What do I think of Matthew Bates’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Matthew Bates is a friend of mine and when he got in touch with me about his newest book, I was happy to help out. Something I really like about Bates is that I see him as a scholar for the people. He is writing books that many people see as directly relevant to their own lives. He takes the work that is done in the academy and breaks it down for the average person in the pew.
In this one, he’s talking about why people should come to the gospel. It’s a question many of us don’t think about and if we do, we give the usual answer. The forgiveness of sins. That is the good news. Right?
When I hear people doing evangelism, I hear this kind of thing often. What’s the goal of Christianity? To get to Heaven. I remember a pastor who used to say the same prayer at the conclusion of every sermon so much that I had it memorized.
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and without you, I cannot get to Heaven, so come into my heart and be Lord of my life from this day forward. Thank you for my salvation. Amen.”
Nothing about repentance. Nothing about the resurrection. If anything, this is just saying Jesus is my ticket to Heaven so God, do this for me.
Definitely, nothing about Jesus being a king.
As I read that again I thought, imagine asking someone out and using something similar. Approach them and tell them you want them to be with you for all the things they can do for you. Imagine going to a job interview and telling them they should hire you for all the things you want them to do for you. Wouldn’t really work would it?
Bates’s contention is that we have to have Jesus as a king. On location 164 (All future references with a number will assume location from now on) of the Kindle form, he says we should never think of Christ as a name. It is not. This is something Islam and Mormonism miss as well seeing as they regularly say Jesus is the Messiah, but they don’t grasp His being a king. When we say Jesus is the Christ, we mean Jesus is the king.
He says on 385 that faith is not just mental acceptance, but it has an outward focus as well. It is to be lived out in allegiance to the one. Thus, when we say Paul says we are saved by faith and James says faith without works is dead, who is right? Answer: Both of them. Faith is that which saves us and works are those which show where our allegiance lies.
This also means that the idea that internet atheists have of blind faith would make sense whatsoever to the biblical writers. Faith wasn’t just something in the head. It was lived. Commitments like that were serious. Christians knew they were signing up to something serious when they became Christians.
At 1264, he warns us that the gospel is not just all about the cross. This might sound scandalous to some, but it shouldn’t. Jesus tells us early on in Mark to repent and believe the good news. (gospel.) There was no cross yet. People were still expected to believe.
If we just say the cross is all that matters, then the resurrection can be an add-on. If all of it was to show the deity of Jesus, then why not have Him stay on Earth to show that? No. Jesus is taken to Heaven instead. Why?
If it’s to show He’s the king, you see why. He has to rule. He has to go to His throne. He has to sit at the right hand of God.
Of course, the cross and resurrection are important. The cross was the intention of man to shut down Jesus. it was the place of utter shame for Him, but it was also where He went to pay the price for sins as well, fighting the enemy of His people head-on. The resurrection is God’s vindication. It is God saying “Yes. This is the King.”
Bates urges us to put kingship before forgiveness. If we don’t, Jesus becomes mainly a means to an end for us, a means of forgiveness. That’s backward. If anything, we are the means to the end of the glory of God. God has inherent glory that cannot be changed, but He also has ascribed glory that can be seen as His reputation in the world and we can affect that. That doesn’t change the nature of God for those concerned, but it does change how the world perceives Him.
If we start with Jesus as king, we come to realize that we need forgiveness because we are all guilty of divine treason against this king. We have sought to be the king instead and we need to change our allegiance and say we are on the side of Jesus.
I also like his idea that we should go with goodness, truth, and beauty to show the work of the king, even to those who don’t think God exists. (A great look at this kind of approach I started recently is Rembrandt in the Wind) In my own works of video games and theology, I regularly point to this along with the impact of a story on people.
Aside from content also, this book was meant to be read by groups. The chapters are short enough that people can read them in a week’s time and meet together and discuss the questions together. Would that more people would do this. I would encourage anyone wanting to do evangelism to read this book. Frankly, I would encourage you to read anything by Bates. You won’t be disappointed.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)