Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Four All’s of the Great Commission

We become set in our ways and comfortable in our lives. Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult to depart from our comfort zones, but to be a participant in the Great Commission we must leave our comfort zones and usual way of doing things. This past week I was taken far from my comfort zone and usual way of doing things. I spent the week assisting with the teaching of disciples, at a week-long seminar, in a foreign country that I never imagined visiting. This morning I write to you from that country under a shade tree while waiting to depart to the airport and head back home. The seminar concluded yesterday evening and the students were all dismissed to their churches. The details of the trip are not important for this writing, but the fact that I spent the last week far from my comfort zone and usual way of doing things in obedience to the Great Commissions is important. The words of Christ in Matthew 28:16-20 are known by the disciples of Jesus Christ as the Great Commission and I would like to talk this morning about the four “all’s” given by our Lord and Savior in the Commissioning of his church for the work of the kingdom of God. 

All Authority

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Mt 28:18b)
As the Divine second person of the Trinity, the Son has always had authority as the firstborn of all creation; however, following his death, burial and resurrection the Son has new authority as the first to rise from the dead. As a result of his death, burial and resurrection Jesus has the authority to give eternal life to all whom the Father gives him. As the head of a new creation Jesus gives his marching orders to the church. (Mt 29:19-20)

All Nations

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:19)
“All nations” does not mean that every human would become a disciple, but it does mean that as the head of the new creation our Lord Jesus Christ intends for people from every nation, every tribe, every people, and every tongue on the earth to hear the gospel and become disciples of his Word. There will be persons from every nation, every tribe, every people and every tongue in the kingdom of God which is already inaugurated and yet to come in consummation. 
The new disciples are to be baptized by the mature disciples. When a new believer is baptized he/she is identifying themselves with Trinitarian Theology; God is one divine being subsisting eternally in three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) all of whom are equally God in essence. By receiving believer’s baptism, he/she is acknowledging that God is their Father, that Jesus Christ is his/her Lord and Savior, and that the Holy Spirit is the One who indwells him/her, regenerating them to believe and observe all that Christ commanded.

All Commandments 

“Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Mt 2:20a)
Some believe that the great commission is evangelism; if they point out to an unbeliever that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23) that the wages of sin is death, (Rom 6:23a) that Christ died for our sins and was buried and was raised on the third day; (1 Cor 15:3-4) then if the person they preached the gospel to repents and believes then they think that they have fulfilled the great commission. The Great Commission includes evangelism; however, the Great Commission is far more than evangelism. The Great Commission is the purpose for which the church exists. It is not enough to just make converts, we are to make disciples. Disciples need to be taught to obey the commandments of Jesus Christ as found throughout the Bible (not just the New Testament), but the disciples should be taught to understand all of the Scripture in light of the New Testament. The disciple should become like his/her teacher and this is accomplished through a systematic teaching of and submission to all of the Word of God.

Always

“and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20b)
This is the promise of our Lord before he ascended to the righthand of the Father and is a promise for the missionary to hold on too. As we are going in obedience to the Great Commission Christ promises to be with us always and he will be with us all the way to the end of the age. That means when we depart from our comfort zones and usual way of doing things, going to a foreign land that we never imagined going to, to do the work of the Great Commission: making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, and teaching them to observe all of our Lord’s commandments; we do not go alone or unaided because he is with us all the way to the end. In all of our service and all of our travels the Lord Jesus Christ is with us always.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Voice in the Wilderness

Perea was the region beyond the Jordan and Herod Antipas was Tetrarch there during John’s ministry. Antipas was the Herod who had John imprisoned and beheaded. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod imprisoned John in the castle Macherus which was located in Perea.[1]Therefore, this meeting between John and the Jewish leaders has John’s imprisonment and death as its backdrop. 
During John’s ministry, the majority of the priests were from the sect of the Sadducees and rarely were they of the Pharisees because these two groups were in opposition to one another. The Sadducees were a Jewish religious/political group in the first century A.D. In the New Testament, especially the gospels, the Sadducees often appear beside the Pharisees because both groups were in opposition to Jesus and his followers.[2]However, by saying, “Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees,” (Jn 1:24) the author brings the reader’s attention to the sect of the Pharisees. 
The Pharisees were a group dedicated to the Jewish law, especially those laws concerning food, the Sabbath, tithing and ritual washing. In the Gospel According to John the Pharisees are mentioned nine times. (cf. Jn 1:24; 4:1; 7:32, 45-52; 8:3-20; 11:45-57; 12:19, 42; 18:3) The disciple whom Jesus loved also frequently uses the phrase, “the Jews.” It is likely that this phrase is indicative of the Pharisees, or at least those who follow their pharisaical teaching.[3]
Early Christian tradition and a strong majority of scholars date the Gospel According to John to the last decade of the first century A. D., and most believe that it reflects a Palestinian milieu, although the apostle may have written his account from Ephesus. Regardless of origin, the account reflects a Palestinian tradition as wells as that of Diaspora Judaism.[4]Like authors today, the apostle focused on material that was relevant to his audience. After A. D. 70 (the Roman destruction of the temple), Pharisaism became a dominant voice in Judaism because the temple’s destruction ended Sadducean priestly dominance. In the decades following the temple’s destruction, Jewish believer’s and non-Christian Pharisees came increasingly into conflict, this conflict has been recorded in early rabbinic sources.[5]Therefore, the author begins his gospel account with John’s testimony to the Pharisees.
In this text, there are four Old Testament figures represented: the promised Messiah (the Christ), Elijah, the Prophet (Moses), and Isaiah. Jewish people anticipated Elijah’s return per Mal. 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” They did not conceive that the Messiah would come first as a Lamb before returning as a Lion to execute judgment. The Prophet mentioned here is a prophet like Moses: Dt. 18:15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.” John denied that he is the Christ, Elijah, nor the Prophet but did claim to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness per Is. 40:3 and Mal. 3:1, the context of which is comforting God’s people through a messenger from the Lord.
In Judaism, it was Gentile converts who were baptized in order to cleanse their flesh, yet John baptized Jews; therefore, this confused the Pharisees, because it demonstrated John’s belief that all men needed cleansing. The Pharisees, however, considered themselves clean. They ate the right foods, they observed the sabbath, they tithed, and they did the ritual washings. 
Often, when I preach the gospel outdoors in the public square, someone will accuse me of being self-righteous and judgmental. If John believed all men needed cleansing, one would assume that he believed himself to be clean since he was the one doing the baptizing. Yet, John tells the Pharisees that there is one coming after him who is better than him, whose sandal strap he is not worthy to loosen. (Jn. 1:27) During the first century, a slave carried his master’s sandals; yet John who baptized men in need of cleansing believed himself unworthy to loosen Jesus sandals.

Questions:

1.    What did the text mean to the original audience?
2.    What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
3.    What is the theological principle(s) in the text?
·     The principle should be reflected in the text.
·     The principle should be timeless and not tied to a specific situation.
·     The principle should not be culturally bound.
·     The principle should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture.
·     The principle should be relevant to both the biblical and the contemporary audience.
4.    How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle(s)?


[1]Josephus, Josephus the Complete Works, trans. William Whiston, A.M. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 18.2.
[2]M. L. Strauss, “Sadducees,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nded. Joel B. Green, et al., eds., (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013) 823-824.
[3]L. Cohick, “Pharisees,” inDictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nded. Joel B. Green, et al., eds., (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013) 673, 675.
[4]C. S. Keener, “John, Gospel of,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nded. Joel B. Green, et al., eds., (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013), 422.
[5]Ibid, 424.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Overcomer

Overcomer
(Image: overcomermovie.com)
I had the privilege of watching the recent Kendrick Brothers movie “Overcomer.” I have enjoyed their movies in the past, but “Overcomer” is by far their best production. There is much in Overcomer to talk about having now seen it, but there are two things that I saw in the advertisements that caused me to go see the movie: First, I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and I knew through the advertisements that Overcomer was a Christian movie; however, I must admit that I am usually leery of supposed Christian movies because they do not all contain sound theological doctrine. Second, I knew through the advertisements that the main character in the movie was a cross-country runner and cross-country running was my sport in high school. I transitioned to road running after high school; to the honor and glory and praise of God I am still running thirty-two years later.
Overcomer, however, is not a movie about cross-country running, it is a movie about overcoming the world (sin) through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The scriptural basis for the movie is 1 John 5:5, “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
I am not going to give you a summary of the movie, you would be better served by seeing the movie yourself, but I would like to talk about some of the doctrine in the movie. When the lead character (Hannah) repented and received our Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone, her high school principal who had just preached the gospel to her and exhorted her to repent and believe further instructed her: “Hannah, there is something that I want you to do. In the New Testament, in the book of Ephesians, read the first 2 chapters and write down everything that the scriptures say you are in Christ Jesus. Will you do that?” Note that the principle instructed Hannah to do this exercise after she received our Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone and not before.
I came home after watching Overcomer and did the exercise that the high school principal instructed Hannah to do. I read the first 2 chapters of Ephesians and wrote down everything that the scriptures say we are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, to conclude this post, I am going to write these out for you in consecutive order because I was blessed by doing this exercise in the Word of God.

In Christ Jesus:

We are blessed by God in the heavenly places. We were chosen by God before the foundation of the world. We are holy and blameless before God. We are adopted by God. We were predestined for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ by the kind intentions of His heart. We are loved by God for He calls us His beloved. We are redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ which means that we are not an accident, He had to plan our redemption. We are forgiven by God according to the riches of His grace. Having believed, we are sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit. We were all previously dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ. Like Christ Jesus, we were once dead, but we have been resurrected from the dead. Not only did God raise us from the dead but He has seated us in the heavenly places. We are therefore saved from sin and death. We are created by God for good works. We are citizens of heaven and as His adopted children we are of God’s very own household. (Eph 1,2) 

Nursing and the Law of Christ

The Lord’s teaching recorded in John 13-21 is amazing. It is what the apostle Paul calls "the Law of Christ." (Cf. 1 Cor. 9:2...