Big Picture Gospel – Part 2

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose: 1) to have relationship with Him and others (and) 2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation.

It is this two-fold purpose that establishes the two greatest commandments in the Bible (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) (Mat 22:37-40).

It should therefore come as no surprise that moral physics – most specifically the practice of justice (or equity), is what makes us peacemakers (Mat 5:9 “peacemakers” = Equity promoters and protectors – Mat 7:12 “for this is the Law and the Prophets” [Mat 22:40 “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets”]; IOW: Equity [or justice] is the foundation of moral physics, the Bible and our creation mandate. Hence Psa 89:14 “justice is the foundation of your throne”).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is defined by the Bible (God’s written words).

Anything therefore not agreement w/the Bible is not truth, beauty or justice.

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

It is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships w/God and the rest of Creation.

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

This then is the other reason we suffer; this life is a test.

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation).

6. Like our human marriages, the covenant relationship we exist in with God operates according to the principles of gain and maintain: we gain the relationship w/God by grace through vows of faith (expressed in baptism) and we must maintain it through faithful submission to the rest of His covenant laws (His moral physics: truth, beauty and justice) as our Head or Husband.

1) (Exo 24:7-8 w/Lev 18:5 [Eze 20:11]; 1Pe 1:1-2 w/3:21 w/Gal 3:26-27 [“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”; IOW: faith = baptism]; Mat 28:19-20).

2) (Mat 19:16-19 [v21, “if you wish to be complete”]; Luk 10:25-28; Rom 3:28 w/Jam 2:21-24 [v22, “faith was completed”]; Phi 2:12-13; Phi 3:16 [“let us keep on living by that standard to which we have attained” = Let us maintain what we gained] followed by a warning vv17-19; Deu 29:18-20 w/Heb 10:26-30; Jer 3:3-8; Isa 50:1).

3) Faithful not perfect (Deu 28:1); We can be faithful (Deu 30:11-14).

4) God is our head/husband (Isa 54:5).

5) We must obey the latest version of God’s Law and its application – i.e., the one associated w//His current salvific covenant. In our case, the New Covenant. In every case, this Law is comprised of two-parts: clean laws (the signs associated w/that covenant’s justification/right standing w/God: 1] Adamic and Noahic = Animal sacrifice, 2] Abrahamic = Animal sacrifice and circumcision, 3] Old = Animal sacrifice, circumcision, separation and sabbaths [in the NT these are referred to as “the works of the law”], 4] New = baptism and the LT) and moral commands (the rest of God’s commands according to the current covenant’s prescribed application – e.g., 1Co 5:1-5 versus Lev 20:11).

7. Jesus, the fully God – Son of God is not only the specific Person of the Godhead[6] with whom we must gain and maintain a marriage covenant if we want to be a part of the new Creation (i.e., He is the divine Husband), but also the One lovingly sent to earth by the Father so that through His death and resurrection, sin could be sufficiently cleansed from His covenant people and the way of salvation finally opened to all those nations who formerly rejected Him.

1) (Joh 1:1 “Word” [Grk., logos] = Jewish philosopher Philo id’d Melchizedek as “the logos of God” before the time of Jesus w/Joh 8:56 [Gen 14:17-20 w/Heb 7:1-28 and Heb 11:10 “city whose builder was God” = Jewish tradition says that Mel was the builder of Jerusalem – i.e., Jesus built Jerusalem; Jud 1:5; Heb 9:15-16 w/Exo 24:1-8; Eph 5:22-23).

2) (Joh 3:16; Eph 2:4-5; Rom 3:25 w/Heb 10:1-18; Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:1-4).

3) (Mat 1:21; Luk 2:32 [Act 13:47]; Act 17:26-31; Luk 10:1w/17 = Seventy sent out to take control back from the demons as a sign of Jesus’ coming deliverance of the seventy gentile nations given over to Satan and the demons [Gen 10:1-11:9 w/Psa 106:35-37 w/1Jo 5:19]. Hence v18; Eph 2:12).

8. Because God is reasonable and just (or equitable), He will give to people as their eternal home what they freely chose based on their deeds in this life which means hell – or a place of nothing but fire – for those who rejected their two-fold purpose since this is all that is left after God takes His truth, beauty and justice with Him into the New Creation.

1) (Deu 7:9-10; 1Sa 26:23; Mat 16:27; Rom 2:6-10; 1Pe 1:17; Hence Rev 20:11-15).

2) (2Pe 3:10-13) = The removal of the righteous and all that is righteous from this Creation will start a blaze that will never be put out or escaped by those left behind.[7]

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE = Do your best to give people the big picture (gospel).

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (your are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] The one true and only God of heaven and earth eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence the reason all three are named in our baptism of allegiance (Mat 28:19 w/1Pe 3:21).

[7] Hell or the lake of fire is also described as a place of utter darkness (Rev 21:8 and Mat 25:41 w/Mat 8:12, 22:13, 25:30 and 2Pe 2:12, 17 and Jud 13). Is it possible this is all that remains when the elements of Creation are removed? A field of dark energy or burning plasma similar to that found in space? Is it possible that the expansion of the universe caused by this dark energy (which scientists believe came after initial creation of the universe) is a result of sin and the countless demons and dead spirits which are expanding its realm (Eph 6:12 “forces of this darkness”)? “An exotic possibility is that [dark energy] springs from the physics of extra dimensions.”(Ron Cowen, “A Dark Force in the Universe,” Science News).

What the Bible Teaches About Resurrection

Resurrection (def.,): The supernatural phenomenon whereby the present state of those who have died is replaced by once more being alive in a physical/material body yet unable to die again.

1. Easter is also known as “Resurrection Sunday” since it marks the day Jesus Christ became the first person to experience resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is also the reason God’s people corporately worship God on Sunday rather than Saturday (Rom 6:9; 1 Co 15:20; Act 20:7 = Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday).

2. Jesus’ resurrection (to Paradise): 1) proved that He is the Divine Son of God (Rom 1:4 w/Joh 10:18), 2) means His sacrificial death was sufficient to propitiate – or satisfy God’s requirements for cleansing the sins of His people and make them truly righteous before God the Father. As such, the temporary injunction of animal sacrifices (“pass-over atonement”) was forever canceled (Rom 3:23-25, 4:25 w/Heb 10:10-17; also Mat 1:21).

3. No one since Jesus has experienced resurrection since: 1) the son of the Shunammite woman, the widows’ sons, Lazarus, Dorcas, and Eutychus experienced resuscitations not resurrections given they died again (1Ki 7:17-23; 2 Ki 4:18-37; Luk 7:12-15; Joh 11:39-44; Act 9:36-41, 20:9-10), 2) all those who have died in the past currently exist like God without physical/material bodies ([Due 4:15-18 w/Joh 4:24 w/Luk 24:39] w/1Co 15:20-23; 1Th 4:16-17; 2Co 5:8).

4. Every person who has ever lived will experience a resurrection at the return of Jesus to earth (Joh 5:28-29; Act 24:15 [Dan 12:2; Psa 11:7]).

5. Before Jesus’ resurrection, those who died went either to Abraham’s bosom (the temporary resting place of righteous disembodied spirits) or Hades (the temporary torturing place of wicked disembodied spirits) and neither could cross over to the other (Luk 16:19-26).

6. After Jesus’ resurrection, those in Abraham’s bosom were allowed into heaven (their sins having been propitiated versus simply passed over) to fellowship w/the Trinity, the angels and the righteous disembodied spirits of those who die after Jesus’ resurrection (Heb 9:15-16 w/Eph 4:8-10; 2Co 5:8; Luk 23:43).

7. Experiencing the resurrection of the wicked will: 1) be the fate of most human beings because they chose to love wickedness rather than put faith in and be faithful to Jesus during their earthly life (Mat 7:18-23; Luk 13:23-24; 2Th 2:1:5-9, 2:10-12, 2) be followed by God’s condemning judgment and then being tortured in a lake of fire everyday forever (Psa 11:4-6; Rev 20:11-15; 2Th 2:10-12; again Joh 5:28-29 and Dan 12:2).

8. Experiencing the resurrection of the righteous will: 1) be followed by God’s approving judgment then an eternal life of never sinning, suffering or being bored, as they will be forever equipped with superhuman bodies and forever occupied with discovering, developing and enjoying King Jesus’ perfect new – and infinite universe to His glory (Rev 21-22), 2) require not only pledging your allegiance to Jesus in this life through baptismal faith but then living in faithful obedience to those vows until you die or Jesus returns (1Pe 3:21; 1Jo 3:7-10; Luk 20:35 “those considered worthy to attain to the resurrection [of the righteous] w/Joh 5:29).

9. We should not be surprised that people mock our belief in a future resurrection, the resurrection was as unpopular (a belief) in the ANE as it is today (e.g., Act 17:18 w/31-32). To not believe in a resurrection – most especially, the resurrection of Jesus, will eternally condemn you (1Co 15:1-4 “the gospel which I preached to you” w/Gal 1:6-9 “a different gospel…anathema”).

“Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter claimed that somebody had been truly dead and had then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.” – N.T. Wright (The Resurrection of the Son of God).

10. The fact that there will be a future resurrection not only confirms that this is not the only life we will live, but that the point of this very temporal life is to determine what version of eternal life we deserve (1Co 15:32).

 

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY: GOD IS REAL. THIS LIFE IS THE TEST. GAIN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE RIGHTEOUS.

 

PHI 3:10-11

“10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Canon – Function

Canon (definition): Those books containing God’s spoken words (the Old and New Testaments otherwise known as Scripture, God’s Word or the Bible) preserved for the purpose of saving (physically, spiritually) His people (the covenant community).

A major deterrent to canonical confidence[1], is not only a poor understanding of the canon’s formation, but the intended function of God’s spoken words as communicated in the canon itself. This study (or part one) will address the latter, part two, the former. With that in mind, there are several important truths that must be understood with respect to God’s spoken words:

 

1. The exclusive instrument God has chosen to lead and have relationship w/His people (i.e., to save them) has been His spoken words (not feelings or Jesus’ face in pancakes or naan – or the more recent and local example, glitter bombs [Church of the Front Range]) (Exo 34:27 “in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” = God’s words were the means to covenant relationship w/OC Israel; Deu 31:8-9 = God’s words were the means to leading OC Israel; Isa 8:19-20 = Those led by anything other than God’s spoken words are counterfeits; Heb 1:1-2; 2Ti 3:16 “inspired” [Grk., “God-breathed” = Spoken by God] = What has been written down as Scripture is what was spoken [to the human authors] by God; 2Pe 1:19-21 = Gaining and maintaining a saving relationship w/God [“until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” = Until you get to heaven/the day of your eternal salvation is realized] requires that you give yourself to His “spoke[n]” words [“Scripture”] as the exclusive means to leading and living your life [versus to false teachers who lead thru feelings, their experiences or promises of false freedom [2:1-19]; What about Gideon’s fleece? See Jug 6:36 w/37-40).

2. Since the purpose of God’s spoken words is the salvation (physically and spiritually) of His people, we should: 1) always view His spoken words with this as their intention (i.e., whatever He has said is relevant/important to the subject of salvation – 2Ti 3:15), 2) never view His spoken words as an attempt at referring to or explaining all things (e.g., the Bible has very little to say about dinosaurs; the Bible spends very little time on the subject of Creation).

3. Never – including the present, have God’s people ever possessed all God’s spoken words yet they have always had what they needed to be faithful (Deu 29:29; 2Pe 1:3; e.g., 1Sa 10:10-11; Joh 20:30; Col 4:16; Rev 10:4).

4. God at times, has deliberately hidden His spoken words – or their understanding, until His people were ready to receive it and take the next necessary step in their journey of obedience (Neh 8:13-18 [Lev 23:34; Deu 16:16]; Eph 3:1-6 = OT saints not given full understanding as to the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. Hence Mat 13:34-35 and Luk 24:27, 45-46//Luk 9:45, 18:31-34; Joh 12:16, 13:7, 20:9; *the importance of this truth to our church: do not become unsettled by the fact that as we mature, God corrects our poor understanding of His spoken words from the past – e.g., Calvinism, baptism, Insurrection or the unforgiveable sin, what other things qualify as a capital crime, etc. ** what has never changed: our view that what a person needs to do to be saved is more than simply put faith in Christ, they must also be faithfully obedient to His laws).

5. God has also deliberately foregone giving the exact application for some of His spoken words to accommodate the changing moral climates experienced by His people throughout the world and redemptive history (e.g., Deu 25:1-3; 1Co 5:1-5 w/2Co 2:6-8; see also 2Co 8:21; *important not to miss: though the church is given freedom as to the application of these laws, that does not make our decisions arbitrary or without God’s authority and backing[2]; Mat 18:18-20).

6. Under Jesus’ new covenant kingdom, God has deliberately changed the way we are to understand and apply some of His previously spoken (or preserved) words (e.g., Rom 10:20-21 w/Isa 65:1-2; 1Co 5:1-5; Col 2:11-12; Act 15:17 w/Amo 9:12 [LXX versus MT[3]]).

7. In addition, God has deliberately made some of His spoken words hard to understand (e.g., 2Pe 3:16) so that those who truly love Him will truly understand it and those who don’t, won’t[4] (Jer 29:13 “with all of your heart” = Hard work motivated by love is the condition to finding God; Isa 6:10 w/1:1-15 and 5:24 = Dull and dim are God’s curse on those who refuse to love Him by listening to His laws [to love is to listen]; Mat 13:13-15; Joh 8:42-43; Act 28:27; 2Co 12:7-10 [the theory of desirable difficulty] = We are better at understanding things [we are “stronger”] when those things are presented in a difficult way[5]).

8. Though not always apparent on the surface, there are no contradictions or inconsistencies between the principles established by God’s spoken words in the Old Testament and those established in the New Testament (Hence the reason: 1) Jesus and the NT’s speakers always appeal to the OT in support of their position or teaching – e.g., Act 24:14 [roughly, one out of every three verses in the NT is a direct or indirect reference to the OT], 2) Paul supports the OT as a source for becoming “wise” about NT salvation or training in righteousness [2Ti 3:15-16], 3) the Scriptures used at the start of the 1st century church to discern truth from error was the OT [the NT didn’t exist] – e.g., Act 17:10-11//e.g., Act 15:17 w/Amo 9:12 = No contradiction in the way James applies Amos since the intended goal of the prophet’s words agree with James’s interpretation [i.e., the Gentiles will be able to seek God’s salvation w/o becoming Jews [“all the nations who are called by My name”. Hence Paul’s struggle w/the Jews – Gal 6:13-15 w/3:28).

9. The two worst things therefore a person can be, are: 1) lazy in working hard to understand God’s spoken words (2Pe 3:16 = The reason they are “untaught and unstable” is due to their unwillingness to put forth the effort or work to “grow” in their understanding of God’s new covenant plan [the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” They are “unprincipled men” [lazy – literally, w/o a law governing their behavior- most esp. God’s law – e.g., 2Pe 2:7], vv17-18; why so bad: v16b, “to their own destruction”) and 2) under the impression that no changes or corrections will be made to their understanding of God’s spoken words as a consequence of their growth in understanding (and therefore refuse to change – or call into question what is being taught) (this too is implied in 2Pe 3:16-18 = People refusing to grow are people refusing to change; e.g., Act 6:8-7:53 [51]; Gal 4:1-10 [8-10]; why so bad: Heb 6:1-8).

10. The end of first-century supernatural offices, brought an end to any additional spoken words from God in human history (1Co 13:8-10).

 

[1] By canonical confidence I mean, confidence that what we possess as God’s spoken words is enough to save us.

[2] Arbitrary (def.) based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

[3] Based on the evidence from other extant Jewish sources (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls), some scholars believe the LXX rendering to be the more accurate/correct rendering.

[4] To say that something is hard to understand does not mean the same thing as beyond human understanding. If this were true, then hardly could Peter (for example) make an appeal to Paul’s wisdom – or encourage other Christians to read his letters since their message would be indiscernible (2Pe 3:14-15). It should also be noted that acknowledging the difficulties of Scripture (i.e., their interpretation) does no violence to the doctrine of Perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. Clarity is not the same as simplicity. In the words of Mark D. Thompson, “The clarity of Scripture [does] not mean, and [has] never meant, that there are no difficulties in Scripture.” (A Clear And Present Word, p.153).

[5] For a popular culture treatment of this subject see Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath (Part 2: The Theory of Desirable Difficulty).