Systematised propositional statements vs a Gospel story of salvation


When I became a Christian I thought I might be a theologian. My standard Gospel presentation reflects this. It’s a series of systematized answers to leading questions. Who is God? Who is man? Who is Jesus? What must I do to be save? The short answers are God is holy, man is sinful, Christ is the way, repent for the forgiveness of sins.

This past week I spent some time with two very different men at the Baptist Union of Southern Africa Assembly. Bradley Trout from Mountain View Baptist Church and Craig Duval from Pinelands Baptist Church.

Bradley’s a friend. He’s a bookworm. But he’s more than your average bookworm. He remembers stuff, simplifies stuff, and repeats it back in relevant situations. He is an interesting addition to any conversation and I wish I could have more conversations with him in the room. Anyway Bradley has been on my case to get into Biblical Theology this year so that I can give some thought to progressive revelation and a narrative view of Scripture.

Craig’s different. One evening at the Assembly I sat down next to Craig and introduced myself as a Reformed, Dispensational, Cessationalist and asked him a couple of questions. He graciously spent the next 5 hours giving me answers. The Theological can of worms aside, what I got from Craig was a story. He started in the garden and wove through to eternity to come. He talks of the people of the Bible, the places of the Bible and the God of the Bible. Rather than a series of systematise propositional statements about Scripture he tells the story of Scripture. Simple, compelling, replicable. A transfer mechanism for theological concepts to an audience with an attention deficit.

So with Bradley and Craig in mind I’ve been thinking about my own Gospel narrative. The diagram below represents the major events I think need to be highlighted and I’ve given some indication as to why in the key below. But what have I missed? What needs expanding?

1. Creation: Theology proper. Who is God? The Creator. Our Creator. And His creation is very good. He is perfect, eternal, transcendent and immanent.
2. Corruption: Harmatology. Who is man? Corrupted, conceited, cursed. In every faculty of his being. Sinful. Yet, in the midst of the curse you have God pointing to the cross.
3. Abraham: The People of God, elected and loved, despite their stiff-neckedness. And in the covenant promise of God you have a clear point to the Seed, Christ, the cross, and blessing to come.
4. Moses/Law: The 10 Commandments. The impossible standard, blessing on/curse received. The Law which can’t save but can drive to the cross.
5. David/King: The promise of an eternal throne and a righteous King to come.
6. Christ Died: Christology. The person of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The work of Christ, Saviour, God died for us.
7. Christ Rose: Victory. The sacrifice is accepted. Heaven’s gates flung open wide.
8. The Church: The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the great commission, the bold proclamation. Repent for the forgiveness of sins!

Systematised propositional statements vs a Gospel story of salvation? That’s a ridiculous title. It’s not an either or answer. It’s a both and. Note how I crafted my Estcatology into the diagram. :). Maybe I will grow up to be the Theologian after all.

Parting thoughts on God, the Holy Spirit’s doings (Part 7)


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stained glass, God, Holy Spirit, Babbitt, Minnesota Evangel:ical Lutheran Church, Tammy, Kevin, Glimore, Romans 8:13, Sanctification, Wiesbe, Trinity, positional, progressive, perfect, doctrine, Acts 20:32, Romans 6:1 - 22, Galatians 5:16 - 25, Romans 8:13, Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 5:22 - 23

I have a love affair with stained glass. Yes I know, very fuddy duddy, but that’s me. God, the Holy Spirit as a dove is the most common representation that I’ve come across but I found this image online. It is framed in Babbitt, Minnesota Evangelical Lutheran Church. They were installed in June, 2003. The artists are Tammy and Kevin Gilmore. Click image to enlarge.

Sanctifying

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom 8:13)

“Sanctification is the gracious work of God in setting the believer apart for Himself and for service in the world.” (Wiesbe 2002) All three persons of the Trinity play an active role in our positional-past (Acts 20:32), progressive-present (Romans 6:1 – 22) and perfect-future (Galatians 5:16 – 25) sanctification. In this process it is the Holy Spirit who shapes our affections (Rom 8:13), sparks our desires (Rom 5:5), moulds our character (2 Cor 3:18) and produces the fruit which validates our Christlikeness (Gal 5:22 – 23).

Conclusion

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been catapulted into the forefront of Christian debate in the past few decades. A revival of spiritual and mystical interest in our cultural context means that the church must be on it’s guard, actively defending the Apostolic teachings, developing and promulgating sound doctrine for the good of the church.

Beyond theory, the Holy Spirit is critical to the spiritual health and wellbeing of believers and the body as a whole. It is He who guides us, He who teaches us and He who gifts us. Without complete reliance upon Him we become the dried up, worn out, spent organization that Satan would have us be. With Him we are the unshakable, unwavering, steadfast Church of God. Amen!

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The Doings of the Holy Spirit (Part 6)


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My testimony is closely tied to a sermon preached about the stoning of Stephen. Rembrandt’s Stoning of Saint Stephen cuts me to the bone. The face right above Stephen could very well be Rembrandt’s first self-portrait. Click image to enlarge.

The post includes a little detail regarding the current working of the Holy Spirit; what He does. This list is not exhaustive but indicative and continues from where the previous posts left off.

Guiding

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom 8:14)

A parent lovingly guides a child, it’s a characteristic of sonship, and as God’s children we are led by the Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….” (Jn 16:13)

Assuring

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God….” (Rom 8:16)

“How do I know that I know that I’m saved?” Objectively the answer includes: A growing love for God (Lk 10:27 – 28), genuine repentance from sin (1 Jn 1:8 – 10) and consistently living in obedience to God’s Word (1 Jn 2:3 – 5). It is however the blessed assurance of the Holy Spirit’s testimony within our lives which lends eternal authority to our external profession.

Praying

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26)

Our ability to appropriately pray to God is blocked by our “infirmities”. To this end the Holy Spirit “helps” us, meaning that He “puts His hand to the work in cooperation with us.” (Parry 1912:120)

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The Doings of the Holy Spirit (Part 5)


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work, Holy Spirit, sealing, Spirit, 2 Corinthians 1:22, seals, salvation, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, σφραγισαμενος, gifting, 1 Corinthians 12:4, edification, teaching, John 16:13

St Stephen, painting by Giacomo Cavedone (1577 – 1660). Saint Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek Stephanos, meaning “crown”, which translated into Aramaic as Kelil. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom for Christianity; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs’ palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. Rembrandt depicted his martyrdom in his work The Stoning of Saint Stephen. Relevant to this article is Acts 6:5 which describes Stephen as, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost…” Click image to enlarge.

The next few posts include a little detail regarding the current working of the Holy Spirit; what He does. This list is not exhaustive but indicative.

Sealing

“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor 1:22)

At salvation the Holy Spirit seals believers (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; Eph 4:30) conveying the ideas of ownership, authority, responsibility and security.

The word itself (σφραγισαμενος) means, “to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication, to keep secret, to attest:–(set a, set to) seal up, stop.” (Strong 1890:910)

Gifting

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:4)

Ryrie (1986:423) defines “a spiritual gift [as] a God-given ability for service.” This rather succinct definition highlights a few important characteristics of Godly giftedness: It is divinely bestowed rather than humanly acquired, it is intended for the service and good of the body and it is given freely and purposefully.

Teaching

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….” (Jn 16:13a)

The present teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in no way mitigates the need for gifted teachers to expound the meaning of Scripture. Rather than referring to a mechanical process it conveys the idea of Him authenticating truth taught.

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The Filling of the Holy Spirit (Part 4)


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Paul urges believers, “…be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” (Eph 5:18) Filling means we, “…should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and, in that sense, fill us.” (Gotquestions 2010)

This occurs in two ways: Firstly as a sovereign act He fills some for particular purposes. This can be observed in the accounts of Peter (Acts 4:8), Steven (Acts 7:55) and Paul (Acts 9:17). Secondly believers are filled whereby the Spirit exerts influence and control in their lives (Eph 5:18). The filling of believers produce fruit in line with their salvation such as, “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance….” (Gal 5:22 – 23)

The filling of the Spirit is bound to the bold proclamation of the Gospel message (Acts 2; 5; 6; 11). Quite an indictment as we consider how feeble the visible church is in our day and age.

Whilst Ephesians 5:18 is an exhortation to be filled with the Spirit Ephesians 5:19 – 21 describes the result of that filling. We’re to praise God (Eph 19a), appropriately worship Him (Eph 19b), show our gratitude to Him (Eph 5:20a) and assent to one another (Eph 5:21).

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The Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Part 3)


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The baptism of the Holy Spirit is, “…that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation.” (Gotquestions 2010)

Inaugurated in the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:5) is an exclusive ministry in this Dispensation. The Apostle Peter confirmed this while recalling the installation of the early church, “…the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning….” (Acts 11:15)

In the context of Paul’s words to the Ephesians (Eph 4:3 – 6) it is our Baptism, along with our shared faith, Lord and God, which encourage us to maintain the bonds of Christian unity. It is also that which unites us to His body (Eph 4:1 – 6), the church, and because once joined to the body a believer cannot be detached (Jn 6:39) it follows that baptism is a once off event.

If sin is the cause of man’s calamity then the baptism of the Holy Spirit is our boon as it represents the liberation from the power of sin in our lives (Rom 1 – 11).

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The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)


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Located where Residenzplatz flows into Domplatz in Salzburg, Salzburg Cathedral (Domkirche St. Rupert) is renowned for its harmonious Baroque architecture and 4,000-pipe organ. It also contains a medieval font in which Mozart was baptized. The stained glassed central dome contains a detailed depiction of the Holy Spirit as a dove, a very popular characterisation. Click image to enlarge.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit refers to His unique present ministry of ongoing and permanent habitation within all believers coinciding at the moment of their salvation.

This indwelling affects all who believe without exception. John, commenting on Jesus’ own words, says, “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive….” (Jn 7:39a)

If the Spirit is present in all who believe what then might the absence of the Spirit indicate? Paul issues this stern warning: the absence of the Spirit indicates a defunct salvation, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9b)

Sin saps believers of power, but could sin disqualify the presence of the Spirit? Paul spent a great deal of time in the first epistle to the Corinthians dealing with the sins of believers (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Cor 6:7). Yet his exhortation to them to stop sinning is based on the premise of the permanence of the, “Holy Ghost which is in you….” (1 Cor 6:19b)

“…He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” (Jn 14:16) What blessed assurance it is that the comforter is freely and eternally bestowed.

More how and what tomorrow.

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