Sunday, December 28, 2008

Week in Review

Writing Assignment 2 – Divine Revelation (PART 2)

The people understood that God was unique from all other gods. He was a faithful and trustworthy God. “This God has a distinct character — he is who he is — to which he will be faithful and which he reveals in his historical actions. Not only does God name his presence as active being, but his name also discloses his essentially relational nature. The Baptist scholar Gwynne Henton Davies explains that the Hebrew words ‘have the quite practical meaning I am who and what, and where and when, and how and even why you will discover I AM. I am what you will discover me to be’…God already is in himself what he intends and promises to be in his deeds through and among his people. The text implies that this is and will be the case and that it is and will be manifest historically; hence we can expect to be able to ‘read’ his acts as an assertion of his character and as leading to the fulfillment of his promise. Using language from speech act theory, we can say that God’s revelation of his name is assertive of his being, and a commissive promise to act in faithfulness to his being. God’s nature is expressed in his unbreakable word: that he means to be his word is implied by his promise, and that he will keep it is implied in his self-assertion” (Moore, 167).

God revealed himself to the Israelites and their history became available for all to understand God’s move in times past and what it means for today. “…the history. God’s revelation becomes part of the concreteness of daily life, in the language and in the mentality of a people, showing what the meaning of the flowing of days is. “History, therefore, becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves” (Dotolo, pp. 20 – 21). God also showed himself to the Israelites to establish a relationship with them for their good. “In establishing a priesthood for Israel, God assured that the priests would provide guidance for his people, especially with respect to their continuous instruction in his law. This priesthood and their assistants, the scribes, were the teaching authority, or the official magisterium, of the religion God set up for them. As long as the priests and scribes remained loyal to God, they were also faithful in communicating God’s wishes to his people. However, at times when the teaching authority slipped away from its responsibility and did not reflect the will of God for his people, God then bypassed the religious authorities and used prophets to deliver messages directly to the people” (Girzone, pp. 15 – 16).

“In time past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he has made heir of all things and through whom he first created the universe” (Dotolo, 20). God also reveals himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. Before touching on Jesus, one must first look at the Bible or the word of God as he reveals himself to humanity. God showed himself to the Israelites and thus began the process of writing down the word of God as he revealed it to individuals. The author, Norbert Max Samuelson in his book, Revelation and the God of Israel states, “Whatever the view is of God in general, the deity affirmed as the sole deity worthy of worship in these religions is the creator of the world, the revealer of sacred scriptures, and the redeemer of humanity. For Judaism, at least God as the creator is revealed both through the Hebrew Scriptures (especially the opening chapters of Genesis) and through nature (especially physical cosmology and cosmogony). The deity known in this way is a God of natural law whose will, identifiable with that law, is concerned equally with every creature, without differentiation, and primarily with the whole rather than any of its parts, be they animal, mineral, or vegetable. Hence, this is a deity knowable primarily as a God of justice. In contrast, God as the revealer is known through the words of the Hebrew Scriptures and the tradition of the interpretation of those words in biblical commentaries. This deity is a God of moral law whose will, identifiable with that law, has special concern for the Jewish people, with whom he has a special love relationship, comparable to that of a loving spouse or parent. Hence, this is a deity knowable primarily as a God of love. Whether or not it is coherent to claim that the same being is both the deity of universal law and the deity of concrete love is not obvious, and much of the discussion of theology in rabbinic texts deals with ways to reconcile these two characterizations of God” (12). Scripture confirms itself in these verses, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Work Cited
Dotolo, Carmelo (2006). Christian Revelation. Aurora, CO, USA: Davies Group Publishers.

Girzone, Joseph F. (2004). Trinity.Westminster, MD, USA: Doubleday Publishing.

McGrath, Alister E. (2001). Christian Theology – An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Moore, Andrew. (2003). Realism and Christian Faith : God, Grammar, and Meaning.

West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Samuelson, Norbert Max. (2002). Revelation and the God of Israel. West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. (1988). The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc.

Week in Review

Writing Assignment #7 – Synthesis (part 2)

The believer now begins the transformation process. None of this is possible without God’s spirit. Roberts states, “We have seen that there can be no true holiness without the love of God. Neither can there be without love for our fellow men. The two are joined together. The second great commandment is, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’ – Matt. 22:39” (1)

One of the changes in the new believer is in fellowship. The relationship between God and the new believer has been restored. The relationship between the new believer and others has also been made new. Howard states, “Sin produces a double alienation – on the vertical and horizontal plane. ‘But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ’ Eph. 2:13…this is double reconciliation – between man and man, and man and God” (74).

The new man now must give control over completely to God so that the transformation can begin. Sins were forgiven but an instant change in man’s behavior and thinking did not occur. Howard states, “Life by the Spirit is a personal relationship that must be cultivated and maintained…The experience of most men reveals the need of constant renewal and revival – it is an essential part of humanity” (179). The new man begins to transform into the image of God. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

In this growing process, one must be amongst other believers. This is the importance of the church. The church is made up of the believers coming to worship together, encourage one another and fulfill the mission of God. What is the mission of the church? In the book, Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Mission, the author Gailyn Van Rheenen states, “The church is not a human organization. It is the result of a mission or a sending that began with God. The mission of God, initiated through Jesus Christ and continued through his disciples, led to the formation of the church” (29). “The Church is God’s people called out from the world to be his witness in the world. As an institution, it appears fallible and weak, but paradoxically it has outlasted states, nations, and empires” (Rheenen, 30). So the mission of the church is God ordained. The people of God come together to worship and evangelize because of the instruction given by God and not due to man’s wishes.

Josh McDowell on his web site, answers the question what hope does Christianity offer the world, in this manner, “We are living in a day in which people are pessimistic about the future. There have always been pessimists, but now there is a general feeling of hopelessness regarding the future. Against this pessimistic and fearful backdrop, Jesus Christ offers real hope. He gives mankind the opportunity to become right with God and his fellowman. Thus Christianity offers a full life to those who will accept Jesus” (1). Some of the disillusionment in men is in their unrealistic and selfish expectations of others and in God. J.B. Phillips, the author of Your God is too Small, states, “God will inevitably appear to disappoint the man who is attempting to use Him as a convenience, a prop, or a comfort, for his own plans. God has never been known to disappoint the man who is sincerely wanting to co-operate with His own purposes” (49).

The church is an important part of God’s plan in presenting truth to the world. The church is to be God’s light, like a beacon calling all towards it. “Because most people in this modern age have almost no sense of God there is also almost no sense of ‘sin’ – for in human experience there is a significant connexion between the two. Where the sense of God becomes something like a reality there springs up, sooner or later, a sense of guilt and failure” (Phillips, 97). The church, through the keeping of God’s ways, shows the world what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. “The follower of the new way is therefore called to do all he can to spread ‘the good news of the Kingdom,’ but to realize at all times that the success or failure of the Kingdom can never be judged by simple reference to statistics of ‘Christians’ at any particular time” (Phillips, 123). Believers are to spread the message of salvation but not to get held back by what looks like failure or success. Phillip states the success of this mission is known in the “real time” which is eternity.

The church is vital to get the truth to the world. Josh McDowell agrees with this in his statement, “All religions cannot be true at the same time, because they teach many things completely opposite from one another. They all may be wrong, but certainly they all cannot be right, for the claims of one will exclude the other. As to matters of salvation and the person of Jesus Christ, only historic Christianity recognizes Him as the eternal God becoming a man who died for the sins of the world and arose again the third day. Salvation is obtained only by putting one’s trust in this Jesus” (2). The Christian church is the only avenue that is founded on this truth of the Bible, that Jesus is the only way of salvation.

It is important to the church that believers encourage one another. Luis Palau suggest this on his web site, “Having a part in leading a friend or acquaintance to faith in Jesus Christ is exciting. Actually praying with someone who wants to make that decision is even more exciting. Yet I’ve seen Christians panic when someone comes to that point of decision. Take the time to encourage and help each other learn to lead someone in making that decision” (1). The church is significant in educating believers to be able to share the Gospel. This can be an intimidating idea. It is important for believers to be trained and then walk along side another believer to teach them.

The church in sharing the message of salvation must be willing to go outside of the church building. Scripture calls for us to reach out to the lost of this world, because when we do it to others we do it unto the Lord. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35-36). One such organization that holds to this belief is Prison Fellowship. Their goal is to exhort, equip and assist the church in its ministry to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. This is what their web site states regarding their mission, “Our foremost calling is to be in daily fellowship and communion with Christ. But we are also called to go beyond an exclusive ‘Jesus and me’ relationship; Christ calls us to be a light to the world around us, an instrument through which He can work to restore and redeem broken lives and a broken culture” (1).

Work Cited

Alter, Margaret Gramat. Christianity Today: The unnatural act of forgiveness. Vol. 41 Issue 7, P. 28, 3p 2c. 1997. 22 February 2006. How to know God personally. 2006. 22 February 2006.

Howard, Richard E. Newness of Life. United States of America: n.p., 1975. Previous Questions -Christianity. 2004. 22 February 2006.

McGrath, Alister E. Understanding the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988. Scripts – Encourage One Another. Palau, Luis. 2005. 22 February 2006. Prison Fellowship. 2004. 22 February 2006.

Phillips, J.B. Your God is Too Small. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.