Gospel Presentation

(Continued from previous post)

3) Why do we preach belief only but not perseverance (v.15) as part of the gospel?

We preach belief because that’s the model in the NT e.g. in Acts:

  • Acts 2:38, 40 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
  • Acts 3:16, 19 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. … Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
  • Acts 8:35-37 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 
  • Acts 10:42-43 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
  • Acts 16:30-31 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
  • Acts 17:3-4 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
  • Acts 17:30-31 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In all 8 evangelistic sermons to non-believers, whether by Peter, Phillip, or Paul, the focus is always on believe in Jesus, not perseverance. Do they preach perseverance at all? Yes, but to disciples, not to non-believers:

  • Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

The sequence is therefore first faith in Christ to be saved, then strengthen their faith to persevere. We do it not to sugarcoat the gospel, but to follow the natural order of first new birth, then nurture.

4) While justification is by faith, faith by itself without deeds is dead, but we don’t mention it as part of the gospel presentation. Why?

Faith is “proven” by works to show that it is “saving faith”:

  • Jas 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
  • Jas 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
  • Jas 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
  • Jas 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
  • Jas 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
  • Jas 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

It’s not that we don’t mention deeds as part of the gospel. We do, but we are careful to point out that “works” is a result of faith, not a cause for our salvation. We emphasize this because the teaching of world religions, as well as the prevalent secular worldview, is that you save yourself by doing good deeds, which is wrong.

We know the value of good works:

  • Mt 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • 1 Tim 2:10 [adorn themselves] … but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
  • 1 Tim 5:10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
  • 1 Tim 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

We just don’t want non-believers to confuse “works” as a means to salvation. It isn’t. It is an “end”, not a “means”.

(To be continued)

Advertisements

John the Baptist and Elijah

Q. Is there any connection between Lk 1:17 and Malachi 4:5-6 ? Why is John the Baptist compared to Elijah? Is Malachi talking about the 2 witnesses before the Millennium ?

A. Yes, Lk 1:17 is a quotation from Mal 4:5-6. The wording is not identical as the former is in Greek while the latter in Hebrew:
Lk 1:17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
• Mal 4:5-6 Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

Some are puzzled over why John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, especially in the power of Elijah. Elijah performed many miracles, but John did not perform any. Where is the power? The similarity is in the spirit or nature of their ministry.

Elijah was God’s prophet who called Israel to repentance:
1 Kgs 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
• 1 Kgs 18:39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.

His ministry truly turned hearts to repentance. He restored the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their.

When John the Baptist came, the focus of his ministry was also repentance:
Mt 3:1-2 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
• Lk 3:3-6 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. ‘EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.’”

John’s ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa 40:3-5. Even Jesus acknowledged that John came in the spirit & power of Elijah:
Mt 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.
• Mt 17:12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. (Also Mk 9:13)

The power was in turning hearts to repentance, not performing miracles.

A second confusion over the quotation from Mal 4:5-6 arises because it applied to both Comings of Christ. The fulfillment in Christ’s First Coming was in John the Baptist. Elijah’s presence during Christ’s Second Coming will be in:
Rev 11:3-6 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

Elijah is not mentioned by name, but the description of calling down fire from heaven and shutting up rain fitted him:
2 Kings 1:10 Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (Also 2 Kgs 1:12)
• 1 Kgs 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
• Lk 4:25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land;
• Jas 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

The references to turning water into blood and plagues fitted Moses (Ex 7:17-21). Interpreters differ whether these are two literal witnesses modeled after Elijah and Moses, or symbolic of God’s servants during the great and terrible day of the LORD. My humble opinion is the former.

Divorce or Forgive?

woman caught in adultery 1

Q. We’ve been married over 20 years but my adulterous husband lost our store and all our savings at the casino. On top of that he has a mistress who is only after his money. Can I divorce him, or should I forgive such a deadbeat dad?

A. It is extremely difficult when your husband is like that, when the man you have entrusted your life to caused all the pain by his philandering and gambling addiction. Whether you should divorce or forgive him depend on two biblical principles and his repentance.

Although God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), He allows it under one exception:
Mt 5:32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
• Mt 19:9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Unchastity or immorality is any illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sexual relationship with close relatives (Lev 18), and with a divorced man or woman (Mk 10:11-12). When a husband or wife is unchaste or immoral, they have broken their marriage covenant, and the innocent spouse is allowed to divorce the guilty party. This is a permissible exception to the general rule of “no divorce”, though not mandatory. Forgiveness is possible if the guilty party repents.

The second principle is based on how Jesus dealt with the situation in John 8:3-15. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to test Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. Then He straightened up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” They began to go out one by one, and He and the woman were left alone. Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.

The Bible did not say what Jesus wrote, but scholars have suggested the 10 Commandments as the essence of the Law, or the sins the crowd were guilty of. They did not condemn her because they themselves are not without sin, so were not qualified to stone her. Jesus forgave the adulteress, but with a condition, that she sin no more. He asked her to repent.

The same applies to us. Which one of us is without sin? We may not have committed the act of adultery, but Jesus said in Mt 5:28 that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. We may not be compulsive gamblers, but if we have been greedy we are covetous and will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Co 6:10; Eph 5:5). If God has forgiven us our sins, we can forgive those who sin against us, including unfaithful and squandering spouse, provided they repent.

What if the womanizing and prodigal spouse does not repent? Do we still take him back? In this case I believe the right thing to do is to protect the children. They are innocent and do not deserve to be dragged down with their irresponsible father. The tough love option is to let the delinquent husband-dad go and suffer the consequences of his folly. Let the other woman desert him after his money is gone so that he’ll wake up. Do not cover his debts for him. Get on with your own life for the sake of your children. Let God deal with your husband in His way and His time. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31).

Does Prayer Change Things? (2 of 3)

prayer changes things 4

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the healing of Hezekiah which prompted opposing views as to the efficacy of prayer. Today we examine the evidence supporting each side.

Those who believe “God does not change His mind” feel that since God is omniscient, He already knows Hezekiah will pray and He will heal him. He just did not tell him in advance so that he will turn to God for everything, big (e.g. Sennacherib 2 Kings 19:14-19) and small (personal illness). They explained the verses indicating “the Lord changed His mind” as only apparent from man’s perspective, as “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Those who believe “God changes His mind” feel that with respect to major decrees – what God has sworn and purposed – indeed the LORD does NOT change His mind. These decrees are of eternal significance and can never be changed. However, with respect to lesser issues, e.g. pronouncing misfortune on His people in order to make them repent, God’s plan provides for alternative outcomes based on how they respond to His warnings. If they repent, God will relent on the punishment. If they persist in their evil, then God will send the harm He threatened them with.

To use a journey as an illustration, the “No Change” school is like God planning the complete itinerary, including destination (ends) and side tours (means). Everything is predestined, unchangeable. The “Change” school is like God fixing only the final destination, but allowing “options” giving people choice for side tours. You always end up where God wants you, because God is sovereign, but there is flexibility in the means.

Which school is correct? I believe the weight of the evidence is on the latter, as follows:

1. Besides Ex 32:12,14; Jer 26:13, 19; and Amos 7:3,6, there is a preponderance of passages speaking of the LORD relenting from calamity when His people turns from evil:

2 Sam 24:16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!
• Ps 106:45 And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His loving-kindness.
• Jer 15:6 “You who have forsaken Me,” declares the LORD, “You keep going backward. So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am tired of relenting!
• Jer 18:8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
• Jer 42:10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.
• Joel 2:13-14 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, …
• Jonah 3:9-10 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
• Jonah 4: … for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

All the passages speak of God relenting (changing His mind) when His people turn from their wicked ways, because of His great loving-kindness.

(To be continued)