Christian’s are located in the ‘Righteous’ (C3) section of the diagram. Non-Christian’s are located in the ‘Sinner’ (C1) section.

This side of Jesus’ return, Saints will always be located at C3. C3 is the present tense location of the Christian framework. Therefore, from the Christian viewpoint of C3, there can be both backward (e.g. C3 to C1 or C3 to C2) and forward (C3 to C4) directions of view. Saints can also contemplate their present tense situation (C3).

Both frameworks can be used to identify and locate people according various tenses and events.

C2 is an event of conversion and initial salvation. In this event the grace of God moves someone from the C1 Sinner state to the C3 Saint (or righteous) state. This event has several aspects to it and is described in different ways. However it occurs when a person comes to believe the gospel.

C3 Saints believe of themselves they will be vindicated by God in the ‘4’ end times.

C3 Saints believe those in the ‘1’ state will not be vindicated by God in the ‘4’ end times.

The frameworks can be used to identify and locate different kinds of people with respect to the kind of perspective held by Christians and Jews. Now look at the frameworks to see how we can classify different kinds of people;

  • C1J1 – unbelieving Gentile, or a Gentile Sinner (considered by Jews and Christians alike as sinners)
  • C1J3 – unbelieving Jew (considered by the Jews as the people of God, according to Christians still sinners)
  • C3J1 – Gentile believer (considered by the Jews to be Gentile-sinners, by the Christians to be Gentile Christians)
  • C3J3 – Jewish believer (a Jewish Christian, both communities accept them as the people of God)

This ends today’s post. In the next we will see how this works in various scriptures.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.