Sunday, September 07, 2008

Go preach the gospel to Christians

When’s the last time you looked another Christian in the eye and said ‘Mate you’re a sinner. I know you have struggles, I know you’re tired but, deep down you’re wicked! That’s your real problem. But Mate - you’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ, carried on His heart before the Father, rejoiced over in the presence of the angels.’ Glen Scrivener. Amen!

Too often we assume that Christians know the gospel. We need to keep being told it. By each other. Too often we preach moralism in church to Christians - which is useless for the Christians, and preaches a false gospel to any visiting non-Christians. If we preached gospel on Sunday from all the scriptures we'd serve one another and be accessible to visitors. I don't mean gospel summaries - I mean the way that the scriptures declare the message of the gospel, in all their resplendent symphony. I don't mean to be reductionist, but more to sound the call of Peter Leithart in his book The Kingdom and The Power (p93)

"The Bible is a complex book.... however hard we try to think biblically, we have been subtly but deeply influenced by modern philosophy and science. Often when we have rejected the explicit conclusions of science, we unconsciously adopt a scientific mind-set. One example of this is our tendency to operate on the modern assumption that all ideas can be defined with infinite, scientific precision... the more you study the Bible, the mode you will find that it cannot be forced into this mold.... Bavinck said that modern (and ancient Greek) thinkers attempted to find the 'essence' of a thing... by subtraction... Scripture, by contrast, describes the essence of a thing by addition. Only when we know the fullness of a thing, all of its attributes, do we really know its uniqueness and 'essence'. God's 'essence' is not some 'bare minimum'... 

We need the gospel as Matthew lays it out. And as Mark does. And as Luke does. And as John does. Not to mention the gospel according to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy etc. We Christians need this, and so does this world. This must be the song of the church.

ps: Leithart's The Kingdom and The Power and Solomon among Postmoderns are two of the most interesting, well-written and thought provoking books I've read this year. The former on the centrality of the church the later on postmodernism and Ecclesiastes. Something else influenced by Peter Leithart: David, Goliath, St George and the garden of Eden.

5 comments:

  1. The gospel doesn't tell people they're sinners, the law does. The gospel is purely the good news, though the law is rightfully presented to the unbeliever, it is wrong to preach it to the believer as if they were under it. This idea that believers are evil deep down inside isn't biblical or helpful, it assumes they are still under law and that the gospel is actually not powerful enough to deliver people fully from the slavery of sin. Loved the last part of the quote though! WE are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and even better, deep down, Christ lives in us!

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  2. Hi Jul,

    I think you are both right and wrong. The law is for the unbeliever in the sense that the condemnation it brings is tragically the last word for unbelievers. However it is also for believers too, but as the first word to prepare us for the second word of the gospel. Glen is technically preaching both law and gospel to his friend. I think we do need to do this. We are simultaneously both sinner and saint - but saint is our primary identity. The old/outer has been put to death in Christ, but Paul still commands us to continue putting it to death. Paul recognises your concerns in calling it 'old' because it is past, but it still persists.

    Sorry that is quite a hasty response, and probably not as balanced as it should be, but feel free to challenge.

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  3. I grant it could be misread, however - our problem is the misplaced continuing presence of sin in our lives. That really is our big problem. And what we need is not to be left to languish in that, or to let ourselves imagine we're victims of our circumstance. That sometimes needs to be said.

    And given that, to then say: rejoice in the gospel - that we're counted righteous, Spirit-filled, adopted sons. Stop sowing to the dead sinful nature.... no! Walk by the Spirit. Stay in step with the gospel. Chiefly such counsel is YES to SONSHIP.

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  4. I have to disagree with the idea that the law should be preached to believers...according to 1 Timothy the law is useful when used lawfully, that is, for the unjust not the just. It's counterproductive to use the law to teach a believer anything, essentially it seems you're saying that we need saving over and over again unless I misunderstood...

    Did you have Scripture to support using the law as believers for something other than evangelism? I guess I'm directing this to Dave K...

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  5. Good to challenge me to prove it! Firstly let me emphasise that I do think you are partly right. The law is for believers in a different way than it is for unbelievers and to apply it in that way is wrong. Anyway, there are lots of ways in which I could answer your challenge for me to show it from the scriptures.

    Firstly, we could consider whether the Mosaic law was given as part of God evangelising Israel, or as part of their walk as children of God. I think it is a bit strange to claim that the law was meant for them as 'unbelievers'. It was meant to condemn them and lead them to Christ, but after they had already been rescued from Egypt. In this ways it mirrors the role it has for Christian believers. We have been saved. We have suffered slavery in Egypt but experienced the exodus. However, those events are replayed in our lives as we seek the full experience of the promised land that is promised. Just as they performed the Passover every year reminding themselves of the condemnation of the law, but God’s grace in the Gospel, so we perform the Lord’s supper reminding ourselves of the same things (as fulfilled in Christ).

    Secondly, we could consider the use of the law in the NT. Romans was clearly written to believers in Rome but the first part is concerned with teaching the message of the law.

    But I think the best way to go is to see the themes of sin/death/law and how Paul deals with those in the life of the believer. It is true that he sees sin/death/law as past in the lives of believers:

    PAST

    "our old self was crucified with him" (Romans 6:6)
    "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
    "you have put off the old self" (Colossians 3:9)
    "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death" (Romans 6:4)
    "we have been united with him in a death like his" (Romans 6:5)
    "I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20)
    "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24)
    "the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14)
    "you also have died to the law through the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4)
    "we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive" (Romans 7:6)
    "one has died for all, therefore all have died" (2 Corinthians 5:14)
    "I died to the law, so that I might live to God" (Galatians 2:19)
    "you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3)

    But they are past in our lives because we are 'in Christ'. I don't think that you can be 'in Christ' to different degrees, but that reality is not yet fully played out in our lives as yet. So that sin/death/law -> righteousness/life/grace dynamic needs happen every day in our life until it reaches its climax in our physical death and physical resurrection.

    PRESENT

    "death is at work in us" (2 Corinthians 4:12)
    "I die every day" (1 Corinthians 15:31)
    "we are being killed all the day long" (Romans 8:36)

    FUTURE

    "put off your old self" (Ephesians 4:22)
    "put to death the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13)
    "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you" (Colossians 3:5)


    MIXTURE

    "Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor 5:7).

    That is not to say that our taking up the cross daily means that we start again from the beginning each day. We have been saved! Nevertheless, if we the law is totally passed we would not physically die, but the condemnation of the law was exhausted on Christ so this only serves to unite us with our King who suffered under the law too, but overcame it! So the law still works in the life of the believer but for their good (all things work together…).

    Returning to 1 Timothy 1. Paul does say that the law is laid down for the lawless and disobedient. He says that was what he once was. But then he says that he is the foremost of sinners (1:15). So primarily I believe that the law is for unbelievers. However, the old (lawless and disobedient) man remains in our lives and still needs the law to be applied to it.

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