Archive for May, 2013

What is Christ’s View of the Bible?: Conclusion

By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor

Christ’s view of Scripture should be our own view of Scripture. That has been my argument in this series. We live in a world and culture where Scripture is scrutinized and dissected—and not only by Spirit-filled Christians, who are zealous to know and understand it—but also by educated, influential unbelievers, who wish to undermine and tear down the influence of Scripture.

There is no doubt in my mind that Scripture is able to withstand any and all attacks that are made against it. It’s not difficult for God to preserve, disseminate, and exalt his Word. Still, we know that some Christians have questioned their faith due to the attacks made against Scripture in our day. That is a sad reality, but it’s one that can be combated forcefully by one simple consideration: what does Christ think about the Scripture?

So in this series, we’ve seen that Christ’s view of Scripture never wavered. In the Gospels, we see Jesus as one who had an exalted view of Scripture, as one who staked his life (and his resurrection!) on the accuracy, truthfulness, and authority of Scripture. Since Jesus is the Savior and Son of God we proclaim and hold on to, it makes sense that whatever Christ’s view of Scripture is, that should be our view as well. Briefly, I want to cover just one more aspect of Christ’s high view of Scripture: Christ was condemned because of one quotation of Scripture.

1. One Quotation of Scripture—and Christ Was Condemned
 

Upon Christ’s betrayal and arrest, he was taken before the Sanhedrin to face charges of blasphemy. Because Jesus was a sinless man, the authorities attempted to get their verdict by using the false testimony of several “eye witnesses.” But whenever they bore false witness against Christ, they couldn’t get their stories to agree.

So that’s where Jesus’ confrontation with the high priest starts:

“Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:60–64)

In Mark’s account, Christ answered the high priest’s question very dramatically, using the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush: “I am.” And then, in order to help them see the truth of the incarnation from Scripture, he quotes the “Son of Man” vision from Daniel 7. In that vision, Daniel saw “one like a Son of Man” coming into the presence of God (the “Ancient of Days”) and being worshiped by all the peoples of the earth.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Dan 7:13–14)

This vision is astonishing because the “Son of Man” is clearly human, yet he is given divine privileges: glory and worship. He comes on the clouds of heaven right into the presence of Almighty God. Who is this “Son of Man” in Daniel 7? This can only be Jesus Christ, and it was for this reason that “Son of Man” was Christ’s favorite title for himself.

At that key moment of Jesus’ life, he “proved” his deity and humanity by the key passage of Scripture in the Bible given for that purpose: Daniel 7. But he also knows that his accusers will not accept this proof and that it will actually be instrumental in his own death. All of it was happening according to the eternal plan of God for the death of Christ and the salvation of sinners all over the world.

And Jesus’ quotation of Scripture at that key moment was central to it all: “And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

2. Conclusion
 

In this study, we have looked at ten different themes of Jesus’ view of Scripture:

Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture
Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture
Christ Taught the Unbreakable Authority and Permanence of Scripture
Christ Lived Sinlessly Moment by Moment By All Scripture
Christ Staked His Life on Even Obscure Details in Scripture
Christ Proved His Deity by a Single Word of Scripture
Christ Proved the Resurrection by a Single Verb Tense in Scripture
Christ Instilled Passion about Scripture in the Hearts of His Disciples
Christ Taught “What Scripture Says, God Says”
Christ was Condemned Because of One Quotation of Scripture

Therefore, why should an Christian be intimidated by some supposed “expert” who questions Scripture? Even if they have three PhDs and are well-known in their field—even if they are arrogant, humorous, winsome, and persuasive—even if they bring up unanswerable minutiae from the genealogies or other details you haven’t thought about. Christ’s view of Scripture, as we have seen, is this: it is the very word of God, perfect in every way, and a sure and reliable guide to eternal life through faith in him.

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What Scripture Says, God Says

By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor

Sometimes people have a tendency to think that prose text in narrative is just the work of the human author, but that only the actual quotations of God or of Christ are truly the words of God. That is perhaps seen in the mentality behind the “red-letter” editions of the Bible, in which the words of Jesus are printed in red, and all the other words are in black.

I’m certain, however, that Jesus would not have supported such a distinction. In his mindset, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16), and even the most obscure parts of a historical narrative are equally the words of God—just as much so as the direct quotations following the formula: “Thus says the Lord …”

This is proven in the teaching of Christ in Matthew 19, where he teaches about divorce. There, the Pharisees come to Jesus to try to trap him with his teaching on divorce. They just want to kill him, and so they try to ensnare him just as John the Baptist was ensnared by preaching against Herod’s divorce and remarriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife.

In that chapter, Jesus makes this clear statement about divorce:

“’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate’” (Matt 19:4–6).

The simple point here is not so much Jesus’ views on divorce—as important as they are. Rather, it is a simple point Christ is making about Scripture. In his answer to the Pharisees, Jesus says the Creator does two things: (1) he makes them male and female; and (2) he makes a vital statement about them: “For this reason man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” The fact that the Creator does both these things is proven by the words “and said” underlined above.

What makes this important for our study is that, if you go back to Genesis 2:24, the quotation Jesus is citing, it is not ascribed to God the Creator at all. It does not say, “And the Creator said, ‘For this reason …’” It is merely a part of the Old Testament narrative that Moses wrote. But that doesn’t matter! If it is in the Bible, God said it! As Augustine put it, “What Scripture says, God says” (De adulterinis coniugiis ad Pollentium 1b). This means, then, in the mind of Christ, even the smallest narrative passages are the very words of God. And we should think that way about all the words of Scripture as well.

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Editor’s note: The previous posts in this series on Christ’s view of the Bible can be found by clicking the following links: (1) What is Christ’s View of the Bible?: An Introduction; (2) Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture; (3) Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture; (4) Christ Taught the Unbreakable Authority & Permanence of Scripture; (5) Christ Lived Sinlessly Moment by Moment  by All Scripture; (6) Christ Staked His Life on the Word of God; (7) Christ Proved His Deity By a Single Word of Scripture; (8) Christ Proved the Resurrection by a Single Verb Tense in Scripture; and (9) Christ Instilled Passion for the Scriptures in His Followers.

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Christ Instilled Passion for the Scriptures in His Followers

By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor

We can also see Christ’s view of the Bible in how he instilled passion about and for the Scripture in the hearts of his disciples, especially after his resurrection. Luke 24 show this more clearly than any other place. On the morning of Christ’s resurrection, two dejected and bewildered disciples were walking on the Road to Emmaus. Suddenly, a stranger came up alongside them and began walking with them. I’ve cut and pasted the account for you here:

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’

“They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:15–32)

In this account, we see Jesus seeking one goal: to minister hope in the resurrection in the hearts of his downcast disciples by means of the Scripture. It is actually even more powerful an incident because they didn’t know it was Jesus. For then it was merely the truth he showed them in the Scriptures that caused their hearts to inflame with faith, joy, love and passion.

Thus, it is that all of us can have hearts “burning within us” while Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, “opens the Scriptures to us.” Jesus desires to kindle that same flame inside your heart and mine today!

So also, later in Luke 24, he has the same goal with his apostles. He appeared to them in the upper room, and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive. He showed them his wounds, spoke to them, and ate a piece of broiled fish in their presence. But especially he taught them the Scriptures.

“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” (Luke 24:44–48)

Christ focused on the Scripture as the perfect supplement to the physical evidence of his bodily presence. He had the power to do something in their clouded minds, opening their minds to enable them to understand the Scripture. He wants to do the same thing in your mind and that of each of his children today around the world.

Jesus’ zeal, then, to minister the Scripture to his disciples after his resurrection is great evidence of his perfectly high view of Scripture.

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Editor’s note: The previous posts in this series on Christ’s view of the Bible can be found by clicking the following links: (1) What is Christ’s View of the Bible?: An Introduction; (2) Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture; (3) Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture; (4)Christ Taught the Unbreakable Authority & Permanence of Scripture; (5) Christ Lived Sinlessly Moment by Moment  by All Scripture; (6) Christ Staked His Life on the Word of God; (7) Christ Proved His Deity By a Single Word of Scripture; and (8) Christ Proved the Resurrection by a Single Verb Tense in Scripture.

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Christ Proved the Resurrection by a Single Verb Tense in Scripture

By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor

In my last post on Christ’s view of Scripture, we saw how Christ proved his deity by a single word in Psalm 110, “adonai.” In like manner, Jesus proved the resurrection from the dead by a single verb tense in a famous passage of Scripture. The Sadducees, a group of religious experts during the time of Jesus who denied the resurrection from the dead, came to Jesus with a test case in an effort to prove that there can be no resurrection. After dealing with their ridiculous example, Jesus proves the resurrection from the account of the burning bush and Moses’ call:

“But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt 22:31–32).

Notice how powerfully Jesus applies ancient Scripture to his contemporary audience: “Have you not read what God said to you.” Amazing! Even though it was God speaking to Moses in the original event, when Moses sat down to write about that event, it was God timelessly speaking to every generation who would read that account. So, it is for us in the twenty-first century: we are reading what God has said to us!

Also, notice how subtly Christ proves the resurrection by the verb clause: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—not, “I was …” God is not the God of the dead but of the living. That means that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then, are alive apart from the body, awaiting the resurrection, kept alive in God’s presence until the time for the resurrection comes.

Christ’s whole proof of the resurrection in this account amazingly rests on one single present tense verb.

As I have stated in previous posts:

Premise 1: What Jesus believes should be what Christians believe;
Premise 2: Christ’s view of Scripture is that it is the perfect Word of God;
Conclusion: Therefore, all Christians should have the same view of Scripture as Christ’s

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Editor’s note: The previous posts in this series on Christ’s view of the Bible can be found by clicking the following links: (1) What is Christ’s View of the Bible?: An Introduction; (2) Christ Would Rather Die than Disobey Scripture; (3) Christ Taught that He Fulfilled Scripture; (4)Christ Taught the Unbreakable Authority & Permanence of Scripture; (5) Christ Lived Sinlessly Moment by Moment  by All Scripture; (6) Christ Staked His Life on the Word of God; and (7) Christ Proved His Deity By a Single Word of Scripture.

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From Hearing to Maturity: Considering Missional Applications for the Local Church

By Chris, Missionary Serving in East Asia

David Hesselgrave has been one of the most prominent and influential figures in evangelical missiology over the past few decades. His academic prowess and extensive writing on most aspects of the missionary endeavor have endeared him to the Great Commission community. His magnum opus, Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally, has become a staple textbook in classrooms and mission courses all throughout the global west. In this book (pp 446–452), Hesselgrave describes the several stages he believes generally occur in authentic Christian conversions. Here is a summary of the process as he describes it:

Discovery: “There is a person called Christ whom the true God is said to have sent into the world to be the Savior and Lord of human beings.”

Deliberation: “Should I forsake my old ways and follow Christ?”

Determination: “I will repent and believe in Christ.”

Dissonance: “Forces are trying to draw me back to the old ways. Should I resist them and continue to follow Christ?”

Discipline: “I will identify with the people of Christ in His church. I will live in submission to His lordship and church discipline.”

Even though Hesselgrave was only using these phases to delineate different aspects of the conversion process, he was very wise to begin the last phase as identifying with the people of Christ in his church. If our goal is to bring those we are sharing with to become mature disciples of Christ, then we should not set our goal at merely a profession of faith. We should set our goal for those we are sharing with to as: we want to see them “liv[ing] in submission to [Jesus’] lordship” and “identify[ing] with the people of Christ in his church.”

Using a Chinese idiom that means “As you begin, so you go,” a pastor in China recently contrasted the differences between those who come to faith in the local church and those who come to faith through foreign missionaries. He noted that even though foreign missionaries boast much higher numbers of professions of faith, they have a much lower percentage of those who enter the church and become spiritually mature. His meaning of using the idiom was that if you make the “decision” the focal point of our witnessing efforts, then it’s very difficult to get that person to grow beyond that. However, if our witnessing efforts should be focused on spiritual maturity, then our evangelism methods should aim for a trajectory that goes beyond merely a profession of faith.

Here is how he contrasted the difference:

Foreign Missionary Local Church
Witnessing efforts focused on presentation                           Witnessing efforts focused on relationship
Witnessing efforts focused on a decision Witnessing efforts focused on a process
Witnessing efforts focused on the individual Witnessing efforts focused on the family
The missionary did the evangelism The local church did the evangelism

 

In this pastor’s manner of thinking, even if the missionary did not intend to make the “decision” the focal point of the evangelism process, his actions communicate otherwise. With much fervor he would share the gospel message and always make sure to ask, “Do you believe this?” This seemed to be rather effective because after a few times meeting together an individual would either make a decision (yes or no), or he would stop meeting with the missionary. If the decision was “yes,” they would quickly begin a discipleship curriculum. If the answer was “no,” then the missionary would shift their concentrated efforts to a different individual.

Meanwhile, on any given night, the local brothers and sisters would share meals together. They enjoy hosting one another, and always try to encourage one another to bring friends. While fellowshipping together, they would get to know their guests and ask them many questions about their family and life, inviting their whole family to join in on their times of study and fellowship. The Scriptures were always the centerpiece of their gatherings and they would naturally try to draw the non-Christians into discussion, inviting them to come to the next gathering to discuss more.

For our American culture, the way the Chinese pastor described the evangelistic method of the missionary often seems most natural to us. It is a streamlined process that is measurable and identifiable. The method of the Chinese church that I just described above, however, is different and takes a great deal of time and investment—and it’s difficult to identify whether the non-believing family is more interested in the meals and friendship than they are the gospel. However, what is communicated non-verbally in the two methods is the importance of the community of believers. In the missionary’s method, he might share about the local church in the gospel message, but that seems to be an afterthought to getting the individual to make a decision. But, in the other example, the decision to follow Jesus is not only told with words, it is also lived out among the members of the local church.

Are we communicating the significance of the local church in our evangelistic methods? Are we displaying the joy of Christian fellowship in how/when/where we gather? If not, is it any wonder why it is difficult for the church to seem relevant to those in the communities around us?

In situations where we send those from among us to live overseas and plant churches, the way that the entire church family is involved in the process can also communicate the church as missionary model to the locals in that setting. They will see the sacrifice, effort, care, and love that one church can have for another as the parent church is willing to provide for the needs of the daughter church. This happens as our overseas representatives share their needs with us, and we rally to go, support, and provide for those needs.  Our mere presence can communicate far more than our unintelligible language sometimes.

May we always be willing to cross whatever geographic or cultural barrier that exists to help put those churches we are planting on a path to maturity. May we live like the Chinese pastor was challenging us to live, even in places where no local church yet exists. Inviting families into our homes and having them join in our Christian community (even if it is only our family), they will see the joy that is shared as God’s people gather together. And, may all our evangelism and church planting efforts be done with the goal of  bringing the nations to hearing about Jesus for the first time and to “identifying with the people of Christ in His church … living in submission to His lordship and church discipline.”

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“We Were There”: Considering Missional Applications for the Local Church

By Chris, Missionary Serving in East Asia

The Great Leap Forward resulted in one of the most deadly mass killings in human history. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China, soldiers scoured the country’s vast landscape, confiscating all of the land and placing it in the hands of the government. Millions of people died as they fought to keep their stead and tens of millions died by the ensuing famine and fallout. There was not a tread of sod left untouched by this great tragedy.

After assuming ownership of all land, the government gathered the country’s inhabitants into communes. In each commune, every individual and family had to give up the rights to their own possessions. Everything became owned by the “collective whole.” While Mao was able to get the majority of the population organized into such communes, there were pockets where this was not as successful. Resistance was most strongly maintained among the tribal peoples who refused to give up the lands they had been cultivating for centuries. They were resolved to stand firm, in part, because of the history and heritage they shared on that sod. Where such strongholds remained, the government eventually made concessions with those peoples by allowing them to maintain limited autonomy over their native territories.

While the victory of resistance is still shared among many of China’s minorities, the stories and memories of all that happened in that dark period of their history are still alive and active. A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting where a local pastor was addressing a small church. He was speaking to them about how to share the resurrection of Jesus Christ with their village. He reminded them of the aforementioned battles their grandparents fought to keep their lands, climaxing with a battle cry they were all familiar with, “We were there when the unspoken boundaries were drawn!” “We were there,” he paused, “We were there when Jesus died. We were there when he was placed in the tomb. We were there when he rose from the dead!” “We were there,” he said, “that is how we should share about the resurrection.”

I will never forget the way that pastor’s words collided with the Spirit within me. The ethnic people group these brothers and sisters were from are the original inhabitants of their land. They believe their ancestors settled there several thousand years prior. Yet, they still claim, “We were there …”  That same strong identity shared with their physical ancestors is now shared among the descendants of the people of God. My spiritual heritage became more near and concrete to me that day. I became more finely tuned to what Peter was saying in 1 Peter 2:9–10:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”

Here, Peter was talking about a chosen people from a remnant of all peoples throughout all generations, a royal priesthood made up of all tribes spanning all ages, a holy nation crossing all global geographic and ethnic barriers. As far chronologically removed as we may be from the events recorded in the history of the early church, as the people of God, we were there.

Aside from learning a great and new practical perspective for sharing the gospel, I’ve drawn a couple of practical implications from this:

First, the more we understand our Christian heritage, the more we can identify with those who went before us—and with the doctrinal battles they fought. This should embolden us not to concede our doctrinal foundations, but rather to persevere in resisting theological compromise. So, we should have an action plan—to learn our history. We should learn our biblical, church, denominational, and local church histories:

Biblical History: This is the story of what it means to be the people of God. “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26). “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps 139:16).

Church History: Every generation comes up with new ways to express the same ancient theological errors. The firm doctrinal foundations laid by our spiritual predecessors serve as theological moorings to help keep us from drifting into dangerous theological waters.

Denominational History: We should know the tenets on which our denomination was founded. With healthy local bodies of regenerate believers joining together, our churches serving as missionaries can confidently take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Local Church History: God has hardwired the world in such a way that each local body should serve as a luminary in our immediate community and beyond. We should seek to know our beginnings and set our course so that each successive generation can see how we are part of God’s plan in bringing the nations to dwell with and enjoy him forever.

Second, an understanding of our history should make us increasingly aware of the need to dispatch larger regiments of soldiers as the Kingdom marches on. So here, also, we need a plan of action: i.e., to train up, and then disperse, our local fellowship of believers:

Evangelism and Basic Discipleship: Outside of normal times of corporate worship, all members should have access to good theological training provided by the local church.

Discipleship for Life: God’s main means for the sanctification of every believer is for us to grow up into maturity through the local church.

Elder Training: A local church should always be striving to train up men as a means of both providing a succession plan for existing leaders, and for the development of new leaders.

Church Planting and Missions: As the local church equips and trains disciples in the previous three areas, it then disperses them into new areas for the advancement of the kingdom. Once a new church is planted, it should implement the same type of training and dispersing paradigm so that all church plants strive to produce church-planting churches.

Thanks for reading so far. We’ll continue this series, Lord willing, next week.

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