[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Is This So What?

To: UOG readers

From: the blogger Johanna Sawyer (formerly HK Flynn; from back in the day when some of us kept our personal information off the internet.)

Here’s my premise: 

The tribulation judgments are far more central to the Gospel & evangelism in the NT, than to the Gospel in today's churches. 

Eschatology is now thought of as a very separate topic from the Gospel message. But this means there is a sharp difference between NT evangelism and our own evangelism. The tribulation/day of the Lord judgments have gone missing from our Gospel.

Is this a big, So What??

No, it really isn't, in my not so humble opinion.

It’s not a small shift. 

Because of it, we distort the Gospel. 

Objection #1 might be, Isn't the day of the Lord a vague expression with several meanings? 

I agree that it and similar expressions, that day, the day of wrath, the day of Christ, have a range of meanings. Bob Wilkin has shown that the day of Christ is a term pointing to the Bema seat judgment where believer’s deeds will be judged by their Savior. And the day of the Lord can mean the tribulation judgments (Daniel’s [final] week), but also the final war that apparently takes place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

Objection #2 might be, Isn't all of eschatology an absolute distraction from the discipleship issues we desperately need to focus on? 

I agree that discipleship issues are urgent and central, but see NT eschatology as key to filtering discipleship through a thoroughly biblical perspective that has the potential to add turbo-ness to all of our pathetically lame efforts.  (I'm an expert I'm afraid in that latter department.) And I would have to agree that eschatology is often weirdly severed from a devotional perspective.

But even if a pastor decides he does not want the coming judgments as part of evangelism in his church, there is still a reason for close study of this Gospel shift out, where we shift out the topic of the day of the lord judgments, and shift in the topic of Hell. 

The Apostles clearly taught Hell.  

But they usually preached Joel’s day of wrath in their Gospel preaching.  This can be seen in the Acts sermons of Peter (in Acts Ch 2) and Paul (Ch 16), in Romans, and in John the Baptist’s preaching.
 
For the Apostles, the day of wrath prophesies of Joel were solidly linked with the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel in general.    

But again, many will ask, So what?

This is what. We risk falsifying the Gospel whenever we fully conflate ideas the NT writers did not. 

What two ideas do we conflate? 

When we conflate Hell with the judgments of the Earth, we pull in repentance to a place the NT writers never brooked.

Don't get me wrong. The urgent message of repentance is necessary to prepare for the Kingdom.  Repentance gets regenerate individuals ready for being presented with all the church as the bride.  Repentance gets nations to give thanks to the One true Creator and worship Him, and this worship gives God an opportunity to continue to delay His judgments. But... when we say that turning from sin is part of the free offer of eternal life, we have gotten creative with the stern and authoritative promise Jesus makes to the readers of John’s Gospel. And that is not okay. Repentance (as turning from sin) and belief are two things not one.

Jesus sternly offers life freely.

By first conflating Hell with the day of wrath we end up conflating repentance with belief.

Offer of life Illustration: A (Catholic) Christian missionary lives in the Philippines. She works and lives in poverty in order to bring the love of Christ to the poor. But if that missionary is stopped on the sidewalk and encouraged to receive eternal life by faith alone, or to be justified by faith alone, she may be less than Christian in her verbal response. She might be totally outraged by the idea of not relying partly on the sacraments and partly on good works—both as gritty expressions of her deep faith in Christ and His atoning grace for her. She'd likely be insulted.

Regarding Hell, Free Grace believers put all their eggs in one basket.  We cling to Jesus and His offer of life because of the finality of His work on the Cross.

Regarding the day of wrath, we teach repentance.  Repentance is most desperately needed in many situations, personal, relational, local, regional, cultural, and (yes, even) political.  We need to realize that if we keep clarifying and re-clarifying grace and leave repentance as a minor point to be slipped into our evangelism near the end, we are not teaching the whole Gospel that Jesus left us with.

In my next post I hope to give an example of how the day of wrath might connect powerfully in modern evangelism.

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8 Comments:

  • Thats always the kicker isn't it? When you have to inform people that their dead sacrificial works don't amount to a hill of beans on judgment day. Especially when you break this kind of stuff to Catholics. I'll never forget a Catholic Chaplain railing at me back when we were going to war in the first Persian Gulf war for being a lone wolf in reaching other Marines with the gospel and I will never forget what he said when he went storming off, "I can't believe this, I went to seminary for 9 years and here is this king james fundamentalist that thinks he knows everything."

    Funny thing is I wasn't a King James only guy, but for some reason he was hitting me with that because I didn't carry around his douay version or something, but the important thing is was that he was justifying himself by his dead works of nine years in seminary and dismissing me for my simple faith.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Thursday, February 28, 2013 7:39:00 PM  

  • Thanks for visiting, Brian :)

    (Sorry for the delay!! I obviously don't have comments connected to my email box correctly!)

    I appreciate very much your leaving your recollection of your interaction with the Catholic Chaplain. Oh yes, I can picture this gentleman fuming with the self righteousness of both good works and Catholic/Protestant historical grievance!! O man!

    What is so sad is that Catholics have been so brain-washed by the political diatribe, the Council of Trent, that they don't realize that really their own theology was ambiguous and uneven on Luther's faith/works theological point, prior to Trent. I sometimes make this point to Catholics to get them to reconsider what they are so adamantly trusting in.

    So I can imagine the indignation.

    I also think that God uses our words long after the face to face interaction. Who know, he may have converted.

    I think if Evangelicals interacted with Catholics more they would be more grace oriented, because they would realize the problems with linking to some sort of works system. I can hope anyway.

    Blessings to you!

    By Blogger Johanna Sawyer, at Friday, March 08, 2013 6:59:00 PM  

  • ambiguous indeed. Good words and praise God for your interaction with the lost. I would like to think that maybe he did convert.

    I can remember being so troubled that night and praying to God. That night he had a mild heart attack while walking a ladderwell and twisted his ankle. I can remember seeing him leaving the next day in crutches with the medical team and being evacuated. I don't know if God was speaking to him through that or not.

    Incidentily during the same time I had an officer come talk with me one night and telling me of his Lutheran heritage and giving me the spill on all of his good works. I felt led to tell him the Apostle Paul called himself the cheiftest of sinners. He then, with a kind of bewildered indignation asked where that was in the Bible, so I took out my small Bible I carried around in my cammies back then, and showed it to him. As he read he began to ask of the context, so I just told him to keep reading. He kept reading as he whispered it out loud at the same time; he soon became even more bewildered and closed the Bible and handed it back to me saying, "You've certainley given me plenty to think about Corporal Hedrick." and then he walked away. I never saw him again, but I do believe the seed of Grace was planted.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Saturday, March 09, 2013 11:51:00 AM  

  • Wow. And I think that applies to both stories. You've got me reading Paul, here. Here's that passage (1 tim 1) in the ESV:

    12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen.

    What a clear passage! Incredible. He is faithful to save us.

    And about the heart attack, he certainly does use near death and close to death experiences to shake us out of trusting in human wisdom.

    By Blogger Johanna Sawyer, at Saturday, March 09, 2013 4:21:00 PM  

  • yeah, that is the passage that must have rocked the Lieutenants world. I have thought a lot about both the Lieutenant and that Chaplain. Maybe I should pray for them, if they are still alive. That was over 20 years ago.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Thursday, March 14, 2013 6:32:00 PM  

  • I'll agree with you in prayer about the Lieutenant and the Chaplain, and maybe their family. Sometimes God brings people to mind for a reason.

    By the way, I think you'd like this post. Good blog in general.

    By Blogger Johanna Sawyer, at Friday, March 15, 2013 10:06:00 AM  

  • I am reading "Grace" by Chafer and man is it good.. anyway, I think you are right. Free Grace and a good understanding of end times seem to go together like bread and butter. :) By the way, I was not at the Council, so not sure why they felt it was ok to use my name.

    Grace and Truth
    Trent

    By Blogger Trent, at Tuesday, April 02, 2013 2:49:00 PM  

  • You know what? Nothing wrong with scary movies about the Tribulation. Nothing wrong with bringing together Americana and solid Gospel evangelism!! :-) (True though!)

    Glad to hear about the Chafer book, it does sound like a good one. And you know what people do stuff like that, and w/o asking. Weird.

    But especially glad to hear about the trip to Panama coming up in the summer. Really sounds like it could be eventful spiritually. God is so faithful when we get out there with the Gospel! I'll keep an eye on your blog for updates.

    By Blogger Johanna Sawyer, at Tuesday, April 02, 2013 8:11:00 PM  

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