There is no question that freedom of religion, one of the cornerstones of North American civilization, has been under assault both in Canada and the United States. Most recently, an Ontario court ruled that law degrees granted by Trinity Western in British Columbia would not be recognized in the province of Ontario. The reasoning has to do with its confessional adherence to biblical standards on the subject of homosexuality. Carl Trueman points to a recent law in the state of Iowa that would punish churches for teaching or preaching biblical standards that could be seen as oppressive to minorities. Obviously, what the law has in view is any talk or doctrine that would seek to undermine the LGBT agenda.
The role of the Bible in Christianity cannot be overstated. The Scriptures declare that God is and that He has spoken. It is true that God has revealed Himself through the created order, but the special revelation of God recorded in the Old and New Testaments is foundational for all matters of faith and practice.
There are two reasons why the book of Acts should be viewed as having been written before the outbreak of the Neronian persecutions (late 64ad or early 65ad). First, Luke ended his history of the early church with this description of Paul’s incarceration, “For two whole years he lived in his own rented place and welcomed everyone who came to him. He continued to preach the kingdom of God and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ with perfect boldness and freedom.” If Luke was aware of Paul’s death then ending Acts with such a description would have been unthinkable if for no other reason that such an ending would make him appear utterly incompetent since most of his readers would have either known about Paul’s death, or would have eventually discovered what actually happened to him. Some have suggested, however, that Paul’s inevitable end was not important to Luke. This suggestion leads to the second reason why Acts should be viewed as having been composed before 64ad, which is that Luke valued martyrdom accounts and included them in Acts whenever he could, which is observable from his recording of the martyrdoms of both Stephen (the first Christian martyr, Acts 7) and James, the brother of John (Acts 12). If Luke knew of the martyrdoms of both Paul and Peter, arguably two of the most important leaders of the first-century church, then he would have assuredly at least referenced their deaths in his history of the church (not to mention the martyrdom of Jesus’ brother James, ca. 62ad).
In 1 Corinthians 1:21, Paul summarizes the entire history of philosophy and then notes God’s means of bringing redemptive blessing upon sinners, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” The “message preached” refers to the objective content of preaching; but it is in fact preached. It is important to remember that there were other mediums available to communicate the message in Paul’s day, but God was pleased to use the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. This verse ought to promote caution among ministers and churches who question the effectiveness of preaching and who are toying with means not ordained in Scripture for the communication of the gospel. In a comment on Matthew 4:9 that is fitting in this connection, C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “May thy church never yield to the world with the idea of setting up the kingdom of Christ in a more easy and rapid manner than by the simple preaching of the gospel!”
The Second London Confession of Faith (1689) highlights the ministry of the word in connection with saving faith: “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word…” (14.1). It should come as no surprise to reformed Christians that God places a great emphasis upon preaching in the church of Jesus Christ.
I must confess that I have mixed feelings when I see a billboard declaring May 21, 2011 to be the end of the world. If you live in a big city, you’ve likely seen them. Here in Toronto, one of our main subway stations is plastered with apocalyptic announcements, posted by Harold Camping and Family Radio.
We have been looking at the theologically rich greeting of John in Revelation 1 and have noted John’s emphasis on the triunity of God and the threefold office of Christ.
John now moves from who God is to how we should respond: worship. The doctrine of God should lead to doxological praise. In Rev. 1:5b–6, John praises Christ for who He is and what He has done in saving His people from their sins. John addresses His praise “to Him who loved us.” This is one characteristic of our Lord Jesus, He loves sinners! John indicates this in his gospel at Jn. 13:1. Jesus exhorts His disciples to love one another in the Upper Room discourse and uses His love for them as the standard (Jn. 15:12). Paul prays for believers to comprehend the love of Christ that “passes knowledge” in Eph. 3:18–19. We learn from John that Christ’s love should be a means of promoting praise, worship, and adoration.
The Apostle John begins the book of Revelation with a theologically rich greeting to the seven churches of Asia Minor. In many ways, the greeting sets the foundation for the remainder of the book. The people of God are experiencing trials and they need to be reminded of the source of their comfort: the triune God who dwells in heaven and rules the nations.
Thus far we have discussed the need to read works that are at variance with our own theological perspective. We’ve discussed why it is necessary in our first post and now we continue on to consider the dangers of reading bad theology and the grace required.
In the broader Reformed community we have a number of prominent voices that persistently remind us of the duty to preach Christ (1Corinthians 2:2). Such reminders must be welcomed, for “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). However, preaching Christ means preaching the whole of Christ, not only with a focus on His humiliation, but also with an emphasis on His heavenly ministry toward sinners on earth. And, here, I’ve observed, our preaching could be improved. Knowing that Christ died for my sins is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3); but knowing that Christ, as a merciful high priest in heaven, pities me-now, while I remain a sinner on earth-flows out of the reality of His death and resurrection. A robust Christology, with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s relation to Christ Himself, ensures that we preach the whole of Christ’s work, including His heavenly ministry.
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