This blog is devoted to the written presentation defense of Christian theism. The principal essence of theology is God. Human knowledge is inescapably revelational. Man knows because God is. Reason nor science can function properly without radical transformation by God's regenerative work of grace. No other position on the subject of reason or science achieves epistemic coherence with the principle of Sola Scriptura.
Τοῦτο λέγω, ἵνα μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ. (Col. 2:4)
Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and The Focused Gospel
When John the Baptist arrived on the scene in first-century
Palestine, his message was direct, simple, clear, and focused: repent! Matthew
records this historical event clearly and simply in Matt. 3:1-2, “Now in those
days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying,
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Once more, Matthew focuses on the
fact that Jesus, as soon as He began His public ministry also had a message, a
proclamation, if you will. In Matthew 4:17, he says, From that time Jesus began
to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus’ message
was identical to John the Baptist’s message. It was direct, simple, clear, and
Mark echoes Matthew’s words verbatim in verse 15 of his very
first chapter which indicates that he too, thought this message was
significant. By placing Jesus’ message of repentance at the very beginning of
his gospel, Mark emphasizes that message to his audience. After Jesus gives the
great commission or mission to His eleven disciples, it does not take long
before they have their first chance to carry forward with Jesus’ message.
Peter, in Acts 2:38, commands those who were convicted by their wickedness to
repent! This message comes in the middle of the miracle of the outpouring of
the Holy Spirit and the beginning of a new era, a new dispensation. After the
miracle at the gate called beautiful, Peter gets a second chance to deliver a
sermon. Once again, in Acts 3:19, Peter thunders away with the word, repent! In
fact, I suggest you read Acts 3:11-26 to get a feel for the content of this
sermon. It was nothing like most modern, watered-down, hyper-sensitive kind of
sermons that most Christians are used to. It was much more than that. It was
focused on one thing: repentance! In Acts 8:22 Peter once more proclaims this
message of repentance to Simon the Sorcerer. It is a recurring theme in the NT
When the apostle Paul had the magnificent opportunity to
appear before the great Areopagus in Acts 17, his message was also direct,
simple, clear, and focused. He, too, thundered the truth that God requires men
to repent! Paul did not shy away from talking about coming judgment as the
reason men should repent. The Areopagus could either mean “Mars Hill” or the
preeminent governing council in Athens. If one gives Acts 17:19 any weight, it
seems this very well could have been a formal or at least informal hearing
before the elite Athenian council. Luke writes, “And they took him and brought
him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you
are proclaiming?” It
would seem unnecessary to bring Paul into Mars Hill in order for him to tell
them more about this strange new teaching. Concerning the Areopagus, Hubert
Martin writes in the Anchor Bible Dictionary,
“The council was long composed exclusively of
aristocrats, and in the transition from monarchy to aristocracy it gradually
assumed many previously regal powers and functions. In the first half of the
7th century b.c., still at the height of its authority, the Council of the
Areopagus was the main governing body of Athens, with far-reaching and
undefined religious, judicial, censorial, and political power, including a
general control over the annual selection of the nine archons, the city’s chief
magistrates who “went up to the Areopagus” after their term of office, where
they then sat for life.”
audience was comprised of not only sophisticated aristocrats, but the most
powerful men in all of Greece. If ever one were to expect some political
rhetoric, it would be now. However, Paul apparently sees no use for softening
or complicating his message and proceeds with a defense and attack method in
his sermon, what Witherington calls, Forensic Rhetoric. Witherington writes, It is not surprising that Paul must resort
to forensic rhetoric, for, while he may not be on trial per se, the scene does
suggest that he must present an argument for his teaching at a hearing before
the officials of the Areoapagus, officials charged with maintaining the
religious order of Athenian society.
Paul had closely scrutinized the idols of Athens according to v. 23. He took
the time to carefully examine the worship practices of the Athenians. He
understood their practices. From this understanding, he launches his criticism
of Athenian idolatry. In so doing, he both defends the one true Christian God
and attack of the polytheistic worship he has come to witness in Athens. He
message is really quite simple: repent. Paul did not wax political nor did he
engage in a philosophical approach to the gospel. In fact, he warns against
both of these practice throughout his letters, recognizing that the gospel, the
simple, clear, focused gospel of repentance delivered in a direct manner is the power of God unto salvation.
Moreover, this gospel, delivered in this way, precludes all boasting of men who
would take credit for their methods, their style, their personality as if they
had accomplished something.
What can we learn
from this in 2012? What can the cultures around the world learn from this? What
can Christians living in American culture learn from this? We must learn to
keep the gospel simple, clear, and direct and never forget that it is at the
center of who we are and what we do. The gospel of repentance is the core of
our mission. The Christian group’s mission is to glorify God in every way. One
of the fundamental ways we do that is through making disciples of all people
groups. That begins with repentance.
The Church is
distracted with numerous social, moral, and cultural causes. For some reason,
the Church thinks that its fundamental duty is social and moral reform. We
think it is our job to ban gay marriage and to recover from the abortion
tragedy. We spend a lot of money and time on these cultural, social, and moral
issues. Not one NT book was written to the unbelieving culture. In fact, there
isn’t one letter in the NT that instructs the Church to reform its culture by
turning the gospel into a vehicle of social and moral reform. Cultures change
and are reformed only through divine activity. Such divine activity is the work
of God on human hearts. We all have our pet issues that we like to talk. What
happens all too often is that we think those issues are the ones we should be
talking about through the lens of the gospel in order to bring men to Christ.
Sad as it may sound, in most cases these issues serve as carnal, moralistic
distractions from the true proclamation of the gospel.
The Church has lost
its focus. And in so doing, she is in grave danger of losing the simple gospel
of repentance in exchange for a social and moral role that she was never called
to serve to start with. Never are we more distracted than during election
season. We engage in all this talk about who is going to win and if it will be
good for the church or the country. We even engage in judging others because
they may vote differently than us. Or worse than that, we judge people for not
voting at all as if there is some divine mandate in Scripture for Christians to
vote! The job of the church is difficult enough when she focuses, as she should,
on the things that matter. When she loses her focus, spiritual risk increases.
John the Baptist,
Jesus, Peter, and Paul all shared one thing in common when it came to preaching
the gospel. It was simple, clear, direct, and focused. The message was that man
must repent of his current state, and recognize His sovereign Creator and
Redeemer for who He is or face divine judgment. Repentance is proffered through
God’s only Son, Jesus Christ who took that divine wrath in our place. Repent is
the message! Change your entire course of action, your thinking, your speaking,
your behavior, your very existence! Abandon you and cling to Him! Repent! Turn
from darkness to light, slavery to freedom, death to life! Repent!
What does this blog
have to do with President Obama and his challenger Romney? Absolutely nothing!
And that is the point.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update
(LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 17:19.
Hubert M. Jr. Martin, "Areopagus (Place)" In , in , vol. 1, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed.
David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 370.
Witherington, III, The Acts of the
Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1998), 518.