Gospel – what and why

In response to a recent presentation of the gospel, someone responded, “That was good, but I’ve never heard it explained that way before.” You might find it surprising that on the one hand I value presenting nothing more than the original message, while on the other hand his comment did not surprise me.

The typical gospel presentation is clear, concise and accurate. We learn Jesus can save us. It instructs us how we need to respond to Christ. People need to hear this message.

When a presentation of the gospel is combined with explanatory power, it can resolve the questions of the curious as well as dissolve the harpoons of its detractors. When Jesus established a memorial for his death, why did he speak of a covenant? What does Jesus’ story have to do with the rest of scripture? Why are we called to respond to Christ with baptism?

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Surpassing confidence. Possessing God’s approval.

How confident are we? Are we masters of the grill, gifted at our professions or perhaps certain of our flair for gab? Yet, who among us has not experienced an unexpected curve ball? The dinner turned out disappointing. A work project did not go well. We stood speechless.

What we expected slipped between our fingers. In such instances we discover our earlier confidence did not deliver. Just because we felt confident did not guarantee the results.

So what about really important things, like heaven? Can we surpass mere confidence to know for certain we are God’s forgiven people? Yes we can!

I imagine joyous exclamations: “by faith” and “by grace!” To be sure, these principles are intrinsically involved. Yet, throughout scripture a more fundamental principle exists.

Continue reading “Surpassing confidence. Possessing God’s approval.”

The gospel instructs: rely upon Christ in baptism to be saved

Our world abounds with controversial issues ranging from politics to scientific theories, from social policy to religion. Among the chorus of dissenting voices rise competing perspectives regarding baptism.

It is my belief that scripture provides an unequivocal voice inviting us to rely upon Christ in baptism in order that we might receive the benefits of our Savior’s death. My experiences have also led me to conclude that one major barrier against accepting this understanding lies not with scripture’s failure to positively teach about baptism, rather false assumptions about faith are negating the biblical message.

How might someone tackle such a scenario? Here is one possibility.

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Saved by faith alone? yes! no!

One problem with language involves assuming we accurately understand others. Biblical wisdom would remind us, “The one who gives an answer before he listens – that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

Consider for example someone asserting, “We are saved by faith alone.” Do you agree or disagree?

Since this statement could describe two very different ideas, a better response than offering a knee jerk “yes” or “no” would be to first seek clarification. Continue reading “Saved by faith alone? yes! no!”

The crux of our saving faith

The following quote describes a richness lying within the word “faith” that challenges popular thinking. What are we to make of this claim about faith within the Greek New Testament?

The noun pistis offers a range of semantic possibilities for English translators. It can be rendered as ‘faith,’ ‘faithfulness,’ ‘fidelity’ or ‘trust.’ It probably does not, however, mean ‘belief’ in the sense of cognitive assent to a doctrine; rather, it refers to placing trust or confidence in a person. The cognate verb pisteuw (pisteuo) can be translated as ‘believe’ or ‘trust.’ English, regrettably, lacks a verb form from the same root as the noun ‘faith.'” – Richard Hays’ commentary on Galatians

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Romans 4 and Galatians 3: defining faith or defending faith?

An employer suddenly emphasizes proper procedure or a spouse describes what needs to be accomplished. Does it make a difference whether someone understands these statements as belittling criticism or helpful instruction? Of course it does!

While correctly interpreting social interactions can be extremely significant in navigating relationships, our perspectives regarding how a biblical author intended his words to function can dramatically shape what we teach for better or for worse.  For example, what was Paul’s purpose in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 regarding Abram’s faith? Did Paul define what constitutes faith or did this apostle defend the principle of faith? Or both? Continue reading “Romans 4 and Galatians 3: defining faith or defending faith?”