14 October 2011

The Necessity of Biblical Theology, with Christ at the Center

by Phil Johnson



everal years ago, whan I was still fairly new to the blogosphere, our friends at 9Marks solicited my response to a survey question for the 9Marks eJournal. Here's the question, followed by my reply:

"In what ways will a congregation's understanding of salvation and the gospel be limited if their pastors do not have a good grasp of biblical theology?"

The answer is clear from history, starting with the sad case of the Jewish leaders whom we meet in the gospels. Jesus frequently scolded them for missing the main point of the Scriptures. They misunderstood the messianic promise (John 6:15). They misconstrued the purpose of the law (Galatians 3:21-25). They overlooked their own desperate need for true, justifying righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). They ignored the big-picture story of the Old Testament (John 5:37-47). And therefore they reduced the Scriptures to a manual for moralism, legalism, stark sacramentalism, and a hubristic kind of nationalism.

Jesus' answer, again and again, was to point out that He is the focus of all the Scriptures: "Search the Scriptures . . . these are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me" (v. 46). "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (8:56). Even after the resurrection, the disciples did not seem to understand the full import of all this; so on the road to Emmaus, he gave them an extended overview of the whole sweep of biblical theology: "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).

Since Christ is the focus of all the Scriptures, no preacher has fully expounded the meaning of any passage until he has shown its relationship to the rest of redemptive history and how it points to Christ.

Preaching that omits this vital dimension always breeds the same kind of dull-heartedness and spiritual decline Jesus encountered in Israel at his first advent. The church today is in the throes of a very similar torpor, anesthetized by the suffocating miasma of man-centered teaching and moralistic platitudes that ignore the gospel. Too many churchgoers have been fed for too long on a steady diet of topical messages, motivational talks, shallow, feel-good homilies, or even thinner gruel.

What is the expected result of that? Worldliness, superficiality, bad doctrine, unsanctified church members, ego-driven church leaders, and virtually every other spiritual malady that is currently crippling American evangelicalism.

The only remedy, and (I believe) the best recipe for revival in the church, is a powerful wave of biblical preaching and biblical theology in which we recognize and proclaim Christ as the center and focus of everything God's Word has to say.

Phil's signature

65 comments:

Tom Chantry said...

Hmmm:

This First: I completely agree with everything Phil says here. I read it twice just to make sure. Great stuff, and important stuff.

And now, Two Words of Caution (before this meta gets hijacked by people some of you never heard of):

1.
If your take-away from this post is that the only thing the Bible does is present the atonement/crucifixion/reformation-doctrine-of-justification/etc. - you missed Phil's point entirely.

2. If your take-away from this post is that anyone who does not follow one particular homiletic method is a Christ-denying moralist - you missed Phil's point entirely.

whew

And now, when I press "publish your comment," if I find I'm still the first comment, I can breath a little easier.

The Blainemonster said...

I yearn for that....

Mathew Sims said...

Amen Phil. It's so important we have a grasp of Scripture from beginning to end. Could you recommend any good resources for people looking to dive into Biblical Theology and are looking for Christ-centered resources.

Kent Carroll said...

Phil, I agree completely.

It takes a pastor some time to lay the foundation for a Christ-centered Biblical theology. Many pastors kowtow to the post-modern, shortened,attention span of their congregations and deliver to them pablum instead of solid spiritual food.
A beautiful sight to behold is when a congregation has an insatiable appetite for Biblical theology and a pastor emboldened by the Spirit of the Almighty to given them just that!

Kevin Rhyne said...

Matthew,

I have found Ed Clowney's stuff to be very helpful in this regard (http://www.edmundclowney.com/). Also, 9Marks has some works on it as well (http://www.9marks.org/ejournal/what-discipline-biblical-theology). A good start might be at the Gospel Coalition: http://thegospelcoalition.org/preaching-christ/

Hope this helps.

Manfred said...

Phil's post is most excellent and Tom's comments are most helpful.

My wife and I are blessed to belong to a church that has emphasized the centrality of Christ in all of Scripture, the teaching of Biblical Theology (Vos is not an easy read), and the sufficiency of Scripture. We get a steady diet of the depravity of man, to boot. All of this is humbling and causes the souls of the saints to Praise the Lord!

Terry Rayburn said...

"Since Christ is the focus of all the Scriptures, no preacher has fully expounded the meaning of any passage until he has shown its relationship to the rest of redemptive history and how it points to Christ."

Amen!

And the pointing to, and examination of Him ought not be as a science professor expounding on some interesting bacterial culture, but as a beloved one pouring out the Beloved One, that He might be known and loved more.

Matt Aznoe said...

Well said, Phil.

This part really jumped out to me:

"they reduced the Scriptures to a manual for moralism, legalism, stark sacramentalism, and a hubristic kind of nationalism."

I have seen this nationalism in several churches I have attended (and it is very popular here in Texas) where America is being set up as a new Israel with the American flag draped around the cross. Some are more subtle about it than others. We need to remember that our citizenship is in heaven, not on this earth. I love my country, but my allegiance is to God.

I think you are right on, Phil. I would add that what we need is Spirit-empowered Biblical preaching, and that only comes about by prayer. As Ravenhill said, the battle is won in the prayer closet before the pastor even enters the pulpit.

Dr Bill said...

Sent me to the dictionary twice in one sentence! "Torpor," "miasma," but now must add the relatively unsophisticated W.V., "dinshi."

;o)

Alex Guggenheim said...

This post and its Biblical considerations is a great preface or addendum (take your pick) to the "Contexualization" series at Grace To You.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'm thankful for Phil's exhortation, and for Tom Chantry's follow-up cautions.

A good summary resource, Matthew (or anyone else interested), is Rick Holland's chapter in this book. He is thoroughly Christ-exalting, insisting that Christ should be in every sermon, but does not advocate the abuse of inserting Christ into texts where He is not.

Robert Warren said...

"...the best recipe for revival in the church, is a powerful wave of biblical preaching and biblical theology in which we recognize and proclaim Christ ..."

Indeed.

When I was a wee lad, it was not uncommon in the South to see signs at churches during the summer like this: "Revival June 25 7PM". I now realize that they might just as well have displayed a sign that read "Hailstorm July 13 3:19PM".

Regardless of what Finney said, revival is not ginned-up by enthusiastic men, it is a Grace of God bestowed through the preaching of the whole counsel of the Bible.

Joe said...

"Jesus' answer, again and again, was to point out that He is the focus of all the Scriptures" --Phil Johnson

Tragically, Jeremiah's Prophecy is, of course, true [ref Jeremiah 16:19; cf Jeremiah 7:8-10]. For a false-concept messiah is preached: a new-way guru who was not sin-free, but "did work" on the Sabbaths (i.e. breaking the Law of God), etc. The result is that modern mainline Christians do not follow the Son of God who invites us to follow Him. Rather, today's church-goers follow a pagan Roman Emperor who decreed all to profane the seventh-day Sabbaths and to rest and worship on the "venerable day of the sun god" ...which the antichrist Popes' rubber-stamped while claiming the power and authority to change God's Law [ref Daniel 7:25].

The victorious Christ whom the Apostles knew (and who divinely tutored Pharisee Saul) was spotless, sinless, Torah-compliant -- that is the righteous Way to Salvation which He demonstrated and taught: as He said (and is iterated at least 19 times for emphasis), "Follow Me!" [ref Matthew 4:19; et al]; e.g. "go and sin no more" [John 8:11; cf John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 John 2:1a].

When is the last time you heard a preacher quote --and BELIEVE-- 1 John 3:4 "Whoever commits sin transgresses the law, for sin is Torahlessness"?!

Why Torah? It is the divine 'Instructions' to know what is God's will for us to do on earth as it is in Heaven. It is the spiritual "milk" upon which to grow in faith [ref Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2; cf 1 Corinthians 3:2].

Romans 6:15, 18:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 
18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Yeshua haMashiach (i.e. the God of true and faithful Israel) AND His Word (written and Living) are True and UNchanging!

HalleluYah!

Tom Chantry said...

wow

Sir Brass said...

And all I have to say is,


Huh?

Matt Aznoe said...

Funny, I was just having a similar conversation on Facebook. There is a growing movement to go back to the law while ignoring the teachings of Paul in Galatians. To wit:

"You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight — the only thing that matters is faith working through love."
(Galatians 5:4-6 NET)

We are already in the Sabbath rest in Christ:

God's Promised Rest

"Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it. For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith. For we who have believed enter that rest..."
(Hebrews 4:1-3a NET)

"Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who enters God's rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works."
(Hebrews 4:9-10 NET)

Tom Chantry said...

Hey Sir Brass (got the right knight that time),

Let's watch Joe and Matt have this one out! Should be interesting. Funny thing is, Joe no doubt would think you and I are exactly like Matt, while Matt (who I expect might be a bit more charitable) would probably think we resemble Joe.

On second thought, this meta seems to be going a rather different direction than Phil probably intended.

Sir Brass said...

Tom, indeed. However, I hope Matt recognizes how we're not at all like Joe.

But you know who Joe reminds me of? The people Pastor Baruch Maoz is refuting in his book: "Judaism Is Not Jewish" (my source: ISI Interview with Baruch Maoz)

Tom Chantry said...

It's a pity Baruch shrinks from controversy so much, no?

Matt Aznoe said...

Tom and Sir Brass,

Of course not. I'm sorry that I did not put Joe's name in my response, but it was specifically directed at his post. There has been no indication whatsoever that you guys would fall into that camp.

Just because we have certain differences in regard to the nature of our relationship with the Holy Spirit does not mean that we cannot agree on nearly everything else.

Sir Brass said...

I take it that was sarcasm? It's sometimes hard to tell over pure text :).

Tom Chantry said...

Matt,

Sir Brass and I happen to be those rarities - confessional Reformed Baptists. We would probably take issue with the way you framed your response to the law - but then, we might take issue with many of our other friends here, also.

I meant it when I said you are a more charitable man. Unlike Joe, you probably wouldn't call us pagan, heretical antichrists just because we formulate the relationship of law and gospel differently from you.

No sarcasm on my part, and I haven't suspected any on yours either.

Tom Chantry said...

Sir Brass - if you meant was I being sarcastic (re. Baruch) of course I was! You've heard the man talk - ever met him?

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Wow, Phil. This just goes hand and hand with a conversation I was having with a friend today--my pastor's wife.

While this quote is true in many cases (thankfully not in mine) due to the preaching,

"The church today is in the throes of a very similar torpor, anesthetized by the suffocating miasma of man-centered teaching and moralistic platitudes that ignore the gospel. Too many churchgoers have been fed for too long on a steady diet of topical messages, motivational talks, shallow, feel-good homilies, or even thinner gruel,"

I think sometimes the problem comes from the sheep feeding in so many other pastures. There's an endless supply elsewhere (books, online, concerts/conferences of sorts) during the week, and then we sit under biblical preaching once or twice at our local church, which almost falls flat in comparison.

It is a huge challenge, I think, for pastors and elders to wisely guide the flock away from false teachers for their best spiritual growth when there are so many detractors.

Sir Brass said...

Tom, just making sure :). I also like (though regret the necessity) the tale which is told that he preaches with a concealed uzi at the ready.

And I've only heard him on the ISI interview.

olan strickland said...

Phil: Since Christ is the focus of all the Scriptures, no preacher has fully expounded the meaning of any passage until he has shown its relationship to the rest of redemptive history and how it points to Christ.

Amen Phil, even the Gospel out of context with its redemptive-historical framework is a pretext. This has huge ramifications for the entire Christian enterprise.

donsands said...

"...churchgoers have been fed for too long on a steady diet of topical messages, motivational talks, shallow, feel-good homilies, or even thinner gruel."-Phil

So sadly true this is. And I can see this will always be a portion of the church.
And yet these "churchgoers" will say these sermons were "powerful", and really helped me. I hear this a lot.

And so the grandest depths of the rivers of God's truth and Spirit are thought to be genuine and fulfilled in a shoal of morality and feeling good about ourselves.

Thanks for such a excellent post. I shall be sharing your words with others, and hopefully they will touch other's hearts and minds as they have mine.

Have a holy and joyous Sunday, and Lord's Day!

ps You too Joe.

The Bible Christian said...

This post reminds me of something I just recently read from Spurgeon.

“The best sermons are the sermons which are most full of Christ. A sermon without Christ it is an awful, a horrible thing; it is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked by the roots. It is an abominable thing to give men stones for bread, and scorpions for eggs, and yet they do so who preach not Jesus. A sermon without Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there, and yet His glorious gospel is the easiest thing to preach, and the sweetest thing to preach; there is most variety in it, there is more attractiveness in it than in all the world besides!” C.H. Spurgeon Christ the Glory of His People

Johnny Dialectic said...

The only remedy, and (I believe) the best recipe for revival in the church, is a powerful wave of biblical preaching and biblical theology in which we recognize and proclaim Christ as the center and focus of everything God's Word has to say

Well stated. I would only add, vis-a-vis revival, much prayer. As Tozer put it, revivals are born after midnight.

Anon A. Mousse said...

This is such a crucial issue within the "church culture" of modern evangelicalism! We were having a similar conversation in our community group last night in relation to how we view the responsibility of the body of Christ to love Christ, each other and the world.

A major problem as I see it is the failure to understand and preach that the gospel that justifies us also sanctifies us as laid out in Romans 5:10. The result is exactly what you described, Phil; a moralistic, legalistic and/or pietistic approach to life after we receive our "fire insurance policy". I think many believers, myself included, have been lulled into a sense of being on our own to work out our lives on the other side of the "door" after we have been brought into the kingdom by grace.

I confess that I have failed to be truly gripped, and therefore transformed in my heart and mind, by the impact of Christ's work as prophet, priest and king on my behalf. As a result, I do not truly see others, whether inside the body or outside of it, in light of God's great love for them, choosing instead to play the game of judging theology, hermeneutics, outward behavior, etc. as a measure by which to compare myself and take pride in my own accomplishments in this life.

I am so grateful to be part of a local body with a pastor who reaches deep into the Word to show us how God has loved us throughout history, pursuing us even as our forefathers (and we ourselves) turned away to chase idols and false lovers.

I pray for us all to continually reject the pragmatically driven, ends-justify-the-means approach to ministry prevalent today and seek Christ and his finished work as the basis for all that we are and all that we do.

Excellent topic.

Anon A. Mousse said...

In response to Matt's comment on the marrying of nationalism with theology, I just say "right on, brother!" I am so deeply disturbed by churches who pimp out their pulpits to politicians and others with the messages of restoring America to whatever unbiblical position they are hawking a the moment.
We so desperately need to abandon this ridiculous America-as-new/last-Israel and come back to a kingdom view of creation.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Pyro is still not a link-dump.

Matt Aznoe said...

Joe,

It is a good thing that God already addressed those issue through the apostle Paul:

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days -- these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!"

And so we return to the subject of today's blog: Christ is the central theme of our theology and our lives.

DJP said...

Matt Aznoe telling someone he's off-topic.

Just sayin'.

Matt Aznoe said...

Dan, it was more of a reminder to myself. I was glad to see that God helped me out on that one. ;-)

Stefan said...

What a privilege we have through the Holy Spirit, that Yahweh in His grace, mercy, and lovingkindness, has given us this wonderful story from Genesis to Revelation of God's great redemptive purposes in history, first to us Jews then to the Gentiles of every nation, all through the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Messiah.

And praise Yahweh that He has granted us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life in the perfect atonement of His Son, our Lord and Saviour, our Passover Lamb, Jesus Messiah, His blood sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat as the propitiation for our sins, so that we can see God's character revealed in the Law as a tutor and guide to us, and not as a burden to keep us separated behind the Veil.

Larry Geiger said...

When I was much younger they said "Jesus is alive!" and I thought to myself, no he's dead and gone because of that cross thing. Eventually I got it.

The whole "the bible is about Jesus" did not occur to me until I read Henrietta Mears book, "What the Bible is all About". I was stunned. I don't what you guys think about Henrietta or her book, but it blessed immensely.

Larry Geiger said...

Ooooooooooooooooops:
blessed me immensely

Terry Rayburn said...

"What a [link] dump!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3zShjyaTr8

Sorry.

BTW, Dan, I just finished The World Tilting Gospel. A good written example of the object of Phil's post. Very well done!

Oh sure, now you want a link. Well, okay then:

TWTG

Not an affiliate link :)

BTW again...TWTG was extra refreshing, since I had just finished Rob Bell's convoluted contradictory quasi-theological quasi-poetic masterpiece of ridiculous non-sequiturs and LSD-like speculations coming to Screwtapish confusion for undiscerning bretheren (other than that, it was pretty g...no, it actually wasn't).

DJP said...

Darn, Terry, too late for a book-blurb!

"Perfect rinse after reading Rob Bell!" - Terry Rayburn

Terry Rayburn said...

I love it.

Joe said...

Some of the comments indicate that they don't believe the Messiah when He (the Word made flesh, i.e. the Hebrew Scriptures, which includes the Law) said that He did not do away with the Law. He showed His followers how to fulfill the Law and that His Torah-yoke is easy and His burden is light.

The yoke of Torah-transgression [ref 1 John 3:4] is a heavy load [ref Romans 6:23] which leads to the resurrection ~shock~

Matthew 7:23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice Torahlessness!’

Or, stay ~on-topic~ of a false (concept) Christ.

HalleluYah! Always, halleluYah,

Joe

PS- Misinterpretations of Paul [ref 2 Peter 3:15-18] do not show errors in what I posted above.

Joe said...

@ DJP
Pyro may not be a dump, but the treasures are hidden by all the refuse (inherent pun) [Matthew 23:13].  Good bye.

donsands said...

Hey Joe,
So you keep the whole law, so that you can go to heaven?

just asking.

Cameron Shaffer said...

The Psalm 119 Conference, maybe Dr. Azuria's sermons, still ringing in your ears Phil?

Good word man. Thanks

Robert said...

Just wanted to write that the second we take our focus off of Jesus, who do we think we are depending upon? The answer should be clear.

As for Joe....wow. I'd respond, but feel that there is a verse (check that, quite a few verses)in a certain book of wisdom from the Bible that tells me I shouldn't.

Stefan said...

As a Jewish Christian, I feel compelled to respond....

The question of Torah observance is utterly irrelevant to Gentile Christians, and has never been relevant. They are covered under God's covenant with Noah (not with Moses), and believing Gentiles are under the New Covenant....AND Paul covered this 2000 years ago in his letter to the Galatians.

For us Jewish Christians, it is a relevant question, but we, like our Gentile brothers and sisters, have been regrafted into God's olive tree under the New Covenant, under which God promised that He would "put My Law within them, and write it on their hearts"; it is a matter of obedience of the spirit of the Law from the heart, and not of outward rule-following. What are we to make of Shimon (Peter), to whom God declared that all foods were now clean?

Yeshua the Messiah's death was in vain—for absolutely nothing—if He was merely an example to follow, or if we must meticulously follow the Law in addition to believing in Jesus. His precious blood was shed upon the Cross as the atonement for the sins of many, as the final fulfilment of the Yom Kippur sacrifices, securing our way through the Veil, His blood sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat, God granting us propitiation for our sins. And He is also our Passover Lamb, who died for our redemption from slavery to sin.

And He is also our Sabbath Rest. He indeed promises us that if we take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, we will find rest for our souls. ...Just as God tells us to do through Jeremiah: "Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and find rest for your souls." And what is that Good Way? Yeshua tells us: "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me." We cannot come to the Father by our own frail and faulty efforts, but confessing our sins and placing our trust in the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ.

When David in Psalm 51, Asaph in Psalm 79, Daniel in Daniel 9, or the tax collector in Luke 18 prayed for forgiveness, on what basis was it? To entrusted themselves to the mercy of Yahweh, pleading with Him to grant atonement to them on their behalves. That atonement came through Yeshua the Messiah.

And this is all so central to the great biblical narrative, which brings us back once more to the point of this post! Our sins are forgiven, and we are free in Christ! What wonderful Good News!

Alex Guggenheim said...

Blogger Stefan said...

As a Jewish Christian, I feel compelled to respond....
________________
And this may be precisely your problem. There is no such thing as a "Jewish Christian" as far as the Scriptures are concerned (yes I know about the descriptive passages, no need to cite them). Christ swallowed your Jewishness just as his swallowed my Gentilism.

Notice the post title, "Biblical Theology, with Christ as the Center". This is not only true about our theology which is to be Biblical and not racial, ethnic or cultural (IOW there is no such thing as "White Christians" or "Jewish Christians" or "White Theology" "Black Theology" or "Jewish Theology" with regard to the Scriptures and the intent of God in the body of Christ)but our spiritual identities as well. And these identities are, again, with Christ at the center and not borne of, or defined with, any human property. Such sources of identification are valid in other contexts or other divine institutions such as family, but not spiritually.

Christ at the center.

thomastwitchell said...

I am a Wyoming Christian and you're not, Alex, nanner, nanner!

Enjoyed an introduction to Christ in all the Scripture that is being presented by Dennis Johnson at our church. Even though he is an Escandido Christian, he has the focus right.

Strong Tower said...

"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I."

Stephan, don't let anyone despise your origens. Paul didn't. It was who he was. Keep up the good fight and be encouraged.

donsands said...

"Christ swallowed your Jewishness just as his swallowed my Gentilism."-Alex

Don't know about that.

I know that father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham; and I am one of them.

Jesus was a jew in the line of Judah, and David. Very imporatnt truths. Would love for Phil, or Dan, or Cent to post on this subject one day. I love to soak these things in. God's covenants and the way He elected His people.

have a great Lord's day!

swimthedeepend said...

"The only remedy, and (I believe) the best recipe for revival in the church, is a powerful wave of biblical preaching and biblical theology in which we recognize and proclaim Christ as the center and focus of everything God's Word has to say."

Well, I suppose I should take my encouragement more from the Word and Spirit of God than from the fact that someone out there happens to agree with me. But the more I study the Old Testament, the more I find types, shadows, forerunners, and applications of Christ and His Gospel. I have been accused of trying to shoehorn New Testament Christ-centered Gospel revelation into Old Testament "Bible stories" (especially in a recent study of the life of Samson), but, the more I study and pray, the more Christ seems to be the chief point of the Old Testament.

Stefan said...

Alex:

Yes, we are all one in Christ, and what a glorious truth that is!

I don't primarily self-identify as a Jewish Christian. But if a Messianic Jew comes along and accuses Christians of not following Christ correctly because they are not observing the Law, then my own perspective on it as another Jewish believer in Christ is relevant.

All that being said, however, we should never forget the richness of the biblical tapestry that comes out from considering its nuances, in the same way that (for example), the four Gospels give us four different perspectives on Jesus Christ, which must be taken together as a whole to get a complete picture of the incarnate ministry our Lord and Saviour.

And there are ways in which our perspective may be different. For example, the Exodus event is part of my ancestral memory. As an atheist-agnostic-secular Jew, I grew up attending a yearly Passover seder, in which we commemorated the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, and through the bread, wine, and lamb partook (unknowingly at the time) in a foretaste of the Lord's Supper.

But indeed, all of us come from somewhere, be we Dutch, Nigerian, Russian, or Korean; and coming from Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, or Hindu backgrounds. The primacy of the Gospel and the singularity of the worldwide body of Christ is paramount, but we should not pretend that we don't each have our own particular filter and lens through which we understand our relationship to God in Christ.

Stefan said...

By the way, my own life as a Christian has been one of immersion in fellowship with "the nations," and it is a testament to the universal mission God described to Isaiah, initiated by Jesus Christ in the Great Commission, and to find its final fulfilment in Revelation.

* Learned the Gospel from Malaysian-Chinese believers;
* Came to saving faith in Jesus Christ in a multi-ethnic church planted by German-Russian Mennonite Brethren;
* Attended a Bible study for mixed Korean-Canadian couples;
* Was baptized by the Korean associate pastor;
* Attend services where there is simultaneous translation into a dozen languages;
* Led "Discovering Jesus" classes for people of Chinese and Vietnamese origin;
* Have ministered to Chinese-Canadian Pentecostals and Sudanese Catholics.

In five years as a born again Christian, I haven't actually fellowshipped with a single other Christian of Jewish origin—not by design, but that's how it's turned out.

It is a wonderful privilege that no matter who we are or where we came from, we are all indeed one in Christ.

Rachael Starke said...

Stefan, I loved your response to Joe, and all the ones after that. Your church sounds like what heaven will be like.

Stefan said...

Rachael:

Thanks for your kind comment...but as long as it's a church made up of sinners like me who are very much this side of glory, heaven will be a billion times more wondrous!

Alex Guggenheim said...

Blogger donsands said...

I know that father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham; and I am one of them.

Jesus was a jew in the line of Judah, and David. Very imporatnt truths. Would love for Phil, or Dan, or Cent to post on this subject one day. I love to soak these things in. God's covenants and the way He elected His people.
____________

Don,

Thanks for the response. I always encourage others to recall my specific words, that it is in the body of Christ and in spiritual contexts that our human identities become, at best, anecdotal but never a source of our spiritual identity or its expression (this is expanded from earlier).

You are right to cite our Lord's Jewishness because it was relevant in that and other contexts. But now, with regard to the body of Christ, the church, our human properties are disallowed significance and Christ is all and exclusive. We are of the tribe of Christ and no other.

Again, in other relevant contexts human properties are not disallowed, but in the body of Christ human properties are neither the source of our identity or its expression. Humanity and its properties now serve Christ's needs and objectives and not the other way around.

I realize these are not always common statements in Evangelicalism but they are not foreign. And yes, within Evangelicalism you will find many sympathies toward human properties + Christ for our spiritual identity and its expression, but under rigorous examination and testing, I believe these fail, always and without exception and I am up for the task.

I am currently reading Piper's Bloodlines and plan to critique it with this premise in mind (but not this one alone).

donsands said...

"We are of the tribe of Christ and no other."-Alex

I agree and disagree brother.

When the rich man was in hell and saw Lazarus, what did he say?

I think we still have distinctions, and yet are all one in Christ. Jew and gentiles are both the Messiah's elect, just as females and males are distinct and yet we are one. I think we will keep our distinction, or the way God made us, and it's a good thing to have all these differences, and yet we are one in Christ:-- There are two folds and one flock; or is that two flocks and one fold.
I guess we disagree on a "in church" argument. And yet, I am willing to see it different. I just don't at this time.

Hope this isn't too much of a rabbit path Phil.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Don,

What does the word, "anecdotal" mean to you? The reason I ask is because I have, repeatedly, been clear that our human properties remain, simply as anecdotal properties with regard to our spiritual identities and its expression.

And no, is not a rabbit trail, frankly it is a consequence of what Phil presented.

donsands said...

"What does the word, "anecdotal" mean to you?"

It is a word that doesn't mean a whole lot.

Biblical truth is what we need to look at.

Jacob, or Israel, is a man that God focused on, and I see that focus even now: Not to mention Abram, and Isaac.

Dan said...

WARNING: blast from the past!

@ Tom Chantry,

Sir Brass and I happen to be those rarities - confessional Reformed Baptists. We would probably take issue with the way you framed your response to the law - but then, we might take issue with many of our other friends here, also.

Would you care to recommend some online or offline reading on that issue from a Ref Baptist perspective? Thanks!

(And sorry for straying a bit off-topic.)

Tom Chantry said...

@Dan,

Probably too off-topic, but email me - the address is linked from my profile.

Sir Brass said...

Stefan,

Brother (in Christ), I LOVED your response. Essentially straight out of Hebrews (and amazing how it addresses the issues so many Messianic Jews take against us goyim today ;)), and if not a nutshell, a very good summing up. I found it edifying and encouraging as well. Thank you.

Dan, quick book plug in answer to your question, get the new book on Covenant Theology by Greg Nichols (Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants, Solid Ground Publishing, 2011). It'll help you see our side of the picture as Covenantal Baptists.

AOMin.org has it in the webstore.

Stefan said...

Sir Brass:

Thanks for your response: it's very humbling.

To God be the glory!