Thinking

Christian Unity … Think About It (Part 4)

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In our last article about Christian Unity, we began looking at what’s known as the Emerging/Emergent Church (E/EC). One of the leaders of the E/EC, Tony Jones (Princeton Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, United Theological Seminary), defined the terms like this:

  • emergent Christianity – The new forms of Christian faith arising from the old; the Christianity believed and practiced by the emergents.
  • the emergent church – The specifically new forms of church life rising from the modern, American church of the twentieth century.
  • the emergents – The adherents of emergent Christianity.
  • Emergent – Specifically referring to the relational network which formed first in 1997; also known as Emergent Village.

For historical purposes, with 2001 as the date listed by Tony Jones for the official beginning of the Emergent Church, let’s look at the writings of three of its founders: Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Chris Pagitt.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 33)

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For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

In our last study we looked at God’s Eternal Plan that Father, Son and Holy Spirit purposed together “before time began.” We’ve seen the Eternal Plan Revealed and The Plan to Rule. Now we’ll look at The Plan to Overcome.

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Thinking

Christian Unity … Think About It (Part 3)

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” Psalm 133

Psalm 133 is one of the shortest Psalms, but also one of the most poignant and powerful. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” King David chose one of the most powerful images for the unity of God’s people – the anointing of Aaron the first High Priest of Israel.

Also Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base, to consecrate them. And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him.” Leviticus 8:10-12

God rescued His people from slavery in a foreign land and unified them as one people who would carry God’s banner to the promised land. Moses poured so much oil on his brother that the oil ran from the top of Aaron’s head to his beard and onto the edge of his garments. The anointing of God set apart every part of Aaron for the great work he had been called to accomplish.

One of my biggest personal disappointments as a Christian has been the lack of unity among Christians. I read Psalm 133, John 17, Romans 12 and 14, Ephesians 4, and Philippians 1 and 2 and wanted to experience the beauty of unity with other believers. I’ve taught and written about the importance of unity in the Church since becoming a Christian almost 45 years ago … but … I don’t want unity at the expense of truth. Unfortunately, that is what we have been witness to for far too long.

In our previous post about Ecumenical Unity, we looked at the danger of Christians shedding truth for the sake of unity. As our series about Christian Unity continues we will look at concerns about Emerging Unity.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 32)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

In our last study we looked at God’s Eternal Plan that Father, Son and Holy Spirit purposed together “before time began.” Genesis 1 is a recounting of how God revealed the Plan and how it culminated in God’s crowning achievement – man (male and female). God (elohim) made (na’a’seh – let us make) man (adam) “in Our image” (besalmenu), “according to Our likeness” (kidmutenu).

From that beginning point we learn that God had two plans in His relationship with man. The first plan was to rule.

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Thinking

Thinking About the Cost

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The “cost” of Christianity is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health. Here’s why I say that.

Do you know any Jews who have become Christians? How about Muslims? Atheists? Mormons? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Hindus? If you do, you’ve most likely noticed they seem to be deeply in love with God and have a healthy spiritual relationship through Bible study, prayer, discipleship, service and evangelism. One thing many of them have in common is that becoming a “Christian” cost them a lot. Many are ostracized by family. Many lose friends, jobs, positions in society, etc. Many suffer severe persecution – losing homes, possessions, even their lives.

Do you know any “Christians” who say they are Christians? What I mean by that is people who were raised in a Christian family, attended church as children, may still attend an annual holiday service, believe they are Christians because they were born in the United States? If you do, you have likely noticed they don’t seem to be deeply in love with Christ and don’t have a healthy spiritual relationship through Bible study, prayer, discipleship, service and evangelism. Being a Christian most likely did not cost them family, friends, jobs, homes, possessions, positions in society, etc. Most do not suffer any kind of persecution.

Eternal life is God’s “gift” to His children, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a “cost.”

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 31)

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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

The Apostle Paul is just 16 verses into his letter to the Romans and has already use the word “gospel” four times.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” vs 1

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” vs 9

“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” vs. 15

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” vs. 16

Paul told the Romans he was “ready” to preach the Gospel to them because it is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Before we consider the “power” of the Gospel, let’s look at the “purpose” of the Gospel.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 30)

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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

In previous studies about Romans 1:16-17, we’ve seen that God determined His plan to rescue humanity from sin and death “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20-21) and “before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 1:2). We also saw that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – exist together eternally in a loving relationship.

Based on the teachings of Scripture it is our contention that God designed His ‘plan’ of salvation in eternity for the purpose of sharing eternity with people He created. We will address that purpose in this article.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 29)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

Let’s quickly review what we learned in our last study. Here is the basic flow of the Apostle Paul’s thematic argument in Romans 1:16-17:

  • I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ
  • It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes
  • For the Jew first and also for the Greek
  • For in it (the Gospel of Christ) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith
  • The just shall live by faith

Paul wrote a few years after Romans that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). In the context of Jesus shedding His blood on the Cross, the Apostle Peter wrote that Jesus Christ our great Redeemer “was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God...” (1 Peter 1:20-21). Paul wrote to Timothy that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because God had a purpose for suffering for the Gospel from “before time began” and it is connected to our salvation and holy calling – “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10) Paul also wrote Titus that God made us a promise before time began – “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). That promise was the hope of ‘eternal life.’

It’s obvious from these Scriptures and many others in the Bible that God’s purpose and plan for ‘salvation’ and the ‘Gospel’ began before His creation of the universe and the beginning of time. This amazing plan is truly eternal.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 28)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

In our last study we saw that the Apostle Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” We looked at how readers might understand this statement based on their living in an ‘honor-shame’ culture. Public shame was to be shunned at all cost. However, the Gospel of Christ carried with it a strong message of public shame.

When the Apostle Peter preached in public in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, he accused the people of Israel of shamefully killing Jesus Christ “by lawless hands.” When Peter and other apostles were arrested for preaching about Jesus in the public arena, they accused the rulers of Israel publicly of shamefully murdering Jesus and opposing God who had exalted Jesus to His right hand to be Prince and Savior and to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. When the deacon Stephen defended his preaching of the Gospel in the streets of Jerusalem, he accused the people of Israel of shamefully being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” and always resisting the Holy Spirit because they killed Jesus. When Paul spoke publicly to King Agrippa and others who were in attendance that day, he admitted to shamefully persecuting followers of Christ before becoming a Christ-follower.

In this study we will see that Romans 1:16-17 is thematic. Paul presented the thesis for the first section of his letter and it addresses the powerful issue of humanity’s shame and God’s offer of honor.

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Romans

Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 27)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

These are two of the most-quoted verses of the Apostle Paul’s writings–and for good reason. Paul is explaining ‘why’ he spent his life preaching the Gospel of Christ. It’s not because being an apostle was a good career move; not because the job paid well and included great perks; not because being a Gospel preacher gave him a good standing in the community. In fact, being an apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the opposite of all that. Paul suffered greatly because of his commitment to the Gospel. The reason Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ was because “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”

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