The Person and Work of Jesus Christ

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(About this series)

CHAPTER VII THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST

FROM “SOME RECENT PHASES OF GERMAN THEOLOGY,”*

BY BISHOP JOHN L. NUELSEN, D. D., M. E. CHURCH, OMAHA, NEB.

Every Old Testament problem becomes in course of time a New Testament question. Every Biblical question places us after a while face to face with Him who is the center of the whole Bible, with Jesus Christ. In the present discussion over the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ, I shall confine myself to pointing out briefly some of the most interesting and important features of this subject.

WAS JESUS A REAL, HISTORICAL PERSON?

In the closing years of the eighteenth century the thought was advanced by a number of rationalistic theologians that the doctrines held by the Church and formulated in her creeds were the joint product of New Testament religion and Greek philosophy. This thought was taken up by Professor Harnack of Berlin, and in his great work, “History of the Christian Doctrine,” he disclosed the complicated process by which the Church in developing her doctrines became Hellenized; thus it was made incumbent upon the student of Church history to extricate, by a process of careful analysis and comparison, the genuinely Christian elements from the meshes of foreign thought. Harnack, it is true, applied this principle only to post-apostolic times, but since the appearance of his book investigation has proceeded along the same lines and is now covering the Biblical writings as well. Read more about The Person and Work of Jesus Christ

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Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 2)

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Read part 1.

The subject of this article is how covenants clarify and underline specific terms about certain important (indeed, central) theological topics. If we all spoke the truth and we all could hear it unimpeded by sin’s effects, there would be no need of covenants. Covenants presuppose subjects (at least one) who have a propensity to diverge from an important truth. (It is for this reason that any pre-fall covenants, which are exegetically weak and empty in the first place, seem superfluous).

Covenants also assume the parties to the covenant (at the bare minimum) understand and acknowledge the terms of the covenant. Read more about Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 2)

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 3

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Vines’ third chapter aims to show that those holding to traditional Christian sexual ethics have a major dilemma on their hands. Allegedly, the traditional view of celibacy is not compatible with the traditional view of homosexuality. One or the other must go.

The claim is part of Vines’ overall strategy in the book—to frame the homosexuality debate as a matter of human suffering and doctrinal progress vs. uncaring and rigid traditionalism. To Vines, the view that homosexual conduct is wrong even within “committed, monogamous same-sex relationships” (41) causes great suffering for homosexuals and depends on a faulty understanding of Scripture. (Kindle location numbers appear here rather than page numbers.)

The basic argument

Specifically, chapter 3 argues that the non-affirming view (Vines’ term for the view that all homosexual conduct is sin) forces celibacy on homosexuals and that this forcing is contrary to the traditional view that celibacy is voluntary and a gift from God.

He writes: Read more about God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 3

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Why Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church?

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission. Related: “De-Churching” Trends.

It is my conviction that every Christian should be an active member of a Bible-teaching local church. As believers in Christ, we are members of His body and must discipline ourselves to be actively involved in ministry as a way of life. Here are some specific reasons why you should be a committed member of a solid, Bible-teaching local church.

You follow the pattern set forth in the New Testament. Although the word “membership” itself is not used in the New Testament, the principle is present nonetheless. For example, most of our New Testament books are letters that were written to specific groups of people who had chosen to identify themselves with Christ and each other. The word “church” is almost always used to refer to a specific group of people who in some way had committed themselves to serving the Lord and one another in the same ministry location. Numbers were known (Acts 1:15, 2:41, 4:4), rolls were kept (1 Timothy 5:9), servants were selected (Acts 6:2-5), discipline was practiced (1 Corinthians 5:12-13), worship was corporate (1 Corinthians 14:23), and shepherds knew for whom they were responsible (Hebrews 13:17). If you are a part of the body of Christ by virtue of repentant faith in Jesus Christ then you should want to make that association visibly known through church membership.

You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gifts. At the moment of your conversion the Holy Spirit came to live inside of your body (1 Corinthians 6:19). When He did this, He brought along the spiritual gift(s) that He sovereignly chose for you to possess for the blessing of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). As we use our gifts, we are being good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). Can you use your spiritual gift without joining a church? Yes, but in most churches many ministry opportunities are limited to church members only. This is as it should be. Unity in doctrine, purity of life, and submissive accountability to one another and leaders are necessary for a healthy Christian life. The process of becoming a member also gives the existing leadership the opportunity to discern one’s agreement in doctrine, ministry purpose, and goals; thus enabling them to know where best you may serve. Read more about Why Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church?

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"De-Churching" Trends

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From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission.

One of the least obvious—and yet most tragic—changes that American Evangelicalism has experienced in the past fifty years is the diminishment of the centrality of the local church in the life of many Christians. The Lord’s Day, once considered a special day dedicated to the worship and service of God, is now treated like any other day by many professing believers. And local church life, once considered the center of indispensable relationships within our spiritual family whom we love, encourage, and to whom we remain accountable, is now treated like an extra-curricular activity rather than an essential ingredient of the Christian life.

The signs of the diminishing priority of the church are many. However, I will only mention the six trends that Kent Hughes highlights in his book Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003).

Hitchhiker Christians

Hughes writes:

The hitchhiker’s thumb says, “You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas—and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.” So it is with the credo of many of today’s church attendees: “You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills—and I’ll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out. My thumb is always out for a better ride.” (128)

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From the Archives: Are There Two Levels of NT Prophecy?

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(Originally posted in April of 2011)

Did all the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and prophecy, cease with the completion of the New Testament? If we take the position that prophecy continues in some form, is such a view compatible with the conviction that God has given us all the authoritative revelation He intended to give (that the canon of Scripture is closed)?

In 2011, Dr. Bruce Compton (Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) presented a paper on these questions at the Preserving the Truth Conference. What follows is a summary reflecting my understanding of Compton’s analysis. (An updated version of the paper is available here.)1

The two levels of prophecy view

Since Dr. Wayne Grudem’s work has been foundational for many who believe in a continuing gift of prophecy, Compton’s paper focuses on Grudem’s view2 that the NT speaks of two levels of prophecy: apostolic and non-apostolic. Grudem maintains that apostolic prophecy was authoritative and inerrant in the same way that Old Testament prophecy was and that this form of prophecy ceased when the NT Scriptures were completed. Read more about From the Archives: Are There Two Levels of NT Prophecy?

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The Early Narratives of Genesis

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(About this series)

CHAPTER VI: THE EARLY NARRATIVES OF GENESIS

BY PROFESSOR JAMES ORR, D. D., UNITED FREE CHURCH COLLEGE, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

By the early narratives of Genesis are to be understood the first eleven chapters of the book—those which precede the times of Abraham. These chapters present peculiarities of their own, and I confine attention to them, although the critical treatment applied to them is not confined to these chapters, but extends throughout the whole Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, and the later history with much the same result in reducing them to legend. Read more about The Early Narratives of Genesis

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Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 1)

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Why make a covenant?

In Genesis 21 is an episode where a Philistine leader, Abimelech, comes to Abraham and wants him to “swear…that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity…” (21:23). Abraham consented, but there was strife over a well which had been seized by Abimelech’s servants (21:25-26). To make sure there was understanding on both sides Abraham and Abimelech entered into a covenant (21:27, 32). In particular the point at issue was the well. Abimelech was to take seven ewes from Abraham as a witness that Abraham had dug the well (21:30). The place where the two made the oath was named “Beersheba,” which means something like “the well of the oath of seven.” The covenant clarified whose well it was and emphasized in the oath and exchange of the lambs that both parties understood exactly what the oath meant. The oath obligated the parties (particularly Abimelech, the recipient of the “witness”) to stand by the terms of the covenant. Read more about Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 1)

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