Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Literary Structure of Matthew 16:13-17:27

Literary structure of Matthew 16:13 through 17:27

A) 16:13-23 -- "Simon", "Peter", "earth", "give", βασιλεία ("kingdom"), σκάνδαλον ("stumbling-block"), Jesus will "be killed" and "be raised on the third day"

        B) 16:24-28 -- Jesus speaks (εἶπον) to his disciples, "truly I say to you" / some here won’t die until the Son of Man comes in His kingdom

              C) 17:1-2 -- Ascending the high "mountain" / “He was transfigured before them”

                    D) 17:3-4 – Behold! Moses & Elijah appear / Peter speaks

                    D’) 17:5-8 – Behold! The Father appears / Jesus speaks

              C') 17:9-13 -- Descending the "mountain" / “Tell no one the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

        B') 17:14-21 -- Disciples speak (εἶπον) to Jesus, and Jesus replies: "truly I say to you" / faith of a mustard seed moves this mountain

A') 17:22-27 -- "Simon", "Peter", "earth", "give", βασιλεύς ("kings"), σκανδαλίσωμεν (cause them to "stumble"), Jesus will "be killed" and "be raised on the third day"

Book Review: Tim Gallant, Paul's Travail: A Reintroduction to Galatians

Paul's Travail: A Reintroduction to Galatians

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a previous review of Gallant's book, These are Two Covenants, I gave a critical review, highlighting all of the pros and cons of that booklet. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this commentary considering that it builds off of the essays found in that booklet. Much to my surprise, Gallant's latest release, Paul's Travail: A Reintroduction to Galatians, not only clarified most of my concerns (see my review of These are Two Covenants), but he also presented a verse-by-verse pastoral approach through Galatians that is both scholarly, accessible, and unique. In this work, Gallant provides many valuable insights regarding this very important letter from Paul. He also provides many helpful user-friendly tools for the average reader, including a summary of the entire letter, a fresh translation of the entire letter, a chronological table of the events surrounding the letter, and a clear introduction to the hermeneutical method employed in this letter. In addition to all of this great material, Gallant also offers numerous articles in the appendices related to biblical theology and typology. Even though some people may consider the hermeneutics employed in this commentary as somewhat of a novelty, this is the kind of commentary which every pastor and teacher of Galatians should have because it is so thorough, scholarly, and accessible. It is definitely a relevant "reintroduction" to Galatians.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: Roland Allen's "Spontaneous Expansion of the Church"

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: and the Causes which hinder it (Roland Allen Library)The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: and the Causes which hinder it by Roland Allen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Many of our missionaries welcome spontaneous zeal, provided there is not too much of it for their restrictions… Such missionaries pray for the wind of the Spirit but not for a rushing mighty wind. I am writing because I believe a rushing mighty wind, and desire its presence at all costs to our restrictions.” These words of Roland Allen encapsulate the main thrust of The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Allen argues that modern missions and their highly organized methods and ethical restrictions have done much harm to the work of the gospel on foreign soil, and the appropriate reaction of the Church to such news should be to return to simpler methods of the apostolic age which encouraged spontaneous expansion. By “spontaneous expansion,” Allen means:
…[T]he expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches (p. 7).

According to Allen, there is a necessary charm that accompanies one’s first reception of the Gospel, a charm which is only found among those who instinctively feel able and free to propagate their faith of their own initiative. No exhortation or organized method is given or needed to propagate such a faith. The Holy Spirit “converts the natural instinct into a longing for the conversion of others.” (p. 9). It is the simpler methods of the apostolic age which manage this spontaneous zeal the best. Instead of offering artificial programs with ready-made stereotyped answers, voluntary expression of one’s zealous faith is encouraged and directed by trained leaders with a kind of instruction that can be refused, so as to allow one’s zeal to share the Gospel to remain as genuine as possible. Instruction which cannot be refused by converts is likened to control, which detracts from spontaneous expansion. Along with the work of the Holy Spirit, the outcome of such missionary work, Allen contends, would be a self-supporting, self-extending, and self-governing church on foreign soil – a replica of the early apostolic mission.
     But according to Allen, this is not a common method among missionaries. Surely there was talk about, and hope for, such churches, but once organizations realized these expanding churches no longer needed their support, or that their organizations were no longer needed to maintain control, they “instinctively think of [this self-supportiveness]… as tending to disorder.” (p. 13). Allen argues that the “natural instinct” of all men “is not opposed to order,” nor is the Holy Spirit, and so any repression of this instinct for self-propagation, both individually and corporately, generates a “poisonous” stagnation of the true apostolic methodology of mission (p. 14).
     Two of the most serious aids in such repression are fear of endangering our doctrine (p. 43) and standard of morals (p. 60). Allen discusses the fear of our doctrine first. He argues that because there is always the potential of propagating heretical doctrine, new converts are discouraged from spontaneous activity and expected to maintain a certain standard of doctrine before teaching others about their faith. This fear, Allen argues, is more imperial than apostolic (p. 44) and generates a “terrible sterility” among converts (p. 47). Instead of teaching men to depend upon Christ as they understand his truth from their own spiritual relationship with Him, men are taught to depend upon men, i.e. trained teachers, and their doctrines. In the days of the early church, things were different, Allen says. The great heresies in the early Church did not arise from illiterate or untrained theologians spontaneously sharing and propagating their experience of faith, as is found with most converts on foreign mission fields; instead they arose from “the more highly educated and philosophically minded Christians” (p. 48). Such heresies grew out of intellectual theories of doctrine divorced from the type of experience which accompanies spontaneous expansion. “What we find it difficult to believe,” states Allen, “is that others can receive Christ and find salvation in Him unless they know, or at least in speech employ, our familiar doctrinal expressions” (p. 57). Allen does not deny that dangerously ignorant converts may accompany spontaneous expansion, or suggest that all fear of distorting sound doctrine is unreasonable fear. Rather, he contends that because the common conception of Christian doctrine is too intellectual, our fears of what may arise from spontaneous expansion are exaggerated (p. 53).
     When discussing the fear of endangering traditional morality, Allen presents a case that Christian missionaries impose definite rules of conduct (not just doctrinal belief) upon foreigners as though they were synonymous with the Christian standard of morality (p. 61). Allen focuses heavily on a real life concern that is common to missionary work in Central Africa (pp. 61-67): namely, imposing monogamy upon polygamous pagans as though monogamy was synonymous with Christianity. According to Allen, this imposition of a fixed moral standard of monogamous marriage is contrary to Scripture:
Unless we are prepared to accept the whole Jewish law in its entirety, there is no code of morals laid down in precise commands for Christians in the Bible as a whole, still less in the New Testament (p. 61). …Neither in the Gospels nor in any other part of the New Testament is any code of law laid down. That standard which we so often call the Christian standard of morals, simply does not exist in the New Testament” (p. 68).

The only standard which a person must meet to be considered a Christian and welcomed into the Christian Church is Jesus’ command to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (p. 68). What that looks like is another matter altogether, for Jesus’ mission was “not to direct their conduct by external admonitions, but to inspire and to raise them by the presence and power of His Spirit given to them” (p. 68). By imposing fixed standards of morality upon foreigners as though obedience to such standards involves purification of the heart and soul, it is not possible for spontaneous growth to occur. Only stagnation will result (p. 73-74).
     Like the apostles of old, present-day missionaries should equip converts and set them free to expand the church without further complications such as discouraging oversight and restrictions (p. 144). New Christians must be left to learn what they can only learn for themselves, without actually being abandoned (p. 150). Indeed, to “watch and assist spontaneous progress is certainly not to abandon coverts to their own devices” (p. 154).
     If a bishop is seeking such spontaneous expansion, there are five activities which must be utilized to equip converts properly: (1) delivering the “tradition” which is represented in the Apostles Creed, (2) delivering the Gospel in such a way that men revere it and know it, (3) delivering the sacraments to the church, (4) ordaining ministers, and (5) making sure that new converts “understand the use of the Apostle’s Creed, the Gospels, the Sacraments and the Ministry, and then send word to the bishop.” (p. 150). According to Allen, it is this kind of leadership that is absolutely essential to the spontaneous expansion of the Church. With such unique qualities of apostolic leadership, spontaneous expansion can be maintained among the most illiterate converts and the poorest communities.

     In light of all this, I think there are as many positive aspects to Allen’s work as there are negatives. His insights concerning the natural instinct of men are profound, particularly those regarding illiterate people on foreign mission fields and their instinctive zeal to freely express their newly enlivened faith in Christ to others. There is no good reason to presume, from the outset, that illiterate people cannot or often will not bring a profound spiritual knowledge to others or contribute practically to the many important discussions concerning faithful Christian living. His insights regarding the church’s fear of endangering doctrine and its tendency to lord doctrinal traditions over disciples as a means of protecting others from falsehood are also profound. Leaders within a given Christian community frequently adhere to long-standing doctrinal traditions, and expect future disciples to adhere to them as well in order to be treated as a Christian and welcomed into their church; but such traditions cannot be what Allen calls “the Catholic doctrine,” which is the doctrine of all ages, the doctrine “of the primitive Christians as well as of us who live in this last age.” (p. 45). The Scriptures speak against such attempts to lord doctrine over other disciples, and leaders among the Christian community would be wise to heed such warnings (Matt. 20:20-28; 2 Cor. 1:23-24). If it is true that spontaneous expansion proceeds by an expression of experience more so than by mere intellectual assent to doctrinal traditions, many Christians traditions, including Allen’s Anglican ones, can learn a lot from Allen’s insights.
     However, I’m not convinced that Allen’s insights about Christian standards of morality are helpful or even accurate. For example, Allen repeatedly addresses his concerns about Christian standards of morality as being uniquely “western” (pp. 65, 66, 74), and all examples not explicitly labeled that way are still implied as “western” because they are countered with illustrations from eastern civilizations (Africa, Asia, etc.). But all the standards of Christian morality that he uses as illustrations are Judeo-Christian, not “western” in the historical sense of the term. Historically, western civilization ditched its “western” standards of pagan morality and adopted Judeo-Christian standards in its place. Allen’s critical label upon “western” standards of morality turns out to be more than a bit cliché. Furthermore, Allen argues that the Law of Moses is entirely inadequate to derive a Christian standard of morality. For example, Allen maintains that the apostle Paul “based his exhortation to the Corinthians to excommunicate the man who had taken his father’s wife” on the ground that such sexual habits were naturally and “universally recognized as evil” (p. 64). Yet, Paul repeatedly references and alludes to Torah throughout his letters; appeals to “universally recognized” conventions do not appear to be the basis for Paul’s exhortation. Rather, the statements of Yahweh in Leviticus 18:8 and Deuteronomy 22:30 and 27:20 seem to provide sufficient instruction for Paul to ground his decision. Although it is true that social and economic ramifications ought to be taken into account before imposing traditional moral standards upon pagan converts (precisely because Christian traditions might actually be unwise), Allen seems to have overlooked the need to distinguish between lowering traditional standards of morality and lowering God’s standards of morality. The thrust of his arguments against a “universally recognized” standard of God’s morality leads me to suspect that he would disagree that such a distinction is possible. But if such suspicions of mine are indeed correct, I would then wonder what makes him privy to the universal convention that he claims Paul used to recognize “evil” among the Corinthians.
     In conclusion, I think Allen’s concern for seeing the spontaneous expansion of the Church through the work of the Holy Spirit, rather than the expensive and programmatic methods employed among modern organizations, are ideal and worth serious reflection. Allen’s regard for the church as a catholic entity, and his insistence upon leadership that equips, encourages, and assists spontaneous progress is extremely important, too, and well worth the price of the book. For the missional-minded Christian, my greatest caution in recommending this book is Allen’s casual disregard for “western” regulations and Torah regulations altogether.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Structure of 1st Timothy 1:3-11

Paul begins his first letter to Timothy by exhorting him to "charge" certain persons not to teach the Law "differently." Indeed, the different uses (abuses) of Law found among these teachers that are contrary to health-giving doctrine amount to bad management of God's house, and therefore may be worthy of discipline. They may need to be treated mercifully too. This is evident from the larger context (1:3-20) wherein Paul mentions his discipline of Hymenaeus and Alexander a few verses later (vv. 19-20), who consciously rejected apostolic teaching; but Paul also mentions a contrasting example of the Lord's mercy toward his own ignorant and unfaithful use of the Law toward Christians (vv. 12-15).

According to Paul, the goal or aim (τέλος) of Timothy's "charge" to these "teachers-of-the-Law" is love which flows out of a clean heart, good conscience, and unhypocritical faith. Paul and Timothy both know that God's Law is attractive if it's used lawfully, for God did not lay it down for those who are just, law-abiding, and obedient. (What discipline could possibly be laid down for those who using the Law lawfully?) Even in the secular use of law, it is not laid down for law-abiding citizens; how much more then is it laid down for citizens of God's kingdom who abide by the law? The law is not laid down for law-keepers, but for those who are unjust, law-breaking, and disobedient: those who strike their fathers and mothers (Exod. 21:15; Deut. 21:18-21), murderers (Exod. 21:12), the sexually immoral (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:13-30), homosexuals (Lev. 20:13), kidnappers (Exod. 21:16), liars (Exod. 23:1; Lev. 6:1-7), perjurers (Exod. 23:2-3; Deut. 19:16-19), and the like. The examples which Paul uses are unmistakably clear in at least one way: such behavior within the house of God--among God's covenant people--is in need of a serious charge to repent if discipline is to be mitigated. 

This opening charge of Paul to Timothy is arranged chiastically, making it a little easier to notice the conceptual and linguistic parallels:

A) As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge (παραγγείλῃς) certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω), nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than management of the house of God that is by faith (θεοῦ τὴν ἐν πίστει)

     B) The aim of our charge (παραγγελίας) is love out of a clean heart and a good conscience and a unhypocritical faith. 

          C) Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers-of-the-Law (νομοδιδάσκαλοι), without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

     B') Now we know (Οἴδαμεν) that the law is attractive, if one uses it lawfully, 

A') knowing (εἰδὼς) this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever different use is contrary to health-giving doctrine (εἰ τι ἕτερον διδασκαλίᾳ), in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted (θεοῦ ὃ ἐγώ ἐπιστεύθην). 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Law is not for the Righteous, but for the Unrighteous

My friend Jeff Wencel has offered an intriguing analysis of I Timothy 1:8-11 over on his blog. I read his comments with two thumbs up all the way to the end, but a comment he made in passing against "theonomistic types" of interpretation caused me to re-read his post. I was intrigued about why he thought his take on the subject differed so noticeably from "theonomistic types" of exegesis, so I commented on his Facebook page about this. He requested that I share my thoughts on my blog so we could interact publicly in the good old fashioned public iron sharpening sort of way. Below is a stab at my first response to Jeff's comments. The main comments of Jeff's that I am responding to (below) are found on our Facebook thread:'s clear at the very least from the text that a lawful use of the law is not one in which it is used for the righteous. That's what the text says. Theonomists or otherwise can try to make it say something else, but the text says what it says. "The law is good, IF one uses it lawfully." What does a lawful use of the law look like? Paul tells us: a lawful use of the law is to understand that it is not laid down for the righteous.
In his blog post, Jeff wrote this too: 
Those who live in line with the sound doctrine, the righteous, don't need the law. It's not laid down for them. Isn't this what the text is saying?

Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is that you notice Paul's point in stating that "the Law" is not one in which it is used for the righteous (emphasis is mine), but yet you think that necessarily disqualifies or runs counter to theonomic exegesis. I don't think that terminology does, at least not necessarily; certainly not according to the surrounding context of discipline. What you interpret "for the righteous" to mean and what a theonomist interprets that to mean may differ in how broadly it can be applied socially, but because I appreciated your thoughts on the passage I'm going to try and offer a theonomic exegesis that doesn't disqualify or run counter to what you think it means, i.e. that those who live in line with sound doctrine don't need the law. 

What a theonomist would question is what you mean by "needing the law" (as stated in your blog post). In a bold attempt to speak on behalf of most theonomists today, I don't believe they would equate the "lawful use of the Law" with "needing the law." They might associate the two, but it's more likely that they would equate the unlawful use of the Law with needing the Law; that is, needing the Law as a just standard to restrain "the lawless and disobedient, the ungodly and sinners" (I Tim. 1:9).

The second thing that came to my mind was your insertion of the concept: "a lawful use of the law is to understand that it is not laid down for the righteous." Your interpretation of that statement seems to be question begging. Paul does not say that the lawful use of "the Law" looks like understanding a thing. Rather, it seems that by understanding Paul's derivative list of Law-illustrations, that would have helped Timothy identify what unlawful uses of "the Law" look like. It looks like those unholy and profane, those who strike their father and mother, murderers, fornicators, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers (I Tim. 1:9-10). The illustrations listed by Paul are of those who are "unjust" and not using the law "lawfully." They all fall under moral condemnation as laid down in the Law itself, and are subject to civil and/or ecclesiastical penalties under the "the Law." This is extremely obvious for those who are familiar with the Torah and it's first century abuse by Jewish authorities.

Perhaps breaking down the sentence even further will help clarify where a theonomist is coming from (it helps me, at least): "Now we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully …in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." 

The "knowing/understanding" that "the Law is not laid down for the just, etc…" seems to imply that some people--like Timothy--recognize and value the just character of God's Law, and therefore can lead by a righteous example among others, not falling under the sanctions of God. Those who use the law lawfully, unlike murderers, kidnappers, homosexuals, etc…, are those who use the Law in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which Paul was entrusted.

As you mentioned in passing in your blog post, the context is about men teaching divergent doctrine. Timothy is receiving instructions of this sort from Paul because, according to the previous verse, "certain persons" have "swerved" from stewardship in the Word of God by using "the Law" unlawfully, "promoting speculations," "devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies," having "wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions." I may be reaching a bit in saying this, but the references to genealogies, myths, and teachers of "the Law" sounds a lot like certain Jewish "teachers." If that is correct, they were using the Law unlawfully, and therefore were worthy of God's sanctions. Timothy, of course, could only impose sanctions which were lawful within ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 

Since Paul has the topic of just-treatment ("just use of the Law") in mind in the entire first chapter, he may want Timothy to recognize that his own treatment and response toward the law-abusers must be lawful. Not only does Paul argue as though his own sinful actions toward God and other Christian Jews deserved justice according to the Law, he highlights that God showed mercy according to the Law "because [he] acted ignorantly in unbelief" (I Tim. 1:13). The "certain persons" (i.e. Jewish teachers) described earlier in this same chapter need to be evaluated by Timothy in a similar light. Do they deserve justice or mercy according to God's Law? The Law teaches the holy character of God through both, and Timothy needs to use the law lawfully in his manner of discipline. 

This idea of "lawful use of the Law" continues to linger on in the background of chapter one. Paul exhorts Timothy to wage "good warfare." To a theonomist, that seems like an odd statement without Paul assuming God's Law as the standard for New Covenant ethics. Notice the adjective "good" with regard to the warfare Paul exhorts him to wage. It's not just "warfare" in the abstract, as though all means of warfare were always good and lawful. Timothy is to wage good warfare, which may, at some point in time, necessitate ecclesiastical discipline, like it did with Paul (i.e. handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan so they would learn not to blaspheme; I Tim. 1:18-20). But it also may need to be applied in the civil realm too. That would be a broader application of how all of this ties in with Christian sanctification and discipline, and that would also be outside Timothy's jurisdiction as an officer of the Church. 

Does this help clarify things at all Jeff?

The Immature, Proud, Impatient Reader

   …learning the contours of a fictional world or the intricacies of an author's methods always takes time. Robert Penn Warren commented that the most "intuitive and immediate" reading of a poem will likely not come at the first reading, but rather at the tenth or even the fiftieth reading. To grasp the whole, one must, he speculated, be able not only to remember the beginning of the poem, but remember its ends; one must be able to "remember forward." Patience, in short, is an essential quality of a good reader, and this too is an act of humility. 
   Readers may fail to listen carefully to catch the author's tone of voice, rushing to judgment without asking whether the author means to be deathly serious, sentimental, satirical, or whatever. A recent example is so absurd that it parodies itself. Near the beginning of the 2000 school year, black parents at a Catholic school in Louisiana complained about the "racist" language and stories of Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor. It would be a mistake to charge these parents with a pathetic misreading of O'Connor. It would be a mistake because the parents had not read the stories at all. Their opposition was apparently based on a few titles and passages. Too frequently, Christians are guilty of equal absurdities. 
   Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling has been quoted all over the Internet as saying that she is happy that her books have produced a surge in children's involvement in Satanism. This quotation has been used as evidence that the Potter books are infernal propaganda. The original source of the quotation, however, was a story from a satirical electronic magazine. For anyone who took a moment to check the original source, and took another moment to ask about the tone of the article, it was clear that the author was mocking hysterical responses to Rowling's books. It must be a delicious irony to the article's author that the satire has become fuel for even more hysteria.
   Though they may be harsh opponents of postmodernism, readers who took the Rowling quote at face value are as domineering and prideful in their reading practices as any deconstructionist. But how was one to know that the Rowling quotation was a fake? The text did not come with a label "Satire." The author expected the readers to recognize the clues and read in submission to them. Quick and ignorant judgments such as these are not only an embarrassment that often makes Christians, quite rightly, objects of ridicule. Far worse, these misreadings signal an appalling lack of Christian character. Patience before the text is not merely a readerly virtue. It is a fruit of the Spirit. 
   Patience is necessary not only to learn the contours of a particular work, but also to learn how literature works. Flannery O'Connor noted in one of her essays that some works of fiction should be commended only to mature readers. She acknowledges that works should be judged according their "total effect," not by isolated passages. A book may have sexual content, for example, and not be pornographic or immoral. O'Connor wisely goes on to say that an immature reader lacks the tools and literary maturity to feel the "total effect." Immature readers will not be able to integrate passages that arouse passion into the total experience of reading a book. They may return again and again to the sexy passages to reexperience the original titillation, without ever realizing that the sexy passages are in a book that challenges cheap sex. Only long exposure to literature develops the skills necessary to recognize what a particular book or author is up to. O'Connor ended the essay by protesting that high school reading should not be selected by what the students wish to read: "Their tastes should not be consulted; they are being formed."1

1.  Peter J. Leithart, "Authors, Authority, and the Humble Reader"; excerpt from Leland Ryken, The Christian Imagination [Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2002], pp. 212-214

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Feasting vs Fasting

In 9:9-17, Matthew contrasts two types of disciples who are given a choice to follow Jesus, except this time they’re not known merely by their “denomination.” Rather, they’re known by whom they’re willing to eat with.   
First, Matthew writes that Jesus was “reclining at table” (ἀνακειμένου). Then he continues, saying that “many tax collectors and sinners” sat and ate next to him, and that Pharisees didn’t like this. After that, the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus, asking why his disciples don’t fast as the Pharisees and themselves do. This is especially obvious when compared with Mark and Luke. Through all of this, we aren’t told about any trouble that was raised, but we are told how Jesus responded, and the impression left is that the disciples of John and the Pharisees had come to disrupt table fellowship. They're in Matthew's home not to feast, but to fast, and to question the appropriateness of this great feast. A sign of those who wish to follow Jesus is that they recline at table with him (a theme that returns in chapters 14—16).  
According to Matthew, feasting and table-fellowship provides a framework for partnership that promotes peace among “denominational” lines and party lines. If attempts of table fellowship across denominational lines don’t produce peace, then the root of remaining disunity and factions runs much deeper than mere denominational distinctives. A sign of those who don’t wish to follow Jesus is that they disrupt table fellowship and sow seeds of discord among brethren (Prov. 6:19; Rom. 16:17-18). Those who recline at table with Jesus are the peacemakers, and it is they who shall be called sons of God (Matt. 5:9).