2. Doctrine Based Preaching
The doctrines of the one faith are of themselves an imperative
to preach them. “Paul was constrained by the word” to testify to
the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:5 RV). As demonstrated
in We’re All Preachers, if we have
believed it, we will quite naturally tell it forth to others. In
Gal. 1:9 we read the phrase “preach any Gospel”. The
Greek word behind that phrase is simply euaggelizo- the
Gospel. The Gospel is the preaching of it. To know the Gospel is
in itself an imperative to preach it. We intend now to analyse some
of these doctrines and see in what way they of themselves form an
imperative to preach them.
2.1 The Bible is God's inspired, infallible word.
Therefore we will read, preach and study it with a zest no other piece
of writing can command. The wonder of the fact that this book really is
the words of God Himself needs repeated meditation. Out of Heaven, Israel
heard the voice of God Himself (Dt. 4:36)- a God so infinitely far away,
spoke to men. And those words have been recorded. When we read His word,
we hear His voice. Thus “Scripture” is put for “God” (Rom. 9:17; Gal.
3:8) and vice versa (Mt. 19;4,5). When we speak and preach God’s word,
we are relaying God’s voice to men, and should make appropriate effort
to deport ourselves as the ministers of His word and voice- not to mention
diligently ensuring that our expression and exposition of His word is
correct and not fanciful. We are to speak / preach “as it were oracles
of God” (1 Pet. 4:11 Gk.). We are His voice to men in our preaching
of His word. Because the word is so pure, therefore we love it
(Ps. 119:140). John Carter rightly observed: “Upon our understanding of
what the Bible is, our attitude to it will be determined”(1)
A comparison of 2 Tim. 3:16 with 4:2,3 makes it clear that because the
inspired word is profitable:
for doctrine therefore
preach the word; be instant in season, out
of season (i.e. whether
you naturally feel in the preaching mood or
for reproof therefore
for correction therefore
for instruction in righteousness therefore
exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
2.2 Baptism into Christ is essential for salvation.
So therefore we'll preach the Gospel and try with all our heart to persuade
others (including our children) to be baptized. We will realise that the
unbaptized world (including apostate 'Christianity') has no hope, and
we will treat them accordingly.
2.3 The Lord Jesus was our representative.
2 Cor. 5:14-21 urges us to preach the salvation in Christ to all men,
because He died for us, as our representative. He died for [the
sake of] all (5:14,15), He was made sin for our sake (5:21);
and therefore we are ambassadors for [s.w.] His sake (5:20).
Because He was our representative, so we must be His representatives in
witnessing Him to the world. This is why the preaching of Acts was consistently
motivated by the Lord’s death and resurrection for the preachers. Phil.
2:9 in the AV says that the Lord Jesus has a name “above” every name.
Yet His Name surely cannot be “above” that of Yahweh. The Greek for “above”
is usually translated “for [the sake of]”, and I would suggest we read
Phil. 2:9 as saying that the name of Jesus is for [the sake of] every
name, in that every man and woman was potentially comprehended in His
all-representative sacrifice. By baptism into the name of Jesus, they
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. There
was and is no other name given under Heaven by which men can be saved;
“every name” under the whole Heaven must take on the name of Jesus in
baptism. This is why Acts associates His exaltation (Acts 2:33; 5:31)
and His new name (Acts 2:21,38; 3:6,16; 4:10,12,18,30; 5:40) with an appeal
for men and women to be baptized into that Name. Realising the meaning
of the Name of Jesus and the height of His exaltation meant that they
realised how “all men” could have their part in a sacrifice which represented
“all men”. And thus they were motivated to preach to “all men”. And thus
Paul’s whole preaching ministry was a bearing of the Name of Jesus before
the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).
2.4 Jesus is the Christ
If we deny Christ, we deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 Jn. 2:22); and
yet we deny Christ if we don’t preach Him (Mt. 10:33). It follows that
if we really believe that Jesus was not just Jesus of Nazareth but the
Christ of God, therefore we won’t deny Him but will preach Him. This is
why there is connection between confessing Jesus as Christ and preaching
Him (Jn. 9:22; Acts 18:5; Phil. 2:11). A grasp of who the Lord Jesus really
is and the height of His present exaltation will naturally result in a
confession of Him to the world, as well as a deep personal obedience to
His word and will (Heb. 2:1). “But and if ye should suffer for righteousness
sake...fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your
hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man”
(1 Pet. 3:14). Knowing and having Christ as Lord of our hearts
will in a practical way enable us to overcome tribulation, and will lead
to a suitably humble witness in response.
2.5 The ascended Christ was highly exalted and given the Name above
every Name, so that for those who believed this, they would bow
in service at the Name of Jesus.
Peter preached in and about the name of Jesus- this is emphasised (Acts
2:31,38; 3:6,16; 4:10,12,17,18,30; 5:28,40,41; 10:43). The excellence
of knowing Him and His character and the wonder of the exalted Name given
on His ascension (Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:12) lead Peter to witness. Because
of His exaltation, we confess Jesus as Lord to men, as we later will to
God at judgment (Phil. 2:9). According as we confess Him before men, so
our judgment will reflect this. Lifting up Jesus as Lord is to be the
basis of giving a witness to every man of the hope that lies within us
(1 Pet. 3:15 RSV). The knowledge and experience of His exaltation can
only be witnessed to; it can’t be kept quiet. 3 Jn. 7 refers to how the
great preaching commission was obeyed: “For his name’s sake they went
forth, taking nothing (material help) from the Gentiles” (Gentile believers).
For the excellence of knowing His Name they went forth in witness, and
moreover were generous spirited, not taking material help to enable this.
The knowledge of the Name of itself should inspire to active service:
for the sake of the Lord’s Name the Ephesians laboured (Rev. 2:3).
Because “all power is given unto me...go ye therefore and teach
all nations” (Mt. 28:18,19). The great preaching commission is therefore
not so much a commandment as an inevitable corollary of the Lord’s exaltation
(2). We will not be able to sit passively in the knowledge
of the universal extent of His authority / power. We will have to spread
the knowledge of it to all (see “Into all the world” for more on this,
especially the way 1 Tim. 3:16 alludes to the preaching commission as
having already been fulfilled the moment it was uttered, so strong is
The greatness of Christ clearly influenced Mark’s witness; he began his
preachings of the Gospel (of which his Gospel is but a transcript) by
quoting Isaiah’s words about how a highway was to be prepared “for our
God” and applying them to the Lord Jesus, whom he saw as God manifest
in flesh. Appreciating height of who Jesus was and is, clearly motivated
his preaching. And it should ours too. This is why Paul in the face of
every discouragement could preach that “there is another king,
one Jesus” (Acts 17:7). This was the core of his message; not only that
there will be a coming King in Jerusalem, but that there is
right now a King at God’s right hand, who demands our total allegiance.
2.6 Through His resurrection, forgiveness of sins became possible
for all men.
If we believe this, we will preach it world-wide. He died and rose as
the representative of all men; and therefore this good news should be
preached to all kinds and all races of people. Men from all nations were
in prospect sprinkled by His blood (Is. 52:15); and therefore we must
extend the knowledge of this to all men, both in our collective and personal
witness. Lk. 24:48 simply comments that the disciples were witnesses to
the resurrection and the fact that forgiveness and salvation was therefore
potentially available to all men. The parallel records in Mt. and Mk.
say that they were told to go out and witness to the resurrection world-wide.
Putting them together it is apparent that if we are truly witnesses of
the resurrection in our own faith, then part and parcel of this is to
take this witness out into our own little worlds.
His resurrection is an imperative to preach. When Peter is asked why
he continues preaching when it is forbidden, he responds by saying that
he is obeying God’s command, in that Christ had been raised (Acts 5:29-32).
There was no specific command from God to witness (although there was
from Christ); from the structure of Peter’s argument he is surely saying
that the fact God raised Christ is de facto a command from God
to witness to it which must be obeyed.
Because the Lord’s resurrection enabled forgiveness of sins (1 Cor. 15:17),
Peter therefore on this basis makes an appeal for repentance and appropriation
of the Lord’s work for men through baptism into His death and resurrection
(Acts 2:31-38; 3:15,19 “therefore”). Because of the Name the Lord has
been given, salvation has been enabled (Acts 4:12 cp. Phil. 2:9). “God,
having raised up his Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away
every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26); “the God of our fathers
raised up Jesus…exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour,
for to give (i.e. inspire) repentance to Israel, and forgiveness” (Acts
5:30,31). The fact of the Lord’s resurrection has obtained forgiveness
of sins for all who will identify themselves with it through baptism into
Him; and this is why it is thereby an imperative to preach it, if we believe
in it. The disciples were told to go and preach of the resurrection of
Christ, and therefore of the required responses this entails:
repentance, acceptance of forgiveness and baptism (Lk. 24:46). Preaching
is motivated by His resurrection; why do it, why fight with beasts at
Ephesus, if Christ be not raised...? (1 Cor. 15:14). Baptism saves us
“by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21 cp. Rom. 4:25; Col.
2:13). We who were dead in sins were “quickened together with Christ”
(Eph. 2:5). If we believe in Christ’s resurrection, we will therefore
repent, confess our sins and know His forgiveness. Thus believing in His
raising and making confession of sin are bracketed together in Rom. 10:9,10,
as both being essential in gaining salvation. Because He rose, therefore
we stop committing sin (1 Cor. 6:14). We can’t wilfully sin if we
believe in the forgiveness His resurrection has enabled. Men should repent
not only because judgment day is coming, but because God has commended
repentance to us, He has offered / inspired faith in His forgiveness by
the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:30,31 AV mg.). The empty tomb
and all the Lord’s glorification means for us should therefore inspire
personal repentance; as well as of itself being an imperative to go and
share this good news with a sinful world, appealing for them to repent
and be baptized so that they too might share in the forgiveness enabled
for them by the resurrection.
2.7 The Lord’s blood was shed for our redemption.
Paul had a debt to preach to all men (Rom. 1:14). But a debt implies
he had been given something; and it was not from “all men”, but rather
from Christ. Because the Lord gave us the riches of His self-sacrifice,
we thereby are indebted to Him; and yet this debt has been transmuted
into a debt to preach to all humanity. Our obligation to the Lord for
His death for us issues in an obligation to preach that message to others.
Consider the implications of 2 Cor. 5:20: “On behalf of Christ, as though
God were intreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ: be ye reconciled
to God [because] him who knew no sin he made to be a sin [a sin offering?]
on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him”.
Because of the cross, the atonement which God wrought in Christ’s
offering, we beseech men to be reconciled to God. Appreciating the cross
and the nature of the atonement should be the basis of our appeal to men.
And indeed, such an appeal is God appealing to men and women,
in that there on the cross “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
Himself”. The blood and spittle covered body of the Lord lifted up was
and is the appeal, the beseeching of God Himself to men. And
this is the message that we are honoured to preach on His behalf; we preach
the appeal of God through the cross.
Through His death, the veil was torn open, so that we might enter into
the Holiest “by the blood of Jesus, by the way which He dedicated for
us...through the veil, that is to say [the sacrificing of] his flesh”
(Heb. 10:19-22 Gk.). This assumes that the followers of Jesus are already
in the position of the High Priest standing in the Holy Place, but through
what He opened through the cross, each of us must now go through into
the Most Holy. And what was the purpose of the High Priest’s entry? To
obtain forgiveness for others, to mediate for them, just as Jesus
did on the cross. His cross compels us to not merely passively contemplate
our own salvation, but to go deeper into the very presence of God in our
ministry for others. Yet the High Priest had to cleanse himself
meticulously; access had been limited to the Most Holy as a result of
inadequate preparation by some in the past (Lev. 16:1,2). The Lord’s death
opened up the veil, for us to pass through with the utmost effort made
by us in personal sanctification, in order to further God’s glory in the
salvation of others. We cannot simply refuse to enter, turn away from
the torn veil. To do so is to turn away from what the cross has achieved,
and to place ourselves outside its scope. We must go forward, go onwards
into the presence of God to replicate in essence the Saviour’s work, with
the awed and humble spirit of the High Priest entering the Holiest on
the day of atonement. He would surely have carefully analysed his motives,
as to why he was passing through that veil, and whether he was
sufficiently personally sanctified for the work he was doing. He would
have been comforted by knowing that his motives were solely for the glorification
of his God in the redemption for his people which he was seeking to obtain.
2.8 The judgment seat will come. All the responsible will come before
it. The rejected will gnash their teeth in anger against themselves.
The prophets pronounced judgment to come on behalf of Yahweh, but then
their prophecies often change pronouns for a few verses as they plead
with Israel, and even Gentile nations (in the case of Isaiah and Jeremiah)
to repent, so that these judgments will be averted (after the pattern
of Jonah and Nineveh). Their knowledge of judgment to come, their belief
that the word they knew and preached would really be fulfilled, led them
to a true sense of concern for those who would suffer from it, and they
begged them to therefore repent. Zephaniah pronounced judgment, and then
diverted to personally appeal to his people (Zeph. 2:1-3). We shouldn’t
be frightened to preach judgment to come. When God’s judgments are manifest
in the earth, then the nations will come and worship before Him.
The harder side of God in slaying Ananias and Sapphira likewise resulted
in men and women being converted in their masses. Judgment to come, and
our responsibility to that judgment, shows that God is God, and flesh
is flesh. It isn’t something that can be turned away from. God judged
nations in order that men might know Him as Yahweh (e.g. Ez.
25:11; 28:22; 30:19). Yahweh is exalted in His judging of men (Is. 5:16).
His judgments make His Name / character manifest. “Who shall not fear
thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy Name?...all nations shall come and worship
before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev. 15:4).
A number of OT passages (e.g. Is. 25:3) hint that a remnant of Israel’s
Arab enemies will actually repent and accept Yahweh’s Truth- after
their experience of His judgments (this is expanded upon in The
Last Days). The manifestation of His judgments is for the benefit
of humans, that they may come to know God and appreciate their own sinfulness.
When God finally arises in judgment, “all men shall fear, and shall declare
the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing” (Ps. 64:9).
God is to be feared and worshipped because of the hour of His judgment
(Rev. 14:7); “when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of
the world will learn righteousness” (Is. 26:9); for “the Lord is known
by the judgment which he executeth” (Ps. 9:16). Thus Israel will know
that “I am the LORD” in their final condemnation, as Ezekiel so often
prophesied. This clearly associates God’s judgment with a learning process.
“When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise” (Prov. 21:11).
The repentance of Egypt will be because “the Lord shall smite Egypt...and
they shall return to the Lord” (Is. 19:18-22). “Rejoice, O ye nations,
with his people” (Dt. 32:43) is quoted in the NT (Rom. 15:10) concerning
Gentile response to the Gospel. But they will rejoice and respond because
of God’s terrifying judgment of His enemies outlined in the context (Dt.
32:41-44). In some way, the harder side of God attracts, in that men see
in truth that He is God and they but men. It’s rather like how the idea
of conditional salvation, and that not for everybody but a tiny minority,
I find both hard to accept and yet the very thing that clinches the actual
reality of ‘the truth’ we hold. Or like Josiah, whose zealous reforms
started with reading “the book of the covenant” (2 Kings 23:2), probably
the list of curses which were to come for disobedience (2 Kings 22:19
= Lev. 26:31,32). In this sense Paul used the terror of possible
condemnation to persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11). Interestingly, the very words
which Jeremiah was tempted not to speak forth, so stern was their message
of judgment to come, were what had the power to lead Israel to repentance
Often the prophets break off from predicting coming condemnation to plead
personally with their hearers to repent [this explains some of the
strange shifts of pronouns in the prophets]. Take Micah. Chapter 2 is
full of a message of judgment against Israel. And then Micah pleads: “And
I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob…is it not for you
to know [the coming of] judgment?” (3:1). Likewise: “For this will I wail
and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like jackals…at
Beth-le-Aphrah have I rolled myself in the dust” (Mic. 1:8,10 RV). Rolling
naked in the dust…this was the extent of Micah’s passion for the repentance
of his audience. He comes to the point where he would fain make
sacrifice for Israel, even to the point of offering his firstborn son,
so strongly did he take upon himself the sins of his people. But he tells
Israel that even this will be no good; they must repent themselves: “Wherewith
shall I come before the Lord...shall I come before him with burnt offerings....shall
I give my firstborn for my transgression?...what doth the Lord require
of thee, but to do justly...and to humble thyself [in repentance]” (6:6-8).
In all this, Micah came close to the spirit of the Father and Son. For
the Father would give His firstborn for their sin. Like the Father and
Son, he came looking for fruit on the vine of Israel: “my soul desired
the firstripe fruit” (Mic. 7:1). This chapter goes on to describe God
warning Micah of how Israel would betray him and seek to kill him, despite
his love for them, in language evidently prophetic of the Lord’s sacrifice
(see Harry Whittaker, Bible Studies for full documentation of
this. It’s a fine piece of Biblical scholarship). Thus in Micah’s love
for Israel, in the depth of his appreciation of the reality of judgment
to come, he came to know the spirit of Christ crucified in the depth of
his zeal to appeal to them. And we too know with quite some accuracy the
judgment to come upon Israel and our fellow man. We cannot know this and
knowingly tut tut to each other about it, and do sweet nothing about it.
If we know it, we will appeal to men with conviction, as Isaiah’s heart
cried out for Moab like a young heifer about to be slaughtered, feeling
for them in what would come upon them, and desperately appealing for their
repentance. Because the Moabites would cry out and their voice would be
heard, “my heart shall cry out for Moab” (Is. 15:4,5,8). As the Lord Jesus
is a representative Saviour, we too must feel the judgment that is to
come upon others, and in that sense cry out for them as they will cry
out. “Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab” (Is. 16:7)- but Isaiah, feeling
for them so strongly, also howled for them; “my bowls shall sound like
an harp for Moab” (16:11). And he felt the same for his own people, Israel.
He repeatedly pronounces “woe” upon them (Is. 3:9; 5:8,11,18,20,21,22;
8:11), and yet in that very context he can exclaim: “Woe is me”
in chapter 6; he identified with them to the point of also feeling unworthy
and under woe [in this clearly typifying the Lord’s identity with us].
This level of love inspired Jeremiah to adopt the same attitude (Jer.
48:20,31-34); he too howled for those whose howling in condemnation he
prophesied (Jer. 48:31 s.w.). As Moab cried out like a three year old
heifer (Jer. 48:34), so did Isaiah for them (Is. 15:5). All this was done
by Isaiah and Jeremiah, knowing that Moab hated Israel (Is. 25:10) and
were evidently worthy of God’s condemnation. But all the same they loved
them, in the spirit of Noah witnessing to the mocking world around him.
Our knowledge of this world’s future means that as we walk the streets
and mix with men and women, our heart should cry out for them, no matter
how they behave towards us, and there should be a deep seated desire for
at least some of them to come to repentance and thereby avoid the judgments
to come. Particularly is this true, surely, of the people and land of
Israel. It ought to be impossible for us to walk its streets or meet its
people without at least desiring to give them a leaflet or say at least
something to try to help them see what lies ahead.
And there are many other Biblical examples of this genuine pain at the
lostness of this world, and their refusal of the Gospel’s grace; not least
our Lord Himself weeping over Jerusalem. Think of how He was angry [i.e.
frustrated?] , “being grieved for the blindness of their hearts” (Mk.
3:5). Are we just indifferent or evenly smugly happy that men are so blind…?
Or do we grieve about it to the point of angry frustration? Remember how
Moses and Paul would fain have given their eternal life for the conversion
of Israel, this is how they felt for them. Reflect too again on Jeremiah;
how he responds to the prophecy he has to utter against the hated Philistines
by begging the Father to limit these judgments, presumably on account
of their repentance: “O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere
thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still” (Jer.
47:6). Think too of how he almost interrupts a prophecy he is giving to
Israel about judgment to come by appealing for them therefore
to repent (Jer. 4:13,14). Our handling of the prophecies of judgment to
come should have a like effect upon us: they should inspire us to an inevitable
witness. In the light of the Lord’s coming in judgment, we are thereby
‘charged’ to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1,2).
2.9 The Power Of The Cross
Throughout the NT, there is a clear link between the preaching of the
cross, and men and women being converted. There is a power of conversion
in the image and message of Christ crucified as our representative. Man
cannot remain passive before this. Baptism is an appropriation of His
death and resurrection to ourselves. This is why the response to the preaching
of the cross in the 1st century was baptism. And the response doesn’t
stop there; it continues, in the living of the life of the risen Jesus
in our lives after baptism: “For the death that he died, he died unto
sin…the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also
yourselves to be dead unto sin but alive unto God [because you are] in
Christ [by baptism into Him]” (Rom. 6:10,11 RV). The death He died, the
life He lives, are all imperatives to us now. Some were tortured “not
accepting redemption” (Heb. 11:) ; by implication they accepted the true
redemption of the blood of Christ rather than the pseudo-redemption offered
by this world. Again, the redeeming work of Christ is what fortifies men
against the fake Kingdom and redemption of the anti-Christ anti-Kingdom
of this world. Romans 6 compares baptism to a change of masters. The point
has been made that this is a reference to manumission, whereby a ‘redeemer’
gave a ‘ransom’ to a god, which meant that a slave was freed from his
master and became a free man, although he was counted as a slave to the
god to whom the redeemer had paid the ransom. Indeed, lutron
, one of the words translated “ransom” with regard to the blood of Christ,
has this specific meaning. Deissmann comments: “When anybody heard the
Greek word lutron, “ransom”, in the first century, it was natural
for him to think of the purchase money for manumitting slaves”(2)
(Light From The Ancient East p. 323). C.K. Barret in The
New Testament Background p. 52 agrees with this.
This means that when we come to understand the atonement, we understand
that the price has been paid to free us from slavery into the service
of God. We are in the position of a slave who suddenly discovers some
gracious benefactor has made the longed for payment of ransom. And so
he goes free, but is willingly and eagerly in slavery to the god to whom
his redeemer had paid the price. In our case this is none other than the
One, Almighty God of Israel. And the ransom is the precious blood of Christ,
which thereby compels our willing slavery to the new Master. There are
other references to manumission in Gal. 5:1,13 RV: “For freedom did Christ
set us free…ye have been called unto freedom” and in the references to
our being bought with a price, i.e. the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23).
And this is the horror of 2 Pet. 2:1- “denying even the Master that bought
them [out]”. To turn against their gracious redeemer was the ultimate
sick act for a slave freed through manumission. And this is the horror
of turning away from the Lord. The death of Christ is thereby a warning
to us of the end of sin and therefore the need to change. The death of
the covenant victim was to act as a warning for what would happen to those
who broke the covenant. Thus “The men who transgressed my covenant…I will
make like the calf which they cut in two” (Jer. 34:18 RSV). In the account
of a Babylonian covenant it was written: “This head is not just the head
of the goat…it is the head of Mati’ilu…If Mati’ilu breaks the oath, then
as the head of this goat is cut off…so shall the head of Mati’ilu be cut
off” (A. Jeremias, The Old Testament In The Light Of The Ancient East
Vol. 2 p. 49). Thus the dead animal was seen as a representative of the
person who entered the covenant. The death of our Lord, therefore, serves
as a reminder to us of the end for sin. We either put sin to death, or
we must be put to death for it. Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:16 and other passages
liken the blood of Christ to a covenant; and yet the Greek word used means
definitely the last will and testament of a dead man. His blood is therefore
an imperative to us to do something; it is His will to us, which we must
execute. Thus His death, His blood, which is also a symbol of His life,
becomes the imperative to us for our lives and living in this world. Note
how blood is a symbol of both life and also death (Gen. 37:26; Num. 35:19,33;
Lev. 20:9). Both His death and His life form a covenant / testament /
will for us to obey- in both baptism and then in living out the death
and life in our daily experience.
The Truth of the Gospel is the only way to come to salvation. All other
religions apart from true Christianity will not give salvation nor a relationship
with God. Realising this, David pleads with his people to be a missionary
nation: “Give thanks unto Yahweh, call upon his name, make known his deeds
among the people...for great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised: he
also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the
people are idols; but Yahweh made the heavens” (1 Chron. 15:8,25,26).
The more we realise the pathetic fallacy of human religion, indeed the
whole and utter vanity of life under this sun, the more we will preach
Yahweh’s Truth to a tragically wandering, aimless world.
The Power Thereof…
Sadly, our community has all too often separated doctrine from practice.
We haven’t seen that doctrine is intended to bring forth living and love
towards others. The doctrines of the one faith aren’t merely empty theological
statements devised as a test of our obedience and understanding. They
are as they are to inspire a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ. We have
analysed some aspects of doctrine, especially relating to the atonement,
to an extent that is inappropriate; and we have virtually divided over
these matters. And yet the pseudo-intellectual minutiae over which there
has been such strife contain no power to live the new life. It is the
basic Gospel itself which has the power to bring forth the new man, after
the image of Christ. It is crucial to what I would call ‘true theology’
[defence of first principles, upholding the Truth, call it what you will]
that it is not separated from the call of doctrine to be the vital force
for the transformation of human life. It seems to me that after 150 years
of ‘holding the Truth’ and not really preaching it very much nor living
it very deeply, Western Christianity has developed a complex intellectual
theological system, which although it is all perfectly true, looking for
a praxis. That praxis, I submit, is in the preaching of the Gospel to
the poorer world, and within the more desperate parts of Western society.
In these places there is plenty of praxis, striving to find an adequate
theological / doctrinal underpinning. People don’t know their Bibles,
don’t know doctrine, and yet they so want to be taught. So we must teach
doctrine- it’s what they so need. But may our preaching be as it were
theology on fire, logic on fire; doctrinal truth preached with a genuine
passion, not just a cold academic statement of our position. Things are
coming together, slowly, as Western Christianity starts to see its
need to reach out, and is encouraged by the successes the Lord has granted.
We are starting to realize that the true theologian cannot avoid the challenge
of knowing personally life in its most traumatic forms. It has been truly
observed: “theology cannot but have a mission”. Unless ‘theology’, doctrine,
defence of it etc., are put at the service of our mission, to save men
and women and glorify the Lord, then there can only be an ever increasing
gap between the ‘theologians’ and the grass-roots ecclesia, especially
in the mission field. The two halves must come together, else
the new converts will wander, and the ‘theologians’, shocked at the lack
of perception in the converts, will likewise go their own way, into ever
increasing abstraction and theory. This was the problem of the scribes
and Pharisees (Mt. 23). We can so easily be like them; concerned
with doctrinal correctness but devoid of human compassion.
It is worth observing the very simple fact that the New Testament is
essentially a missionary document- all the expressions and articulations
of doctrine / theology found there are all in the context of the preaching
of the Gospel and the immediate problems of men and women in responding
to it. This is why we aren’t given a cold statement of faith or catechism
in the New Testament, but rather the history of the mission of Christ
at its’ first beginning. Ephesians 6 sums up all we have sought to say
when it speaks of “the readiness to preach which the Gospel of peace gives”.
Those in Corinth who had believed the Gospel had “utterance and knowledge”
(1 Cor. 1:5), the Greek “meaning that they spoke out (“utterance”) the
Truth because of their strong grasp of its meaning (knowledge)” (Michael
The Gospel records are transcripts of the original preaching of the Gospel
delivered by e.g. Matthew or John. Thus John wrote down his gospel
“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
of God, and that by believing you may have life in
his name” (Jn. 20:31). His first letter was written, it
seems, to the converts which his Gospel preaching had made: “I write
these things to you who believe in the name of
the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal
life” (1 Jn. 5:13). It has even been suggested that John
was writing in order to win converts to Christianity from a specific
synagogue somewhere in the Diaspora (3).
Another suggestion is that John is aiming at converting Samaritans
(4) or at least, a group of Gentiles perhaps associated
with a synagogue. For John records how Samaritans came to Jesus,
how “the world” includes them and not just Jews (Jn. 4:42); how
physical descent from Abraham is irrelevant now (Jn. 8:33-41); how
the true Israelite is anyone who has been born again (Jn. 1:47;
3:3-8), and John stresses that the true sheep of Jesus for whom
he died are not just Jews (Jn. 10:16; 11:51,52). John records Jesus’
explaining that He has already done the sowing, but the reaping
of the Samaritans / Gentiles is up to us the reapers (Jn. 4:35-38).
The lesson is that we must each preach the Gospel to others in a
way that is relevant to them, not compromising the basic message,
but articulating it in ways that connect with their needs and situation.
The New Testament is simply full of encouragement and example in
(1) John Carter, Dare We Believe?.
(2) There is some similarity with the
way in which the exaltation of Israel / God’s people was so that all men
would be witnessed to (Dt. 4:6).
(3) W.C. van Unnik, “The Purpose of
St. John’s Gospel”, Studia Evangelica 1 (1959): 410.
(4) Edwin D. Freed, “Did John Write
His Gospel Partly To Win Samaritan Converts?”, Novum Testamentum
12 (1970): 256.