Big Picture Gospel – Part 1

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.

1) (Gen 1:27 “image”) = Not only does this word infer humans are eternal, free-will spirits w/a moral conscience like God but also relationship w/God and other image-bearers given this is the primary reason things are created to be like one another: to make them compatible in relationship.

2) (Gen 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply” = Create others w/Gen 2:18-20 “there was not a suitable helper found for him”) = Because of the massive dissimilarity between humans and animals, animals cannot be used to create other humans and remove loneliness (deficiency of deep relationships w/others like you -i.e., humans).

2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation. 1) (Gen 1:31 w/2:15-17 “cultivate”) = Promote or develop and expand…the borders of Eden according to its moral design (“Eden” = Paradise – a place filled w/truth, beauty and justice); “keep” = Protect and care for… Eden according to its moral design.

2) God’s moral physics (t/b/j) were to be promoted and protected in relation to both Him and His Creation – which included the woman or other image-bearers since the garden of Eden was her (or humanity’s) original residence as well.

3) It is this two-fold purpose that establishes not only the two greatest commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) but the entirety of God’s Law and Word (Mat 22:37-40).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is always in agreement with His law, as established by His written words in the Bible.

1) (Gen 1:31 [Heb., tobe]) = Full of truth, beauty and justice (excellence).

2) (Gen 2:7 w/19) “formed” [Heb., yasar] = To form as art (beauty); “breathed” = Filled w/His moral essence (t/b/j). This same idea is communicated when speaking about the Bible (2Ti 3:16).

3) Consider also (Psa 119:142, 15, 160 w/Joh 17:17 “your Word is truth”; Psa 119:96 “I have seen a limit to perfection [beauty]; Your commandment is exceedingly broad” [the most beautiful] w/ also Ecc 3:11 “everything [in God’s Word] is appropriate [beautiful] in its time [perfect for understanding God’s purpose and plan]”; Psa 19:7-9 = God’s Word establishes justice).

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

1) IOW: 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 and/or w/the rest of Creation.

2) (Gen 2:17 w/3:16-19; Rom 6:23; 1 Jo 3:4)

3) Consider also (Rom 8:19-21) = The rest of Creation suffers b/c of the sin of humanity in failing to promote and protect her according to t/b/j. As a result, we suffer also. Hence the reason the Creation waits w/eagerness for the revealing (or arrival) of those who will be her good moral stewards (i.e., “the sons [children] of God”).

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[6] where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

(Mat 10:37-38 [Contra Mat 22:8]; Luk 20:35; Rev 3:4-5; Jam 1:12 [Hence Jam 1:1-3]; Rev 21:1-8)

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 – Gen 1:28 w/Gen 2:18).

1) What you discover when you read the Bible is that God uses covenants to save people. And those covenants are marriage covenants (e.g., Jer 31:31-32). Hence the reason the Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage (Gen 2 and Rev 19) and a great portion of the language of Scripture is marital in nature (e.g., Rev 21:2). 2) In addition, the first marriage (Gen 2:23), possesses the same Hebrew structure as the Bundesformel [“I will be their God and they will be My people”], the vow of allegiance God makes when He enters into covenant w/people for the purpose of salvation (Lev 26:12; Jer 31:33; 2Co 6:16).

3) We likewise take vows of allegiance in our marriage to God (Exo 24:7-8 and 1Pe 1:1-2 and 1Pe 3:21 “appeal to God for a good conscience” = Pledge/vow of our allegiance to God).

4) As an additional connection between marriage and new creation, consider what we become when we get saved/enter into marriage w/God (a new creation – 2Co 5:17).

To be continued…

 

[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 (you 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 the 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] This then is the other reason we suffer: this life is the test.

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.”

The Power of Loyalty – Part 1

In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus reveals the power our discretionary and listening loyalties possess not only for determining who we truly serve (who we are loyal to as King), but also producing the salvation-essential attributes of affection (for God) and conviction (in regard to the Word of God). Our confidence that loyalty is indeed His subject is confirmed by His conclusion (24 “serve…be devoted to” = be loyal to).

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).