Categories
Theology

Receiving the New Testament in Their Own Language

When Pastor Siud prayers after receiving the package of Bibles, I teared up and got goosebumps. Perhaps the most moving part was when he prayed, “You looked at all the different languages and chose which ones will be put into your word. You thought that we should see your word in our language.”

That is powerful, humbling, and such a glorious mercy and grace of God.

Categories
Theology

Christian and Unbaptized? Unthinkable.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

How could someone, Paul argues, who has died with Christ through the public display of baptism (the external display of an internal reality; the symbolic representation of our death and resurrection with Christ) still continue to obey sin as a master?  Baptism is a display of what Paul spoke of in 2:29, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”  Baptism is an outward act that one has been circumcised in the heart and wants to display it to the world.  Baptism is what signifies our death and resurrection with Christ.  It is not the instrument through which we die and rise with Christ.  John Piper gives the analogy of a marriage and the wedding ring:

All of us who have put on the ring of marriage have, by putting on this ring, forsaken all others to cleave only to our wives. Therefore by this ring I am united to my wife alone and dead to all others.

Now you could press the language and say, “Aha, it was the actual putting on the ring that caused your forsaking all others and your cleaving to Noel alone. You said it explicitly: ‘By this ring, I am united to my wife alone.’ What could be plainer? The ring does it all.

But that is not what I would mean by these words. I would mean that putting on the ring is a sign of my forsaking all others and cleaving only to her. The decisive leaving and cleaving is in the promise, the covenant, the vows. “I plight thee my troth.” “I promise you my faithfulness.” Then comes the ring, the symbol.

The vows stand for faith in Christ, and the ring stands for baptism. And the point is that we often talk this way. We often speak of the symbol as though it brings about what it only signifies.

But is baptism just a symbol? In Galatians 3:27, Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  This, and Romans 6:3, does not mean baptism saves you.  Grace through faith alone justifies a person before God (Rom. 3:24-26, 28; 5:1; Gal. 3:5-6; Eph. 2:5, 8-9).

However, baptism in Paul’s day has a much more significant meaning than it does today.  We have cheapened the meaning of baptism in the Christian church. In his commentary on Romans, Doug Moo writes, “J. Dunn…points out that the early church conceived of faith, the gift of the Spirit, and water baptism as components of one unified experience, which he calls ‘conversion-initiation’” (Moo, Romans, 366).

In Acts 10, when Peter is preaching Jesus to the Gentiles, in the middle of his message, the Holy Spirit came upon them and immediately.  Peter did not wait and have them complete a spiritual gift survey or go through a membership class or a doctrine class.  He said, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people?” (v. 47).  In Acts 8, when Philip preaches to the Ethiopian eunuch, the Ethiopian believed and immediately asked Philip if he could be baptized (v. 36).  In Acts 16, Lydia and her whole household were saved and on that same day they were baptized (v. 15).  The point is that when people believed in the NT, they were immediately baptized as a public declaration that they identified with and were saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus. To these new believers, and the New Testament writers, it was unthinkable, even inconceivable, that a person would believe in Jesus yet not be baptized with water.

Would Paul have a category in his mind for a Christian who believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior and repented of their sin, yet was not baptized? No. There are many reasons that baptism isn’t done immediately today, but I won’t discuss that here. The point is this: if you are a Christian and are not baptized, what is holding you back? Don’t disobey. Believe and obey, and get baptized today!

Categories
Life Theology

Every Text a Road to Christ

Part 1 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

When was the last time you read 1 Kings or Deuteronomy and thought of Jesus?  (Maybe I should just ask when you last read 1 Kings or Deuteronomy?) The sad truth is, most Christians read the Bible and have no framework for how to read it and what to look for–especially when it comes to the Old Testament. If I’m honest, left to my natural inclinations, the Bible becomes a book of rules or a guide to how to be more or less like a particular character or a giant fortune cookie with inspirational sayings.

But that is not how we are to read the Bible. In our introductory post, I argued that if you read the Bible this way, you won’t last a week. And if you read the Bible this way, you will miss the point of the story, namely the redemptive work of God accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Bryan Chappell’s book Christ-Centered Preaching he says that the great British pastor Charles Spurgeon always took a shortcut to Christ no matter what text he preached from. Chappell went on to quote Spurgeon:

Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London…So from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis, Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, now what is the road to Christ?…I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one…I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it.

Meditate on that last phrase: “For the sermon [or in our case devotional time] cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it.” If you spend “time with the Lord” but do not actually encounter and experience the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, then what good is it?!  If you spend “time with the Lord” but only think about how you can better yourself or how you can do this or that, is it really time with the Lord? No.

Here’s a news flash: The Bible is not about you. The Bible is about God working in history to rescue and redeem a people for himself–for his praise, for his glory, for his fame. Not yours. Therefore, if the grand story of the world is about what God has done, then the main character is God. Furthermore, because Jesus, God incarnate, is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3), he is to be the blazing center of all Bible study, both personal and corporate.

Hopefully this post gets the gears of your mind churning. Late next week, we will flesh out what “every text a road to Christ” actually looks like when you sit down with your Bible. Before we get there, we’ll need to take a practical “how to” look at setting up a “devotional time.”

Categories
Theology

Charles Spurgeon on Preaching Christ from the Whole Bible

Don’t you know, young man, that from every town, and every village, and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London…So from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis, Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, now what is the road to Christ?…I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one…I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.

-Charles Spurgeon

Categories
Ministry

Baxter on the Nature and Motive of Personal Oversight for Pastors

Puritan pastor Richard Baxter gives pastors five keys to personal oversight and eight keys as to why personal oversight should be given in his classic text The Reformed Pastor:

The Nature of Oversight

  1. Take heed to see that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls.
  2. Take heed to keep your graces active, and that you preach to yourself the sermons you study, before you preach them to others.
  3. Take heed so you don’t unsay with your life what you say with your mouth.
  4. Take heed so you don’t commit the sins you preach against.
  5. Take heed so you don’t lack biblical qualifications of an elder.

The Motives of Oversight

  1. Take heed to yourselves, for heaven is there to win or lose, and souls will be happy or miserable for eternity.
  2. Take heed to yourselves, for you have a depraved nature, and sinful inclinations just as others do.
  3. Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will supply more temptations than he does to others.
  4. Take heed to yourselves, because many eyes will fall upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls.
  5. Take heed to yourselves, because your sins are more severe than other men’s.
  6. Take heed to yourselves, because such a calling as ours require greater grace than other men’s.
  7. Take heed to yourselves, for the honor of your Lord and Master, and of his holy truth and ways, lies more on you than on other men.
  8. Take heed to yourselves, for the success of all your work depends on it.
– Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), pp. 53-86.