Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Biblical Words, Beliefs, Transformation and Mission

The Gospel is a message and it is news that is to heralded and communicated in words by faithful ambassadors/stewards/heralds who are scrupulously concerned to tell the message of reconciliation faithfully (or else they are disqualified from functioning in that role). The saving, transforming Gospel is “the word of the cross.” (2 Cor.5:19-20; 2 Tim.1:11; 1 Cor.1:1:18).

Evangelical Christians have an incorrigible connection with words and beliefs rooted in the fact that the God of the Bible is a speaking (Heb.1:1ff.) and writing (Dt.32:16) God who chose to communicate to his covenant people through prophets and apostles. And so through Moses we hear, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” (Dt.32:45ff.) And David rhapsodizes regarding the transformational power of the words of God (commandments, precepts, statutes) in Psalms 19 and 119.

And it was the Lord Jesus himself who, when he encountered those who no longer wanted to follow him because they were offended by the specific and theological “Jesus facts” he had spoken to them, turned to the twelve and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Their reply is relevant to the discussion here: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn.6:60-69)

The words of Jesus were the catalyst for their believing and their knowing, a knowing that was rich with content, and a believing that was the essential motivation for their following.
I think the reason evangelicals resist every trend or attempt to disconnect inscripturated words from life/transformation/mission is that we have come to believe, from Jesus himself, that the words of Scripture are living words that foster the faith and transformation that they describe and inspire.

No wonder then that Paul counsels the new covenant people of God too, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Col.3:16). And the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that if ongoing conversion and transformation is indeed going to take place in our midst, it will happen in connection with the penetrating power of the living and active word of God (Heb.4:12).


EH said...

May I be found faithful to the message and the role and responsibilty. I long with a burning passion to see people understand and grow in the knowledge and understanding of who God is. Then in turn live out that life to there circles of influence.

Lord continue to burn within me a passion for your word and your message for the world. The incredible gospel message.

Anonymous said...

Doug, first of all thank you for this succinct apology of 'mere Christianity,' and for your willingness to "Stand by the crossroads and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it..." (Jer 6:16) We would hear more, sir.

I thought you might be interested in something Russel Moore said in an "Evangelicalism Today" Symposium sponsord by Touchstone magazine in November 2007:

"Some believe with Evangelicals in important doctrinal truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ. Some also believe with Evangelicals in the need for personal regeneration and for Christians to plead with the nations to hear the voice of God in Christ, to respond personally and individually in repentance and faith.

Evangelicalism, at its best, carries the apostolic tradition of the centrality of God’s Word and the focus on union with Christ as the only means of salvation, combined with the apostolic passion to see the satanic world-system fall through the advance of the gospel.

I have never thought before now of what Evangelicalism has to offer the wider world. In one sense, we have nothing to offer but what every Christian must offer: Christ and him crucified.

In another sense, I am quite worried that contemporary Evangelicalism is offering less and less, and is instead listening to the offer of “the wider world”: “All these I will give to you if you will fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9)."

Peter also testified, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." We would do well, I think, to plant this confession deep in our Evangelical hearts.

Douglas Phillips said...



Thanks for your encouraging comments. There are hopeful signs out there (contrary to trends within the emergent movement) -- groups like The Gospel Coalition (