Friday, January 24, 2020

The Christian’s Spiritual Interrelationship with Christ and God in Evangelism

“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,[1] Erickson’s Christian Theology,[2] nor in Grudem’s Systematic Theology.[3] Culver mentions Matthew 10:40 in light of the contextual apostolic mission,[4] 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.[5] 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).[6]
Even more powerful than the amazing interrelationship of the disciple with God is the “plenipotentiary” element invested in the Christian act of evangelizing.[7] 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.

[1]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).
[2]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983, 1984, 1985).
[3]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1994; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
[4]“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).
[5]“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).
[6]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).
[7]Culver (ibid.). Plenipotentiary means “invested with full power.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Divine Nature of the Bible

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.