Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Evangelizology: Diagnosing the Disease of Many Questions: Sometimes in street evangelism, in the local church, or even in the classroom settings I encounter persons who pepper me with tangentia...
Sometimes in street evangelism, in the local church, or even in the classroom settings I encounter persons who pepper me with tangential questions. I barely construct an answer to their first question when very soon another one arises. In many cases, clear biblical answers do not bring them peace. They seem to be plagued with a specific ailment—the sickness of many questions.
Paul helped Timothy diagnose this disease in persons who sometimes make their way into local churches.
“If anyone teaches otherwise, and assents not to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the teaching which is according to godliness, he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but is morbid about questions and strifes of words, from which come envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind, and robbed of the truth, supposing that godliness is a means of gain.” 1 Tim 6:3-5-ABPS (1913).
There exists a “morbidity about questions” as this translation puts it—or a “sickness of trifling questions.” The prognosis of this ailment implies that those struck by this disease either ignore that they have it or cannot remedy their antagonistic cognitive thunderstorms.
They convulse under the spell of an epilepsy of doubt. Never satisfied with any answer from the Bible, their “pride of life” retrieves another juicy bone of contention to overwhelm their hopeful spiritual benefactor. Are these not the “wells without water and the clouds carried by the tempest” as described by Peter (2 Pet 2:17-NKJ)?
Who are these quasi-Christians beset with this deadly disease? How can they be vetted? Is there hope for them?
These quasi-Christians sound smart. They position themselves as brilliant, using Pyrrhonic logic they destroy any and all propositions made about God or man. They cloak themselves as contemporary Voltaire’s or David Hume’s. “They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth” (Psa 73:9).
Did Peter temporarily suffer from this ailment when he reproved the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:22? Did not pride swell his heart after God had revealed to him the true identity of Jesus?
In an interesting portion of Deuteronomy 29, God through Moses described a disease in this same family:
“So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.” Deut 29:18-19.
At the root of this disease called “wormwood” was total selfishness and pride: “I shall follow the dictates of my own heart!”
God does not tolerate this ailment. He promised that he would forcefully remove this diseased branch. “The Lord would blot out his name from under heaven.” (Deut 29:20). Likewise, Jesus borrowed the punishment language of Moses in John 15:
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6.
Meanwhile, quasi-Christians with this disease of disputes act as Christians and prey on Christians. It’s a game for them! Knowing the right words, they lack the necessary broken and contrite heart. They will not submit to the clear teachings of the Bible. Nor have they repented of their own total inability to save themselves. Rather they prefer their own imaginations about salvation. This disease is deadly!
People have honest questions. An honest question deserve a sincere answer--even if the answer is, “I don’t know.” But then, there is the disease of many questions. The attentive Christian, “wise as a serpent,” should early differentiate between the contrite heart and the crafty soul.
When recognized, Paul gave the admonition that the diseased person should be shunned after a first and second encounter.
“But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Titus 3:9-11.
Yet is there hope for such a quasi-Christian? Yes. Paul also held out an olive branch of expectation.
“And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 2 Thess 3:14-15.
Clearly, Paul’s response to a factious man was not a public burning at the stake. Rather, he held out the hope that this person might repent and accept admonishment.
Likewise, a discussion of the disease of many questions demands our godly introspection:
- Does your heart churn with antagonism and contradiction as you read and meditate on the teachings of the Bible?
- Is your heart quieted by the reproofs and promises of God’s words?
Certainly, if our heart is churning and chaffing against the Bible’s admonitions, then we have soul-searching to do. We ought not rest until we have repented of our sin of pride, and humbly submitted to God who speaks perfectly in, with, and by His Holy words.
If a brother or sister in our church appears struck with this ailment, reach out to them one time, then a second time. No more. Do not allow yourself to be caught in their trap, picking up their dreadful disease. After two encounters we can do no more. We must obey the teachings of Paul.
Deliver us, Lord, from the disease of many questions.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
The Old Testament is rich in describing Christian evangelism. This wealth complements New Testament teaching and practice. The Old Testament encourages an unusually bold witness in many ways. For example, there are at least six “do nots” for evangelism in the Old Testament that describe the bold witness that we find lived out on the pages of the New Testament.
- Be Not Afraid
“O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” Isaiah 40:9.
God told the seasoned evangelist, the Apostle Paul, “Be not afraid, but go on speaking and do not keep silent.” Acts 18:9. Be not afraid seems to be the first and foremost message that the Holy Spirit would speak to Christ followers in the face of an evangelism opportunity.
- Do Not Restrain Your Lips
“I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness In the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know.” Psalm 40:9.
The fear of man leads to a deceptively pious restraint. This restraint takes on many faces: “Is now the best time? Maybe God will give me a better opportunity tomorrow?” “Perhaps I have not yet built up a proper relationship with this person.” “I don’t think that they are not really interested in spiritual things anyways.” King David in Psalm 40 affirmed, “Indeed, I did not restrain my lips.”
- Do Not Hide
“I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.” Psalm 40:10.
The rulers of the Jews in John 12 hid their faith in Jesus, lest they be put out of the synaguogue. Their course of action was not confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Rather it was condemned. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43. King David did not hide the righteousness of God in His heart, but rather, he openly declared His salvation.
- Do Not Conceal
“I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth From the great assembly.” Psalm 40:10.
Right in the heels of “hiding” our knowledge of God and His salvation in our hearts, David continued synonymously. He affirmed that he had not “concealed” the love of God and the truth of God from the great assembly. King David remembered that he had not kept “concealed” within himself the glorious knowledge of the grace and truth of God.
- Do Not Be Silent
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.” Isaiah 62:6.
God combined His words from both Isaiah 62 and Isaiah 40 (as noted above), when he told Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but go on speaking and do not keep silent.” Acts 18:9. Once fear has chilled the heart of the Christian, his lips freeze shut in silence. On the other hand, when told to keep silent, Peter and John stated, “We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20. God commanded Paul, “Be not silent.”
- Do Not Rest
“You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest.” Isaiah 62:6.
Ultimately, our Blessed Hope is a heavenly rest. Our hope is not for a comfortable earthly rest. The Christian must put to death the selfish indulgence of laziness. While keeping all the responsibilities of life in a proper balance, particular attention needs to be taken to assure that we are not living in sloth evangelistically. Living a godly lifestyle, while necessary, is not a substitute for verbal evangelistic activity. So much have I felt this drift toward neglect within myself, that I purposefully carve out time for initiative evangelism into my regular weekly schedule—admittedly, the Coronavirus Pandemic and my wife’s simultaneous pneumonia has put a temporary hold on this activity. God commands His people, “Take no rest.”
Six “do nots” from the Lord from the Old Testament: be not afraid, do not restrain your lips, do not hide, do not conceal, do not be silent, and do not rest. A powerful message from the Holy Spirit. May these be taken as divine encouragement for all of God’s children.
Friday, January 24, 2020
“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 (NASB, also used below).
This verse on the disciple’s union with Christ and God in the reception and rejection of the gospel message is very striking indeed. According to this verse, when Jesus’ disciplea were proclaiming the good news—the context of this verse is the “Second Sending Passage in Luke”—their reception or rejection triggered or exemplified the hearer’s reception or rejection of the Godhead.
Consider several points here. This verse is not a one-off verse in the gospels. Jesus repeated this same interrelationship on two other occasions in Matthew 10:40 (before Judas went out for evangelism as one of the Twelve) and John 13:20 (spoken before Judas departed from the Twelve to betray Jesus).
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Matthew 10:40.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20.
Luke is the only biographer of Jesus who cited Jesus on the rejection of the gospel proclaimer. Four times Luke records Jesus using the verb “reject.” However, in both Matthew and John, Jesus focused His words—in those contexts—only on the hearer’s positive reception.
Amazingly, none of these three Scripture passages appears to be discussed in Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology, Erickson’s Christian Theology, nor in Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Culver mentions Matthew 10:40 in light of the contextual apostolic mission, without necessarily applying its teaching to all gospel proclamation. Garrett, in his Systematic Theology, cited Matthew 10:40 in light of a discussion of Jesus’ commission in John 20:21-23. None of the above authors appear to have cited Luke 10:16 or John 13:20 in their systematic theologies.
This omission is surprising, being that these verses do not appear inconsequential in understanding the God-Man interrelationship as explained in Scripture. Twelve other Scripture passages discuss this same concept (Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; Psalm 69:9; Ezekiel 3:6-7; Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 9:37; Luke 6:22-23, 26; John 15:20-21; 16:2-3; Hebrews 11:24-26; 12:3-4; and 1 John 4:5-6).
Even more powerful than the amazing interrelationship of the disciple with God is the “plenipotentiary” element invested in the Christian act of evangelizing. It appears that there is a spiritual oneness with God, invested in the act of evangelizing, that triggers an avalanche of spiritual activity around that act.
When a true follower of Christ engages in true gospel proclamation, a tsunami of spiritual forces unleash. The Word of God “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart,” laying bare every hidden thing (Hebrews 4:12-13). “Satan comes immediately” seeking to dislodge the Word from entering the hardpacked soil of the heart (Mark 4:15). The Holy Spirit convicts of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). The “god of this world” actively works to blind the minds of unbelievers lest “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:4). Meanwhile, the lost person—hearing the gospel—maybe for the first time—is confronted with a decision: reception or rejection. Reception or rejection of who? Not only the person speaking to him or her, but Christ and God Himself.
According to Jesus, receiving or rejecting the herald is much more than receiving or rejecting a Christian lovingly, humbly, and boldly telling of salvation available only by the blood of Jesus—sins forgiven—peace with God—guilt and shame blotted out.
The person may once, twice, maybe many times reject the gospel. The apostle Paul sure did. Prayerfully that person will one day hear and receive the evangelist—the Christ of whom he speaks—ultimately receiving God himself. But the odds are not good (Matthew 7:13-14). An eternal decision will be sealed one way or the other. The reception or rejection of the gospel herald, and simultaneously the reception or rejection of the Creator God.
“And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16.
How could it be that God would invest the decision for or against His eternal covenant bought by the blood of Jesus Christ into the efforts and mouths of His feeble followers? And such He has done. Yes, it is a sublime mystery.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.
William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1888 [1st ed.], 1889 [2nd ed.], 1894 [3 vol]; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003).
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983, 1984, 1985).
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1994; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
“The second purpose, that ‘he might send them out to preach,’ was completed in part when they returned from their first mission to announce to the Jews then living in northern Palestine the presence of the promised Messianic King and his kingdom (Matt. 10:5-7; cf. Luke 8:1-10). They did so as ministers plenipotentiary (Matt. 10:40)” (Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical [Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2005], 843).
“Preceded by the blessing of peace and followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit and the remission and retention of sins through the disciples [cf. John 20:21-23], the Johannine commission connects the mission of the Twelve with Jesus’ own mission from the Father. Do we have here only an analogy? Or does the mission of the Son form the ground and basis of the apostolic mission? The latter seems more likely (see Matt. 10:40).” (James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols, 2nd ed [North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL, 2005], 2:536).
Overlooking such a repeated concept appears likely for several reasons: (1) the power of precedent; (2) the framing of questions of salvation and conversion; (3) interpreting all these texts as applying only to their immediate context; and (4) widely divergent views on necessity, value, and means of evangelizing. By the way, these verses represent a fraction of the material on this topic. Consider also studies on Paul's use of "working together with God," and being "fellow-worker with Christ." There are a great number of analogous topics, indicating ministry by individual Christians on behalf of God in the name of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2).
Culver (ibid.). Plenipotentiary means “invested with full power.”
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
The term “Bible” is used in the title of this article because I speak of true words on a page. Sometimes the term “Word of God” applies to an ethereal ideal that has no basis in today’s world. The following text addresses the divine nature of the Bible, the Scriptures, or the Word of God.
My thoughts move to the Psalmist’s description of words on a page as found in Psalm 119. This man of God interweaved four concepts that portray the divine nature of the words of the Word of God, rightly transferred and applied to the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as to the New Testament.
- God’s Word is eternal.
While mentioned four times in Psalm 119:89, 144, 152, and 160, perhaps one verse will be enough to exemplify the Psalmists view of the eternality of Special Revelation: Psalm 119:152, “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”
- God’s special revelation is both righteous and upright.
Another truth repeated across the pages of Scripture and in 10 verses of Psalm 119: 62, 75, 106, 123, 128, 137, 138, 144, 160, and 164. Here are two verses that repeat these ideas several times: Psalm 119:137-138, “Righteous (tsedeq) art Thou, O Lord, And upright (yashar) are Thy judgments. Thou hast commanded Thy testimonies in righteousness (tsedeq) And exceeding faithfulness.”
- The truthfulness of God’s words
Is reaffirmed in Psalm 119:43, 142, 151, and 160. For example, Psalm 119:160 reads, “The sum of Thy word is truth, And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.”
- So also, God’s special revelation is deemed faithful
In Psalm 119:86 and 138. Psalm 119:138 reads, “Thou hast commanded Thy testimonies in righteousness And exceeding faithfulness.”
These four characteristics, eternality, righteousness, truth, and faithfulness are divine truths. The Psalmist seems to approach the Bible as if it were a divine book, not-at-all tainted by the sin nature of man. So also, a Psalm of David attributes to the written Word of God all the attributes of God:
Psalm 138:2, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.”
If, in fact, these things are true, would not God be required to create a “womb” around His Words, much like Jesus was kept pure from the sin nature of man within the womb of Mary? This womb would have to protect the original inscription of the individual words, and also the transcription of those words over the years.
It is clear that there is a mystery in the God-man homeostasis at work in all these processes. Further, it is obvious that the “serpent of old” was not asleep as God’s words became living and active agents of His will within this world. Yes, there are many complexities involved:
- Original inscription of the words from the mind of God and the mind of the human author.
- Original inscription of the words onto some type of medium: stone, velum, or papyrus.
- Transcription by numerous scribes through the years with the oversight of leaders: Priests and Levites for the Hebrew Scriptures, Bishops and Pastors for the New Testament Scriptures.
- The inevitability of some scribal error in the transcription processes.
- The storage, guarding, and maintenance of “best texts” by Bishops and Pastors within the history of the churches.
- The translation of these original language texts into the many languages of the world.
It appears, from Scripture, that God continues to guard these procedures. While they are not beyond the impact of “savage wolves … not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). God promised to preserve His words, and He is doing so in His way. Paul could speak to the Ephesian elders with divine assurance:
Acts 20:32, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
The “word of His grace” would preserve God’s people from the “savage wolves” he prophesied would ravage the flock of God. The only way that these words of grace could fulfill their promise of inheritance and accomplish their work of sanctification is if they themselves continued to perform these designated divine duties. God must-needs preserve His words. He has not left them to be devoured and twisted by the corruptions of men.
Psalm 12:6-7, “The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.”
How God is accomplishing this feat remains within the depth of the riches of His unsearchable wisdom.