Friday, October 31, 2014
The Radical Nature of Biblical Christianity
1 John 1:5–7 (NASB95)
God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The Radical Message of Biblical Christianity
John begins this pericope with "Καὶ ⸉ἔστιν αὕτη⸊ ἡ °ἀγγελία" which is literally, "And this is the message." The independent clause seems straightforward enough but let's dissect the component parts in order to understand the meaning the author is attempting to convey. One cannot help but wonder "what" is the message and why it is "the" message. To begin with, one must examine ἡ °ἀγγελία, pronounced, he angelia. "The message" is in the predicate nominative position. The predicate nominative serves to either identify or qualify the word it modifies. In this case, John seems to be qualifying the message as the message that was heard from Him, Christ. It is the same message which is being announced to the readers. The houtos is a forward pointing reference focusing the attention of the reader on the importance of the message. In NT times the idea of message was necessarily connected with the concept of sending forth. A message from one party transmitted though a mediate to another party was hardly possible without the mediate also being sent with the message. In this case John seeks to distinguish the message from other messages by qualifying it as the message which we heard from Him! Christianity does not bring several messages with it. Christianity announces one and only one message: the message which it has received from Him, Jesus Christ! This is the message that we heard from Him as opposed to the message of the secessionists that have gone out from us.
The message of Christianity, as is the case with any message contains very specific content. The message that John and the elders heard from Christ was not fluid. It was not changing. It was a fixed message which means that it possesses fixed, stable, unchanging content. Jude told his audience that they should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Note that Jude never hinted at several versions of the faith but rather indicated that the faith was the one and only faith. The apostles did not hand down several faiths or several different versions of the faith. Once again, the faith speaks to the apostolic tradition being handed down to the churches.
The apostle Paul informed the Corinthian Christians that the word of the cross, or the message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. Jesus said that you must be born again. John wrote in his gospel that we are born of God. Paul told us that the supernatural aspect of the Christian message would lead to unregenerate men concluding that such a message is literally moronic.
The radical message of Christian begins with the supernatural, sovereign, self-contained ontological Trinity of Scripture creating all that is to include mankind. Man, being deceived by the serpent, believed that he could carry on his project autonomously, determining on his own the nature of reality, how we can know things about the nature of reality, and how we ought to live our lives. This autonomous behavior was an outrageous attempt by man to deny his complete and utter dependence of God for all things. This resulted in the divine curse and humanity fell headlong into a totally depraved condition in desperate need of redemption. The God of Christianity, the only God that is, planned to redeem men even before mankind rebelled. Christ would be that redemption through which all men must be redeemed. Man's final rejection of Christ's redemption would result in eternal damnation and ultimate ruin. That is the radical message of Biblical Christianity.
The Radical Nature of Biblical Christianity
John tells us that the message of Christianity includes ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν, that God is light. Now, this is an easy thing for anyone to say, even in modern culture. False Christians, shallow Christians, hedonistic, western, naturalistic, rationalistic, American Christians are constantly running around quoting this verse without a clue as to what it means. In what sense does John mean that God is light. John juxtaposes light with darkness in contrast to one another for a reason. Is. 5:20 helps shed some light on how the Jewish mind thought about light and darkness and how these terms are used elsewhere in the sacred writings. God, in prophetic utterance through Isaiah warns the Jews not to call good evil and evil good and equates this practice with substituting light for darkness and darkness for light. "The more we examine the principles and actions of men, the more shall we find that this system obtains among them both in theory and practice." We see this in modern American Christianity and in western European Christianity where the Christian religion has been reduced to the whims, experiences, and shallow desires of people that have never encountered the Christ of Scripture.
The nature of Christianity transcends temporal reality and is anchored in the very being of the ontological Trinity of Scripture. Christianity is more than a confession even though the confession in proper context, is difficult if not impossible to over-emphasize. Christianity is more than a building and a gathering coupled with some ancient rituals. Christianity is more than a custom even if one's culture was supposed to have been founded in Christian principles. John understood this very well when he used the language of light and darkness. In fact, over 33% of the appearances of light occur in John's writings. John says the one who hates his brother is in darkness until now. On the other hand, the one who loves his brother walks in the light. Jesus said that He is the light of the world, men who follow Him will not walk in darkness. Clearly, light and darkness speak to the Christian ethic. The radical nature of Biblical Christianity is simply this: If faith, ~darkness. Darkness, therefore ~faith. A lifestyle that reflects a continual breaking and ignoring of God's holy commandment is a lifestyle that is utterly devoid of faith.
Modern claims of American Christianity and Western Christian, for the most part are wholly lacking in the sort of Biblical content that accompanies authentic Christian faith. Outward works or involvement with social causes and doing good deeds become nothing more than masks people wear to convince others that they really do care about what God cares about. Christianity is a religion that, the participation in, requires supernatural action that no human can perform.
The Radical Change of Biblical Christianity
Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again, or born from above. Christianity is not a religion one joins. It is not a system to which one simply decides to subscribe. People are not born or raised Christians. No man is a Christian apart from the supernatural external work of God upon the human person. Je. 31:33 informs us that the Christian law of God is written by God upon the human heart. God says that He will take out our stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. (Ez. 11:19) This is not lip service. It is not a nice metaphor for a naturalistic change of mind that one witnesses in other religions. Other religions mimic the Christian change, sort of. Christianity on the other hand is a radical change from the inside out. Paul tells us in Eph. 4 that Christians have put on a new self, not that we are just behaving differently. Both components are true. Christians behave differently because they ARE different.
Paul tells the Corinthian Church: Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Biblical Christianity, from the very start, at it's inception, is radically different from any other religion known to man. We behave differently because we are different. We have been born from above. We are born of God. The old self is being mortified while the new self is being renewed in the word of truth.
We must remember from the very beginning of any conversation with unbelievers and false Christians that Christianity is radically different. The message is radical. The nature of Christianity is radical. The change within the Christian is radical. It is not the result of superior argumentation, logically irresistible philosophy, or an amazing command of rhetoric on the part of pastors, evangelists or apologists. It is the product, and only the product of the self-contained ontological God of Scripture.