Monday, September 17, 2007

A Bold Orthodoxy: A Theology of the Cross (pt. 1)
...your weekly dose of gospel: (Romans 3:21-31)

This past week has been an heartbreaking week in redemptive history:

ITEM: Comedian, Kathy Griffin, gave a very crass and blasphemous acceptance speech at The Creative Arts Emmy Award Show when she declared:

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now.”
Don Imus was fired for making a brief racial slur; Michael Richards lost a career for using the "N" word in response to a heckler at a nightclub; and people are marked with a death-sentence for mentioning the Islam faith in a comic strip. But what if someone wants to make fun and say blasphemous things about the Lord Jesus Christ? They laugh. Could you imagine if she would have said "Suck it Mohammed..." or "Suck it Martin Luther King..." or "Suck it Hillary or Obama..." what the outcry would have been?

Pray for her beloved; she has no idea what she is saying and that the wrath of God abides on her (John 3:36).

MSNBC aired a broadcast over the weekend called, "To Hell and Back." It focused on the ministry of former Pentecostal preacher Carlton Pearson who "fell from grace" because he now teaches there is no hell and is a confirmed universalist (all people will be saved). As I watched this broadcast my eyes filled with tears. In a nutshell he is now preaching: "hell is a place in life, and that after death, everybody is redeemed. Everybody. ...if He came to save the world, then the world is saved unless he’s [Jesus Christ] a failure.”

I met Carlton many years ago, sang in his church once, and briefly fellowshipped with him. He was Carman's pastor for many years and at one time was preaching the genuine gospel. But all that has changed now. He is apostate (1 John 2:19) and has denied the bliblical nature of saving faith, eternal judgement, and the exclusivity of sola fide in Christ alone for salvation (Gal. 1:6-9).

ITEM: a dear friend of mine who is an attorney here in Nashvile, sent me an MP3 recording of a recent intereview with Dr. Richard Land (President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988) did on the Bott Broadcasting Network. He was speaking about his most recent book, "The Divided States of America?" In this interview Dr. Land affirms Romanism as a true and genuine sect of Christianity; embraces ecumenism for evangelical and political alliances in the culture war; is for pluralistic partnerships built around social causes regarding public policy issues facing America today; and no longer seemed centered on sound doctrine, biblical theology and the truth of God's Word as the defining canon for unity among evangelicals for any issue facing society. IOW, he is an Evangelical Co-Beligerent.

Now remember, Dr. Land is not a politician (though he resembels one), but an evangelical Christian leader. If he were a congressman or senator I wouldn't challenge his assertions as strongly. But the fact that he is a evangelical leader supposedly speaking biblically to the cultural and church related issues of the day - then this was disconcerting.

I don't know what is worse: an unregenerate comic who blasphemes the name of Christ openly at an award show; an apostate Pentecostal pastor preaching heresy; or a SBC evangelical leader who has so bought into the postmodern culture, that he is for political remedy for moral malady and that Romanism represents the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Bold, Biblical Orthodoxy
I say this with all humility of heart and mind, the next time I hear some evangelical leader wanting us to "join the conversation" - I'm going to bust. Have you ever wondered what conversation is it we're supposed to be engaged in? When did ministry become reduced to simply "a conversation"? Is doctrine now only a matter of dialogue rather than proclamation and obedience? Or does real truth, biblical truth demand more of us?

Paul's words to Titus are all but forgotten today and make some pastors even blush when saying them: "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." -Titus 2:15

Those words are an anathema within the ECM. The question is, what things is the faithful pastor to speak, exhort, reprove with all authority? Paul tells us:
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."
  • salvation;
  • sanctification;
  • holiness;
  • sin;
  • repentance;
  • Christ's return,
  • redemption,
  • Lordship,
  • purity,
  • and good deeds.
These things cannot be compromised; and they are to be preached with authority.

Listen beloved: truth matters; doctrine matters; theology matters; the Bible matters. Don't let the EC rob you of that emphasis; don't let the EC seduce you and reduce you to a conversation of faith on their terms while souls are perishing, the church is shrinking, believers are straying, and Christian leaders are apostatizing.

But truth is no longer honored as being authoritative; doctrine is a matter of culture and experience; theology is personal convenience; and the Scriptures are just telling someone's story, then how much more do we need to make absolutely certain--knowing in advance those terms have been hijacked--that we be as lucid and biblical as possible.

Here is part of the problem here: adjectively, orthodoxy is usually not given a human attribute (humble, modest, proud, etc.); it would usually carry with it something more descriptive: accurate, true, uncompromised, historic, bold, etc.).

So in this case to "personize" orthodoxy by labeling it as "humble", seems a bit out of the norm from historic treatments and claims. Preach the Word is the antidote for the EC and all who think truth should be modest, rather than the mandate.

The Battle for the Truth
Satan doesn’t want to fight the church, he wants to join it and infiltrate it with error. He never attacks the trivial, but takes aim at the crucial. He attacks the character and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; the nature of the One Triune God; the veracity, authority, and sufficiency of the Word of God; and the gospel of sola fide. Thus the importance of knowing the gospel is critical today. That is why I want to direct your attention to Romans 3:21-31. I call this passage: “The Heart of the Gospel – A Theology of the Cross.”

From 1:18-3:20 Paul has argued that all people deserve God's wrath and judgment. Not even the covenant people are an exception, since they have failed to keep the Mosaic law. Indeed, the burden of 2:1-29, which is summed up in 3:19-20 "19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin", is that the Mosaic law provides no power for obedience.

The law reveals the transgressions of both Jews and Gentiles. Thus reliance on the law or on Jewish distinctives for salvation is a false path.

Romans 3:21-26 turns the corner in the Apostle’s thinking. The saving righteousness of God is not available through the law, but has been revealed in Jesus Christ and His atoning death and bodily resurrection from the grave. The promises made to Israel have been fulfilled, but they have been fulfilled in a surprising way they didn’t expect - through the death of Jesus on the cross. Paul then proclaims to them that those who put their faith in Jesus are made right with God (Roms. 1:16-17, ch. 3-4). The grace of God has provided redemption through the atoning death of the Messiah Jesus. In the death of Jesus both the saving and judging righteousness of God have been realized.

A Brief Overview
God's wrath has been revealed against all who sin, both Jews and Gentiles (1:18-3:20). But now in salvation history the saving righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the works of the law (21a).

This saving righteousness of God fulfills what was promised in the OT Scriptures (21b). -Sola Scriptura

This saving righteousness of God is available through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believer (22a). -Sola Fide

There is no distinction-22b.

For all have sinned (both Jews and Gentiles) and fall short of God's glory – His holy appraisal of all people measured against the standard of His law and righteousness (23). -Soli Deo Gloria

We are made righteous as a free gift of His grace through the redemption accomplished by Christ Jesus (24). -Sola Gratia

Jesus Christ became the propitiation to satisfy God, assuage His wrath, expiate guilt and sin, fulfill the law and all righteousness and to destroy the power and effects of sin through His blood; and this grace-gift becomes available to us only by faith alone in Christ Jesus the Lord alone (25a).

God’s perfect and complete righteousness was fully demonstrated on the cross (His judging righteousness) (25b); because in His patience He had passed over sins previously committed, (25b-26a). -Solus Christus

He, therefore, set forth Jesus as our divine Archegos, the Captain of Salvation to demonstrate His judging righteousness and provide His saving righteousness at that appointed time of salvation history (26b).

God did all this so that it would be clear that He is the just (i.e., He punishes sin, 26c); and the justifier (i.e., grants His saving righteousness) to the one who has faith in Jesus (26d).

Dark and dismal is man's condition. This darkness and despair is unfathomable and universal. It envelops all. But then, the light of the glorious gospel comes streaming in and hope revives us from the deadness of our trespasses and sins.

(some portions in this section, "a brief overview", were adapted from Thomas Schreiner's Romans Commentary)

The Heart of the Gospel - A Theology of the Cross
That is why every day this week I will be expositing a section of Romans 3:21-31. It is essential truth, orthodoxy, that we must know and understand.

Here is the outline so you can read in advance and know where we are headed:
1. The Cross Declares the Word of God
Rom. 3:21 ¶ But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

2. The Cross Defines Salvation as the Work of God
Rom. 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

3. The Cross Demands the Glory of God
Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

4. The Cross Distinguishes the Grace of God
Rom. 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

5. The Cross Displays the Satisfaction of God
Rom. 3:25a whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…

6. The Cross Demonstrates the Righteousness of God
Rom. 3:25b This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; Rom. 3:26a for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time…

7. The Cross Delights the Person of God
Rom. 3:26b so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

8. The Cross Divests Man of all Boasting Before God
Rom. 3:27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. Rom. 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Rom. 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, Rom. 3:30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Rom. 3:31 ¶ Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.


Carla Rolfe said...

"Have you ever wondered what conversation is it we're supposed to be engaged in?"

Anymore, it's a toss up trying to figure out what people mean when they say this (and so many other things I could mention, but wont) but as most of us know, it stems from the idea that your truth is good for you, mine is good for me, and Bubba Joe's truth is good for him, and let's all just get together for a latte and discuss social justice & global warming, delight in the things we agree on, intentionally ignore the things we disagree on, and do it all in the name of Jesus.

Some people call that Christianity, but don't count me among them.

Most people don't like confrontation and when you proclaim the pure word of God you're confronting someone. In James White's book Pulpit Crimes this issue was addressed very well, as it pertains to being faithful to your calling to have the conviction to stand and declare the full counsel of God, no matter what.

Men and women called of God to proclaim His truth have to do this with a great deal of balance between grace AND truth, but neither at the cost of the other. That's a very high calling and one that should never be taken so lightly as to reduce things down to a "conversation" where no one runs the risk of hurting anyone's feelings so that we can all validate each other and sing songs about unity.

Thanks for this post today, and for what's coming this week. I look forward to it.


Jaybird said...
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ann_in_grace said...

Great post.
I live in this country where one silly joke about Islam can change your life forever. The whole happening was actually taking place in a town nearby. Everybody was quick to beg Muslims for forgiveness - which did not make them happy anyway. What is interesting, it was the same town, in which for the whole summer the local museum was having an exhilbition of Jesus presented as a homosexual. But nobody said one word of apology to Christians...

Dark clouds are gathering over the world. Let us not lose our focus.

SJ Camp said...

Great posts from you all.

I totally agree... Grace and truth. That was a very apt and concise biography of our Lord: "He was full of grace and truth." MInistry should reflect that reality.

Are you Romanist in your belief? Share more with me please.

"Dark clouds are gathering over the world. Let us not lose our focus."

Amen! May we guard the trust and keep on for the glory of the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for fortifying my present study of this same passage, as I prepare to teach it this school year to some elementary boys in the AWANA program at my church. In my introduction to this study, I surveyed the book of Romans under four kid-friendly points (I hope!):

The Bad News (chapters 1:18-3:20)

The Good News (chapters 3:21-8:39)

The Good News and the Jews (chapters 9-11)

The Good News Wearing Shoes (chapters 12-16; you know, as in the justified believer's "walk"?)

Also, as I considered the thematic verses of 1:16-17, specifically the Old Testament citation, "the just shall live by faith," I realized that the photographic negative of that statement both highlights the truth of the prophet's original words, and provides a challenging insight into salvation by works-righteousness:

If "the just shall live by faith," then the UNJUST shall DIE by WORKS!

Thanks be to the Father for the free gift of life through the flawless works, sinless death and glorious resurrection of his Son for me!

Needless to say, I'll try to keep up with your study this week. . .

donsands said...

"I don't know what is worse:"

Satan has many shcemes.

He comes as a "black devil", and a "white devil" as Luther puts it.

I would say it's the "empty clouds" in the pulpits, who say they love Jesus, but preach a twisted gospel, who are worse.

As blaspemous and heinous as Kathy Griffin's words were, she is one who is at least out in the open, and we can all see her hatred of Christ.
I do pray God would bring her to her knees now, and not on judgement day.

Thanks for the excellent post. Keep on my brother.

Jaybird said...
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donsands said...

"I'd rather be called a "runner." What's a runner? A person who runs."

"So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy." Rom. 9:16

Didn't mean to but in, but this verse came to mind and thought it may fit.

cyd said...

Griffin's response at the Emmy Awards made me think of Psalm 115:

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!"

vs.4 - 8
"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them."

vs 18
"But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!"

dogpreacher said...