Portrait of a God-Honoring Church, Part 2

(Read Part 1.)

5 - Jesus Did Good by Preaching the Gospel

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him., (Acts 10:38)

Some “churches,” some denominations, and many cultural “Christians” seem to think of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Salvation Army employee. His job is to do nice things to make disadvantaged people feel happy, and to foster a sense of well-being and happiness in the community. This is the social Gospel, popularized by the novel In His Steps. It’s a false Gospel, which doesn’t bring peace.

This is not the sense in which Jesus went about “doing good.” Jesus went around preaching the gospel. That’s the “good” that He did.1 Peter was paraphrasing a quotation from Isa 61:1-2, which tells us exactly what Jesus Christ would do—about 700 years before He did it!2

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn, (Isaiah 61:1-2)

The Spirit of God came upon Jesus at His baptism. God appointed Him to preach good tidings to those who are meek, or afflicted, poor in spirit, hurting, etc. Jesus came to bind up, or tie back together, the broken pieces of sinner’s broken hearts. Jesus came to proclaim liberty and freedom to people who are in captivity as Satan’s slaves. Jesus came to open the doors of the dark prison of sin and wickedness which every single man, woman, boy and girl are born into. Jesus came to proclaim the year of jubilee, when (among other things) the law commanded all slaves be set free. Jesus came to set all people free from slavery to Satan, in order to be slaves for God.

The “good” a local church does must be directly connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every ministry, every activity, every event and every dollar spent must be a vehicle or a channel for the gospel message to flow out like a great and mighty river.

6 - Jesus Has Power Over Satan

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

Jesus created everything after His Father’s sovereign plan (Heb 1:1-3). Because we know this, we should always remember something else—Jesus is Satan’s creator, and is infinitely more powerful than he could ever hope to be. This is not an equal contest or an equal struggle—far from it! One of the things Jesus did during His earthly life, during the incarnation, is prove to us once and forever that He can defeat Satan even as a flesh and blood man, without making use of His divine qualities, power or attributes! In the incarnation, Jesus did not stop being God. Instead, in a way we’ll never fully understand until we get to glory, He added a complete human nature to His divine nature when He was conceived by a miracle of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb. And, throughout His life here on earth, He was sinless, holy and He defeated Satan as a flesh and blood man.

This is what Peter meant when he said that Jesus healed “all that were oppressed by the devil.”3 The Messiah conducted exorcisms by casting out fallen angels (i.e. “demons”) from sinner’s bodies. He healed people who had terrible diseases, which the Bible says had been inflicted by Satan (Lk 13:10-17). Jesus saved people from Satan’s power by bringing them the message of salvation.

The dark dungeon of unbelief and rebellion against God is the most severe and most common way Satan oppresses people. Men, women, boys and girls throughout the world, untold hundreds of millions of them, are oppressed by the devil right now because they won’t believe the gospel—they laugh at it, they dismiss it, they ignore it, they mock it, they reject it. I believe that most of the “healing” Peter spoke about was this kind of healing—not physical, but spiritual. Every miracle of physical healing only served to accompany and accredit the divine message of spiritual healing through the gospel.

Every single person is born being oppressed by Satan. They can only be healed by the power of Jesus Christ, through repentance and faith in the gospel. If a local church isn’t preaching and begging sinners to believe this, and once they believe it to hold fast to that profession of hope with a death-grip (Heb 10:23), then that local church is fooling people, deluding them, and even making sinners twice the children of hell they already are (Mt 23:15)—because they’re doling out false hope. This whole world lies in wickedness (1 Jn 5:19), and the local church is entrusted with the only message which brings victory over Satan. God was with His eternal Son on this mission, and a church’s mission is to keep proclaiming that message and its implications for believer’s lives.

7 - Jesus Died for the Gospel

And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree, (Acts 10:39)

Jesus willingly and voluntarily died for the sake of the gospel. He died so that His message could be proclaimed by His ministers and by His people who have been called to salvation. He left eyewitnesses, like Peter, who recorded what happened under the care and guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mk 12:36; Acts 1:16; 28:25; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:1, 2:21; Heb 3:7).

Jesus’ life wasn’t taken from Him by force—He chose to give it. He has power to give His life, and power to take it back again (Jn 10:17-18, 14:30-31). Satan is the prince of this sin-cursed world, but Jesus is the ruler and creator of this entire creation. Satan has “nothing in” Jesus (Jn 14:30), which means no claim to Him, no hold on Him, no evidence against Him, no jurisdiction over Him.4

So, why did Jesus die? He died because His Father sent Him to die in the place of sinners, not because He was cornered or checkmated. If a local church cheapens and insults His sacrifice by not proclaiming it, then it’s an apostate organization that might as well schedule a date with a wrecking ball. If you ever attend a local church where the gospel is hidden under the pews, stuffed out of sight in the furnace room in the church basement, or where the gospel is downplayed so it won’t offend people—you have a duty to flee from that place, if you claim to know and love Jesus Christ. No Christian should ever attend a local church where the people are ashamed of the gospel Christ died for.

(More to come next week.)

Notes

1 I’m surprised that Darrell Bock didn’t even mention Luke’s allusion to Isa 61:1-2 in his comments. He focused exclusively on Jesus’ miracles. “Jesus’s good work of healing and ministry was that of one who served and benefited humanity,” (Acts, in BECNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007; Kindle ed.], KL 9995-9996).

2 See the remarks by Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965-1972), 3:458-460.

3 F.F. Bruce remarked, “As for Jesus’ ‘healing all those who were under the devil’s domination,’ the gospels ascribe not only demon-possession but also certain other ailments to satanic agency (cf. Luke 13:16), not to mention unbelief and falsehood (cf. Matt. 13:19, 39; John 8:44),” (The Book of Acts, in NICNT, revised ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988], 218). I think Bock, once again, makes an error by restricting Jesus’ “healing” to the physical sphere; “The healing ministry of Jesus was a confrontation with evil and suffering and the devil,” (Acts, KL 9996-9997).

4 The KJV rendering is a perfect and accurate translation of the Greek (καὶ ἐν ἐμοὶ οὐκ ἔχει οὐδέν). The phrase can be idiomatically rendered as “he has no hold on me,” (cf. D.A. Carson, The gospel According to John, in PNTC [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991], 508-509).

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Behold this odd, yet contemporarily "hip" article, from Christianity Today:

Jesus Was Contextually Real

Jesus didn’t care about being relevant to his culture. Not to the Jewish culture he lived in, to the Roman culture that was subjugating them, or to the Greek culture that framed their thinking. Jesus was real. And he adapted to the reality of whatever context he found himself in. One city at a time, one crowd at a time, one person at a time. And he did it without ever betraying his core reality.

What on earth is even being said here? The entire article reads like it was auto-generated by a software program entitled, "Hip Millennial Blogger 3.0." This article represents the kind of vapid stupidity that pervades "conservative Christianity." The article says nothing, offers nothing, counts for nothing and is worth nothing. The Apostle Peter didn't concern himself with the nuances of "cultural relevance" vs. "contextual relevance" (read the article, if you dare). The "contextual realevance" he championed went like this:

  • You don't have peace
  • God sent Jesus to bring peace
  • Jesus is Lord, and you're a spiritual criminal and terrorist in rebellion against Him
  • God appointed Jesus Christ to be the Savior of all who believe. Without Him, you are damned forever
  • Jesus went about proclaiming the Gospel
  • Jesus has power over Satan, whereas you are Satan's slave
  • Jesus lived a perfect life, died a voluntary and sacrificial death, and miraculously rose from the dead to defeat Satan, sin and death for all who repent and believe
  • Jesus will be your judge, and because of His finished work you have no cloak or pathetic pretense for your sin (Jn 15:22ff)
  • You will only have forgiveness and pardon of sins if you believe in who He is and what He did

Forget "contextual relevance." Just preach the Gospel. Is that too hard?

(for those who wonder, I wrote this post using "Insensitive Pastor 7.1." It even runs on Mac . . .)

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure I'm clear on what you're saying regarding Jesus' doing good. Multiple messianic prophecies predict that the Messiah will aid the poor and bring healing... and these prophecies occur in the context of a Mosaic covenant that is all about temporal, earthly, physical blessings. The preaching of the good news is the declaration that the good-doing Messiah has come.

Lk 7:22–23 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Initially, the good news is His arrival, then it grows into "He has come to die and rise again to redeem those who believe."

It's also part of God's gospel purpose to free us from the effects of the curse, including the physical effects (e.g., Rom 8:18ff).

Maybe this is what you're saying and I'm misunderstanding.

But, to clarify my own view, it doesn't follow at all that relief efforts are part of the mission of the church. Though the gospel itself, and the changes it brings, do result in liberation from the results of sinful choices--and physical and material blessings are included in that--the church's gospel efforts are not a means to that end. They are the end itself. And the temporal blessings that result are a bit of icing on the cake.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I was basically trying to explain that the real good Jesus came do to was tied to salvation. I could have been more clear. In essence, I was trying to emphasize salvation while minimizing the over-emphasis on "social justice" work (at the expense of the Gospel) so common in churches today. The "doing good" texts (widows, orphans, poor, etc.) from the OT are all in the context of the covenant community, not for society at large. For example, God did not mandate the Israelites to help the Philistine widows or the Ammorite orphans. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, I think I'm tracking now.
There is certainly strong cultural pressure to view social programs as the main reason religion exists... and therefore where the value in local churches lies.

Ron Bean's picture

Sometimes churches over react to the "Social Gospel" to the point of practically avoiding any "doing good" to individuals outside their own churches or circles.

Real case in point, when your town is devastated by some natural disaster and other churches are handing out food, water, and clothing and you're handing out Gospel tracts, you may be missing the point.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry Nelson's picture

 

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV)

"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

"Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered." (Proverbs 21:13 ESV)

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17 ESV)

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yes, they do speak for themselves:

  • For the first, it depends on how you interpret the Sermon on the Mount. Was it an evangelistic message? A ethic for covenant believers? I believe it was a message for covenant believers. Depending on the context from the OT, "stranger" could either mean a pagan foreigner or a believing proselyte (cf. Isa 56:3ff). Jesus' reference to "brothers" lets you know He is referring to the relationship among believers, and when He uses teh word "stranger," He's using familiar Old Covenant terminology to refer to believing Gentiles. 
  • Proverbs is directed to believing Israelites within the covenant community
  • James is speaking to Jewish Christians and is referring to believers within the New Covenant community. Notice the reference to "brother." 

This is not to say that Christians shouldn't be charitable. It's just to say that the passages from the prophets (and elsewhere) which exhort the Israelites to watch out for the poor, widows, orphans, etc. are intended for the believing community. The NT church interpreted it this way. They took care of the widows in their own believing community (Acts 6:1ff). The congregation in Antioch sent relief funds to Jerusalem to help their brethren cope with an impending famine (Acts 11:27-30). They didn't send it down to everybody in Jerusalem - they took care of the Christians within the believing community. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

This probably deserves a new article, but it's related to the discussion on social justice and Jesus "doing good." A Pastor friend of mine recently made a comment on FaceBook about "loving your neighbor" (Mk 12:31).

  • In the context of Leviticus 19:18, who is your neighbor?
  • An unbeliever? Or, a fellow believer in the covenant community? 
  • Contextually, how do you implement this in everyday life?

This Pastor suggested it means to be friendly to your physical neighbor. That's true, but not because of Lev 19:18. I see a massive problem with how people interpret OT texts about the relationship between covenant believers. They seem to take them and make them universally applicable to a pagan culture. Is that the proper way to interpret those passages (and the others about widows, neighbors, orphans, etc.)? Was an Israelite really supposed to love his Moabite neighbor as himself? Wait, he lives in Moab? Hmmm . . .

Basically:

  • I think Christians misinterpret these passages because they don't understand the OT.
  • They don't understand the OT because their Pastors don't understand the OT.
  • Their Pastors don't understand the OT because they rarely preach expositionally through any OT books. 
  • Pattern repeats

I didn't understand the OT well until I started preaching through OT books. I don't think I'm all that good yet, but I'm getting better. We need to preach the OT. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

Yes, they do speak for themselves:

  • For the first, it depends on how you interpret the Sermon on the Mount. Was it an evangelistic message? A ethic for covenant believers? I believe it was a message for covenant believers. Depending on the context from the OT, "stranger" could either mean a pagan foreigner or a believing proselyte (cf. Isa 56:3ff). Jesus' reference to "brothers" lets you know He is referring to the relationship among believers, and when He uses teh word "stranger," He's using familiar Old Covenant terminology to refer to believing Gentiles. 
  • Proverbs is directed to believing Israelites within the covenant community
  • James is speaking to Jewish Christians and is referring to believers within the New Covenant community. Notice the reference to "brother." 

This is not to say that Christians shouldn't be charitable. It's just to say that the passages from the prophets (and elsewhere) which exhort the Israelites to watch out for the poor, widows, orphans, etc. are intended for the believing community. The NT church interpreted it this way. They took care of the widows in their own believing community (Acts 6:1ff). The congregation in Antioch sent relief funds to Jerusalem to help their brethren cope with an impending famine (Acts 11:27-30). They didn't send it down to everybody in Jerusalem - they took care of the Christians within the believing community. 

 

...I really chafe at the attitude "This passage/verse doesn't apply to me, because of [insert the context in which given]."  The Ten Commandments were given (technically speaking) to the Israelites. Does that mean we are not universally bound by them (or at least 9 of the 10; I know some Baptists who disclaim the "Sabbath" commandment) today?

 

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

"Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

 

I once heard a preacher say something like, "Let the Catholics have their hospitals and their soup kitchens, we're (i.e. Baptists) interested in saving souls!"  (As if the Bible somehow gives us total freedom to ignore people's physical needs and focus only on their spiritual needs...)

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

This isn't the place to debate how the OT Law is applicable to a believer today. My point in the article is that many churches seem to think they're accomplishing something by doing social justice work divorced from the Gospel. They're wrong. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

 

"Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)

 

Would anyone claim that these commandments (quoting from the OT Law I believe?) were limited to Israel ("Hear, O Israel:") and are therefore not universally applicable (past/present/future)?

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

We can start a thread to discuss the use of the OT law for today, if you wish. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we should help anyone in an emergency with one-time assistance.  (Emergency is determined by the donor, not by the one who considers himself needy.)  The instructions for the care of widows in I Timothy 5 teaches us that programs of long-term financial assistance require strict standards for admission and accountability for continuation.

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

...I really chafe at the attitude "This passage/verse doesn't apply to me, because of [insert the context in which given]."  

I think a small adjustment in perspective might help here, Larry. And it's an important adjustment either way. As you pointed out, all Scripture is profitable and applicable. The question is not "does it apply," but in what way does it apply?

In the case of what Tyler posted on how to interpret these passages, he's not saying "doesn't apply," but is aiming to make the immediate and larger context of Scripture tell us how it applies.

Very briefly, as I see it, some of the passages you quoted would to apply to individual believers acting as believing individuals. This is distinct from the institutional purpose of the church and what it ought to when it acts as the church. Secondly, you have the Jewish covenantal and kingdom contexts for Sermon on the Mount, etc. Jesus is not primarily addressing the church in Matt. 5, or even individual believers either. But these passages do have application to us. It's just that the application is a bit more complex than it seems due to our not being the primary target audience.

The same can be said of the ten commandments, for example, or the whole book of Leviticus... or, say, the broad rejections of the wealthy class in the prophets (in the case of the latter, the nation as a whole had set aside the covenant, which was supposed to be the means of obtaining wealth, and the result was that the wealthy were all folks who got that way in covenant-rebellion... and the covenant-faithful were the oppressed poor.  ... which also has implications for the Sermon on the Mount by the way)

On the OT command to love God...

Again application is conditioned by context, but the NT helps us a great deal with seeing how it works for us. We have Jesus saying all the law and prophets are summed up in this command (Matt. 22.37ff) and we have direct church teaching on it as well in Romans, Galatians and James. (Gal 5.14, James 2:8, Rom. 13:9-10). I think I'm missing a reference or two.

So the principle is  this: teaching that is most directly church-focused is the key to discerning how teaching in other contexts applies to the church.

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