I recently read J.I. Packer’s Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God. Great book! Though the latter half seemed to drone on a bit for my liking.
But here are some highlights discussed:
- divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both clearly affirmed as Scriptural truths
- we can’t fully grasp/understand how they coexist
- but we must affirm they simultaneously exists nonetheless
- Paul’s evangelism was energized by:
- seeing himself as a commissioned representative of Jesus the Lord
- seeing his main task as teaching truth about Jesus the Lord
- ultimately aiming to convert his hearers
- By extension, Paul’s evangelism underpinnings apply to all Christians
- The Gospel Message is:
- about God
- about sin
- signs of true conviction of sin:
- awareness of wrong relationship with God
- conviction of specific sins you have done
- conviction of your general sinful character
- about Christ
- don’t present Christ’s Person apart from His saving work, or His saving work apart from His Person
- a summons to repent and believe (simultaneously)
- Why should we evangelize?
- love/glorify/obey God when He tells us, for instance, to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20).
- love of neighbor
- if someone was literally in a house burning down, wouldn’t you want to help them if you could?
- How should we evangelize?
- use any method that faithfully represents what is said above
- How can divine sovereignty and evangelism go together?
- God’s sovereignty in changing someone’s heart does not alter any of the nature and duty believers have to evangelize
- God’s sovereignty in changing someone’s heart gives us our only hope for success
The following is a paraphrase of points D.A. Carson makes to assert Jesus is the unique Son of God (fully God and fully man) in The Gagging of God (1996), pp. 257-260:
- John 1:1-3, 14, 18 – Jesus = Creator and Revealer
- Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2 – Jesus brings together God and human beings
- produces unique “Son of God” (Luke 1:35)
- Old Testament foretells 2 strands of redemption: (1) God Himself comes down to rescue His people; (2) God sends “David” his servant (i.e. Messiah) to rescue his people – Jesus’ birth and life show both.
- Rev. 4-5 – He receives the worship and homage due God alone
- Jesus explicitly called “God” – John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Titus 3:4-5
- Heb. 1:1-3 – Son = God’s last word and radiance of God’s glory; exact representation of God’s being
- Heb. 2 – simultaneously Christ’s humanity is true and necessary
- Paul routinely takes Old Testament verses about God and applies them to Jesus
- Peter does the same (1 Pet. 3:14 cf. Isa. 8:12-13)
- Col. 2:9 – “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”
- Revelation – links “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb”
- Jesus’ parables – He self-identifies with figures who are reserved for God in the Old Testament
- John 8:46 – Jesus asks, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”
- astonishingly clear conscience
- John’s gospel shows Jesus calling Himself the “I am” – which refers only to God (see especially John 8)
- John 5:23 – all should honor the Son as they honor the Father
- “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him”
- In humanity, “genuine greatness is associated with a certain unawareness of greatness;” or someone gradually becomes “an arrogant poseur”
- In contrast, Jesus displays astonishing authority (e.g. Matt. 7:28-29) while being known for his gentleness and humility (11:29). “For all that he goes to the cross, he sees himself as the focal point of history.”
- Jesus insists John the Baptist is the greatest person born of woman (greater than Abraham, greater than David, greater than Solomon, Isaiah). Why? He was announcing Jesus’ arrival (Matt. 11:9-11a)
- the least in the kingdom is greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11b). Why? because they see, know, and announce Jesus with greater clarity.
- Imagine someone saying that the person announcing them as a speaker is the greatest person in existence just because they announced you!
- Phil. 2:5-7 – But Jesus, “BECAUSE He was in the very nature God, [THEREFORE] did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, but made himself nothing”
- The “astonishing quality of Jesus’ love”
- Matt. 23 – utters the sternest denunciations while weeping over the city
- He speaks of hell and judgment, but also provides a way of escape
- He operates as a “man among men” and finds followers among the wealthy (like Zacchaeus), but also loves children, poor, oppressed, handicapped, unclean, outcast
- all of this is similar to God in the Old Testament
- his love brings Him to the cross
- N.T. writers get excited about His love just thinking of Him (e.g. Gal. 2:20).
- Christian maturity is measured by a believer’s experiential grasp of Christ’s love (Eph. 3:16b-19)
- Jesus’ coming ushers in the kingdom (Mark 1:15), and “among you” (Luke 17:21)
- shown not least in Jesus’ power against darkness (Matt. 12:28; cf. Luke 10:17-20)
- this is somewhat hidden from others at the time (compared to yeast, performing its silent work, for instance)
- people are called to follow Christ, believe in Him, believe the good news that the reign of God is present, even though the evidence in the natural world is still ambiguous and disputable
- kingdom is in conflict with powers of darkness – final victory occurs at cross
- it was the hour of darkness’ power (Luke 22:53), but also accomplished Christ’s atoning work
- His disciples must pray for the consummation of this kingdom (“Your kingdom come; your will be done…”) Until that time, Jesus reigns
- Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted O.T. chapter in the N.T. – includes “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'”.
- Before the Jews, Jesus insists He is coming back – using Psalm 110 and Dan. 7 – “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62)
As you may have noticed, I’ve been lately thinking and praying about what Jesus looks for in churches. So I set out to consider what makes a healthy church according to the New Testament alone. Here’s what I came up with (but I’d really love other insights you all might have on this):
Healthy Churches Look Like…
- People seek formulas and rules. God establishes principles.
- God alone causes growth and fruit.
- Ultimate Goal: corporately become Jesus’ likeness
Traits of Healthy Churches (in no particular order):
Led/Empowered by Holy Spirit
- Offices: (1) Elders, (2) Deacons
- Ministries (Eph. 4:11)
- Oversee meetings
- Teach/preach publicly
All members contributing
- 5 ministries
- 9 Holy Spirit gifts
- God-given talents
- At church meetings
- Includes singing
Devotion to God’s Word – Scripture
- To learn, obey, teach others
- Heart of Scriptures: gospel – to be known and communicated by all
- Teaching includes singing
- Includes singing
- Scriptural accountability/discipline
Meet Sundays (and beyond)
- “One another” meetings where all are able to contribute
- “Apostolic” meetings – only a 1/few ministers
Fellowship around Jesus/Gospel
- Often over meals
Meet physical needs of church (and beyond)
- Elders and deacons oversee
Reproduce themselves to 4th generation (and beyond)
- Through evangelism
- Through discipling in areas listed above