And The Power

Why do we say God has the power? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Something I found interesting when I went through the first part of Aquinas’s Summa Theologica was that questions were being answered that are really just now becoming major issues. Before the new atheism had hit, most of the arguments were already answered by Aquinas and other medieval theologians. Augustine has a wonderful paragraph on Christians and scientific issues that could have looked like it was written today.

One such question asked is if there is power in God. Then, it was asked if He was omnipotent or not. Aquinas answered the questions and answered all the objections to them. Note that I said objections. The medievals were thinking about these things long before we were.

So what about power? That shows up in the Lord’s prayer. God’s is the Kingdom and the power. Why do we say that?

Because if you’re going to rule a Kingdom, you have to have the power to bring about that Kingdom if it isn’t already there, and you have to have the power to rule it. Only God, and specifically God in Christ, can be the true king because only He is omnipotent and only He is without beginning and without end. He has the power to make what He wants happen and the power to sustain it when it does.

Which should really make us all think seriously about things. If you know the king has the power over everything in your life, how are you going to respond? Are you going to treat Him in a nonchalant way? Are you going to act regularly against His authority and power? If so, then you are a fool.

And by that, we are all fools.

The Lord’s prayer is meant at this point to remind us not to do that. Everything is about God. We ask God to supply our needs because we realize we are dependent on Him. We ask God to forgive us our debts, because we know that He alone can forgive us and we know that He is the one we have wronged. It’s His Kingdom and we are all traitors to the King.

Serious stuff. Do we really think about this when we pray this prayer? Do we consider that He has the power?

If you do something wrong at your job and know that the boss knows about it, you can be in fear since he holds your livelihood. If you have an affair and cheat on your spouse, you can live in fear because if they find out, they can leave. If you are guilty of a crime, you can live in fear of the police lest you be arrested.

Should we not live with an appropriate fear of God? Should we not want to do the same with Him? Should we not want to make it our goal to avoid wronging Him?

It is always tempting to take God lightly and to take prayer lightly. We should do neither. We should realize that we are entering into the presence of the King. Dare we make requests when we have not considered His power and holiness (The prayer reminded us that hallowed be God’s Name)? Yet we do.

Let’s not take the Lord’s Prayer lightly either. God has the power. We need to respect that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For Yours Is The Kingdom

Whose kingdom is it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When we finish the Lord’s prayer, I will point out that not all manuscripts have this final part, but I intend to cover it anyway. In this final section, Jesus tells of three things that belong to God. The first is the Kingdom. What is that about?

We are here to be servants, but many times, we want to build up our own kingdom. J.P. Moreland has said that Christians are here to serve a name and not to make one. Being in ministry, I understand that to succeed you need to get the word out about what you do. You can’t have a light if you’re not being public in some way.

At the same time, it’s important to realize the Kingdom doesn’t stand or fall on my ministry. If my ministry were to go away, the Kingdom of God would still go on. I make the same remark about our own country of America here. America needs the gospel, but the gospel doesn’t need America.

Years ago when I was on PALtalk, I remember a leader of a well-known internet apologetics ministry being on the microphone in the room and I could tell easily he had a bad cold and it was confirmed when he said it. When he got off the microphone I messaged him and told him to go and rest and get off of PALtalk. He said, “Truth must be defended.” I told him that that is so, but he is not the only one defending it.

Thankfully, he got off of PALtalk at that point, but that is the point. None of us is necessary for the Kingdom. That we get to have a part in the Kingdom is a gift and an honor. God has no obligation to give any of us a great ministry. It’s not about what He can do for us. It’s about what we can do for Him.

It’s not our Kingdom. It’s His. Let’s build it up.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I Affirm The Virgin Birth)

Deliver Us From Evil

Why should we be delivered? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is some debate on if this passage means evil in general or the evil one, meaning the devil, in particular. For our purposes, it really doesn’t matter. That’s a great textual debate I have no wish to dive into. Let’s just sum it up. We are to be delivered in some way.

Note that this comes right after the part about leading us not into temptation. Temptation is always to something that we shouldn’t do. This is why James says that no one should say that God is tempting them. God will test us sometimes, but He does not tempt us.

This is also a reference then to the coming kingdom. We are to long for that time when the Kingdom comes so that evil will be abolished. We are to eagerly anticipate that. We see evil all around us and we want it to be gone. Praying this part of the prayer is asking for that to happen.

Yesterday I saw a little boy with crutches walking because of some condition I couldn’t identify. I immediately thought about what a great day to come when that boy is able to walk normally. I wondered about how it might be difficult in the future to see all the kids running and not be able to yourself. Would he have a problem with getting a girlfriend in the future and marrying and having kids? This isn’t to say a physical disability can’t keep you from that. My friend, J. Parker, wrote something on that yesterday.

Many of you reading this blog disagree with me on various points. Some of you disagree with me on Christianity. What all of us will agree with I am sure is that we all have a problem with the way the world is. We all want something to be different. It could be a minor thing or a major thing. It could be political, religious, spiritual, physical, etc.

When we ask us for us to be delivered, we are asking for rescue. We are asking for salvation. Salvation is about more than just us though. It’s asking for recreation of the whole world. We are not wanting us to just be evacuated from the planet so God can destroy it because “Well, it was a good idea at the time but evil ruined it so let’s go to plan B of Heaven.”

God made this world to be lived on and He hasn’t changed His mind. He made this cosmos for Him to dwell in and He hasn’t changed His mind. The plan has never once been scrapped. If anything, everything is going according to plan. This is God’s story. It’s not ours.

We all long for that world. We long for some sort of perfection. C.S. Lewis said that if I have a desire so strong that nothing in this world can meet it, maybe I was made for another world. That’s true of us. We all seek deliverance from evil. That’s why many of us fight it regularly and why superhero movies are so popular. We all want evil to be stopped.

Yet we can’t do it on our own. It will require God to truly eliminate evil. While we are to do our part, the prayer is asking for God to bring His kingdom so that evil can be finally abolished once and for all. We do not give up or surrender to evil, but we do realize we can’t fight it without God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

What Is The Foundation?

What is the centerpiece of the Gospel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post that was looking at a critique of the New Perspective on Paul. While I don’t sign on the dotted line yet on the NPP, I am certainly open to it and think it makes some cogent points. One reason I wrote it is also because of a claim I hear often that justification is the Gospel.

Of course, some people will immediately get defensive hearing that. Am I saying that justification is not important? Not at all. It is important that we are forgiven and that forgiveness is by grace through faith. What has to be asked though is if that is what our faith is built on?

When I go to bed at night, normally I read a short section of Scripture if I’m reading a narrative, like a Gospel, but if not, just a couple of verses to think about. Last night I did three to finish off Romans 4.  So what did I read?

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Please note what is necessary for our justification. It was the resurrection of Jesus. Just dying on the cross was not enough. As Paul says, if Christ is not raised, you are still in your sins.

Part of the problem I have with the idea that justification is the Gospel is that justification is a result of something else happening. That something else is the primary thing. That is the message that changed the world. If that did not happen, we would not be able to talk about justification. That primary thing is the resurrection.

A secondary problem is that justification is important, but it also doesn’t go far enough. We can celebrate that we are forgiven, but God did much more than just forgive us. He could have forgiven us without offering us eternal life for instance, but He did do that. With every step, He could stop, but He doesn’t. As Luke 12:32 tells us, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

The kingdom is sadly lacking in our Gospel messages today. Jesus did not say as much about justification as He did about the Kingdom of God, but guess which one we spend the most time talking about today? Very few people have any idea of a doctrine of the kingdom. It’s sadly true that we often treat the Gospels as appetizers and the main course are the epistles of Paul. This is why it can often be asked if Jesus taught Paul’s Gospel. The more important question we should ask is if Paul taught Jesus’s Gospel, which he did of course.

If we want to see what’s further ahead, let’s see what Paul does say in 2 Cor. 5:19.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Sure. The forgiveness of sins is in there, but the reconciliation is with the world. The world is not as it should be and that is to be corrected. We can be forgiven, but even forgiven people will still die. Death is still the enemy to overcome. Is God going to let the world be a casualty? Did the evil one ruin the world so much that it cannot be redeemed and it will fall from the purposes God created for it?

Absolutely not. The resurrection is as it were uncreation working backwards. The path of destruction is stopped and the path of restoration begins. Let us celebrate justification, but we are not the end of it all. Everything is to be reconciled. This does not mean universalism as some people will not be reconciled due to their own will nor will demons or the devil, but all that submit to God will be.

Yet always remember, whatever your stance on justification, it’s not possible without the resurrection. The resurrection message is the Gospel. The king has come and He is taking His throne. That is the cause of everything else. Let’s not confuse the effect with the cause.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Your First Ministry

Where does your Christian service begin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this post, I’m mainly writing to my fellow apologists, but I think what I say applies to every field of ministry. Also, I will be using male pronouns throughout and such, but if you’re a woman, just find the counterpart. It will apply to you just as much.

In apologetics, it’s understandable that you have to be specially equipped. You have to spend that time in study and there are those debates that you have to attend to. That happens. I have the same situation. I read my books as much as I can. I want to be able to answer as much as I can.

We also know that what we do, well, we do for God. There should be no question about that. We are not in the ministry for ourselves. We are in it for the cause of a  greater good. God is not a means to the success of our kingdoms. We are a means to the success of His.

Despite all of this, many of could still be failures in ministry. I have something specific in mind for a failure in ministry. This is someone who no matter how good they do in the apologetics field, even if they’re someone like the next William Lane Craig, they have failed their first ministry.

That ministry is their family.

Now I know some of you might say “Well Jesus said if we do not hate our families, we cannot be His disciples.” We all know that means that the Kingdom has to come before our families, yes. If we rank our priorities, the Kingdom is our first priority. Still, that doesn’t mean we abandon our family responsibilities for the Kingdom. This is said in passages such as Jesus talking to the Pharisees about eating with unwashed hands or in Paul’s talking in 1 Tim. 3 about the requirements of a deacon and one being that they lead their own families.

You see, if you’re in apologetics, there are plenty of other people that can take the work for you if you need a break. I don’t debate on Sundays for instance. It’s just a day to recharge. On those days, I don’t worry. There are plenty of other people who can do apologetics meanwhile. I don’t have to jump into every debate I see. There are other people who can handle debates.

Despite all that I do, there is only one person who can be a husband to Allie, and that is me. So it is for all of you out there. Only one person can be a husband to your wife and only one person can be a father to your children. You don’t want to risk that role going to another man because you shirked your responsibilities.

I encourage men for instance when they get married, go on your honeymoon and take no book with you except your Bible for daily reading with your spouse, not for academic reading for yourself. Do not do Facebook or email while there. The world can wait. This time should be devoted to your spouse and the rest of the world can wait.

Now, of course, there will be valid exceptions. If you’re on your honeymoon and you meet someone who just wants to know how to be a Christian or you encounter someone who is suicidal, by all means, do your Christian duty, but don’t be seeking it out. These kinds of exceptions apply across the board, but don’t be looking for them.

Please never ever forget this. Your marriage should be your first priority and dare I say it, it is more important even than your children. One of the best gifts you can give your children is a good marriage. In fact, don’t hesitate to gross the kiddies out. Let them see you two kissing together.

Some of you who follow me on Facebook know that every day, except Sunday, I’m posting something about how much Allie means to me. Why do I do this? Because it’s my belief that a husband and wife should have Facebook pages that others can be clear about their love for their spouse. If you come to my page, I want you to know how much Jesus means to me and I want you to know how much Allie means to me.

So my friends, please do the work and study hard and learn all you can, but remember, if you have a family, do not neglect them. You have a work with them that no one else can do. Your family is your first ministry.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Christmas Revolution

What takes place on Christmas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

If you’re new to this blog, you might not know about my favorite Biblical rendition of the Christmas story. You might be wondering if I prefer Matthew or Luke’s account. Neither. I prefer John’s.

“But the Gospel of John doesn’t have a story of the birth of Jesus.”

Who said the Gospel of John? I prefer John’s work in the book of Revelation. There, you find an account of the Christmas story that I think really brings home what is going on. Let’s go to Revelation 12.

And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems. And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child. And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. 10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying,

Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.

13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child. 14 And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. 16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus:

This is the Christmas story. This is the birth of Jesus and it’s not the pretty and nice story we usually hear. It’s the story of a revolution taking place. It’s not totally absent in the Gospels. It’s in Matthew that we hear about Herod wanting to kill all the boys in Bethlehem in order to eradicate the new Messiah threat.

What really happened on the day Jesus was born? This is when God began His infiltration of enemy territory to reclaim it as His own. This is when He stepped into the kingdom of the devil and said now He was going to reclaim it as the Kingdom of God. This was a revolution.

That revolution is still going on today. We don’t have to wait until Christmas to celebrate it. Anytime that the Kingdom of God claims another soul, then that is Christmas for them as God claims them for His own. Anytime we defeat temptation and hand another part of our lives over to the Kingdom, that is Christmas. Wherever the Kingdom of God grows, the message of Christmas spreads.

I have said before that if we dressed accurately, we wouldn’t wear our Sunday best for church. We would wear camouflage and combat helmets. We are not stopping in to get a fill-up really so we can function throughout the week. We are stopping to get our marching orders to spread the revolution. (This is also why we need more than just “How to be a good person.” We need “How to show the Kingdom of God is a reality.”)

We too, following in the footsteps of Jesus, are constantly entering enemy territory. Like Jesus, we can expect opposition every step of the way. This is true whether we’re bringing the Gospel to a new land, bringing it to our lost neighbor just down the street, or trying to conquer sin in our own lives. We will have opposition. It is not a matter of if but of what kind. Like our Lord,  we can overcome, and like our Lord, even death ultimately will not stop the spread of the Gospel.

The question we all have to ask ourselves is if we’re going to be a part of the revolution or not. If we’re not, sadly, we’ll be more likely to just slow down other soldiers. If we are, then anything we can do will make a difference. God will take any act no matter how small it seems to us and turn it into something great. Someone who gives a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus will not lose their reward.

There are many positions. Not all of us do out and out evangelism, though we should all learn to evangelize some. I happen to do apologetics 24/7. Not everyone will do that, though we should all learn basic apologetics. Not all will be professional counselors, though all should learn some things they can say to lift a brother or sister up.

Some will be more skilled at going into the front lines and confronting the enemy head on. Some will be more skilled at staying behind at the camp guarding what we have and being an encouragement. Some will serve behind the scenes and their names will never be famous this side of eternity, but they will be I am sure, heavenly celebrities.

All we have in common is that we are all to serve somehow. We are told to seek the Kingdom of God. Some of us also need to seek with all our hearts how we can serve the Kingdom, for all of us can.

Merry Christmas.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is the Gospel?

When we talk about the Gospel, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday after my post, I went back to David Wood’s page where there was a debate on ecumenism and whether Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ or not. Now I am not Catholic of course, but I do ministry at times with Catholics and with Orthodox as well, but Catholics are usually the favorite target. We have no problem accepting one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Normally, I don’t enter this debate at all, but this time, I figured I’d do it since it involved the defense of a friend.

So when the charge comes up and the Gospel is mentioned, I notice that it looks like we all think we know what the Gospel is, so I ask first if Jesus and Paul preached the same Gospel. I know where I’m going and I think this is problematic for some of these and I get told yes. I ask what that Gospel is and I get told the message of justification through faith. Wonderful. So I ask, where exactly do you see Jesus teaching this? After all, in Mark 1:15, Jesus shows up on the scene telling people to repent and believe the Gospel. Is He telling them to repent and believe that they are justified through faith?

Of course, if you know the Gospels, this isn’t a central theme of Jesus’s. Of course, Jesus does point to internal realities more than external ones, but the main teaching of His life is the Kingdom of God. In fact, I’m told that the words of Jesus aren’t just limited to red so you go and look at Paul and you see that this is what Jesus taught. I find this problematic. If we want to understand the Gospel, shouldn’t we start with Jesus? I don’t disparage Paul after all. Paul is immensely valuable and sacred Scripture as well, but isn’t Jesus the original teacher we should look to first?

I found it sad that no one could point this out to me. Here I am supposed to be told that justification by faith is the Gospel that Jesus taught and yet nowhere do I see this being His teaching. Nowhere do I see this being a point of debate between Him and the Pharisees. Of course I know about “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and I know about the tax collector and the Pharisee, but you don’t see an out and out soteriology in Jesus. In fact, we all know he has some statements such as “Sell all you have and give to the poor.” We also know he has “Believe on the one whom God sent”, but the whole Pauline emphasis is not really there.

So finally after having these guys who were all about the Gospel being unable to answer enough, they finally turned to ask me. Interestingly, I was also asked such questions as if do I believe Jesus is God. After all, if you fellowship with Catholics, well your whole doctrine entirely needs to be called into question. (And I don’t even like “Is Jesus God?” That could be easily mistaken for modalism. I prefer to say Jesus possesses fully the nature of God and man as the second person of the Trinity, but I understand the theological shorthand.)

So what is the Gospel?

God created Adam and Eve to live in union with Him. He would be their God and they would be His people. Unfortunately, they decided to go it their own way and partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In response, God kicked them out of the garden and they were separated from Him.

Then Jesus came and……wait….that sure seemed to skip a lot didn’t it? I mean, do we really need all that stuff from Genesis 4 to Malachi 4? Is that really relevant to the story of Jesus?

Maybe, just maybe, maybe it is.

Tell you what. Let’s go through and see.

After Adam and Eve fall, mankind gets wickeder and wickeder. Their own children have a case of one brother killing the other. Eventually, God decides he will flood the world save for one man and his three sons and their wives and start anew.

After this, mankind decides to build a tower. Can’t have that happening again. God decides to confuse their languages and send them out as different peoples then. He chooses one person from one group of people and makes a covenant with him. That man was Abraham. God promises that all the peoples on Earth will be blessed through him.

Through miraculous means, this old man has a son and he is promised that through his son the promise will be fulfilled. God then tells Abraham to sacrifice this son named Isaac. Abraham is willing and God stops him. Abraham showed that he believed God would fulfill the promise even if he had to kill Isaac. God showed Abraham meanwhile how different He is from all the pagan gods. They would have demanded child sacrifice. YHWH puts a stop to it.

Isaac does grow up and have descendants and the story of Abraham is passed on until eventually, the people arrive in Egypt due to a famine. 400 years later, the people are in slavery and cry out to return to the land of Abraham. God hears them and sends them Moses. Moses delivers them through the Red Sea and takes them to Mount Sinai where they form a covenant relationship with YHWH through His Law. The Law will be how the people show the world that they are a unique people of God.

The people enter the land, but soon become unfaithful. God sends judges to them to return them to YHWH, but that is not enough. Eventually, a king is installed. The first one is a failure, but the second one is David, who is seen as the best king Israel ever had. God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever. This is in response to David wanting to build a house for God. God says David will not do that, but that his son will.

David’s next descendant, Solomon, does indeed build a temple. This is where God dwells with His people again. The temple becomes a symbol of the presence of God with the people, but the people grow arrogant and complacent about it. They think that God will never abandon it, as if He needs His temple. God sends them prophets when they neglect His Law, but they do not listen. Eventually, the people are sent into exile and the temple is destroyed.

About seventy years after that, the people are allowed to return to the land and build a new temple. The people are back and they have a temple, but something is wrong. Foreigners are in charge of the land. At the time of Jesus, it is Rome. How could it be that God is with His people and yet He lets pagan people rule the land? When is the Kingdom of David going to return? The people might be in the land geographically, but they do not have the charge of the land. It is still incomplete. Has God abandoned His people? Will He return?

Then Jesus came.

When Jesus shows up, He speaks about the Kingdom of God and even says it is right there. He asks people to believe the Gospel. What is the Gospel? God has returned to His people. God is present in Jesus. Even more startling, Jesus does signs to show that He is the Messiah of Israel and the one who will sit on the throne of David and through whom God will reign.

The rulers don’t like Jesus coming in on their turf and they fear a revolution. In a series of political events, they crucify Jesus. This will silence the claims of Him being a Messiah. If He is the Messiah, He will not be crucified. God will rescue Him. Unfortunately for His followers watching, Jesus dies. He is not rescued. He is buried in a tomb. Done. Kaput. Game Over. Let’s move on with our lives now.

But the game is not done. The story is not ended. The tomb is found empty and Jesus is alive again. What does this mean? If true (And it is), it means that God has vindicated Jesus. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He is the one through whom God will reign.

This is why resurrection is so central to Paul. The resurrection is how God has shown who Jesus is. It’s more than “Jesus is alive and therefore He’s the Messiah.” It’s just as much about what Jesus did before the cross as what happened after. After all, as N.T. Wright says, if one of the thieves next to Jesus had been raised the Jews would say “YHWH is doing some strange things.” They would not say “The Messiah has come!”

This is why Paul does preach the same Gospel. The good news is God has come to be with His people. Jesus says it beforehand promising He will be that one. Paul says it after showing that by His resurrection, Jesus is the promised Messiah. God has returned to be with His people through Jesus. It was not just the land that was to be redeemed. It was indeed all the nations of the world.

Okay. So what about justification through faith? What does that have to do with it?

As I said earlier, in the past, you obeyed the Law not to be justified, but to show that you were. We often have this idea that Paul wrestled with the Law. Not at all. Go read his autobiography in Philippians 3. He was faultless before it. Yes. But what about Romans 7?

I don’t see that as autobiographical. I see that as Paul playing out a part. This is not a new view. Even Origen held this view. How would Paul describe himself as alive apart from the Law for instance? He never knew a life apart from it. I also think it’s problematic if you interpret this text as the Christian struggle. If you identify yourself with Romans 7, you will likely miss out your real identity in Romans 8.

Here’s the real deal then. Paul never wrestled with the Law and then said “Oh! Following Christ! I’m free from this burden!” No. Instead he said that he was blameless before the Law, but he counted that all as rubbish. The Greek word here is Skubalon and I have even been told that that can be translated as if it were something I would not say on this blog. That is how strong Paul’s language is.

The new marker then for showing you’re one of God’s is not keeping the Law. It is if you trust in Christ. Of course, this trust will result in good works. No one should oppose good works, but those good works are not done to obtain salvation but because you have already been given it. This is where justification comes in. It is not the faith that saves you so much as the object that you put your faith in. If you say “Justification by faith” I have to ask “Faith in what?” Then we get to the meat of the Gospel.

Now some might think this went long. It should. Israel was not something God tried for awhile and then said “Forget this. I’m going with the church.” Israel is part of the Gospel just as much. It is essential to know that Jesus is the Messiah. It’s so essential that Paul references it so much that some people, ignorantly of course, have thought that Christ was a last name as if Jesus was born to Mr. and Mrs. Christ. Today, we treat it as an afterthought. Oh yeah. Jesus is the Messiah. Paul didn’t treat it that way. Paul saw it as central.

And for that to be central, Jesus has to be the Messiah of Israel. For that to matter, we have to know Israel’s story. We dare not leave it out. Israel’s story is ours. We are just as much the people of God.

This is the good news. This is the Gospel. It reaches its full fulfillment in Revelation, but we are ambassadors of this good news for now. Jesus is not just the savior. He is not just the forgiver of your sins. He is the Messiah. He is your King. He is THE King.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is The Gospel?

When we speak about the Gospel, what are we talking about? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, someone alerted me to something that was said on James White’s Facebook page which is the following:

Without using Google, who said the following, providing a classic example of what I call the “Mere Christianity” movement, which defines the faith *apart from* the Gospel itself:

While I’m an evangelical by choice, I recognize one does not need to be an evangelical to be a Christian. If one embraces the essentials of the Christian faith, I’m happy to call that person my brother or sister and work alongside them in ministry, whether they are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or whatever.

For some fun, I sent it to a few people that I know to see what they thought also. One of those people was Mike Licona. He told me that he read the statement and found that he agreed with it.

Which is good since he’s the one who made it.

I, however, will stay that I stand by that statement. There are a number of us who have supported Mike with what he went through with the accusations that he was denying inerrancy. In this number are Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. I have some of each on my Facebook friends list. I would have no problem having guests of either persuasion on my show and in fact I do know I have had Catholics on there before. All of these people I see as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now do I think they’re off on some doctrines? Yep. You bet. You know who else is? Most everyone I know. In fact, I’m off on some doctrines. Why do I hold to them then? Because I don’t know what they are! I just know that the field of Christianity is a complex field and it would be quite arrogant of me to think I’m the one person who got everything right.

But let’s look at this charge. What is this with defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. As I told my wife that evening, I think too often we misunderstand the Gospel. We think the Gospel is justification by faith. It’s not. I do not deny justification by faith, but justification by faith is I think a response to the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.

In a book I recently reviewed called One Gospel For All Nationsbiblical scholar Jackson Wu presents a viewpoint from China on how different cultures see different things in the Bible. Of course, this doesn’t change what the Bible says, but we all have a danger of reading our culture into the Bible. Consider a passage like Romans 7 with the supposed autobiography of Paul. We all read that as if it is Paul describing what we go through, but it isn’t. Most scholars agree this is not autobiographical and is more a speech in character. If we go this route in fact, we could be putting us in that position and making us opposed to the good news in Romans 8 unintentionally.

Wu says that wherever the Gospel is mentioned, you find at least one of these three themes in the text. Those are creation, covenant, and Kingdom. The problem for most of us is we can go straight from Genesis 3 to the Romans Road and think all that stuff isn’t important. I think of what N.T. Wright said when he hears the creed that talks about Jesus “Born of the Virgin Mary”, and then “Suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Wright says he can picture the four Gospel writers in the background saying “We spent a lot of time on that stuff in the middle and we think it’s important.”

I find it odd then to think about defining faith apart from the Gospel itself. Perhaps we should hear what the Gospel is. Romans 1 for instance begins this way.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Some commentators will think that the Gospel doesn’t really start until later around verse 16 or 17. This is false. It begins right here. What do we have? We have a descendant of David which points back to the covenant made with David. We then have the resurrection of Jesus by which Jesus was declared to the world to be the Son of God. Because of this, we have received grace.

If we make something like justification the Gospel, then really we have to ask “What is the point of Israel?” Does the Bible just have a lot of filler stuff in it? What is the point of Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God? Could it be that maybe He actually meant there was a Kingdom and He was the king?

So what is the purpose of justification then in all of this? It’s realizing that there is indeed a new king in town and He calls for your allegiance. Justification is admitting that God is in the right and you are in the wrong and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. In doing so, God welcomes you to His family. God then looks at you and pronounces you to be in the right.

So let’s look at the above list. Protestants. Catholics. Orthodox. Would these agree that God created the world and yet it fell into sin through our actions? Yep. Would they agree that God made covenants with Abraham, Israel, and David? Yep. Would they agree that God revealed Himself in Christ, the God-man, who physically rose from the dead? Yep. Would they agree that we should all submit to Jesus as Lord? Yep. (And would they all fall short still in that submission. Yep.)

With that, I have no problem calling any of them my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have no problem working alongside them in ministry. If I minister to someone and he comes to Jesus and wants to be Orthodox or Roman Catholic, okay. I don’t have a problem with that. I would hope my Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers would think likewise if he wanted to join the other community or be a Protestant after they evangelized him.

So if Mike Licona is in the wrong for being willing to see Christians outside of evangelicalism and to fellowship with Roman Catholics and Orthodox brothers and sisters, well I guess I’ll be in the wrong too. I just see us all as learning to submit to Jesus as Lord. Do we have some differences and can we discuss them? Yeah. We do and we can, but that should not stop us from doing the real Kingdom work together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: One Gospel For All Nations

What do I think of Jackson Wu’s book published by the William Carey Library? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Would you like to hear the good news of the Gospel? You would? Okay. Long ago our ancestors Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from His presence. In order to bring us back, God sent His Son to us. He lived among us and died on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead and all who believe on Him can find forgiveness in His name.

Such is the way that a Gospel presentation can usually go. Now of course, when presenting the story of the Bible, one cannot give a full presentation of everything in the Bible, but isn’t it amazing how much is left out of this? Where is the history of Israel in this presentation? Does Israel have no purpose in God’s story? Where is the mention of Jesus being a king? You can see Him as savior, but will you see Him as King?

Jackson Wu is a Chinese scholar who writes about how to interact with Scripture in a more practical way to present the Gospel to all nations. After all, such an approach might work fine here in America to an extent (And that extent is lessening), but go to a more Eastern mindset and you could find it less effective. Wu primarily shows his own people of China as a different culture that contrasts heavily with our modern Western culture.

In doing so, Wu takes us back to Scripture and says we must look for the themes of covenant, creation, and kingdom. Whenever the Gospel is presented, we will find something of this there. You might not find all the themes, but you will find at least one of the themes.

This means also that when we go to another culture, that we can see how they interact with Scripture and find grounds of agreement first. We can disagree with the Marxist ideologically for instance, but could we find something we can agree on? We can agree with the desire to find a perfect society together. We can agree with the idea of removing distinctions that separate people. We can then show that these are also part of the new covenant in Christ.

The book also contains some interesting insight into Chinese culture where the goal is often to save face. How you look to the people around you means everything and if you don’t have a good reputation, it is as if you were already dead. There is also emphasis on how one treats their family, especially their parents. Picture going to this culture with the Gospel of the man who talks about how He must be more important to you than your own family and suddenly those ideas take on a whole new meaning.

Wu’s approach is contextualization. It means that we don’t just read the Scripture at face value alone, but try to interact and see the culture behind the Scripture as well. An honor-shame context is a better approach to understanding the Bible and as Wu shows by an example of Chinese culture, is still very much active in the world today.

Wu’s book is an excellent resource for missionaries or for anyone serious about evangelism. After all, to do missionary work today, you don’t have to go to another country. You can find people of another culture in our own neighborhood and you can turn on your computer and find people of a different culture. Wu’s book is one to read to better understand how Scripture and culture should interact together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Rest of Life

therestoflife

What do I think of Witherington’s work on life in the kingdom? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ben Witherington certainly is one of the greatest biblical minds out there and in looking through his books, I was intrigued to find one called “The Rest of Life.” In it, Witherington deals with issues not normally talked about explicitly in sermons and how they relate to the Kingdom. We are often told that we are to work hard at what we do, but are we told that we need to play? Witherington says we do. We are told we need to sleep, but what about rest, which Witherington says is different? How is it that we are to study? What about eating and drinking? And of course, we are told about sexual ethics at times, but do we have anything on the role of sex in the kingdom?

(Okay. Now with that last one I know I got the attention of every guy reading this blog.)

It is amazing we have so little on these when they so much dominate our time. Americans live a life where we can easily get enough food to satisfy us. How ought we to live in response? We have several entertainment options before us. Is it wrong for us to take the time to play when we could spend that time “serving the Lord” or “Doing Bible study”? What role does sex play in the kingdom of God, especially if there will be no need of it in eternity?

Witherington takes us through each of these kinds of areas and in the end of each writing, I definitely had a greater sense of how I wanted to live my life in response and take them more seriously. It is amazing that for so many of us in years of theological study, we never really take the time to consider the concepts of activities that we like to do every day.

For instance, let’s consider play. I have been a regular gamer all my life and is there any place for that in being a devout Christian? Absolutely. Play gives us a chance to unwind and release a lot of tensions. Of course, like anything else, done excessively it is a problem, but play is also pointing to the full realization of the Kingdom. It is pointing to a time where we do not have to worry about the world. We can enjoy something in the moment itself.

What about sex? Witherington certainly deals with the myth that many people have bought into about Christianity (Including people like Carrier) that for Christians, sex is only about procreation. Witherington tells us that it is also for the purposes of unity and pleasure, but any sexual relations for a Christian will be in a relationship that all things being equal, would be capable of reproducing were everything in full working order. He also shows us that this is in the context of marriage and that sex is not simply a physical act but an act meant to unify persons together in a bond of unity.

People who read The Rest of Life will be blessed for it. It will enable your life activities to be seen in a whole new perspective. Also, the chapters will work great if you want to read them in a small group setting or a church setting and have them be open for discussion.

And I have no doubt our churches would be blessed if we read more of Ben Witherington and others like him and far less of people like Joel O’Steen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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