Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

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Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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According To Scripture: Study #16 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

As I predicated last Monday, I’m a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series last night. But I won’t let that stop me from writing about something far more exciting and glorious!

So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 as a whole, and then examine the first four verses of the passage.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

At last, Paul moves from giving proofs for bodily resurrection to giving reasons for changed bodies as well as briefly explaining the wonderful process of that change. As Barnes writes, the Lord changes our bodies because it is indispensable that He do so.

Since our earthly bodies suffer from the corrupting influences of sin, he explains in verse 50, they lack the capacity to function in the incorruptible realm. Earlier verses have already made this point. In our present state of weakness and decay, it’s unthinkable that we should inherit an incorruptible kingdom.

When Paul says he will tell them a mystery in verse 51, he by all means does not mean secret knowledge for the spiritually elite! Rather, he’s turning the tables on the Gnostics, informing them that he knows something that their secret wisdom evidently hasn’t taught them. This knowledge was hidden from previous generations, but Christ has revealed it.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he declares this same mystery, affirming that he received it “by the word of the Lord.” Their reason, which they prided themselves on, never would have reached the conclusion that we will be changed. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 teaches precisely that promise.

This promise, however, is not about the resurrection of the dead. It is about the rapture of living Christians. The comment that we shall not all sleep makes this point clear. Therefore, the implications of Christ’s resurrection take on an added dimension that the Corinthian Gnostics hadn’t considered.

Verse 52 offers further details on the transformation of our bodies. The last trumpet that Paul mentions signals the close of our earthly existence and the beginning of our eternal life in resurrected bodies. At that glorious moment, the dead will be raised in the imperishable bodies that Paul has been describing throughout this chapter. But in addition to their resurrection, the living will be changed.

Both miracles will occur instantaneously. The transformation of our bodies in the rapture will be as instantaneous as a wink, which the Greek word translated as “twinkling” denotes. Christ’s Second Corning will be sudden, surprising us like (to borrow Peter’s phrase in 2 Peter 3:10) a thief in the night. Paul describes this moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We can look forward to this moment with joyful anticipation!

Perhaps we best understand the concept of a perishable body putting on the imperishable in verse 53 by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. As Christians, we know that there’s so much more than this present life offers.

As earlier verses have indicated, our earthly bodies, being corrupted by the effects of sin, simply aren’t suited for eternal life in the perfect new heavens and new earth. Consequently, we must be clothed in new, imperishable bodies.

What a wonderful thing to contemplate this week! And as we finish our study next Monday, we’ll see a victory that makes the World Series look downright boring.

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According To Scripture: Study #15 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Before we get going on the five (yes, I’m serious — five) verses we’ll study today, let me remind any gentlemen reading that these Bible Studies are intended exclusively for women. Unless you are my husband, an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth Massachusetts or vetting me before recommending this blog to your wife, please don’t cause me to violate 1 Timothy 2:12. Thanks!

Are they gone, ladies? Okay. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s read our passage and then talk about verses 45-49.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. ~~1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (ESV)

In verse 45, we see a new turn in Paul’s defense of bodily resurrection. Having taught the differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies, Paul goes on to contrast the first Adam with Christ (the last Adam). He uses these terms to denote that Adam and Christ are the two representative heads of humanity. He already hinted at this concept in verse 22.

Referring to Genesis 2:7, he reminds them that the first Adam became a living being when God breathed life into him. This first Adam, however, also introduced death to all mankind (Romans 5:14) even while being the first human to receive God’s breath of life.

In contrast, Christ (the last Adam) gives eternal life. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” According to Matthew Henry,  John 5:21 shows us that both the Father and the Son give life. Paul’s comment about the second Adam being a life-giving spirit demonstrates this claim.

Paul deems it entirely reasonable, in verse 46, that our natural, decaying bodies should precede our spiritual, imperishable bodies, just as the seed precedes the fully developed plant. As Matthew Henry puts it, “If the first Adam could communicate to us natural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritual ones?”

We might apply this principle in our walks with the Lord. Christians put away the natural inclination towards sin in favor of putting on Christlike characteristics. See Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-10.

Paul tells us in verse 47 that Adam quite literally came from the earth, as Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19 testify. As such, he had a corruptible nature that all of us inherited. In Adam, our present bodies are destined to return to the earth.

In contrast, Christ is of heavenly origin, as we learn in John 3:13 and John 3:31. Paul calls Him the second Man because of His reversal of Adam’s curse on humanity. Since Christ is heavenly, His physical body is suited for heaven. Therefore, those who are in Him will likewise be given bodies suited for heaven.

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 48 by saying that all of Adam’s descendants share his earthly nature. Interestingly, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tie this statement in to our need to be born again (John 3:6-7). Apart from Christ, our bodies are prone to decay.

In contrast (again drawing from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), regenerated people will have bodies like the resurrected Lord’s (Philippians 3:20-21). The second Adam assures us that He will fit us for eternity with Him!

Paul reaches the pinnacle of his argument in verse 49. Like our natural forefather Adam, we have bodies that are weakened (see Romans 5:17a). As Barnes puts it, our earthly bodies are “subject to sickness, frailty, sorrow, and death.”

But in Christ, our resurrection bodies will shed the limitations we inherited from Adam. Like our resurrected Lord, we will have incorruptible bodies that are free both from sin itself and from its consequences. 1 John 3:2 promises that, even though we don’t know specific details concerning our resurrection bodies, we have the assurance that they will be like His.

Join me next Monday as we begin the final section of 1 Corinthians 15. I may be a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series, but I look forward to studying a far greater event — our bodies being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

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According To Scripture: Study #13 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Sometimes God’s Word is so straightforward that we don’t need a great deal of help from commentaries to understand it. Verses 39-41 of 1 Corinthians 15 serve as a case in point. As I studied the passage this past week, I found that, when read in the context of the preceding verses, these three verses pretty much simply drive home Paul’s point that our resurrected bodies will be much different from the bodies we have now.

At the same time, proper Bible study demands that we avoid the temptation to skim over these verses as if they’re superfluous. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them for a reason, and therefore we must cherish them as His Word.

So let’s look at the full passage, perhaps remembering what we discussed last Monday, and then make a few observations about today’s brief verses.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

You’ll recall from last Monday that the scoffers referred to in verse 35 ask about the nature of resurrection bodies as a challenge, hoping to show that resurrection is ridiculous. But Paul responds by reasoning from God’s creation. Just as bodies of different species differ, and as stars and moons differ, so temporal and resurrection bodies differ.

The introduction of the word “flesh” in verse 39 emphasizes the physical aspect of resurrection, which some of the Corinthians (influenced by early Gnostic philosophies) denied. Jesus’ own bodily resurrection points to this reality. In Luke 24:39, for example, He presents Himself to the disciples and reminds them that spirits don’t have flesh and bone as He does. Philippians 3:21 insists that the Lord will transform our bodies to be like His. Clearly, such a transformation entails a physical body.

But as the flesh of different species varies, so our earthly bodies will be different from our resurrected bodies. Barnes appeals to the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; it’s all the same insect, but the butterfly is far different from the caterpillar! Paul doesn’t go there, but he certainly distinguishes between various types of flesh with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between the earthly body and the resurrection body.

This takes us to verse 40, where the argument moves from species to cosmology. Paul differentiates between earth and other bodies (planets and stars). Although people in the First Century obviously didn’t know about geological and atmospheric conditions, the Holy Spirit clearly inspired Paul to write this observation.

He furthers his argument in verse 41 by noting distinctions between heavenly bodies themselves. Considering that Paul wrote this epistle several centuries before the invention of telescopes and space exploration, I think his statement underscores the fact that he writes under direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Only God knew, at that point in time, how stars and planets differed from each other. Yet He wanted Paul to include this example.

Believers Bible Commentary also indicates that this verse may suggest that we will retain our individuality even in our resurrected states. Although none of the other commentaries I read corroborated with this thought, it definitely deserves our consideration. I’d caution against being dogmatic about this possibility, however. Let’s stick with Paul’s main argument that our earthly bodies aren’t to be compared with the bodies we will receive at the resurrection.

Next Monday we will see how Paul ties these examples to the resurrection a bit more concretely. In the  meantime, if you have any questions, comments or observations, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to use the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page or Twitter to give your perspective.

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According To Scripture: Study #12 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Thank you all for your patience while I took a two month break from writing this Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. In July, we finished studying Christ’s resurrection and its implications regarding our own resurrection at His return. Now Paul shifts the conversation to the nature of our resurrected bodies.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

As we see in verse 35, Paul now addresses practical reservations regarding bodily resurrection. The question as to what kind of bodies we will have come either from immature believers or, as implied by Paul’s harshness in verse 36, from skeptics trying to disprove the doctrine through ridicule. Whatever the motives, the two main questions are:

  • How are the dead raised?
  • What is the resurrection body like?

Gill believes that the first question betrays cynicism, and most likely a determination to show the absurdity of resurrection. That cynicism gives rise to the question of the form decomposed bodies could possibly take upon resurrection. But, as Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out, such questions should be answered by appealing to God’s power rather than from human philosophies (as Jesus did in Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27).

As we come to verse 36, we are startled that Paul bluntly calls anyone who would raise objections such as these a fool. The Corinthians, because they prided themselves on their worldly wisdom, must have been even more startled. And Paul intended to startle them! His harshness brings out the idea that their supposed intellectual wisdom crumbles into idiotic babble (Romans 1:22).

As Barnes observes, they appeal to personal experience and their deductions from nature as evidence that bodily resurrection is ludicrous. But Paul turns the tables by holding up an example from nature that exposes their objections. Contrary to their arguments that a dead body simply returns to dust, Paul likens the body to a seed that must die and be buried in order to produce life (see John 12:24).

In verse 37 Paul expands on his analogy by comparing the natural body that we sow through burial to a seed (or kernel) planted in the ground. A kernel of grain, for example, grows into an entire stalk of wheat, flax or barely, complete with husks, leaves or blades. Obviously a tiny seed looks considerably different than a fully developed plant!

With this simple illustration, the apostle demonstrates the fallacy of their reasoning, thus striking at their pride. If they had reasoned more carefully, they would have realized that crops come from decomposed seeds, so that nature itself testifies to the truth of resurrection.

We’ll close today’s study with verse 38, which definitely leads me into worship! God gives everything the type of body that pleases Him. Just as He is pleased for a seed to have a different body than a plant, so He is pleased for a natural body to be different than a spiritual body. I love this testimony to God’s sovereignty, don’t you?

Barnes brings out the point that God, rather than impersonal laws of nature, determines the assignment of bodies. By His design, a seed has a different body than a fully developed plant and a natural body is different than a spiritual body. Possibly, Paul thinks of Christ’s words in Mark 4:26-29. Human reason only understands so much of how a seed is transformed into a plant. How much more limited we are in understanding how God transforms our earthly bodies into heavenly ones!

Lord willing, next Monday we’ll dig into verses 39-41 to deepen our understanding of our resurrection bodies. Between now and then, please leave comments and/or questions here, on the Facebook page or on Twitter. Thank you.

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They Enjoy Their Own Cleverness

OpenBible John 1How many times have people ridiculed you for believing the Bible? Have they questioned your sanity or acted surprised that you believe serpents  speak and messiahs rise from the dead? Yeah, and you’re probably already bracing for such uncomfortable conversations at Thanksgiving gatherings. So maybe I can offer a little perspective to help prepare you for conflicts around the adult table.

Ladies, we’ll resume our Monday Bible Studies on 1 Corinthians 15 pretty soon. Before you accuse me of a non sequitur, hear me out. I started working through verse 35 this morning, and I had some immediate thoughts on it that made me think about the ways some non-Christians (particularly those who are openly belligerent) try to derail us when we share the Gospel with them. Look at the verse with me.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (ESV) 

Okay, I didn’t get very far into my study today (I had a stressful situation last night that kept me from getting adequate sleep), so I don’t have as much of a handle on the verse as I will when we actually work through it. But the small amount of study I did reminded me that often people who raise objections to our beliefs honestly think they’re helping us understand why Christianity is intellectually untenable.

You’ll recall that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to those who denied the doctrine of bodily resurrection. In the first 34 verses, the apostle provided legal evidence that Christ rose from the dead. Then he argued that Christ’s resurrection ensures the resurrection of believers. Verse 35 transitions to the rather childish challenge to prove the doctrine by giving specific details.

In other words, these skeptics think they’ve poked holes in Paul’s theology. They remind me of neighborhood kids who tried to prove that I was intellectually disabled by peppering me with impossible arithmetic questions that they themselves couldn’t answer.

“What’s 97,043 plus 32,017?” they ask.

I’d admit I didn’t know, and watch their smug grins steal over their little faces. With perhaps a little sadistic pleasure, I’d give them a minute to savor their cleverness before asking, “So what is 97,043 plus 32,017?”

Though I in no way recommend such a smart alec retort to non-Christians who fancy that their arguments blow holes in our Christian faith, I do want you to realize that they trust in their own cleverness. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes the truth before they face the Lord in judgment. At that time, they won’t feel quite so clever.

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Throwback Thursday: The Gospel, Pure And Simple

In light of current events within evangelicalism, I believe this article from March 17, 2017 is an important reminder of the Gospel message. Let’s not obscure it.
3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times. As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and three days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

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