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The Gospel: Professed and Practiced

Greg Strand – September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

“The gospel which we possess was not given to us only to be admired, talked of, and professed, but to be practiced.” J.C. Ryle

This expounds the commitment of Evangelicals throughout history. Evangelicals are people of the gospel, which has transformed them, and which is to be cherished and proclaimed. It is also to be lived, or as Ryle states, it “it is to be practiced.” One of the more recent manifestations of this was the Evangelical Awakening in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries.

More recently, and not just with the EFCA, this captures what we have been talking about for quite some time. Although Evangelicals have been changed by the gospel and they delight in it and its proclamation, “but to be practiced,” the final statement, has been limited in its scope of application. Racial reconciliation is one of those limitations.

We need to remember that when we address patience, or being long-suffering, we will live with a tension. For the majority community, mostly white brothers and sisters, some are coming to realize these limitations in application. They need some time to figure this out and work through what this means. It is important this be done in community, and not just with other majority folk.

For our brothers and sisters in the minority community, mostly African American brothers and sisters, they have generally suffered long and experience some racial fatigue. How many times do they have to go through fits and starts, how often do they have to hear public and corporate repentance, both of which are good and right, but they are waiting for the next step, the costly and sacrificial step of love lived out and “practiced.” And, as noted previously, a vital way to do this is in community, to engage in dialogue together in the context of relationships.

May God give us the wisdom, grace, kindness, patience and courage to cherish, delight in, speak and live the gospel.

Please plan to join us at our upcoming Theology Conference, where we will address the theme, “The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA.”

Corporate Confession

Greg Strand – September 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Many Evangelical churches do not often include a time of corporate confession as part of their weekly services. This is, I believe, a weakness of our gatherings.

Most of our service – singing, praying, greeting, sermons, etc. – reflects an overrealized eschatology. We speak and respond and expect as if the kingdom is already fully here. The emphasis is on the now of the kingdom. Much of the sharing of life together reflects the now of the kingdom, as if troubles and trials are unexpected, and marriage and parenting are all perfect. What this creates is a false exterior and a heavy heart because it does not match reality. There is seldom a place to share hurts and pains and struggles. It is as if there is no not-yet of the kingdom.

And yet we know doctrinally and experientially that we live in the not-yet-fully-realized kingdom. There is sin, ongoing struggles of sin, suffering, trials, lament, etc. In the midst of these existential realities, God’s kingdom has truly broken in, and the way in which we live in and through these matters reflects the now of the kingdom. The kingdom is truly here, even though not in full, and the presence of the kingdom is manifested in the way we live under the Lordship of the King, the Lord Jesus, and the way in which we live a life of faith and trust.

And yet, the kingdom is not yet here fully. We await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to make all things right, and all things new, when there will be no more sadness, sorrow, weeping. But not yet.

The strong inclination (evident in practice by what is said and done) in most Evangelical churches is to emphasize the newness of the kingdom, which is right, but they do so at the expense of the not-yetness of the kingdom, which is wrong. Too many have imbibed too much of the prosperity gospel, or an Americanized version of the gospel, and not enough of the true, biblical gospel.

In every corporate gathering, there ought to be a confession and manifestation of the now of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of the work of God in our midst. But there will also be manifestations of the not-yet of the kingdom, where we hear and see manifestations of life in this fallen-redeemed-not-yet-glorified world, and yet in the mist of that reality the now of the kingdom manifests in a life of trust, crying individually and corporately, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3:17-18). This is why the early church cried, and we ought to pray regularly, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!

In this link you will see an example of a corporate confession: A Corporate Confession of Faith Based on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount Repentance is not only the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life that bears fruit in confession of sin and profession of Christ resulting in new spiritual life (Mk. 1:14-15), repentance is also a mark of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, a bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). It is important we live and lead a life of repentance.

Might this be one resource of helping you to do this. It is through repentance that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). May it be so!

 

Essentials of the Doctrine of Creation

Greg Strand – September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

In the EFCA, “We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Article 1, God)

When you ponder biblically and theologically, what does it mean to confess and profess “God [is] the Creator of all things”? In affirming this truth, What are the essentials, the non-negotiables, that must be affirmed/believed in order to affirm this truth?

This was a question posed to Tim Keller, Russell Moore and Ligon Duncan: Keller, Moore, and Duncan on the Non-Negotiable Beliefs About Creation

In this 12 minute discussion between Keller, Moore and Duncan, this is the very issue they address, focusing on the non-negotiables of the doctrine of creation. They focus on what ought to be communicated in discussions with unbelievers, and what ought to be included in discussions with believers.

In sum, they conclude there are three non-negotiable truths that must be affirmed: (1) God created all ex nihilo; (2) God’s creation is good; (3) God’s special creation of Adam and Eve, who are historical and unique, and they serve as the fountainhead, or federal head (primogenitor/progenitor) of all humanity.

In the EFCA, added to the essential belief of affirming God being the “Creator of all things,” we have given the following biblical and theological parameters (Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, 34):

To be sure, Genesis 1 expresses truth about God as Creator and his creation, but because of the uncertainty regarding the meaning and literary form of this text and the lack of Evangelical consensus on this issue, our Statement does not require a particular position on the mechanics of creation. However, to be within the doctrinal parameters of the EFCA, any understanding of the process of creation must affirm:

1. That God is the Creator of all things out of nothing (ex nihilo)
2. That he pronounced his creation “very good,”
3. that God created with order and purpose,
4. that God is the sovereign ruler over all creation which, by his personal and particular providence, he sustains,9
5. that God created the first human beings—the historical Adam and Eve—uniquely in his image,
6. and that through their sin all humanity along with this created order is now fallen (as articled in our Article 3).10

 9  We deny the notion that God is simply the Creator of the universe but is no longer active in it, as is espoused by deism.
10 This Statement does not speak to the precise process of creation or to the age of the universe. To be acceptable within the EFCA any views on these specifics must completely affirm this Statement of Faith and align within these essential parameters.

And to the doctrine of God’s unique historical creation of Adam and Eve, “We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image” (Article 3, The Human Condition), which expounded biblically and theologically means the following (Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, 76-77):

There are legitimate differences of opinion about how one understands the nature of the language used in the early chapters of Genesis to describe the actions of God in the world. However, our Statement affirms that Adam and Eve were historical figures16 in the following sense: 1) From these two all other human beings are descended (Acts 17:26).17 2) These two were the first creatures created in God’s image such that they were accountable to God as responsible moral agents. And 3) these two rebelled against God, affecting all their progeny.18

What is essential to the biblical story-line is that the problem with the world is not ontological-that is, it is not a result of the material nature of creation itself nor is sin an essential part of our humanity.19 The problem is moral. The first human beings from the very beginning, in a distinct act of rebellion, chose to turn away from God, and this act not only affected all humanity (cf. Rom. 5:12-21), but creation itself (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). This leads us from considering the dignity of humanity to acknowledging our depravity.

16 The historical reality of Adam and Eve has been the traditional position of the church (so Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine, Calvin) and is supported elsewhere in Scripture. Particularly, Paul compares the “one man” Adam with both Moses and Jesus (cf. Rom. 5:12, 15-19; 1 Cor. 15:20-22). In addition, Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam (Luke 3:23-37; cf. also 1 Chron. 1).
17 We take no position on the manner in which the human soul is passed on, either by natural heredity (“traducianism”) or by a unique work of God in each life (“creationism”).
18 Consequently, no human beings existed prior to these two, and, consequently, no human beings were sinless and without the need of a Savior.
19 This also gives us hope that human beings can be redeemed from sin.

“We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. . . [And] We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image.”

 

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is sponsoring an international conference devoted to the Reformation and the Ministry of the Word on its campus on September 14-15.

The Reformation was a dynamic renewal movement unleashed by God’s powerful Word that changed the face of western Christianity. The conference will explore the Bible’s transformative impact on the theology and ministry practice of Protestant churches then and now.

Speakers include Timothy George, Kevin DeYoung, Michael Horton, David Dockery, Jung-Sook Lee, David Luy, Scott Manetsch, and Michael Haykin.

All are welcome and warmly invited. For more information and registration, please see here.

As we inform you of this excellent conference at TEDS, it also provides another opportunity to remind you of our EFCA Theology Conference earlier this year in which we also focused on the 500th anniversary of the posting of Luther’s 95 theses: Reformation 500: Theology and Legacy – God’s Gospel and the EFCA All of the recordings of messages and other resources are located on the website.

I encourage you to consider using these resources in order to learn about and to prepare for the celebration of the Reformation. One option is to listen to them and learn. Another option is to listen to the messages with others and then share and discuss what you learned or what was challenging to you. This would also be a great resource for an elder study this fall.

The heart of the Reformation, Protestantism, Evangelicalism, and the EFCA is found in Theses 1 and 62:

Thesis 1: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.

Thesis 62: The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is foundational to everything. And the first manifestation of the gospel in one’s life is repentance and humility.

On May 12, 1792, William Carey (1761-1834) published his pamphlet, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. In Which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of Former Undertakings and the Practicability of the Further Undertakings Considered.

Prior to writing this influential work, some background story is helpful.

God laid a burden on Carey’s heart for missions. On the one hand, he had been significantly influenced by the Moravians. On the other hand, he had seen a lack of passion for or commitment to evangelism, to bring the gospel to the ends of the world through missions.

As Carey shared this burden with others, it was not well received. Shortly after he was ordained, he shared his burden and vision for reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ through missions. To this passionate plea to fellow ministers of the gospel, an older minister interrupted and rebuked Carey by saying, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

In response, he penned the work mentioned at the beginning. Carey concluded that the Scriptures taught, for which he also arguned, that Jesus’ Great Commission applied to all Christians of all times. He also exhorted fellow believers of his day for ignoring it writing, “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.” This was not only a doctrine Carey believed or preached, he was also willing and eager to obey it, being committed to both biblical truth and the means God uses to accomplish that: “We must not be contented however with praying, without exerting ourselves in the use of means for the obtaining of those things we pray for.”

Here is the main emphasis in the pamphlet, which he then expounds in the rest of An Enquiry: (words are Carey’s; format is mine):

In order that the subject may be taken into more serious consideration, I shall enquire,

  • whether the commission given by our Lord to his disciples be not still binding on us,
  • take a short view of former undertakings,
  • give some account of the present state of the world,
  • consider the practicability of doing something more than is done,
  • and the duty of Christians in general in this matter.

One writes the following summary of this work:

In it he argued that Christ’s “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20 was not just to the apostles but to Christians of all periods. It proved to be kind of the charter of the modern Protestant missionary movement. Carey showed that if Christians want to claim the comforts and promises of the New Testament, they must also accept the commands and instructions given there. Soon after the publication he delivered a famous sermon in which he admonished Christian leaders to “expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” His colleagues formed a missionary society and sent Carey as their first missionary to India.

The publicaton was not the end of Carey’s work. In 1792 he organized a missionary society. At the first meeting he preached a sermon with the call, Carey didn’t stop there: in 1792 he organized a missionary society, and at its inaugural meeting preached a sermon with the reminder of who God is and the exhortation to respond in joyful obedience, words God has used in the lives of many Christians since: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!”

In the next year, Carey and his family, which included three boys and his wife expecting their fourth, and John Thomas, a former surgeon, were on a ship bound for India.

Carey’s pamphlet and missionary endeavors caused many Protestants to rethink God’s call and command to make disciples of all nations, and it became a manifesto for Protestants and Evangelicals since that time.

In a brief summary of Carey’s life and ministry, one concludes Carey was, indeed, the father of the modern missions movement.

His greatest legacy was in the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century that he inspired. Missionaries like Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone, among thousands of others, were impressed not only by Carey’s example, but by his words “Expect great things; attempt great things.” The history of nineteenth-century Protestant missions is in many ways an extended commentary on the phrase.