The Son of God Beyond the Flesh

Ten years after graduating with a PhD in theology, I finally see some recognition for my scholarship in a book published today in electronic format. The Son of God Beyond the Flesh is available from Amazon as a kindle download: http://www.amazon.com/Son-God-Beyond-Flesh-Calvinisticum-ebook/dp/B00L7TEPOU/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Andrew McGinnis is a Freelance Editor living in Michican. This work is superb, and deals with an issue dear to my heart. Though McGinnis does not deal directly with John Calvin, as I did in my work, he spends time on three major theologians that have articulated in their own way, the so-called extra calvinisticum (lit. the calvinist extra or beyond). This is the doctrine that Jesus Christ the Son of God has existence beyond the humanity or beyond the flesh. Cyril of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, and Zacharias Ursinus are the subjects that are the main focus of McGinnis’s book.

You can see immediately why I am enthused about his proposal for it is directly linked to the issue of Christ’s transcendence beyond the material body, and so a grounding for His omnipresence. Deo Volente, my own book, The Omnipresence of Jesus Christ, the one to be published by Paternoster UK should be out in 2015. In the mean time to whet your appetite, read McGinnis!

It is an honor indeed to be mentioned in this highly skilled work and I recommend McGinnis’s study for those serious students of historical and systematic theology.

tz
sdg.

son of God beyond flesh

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The Great Exchange

Some comments from a discussion with a dear friend:

 

The “symmetry” is found in Paul, in a text used by Vincent, namely 2 Corinthians 5:21. It is the classic text on the great exchange, our sin upon Christ for His righteousness. Look at it and ask the question again, I did not intend to suggest that Christ was defiled by contact with sinners, in fact, that whole matter is irrelevant to this discussion about justification/righteous before God. I fear I was not clear in my response. I meant that there is a judicial or forensic reckoning in both directions based on Paul’s understanding of Justification: Our sin is imputed to Christ without Him being constituted a sinner, and His righteousness is imputed to the elect without them becoming actually righteous. The declaration is true, not a legal fiction as otherwise the wrath could not fall on the Son, and so he is sinless yet imputed guilt is upon Him to die for our sins. Hence the reverse is true, we are not actually made righteous in justification but are truly accounted /reckoned righteous, and that in itself prepares us for heaven, so to speak.

 

imputation

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More is more.

When Less is not More.

The old adage “Less is More” is nowhere absolutely untrue than in Theology, especially Christology. Virtually axiomatic is the post-Enlightenment mentality of reducing Jesus Christ to a mere man with the drastic result that his person is indeed, lessened. This breakthrough in abandoning the old doctrinal constraints that gave us persecution and bloodshed in favor of a rational religion was hailed as a high water mark in the history of ideas. Yet, those of us who are struggling with our sins and recognize our need for a savior are finding that the Man Christ Jesus, that is nothing more than a man, and hence less than fully God, will just not do. Either Christ is the true living God or we are hopeless. Either the Bible rings true in its presentation of the Word that became Flesh as God the Son took on a human nature and came to die for His people or we are left dead in our sins. Either Jesus Christ is “I am, before Abraham was” or we are doomed to the eternal darkness rather than to Abraham’s bosom. Of course, there is a host of voices clamoring for attention speaking ever so eloquently of Jesus as Savior: the moral example, the religious teacher, the wise mystic, or the radical rebel all have been championed as advancing an understanding of Jesus that keeps him close and relevant to our times. However, we need more than instruction. We are not to be raised from the dead because we had deep insight into a spirituality above all others. And we are never going to enter the heavenly kingdom as a result of our own practice of religious teaching however noble. We need a Savior big enough to take God’s punishment in our place. We need a Savior that is a substitute and a sacrifice big enough to satisfy God’s wrath. We need Christ the Son of God, God the Son,  dying on a cross and conquering death in the resurrection that brings in the new order. We need God! And Christ is He. When it comes to Jesus, less is definitely not more. More is more!

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God, not Fate!

“Yet since the sluggishness of our mind lies far beneath the height of God’s providence, we must employ a distinction to lift it up. Therefore I shall put it this way: however all things may be ordained by God’s plan, according to a sure dispensation, for us they are fortuitous. Not that we think that fortune rules the world and men, tumbling all things at random up and down, for it is fitting that this folly be absent from the Christian’s breast! But since the order, reason, end, and necessity of those things which happen for the most part lie hidden in God’s purpose, and are not apprehended by human opinion, those things, which it is certain take place by God’s will, are in a sense fortuitous. For they bear on the face of them no other appearance, whether they are considered in their own nature or weighed according to our knowledge and judgment. Let us imagine, for example, a merchant who, entering a wood with a company of faithful men, unwisely wanders away from his companions, and in his wandering comes upon a robber’s den, falls among thieves, and is slain. His death was not only foreseen by God’s eye, but also determined by his decree.

For it is not said that he foresaw how long the life of each man would extend, but that he determined and fixed the bounds that men cannot pass [Job14:5]. Yet as far as the capacity of our mind is concerned, all things therein seem fortuitous. What will a Christian think at this point? Just this: whatever happened in a death of this sort he will regard as fortuitous by nature, as it is; yet he will not doubt that God’s providence exercised authority over fortune in directing its end. The same reckoning applies to the contingency of future events. As all future events are uncertain to us, so we hold them in suspense, as if they might incline to one side or the other. Yet in our hearts it nonetheless remains fixed that nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen.

In this sense the term “fate” is often repeated in Ecclesiastes[chs. 2:14-15; 3:19; 9:2-3, 11], because at first glance men do not penetrate to the first cause, which is deeply hidden. And yet what is set forth in Scripture concerning God’s secret providence was never so extinguished from men’s hearts without some sparks always glowing in the darkness. Thus the soothsayers of the Philistines, although they wavered in doubt, yet attributed their adverse fate partly to God, partly to fortune. If the Ark, they say, shall pass through that way, we shall know that it is God who has struck us; but if it passes through another way, then it has happened to us by chance [1 Samuel 6:9]. Foolishly indeed, where their divination deceived them, they took refuge in fortune. Meanwhile we see them constrained from daring to think simply fortuitous what had happened unfavorably to them. But how God by the bridle of his providence turns every event whatever way he wills, will be clear from this remarkable example. At the very moment of time in which David was trapped in the wilderness of Maon, the Philistines invaded the land, and Saul was compelled to depart [1 Samuel 23:26-27]. If God, intending to provide for his servant’s safety, cast this hindrance in Saul’s way, surely, although the Philistines took up arms suddenly and above all human expectation, yet we will not say that this took place by chance; but what for us seems a contingency, faith recognizes to have been a secret impulse from God.

Not always does a like reason appear, but we ought undoubtedly to hold that whatever changes are discerned in the world are produced from the secret stirring of God’s hand. But what God has determined must necessarily so take place, even though it is neither unconditionally, nor of its own peculiar nature, necessary. A familiar example presents itself in the bones of Christ. When he took upon himself a body like our own, no sane man will deny that his bones were fragile; yet it was impossible to break them [John 19:33, 36]. Whence again we see that distinctions concerning relative necessity and absolute necessity, likewise of consequent and consequence, were not recklessly invented in schools, when God subjected to fragility the bones of his Son, which he had exempted from being broken, and thus restricted to the necessity of his own plan what could have happened naturally”

John Calvin, Institutes, 1 xvi 9.

 

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forde_cross

 

Theologia Crucis: The Foundation of Evangelical Doctrine

Introduction.

Martin Luther’s theology of the cross is of central significance. His impact cannot be overstated. It is felt forcefully even in our own day, although sometimes his successors’ views may have deviated somewhat form Luther’s original intentions. Still, an investigation into what some consider ‘the heart of Luther’s theology’ is essential not merely for showing the differences with some theologians of the present, but with appreciating the essence of Luther’s own unique approach to the cross of Christ as being the basis of his understanding of an evangelical doctrine of justification. This will enlighten us as to how the reformation got started, namely, as one author put it, with “[a] man, a Bible – and God: that is how it all began.” My own curiosity has taken me into research for the purpose of trying to uncover not only the dimensions of the reformation in terms of content, important as they are, but also to the when of Luther’s breakthrough. Although the time of Luther’s insight is surely not as important as the very fact of having an insight, it may help in explaining the means behind the eventual break with Rome and establishment of a Christianity which once again breathed the air of the first century church.

A Christo – Soteriologico – Theology.

It is certainly true that Luther’s theological development moved in conjunction with his own religious development. Although some see Luther as primarily a contributor to religious piety and not as a theologian per se, it is his theological contributions that have stood the test of time. He was no systematizer as was say, Calvin who produced the Institutes, but he was more so a contextual theologian moved by the contemporary concerns of his day. Salvation was the all encompassing matter which drove him originally into the Augustinian order and which dominated his life and thought. Even after the ‘evangelical’ breakthrough, and one could say, Luther’s own personal religious struggles met up with the righteous God who forgives by grace, Luther still strove to fine tune his theological articulation and never lost concern for how others understood the work of God in Christ. Hence, Luther was driven by one passion: a knowledge of God as revealed in the scriptures through Christ crucified. The theologia crucis was the central focus of knowing this God of grace. Atkinson well said of Luther’s critique of the theology of glory, “[t]his knowledge of God means, of course, a saving knowledge of God revealed by God Himself and is not the same kind of knowledge which philosophers may talk about when they argue whether it is possible to know God at all.”

At the Heidelberg disputation of April 1518, part of the debate revolved around certain philosophical theses which had their goal to generate debate so Luther could show the inadequacies of the scholastic theologians’ method at arriving at a knowledge of God. Although during the middle ages the cross had been reserved as containing some use in liturgical practice, it was nonetheless resisted as a means for approaching God. The way of suffering depicted by Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a cross rejected by God did not appeal to the clergy’s or theologian’s sense of triumph and dignity of the Christian religion. The way of rational speculation was the order of the day. “In thesis 19 Luther speaks primarily to scholastic theologians,” notes Kadai “when he warns that true theologians should know better than to try to speculate about God on the basis of created world and historical data.” The mystery of the cross is that revelation meets us in ways that one would never imagine “right’ for God. God is hidden in the cross as it were, and in this place is the real glory of God manifest. The idea of the hiddenness of God was not unique to Luther. It was also held by the so called Nominalists who linked this notion with God’s freedom. Luther merely advances this concept because, as Luther held, God could not be know as He is in Himself. The idea of hiddenness, and that in the cross, is for the sake of sinners’ redemption. Clearly in the articulation of the theologia crucis we begin to see how revelation, Christology, Theology proper, and salvation are all intertwined. The epistemological strand in this approach was not for the sake of knowledge itself. For Luther, knowledge of God was the highest attainable knowledge, and that it is saving in itself. This is what John meant when in John 17:3 we read, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Luther spoke of a true way and a false way of knowledge. “Speculation and philosophical reflection,” Kadai asserts, “do not lead to a true knowledge of God because God dwells in the darkness of faith.” It is therefore not surprising seen “[i]n this light Luther’s theologia crucis might also be called a theology of faith.” We may find that the more we investigate Luther, there is truly much with which we will and should disagree, but on the concept of Christ crucified and justification by faith alone as an integral part of God’s revelation, we must stand with Luther. What is at stake is the gospel. Here, Luther got it right.

Background.

In order to understand fully how this came about is more complex than one might at first imagine. Too often in history survey courses the student is given a brief insight into the backgrounds of major events, such as the posting of the 95 theses. In fact much is overlooked. The intricacies of understanding the high and later middle ages is absolutely necessary for appreciating Luther’s own position within this historical, social, and theological milieu, and for seeing the significance of his break from within it. I have benefitted greatly from Alister McGrath’s treatment of Luther’s background in his work, Luther’s Theology of the Cross. Acknowledging the various strands of thought associated with the Arts Faculties devotion to the via antiqua and/or the via moderna in the medieval Universities, and their contributions to emerging emphases within Theological Faculties is very illuminating for the period of Luther’s early theological training. McGrath concludes that one has to see Luther right up to 1514 as a product of his environment and as fully within the tradition of the via moderna. He goes on to state, “The fact that Luther displays such a continuity with this later medieval tradition serves to emphasize the significance of his break from it . . .” That Luther’s struggle was one related to understanding the idea of the “righteousness of God” is well known. This was no doubt a long drawn out process especially heightened while working on the biblical material for his lectures. Although McGrath articulates the view which sees Luther standing in the medieval consensus of his day, advocating the well worn phrase: Homini facienti quod in se est Deus infallibiliter dat gratiam, and this was no doubt still evident on his first series of lectures on the Psalms (the famous Dictata), he nevertheless had this to say also, “It is, however, clear that changes in Luther’s thought took place even within the Dictata . . .” Luther is beginning to move toward a purely evangelical view of justification with a forensic understanding at its core. McGrath claims this as a step toward a fuller developed theology of the cross. The link between justification, its importance for Luther (he referred to it as the Hauptartikel in the Schmalkald articles), and the emerging importance of expressing this in light of the theologia crucis is expertly undertaken by McGrath.

Both Timothy George and Scott Murray express the emerging understanding of Luther on justification as moving away from the Augustinian approach to embracing a forensic understanding which is based on the complete work of Christ on the cross. George notes,

We have rejected the thesis that Luther’s doctrine of justification was produced de novo as the result of one shattering insight. His doctrine developed over a period of years, being influenced by various strands of late medieval thought and undergoing several fundamental shifts. The most crucial of these shifts involved the redefinition of justification in a non-Augustinian framework.

Luther’s changing attitudes toward Augustine eventually led him to embrace a new understanding of the concept of the righteousness of God. There is a marked difference between Luther’s treatment of Romans 1:17 in 1515 (Romans lectures), and “[i]n October, 1518, [when] Luther again expounded Romans 1:17, but now asserted that faith operates without any predisposition or preparation prior to justification, and we find the striking sentence: Faith alone justifies (Sola fides justificate).” Certainly one must conclude something akin to a shattering insight has taken place despite George’s earlier warning. Luther has abandoned once held notions of righteousness being infused or imparted. No more is there a hint of salvation being a healing process for the sick. Now the grand new imagery of a law court takes center stage as the theme of imputation becomes the real way of salvation. Faith alone in Christ alone. Our sins are not expunged; they remain present but no longer count against us. George may sum it up best when he remarks, “Luther’s new insight was that the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness was based, not on the gradual curing of sin, but rather on the complete victory of Christ on the cross. The once-for-allness of justification was emphasized:‘if you believe, then you have it!’” Now we have an evangelical Martin Luther.

Implications.

In an all important study on the theology of the cross, the great Luther scholar Walther von Loewenich claims:

For Luther the cross is not only the subject of theology; it is the distinctive mark of all theology. It has its place not only in the doctrine of the vicarious atonement, but it constitutes an integrating element for all Christian knowledge. The theology of the cross is not a chapter in a theology but a specific kind of theology. The cross of Christ is significant here not only for the question concerning redemption and the certainty of salvation, but it is the center that provides perspective for all theological statements. Hence it belongs to the doctrine of God in the same way as it belongs to the doctrine of the work of Christ. There is no dogmatic topic conceivable for which the cross is not the point of reference.

These are crucial observations by von Loewenich. The far reaching implications of Luther’s theologia crucis are implicit in these statements. The theology of the cross should cut across every aspect of one’s theology. In fact the most striking dimensions of the theologia crucis are gathered from the very words of Luther in the theses presented at Heidelberg in April 1518. There Luther spoke not only of a theology of the cross, but of theologians of the cross as opposed to theologians of glory. The question should be framed as such, not what type of theology does one advocate, but what type of theologian is doing the advocating? If the cross of Christ is the event of history, and if God is known there like nowhere else, and if Christianity is more than a set of doctrinal distinctives, but is a way of life corum Deo, then the question has application for every minute aspect of our lives. Not just what kind of theologian am I, but am I a Christian of the cross? Am I a father of the cross? Am I a son of the cross? Am I an employee of the cross? Am I a neighbor of the cross? Am I living my life within the shadow of the cross? For the specific task at hand, namely theology, it is Gerhard Forde, who has grasped the significance of the issue like none other. His observation on Luther’s intent is interesting to say the least. Forde explains, “. . . ‘a’ or ‘the’ theology of the cross cannot really be written. Luther himself does not write a theology of the cross. Rather, particularly in the Heidelberg Disputation, he gives an account of what those who have been smitten and raised up through the cross do.” Obviously, these comments are made in reference to the Heidelberg theses 19 -21. In his commentary and reflection on the theses and their proofs, Forde says “There are two kinds of theologians, theologians of glory and theologians of the cross. The theses basically set forth the contrast in the way the two operate.” He next presents the theses with a contrasting structure as follows:

The Theologian of Glory
The Thesis 19
1. That person does not deserve to
be called a theologian
2. Who claims to see into the in-
visible things of God
3. By seeing through earthly things
(Events, works).
Thesis 21
4. The theologian of glory calls
evil good and good evil.

The Theologian of the cross
Thesis 20

1. But [that person deserves to be
called a theologian]
2. Who comprehends what is visible
Of God (visibilia et posteriora Dei)
3. Through suffering and the cross.
Thesis 21
4. The theologian of the cross says
What a thing is.

Forde, goes on to remind us the intent of Luther by saying, “once again note carefully that the immediate focus is on theologians and their modes of operating, not on theology as such. The great divide is first of all in the way they look for God in the world, in their “seeing” (19, 20), then secondly and consequently in their speaking (21).” Much of what has been said in theology over the last 2,000 years concerning the cross would probably fail in meeting Luther’s criteria of being really theology of the cross by theologians of the cross. The challenge remains for us as aspiring theologians to heed the call of God and to defend His way of being known to a world that hasn’t a clue. “The cross [of Christ] is not inspiring” notes Timothy Lull, “but a scandal.” Yet those who have had their eyes opened by God, know that this is a scandal we must all be proud of. We once again, in our preaching, teaching, theological exposition and articulation must center in on the Cross of Christ. Christ crucified must be the fountain from which streams all our theological endeavor and pursuit. Yes, and all our Christian ministry and life must spring forth from the same precious center–Christ and Him crucified.

Kadai has certain implications that he sees as a result on focusing attention on Luther’s theologia crucis. The immediate theological concerns revolve around what has been hinted at already, namely that all our theology should “. . .stand in the context of the cross.” Theology cannot be subsumed solely under Christology, but all our theology needs to be Christocentric as the Bible evidently is. Again, here, Luther was right. Take away Christ and what else does the scripture say? Jesus gave warrant for this understanding when he explained to the two disciples heading toward Emmaus that the Old Testament throughout the canon spoke of Him (Luke 24). No one would argue that the New Testament does not center around the Lord Jesus Christ. So we have a complete Bible of revelation primarily of Jesus Christ. All our evangelical theology must be biblical and the biblical message is focused on Christ, therefore all our theologizing must be Christocentric. When one especially centers on the suffering of Christ seen with full clarity in the cross, one also must realize the solidarity that the church has with her Lord and expect a measure of suffering in this world. Kadai warns us, that rather than suffering, “. . . some empirical victory of the Christian church may actually be an embarrassment to God’s kingdom.” One immediately thinks of recent trends among the mega-church movement, and marketing strategies which promise numerical results if only one buys into the correct methodology. The church has been deceived by the “success syndrome” and has forfeited true biblical success of being faithful to the scandalous message of a crucified carpenter. Kadai also speaks of pastoral matters as they hinge on one’s understanding of the cross. Our world has been plagued by immense suffering. There is a truth to the claim that God is our fellow sufferer, yet one has to resist building a superstructure out of some so called “vulnerability doctrine” as Forde has cautioned us about. Also God does not suffer because of not being able not to, but suffers out of choice electing to love though this medium for the sake of the objects of his love, namely His people, whom Jesus will save through the cross, (cf. Matthew 1:21; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:28; and Revelation 5:9). God is not weak and subject to suffering by nature but only by condescension. Even Jesus’ death on the cross was a voluntary act–nobody takes His life from Him, He gives it up out of love for His own, (John 10:1-18). Still the truth remains that we can draw strength from one who has been tested as we are tested, (Hebrews 4:14-16). Ultimately, however, an answer is found in the cross for every assumed injustice that occurs in this fallen world. No matter how terrible the event or tragic the occurrence, nothing comes close to the suffering of Jesus. One is tempted to lament as meaningless the tragedy of infants killed in their innocent condition. As a parent I am moved by the suffering of the young, not to mention the slaughter of the unborn so prevalent in our day. Still nothing that has or could occur comes even close to the way God incarnate was treated during His earthly sojourn. Whatever happens to us, we remain sinners who live in a sinful world. Jesus, However, was the truly righteous and innocent. His treatment was the crime of crimes. His suffering was unimaginable given that He was God, yet made to be sin for the salvation of God’s sinful people. The cross gives us perspective; yet also hope.

One other area of possible need of readjustment in my own thinking and practice is the area of apologetics. Although not strictly a theology issue, it touches upon and builds upon theological presuppositions. I have recently rethought through my convictions concerning evidentialism and presuppositionalism and I am emerging with a new sense of appreciation for the presuppositional approach. Luther’s concerns may have some direct bearing on developing “apologetics of the cross.” Our evangelistic endeavors should strive to present Christ. The Gospel of the crucified Lord is still to this day the power unto salvation (Romans 1:16), and the preaching of the cross is still the means to bring people to the point of faith (1 Corinthians 1:21; cf. Romans 10:17). This leads to the proclamation task that I am constantly engaged in as a pastor. Luther’s concerns lead one to think through the need for developing a “preaching of the cross” ministry. Kadai closes his essay with these challenging words, “The Biblical insights of Luther’s theologia crucis are too precious to be lost. On the theology of the cross stand the four great solas of the reformation heritage: sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, and solus
Christus
.”

If we are concerned about preserving this grand tradition as we must, a renewed appreciation must be made of Luther’s basic theological axiom of a crucified Christ, and once again must the church stand upon this foundation of all sound evangelical doctrine. Still we must tread carefully and always with humility. As Murray reminds us,

The theologian of the cross never trusts his own insights but always conforms them to God’s self-revelation. The theologian of the cross knows that the verdict of St. Paul, “If God is true then every man is a liar” (Rom 3:4), applies to himself as much as to any other man. The theologian of the crossknows that he is a sinner with a fallen intellect and will. Repentance is the constant companion of the theologian of the cross. He never masters theology; he can only be mastered by it and so become its servant. Man needs a sure word of prophecy from God that he might know God as God wants to be known.

Conclusion.

One will greatly appreciate the opportunity of reading Luther and spending some time with a few of the authorities on his life and thought. As I indicated earlier, my initial interest, which has not subsided, was to investigate when Luther made his breakthrough. No doubt because Luther is an “ocean” and the secondary literature an immense “sea” in and of itself, no firm conclusion can be drawn at this time. What I have found are further questions springing forth on the heels of forthcoming answers to questions originally asked. Despite this uncertain answer to the burning question in my mind I am not disappointed because theology is not the exercise of an academic semester, but of a lifetime. Yet Luther has taught me one sure thing –spend that lifetime worshiping, studying, loving, and proclaiming the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a cross, who remains hidden, and yet revealed for those who have eyes to see.

 

Theodore Zachariades, Ph.D.

SDG.

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The Word Spread

.

The Bible is a book. It has many manifestations in many versions and is produced on differing materials. The book in and of itself is not the important aspect of the Bible; the Word is! I ask my children to try to take care of the Bibles we own, and we understand that if we lay the bible on the floor or if it is brought into the bathroom, there is no sin in this per se. However, we stress the importance of the Word. It is a word sharper than any two-edged sword. It is like a compass to the navigator. It is more precious than gold. Its precepts teach the way of wisdom and safety. It is a living Word. Though the occasional nature of the documents has interested scholars for the historical insight they provide, Christians are one up on the scholars; they recognize the deep spiritual nature of this word and love the God who breathed it out.

In Acts chapter 6:7 we are told that “the Word of God spread.” In the original Greek the term used is huxanen so the notion is one of growth and multiplication. This unusual imagery was literally true in the sense that many were embracing the truth as God added to the church daily. This same hope of seeing the Word increase is ours as we place before the world an unadulterated message of God’s Word in its wholeness and its holiness. May we see a harvest of truly saved sinners that have tasted and seen that the Lord is good as they have been made alive by the Spirit of God using the Word of God.

Theodore Zachariades, Ph.D.

Open-Bible

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God Save us from the Professionals!

In my line of work, one can easily get far. The possibilities for achievement are endless. If one masters several basic skills and is adept and friendly, the sky is not the limit but rather the likely destination. The problem is that all one becomes after successes have been measured by bank accounts and retirement packages is that one finds themselves in the unhappy position of being merely a religious professional. You see, I am a preacher. Let me say it gain, I am a preacher. Maybe you don’t see a problem. You even may be one of the clan and still see nothing amiss here. My fear is that many will swell the ranks of this strange amalgam. The religious professional is here to stay. And he is becoming more visible and is certainly leading the fray when it comes to church employees. Though congregations employ workers from janitors to “ministers” of recreation, it is the top dog, namely the senior pastor that holds the most coveted role. Once the exclusive domain of the call of God, now it is a job almost secured by a three year degree from a seminary. Of course, the professional must have his credentials, and the schools designed to make this figure the perfect fit for our contemporary world are churning out religious professionals like the Ford Model Ts, as from an assembly line. But what is it really that the contemporary church is need of? I suggest that it is not the professional pastor that acts like, and often is innocently mistaken for, an executive, but the dying breed of the voice calling in the wilderness. The church needs prophets! The church needs those pastors who will herald the message of another. The church needs ambassadors that have their method and message deployed from above not from below. Instead of smug sermons with sound-bites from the latest theatrical blockbuster or seasoned with statistics and illustrations, we need the pure unadulterated Word of God. The sermon has degenerated into a simple homily of three points and a poem, and what is worse, in many congregations all we have in reality is three poems and no point! The means employed by contemporary preachers in order to build their little, or as in most cases, their large kingdoms are the all too readily discernible tactics of business and advertising. The church is full of “Mad Men,” the Madison Avenue advertising corporates with their storylines and rhetorical techniques. Please stop the madness! Please God, stop this madness and keep me from this growing trend. As much as I want to succeed in life, I want more to be faithful to you! May our churches be bold to stand up and be different. Would to God that the speaker of God’s Words would once more thunder from the sacred desk those oracles of God that have nothing to do with consumer mentality and enterprising entrepreneurship. May the Words from our lips be clearly and unmistakably a message from above. Please God, send you prophets to these desert wastelands that are thriving on the riches of the world and shake them to the core. Do whatever it takes to make the church holy. If it means that she must be pruned, then give us grace to live through the painful process. Raise up Jeremiahs and Ezekiels, call out Amoses and Obadiahs. Bring back the Spirit of Elijah and may it rest on the life of men unchained by the religious professional’s code of conduct: winsomeness at all costs! Let them thunder anew that Our God Reigns. Let them scream from the housetops that it is  fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Let the redeemed “say so” as a result of hearing the Scriptures proclaimed as never before, or maybe like the first five centuries, and certainly like the sixteenth through the eighteenth. Raise up men like A. W. Pink, A. W. Tozer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Bring us the workers who feed on the true manna and know how to feed their flocks. Again, dear Lord may it be that faith will come by hearing and hearing by the rhemata of God, the words of the living God. And put a stop to the dreaded creature, the religious professional!

Theodore Zachariades.whitfieldpreaching

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