EVERYTHING NEW FOR 2015

The vast number of us enter 2015 with the greeting, “Happy New Year!”

As we look out our windows, many of us see a brisk cold morning, because 80% of the United States experiences a freeze.  However, that does not stop us from enjoying a fresh start in a new year.  As we view the landscape of the new year and review the old road behind us with all of its experiences and the wisdom it left us, we can plant our feet on the starting line of the new and give thought to fresh expectations and goals.  What guides them?

The Bible offers us some tips on all things new for paving our journey to which we can gain freshness and hope in things to come.  Many of the passages below give encouragement, strengthen our faith, and provide confidence of God’s sovereignty and providence from which we can draw for engaging the days to come be they good or difficult.

All references are from the New King James Version.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).

“He has put a new song in my mouth– Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

“I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You” (Psalm 144:9).

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

“Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26-29).

“And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Mark 14:24).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

“…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:3).

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).

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An Atheist Theological Position and Faith

I recently engaged some atheists concerning their claims about how they see the God of Christians.  One claim an atheist author made was that the Christian god is simply one of the imagination.  This god exists because Christian believe this god’s existence.  The actual statement is, “they [gods] exist because you make them exist” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/10/24/god-does-exist-2).  The author goes on to state,

You were likely taught from your youngest days to believe in this entity, and some of you have spent a lifetime cultivating a way of thinking about and perceiving a world which includes this Being in the midst of it. You were taught to listen to the thoughts and feelings in your own head and consider that some of them may very well be this Person communicating with you, telling you things you should know. You’ve spent many years reading a text which you were told represents the right way to think about this person, and if you’ve had as long as I had, you were able to internalize its vocabulary and its thought forms until they became second nature to you. In short, you do experience this person as if he were a real person, and it won’t do you any good for me to stand here and tell you he does not exist. That’s simply incorrect. He exists because you make him exist.”

In other words, God is not a matter of epistemology, belief system, or even reality, but simply of one’s imagination.  I posed a challenge to this claim (and a claim it is) that it is no more than the logical fallacy called a straw man or even a false attribution.  It is also an epistemological one for the one making the claim.  Let us examine the claim from these perspectives.

First, let us look at the logical fallacy.  A straw man argument is positing a position to someone that the person does not hold.  The person doing this sets up what is known as a straw man, that is, a false position.  Then the person making the claim begins either attacking the straw man or making statements about it rather than addressing the real position the other person actually holds.  Another logical fallacy could also be applied to this type of claim called false attribution.  A false attribution is falsely attributing a position to another the other person does not hold or one that is irrelevant or biased to support one’s claim.  In neither case does the one making the claim present an argument on the merit.  That is, the claimant fails to address the other person’s position at all through evidence or reasoning.  All this atheist could do is make the claim and use a work of fiction to support it without any further support other than repetition of the premise:  it is all in the mind or imagination.

After a brief interchange when I brought up this atheist’s straw man, he replied with other logical fallacies:

1. That I missed his intent, which was “to explain to other atheists something they may not be getting about believers.”

2.  That his experience as a former Christian and seminary graduate supported his claim

The first argument simply affirmed the false attribution logical fallacy or a lie by continuing to attribute a false position to Christians.  The second argument was another logical fallacy known as “appeal to authority.”  Appeal to authority is an attempt to sidetrack the discussion from the claim through appealing either to another authority (“So and so says…”) or oneself as an authority rather than address an argument that supports the claim (or an argument on the merits).  That is neither one supports a person’s claim.  One is using what is false while the other sidetracks from a claim by going elsewhere.

I then addressed the claim altogether with another argument: “If God did not exist, people would not have any thought of the existence of God.”  They could not imagine God or even think or discuss any kind of divinity.  The first atheist dropped out of the discussion while a few others entered it. One atheist tried to counter this by claiming that we imagine certain fictional science fiction characters, and they do not exist: i.e., Superman, Buck Rodgers, etc.  Fiction writers create fictitious characters from what they know in the material created order.  To refer to them by name is simply an action of assigning a name to things that exist.  Fiction writers know about human beings or other types of beings within the created order.  They then dress them up in a certain garb or identity and name them.  This action does not address what one does not know or the non-existence of something or God.

For example, God asked Adam to name the animals.  If animals were not of the material world, Adam would not have the foggiest idea about animals.  Nothing could come to mind.  Their existence and the knowledge of that existence comes before naming them.  Some may ask, “What about the unicorn?”  The unicorn is a horse with a horn.  Horses exists, and animals with horns exists.  People see what is in existence, integrate these existing things, and assign a name to it in the same way Adam did.  The atheists in the discussion continued to bring up these examples with different other fictional characters, claiming that they did not exist except in the imagination.  However, regardless how many examples one gives, the same argument applies.  These fictional characters are representations of what already exists.

That returns us to the original claim – if God did not exist, no thought of divinity apart from the created material world could be imagined or entertained in our thoughts.  Furthermore, atheists could not even make the claim that God does not exist.  If He did not exist, why do they continue to make the claim that He does not exist?  It is a claim without meaning.  They would not be making any claim at all, because they could not entertain what does not exist in their thoughts.  All their claims about the non-existence of God amounts to no more than a personal attack on those who hold that God exists.  Nothing more.

Atheism is actually a theology that requires faith as much as Christian theology also requires faith.  All of us must have faith whether that faith is in humanity (humanism), other religions (pluralism), or any other kind of -ism in the world.  Too many unseen elements exist in the material world and beyond it to simply rely on empiricism or related approaches.  Our finiteness prohibits us from an all out claim or disclaim of God.  Atheists must believe God (or gods as they put it) does not exist.  They cannot provide evidence from the material world or anything beyond finite knowledge to make a claim of the non-existence of God.  Inasmuch as atheists make claims for the non-existence of God, no scientific method can prove such non-existence or even offer evidence at the very least.  They must accept such non-existence on faith that their theology of no God is feasible.

Consequently, atheism offers no more than a comparative faith.  It is far less tenable to believe in the non-existence of something than in the claim of what exists.  It is also more difficult to develop a theology around non-existence than existence.  I would rather place my faith in the God of the Bible than in faith in a non-existence of the Divine.  The biblical God gives far more substance and evidence, for it has the backing of history and creation.  These will be explored in future posts.

Tension Between Faith and Unbelief

Shortly after our first parents decided to walk their own road not taken, their two sons struck out on divergent paths.  Both lived in the same household.  Both observed their parents.  One killed the other.  What happened?

The Scriptures give us very little about their motives and the forces that motivated them.  Most of what we receive came from oral tradition since those who wrote of them were not their contemporaries.  What we do know is telling about both of them.  One statement about Abel gives us great insight about his motivations.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews states,

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

Abel acted out of faith, and Cain behaved from unbelief.  If we follow the author’s argument carefully, we gain valuable information about both.  Before entering into observations of the events surrounding the two brothers, we must consider the context of the original circumstances.  Afterwards, we can review what other biblical authors write of them.  We can make several observations from the above text:

  1. Abel offered to God
  2. Abel’s offering arose out of faith
  3. The offering Abel made was superior to Cain’s
  4. Witness testified of the superiority of Abel’s sacrifice
  5. Abel’s offering showed his righteousness
  6. He left a legacy of faith as its first martyr

Some of these observations are puzzling.  First, we do not know what made Abel’s offering “a more excellent sacrifice.”  However, we have hints throughout this passage.  The first hint, which the author intentionally places, is faith.  If we consider the entire context of Hebrews 11, we understand that the author emphasizes faith.  The author also sets out to support the main point: faith has as its grounds substance and evidence (Hebrews 11:1).  The substance of faith is hope.  Its evidence is unseen realities.  The dominant unseen reality behind creation is God.  The chapter places stress on God as the Creator to emphasize that the visible did not create the visible.The author provides a number of examples to support this primary point.  The earliest example is creation itself, a time when no one lived.  It takes faith to understand that all that exists comes from God.

He then moves to the offspring of our first parents.  Abel was the very first man of whom God gave witness to his righteous standing before Him by faith.  Abel was also the first martyr for his faith.  Cain took out his fierce anger toward God by murdering his brother whom God accounted as righteous not so much because of the gift he offered God but because of his faith expressed through the gift.  Abel’s faith pleased God.  We know this truth by what the author subsequently informs us about faith,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6).

God is more interested in faith than in material things offered to Him.  Cain failed to honor God, and God saw through his gifts to his heart.  Cain’s response to God’s rebuke showed that faith did not dwell with him.  Rather, Cain became furious toward God rather than showing faith from receiving God’s rebuke.  With the nature of the gift placed momentarily aside, we can come to terms with God’s rejection of Cain’s offering.  Although his response resulted from God’s rejection of his gift and subsequently confronting his wrath, that wrath toward God already existed.  It simply had opportunity to express itself upon God’s rejection of his gift.  We can see from his behavior that faith was not in Cain’s gift to God.  Because of his unbelief, Cain showed dishonor toward God.  God therefore rejected both the gift and the dishonor that arose from unbelief.

Sometimes unbelief and rebellion fester in the heart before it later presents itself.  An unbelieving heart is one of rebellion against God, and it fails to please Him (11:6).  The conclusion the Hebrews author draws about genuine faith follows immediately from the Cain and Abel episode.  Abel’s faith preceded his gift while Cain’s unbelief preceded his.  Cain receives no mention in Hebrews 11 because the author intended to give examples of those who pleased God through faith.  Cain failed to make the list.  Cain’s heart caused him to withhold a pleasing  sacrifice to God.  That was the first expression of his unbelief.  A viewing audience may not perceive anything negative in either gift these two men offered.  They both presented gifts from their respective occupations.  Consequently, the bystander may be surprised by God’s pronouncements.  However, as the story unfolds, the second expression of Cain’s unbelief rushes with violence from his heart.  He rages against God and sought an opportunity to murder his own flesh and blood.  God sees what individuals cannot.

We can quibble to the end of time about the sacrifices and their meanings each man brought to God.  Scholars have done so and will continue to do so.  However, one thing seems clear about the Genesis account of Cain and Abel and the Scriptural witness of each of them.  Cain voluntarily left God’s presence (Genesis 4:16).  He was unrighteous from the outset.  His leaving was the ultimate act of unrighteousness.  The Hebrews passage makes clear that faith played a dominant role with Abel for God to give witness to him as righteous.  Cain’s omission in Hebrews 11 speaks loudly about his unbelief and the results.  Jude compares false teachers to the “way of Cain,” warning about their participation in Cain’s sin and unbelief (Jude 11).

In the account of Cain and Abel, we observe the tension between faith and unbelief.  That tension continues to exist along with their respective fruits.  A life of biblical faith in Christ pleases God.  A life of unbelief calls for God’s wrath.  The way of Cain is the way of falsehood arising from unbelief.  Faith seeks after God and honors Him.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  This article cannot be used for any purpose without expressed written permission of Action Faith Books Press.

Faith, Mysticism, and the Sufficiency of Scriptures

Faith and mysticism grew in parallel from the first century.  However, in many ways they have taken different paths while claiming to be joined.  But are they?  If we dive deeper into biblical faith and mysticism, we discover their departure from one another at several junctures.  Hebrews 11:1 states,

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Two key elements of faith this statement surfaces consist of “substance” and “evidence.”  Substance relates to hope or the future.  Evidence turns on unseen realities.  As we read the illustrations of Hebrews 11, we discover several examples of both substance and evidence with those who encountered God.  The unseen God created all that exists (11:3).  Abel offered sacrifices to the unseen God (11:4).  Noah acted on God’s promise (hope) that God would spare him and his family in the flood He would send on the earth.  Abraham obeyed God to move from an idolatrous people in light of the promise of offspring and the Messiah.  The passage says, “By faith, he dwelled in the land of promise…for he waited or the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:9).  The many others mentioned cast their faith on substance and evidence and left us a legacy of genuine faith in the God who delivers on His promises.  Accordingly, these historical figures expressed the dual foundations of true biblical faith.

At the root of mysticism are desire and connection.  Most people seek some sort of desire for spirituality, authentication of their significance and purpose, or a yearning for the divine beyond human limitations.  Limitation combined with alienation from God because of Godward rebellion give incentive to desire and connection with a temporal existence.  Even if that divine is internal, it is something that appears elusive at times and beyond our immediate feeling, language, or mental capacities.  When asked about a given mystical or spiritual experience, a person having one simply expresses a visual or claims words are not sufficient.  It is at this point that the imagination and mental images are sought.  Dennis Martin states,

Many attempts have been made to describe the fundamental characteristics of mystical experience.  Traditionally it has been asserted that the experiential union of creature and Creator is inexpressible and ineffable, although those who have experienced it seek imagery and metaphors to describe it, however imperfectly.  As noted above, it is experienced union or vision, not abstract knowledge.  It is beyond the level of concepts, for reasoning, ideas, or sensory images have been transcended (but not rejected) in an intuitive union” (Martin, Denis D., “Mysticism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pp. 806-808).

Martin highlights several qualities of mysticism: experience, imagery, metaphors, vision, transcendence, and intuition.  Often desire becomes sensuality and lust, and connection is grasping for the visible things of the earth and worshipping them instead of the unseen God of hope.  They ground faith in the visible and temporal rather than the invisible and eternal.  They displace substance and evidence and surface the visible and temporal as authorities for living out our lives.  Because we are so connected to our experiences, we cling to them for direction, meaning, and purpose.  Experience is inescapable in our present physical and temporal state of being because we live within experience.  Experience naturally gives way to the visible even in our dreams.

Therefore, experiences tempt us to lift them up as authority or even divine.  Images, metaphors, and the visual amount to the visible whether in the external world or within our imaginations.  Our imaginations borrow from the visible world and integrate mental images, dreams, and visions into patterns of worship toward God (or gods).  The problem with this scenario is that it begins with oneself and attempts to work its way to God.  The authority becomes the experience or imagination.  Faith directs its attention on God through the content of His word found in the Scriptures.  The Scriptures, as God’s word, serve as the authority for judging experience, feeling, thought, and the things of the world.

The stark differences between faith and mysticism becomes evident in their source and expression.  Faith looks to and trusts God.  Mysticism focuses on oneself and places trust in the visible things of the world in seeking for spiritual authentication of the divine whether it be the Christian God or some other one.  The visible is far more attractive than the invisible and offers a more concrete reality.  Because of their close proximity to our lives, they displace the authority of God’s word in favor of the visible things of the temporal world.  Faith is a difficult matter and requires divine intervention.  In writing to the church in Rome (book of Romans), Paul illustrates this divine intervention in stating,

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

That is, the Scriptures give rise to faith.  By contrast, genuine faith cannot come to expression apart from the Scriptures.  God’s spoken word possesses the power to give birth to faith toward God.  God’s word causes a person to look to God and not to oneself for true spirituality and authority for living in the temporal world.  Faith enables us to transcend the temporal and visible to the eternal and invisible, that is, its substance and evidence: hope and the promises of God.  The word of God guides our experience through faith and acts as a dividing line between right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous, and good and evil.  All of these are experienced based, but relying on experience and the visible things of the earth cannot serve to distinguish between them.  Some laud evils as good and good as evil.  Some turn right into wrong and wrong into right.  Conflicting judgments, philosophies, theologies, and societal laws illustrate these inversions.  Therefore, experience cannot act as their arbiter and standard.

They must look to that which is beyond the temporal world of the visible and experience, that is, God and His word in the Scriptures.  He created all things and gave them foundations for their existence, including a moral compass and the capacity to relate to Him.  He alone set the terms for that relationship and revealed them in His word.  He and His revealed word offer the only sufficiency for true spirituality, authentic existence, and life with God.  Mysticism fails because of its grounding in the temporal and visible world.  It has no substance and offers no evidence except for a multitude of conflicting and unique experiences, imagination, and personal yearnings for connection.  These are not sufficient for relating with God, because they act from individually established terms, which amount to as many terms as there are individuals, and shift authority from God to oneself.  Those who seek mystical experiences are not satisfied with the Scriptures alone for living the life of faith.  Continued restlessness draws them to seek out the visible rather than resting in the invisible promises of invisible God and trusting His providence and guidance from His word.

Only the gospel found in the Scriptures is the power of God for true connection and salvation from rebellion against God.  That power rises from the God who raised His Son from the dead to close the gap in our alienation with God.  Faith in Jesus fulfills authentic living, spiritual desire, and yearning to connect with God.  Faith in Jesus Christ offers the only way for eternal life with God.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

By Faith We Understand…

The first example the writer of the the letter to the Hebrews gives is creation.  The author declares,

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Creation is an obvious starting point for faith because of the impossibility of creation’s observation.  Only God was present and created everything that came into being.  No one saw Him do it.  The author also wanted to insure that he included all existence within the realm of faith and that faith has its roots in history and God’s activity in the real world. Consequently, faith excludes myth, legend, some sort of leap, feeling, mysticism, and all that is seen

Is creation not in what we see?  Are we then to exclude creation as evidence for the unseen God? No. It is one thing to accept creation as evidence for the Creator.  It is an entirely another thing to place faith in this evidence.  Acknowledgement of the Creator does not save anyone. Along with such an acknowledgement must come faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s special revelation, Mediator, and the sole object of faith for salvation.  Creation is not the object of faith and means of our understanding of God or Redeemer in Christ.

When God created man and woman and placed them in Eden, He spoke directly to them and gave them direction for living and relating to Him in the form of specific commands.  His word guided them.  In their innocent state, they understood that God created all things, including them.  He told them so, and they believed Him.  He also gave Adam the task to give names to the different animals He created.  When God gave Adam a spouse, one like himself as to his humanity, but different from him as to his form, he also named her, “She shall be called woman” (Genesis 2:23).

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, they lost their innocence and with it alienation from God that passed through them to their offspring and their children’s offspring through all subsequent generations.  Eventually, the understanding that God created the world’s and humanity became alien as distance from God grew.  Humanity’s eyes turned inward and toward creation as the distinction between the Creator and creation blurred.  Humanity lost sight of the unseen God, and individuals relied on what they could see.  Faith in God eluded them as they turned to the created order for deities.  Eventually, certain people rose up and declared that what exists simply popped out of nowhere, always existed, or other gods created them.  Their understanding of the material world was that the universe evolved and the visible arose from the visible rather than from the invisible and unseen God.

When some surfaced the possibility of a god, they exclaimed, “What god? Your god or mine?  That animal is divine as is that tree and rock.  Let us create our gods from them.”  Gods multiplied as humanity also created images like himself from wood and stone – the visible creating the visible.  Humanity moved such a distance from the unseen God that the destructive forces of his alienation compelled him to shape visible images for his god.  Rebellion from God destroyed faith in the Creator and obliterated humanity’s understanding of the source of creation, including all individuals dwelling on the earth.

Other forms of theism arose, such as polytheism, atheism, and all other forms of idolatry arising from the minds of men and women.  These forms of theism gave them a new understanding and paradigm of the source of all things.  They arose from the visible rather than from the invisible God.  The Big Bang eventually replaced God and spread a materialistic philosophy and religion throughout the earth.  That is, the visible created the visible.  Many individuals begin to understand God as an unseen entity as an unknown (agnosticism).  They then claimed, “We cannot trust that anything unseen acted as the source of the material world.”

Individuals begin relying on observation and the senses behind such observation according to this new theistic paradigm.  This new paradigm also made room for a negation called atheism, which leads to a complete denial of any deity.  Such form renders a new way of viewing the world about us.  Spirituality no longer arises from the unseen God but from whatever individuals make it to be.  Men and women are no longer considered living beings from the breath of God but an evolved existence from a primordial state of slime to a state of material consciousness.  Then we die and disintegrate back into material chemicals shrouded in dirt and mud.

Such is the hopeless state of humanity’s alienation.  It make understanding rudderless, aimlessly wandering across the seas of shifting philosophies transcending the centuries and morphing into greater senses of a lost sense of purpose.  It possess no faith except in the finite and corruptible imaginations of individuals.  Faith is whatever one wants it to be with no substance or evidence to which the author of the letter of the Hebrews points.

However, that is not the case with those who trust the God of the Bible.  We gain knowledge from understanding, and that understanding arises from faith in God.  God reveals Himself to us.  With that revelation He also imparts understanding.  Revelation precedes true knowledge.  Knowledge precedes trust (“Nothing But the Gospel: Can We be Saved Through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy? by Floyd Talbot, Action Faith Books Press, 2014, p. 163).  God imparts the understanding that He created all that exists.  Additionally, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ leads us to our Creator and Redeemer as well as eternal life with Him.  By faith we understand that He sent His Son into the world to reconcile us back to our Creator and God so that we can have a living relationship with Him now and forever.  This is the gospel, the good news that confronts our alienation from others, the world, and God.

Nothing but the Gospel: What is it?

When you hear the word gospel, what comes to mind?  It is a word somewhat alien to our postmodern world as so many other biblical terms.  Why is this?  We are 2,000 years removed from the writers of the Gospels found in the Bible.  We are also centuries removed from the origination of the word itself.  Therefore, it would be helpful to trace the roots of the word, not only of its origination but also its original meaning found in the language of the original writers.

The word itself derives from early Anglo-Saxon “God-spell” or God’s story.  The early Englishman, William Tyndale noted the gospel as “joyfull tydinge” or the good news.  It is actually the English translation of euangelion from which we receive our English word “evangel” and its derivatives “evangelism” and “evangelist.”  Later it became associated with the Gospels or the first four books of the New Testament.

The Apostle Paul took it up as he received it as the commission from Jesus Himself to preach to the entire world.  Paul makes it clear that the gospel pointed to the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus.  He also emphasized that not believing in the historical significance of Christ resurrection amounts to vanity.  As historical reality, He was God incarnate piercing the created order, growing up from infancy, declaring Himself to the world, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead as promised (1 Timothy 3:16).  Then Paul declared the fundamental basis for this gospel of which Christ is the center: the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17).  In His letter to the Church in Rome, Paul employees this phrase as one of his favorites.  At the beginning of this letter, Paul declares,

For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Paul sets out that Jesus is the expression of God’s righteousness. As stated in the upcoming book, Nothing but the Gospel,

…God is righteous in all His works and judgments, because it surfaces from His very nature.  Additionally, because He is righteous, His grace reaches into all humanity through the mediation of the Incarnation of Christ and provides redemption to those who by faith believe the proclaimed gospel” [Nothing but the Gospel by Floyd Talbot, Action Faith Books Press, 2014, 20 (to be released September 20140].

Elsewhere the book highlights the association of the righteousness of God with the specifics of the gospel,

The claim that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God carries the highest weight because it reveals the core character of God – His faithfulness to all generations. That righteousness, according to Paul finds its way to the cross as the righteous died for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18) that we might stand as righteous before God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). (p. 68).

Jesus is the center and complete revelation of God’s righteousness.  No other message from any other source than the gospel reveals God’s righteousness.  Pluralism (many ways to God) believes that a person can receive salvation through other means.  However, these means have their source in the created order (for example, idols crafted from creation, human philosophy and wisdom, humanity itself, or some sort of self-oriented mystical experience).  The gospel is the only revelation from God.  It finds its source from God alone through Christ alone, and by faith alone in His sacrifice on the cross.  Christ is the center of the gospel and the expression of God’s righteousness.  By faith in the historical reality of the incarnation, we find the only source of our hope in being with God.  Christ died for the sins that separate humanity from God and reconciles us to Him.  Have you believed in Him?

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.

Nothing but the Gospel: Our Only Hope

Nothing but the gospel gives us hope.  Upon reading Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, that hope stands strong, because it resides in Jesus.  Here is what Paul writes,

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as the grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:13-15

Notice several truths Paul highlights in this very compact declaration of the gospel:

  1. His faith rests on the word of God.  He notes, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what is written…”  Nothing but the gospel offers hope because that hope finds its source in the One who revealed Himself to us in Jesus.  Faith looks to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and nowhere else.  Many claim that faith can claim presence with God with other means (pluralism).  However, that claim surfaces from and rests with man and not with God.  As such, it offers not hope.
  2. Faith gives motivation to boldly declare the gospel of hope.  Paul says, “I believed and so I spoke…”  Spoke what?  The gospel of salvation!  Our faith rests in historical reality.  That is, God actually did come in the form of the man Jesus as God promised.  We trust in a righteous God who keeps His promises, and this gives us assurance and boldness to speak the gospel.
  3. Not only did Jesus come in the form of a baby and interacted with His fellow men and women, but He died, was buried, and rose from the death.  Overwhelming testimony shows this to be historical fact.  Some try to separate history from faith by claiming that truth does not need to rely on fact.  This is post-modern wishful thinking.  Truth not supported by fact is faith in a lie and fiction.  Since Jesus really did rise from the dead, our faith gives us the hope of being with God when we also die.

Such wonderful truths enable us to live confidently and hopefully in the return of Jesus.  Review 4:14 again.  Paul declares that God will keep His promise of a resurrection for us, also.  He says Jesus will “bring us with you in His presence.”  Our faith rests in real hope and not in one that aspirates, “I hope so.”  That is not hope but wishful thinking.  Stand firm.

Copyright (c) 2014, Action Faith Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Not to be used without expressed written permission.