Jeff Gilbert took the doctrine class yesterday and his notes are attached. Jeff is very helpfully working his way through Leon Morris’ book on the Atonement. I will try and revisit this post to add some detail about what else was said. I’m a bit behind on my blogging for Brian Clee and Alex Hutter’s recent DC’s though so will do it all asap.
Doctrine class 2nd of October 2011
Mick Harris from Cheltenham, and Richard Clarke from Plymouth spoke on Saturday at the Chippenham conference. The topics were ‘Gospel endeavours’ and ‘Gospel preaching’. I want to review what they said but we only got as far as Mick Harris’ second address.
In his first address Mick Harris talked about foundations. What is evangelism, what the message is, and what the motive is, why should we evangelise?
1. What is evangelism?
Mr. Harris explained the term ‘gospel’ means good news. He wanted to leave the topic of preaching to Mr. Clarke but, of course, there is a sense in which we are commanded by the Great Commission to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’ so that anyone sharing the gospel is evangelising, but it is God’s work: evangelism begins in the heart of God the Father.
John 316 – for God so loved the world that he gave. Many go wrong on this verse saying that everybody will be saved, ‘God so loved the world’. But the emphasis of this verse is ethical not numerical – emphasising the enormous love of God for sinners.
2. What is the message of the Gospel?
in Acts 17, Paul preaching in Athens begins with creation. When Philip was preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, he preached Christ. So there is variation in presentation of the gospel. But what is it essence?
Many start like this: you are sinner – you need to be saved. Christ came to save you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. What are the problems with that?
1. Starts with man and his problems
2. Assumes Christ died for everyone
3. Faith is merely assenting to certain truths. No real conviction of sin, easy believism: 1983 Mission England – a list of 40 converts were given to Mr. Harris and he visited each one but was disappointed that none of them showed any sign of being saved, they had just ‘gone forward’ at the meeting.
4. This form of the Gospel says nothing about repentance. Now God can work through the weakest means but is that what we should preach? We know better.
So many people over the last 100 years have heard this gospel and responded to it without really being saved, so they drift and fall away from the church, (worse than that, some stayed! Ed.). This new gospel does not produce worship, it it does not replaces man with God in the heart and in the life, our concern is not to give peace and purpose to man. The purpose of the gospel is to glorify God
The true gospel is a summons. The new gospel says God has done his part now you do yours. Mr. Harris quoted Spurgeon who said that if one stitch of the robe of righteousness or one link in the chain between him and God was of his own making then that would be a fatally weak link in the chain and a worthless righteousness. God is holy: that is where you start you must give account to him since his real faith and repentance must be there – which comes first? Siamese twins.
So we must never say we overstep our scriptural authority: if we say Christ died for you pointing to the individual that is for them to work out between them and God. We must give people the bad news before the good news.
3. What is our motive in evangelism?
is it to save souls? No, that is deficient. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.
1 Cor 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Mick Harris’s second address had three points also: means and methods, the spirit in which we should engage in gospel endeavours, and issues that people commonly bring when we present the gospel.
4. Means and methods:
Mick Harris knew a man who was converted wonderfully out of a life of drug addiction. He used to dress smartly when he visited those who were still bound by drug addiction and other people would say to him you need to dress down in order to get alongside these people. But the addicts knew that he loved them, and it didn’t matter what he wore really, but he wanted to show that he was now different to them, that his life had been transformed by the gospel, by the power of God.
The main means of communicating the gospel is through preaching: holding forth the word of God. But worldliness has led us to introduce all kinds of things. This is man’s wisdom, men’s ‘good idea’ relegates God’s Word to second place at best, can you see what this is saying about their opinion of God’s wisdom – preaching exchanged for puppets!!!??? Acts 13:26, Col 1:5, Acts 5:20. Nor is the gospel to be proclaimed by personal testimony primarily. What is wrong with someone standing up and saying ‘my life has changed’? Cults do that. You can have results, but they are not based on truth. It certainly can be thrilling to see a life overturned but the story often starts with the self. Mr. Harris read a book in the 1950s with many testimonies, 19 started with the self. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said ‘God saved me’.
So we ought to seek to bring people in to hear the gospel. Door to door visitation is a very hard work and Mr. Harris still trembles to knock on the first door, but he listed a number of people who had come as a result. Derek Prime said do not despair, yours is the church they will think of if they do think of coming to church, because you were concerned to visit them. So whether you have a book table and open air preaching rallies, using the radio, display literature, always remember God’s glory with due care and reverence, just as is said of marriage: do not enter into marriage without due care and reverence. We need courage, but God can give that he as well : Acts 4: 29
5. The spirit in which we engage in gospel endeavours:
That we should be courteous patient ready to listen with a genuine desire to help beseeching reasoning pleading. Mr. Harris criticised people who stand with a sandwich board and some dire warning of judgement to come. People passing that would not get the idea that they care, it’s just an unpleasant threatening.
We must ask also does our lifestyle contradict. Going back to the first centuries the early church suffered cruel persecution and at the hands of the Romans, but that courage led to conversions. In the midst of a filthy generation their high moral standards, their joy, made the people curious. Are you different from the world? do you dress modestly in an immodest age? what about the music you listen to or what you watch on television. When people are discussing the programmes that they watched the previous night, are you able to join in and what does that tell them about your own moral standards? what about Facebook the things that you ‘like’, the books and films that you list in your interests, the things that you write in your status. Am I being too narrow? Too religious? Did you ever had a Bible reference to your status update, why not? to narrow? do the photos you post contradict the glorious solemn message of the Gospel? and what about your holidays? people say they find it very hard to keep the fourth commandment, they seem to find it okay to break God’s commandments on holiday once or twice a year but they would not say that about the other commandments.
6: issues that we face when engaged in the gospel endeavours
We often face difficult challenges: people become very combative and hang out all their pet theories and old chestnuts.
Science: many are sceptical in this area but there are also many Christian scientists
Jehovah Witnesses: if Jesus is God why did he pray to God? because he came to do his Father’s will John 16. And what about the Great Commission, in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Name’: not ‘names’. Or you can refer to the many implicit references to the Trinity. In Genesis ‘let us make man in our image’.
A good tactic is to ask a question in response. There is nothing sinful about this, the Lord Jesus Christ did that himself. How did the eye evolve? if the person is angry because God sends people to hell, ask them if they believe in hell ? probably they do not they are just trying to ‘have a go’. See if you can find their own contradictions? many boast in atheism, but you cannot find many lives transformed by atheism. They will tell you that all roads lead to God, you ask them how did they know that? all roads lead to the top of the mountain, but who knows that better than the one who is above the mountain and can see all roads? all people are essentially good? what about Hitler or Stalin, who decides? only God. They accuse us of blind faith in the Bible – but if you ask them what the evidence is, they are quite likely to have read something having taken it on blind faith!! They say Jesus is a moral teacher, you ask, have you studied him? he said he was God. If he is not that then he is lying and he cannot be very moral! Ask people why they think what they are saying they think. People are being led to believe that homosexuality is completely natural phenomena: do they really think that? people who go after children or beasts have certain desires… are they okay, perfectly natural? Suffering, again asked them why are they asking that? at least make them pause and think, but you could point them to the Cross where the most savage evil achieved the greatest good. We are never aiming to win an argument, we are aiming to glorify God.
Jeff Gilbert took the meeting on the 18th September. His notes can be downloaded by clicking on this link. I will try and edit this post with what else was said in the meeting in due course.
We considered the differences between the various branches of theology: Old Testament theology looks at the development of theology in the old testament and the same is true for New Testament theology. Systematic theology takes an overall view of scripture to draw out the doctrines as a summary.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to be ‘adults’ in understanding (1 Cor 14:20), as the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 5:12 who is quite scathing about his readers:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Many systematic theology books start with the topic of ‘revelation’ (links to last weeks’ class) because the question of authority is a vital and foundational one. A unified systematic theology is only possible because of the Bible’s internal consistency. Once you allow other authorities to govern doctrine, such as the Pope, tradition of the church, extra-biblical revelation, etc., the system of theology becomes a very fragile edifice.
Having established Scripture as the only worthy authority, systematic theology moves on to consider God and his attributes. This is vital if we are to avoid idolatry. The next theme is usually man and following that, redemption, the church, and the ‘last things’.
We can observe that systematic theology was practiced by the Lord Jesus himself in Luke 24:27:
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And then from verses 44-47:
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem
Doctrine serves as a platform for Christian life:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.