Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who is in church? the unbelievers and inquirers

Last time we saw that in the church gathered together we have saints and pastor-teachers. Who else can we also expect to be there from what the bible tells us?

There's an interesting word found in 1 Cor 14:23-24 the "idiwtnrs", literally 'the ungifted', and my question here exegetically is whether in the context of gifts as the chapter speaks of, it's speaking of someone without charismata, "gifts", however one gift all Christians have is salvation, the grace gift. In that case these are truly unbelievers. Of course Leon Morris in his Commentary on 1 Corinthians published by IVP argues the case better than I. See commentary on 1 Cor and chapter 14:16, 23-24. He points out that in verse 23 the idiwtns is distinguished from "the whole church" so that the person mentioned cannot be a Christian. It seems best then as Paul distinguishes him from the unbeliever to see him as an enquirer.

So in the context of 1 Cor 14 in the church gathering you have Paul saying that both unbelievers and enquirers can be present.

What does that mean for us who gather together in church? We need to be mindful that some among us are unsaved, or enquirers. Does that mean we should turn our teaching from the pulpit into an evangelistic message? If so how often do you do that since presumably the unbeliever and enquirer can be there every time? No. The call is for pastor-teachers to equip the church, to expound the whole Word of God. The saints are to be equipped for evangelism. They can and should be able to evangelise with the gospel message of salvation both the unbeliever and enquirer.

Does that then exclude any call to unbelievers to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus in the pulpit sermon? No. for many texts open themselves up to this as one of the applications. It may not and probably should not be the main application, unless it it so in the text, yet it is often accompanying the thrust of the text. For example, if it calls upon the believer to rejoice and obey some specific command, then it means that "if you are an unbeliever among us tonight then 'you cannot do this' or 'this promise is not for you unless you repent of your sin and turn to the Lord Jesus as Lord'." etc.

Who is with us in church? Saints, pastor teachers, unbelievers and enquirers.

For us saints, let's do the work of ministry!

God Bless,

Who is in church? Pastor - Teachers

We saw last time that some of those in Church the Bible tells us are saints, those God called, set apart for himself.

In Ephesians 4:11-12 we also see that in the Church gathering, we see God has provided, gifted special men, namely the pastor-teachers, with a specific role, that of "equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
Don't diminish God's gifts, you who want to be truly charismatic, receiving the Grace gifts of God, the most basic of all which is salvation, then receive also those who he himself , Jesus, we are told has given these pastor-teachers to the church. 4:10.
The first letter to Timothy tells us these men, these elders are to be apt to teach, elsewhere we are told they are able to rebuke correct etc. They are to have certain gifts evident. They are not merely warm and friendly guys who don't ruffle feathers. You can do a study on elders in the New Testament to see their role and yours. you could and must look at Titus and Hebrews 13 and note how the Bereans in Acts 17 checked all that Paul, the apostle Paul ! said, against the Scriptures.

So when we gather together at church, there's also pastor-teachers, those elders who have a certain role to carry out to our benefit who are in our midst.

Let's rejoice in God's gifts to us. Not neglecting to pray for our Elders.

God bless,


Who is in Church?

When we gather together on sundays or at any other time to hear God's Word preached, to worship in manifold ways our Great God, and to serve one another, who are gathered there?

Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians "to saints, who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus" 1:1
It's their physical location, in Ephesus, and their spiritual location, faithful in Christ Jesus. They are made saints, holy, those whom God has set apart as special to himself, through their faith in Christ Jesus.
We find out more about these saints, when Paul speaks of the role of the pastor-teacher in Eph 4:11-12. Their work is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
So when we come together, when we gather as the body of Christ, we are primarily saints, called, set apart by God himself. Saints not as the Roman Catholic see them as some special person who has been designated so by the Papal Authorities. Someone who requires some authenticated miracle in order to become saints. No, we who are redeemed and transformed by god are saints. And these are some of the people the bible tells us, gathered together in "church".

Who is in Church? I hope you are one of the saints!
God Bless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Truth in a "whatever" World.

Here's a timely reminder from Bill Muehlenberg’s book review of John MacArthur's book 'The Truth War'
He says in part:
"Many evangelicals, especially those in the emerging church movement, have recently declared that doubt, uncertainty, mystery and questions are superior to certainty, belief, faith and conviction. This seems to stand in marked contrast to the affirmations of Scripture. Consider a remark made by John Stott some 40 years ago in Christ the Controversialist:
“In those things which are clearly revealed in Scripture, Christians should not be doubtful or apologetic. The corridors of the New Testament reverberate with dogmatic affirmations beginning ‘We know’, ‘We are sure’, ‘We are confident’. If you question this, read the First Epistle of John in which verbs meaning ‘to know’ occur about forty times. They strike a note of joyful assurance which is sadly missing from many parts of the church today and which needs to be recaptured.”
Today many church leaders are glorying in doubt and uncertainty, and are telling us that having firm convictions and strong beliefs is arrogant and somehow un-Christlike. But as MacArthur reminds us, “this is not authentic Christianity”. To refuse to embrace and defend the revealed truth of God “is a particularly stubborn and pernicious form of unbelief”."

Are we wanting to be authentic Christians? Then it means accepting what God's Word says about Truth, in face of those waving their finger about being in a postmodern culture.

We should imitate the Bereans of Acts 17.

In Christ

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pastors and Christians wake up call - Dr Akin's talk at BtT

Hi all,
I think we can all benefit greatly from reading and pondering Dr Akin's talk on BtT ( between the Times ) at chapel for a wake up call as it were for Southern Baptists.

So much of what he says I am in total agreement with.
I am thrilled when I hear things like his following comments:
"Russ Bush was absolutely correct when I heard him say in a seminary classroom in the early 1980’s, “the question of biblical inspiration is ultimately a question of Christological identity.” Why? Because Jesus believed the Holy Scriptures to be the completely true and trustworthy Word of God! Even Rudolf Bultmann said this, he just believes Jesus got it wrong! Well hear me, and hear me well. To deny inerrancy is to say that Jesus was wrong and that you are smarter than He. That is both heresy and blasphemy. It is spiritually suicidal!

Are you questioning inerrancy? Then repent! Do you deny inerrancy? Then go join another denomination. We will love you and pray for you, but we do not want you infecting our people with a spiritual disease that is always fatal to the Church of the Lord Jesus. Inerrancy and the sufficiency of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice is not up for debate in the Southern Baptist Convention. It alone will give us the necessary weapons to take on and take down what Newsweek (8-13-08) calls “a newly muscular secularism.”

and his reminder:
"However, and hear me well, the “war for the Bible” is not over and it will never end until Jesus returns. Launched by Satan in the Garden of Eden, “has God said,” will continue to be under assault, and we must ever be on guard and ready to answer those who question its veracity and accuracy. "
Great sermon and a challenge to our pampering to the arrogant lost who don't want to listen to our Lord and His Word.
For those who say we just need to love Jesus then you better listen to Jesus and do what he says. You wouldn't get away with saying you love your spouse but don't listen to a thing they say!

In Christ,

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And it's not just your thought

Isn't it mamazing how sometimes you think or say something and somebody else has already said the same thing?
When I am studying the bible and teaching it, I am greatly relieved? to sometimes later find that somebody else has made the same point, drawn the same conclusion, or inferred the same thing.
It's not that I thereby think I must be right, I could after all be wrong, but in the Community of believers with so many more gifted people than I it is encouraging and reassuring. A bit like you make the point in a bible study and someone pipes up that is essential what the NIV Study bible footnotes say. And I don't read those notes ever.
Still when somebody else has made a similar point I think it's good to point out this fact. After posting my last blog on One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest I did a google and found that Rich Deem had already used that as a title. You might like to read his points about Anthony Flew and the role of Intelligent Design in Flew's rejection of atheism.

In Christ,

Friday, April 17, 2009

One Flew over the cuckoo's nest

With no disrespect intended for Anthony Flew, the great secular Philosopher who is said to now be not an atheist but at minimum a deist, I am glad that he has flown above the squalor of naturalism to consider some "Being" beyond all this.

Read a little on how to approach those claiming to be atheists in Ronnie W. Rogers blog, in the meantime at least we could say he has flown from the nut cases on this planet that are unexplainable on the basis of naturalism. How can one account for error and madness, let alone the beauty of creative thought and art, when all one has is a non-personal non creator behind it all. In other words, something that's just the way it is. In a world of no standards, or should I not say no standard giver / declarer, there is no difference between evil and good, between something useful and something useless. Slime has a hard time rising above itself! Out of slime love does not arise, but out of the Love of God, love shines!

In Christ,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The importance of Wisdom

Over at Sam Norton's blog he has a little piece about atheism which he called Reasonable atheism (1): Of atheisms humourless and sophisticated. He speaks of two different types of atheism, one humourless and the other sophisticated. It stirred my thinking when he spoke about Hume's attitude in his Enquiry being intellectually crippling in that it fails to take in the wisdom tradition, a stance he labels asophic which I think is to say "against wisdom" or having "no wisdom". He calls it humorless because it's like having a sense of humor, you either get the joke or you don't.

My Ramblings ...
Ponder this for a moment. What do atheists and atheistic philosphers do with humor? How do they account for that? Surely one reason that some philosophers don't get it is because they treat all reality as if it's only epistemology!

That's a very important reminder for those doing Philosophy and Theology. You can get thrown by the so called power of epistemological arguments against knowledge and truth, even against the doctrines of the Christian faith as though this new or old philosophical "epistemology" has overturned the Christian faith. But they forget that with the Christian worldview, the Scriptures - there's also wisdom, all those wisdom passages that tell us about the practical aspect of life, that which involves living, not just those things which are theoretical or for the philosopher, the stuff to do with the mind, no matter how much that's important.

Think of Proverbs 12:25 "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad." Good words, helpful words to think on. But what does the atheist say about it? How can he who believes in no god account for the value of such advice in our world? Doesn't he care for his friend or family member who is weighed down with anxiety?

It is only when we know of the Creator who made man in His image for relationship, who blessed him and yet due to man's rebellion we find we are out of fellowship with God and each
other. Only in that context can such a thing as wisdom make sense.

Often times you will hear or read of the atheist rejecting the Christian and His belief because of the argument from evil. We however must ask him, what about love and humor and wisdom - these things also count in the world we live in. How will he account for any of that?

In Christ

OZCORNERS BLOG: Why Do We Get Angry?

OZCORNERS BLOG: Why Do We Get Angry?

Righteous anger? Who me?

Anger is such a difficult thing to come to grips with isn't it? I knew a pastor who flew into a rage when someone disagreed with him. And it certainy isn't listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit is it? Still anger prevails at times around us.

We can show anger, or even harbour anger without verbalising it, but my wife reckons sometimes even when we only harbour anger it's reflected in our expression! So what do we do with it? You might read Rob's short summary on it for a positive way of looking at it.

I am reminded of two things about anger. God's anger is a righteous anger, so I too may be angry at injustice and sin and tragedies. And I also need to heed the warning scripture gives when we are angry for no good reason. Do not let the sun go down on your anger - deal with it, ask forgiveness and seek restored relationships.

In Christ,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Historical evidences of Christianity, John Dickson

A third-century Christian prayer hall in Megiddo, unearthed in Israel between 2003-2005.

Just in case you didn’t tape the ‘Life of Jesus’ TV documentary by John Dickson here’s a link to one of the important points he made about the divinity of Jesus and the historical evidence.
I found this documentary refreshing and clear about who Jesus is. Good on you John and the crew.

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tax Collectors and sinners - Who are the sinners in Luke's Gospel?

When studying Luke’s Gospel it is well worth asking the question who are the sinners spoken of in Luke’s Gospel and what literary purpose do they serve. This is really to ask a hermeneutical question so as to properly understand Luke’s Gospel.

In a recent article in Southern Cross April 2009[1] John Dickson and Greg Clarke speak to this as they ask “The God who loves us to death” and point out in effect that God is not a cosmic child abuser as some have suggested.

Let me quote their comment
“All scholars agree: one of Jesus’ most striking habits was to associate with the immoral and irreligious – those classed as ‘sinners’. The word sinner sounds strange but in the first century it was a potent insult. The Psalms of Solomon is a Jewish text probably written by Pharisees in Jerusalem shortly before Jesus. It does a good job conveying the contemporary attitudes towards sinners: ‘But [the righteous] shall pursue sinners and overtake them, for those who act lawlessly shall not escape the Lord’s judgment. They shall be overtaken as by those experienced in war, for on their forehead is the mark of destruction. And the inheritance of sinners is destruction and darkness. The text goes on to say how the hoped for Messiah would ‘smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar’ and ‘condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts.’
Dickson and Clarke’s point is to argue that “We can say with some confidence that Jesus’ habit of associating with sinners was not exactly Messiah-like.” And their point is that Jesus whilst associating with such people did not at all condone their sin, but came to save sinners and not the righteous.

Their article is certainly a challenge to smugness, however it’s not their topic as such that I am concerned with here but their understanding of the word sinner in the Gospels, specifically in Luke.

Their point is worth understanding in the hermeneutical task of understanding Luke’s Gospel. My question is that I wonder just how far the historical point from the Psalms of Solomon as to the meaning of sinners actually contributes to understanding ‘sinners’ in Luke’s Gospel? I consider that Luke is telling us that ‘sinners’ in Luke’s Gospel is meant to stand in contrast to the self-righteous standing of the Pharisees and in the end shows their sin in rejecting the Messiah, Jesus. The people the Pharisees called sinners were people who broke the Pharisees standards, Standards as set out in the 613 specific laws that they operated by. If you broke any of those 613 laws you were a 'sinner' in their eyes. Yet Jesus’ point is that all are sinners. John the Baptist came calling all to repent and be baptised. What was startling in that message was that baptism was something that Jews required only of proselytes, those gentiles wanting to become God-fearers. Now that tells us something about what the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees thought about themselves doesn’t it?

So in Luke 5:29-32 when Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners - did you notice how the NIV puts sinners in inverted commas, as ‘sinners’ – he is eating with those considered bad by Pharisees standards and this creates a problem as it is their standard – it’s not God’s standard. Then also we need to ask ourselves – are not tax-collectors also sinners? So why mention tax-collectors as though they are some separate group. It’s because Luke is showing Jesus came reaching out to those rejected even by Israel – those considered traitors to Israel – the tax collectors, and those considered lawbreakers by the Pharisees standards. Jesus in his actions is actually confronting the Pharisees standard of sin. The contrast becomes stark and blatant. Even more so when these sinners accepted, indeed welcomed the Messiah, something that these students of the law, these Pharisees didn’t! Indeed the Kingdom of God came to even such as these!

That’s great news.
In Christ,
[1] Sydney Anglican magazine.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Revelation 1:1-3

Revelation 1 v1-3.
By Gary Wearne
Author's Note: The following is a sermon outline for an introductory series on Revelation.

· Most neglected book
· Portrayed by many as difficult to understand, mysterious. Perplexing.
However, three things about the book of Revelation confront our neglect to come to grips with what it's teaching.
a) It's part of the bible, God's Word. READ 1:2. This is the very Word of God.

b) The books very name challenges us - the word "Revelation" comes from the greek word apokalyypsus in verse 1, and it means unveiling. A revealing.
God is not here trying to cloud what He is saying.
He's not in the business of smoke and mirrors.
It's certainly not like the sound bites we get from our politicians - a lot of words, but no content, nothing of substance being said.
In this book God is speaking to us to reveal !

c) God tells us that he who reads ! and those who hear! And those who keep these things written - obey them - are blessed 1:3
It's not an obligation but rather something to your profit!
A Christian is promised blessing from God himself upon reading or hearing or obeying this prophecy. This book of Revelation is prophecy.
And it's not to be ignored merely for being prophecy!
Yet that's the attitude of many in the Church these days. Sure, we had a period in the 70's and 80's where many went overboard on prophecy. Still that doesn't absolve our present neglect of this part of God's Word!

Now what is this blessing were promised?
First let's be clear it's not merely a corporate blessing being spoken of here.
It's not as though we as a group - as Australians are blessed by being born in this "lucky country" that offers to all so many opportunities. No way, the first blessing mentioned in 1:3 is for the individual, the one who reads this prophecy. The "he" there is singular.
Then it goes on to speak of hearers - plural. And it's plural again referring to those who obey - keep what's written in this prophecy.

Next we need to pick up that what is being spoken about in the book of Revelation requires continual study.
It's not as though one can read it through once and fathom the depths of Revelation in one enormous meal, it's not as though it's a blessing that can be received once for all and the next time you read a few pages of the book it's no longer a blessing!
Nope the passage says in verse3 that it's blessing is associated with continual reading hearing and obeying. All the participles are in the present tense.
Again we see that our attitude to this book is to be quite different to that which most of us take.
I once spoke to a pastor who was nearing the time of his retirement and he said to me he never preached the book of Revelation because it was too difficult and controversial! Goodness, what do you think God thought of that, he'd failed to see the book as not a mystery but an unveiling and a blessing! How tragic.

In the book of Revelation this blessing is the first of 7. The others are found at 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7 & 14.

So we've seen for whom the blessing is announced, it remains for us to understand what this word blessed means?
John MacArthur in his commentary on Matt 5 has this helpful comment to make about markarios ( blessed ). "means happy fortunate, blissful. Homer used it to describe a wealthy man and Plato used it of one successful in business. Homer and Hesiod spoke of the greek gods as being happy within themselves because they were unaffected by the world of men - who were subject to poverty, disease, weakness, misfortune and death. The fullest meaning of the term, therefore, had to do with an inward contentedness that is not affected by circumstances. This kind of happiness that God desires for His children, a state of joy and well-being that does not depend on physical, temporary circumstances. ( see Phil 4:11-13 )." MacAthur Matthew 1-7 pg 142
Now this gets to the crunch of being blessed. Unfortunately our use of it in our culture misses the rich depth of the Bible term.
We often here the commentators on football describing a player as being blessed. Meaning he's good at his sport. But this falls well short of what the Bible is getting at. It has little to do with outward circumstances.
In fact the word when used in Revelation 14:13 speaks of those martryed - dead for the sake of Christ - being blessed - which means it's quite out of the realm of the physical here and now. Now don't get me wrong. I a not saying you cannot experience this blessedness here and now - obviously from God's Word you can - but its source doesn't arise from outward circumstances such as wealth or a good business or whatever. To get the Bibles perspective it's something one receives from God himself. A contentedness and joy, and feeling of well-being. We can see from the bible that God blesses his people when he bestows on them some gift temporal or spiritual (Gen_1:22; Gen_24:35; Job_42:12; Psa_45:2; Psa_104:24, Psa_104:35).

Now that we've seen the importance of this prophecy let's dwelve just a little bit more this morning into the first 3 verses.

A) In 1:1 we read … This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation or revelations of John the apostle, sometimes you read in some Bibles that this book is called the revelations of St John - that's wrong.

B) Also "these things which must shortly come to pass" it says. The word used here is tachi - it's the word from which we petrol heads get the word for the tachometer in our car. It's not here speaking of what we mean when we tell our wives "I'll put out the trash shortly, by which we mean when this TV show has finished or I am finished doing what I am doing". Nope, it has to do rather with rapidity of motion - this happens quickly - in the flash of an eye as we say. It isn't speaking then of a point of time in the near future, rather it's about quickness! It's about the rapidity of execution.

Interestingly the same word occurs in Revl 22:20 - turn with me to that verse, understanding the word may help you better get the time perspective right. It's speaking about quickness, not when !

Now back in verse 1 we read something about the man John.
C) Unlike many who gain status by claiming a prophecy from God or a "revelation" - John MacAthur's relates of one man who claims Jesus speaks to him in person - he appears to him in his door whilst he's shaving himself. - well really! Does he stop shaving himself?

See here how John the apostle views himself! He is a servant which is a polite way of rendering slave. Doulos.

And lastly this morning look at verse 3 again…
D) Also in 1:3 we read "For the time is at hand" kairos is the word used and relates to a period of time. Daniel himself mentions the "time of the end" five times in Daniel 8:17; 11:35,40; 12:4,9. The time is also mentioned to be at hand in Revelation 22:10. It speaks of a season of time, not a specific hour ( hora ) or time in general ( chronos ).

I hope that our introduction to the book of Revelation has challenged any preconceptions we may have held.
And I am hoping that it has spiked your interest in coming to grips with What the Lord lays out for us here.

It will challenge and encourage us - but we hold tightly to the promise this morning that in the study of it, in the reading and hearing there's special blessing to us from God himself.

Let's pray.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is the gospel just good news?

Currently there's a little debate on the internet about what is the gospel. You will find summaries over at imonk. However for me there are some deeper issues that need addressing. In the four gospels the gospel is usually associated or called "the gospel of the Kingdom". What did the gospel writers mean by that phrase? Is it different to how many preachers speak today using the simplified or shortened phrase “the gospel"

At least in the four gospels this shortening has serious ramifications if one ignores the full phrase “of the kingdom” for the Jews had a specific expectation of the Messiah and the Kingdom, sometimes quite at odds with the Old Testament prophecy about the kingdom and the Messiah as Luke’s gospel reveals quite clearly.

I for one believe that so many preachers have not got a good biblical grasp on what the kingdom really is. That’s a whole series in itself, but for present it has big implications for those wishing to pursue the question of what is the Gospel as some evangelicals are doing. I don’t believe that some glib response such as the kingdom being now and not yet is adequate as Biblical teaching for the flock on this mater. It needs to be clearly exegeted, not some trite phrase trottered out like some show pony.

For example, in Luke’s gospel the Jews expected that the Messiah would come and throw out the Roman’s and make Israel to rule over the Nations. They expected a political salvation whereas Jesus is at pains to point out that their problem was spiritual bondage, not political bondage, they needed to repent. This is Why so many times early on Jesus would not accept their designating him as Messiah because their concept of Messiah wasn’t the biblical one!

In light of that we need to ask ourselves whether we are not in the church in danger of likewise redefining the gospel of the kingdom to something other that what God says. Isn't that what we see already with people pushing the prosperity gospel and the social gospel? What we need is the kingdom gospel! But even a phrase like “kingdom gospel” may be a little misleading.

Isn’t it more correct to say that in the gospels the gospel of the kingdom - literally “the good news of the Kingdom” puts the focus on “the kingdom”, not the word "gospel" / "good news"?

We are to see how the four gospel writers use the term gospel and in relation to what to get a proper grasp on what’s going on. In that case is the coming of God’s Kingdom, particularly in the arrival of the Messiah Jesus, all good news? In one sense it’s good news in the after 400 years of Silence from God, God’s plan of sending the Messiah to Israel is happening, but as you see throughout the gospels, it’s not all good! The leaders and many of the people had their own expectations concerning the Messiah and what he ought to do. As a Nation they actually reject the Messiah and it ends as “God predicted” in the Messiah being the suffering servant of Isaiah 40-66. We benefit in that Jesus goes to the Cross to pay the penalty for sin, and bring redemption, however in a true sense it wasn’t just good news in that the coming of the Messiah brought judgment also. My teacher and friend D. B Knox wrote a paper years ago in which he addressed this issue of the gospel as being good news. You can read it in the Briefing #343, the magazine by Matthias Press.
He wrote that “True to Moses and all the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostolic message about Jesus was set in the context of judgement. It was a message of escape from condemnation, a fleeing from the wrath to come”. Indeed this is what John the Baptist preached, the inauguration, the imminence of the Kingdom.
Again D. B. K writes:
"The message of Jesus was identical with the message of John. Like John, Jesus proclaimed the imminence of the kingdom of God and called his hearers to repent: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand”. At this point, it should be noted that the translation of gospel as ‘good news’ is a mistake. In the Bible, the Greek word ευαγγελια means ‘news’. The proclamation of the coming kingdom of God was not in itself good news to every hearer. Its imminence was, however, news—startling news which called for an immediate response, the response of repentance. For the news of the kingdom was the news of the judgement of God."
As D. B. K points out even in the Sermon on the Mount in Jesus’ teaching He points to a broad way and a narrow way and the choice is crucial for one leads to destruction. That is just one indication of the kind of judgment message that comes with the Kingdom announcement.

I cannot recommend the article enough as a balance to so much emphasis on the gospel as good news.

Now in that light we need to ascertain if when Paul speaks of the gospel is it the same as in the gospels? Is it perhaps a different perspective on the same thing?

Consider the opening chapter of Roman’s Paul speaks of “the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” There judgment is again associated with the gospel, just as mentioned in the four gospels.

Yet sometimes Paul seems to speak of the gospel as the gospel message, as that of the cross, redemption and so on. Thus he says in Galatians in the context of some preaching a salvation by legalism,

“…if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:9).

And this is again consistent with Peter preaching in Acts 10:36 where it is a message of the great news of peace “The gospel of peace,” as Peter described it to Cornelius.

And this concurs with Paul in 1 Cor:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, which is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:3).

So although Paul doesn’t use the phrase “the gospel of the Kingdom” that I can recollect, it doesn’t seem to contradict at all with what is found in the gospels.

Now what about the current debate by evangelicals?
Much of what the guys on the panel at the Christian book Expo in Dallas said was well worth reflecting upon. However when Richard Stearns spoke his points though supposedly justified from particular Scripture passages, revealed instead a poor understanding of those passages, especially Matt 5. Of all the speakers I found Richard the most affable, likeable and encouraging, however that does not mean he handled Matt 5 well. In the end what he said gave emphasis to what we would call a social gospel instead of the Gospel as taught in Scripture. Now he did say things that we would want to applaud, such as “Jesus’ gospel brings radical social change. It begins between us and God, but culminates in social revolution. [ A revolution] to make good news available to all people. To lift up the poor and sick and be the salt of the earth and the light” We would indeed say one of the consequences of a life transformed by God is social influence and impact, it’s just that one doesn’t get that from Matthew 5. Those that mourn are those that mourn over their sin, not because of the evils and hardships of the world. The poor in spirit are those that recognise their spiritual bankruptcy. Likewise the salt imagery has an Old Testament background, of the Jewish Sacrifice, not the “modern” notion of a preservative, but rather the salt was used up, consumed in the offering. We would certainly affirm that the gospel comes and lifts up the abused and downtrodden. It’s just that that is not what Matthew 5 is saying. Even the moderator didn’t pick up on this when he summarised their positions after 30 minutes. He gave the following summation, with his point about mission being the problem point for me.
The gospel is:-
Transactional – The Cross deals with sin and God’s wrath etc. 1 Cor 15.
Relationships – New Life / Eternal Life John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:16-20.
Mission – Where we are representing or reflecting the Gospel by what we do. Matthew 5:14-16.

Whoever we read or listen to, we need to be careful and check out whether what they say comes from the passages they assert.

In Christ,

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What is the Gospel?

Over the last couple of years now I have come to wonder why so many preachers in sermons will use the phrase "the gospel" as a kind of tag summary about any passage they happen to be preaching on.
It's almost like every passage they speak on whether it be some chapter that is talking about Christian living eg life by the spirit, Galataians 5:16-26, or wives and husbands raltionships Eph 5:23-33 or speaking of the second coming from 1 Thess 4:13-18 that you hear this christian sound bite that this is "the gospel" dropped into the sermon.
Has the term "the gospel" become so widely used that it's in danger of loosing it's meaning? Indeed do we know what the Bible means when it talks of "the gospel"? When the term is used by Mark is it different to that used by Paul?
Are pastors using the term as some generalisation to gain assent from the listeners to accept what they are saying? Is it that we need to remind ourselves to be like the Bereans who in Acts 17 checked everything that the apostle Paul said against the Sciptures? And he was an apostle, not some guy who happens to be up the front preaching.
Should not pastors work harder at giving application from the text that the text itself implies, so that in the hearers life the rubber hits the road?

Just recently Darrell Bock moderated this panel on March 20, 2009, for the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. There's a video courtesy of Tangle on the Christianity Today site worth watching though it is long. The first 35 miutes give an interesting insight on what they see as the problem and how they understand the gospel.
The panelists are:
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision International and author of The Hole in Our Gospel (Nelson) •Mark D. Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway) •Tullian Tchividjian, Do I Know God? (Multnomah) •Justin Taylor, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (Crossway)

As evangelicals they are asking or addressing the question what is the gospel which is certainly a question doing the rounds at the moment. Have a listen, but be discerning, I will say somethings about what they have said next time.

For the present I want to point out something so many Christians and sometimes pastors fail to understand when looking at the four gospels.

Some pastors use parralel bibles on the Gospels incorrectly. they use them when preaching on some passage to work up a "story" on what a particular passage in one of the gospels is saying by ripping off all the bits that have apparantly the same event or parable or teaching and putting them together. This is sloppy hermeneutics.

We need to remind ourselves that each gospel has a specific teaching point as a whole. They are not mere chronological histories telling the life of Jesus, they are teaching specific doctrine, they have a particular point to teach and that is mostly guided by the specific audience they were directed at. That is why there are four gospels and not one. If they were merely chronolgical histories of the life of Jesus then you would need only one!

One of the best commentaries I have read on getting to grips with this is David Gooding's 'According to Luke' IVP 1987.
I was fortunate to have a great Old Testament lecturer at Moore Theological College whom I have come to appreciate even more after writing a series of Bible studies in Luke's Gospel. Barry Webb taught us to appreciate not just the exegetical niceties of the text but to look at the connecting literary structure and themes found throughout a particular book. It's no wonder as he did his PhD I seem to remember at sheffield in England. Thanks Barry.

Have a good read,
God bless