Posted in dominion, history, repentance

The Authority of True Revival

Introduction A.W. Tozer once said that if revival means more of what we have going on now, then we most certainly do not need revival. But we do in …

The Authority of True Revival

Excellent article. Well worth the read.

In Christ,

Kristafal

Posted in Covenant, dominion, Genesis 1-3, gospel, Grace, Theology

God’s Covenant with Adam

Today, I want to take what we learned about the five-point covenantal outline found (used) in Scripture and apply it to God’s covenantal relationship with Adam. This is often denoted the Covenant of Works by Reformed theologians and other orthodox teachers of the past. Some deny that there ever was a covenant between God and Adam due to the lack of “I will make a covenant with you…” type language, but this is an unfortunate misunderstanding. God did not say to Adam, “I will make a covenant with you…,” at least that we can know of. Rather, God created the first man in a covenantal relationship with Him. The entirety of Scripture confirms that God is a covenantal God, and so it would be an error on our part to assume that the concept of “covenant” came later as almost an afterthought.

As way of reminder the five-point covenant outline disclosed by Ray R. Sutton1 is as follows:

  1. Transcendence/immanence—God is distinct (transcendent) from His creation and yet personally present (immanence).
  2. Hierarchy/Representation—God is the ultimate authority as Creator (hierarchy) and He has created Image Bearers to Mirror Him (representation).
  3. Ethics/Law—God has the right to set the standard of how His creatures ought to live (Ethics), and He has established these moral precepts (Laws) which reflect His Holy heart.
  4. Sanctions/Blessing or Cursing—God as Judge with execute judgment (sanctions), giving good (blessing) to the obedient and bad (cursing) to the disobedient creatures He has made.
  5. Continuity/Inheritance—God promises either life or death (continuity), and our reaction to our Creator affects our future (inheritance) both temporally and eternally.

While, I find the above helpful I think that seeing them in question format makes it a bit easier to see their logical layout:

  1. Who is God?
  2. Who represents God?
  3. What are God’s laws?
  4. What are His sanctions?
  5. Who will inherit?2

What we find in the opening chapter of Genesis is that everyone of these points is touched upon.

Point One—Who is God? The Transcendent Personal Creator God

The Bible does not attempt to prove God, but assumes Him from the very first verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen1.1).3 Here we find point one answered, God is the Creator of all things. He transcends His creation because He is distinct from it. He is not a part of creation in a pantheistic sense for He spoke it into existence (cf. Gen 1.3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; Psa 33.6, 9; 148.5).

And yet, we find that God not only transcends His creation, He shares a personal affinity towards it (immanence); part 2 of point 1. He is directly involved with it personally. This is demonstrated in a variety of ways. First, He puts His personal blessings on everything He made. When the Lord made the creatures of the air, land and sea He blessed them, gave them food and told them to be fruitful and multiply (cf. Gen 1.22, 29-30). Secondly, we find this personal aspect of God’s interaction with His creation in the forming of Adam.

First we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man…So God created man…male and female he created them. And God blessed them.” (Gen 1.26a, 27a & c, 28a). In Genesis 2 we are given more details regarding this creative act of God in making man on day 6 of creation.

“Then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen 2.7). Catch this, the Lord not only formed the man from the very clay of this earth (the potted vessel), but He then breathes into this man the breath of life making this new creature of dirt a living being. Life, precious life comes from God, but the Lord is not done yet.

In the very next verse we read that “the Lord God [had] planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden…” (Gen 2.8-9a).

Again, we find the personal tenderness and care of this Creator God who though He is distinct (transcendent) from His creation, He goes to great lengths to make His presence known to His creatures in the way that He provides for them (life, blessing and purpose); and as we shall see in a bit, in the way He instructs them. God who created everything “very good” (Gen 1.31) took the man who He made last—distinct from all other life on the planet—and placed this man in a garden in Eden. The man’s own private sanctuary of joy and beauty, where he was to be reminded, and in light of this reminder, enjoys his Creator.

Point Two—Who represents God? God the Chief Hierarch and man His representative

Just as the Bible assumes the Triune God of creation, so too is His authority presupposed. “The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Psa 113.4-6). “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers…[for] Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales” (Isa 44.22, 15).

The Scriptures describe God as above all things and all other things (His own creation) as nothing. He alone has ultimate authority over all things. He alone is to be praised.

Yet, we find that God has established man as His representative. Not only did the Lord God create man in the beginning, but He made the man to mirror Him in all of life, giving him authority to rule over lesser creatures.

  • “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living that moves on the earth” (Gen 1.26-28).

The dominion or rule that God has given the man is to be done in a reflective manner after the Creator who created him (and her). Both genders, male and female, are the image bearers of God. They are both given the responsibility of displaying God’s likeness to the rest of creation. The subduing of the earth (v.28) and the dominion over the earth (v.26) is to be done in a godly fashion. Man was not created as an independent being, but a dependent creature. Much like a baby in the womb is dependent upon her mother via the umbilical cord, so too is the man and woman of God (His possession) to be so plugged into Him (i.e. dependency).

Point Three—What are God’s Laws? God’s Law/Ethics, His Instruction sets the Moral boundaries of His creatures

Because God has authority over mankind as the Transcendent Creator, and due to the fact that God has made mankind to image Him in the rest of creation, God necessarily sets the rules/codes of conduct. In short, God tells human beings how to think and live (act). We see this in the early details of Genesis 1-2.

God commands the man to be fruitful and multiple. They are to form family units and have babies in order to fill the earth (v.28). One of the things that ought to strike our attention is the detailed plot line in Genesis 2.

God formed the man first, and then the Lord began to bring various animals to the man on the sixth day, to see what he would name them. This was not pet naming as we do with cats and dogs, but classifying animals within their various kinds based upon their characteristics. God doesn’t do anything without a purpose behind it; so what’s the purpose here?

God knows things that His creatures do not—God is omniscient—and one of the things He knows early on day sixth is that “it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen 2.18). As Adam is naming the animals he no doubt notices that they have two genders, male and female. They have equal counterparts, but not so for him. Thus we are told in Gen 2:20, “But for Adam there was not a helper fit for him.” Adam learned this through God’s object lesson.

Therefore, once the lesson has sunk in the Lord performs the first surgery in history. He puts Adam into a deep sleep (by the way this is why/how anesthesia was invented) and takes some meat and bone from his side (Gen 2.21). From that flesh and bone the Lord forms the woman, and then after Adam is awake brings her to the man (Gen 2.22).

Notice Adam’s response: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2.23). In other words, Adam was so excited by this new gift of the Lord—a helper comparable to him—that he said “Woooo-man!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little humor here). In short, Adam learned what God already knew; God is seen forming Adam’s thinking, helping him determine what is good.

God also tells the man that he was created to work. He is given instruction (command/law) “to work it and keep” the creation given to him. Yes, it is, in a word, a paradise, but this is not a Sandal’s Resort. Adam cannot lazily lounge by the river drinking from a glass with an umbrella in it; he has been instructed to work, to exercise dominion (cf. Gen 1.26, 28). By the way, part of that instruction from the Lord in guarding (“keeping” means to build a hedge around it) what has been entrusted to him, is properly teaching and protecting his wife. Which, he does a poor job of doing as we see in Genesis 3.

The Lord also tells Adam what he is allowed to eat, and what he is not. Genesis 1:29-30 tells us that God gave all plant life for food. In Genesis 2:9 we see that God has created a wonderful orchard from which the man and woman may enjoy. However, in the middle of the garden the Lord put a “NO-TRESSPASSING” sign on one tree—The Tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2.9b). “This tree,” said the Lord “is off limits. You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2.16b-17).

This particular tree did not have “special knowledge,” and no the man did not need to eat of it in order “to learn” what was good and bad. That knowledge had already been established when God said “No!” This law of God established the boundary line of what was “good and evil,” as in all the other thing that God had been doing this instruction was given in order to teach the man and woman how to think and act. They were God’s representatives, not their own.

Point Four—What are God’s Sanctions? God Blesses Obedience and Curses Disobedience

God is judge: “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work” (Eccl 3.17). And, as judge God rewards faithfulness to His Law-Word, but promises negative acts of retribution to those who are unfaithful.

As long as Adam was obedient to the Law-Word of God he was promised Life. The other tree in the middle of the garden was the Tree of Life (Gen 2.9). Adam and his wife were not prohibited from eating from this tree.

If you remember in my last post I pointed out that the those in covenant with God in the O.T./N.T. (via circumcision/baptism), were allowed to eat at the table of the Lord. Both tables (Passover and Eucharist) symbolize life and blessing to the faithful. However, they also symbolize death and cursing. To attempt to partake of the Lords table in an unholy fashion promised separation from the goodness of God (cf. 1Cor 11.27-32).

Adam disobeyed the voice of the Lord. He disregarded the commands/instruction/law of his Creator, instead turning inwardly to the creature. He allowed the serpent to deceive his wife, he allowed his wife to coerce him to go against what he knew to be true, and in so doing he purposefully and willfully rebelled against his Creator in whose image he was made (cf. Gen 3.1-7; 17-19). The consequence is that the earth was cursed (Gen 3.17; Rom 8.19-22) as signified by “thorns and thistles” (Gen 2.18), and the days of man’s existence will be painful labor where eventually the body will waste away and return to the dust from which it came (Gen 3.19).

Point Five—Who will inherit? God Promises Temporal and Eternal Inheritances in light of one’s Reaction towards Him

The final judgment that day was being kicked out of the garden (cherubim were placed guarding it) and access was denied to the Tree of Life (Gen 3.22-24). That was the inheritance that Adam bought for his offspring. This is why Paul later says that all human beings in Adam were condemned as sinners (Rom 5.12, 18-19) and are therefore “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2.3; italics added). The Greek term for nature4 Paul uses here in his Ephesian letter, describing the fate of all mankind means by “birth, physical origin.” Therefore, we “were [born] dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1). Adam’s sin purchased death (separation) from God. The umbilical cord, so to speak, was severed by his transgression, and as the representative head of the human race we are born into this world in that state.

Closing Remarks…

The good-news is found in the grace of God. Adam could not cover (atone) for his transgression, but God could. This image of covering is displayed in Genesis 3:21 when “the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” They attempted to cover (atone; clothe) their nakedness (Hebrew for sin/shame) in Genesis 3:7, but what they couldn’t do for themselves the Lord did for them. Why? Because of the promise He gave in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This has nothing to do with fear of snakes, that’s just foolish superstitious belief, but it has everything to do with God’s promise to redeem and ransom and regenerate fallen mankind in Jesus Christ.

All in Christ receive eternal life (Matt 19.29; Rom 6.23) having been adopted back as God’s children (John 1.12-13; Rom 8.15; Gal 4.5). Every one of the points above is found demonstrated in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man. He acknowledged God as Creator (He knew His Father; cf. Luke 10.22; John 10.15), and He acknowledged God’s authority (John 8.28; 12.49) and therefore
perfectly imaged Him in all creation (cf. Col 1.15;Heb 1.3) by doing all that the Father commanded Him (cf. Matt 5.17; John 14.31; Heb 5.8) He was richly blessed (cf. Rom 9.5; also see Isa 9.6-7; Dan 7.13-14) and inherited for His offspring an unfailing inheritance (cf. 1Pet 1.4).

I have more to say, but your eyes need a rest…until next time.

________________________________________________________

ENDNOTES:

1 Outline points taken from: Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant, 3rd Printing (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, [1987], 1997).

2 Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 92.

2 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

4 5449
φύσις [phusis /foo·sis/] n f. Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

Posted in Biblical Questions, Christian Living, Christian Witness, culture, dominion, politics, war, Worldview Analysis

Buried Treasures: What Are You Willing to Stand For?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6.21)

This is not a post that I intended to write, but one that I want to get off my chest. And, I suppose that it does coalesce with what I have been saying over the last few posts. Christianity is at war with the surrounding culture.

That statement probably comes to a shock to some within the Christian community. The funny thing (a sense of irony; not a laughing matter) is that though many of us may be unaware of this reality those outside of our covenantal body[1]comprehend the true state of things…we are at war. There is a battle being waged between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent (cf.Gen 3.15; Matt 3.7; 12.34; John 8.37-47).

Understanding the Overarching Conflict:Kingdom Related

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other”(Matt 6.24). This is the reason I have labeled the gospel as a battle motif. Not because Christians are seeking to pick fights with the world, but because of the natural enmity between the two nations; members of the kingdom of light versus members of the kingdom of darkness.[2]I realize that we do not often refer to the saved versus unsaved as citizens of distinct nations, but that is in fact the case or texts like Col 1:9-13 are robbed of meaning:

  • “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased praying for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthen with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son….” (italics added.)

Notice the distinction between the two kingdoms. Both have opposing ultimate standards. The one is established, committed to, and in love with God. To the Lord do we owe our allegiance, for it is His will that we seek, and it is His knowledge and understanding of reality that we strive for.Those who do not share citizenship in the kingdom of Light[3],by nature are members of another kingdom and seek to do the will of the master of that domain.

An explicit point that Jesus made during his earthly ministry:

  • “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear[4][Gr. “not able”] to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John8.43-44).[5]

This is the reason the Lord told his disciples that they would be hated by those in the world[6],and as they persecuted him they would likewise persecute them (us).[7]It is our opposition to the evil in the world that ushers in hate and persecution. We are not called to needlessly pick fights, but we are called to stand firmly upon the truth. We are commanded to oppose every ideology, every theology, every philosophy, every ethical theory or scientific inquiry, etc., that stands in stark contrast with God’s Holy and Righteous standards.

The inner Problem Determining the When and Where to Fight: The Political Battlefield

Unfortunately, all of us are affected in some measure by the culture in which we live. By nature, we dislike strongly when someone hates us.We have strong aversions to persecution or suffering in its various forms. Much easier is it to go with the flow than to act like a salmon swimming against the current of the streams of thought found in our culture. People have their sacred cows that they do not want molested or tarnished, and this is true for the Christian as well as the non. One particular sacred cow is found in the field of politics (or river, if I were to stick with the salmon metaphor).

I believe in social justice. Not social justice as defined by our society, but justice as revealed in Scripture. A more applicable term might be biblical justice if I were afraid of offending those within my Christian fold, but I’ve been more of a salmon in life than one of those school fish. Therefore, I have no qualms using the phrase “social justice” within biblically defined parameters.

Now since I believe that Christians ought to be concerned about justice in society, I have no problem speaking on political issues. Some Christians will not touch such things with a ten-foot pole, others can get down right nasty. I found this out first hand in my first pastorate. It was an election year, and since I believe that the Bible speaks to all areas of life—my Lord is the Lord of life, and not just mine but all aspects of it—I opened my mouth.Some may have preferred that I had shoved a shoe in it, but I didn’t…I won’t.

My position politically is to vote for that candidate that best reflects my positions in life. I realize that we have not had very many“good choices” over the past few decades, but that is to be expected when the Church remains divided and silent allowing unbelieving thought to fill in the vacuum we have created culturally. One particular issue that I pay attention to is baby-killing.

You know it is a sick bit of irony when we will protect the babies within the womb of animals (especially endangered species), but when it comes to the infants in human wombs justifications fly off the shelves like water, milk and bread before a snowstorm.

I will not vote for the murder of babies, and I will not vote for anyone who refuses to take a firm stance on that issue. Little did I know that one of my parishioners was a party-line voter. That is to say, didn’t matter what the issue was they would always vote for that party. With a Bible in one hand and a finger jabbed in my direction on the other I was yelled at as I stood behind the podium.

Heartbroken is the best word that I could use to describe my internal reaction. Disbelief was a close second. After a few moments, when the individual managed to pause to take a breath. Perhaps, this person thought they had me dead to rights, I’m not sure, but I was thankful for the opportunity to speak. I posed a question to the person, “do you not think that the Bible speaks authoritatively on political issues?” The question was side-stepped. The ad hominem attacks ensued for a few more moments, and then the individual left.Their spouse came up to me apologizing saying that they would probably not return to church services there. I told her I appreciated her kindness, let her know that I would be praying for them both, and then after all others had left I collapsed in tears.

Now I was not angry with that brother, and I prayed for them that night, pleading my case before the Lord. The next day the person who had stormed out of the church called me in tears asking forgiveness for the way that they behaved. We had a good conversation that day, and he and his wife never stopped coming to that church until I resigned.

What this has to do with Buried Treasures

Jesus in the sermon on the mount makes the obvious point,“where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” You cannot serve “God and money.” Either God and His way of life is most precious to you…your treasure; or, the material/relational benefits of this life are what you care about…your treasure. I guess there is a meme out there about the state of New York stating that they don’t believe in the death penalty (the killing of convicted criminals), but they are for the murder of babies in the womb. That is a sad, sad reality.

So, for today I want to turn your attention to Endabortionnow.com. This is a ministry arm of Apologia Church in Tempe,Arizona. They are networking with churches all across this country (and in parts of the world like Australia) in providing materials and offering training for opposing the killing of our heritage. They call the sanitized taking of life what it is murder, but they also share the gospel with women who are entering those clinics that seek to victimize unborn children. They also provide for those women who decide to not go through with killing their offspring by providing the necessary materials needed to take care of the newly born children (i.e. diapers, formula, even in some cases places to stay), even offering adoption if the mother does not believe they could take care of the child.

Literally thousands of babies have been saved by this ministry as they network with other Christian church’s/ministries across this nation. Perhaps you’ve heard the slogan “put your money where your mouth is.” Well, I give as I am able to this ministry and I want to get the word out for other like minded individuals to do likewise.

If you are not able to get on the front lines, then you ought to be able to dip into your wallets. This is one fight that all professing believers ought to be involved in, in some way. God Bless.

ENDNOTES:


[1] But you say, “I’m not a covenanter. I don’t believe in covenant theology, that’s a reformed theological position.” In response, I ask, “Have you made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ? Do you acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior before others? Have you been baptized? Do you participate in communion/eucharist?” If you answer “yes” to these questions, then you are a member of the covenant community. Have you not read, “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’”(Mark 14.22-24; ESV). By the way, participation in these sacramental rites(baptism/communion) is a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and acknowledgment before others that you have faith in the one whom you identify as Lord and Savior. Whether or not you are truly saved is the subject of another discussion, but it should be noted that being a member of the “covenant community” is not equal to being a member of the “saved community.

[2] Some may ask, “But why can’t we just get along? Aren’t we called to peace?” In response,I would ask, “peace with whom? To whom should we seek to be at peace with?”Obviously, as Christians we are commanded to live peaceably with all people as long as it is dependent upon us (Rom12.18). But that peace is not to be adopted at the sacrifice with what we know to be right and true (cf. Deut 4.1-8; Deut 20.11-12). I will attempt to explain the overarching manner in which this is to be done in a future post.

[3] Remember Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8.12); and in another place: “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world” (John 11.9). This is not a new teaching, but one encased in Old Testament theology: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psa 36.9; cf. John 1.4-5, 9); “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling” (Psa 43.3; cf. John 8.31-32); “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the lightof life” (Psa 56.13; cf. John 3.19-21); “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day(Prov4.18; cf. 1John 1.5-7).

[4] In the English the sense should still be easy enough to understand for “cannot bear” means “cannot accept or allow one to be subjected to” (Merriam-Webster) for they are hostile to what the Lord is saying (cf. Rom 8.7-8) because of where their true allegiance/parentage lies (v.44).

[5] For those that want to argue that this is limited to a Jewish context, I merely refer you to the following texts in the N.T.:

  • “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2.1-3; cf. Rom 1.18-32);
  • “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”(1John 3.10);
  • “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1John 5.19).

If you want some O.T. evidence that refers to the same sort of context, I would recommend reading Psa 1.4-6; 2; Prov 1.10-33; Isa 30.1;Jer 12.3-4; Ezek 22.9-11, etc.

[6] I should probably note that the “world” (Gr. Kosmos) is not meant to convey the idea of the planet. Although the Greek can have that meaning, the references in John’s writings normally (not always) speak of two opposing systems of faith. Likewise, when Paul calls Satan the prince of the air, or the devil is referred to as the “god of this world” this does not entail his control over the planet earth, but instead speaks of his blinding influence over fallen human beings. The world (planet earth) is the Lord’s. He sits as sovereign above it, for it is His footstool (cf. Isa. 40.22; Isa 66.1).

[7] See John 15.18-20; Phil 1.29; 1Pet 4.13.

Posted in Christian Living, Christian Perspective, dominion, gospel, Salvation, Theology

The Gospel: A Battle Motif?

What do we mean when we say gospel? Words do not speak for themselves they are interpreted and the baggage we carry effects how we understand their meaning. This is why context is so important. Context defines the word, it reveals the sense in which the term is being used.

In Christian circles we have a tendency of throwing words out in dialogue anticipating that our audience has the same understanding that we do. This is especially true when we speak the same language (i.e. English/Christianese), but we are committing a grave error when we refuse to take the time explaining what we mean when we say what we say.

The term gospel in its simplest form means “good-news.”

You got an “A” on your last assignment in class, or you received a raise in your hourly rate at work and you tell others about it…that is an example of sharing the gospel with others. You’ve told people the good-news of events in your life. Obviously, I am using the word “gospel” in a very generic sense, but I hope you get the gist at what I am driving at. The word “gospel” only has the meaning we assign to it.[1]

Well, when a Christian says gospel what is meant?

Some may point their audience to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV 1611). Or another may refer to 1Cor 15:1-4: “Now I would remind your, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (ESV).[2]

To be sure those are specific elements of the gospel of God, of Jesus Christ the Son, but they only provide a small portion of the gospel in light of biblical teaching. The gospel of Jesus (his life, death and resurrection) is the crown jewel to be sure, for there is no one greater, no one more precious, no one more significant that Jesus of Nazareth—the Living Word that put-on flesh and tabernacle among us (John 1.14) in order to save His people from their sins (Matt 1.21). To make use of another analogy, this gospel of Jesus is the sharpened tip of the arrow fired by God the Father and carried along by God the Holy Spirit; for this gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1.16b). And yet, this is not a complete explanation of the gospel.

Contrary to popular opinion the gospel is not limited to Jesus of Nazareth[3], nor the first four books of the New Testament, nor the entire N. T. canon; for, the gospel is found throughout the entirety of God’s Word. Both covenants, new and old, contain all the essential elements of the gospel of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). From the very first verse when we are told “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1), to the very last portion of the book of Revelation “He who testifies to these things say, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev 22.20-21) encases the entirety of the gospel.

The gospel is the good-news of God starting from creation to consummation. But even after I have said all of that and many heads are found shaking in agreement if I were to ask you to define the gospel would you be able? A truncated version of it I have heard on countless occasions, but a deeper understanding of all it entails is often found wanting.

What makes the gospel of Jesus truly good-news? What is promised in Scripture from beginning to end? That God has created a special people, a peculiar people to be His prized possession for all eternity, and to them He has given the great gifts of His love. Life with Him and an inheritance that is imperishable (see 1Pet 1.3-5).

Salvation in Christ is offered in the gospel. His life for ours that is the crown jewel of this/his precious work. Yet, this is not salvation merely from hell, nor is it limited to the gift of heaven, but an entirely new life.

  • “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in the flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2.13-18; also see 4.16-24).

A brief summary of this text reveals to the reader that the wall of separation has been demolished between the Jew and Greek (cf. v. 12) and between God and man for in Christ’s atoning sacrifice “the dividing wall of hostility” is no more having been killed (v.14, 16; also see Rom 8.7-8; Col 1.20-21).[4] The former ordinances (ceremonial observances/laws) are removed as Christ’s life has been given as the perfect substitute nullifying the need for them any longer (v.15a; cf. Heb 7-10). Through Christ peace has been granted to all former covenant breakers (both Jew/Gentile) enabling them to be covenant-keepers as citizens of the kingdom of Christ under His headship (see vv. 19-22; cf. Isa 9.6-7; Col 1.13-22).

The gospel of God, of Christ…is the gospel of the kingdom. All four of the gospels (synoptics and Johannine) reveal this fact. Before Jesus began his earthly ministry, the forerunner known as the Baptist named John the son of a Levite preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3.2). The Lord’s message was the same, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1.15). As well as that of the apostles/disciples of Christ after His ascension: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24.14). Evidence that this is practiced by the disciples of the Lord (this includes more than just the twelve) is summed up in this statement recorded for us in Acts 17:7 where antagonists to the gospel were found complaining, “…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

A Battle Motif?

What I would like present to you is that the gospel is in reality a battle motif. That is to say, when Jesus stepped into history as the second (last) Adam he did so as the chief representative of God and man. After his anointing in the Jordan River by John, he is immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested for 40 days; the start of war.

Satan comes probably anticipating the same sort of results with Jesus that he had enjoyed with Adam[5], but to his chagrin he fails. In what comes as a precursor to the smashing of his head when Jesus is crucified (a bruising of his heel; cf. Gen 3.15; John 12.31), the man from Nazareth demonstrates dominion[6] subduing the earth and all that is in it (cf. Gen 1.28)[7] including even demonic forces that have their mouths shut and are effectively driven off wherever Christ Jesus marches (cf. Luke 4.33-36; Mark 5.1-13).

Why a battle motif? Why label the gospel in such a light? Why call Christ’s gospel, which the gospel of the kingdom—His Kingdom—a battle motif? Because that is the thematic scheme we see presented in the gospels. True, the Gospel According to Matthew is often seen as the one that emphasizes Jesus’ kingship in the line of David, but the reality is that all four gospels demonstrate that Jesus is Sovereign over the creation to which He was sent. He is the only one capable of binding the strongman and saving His people from their bondage. The salvation He offers is not just salvation from hell, but salvation from sin. Not just personal sin, but sin that has marred creation since the Fall in the garden.

Therefore, when Jesus says to the Jews in John 8, “If you will abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31-32). He is stating a total renewal of fallen mankind, for the ones who faithfully abide in His Word. Salvation from being a slave to sin, which is salvation from wrong thinking (i.e. being renewed in your mind according to godly wisdom, not earthly wisdom), from wrong speaking and acting (i.e. glorifying God with our words and actions through righteous/holy living; loving our neighbors as ourselves).

As Jesus told Pilate, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18.36-37). Jesus entered history as the rightful king and He established His sovereign authority over all of creation. His people, those who have been born again and by having done so have gained access to his kingdom (see John 3), are likewise charged to serve Him.

As king, he waged war against the forces of darkness. He addressed sinners, demons, and the ills that plague creation in individuals and societies, and He expects His children to do the same. The Lord waged war against sin and its effects and He leaves no room for neutrality for those who profess His Name.

The Battle Begins in Our Hearts

Of course, this war/battle first starts within individual hearts, but logically and naturally branches beyond personal aspirations to creational aspirations (all of creation). The gospel brings life and victory. As the old hymn goes, “Sing it, shout it, all day long! Victory unto the Lord now and forever!” We are at war with everything false posited against our Lord and Savior, and the gospel is the sweet-smelling victory to those who are being saved, but an unsavory scent of death to those who are perishing.

I suppose my encouragement to my brethren at this point is this: leave no stone uncovered, but expose all to the light of our Lord. Start first with your own life, but in turn address wrong with the truth wherever it may be found.  

ENDNOTES:


[1] I’m not insinuating that the gospel means different things for different people in a biblical sense. The gospel is defined biblically as God’s good-news. The gospel then is not subjective to man’s thoughts, but is submissive to God’s thoughts. Our definition must be shown to be drawn from Scripture, not our own personal whims.

[2] Henceforth, all Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

[3] I want to be clear here. Jesus is the essence of the living gospel. There is no gospel without him! Although, I hate when people say (even though I do not doubt they are well-meaning enough) that we need to live the gospel. The gospel is propositional truth. You cannot live a propositional truth, although such truth will affect the way one lives their lives. This is the gospel applied, but it is not the gospel—living or otherwise. With Jesus, I suppose one might call him a living embodiment of all the gospel entails, as His life was a sinless anomaly humanly speaking. He embodied the fullness of God the Father in fleshly form (cf. Eph 1.23; Col 1.19; 2.9), and through Him God revealed perfectly what He expects of His creation (meaning man; Heb 1:3).  

[4] It is of paramount importance that we recognize at this point that the wall of hostility revealed in fallen man is two-fold. On the first our lives are really dead things. In order for us to be in right relationship with God another life must be substituted for our own. In the past (O.T.), the ceremonial laws of sacrifice were given to the children of Israel (Jacob) as a means of demonstrating this need, for without another’s lifeblood the person in question remains dead in trespasses and sins (something Paul discussed earlier in Eph 2.1-3). On the second our lives before Christ are in hostility to our Creator. Before the Holy Spirit’s intervention into our lives we are the natural enemies of God (cf. Rom 5.10), what the same apostle quoted above noted previously in Romans 8:7-8 is how this position of man plays out in normative life: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. That who are in the flesh cannot please God” (italics added).

[5] Satan in the garden usurped Adam’s position as head over earthly creation. He was in a sense enthroned as a mock king, but the promise given in Gen 3:15 marked a time in history when his usurping butt would be effectively kicked off the throne. The would be king would be dethroned by the one true king, the rightful king, the one labeled “King of kings and Lord of lords,” the one that all other lesser creatures are forced to bow down to and pay homage. It is not coincidental that Psalm 110 is quoted more in the N.T. than any other passage in reference to Jesus, nor should we be surprised that that apostles appeal to Psalm 2 in Acts 4:24-30 as proof that God would hear their prayer and bless their efforts.

[6] Kings by nature rule for that is their role (lot) in life. Adam was created as a son of God and therefore a prince (mighty chief) over created things on this earth. As God’s representative, he was presented with the special privilege of glorifying His maker. In this, he failed the task set before him, but where he failed the last Adam did not. He, unlike the former, was the perfect representative of God—reflecting His glory at every point of contact in creation; and of man—demonstrating what true human living was to look like in loving God and loving neighbor in all righteousness.

[7] This includes creatures of the sea (Luke 5.4-7; John 21.5-8), the elements of the air (Mark 4.37-41), of water—turning water into wine (John 2.3-11), and even tiny creeping microorganisms, including our DNA in order to heal lepers, the blind, the lame and the dead raising them from their graves (cf. Matt 11.5). There are actually a plethora of verses that testify to these mighty deeds of our Lord

Posted in Christian Living, Christian Perspective, Christian Witness, culture, dominion, war, Worldview Analysis

We are called to War

Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. (Judges 3.1-2)

What sort of wars were these? Were these wars primarily physical battles or spiritual encounters? Why would we even care today? Sure, they are important historical truths encapsulated in that precious book we call the Holy Bible, but really what do those fights have to do with us?

We are not Israel, it is said. We are not living in Canaan, it is thought. Would it surprise you to realize that the fights that we witness in the past through these biblical accounts were not physical battles fought over the promise land. Nor were these skirmishes limited to the spiritual conquest of one people’s God over all others gods and goddesses. The fact remains that the fighting we witness in Canaan was both a physical and spiritual war.

An unfortunate reality has settled on the hearts/minds of the modern Church today. There is presented to members of the faith a false dichotomy of the spiritual versus physical realms. Tell me, how did the Lord God create us? Are we not both at the same time spiritual and physical beings. Persons that have flesh and bone, and yet at the same time a spiritual nature living within us.

Of course, such thinking has become taboo to some extent in what many like to identify as a scientific age. Cut us open and what do you see? To the psychologist or sociologist all that we are as human beings is seated in that three-pound mass within our skulls called a brain. No evidence of a spirit, therefore a spirit we do not have. Then again a spirit by its very nature lacks physical properties (cf. John 4.24; 2Cor 3.17). Our consciences, our rational thoughts, our emotions, etc. are not material things. We see and feel the actions of such things, but no one has ever looked at them or dissected them in the lab. Human beings for all that we are, we are not limited to matter in motion.

In the beginning God created us as both creatures of the physical realm with a spiritual essence, and He did so in order that we might represent His glory throughout the world. Therefore, every act, every thought, every word is intended to reflect the invisible Creator God; all of life is both physical and spiritual. “Okay,” you ask, “why the text above?” I’m glad you asked.

In the coming weeks, I will be discussing the Flood recorded in the book of Genesis. This will be in response to a few skeptical remarks I have heard by professing believers and skeptics alike. One such individual made the offhanded remark that God must have failed in His purpose for sending it, for it was not too long after Noah and his wife, and his sons and their wives got off the boat that they began sinning again. The assumption is that God was starting over to rid the world of evil, but He evidently failed in His goal.

God didn’t fail. That’s a fact, but we do fail in seeing the big picture. There are several deep truths revealed in the deluge of that period in human history. The one that I want to fix your attention on today is inheritance. The Lord gave a very clear example of what He expects of His creatures, and the dire consequences of sin. He also demonstrated who He intends to inherit this earth…His people. “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5.5).

Think about this for a moment, who did God create this world for? His people.

This is first demonstrated in the garden with our foreparents, and it is lastly promised in Revelation where we are told “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21.3). Throughout Scripture God demonstrates time and time again that He is longsuffering with sin and evil for His people (cf. 2Pet 3.9). He also explains that our purpose for being is to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen 1.26, 28), for this is how we glorify Him in word, thought and deed.[1]

The Purpose of the Canaanite Conquest

When Israel entered into Canaan they were exercising godly dominion. Pagan’s were in the land, they had been there for generations but their time was up. Just as the Flood came in judgment against sinful people, so too was judgment coming against those who purposefully and willfully rebelled against the God who had given them life.[2] This promise delivered to Abram (Abraham)[3] was fulfilled in the generation of Joshua:

  • Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh 21.43-45; italics added).

And yet, we read the passage at the head of this post that God left pagans in the land to test His people who were not trained in war. They were to physically drive out that which was considered abominations before the Lord. Things that we rightly identify as spiritual issues, but the physical actions are which are known as sins. The Israelites as God’s representatives were sent in as cultural marauders; minus the negative connotation we often associate with that word.

Failure to Follow Through

One of the glaring sins present in the book of Judges however was that rather than humbly submitting to the Lord as King they lived as if they had no king over them: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17.6; 21.25). Rather than confront the sinful culture before them, they married themselves to it. Thus, they were rightfully seen as adulterers before the Lord; unfaithful servants of the One True King.

The reward for their unfaithfulness to God was enslavement to a pagan culture. Eventually, overtime they began to cry out for aid. A generation would rise up that would identify their sin and beg for mercy from their God. In response, God would deliver them by raising up a judge (equivalent of a civil magistrate) who would lead them in the fight against the enslaving culture and God’s people would once again inherit the land for a season. Of course, if you’ve read the book of judges you will know that this cycle repeated itself over and over again until the time of Samuel who helped usher in the age of kings in Israel. Even then, if we read our biblical history we see that physical/spiritual battle ensued over and over again.

Our Current Dilemma: Whats this have to do with Us?

“Yes, Kris…that is all well and good, and probably true, but what does that have to do with us?” Uhm…EVERYTHING!

  • Question: Do we have a King? As Christians do we have a King over us? Or are we justified in doing what is right in our own eyes? (Yes, yes, I realize that is more than one question).
  • Answer: Yes, absolutely! Do we not say “Jesus is my Lord and Savior?” Do we not call Jesus, the Christ? Are you unaware that the name Christ (Messiah, the Hebrew equivalent) means the “anointed one of God…the King?”

“Yes, but Kris we are not called to exercise godly dominion, the dominion mandate was done away with at the fall.” Really? Can you turn me to the text(s) that state this is so, or is this merely an opinion that you possess either from tradition or desire? If the Bible has not nullified this command given at our beginning, then why would we be so foolish to assume that it no longer applies to us.

“Yes, but we are not Israel.” Oh…so God expected them to act one way, but He expects us to act another. Where is that taught to us in God’s Word? If the Bible has not taught us this, then why would we be so foolish to adopt this mindset.

Here are the facts as I see them, and I welcome any arguments to the contrary.

  1. Jesus is rightfully called the Christian’s Lord and Savior, and as such He is our King. To Him we do owe our fealty.
  2. The world is God’s creation and He intends to give it to His people who are faithful to Him and reflect His glory throughout. Like Israel we are faced with living in a culture that is naturally hostile to our Lord, our God.
  3. And, like Israel we are faced with the same choice: Live for God and confront the culture with the truth, or embrace what we know to be false and therefore in opposition against our Lord.

Either way a difficult way is before us. We may not have chosen our current situation, nonetheless it is upon us whether we will it or not. We continue to live like Lot with our heads in the sand, hoping someone rescues us all the while experience the judgment of our refusal to enter the fray. Or we can stand for the Lord and be hated by the world. Our generation may not see the full fruit of faithful labor, but perhaps our children or their children will.[4] Either way we are left with this charge:

  • “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt 28.18-20; italics added).

Those are our Christian marching orders, but here is how they are played out practically in confronting the culture:

  • “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2Cor 10.3-5; emphasis added).

Notice that he does not say we do not wage war, but that our weapons of warfare are not physical.[5] Yet, we fight every argument, every lofty opinion of men according to their traditions/philosophies, attacking their strongholds in order to bring them to obedience to Jesus Christ. Though our warfare is not fought with physical weapons it does have physical ramifications. Just as our failure to obey our King has physical ramifications today (e.g. unjust taxes, improperly defined marital unions and gender confusion, an influx of false religions, insurmountable debt, educational tyranny, etc.).

Closing Remarks…

In short, if you understand the analogy we have Canaanites in the land that because of our refusal to fight as faithful soldiers for Christ (as a holy priesthood should) who have a cultural stranglehold on us. Not only do we defame Christ’s Name by refusing to enter the public sphere, but we enslave our children to tyranny.

For this reason I am thankful for faithful men and women of God who risk all (carrying their cross) for Jesus Christ; such as Justin Hoke  from Weed, California who as a faithful minister of the gospel has endured great persecution from the very flock that he was trying to faithfully lead.

Praise God that He still has such servants in this nation; in this world. May we likewise continue the good fight, contending for the faith which has been entrusted to us (Jude 1.3; cf. Tit 1.9). May the Lord grant His children the courage and boldness to speak on every issue and to be silent on none (cf. Josh 1.6-9; Acts 4.29).

ENDNOTES:


[1] This type of dominion is to be expressed in the three covenantal branches that God has established: family, Church and state. The representative heads (father, elder and magistrate) in all three institutions are intended to exercise godly dominion in all that they do.

[2] In case someone would like to claim that this was unfair to the inhabitants of the land that Israel somehow stole it from them, know this all the earth is the Triune Creator God’s and He has the sovereign right to give it to whom He pleases. Those that rebel against the Lord do so on borrowed time because He allows it, but at the same time He promises that such individuals will not inherit the good that God has promised. This is true temporally and eternally. Turn to Leviticus 18, 20 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 to see many of the sins that were condemned by God, and were justifications for Him vomiting them out of the land giving the inheritance of the land (earth) to those who were zealous for God’s holiness.

[3] And they [your seed] shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’” (Gen 15.16-21)

[4] I realize that if you have a different eschatological bent than I do, you may think that this is the terminal generation, but I’m not convinced. Either way, we are called to live for the Lord which means to be a faithful spur in the side of a culture that promotes hateful rhetoric and sanctions against our God and His people.

[5] Or to use another analogy from Scripture: our swords have been beaten into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks (cf. Isa 2.4). No longer does God send His people out into the world to fight physical battles, for we have become seed sowers—spiritual farmers if you will (cf. Mark 4.3-20)—and yet our onward progress of cultural destruction towards cultural enlightenment is consistent with one who breaks up fallow ground removing the debris in order to get to the good soil of life (cf. Jer 4.3; Hos 10.12)