A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


Introduction ( by Alan Eyre)

1. We're All Preachers: Motivations For Preaching || 1.1  Joyful Urgency || 1.2 Making Disciples

2. Doctrine Based Preaching || 2.1 The Bible is God's inspired, infallible word

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 not)

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 imperative).

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 (Jer. 26:2,3).

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 Ashton).

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 this.


(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.