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Implications for the Proclamation of the Gospel

Posted by on Jun 15, 2012 in discipleship | 45 comments

Implications for the Proclamation of the Gospel

In my previous two posts (“The New Testament Scripture and the Proclamation of the Gospel” and “The Gospels and Acts and the Proclamation of the Gospel“), I’ve looked into examples of Jesus and his first follower when they proclaimed the gospel to unbelievers.

I summarized what I’ve found so far like this: “Those proclaiming the gospel made a concise statement without getting into much explanation or argumentation. Then, they waited for their audience to respond. For those who responded positively or with interest, they spent more time explaining and teaching.”

Now, I’m still studying this, and it’s possible that I will completely change my mind about this. However, if I’m correct about the examples that we see in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, then there are some implications about how we proclaim the gospel today.

First, we don’t distinguish between the “crowds” (to use the term found in the Gospels) and those who show genuine interest in following Jesus.

Second, because of this, I think we typically spend too much time and energy explaining the details of the good news to people who are not interested – trying to talk them into accepting something, which is not our responsibility.

Third, all of this works well with a goal toward helping all people follow Jesus – without forcing them into anything – in other words, it’s all discipleship, focusing more on those who are actually disciples or who are moving toward being disciples without neglecting others.

Fourth, there is not a minimum amount of information that must be shared or explained in order to proclaim the gospel.

Finally, if we want someone to ask questions concerning the gospel (instead of trying to provide all the answers), then knowing something about the person and where they are in life is extremely important and part of proclaiming the gospel.

There are other implications, I’m sure. What other implications would you add to this list (assuming that I’m right about the examples we find in the Gospels and Acts)?


45 Comments

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  1. 6-15-2012

    “Finally, if we want someone to ask questions concerning the gospel (instead of trying to provide all the answers), then knowing something about the person and where they are in life is extremely important and part of proclaiming the gospel.”

    Great post, Alan. I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and it’s crystal clear to me which side God works amazing wonders. A person who asks, “What must I do to be saved?” probably wants to be saved. Answer the question. A person who does not ask, but is told, “You need to be saved; this is what you must do to be saved,” is probably offended at you telling them what they need.

    We should asking a LOT more questions than we answer. Whatever they believe, I’m sure they have a lot of investment in those beliefs, even if it’s an investment of never questioning whether they should even believe in anything, and especially if it’s an investment of unquestionable family traditions.

    For me, even after I thought I was saved, I was asked a profound question that has remained with me since. “Why do you believe what you believe?” In a little self-inventory, I discovered that the honest answer was often, “because someone in apparent authority told.” It was not because of scripture. Since then, I’ve become like the noble Bereans and always check my answer when confronted with ‘new insight’.

  2. 6-15-2012

    Alan i think so far this is on a good track for growing in learning to listen to God in our hearts as we approach each person(s)

  3. 6-15-2012

    How about this one
    take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, then if we could do this, then we could be led in all those things you said, and know what to do instantly for each and all peoples we meet to give them the gospel, or just share it with them in unison. seeds get planted and or watered, thus God gives them the increase over time or right then and there, I have seen both happen in my walk

  4. 6-15-2012

    The extended explanation method of presenting the gospel seems to carry on into the way many churches baptise: upon salvation the new believer is put through a multiweek basic doctrine course of some sort before they are baptised. This goes against the biblical examples also.

  5. 6-15-2012

    Jesus sewed words from God. That which He heard, is that which He spoke. When Jesus had the encounter with the woman at the well, she said “Come and meet a man that told me everything I did.” When God speaks (not the bible), people listen. The Pharisees preached the bible, Jesus spoke from heaven. “Never a man spoke like this man”, they said. After Jesus intentionally spoke words against the law “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you”, and then asked the disciples, “Will you leave me too?” Peter answered, “Lord to whom could we go, you have the words of eternal life?”
    Jesus said “the words I speak , they are Spirit and they are life.” Jesus is our life, it is His words resonating within us, that we speak. Deep speaks to deep and day after day shows forth knowledge. Jesus said, “Great works than these shall you do, because I go to the Father.” So it is today, “If we will hear His voice, and not harden our hearts as we did in the wilderness.” Signs following, it the confirmation of the real Good News being spoken. Without this demonstration we are displaying a form of godliness, but effectively denying the power of God. Paul said ” My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”

  6. 6-15-2012

    Dwight,

    You said, “We should asking a LOT more questions than we answer.” I think you’re right. While Jesus knew what was in the heart of all people, we do not. Asking questions can help us discern who they are and where they are.

    Howard,

    Thanks. I’m glad to hear that we’re starting on the same page on this one.

    Andrew,

    I’ve noticed that as well. Why do you think so many church requires classes before they will baptize?

    Marc,

    I’m not sure if you are agreeing, disagreeing, or simply continuing the discussion on this topic. As far as I can tell, I agree with what you’ve said. My only concern is that your comment could be taken to indicate a negative attitude toward Scripture. The problem with the Pharisees and Scripture is that they did not allow the Scriptures to bring them to Jesus. (John 5:37-39) Of course, it is only when the Father draws us to himself that the Scriptures also point us to Jesus.

    -Alan

  7. 6-15-2012

    Andrew, excellent point,thinking we all need to watch ou for that for I believe that the enemy will try to get us out of the way any way those forces could. Are battle is spiritual , not carnal isn’t it
    Howard

  8. 6-15-2012

    Marc, my brother preach it on, wow, the spoirit is speaking to you and for you
    Howard

  9. 6-15-2012

    Thanks back, Alan
    You know we both are like fireman, just putting out the fire from differant angles, and now we are starting to see that. And a rock cannot be polished without a rub or two
    Love you brother
    Howard

  10. 6-15-2012

    Being a witness. I think in these days, we have distorted the word, witness.

    They shared what they witnessed. They shared what they knew. They did not rely on a program or a generic tract (God will use whatever He wants – I am not saying these things are wrong or bad). They did not have tag-lines (“Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior before it’s too late!”) or massive “altar calls”. From what I could see, it was simple information…We’re in sin, Jesus, Savior…you in?

    Okay, a little flip of me. But, it seems that for the last 30+ years, we have fought more to convince people to get saved, rather than developing relationships and presenting them with the simple Gospel. I agree with convincing people, but it really loses something when we have to use gimmicks, fads and flashy programs (again, His Spirit will speak regardless of the method – I am not fully opposed to such things). Does anyone remember the “I Found It!” program from the mid-seventies? Yeah, I took part in that – not one for the success books.

    Shotgun and mass altar call styles of evangelism were never the plan – at least I do not believe so. Each of these are a matter of ME convincing THEM to come to MY side…rather than developing relationships and allowing God’s Spirit to lead the way, whether we are one-on-one or addressing a group.

    If I am mistaken, please say so.

  11. 6-15-2012

    John my scenario below is not directed at you or anyone in particular
    John, I think you are seeing true things that are subverting the gospel of Jesus christ using guilt to get people to come down to the altar, telling paople that they need to keep from sin for God is not pleased with people that are sinning, or get oyu worried you might again and again. The clergy pulls out their six shooters every week that you attend and you go up to get furhter forgiveness, feeling truly guilty. Asking for further forgiveness thinking God is giving this to you. Then you go out and do your best to keep this from happening again, yet it does and you are right back at the altar, this goes on for so long that you might think God is taking pepto-bismal on you or turning his back in a swivel chair, saying to you get it together.
    This is a lot of the churches today doing this to the people and they need I hope re-read Hebrews 5:11 on through 6:6 and hoping they are listening to the Spirit of God, thus finding the meat of the word if God will permit as it so states
    Until one takes his eyes off self and what self and or others are doing wrong, how can that one hear the Holy Spirit of truth.
    For me I found out that god did and does not want me to quit sinning. That is right that is what I said

  12. 6-15-2012

    John how does sin take occasion? is it by the commandment? how can this be for the commandment is true, just and Holy in and of itself, right?

    But I am carnal and whenever I am aware of the law (commandment) then I am sold under sin, for sin takes occasion by the commandment, The power of sin is in the law (commandment)
    If I die to the law then am I not free from the law?

    So then why are we claiming belief in Christ (the only one that does save us from this body of sin ad death) why are we so whole heartedly trying to obey what has already been obeyed by Christ? He did it all before any of us were ever born. In christ you are dead to the law and alive in perfection to christ Jesus, the Father and Holy Ghost. I have found this out and share this to all God just loves you, then you start to see and God takes over and ones new focus is not on sin anymore it is on Christ, and thus there is no time for sin, only enjoying life. No more care for this world and its evil ways.

  13. 6-15-2012

    Now two posts ago I said that God does not want you, or anyone to quit sinning Why?

    Because you or anyone can’t stop sinning, not even with seeking Jesus’s help or the Father’s nor the Holy Ghost’s. No one ever could or can, except Christ jesus, and only Christ because Christ he was born of the virgin. so this is why no one has ever been able, except Christ.
    So it is not that God wants you, me or anyone to quit their life of sin, and or keep from as many as you can from happening to you.
    God wants us to start, the new life and get so busy with that, that you no longer are even thinking about sin, thus you are not sinning, because of where your new focus is. And you will not until your mind starts thinking about sin again and thus sin is born again. So as a man thinks so is he. The thought starts the process towards sin so I thinnk I want my thoughts on God to take no thought, thanking God for the cross of his son forever.
    Hoping I am clear about this wonderful new life that we all here believe in. So thus we have trabsfered from death to life
    Halleluah!!!!! I have a blog on my site called thought check it out if you wish

  14. 6-15-2012

    Alan, did you happen to characterize the instances as to whether they were primarily “bad news” messages or “good news” messages in the initial proclamations (or some other characterization)?

    I like the idea that we are nurturing everyone towards God so far as they are willing to go, from where ever they are, sort of along an Engel Scale of movement.

    I also like taking Jesus seriously about moving on if not received. Much of the missional and relational evangelism approaches involve substantial investment in attractional relationship building in order to gain a hearing. Often, years invested in serving some neighborhood or people segment is applauded, it seems especially when those served remain hostile or indifferent to the gospel.

    I don’t think we see that type of investment advocated or modeled. Instead, there is a broad scattering of the seed, and the seeds and new plants sort themselves out based on the ground where they fall.

  15. 6-16-2012

    I would say it is a matter of heading in one direction. If heading south were a sin and God is telling you to head north, heading north will, essentially, keep you from sin. As long as we obey His commands, whether it be, “Repent of this” or, “Change that” or, “Go here and do such and such”, we see our lives…improve, as it were.

    It was never about being perfect or sin free. God gave us the ability to choose Him and His way or not. It’s about hearing His voice and obeying His commands, but still our choice whether to do so or not. Yet, for some reason, we insist on telling people to change and come back to God, rather than the simple message of “come as you are”.

    I suppose it has a root of pride along with a strong sense of pleasing God. The pride steps in (as it did with the Pharisees) as the old, “You need to be more like I am.” As for the pleasing God part, man seems to still think that we must reach out to God and somehow appease Him (as if), dragging others into this alleged appeasement. Of course, this goes deeper, in that those doing the evangelism efforts are also trying to please God by winning more souls as well as convincing them to live righteous lives which is a triple appeasement effort – theory being that the teacher teaches (score) and convinces the student (score), then the student starts living the righteous life as mandated by the teacher (score for the student and the teacher pats himself on the back for a job well done). Sort of a multi-level sales of righteousness, I guess…I get commission for my sale, I get bonuses for bringing others and I get a portion of their commissions.

    Once again, it comes down to man adding in how he thinks things should work, instead of committing to what God had men write down – as it is, not as they have misinterpreted, misaligned, misappropriated and added to. This is nothing new – now, we just use microphones and digital media to spread some of these poisonous messages farther and faster.

    I will back up to this, though. The message of salvation is still being preached and people are coming to the Lord. Thankfully, God’s Spirit can get past our silliness and reach hearts. It would be preferable if people would get back to the simple message, but God manages to get the core of His message through, drawing His beloved children unto Himself.

    As for those of us who are seeing the flaws and attempting to return to scriptural/New Testament patterns, we should be careful not to do that human thing of judging those who are mixing up the message. They are not perfect, we cannot control them and likely most will not be able to be convinced of their error. So, we do what we do, praying all the while, teaching whomever will hear and keeping open lines with whomever is willing to discuss these matters.

  16. 6-16-2012

    “First, we don’t distinguish between the “crowds” (to use the term found in the Gospels) and those who show genuine interest in following Jesus.”

    I’m reading, “Church in the Making.” Found this in the chapter on “The Anatomy of a Crowd” pgs 88-89:

    When you look at Jesus’ ministry, you see a remarkable knack for making multitudes… To gather a crowd requires a great tolerance for wrongly motivated people. It requires loving them anyway… Let me say it again: disciples come out of the multitudes.

    Does it seem that the initial broadcast to crowds is an important step?

    Side note: so far, this chapter has a mixed review. Some solid nuggets, but it does seem to confuse a crowd gathered and a congregation as the same thing. Instead, it seems your study is showing Alan, that the congregation comes from a few following on long after the crowd has dispersed and lost interest, not getting what it came for.

  17. 6-16-2012

    I agree 100% John, just be available, and God uses this as god sees fit, like a water glass its purpose is; to be available for its master to use it for its purpose whenever master decides to use it.

  18. 6-16-2012

    Art your post reminded me of a place in the scripture where Jesus had been in a certain town done miracles and sayings, and the people were marvelled over this, excited. The disciples saw this and were also excited. The next morning Jesus went out to pray by himself. The disciples found him, and said Jesus we must go back where we were yesterday, man oh man the crowd is elated over you.

    Art and all here, as you see her when we get all excited we get out of touch with God.
    Jesus said to them , that he has already got his instructions for the day, we are going over here.
    How many times do we get like the disciples did? Whew, I knkow I have and could again easily. I just want to be in touch with the Spirit of Christ and follow my instructions each and every day and am thankful to God even when I don not for God just loves me anyway as Alan has pointed out to me and all
    And Thanks Art

  19. 6-16-2012

    Howard,
    Beautifully stated my brother. My wife and I are unlearning almost everything we have been taught in church by men. Today if we will hear His voice…

  20. 6-16-2012

    Thanks Marc, just as I know you will keep yuor thougths and eyes on what Jesus has done and thus does in and through you, via you and your wife trusting in Jesus, the Father and the coupler of those two the Holy Ghost
    Howard

  21. 7-21-2012

    Hi all, I decided to write after reading about the gospel and methods in being a witness.

    What works for one will not always work for another. As Jesus said, it’s like catching fish (paraphrasing of course). We don’t use the same bait for every fish. We have to be versatile in our presentation, tailoring it to the person in front of us.

    What we really need, is to really know the gospel ourselves. We must be sure of what it is, and understand the issues of salvation clearly enough communicate honestly and openly. We must discard side issues and pet peeves.

    Do you know what happened to you when you were saved? How did you get to be “born again”? Can you explain it, in detail? Biblically? If not, our presentation may be seen as just some – experience. While it is a spiritual experience to be born again, it is our task to communicate it in a way that reveals God’s plan, a layer at a time.

    I’d agree that when someone is asking questions they want to know is better. Talking to people when they are not listening is no fun. Sometimes our witness may be to just get the person in the position to listen. We have to be wise as serpents (I read that somewhere). We don’t have to take ourselves so seriously, have some fun. Do you think Christ was just stoic and wooden? Let me answer that, no, I don’t think so. We have to be harmless as a dove (read that too). That means that we really want the very best for that lost person standing before us. The very best! We have pure motives. We are not trying to trick them or get them to join a cult. We want them to be born again, saved!

    Thanks for listening…

  22. 7-23-2012

    Doug,

    Thanks for the comment. We cannot know who will or will not respond to a gospel announcement, because God is responsible for the response. Our role is to proclaim the simple message, then help those who are interested to follow Jesus.

    -Alan

  23. 7-24-2012

    Alan, thanks for commenting. It is true, we cannot know who will respond to the gospel message, but I would say that the responsibility lies with the person who understands the gospel message. The person is responsible to answer and God is responsible to make the offer.

    Is that how you see it?

    Doug

  24. 7-24-2012

    Doug,

    I’m not sure what you’re asking. As far as I can tell, both from the NT and from personal experiences, God always uses one or more of his children to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, even to someone who he has already prepared to receive that message. We proclaim the message; the response is between God and the other person/people.

    -Alan

  25. 7-24-2012

    Doug / Alan,

    If I may, I think there is agreement that God, the source of the gospel, is 100% responsible to make the offer. (He can use us if are willing participants.) I think the question is whether people are, in turn, 100% responsible for their response to the gospel. Alan, when you said, “the response is between God and the other,” it wasn’t 100% clear if there was agreement.

    Dwight

  26. 7-24-2012

    Dwight,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re asking if the response to the gospel is God’s responsibility or the responsibility of the person hearing the gospel? My answer is: yes. I believe that only those who are drawn to Jesus by God are saved, and I believe that all of those who call on the name of the Lord are saved.

    -Alan

  27. 7-25-2012

    Hi Alan,

    Can I make some assumptions from your comments? Please feel free to clarify because that is all I’m trying to do as well. Dwight, thanks for clarifying.

    So, you believe “that only those who are drawn to Jesus by God are saved”. That sounds like it is God’s responsibility to draw people. I know that everyone will not be saved. So, I must conclude that those not saved were not drawn to Jesus by God in your view. Is that accurate?

    On the other hand, you believe that “all of those who call on the name of the Lord are saved.” Your choice of words here are interesting to me. Those who call on the name of the Lord “are” saved? I would say with the scripture, “will” be saved. or “shall” be saved. Was that just a poor choice of words?

    Also, to me, it seems that the person is responsible to call on the name of the Lord, or else, they will not be saved. Sort of like the snake in the desert, whoever looked at the serpent on the pole was healed. The responsibility was with the person there. The cure obviously came from God, but the person was responsible to take it.

    How do you see this Alan?

    Doug

  28. 7-25-2012

    Doug,

    In Scripture, salvation can be viewed as past, present, or future. Like I said, I’m comfortable saying that God saves whoever he desires and that people are saved when they respond to the gospel. I don’t think there’s a contradiction there.

    -Alan

  29. 7-26-2012

    Alan,

    You said, “God saves whoever he desires…” God does NOT save whoever He desires. I must disagree with your statement. The fact is that some will be lost and God desires all to be saved (1Tim 2:2, 4; 2Pet 3:9). He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for whoever will believe in Him. He offers the good news to whoever… , but the responsibility of accepting the free gift lies with us.

    To me, this matter of responsibility is important to understand, especially for those who are “sharers together in the work of the gospel”. Thanks for sharing your heart and allowing me to share mine.

    Doug

  30. 7-26-2012

    Doug,

    When I said, “God saves whoever he desires…”, I was simply referring to what the Scriptures say about God granting salvation based on his on mercy and grace not based on human actions/works. I actually had this passage in mind, which Paul wrote in the context of salvation:

    For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15 ESV)

    I agree that some will be lost and some will be saved, and I agree that God desires that all be saved. I also agree that each person is responsible for accepting or rejecting the salvation offered by God through Jesus Christ. I don’t see a contradiction.

    -Alan

  31. 7-27-2012

    Alan, you wrote:
    “I agree that some will be lost and some will be saved, and I agree that God desires that all be saved. I also agree that each person is responsible for accepting or rejecting the salvation offered by God through Jesus Christ. I don’t see a contradiction.”

    We do agree, but there is still one thing. And, by the way, it’s OK if we don’t agree with on another. I don’t mind, really. I like it if a person who disagrees gives the reasoning “why” they disagree, like Peter says (1Pet 3:15). Ok, on to the disagreement.

    In my mind, it is a contradiction to say that God desires all to be saved (we agree with this), and then on the other hand to say that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy. Unless we make that say that he has mercy on all. But, I don’t think that is the point and we are not at liberty to force the bible to make sense. Rather, we should seek to “see” the sense of the bible.

    What doesn’t fit? The Romans 9 passage is not about salvation.

    For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15 ESV)

    If you take a look back at the context, it does not refer to salvation, but God’s sovereign choice in choosing Jacob over Esau, or prior to that, Isaac over all the other Abraham and Sarah presented (Ismael). The chapter is not about being saved or lost. It is about election to purpose. God built the nation of Israel, on the backs of the patriots, Abraham (God’s choice), Isaac (God’s choice) and Jacob (God’s choice again). He picked Moses, He choose Pharaoh to do what was in his heart. In all of this, God is sovereign. Is God unjust? Absolutely not! God had/has a special purpose for everyone in that chapter. Who are we to tell God to choose Esau, after all he was the first borne. Its God’s choice/decision. Salvation was not in view.

    Salvation is free, simply by grace, not by our effort or works. God’s sovereign choices are for our benefit, and are also free from our effort or works. Much more could be said about this chapter, but I will pause and just say that we are not elected to salvation. There is no mysterious harmony we need to bring to make the statements agree, they are dealing with different subjects.

    Salvation is a collaborative effort by God and us. Election is God’s sovereign choice. In salvation, God offers, and we are free to accept the offer, but are certainly responsible for the choices we make.

    Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

    Your thoughts?

    Doug

  32. 7-27-2012

    Doug,

    I think our only disagreement is about the passage in Romans 9. I think Romans 9-11 is about salvation. I agree with everything else you said.

    -Alan

  33. 7-28-2012

    Alan,

    You rephrased my question beautifully, “If I understand you correctly, you’re asking if the response to the gospel is God’s responsibility or the responsibility of the person hearing the gospel?” That’s exactly what I was asking. But, to me, your answer about God drawing people, or people calling on the name of the Lord, didn’t seem to match the question. The question is about responsibilities, not the actions they take as a result. It also relates to this…

    You later said to Doug, “In Scripture, salvation can be viewed as past, present, or future. Like I said, I’m comfortable saying that God saves whoever he desires and that people are saved when they respond to the gospel. I don’t think there’s a contradiction there.”

    To me, the contradiction is clear. In one verse, it is clear that “[God] desires ALL poeople to be saved…” and yet your answer indicates that God does NOT want all people to be saved, but only some, because He does not have mercy on certain people (according to your interpretation of Rom 9) or because He willingly does not draw them. It’s like saying He doesn’t do what He wants, and that doesn’t make sense to me.

    In going over the scriptures Doug mentioned, I see what he means by Romans 9 being about God’s sovereign plan to offer salvation and not about the salvation of certain individuals. It would have to. If we believe 100% that salvation is for all who believe, then Romans 9 would have to be about something else, and as I see it, it is. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that even though scripture says salvation is for all who believe, it doesn’t really that anyone can be saved; only those whom God picks and chooses who will believe.

    Also, if God picks and chooses who will respond to the gospel, then there aren’t really any who resist the gospel. Those who scripture says “resist” would be in the same box as those who were never drawn. I don’t think it’s a matter of what we’ve settled to believe. I think it’s a matter of examining the scriptures further with the understanding that God does not contradict Himself.

    I dearly hope I’m not offending anyone! We have great reasons to rejoice! Let us enjoy our freedom to discuss this matter. And thank you, thank you, thank you, Alan, for creating this blog and so actively posting and commenting. I love it! I was especially attracted by the “As We Live It” series someone emailed to me. Those are very thought-provoking and great conversation (evangelism?) starters!

    Dwight

  34. 7-29-2012

    Alan,

    You wrote – “I think our only disagreement is about the passage in Romans 9. I think Romans 9-11 is about salvation. I agree with everything else you said.”

    I really don’t think you could be in agreement about everything else I said and disagree about the Romans 9 passage. If you disagree about the Romans 9 passage, then we just don’t see salvation in the same way. Discuss your disagreement, like it says in 1Pet 3:15.

    However, the quest is not to see salvation my way, it is to see what God says about His salvation. I’m sure God is consistent when it comes to how He saves.

    I see us all standing over a fire sharpening our swords. We are not enemies of one another, the enemy is Satan and his schemes. “2Co 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

    So, let us be clear about the gospel.

    Doug

  35. 7-29-2012

    Doug and Dwight,

    Thanks for the discussion. Like I said earlier, I do not think there is a contradiction between God choosing / electing and humans responding. I see both in Scripture in the passages that I’ve listed and in others. I don’t see the benefit in trying to go beyond what we read in Scripture. Instead, we can continue to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone, and trust that God will save all those who call on him and respond to his message of salvation.

    -Alan

  36. 8-1-2012

    Alan,

    Ok, if you don’t see the benefit of trying to understand what we read in scripture, Okay. As I said before, I don’t like to talk if someone is not listening.

    Take care.

    Doug

  37. 8-1-2012

    Doug,

    The fact that someone does not agree with your interpretation of Scripture does not mean the person does not understand Scripture or does not want to understand Scripture more. However, this particular topic has been debated and contested and argued for almost 2000 years. Arguments and discussions such as this which are not carried out among a shared life in Christ (i.e., we don’t actually know one another or spend time with one another) usually do very little to help either person’s understanding. In other words, I was listening to you; I did not agree with you; I do not see any reason to continue.

    -Alan

  38. 8-1-2012

    Alan / Doug,

    I’m disappointed! I thought this was gearing up to be a deep discussion that would break through assumptions about salvation, much like the focus of this blog breaks through assumptions about church.

    The Roman Catholic Church, as an example, is the world’s largest denomination has been around for a very long time (over 1600 years?) and now has over one billion members worldwide. Yet, by having a critical spirit, courtesy of the Holy Spirit, some have examined the scriptures daily to see if that church’s assumptions were rooted in truth. Emotions ran high (anger, delight, etc.) to discover they were not, including several of your blog readers judging from various comments, many of whom are thankful to have been enlightened so.

    It sounded like Doug was on to something in regard to salvation that challenged thousand-year-old and widely-popular assumptions. It’s just like you, Alan, in that you have challenged our assumptions about they way we live Christian lives in the ‘Scripture… As We Live It’ series of posts, and many more. You boldly dare to ask church-goers what really constitutes a church according to scripture, and not according to tradition or very religious “Christians,” even of the Reformed notoriety.

    Is it enough that you and Catholics (as an example), or those trying to live their best lives now, should simply agree to disagree? Is that it? End of discussion, blog, blog comments? Or, are you and others motivated to enlighten readers –those who leave the work of the gospel to religious leaders in a local church institution but think something is not quite right– toward the real truth, God’s truth, about this matter? We know how few actually think of the Church in terms of the body of Christ. It is a fatal error to assume those same people, or even us, know the true gospel just because somebody else figured that out already.

    To me, the same concept applies to the assumptions about salvation as it does about church: just because it’s been like this for thousands of years and billions of people comply, doesn’t mean it’s rooted in the truth of scripture. If simply breaking away from the Catholic church was it, we wouldn’t have thousands of protestant denominations.

    Unfortunately, the discussion already ended if you are satisfied to ‘agree to disagree’. As you stated, “I do not see any reason to continue.” Alan, perhaps you know of another blog writer willing to revisit assumptions about salvation, just as you were and are still willing to revisit the assumptions about church membership?

    Dwight

  39. 8-1-2012

    Dwight,

    I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’ve seen this topic rip apart too many relationships, even when those people really know each other. Feel free to discuss the topic of this post: that in the New Testament gospel proclamations were short, with further discipleship only for those who showed interest. Or jump into the other discussions on various topics related to the church. We have great discussions here.

    -Alan

  40. 8-2-2012

    Dwight,

    I fully agree with your comments. Many are stuck in tradition and don’t know it. I believe we have the Holy Spirit, just as they did in the past. I don’t believe the last word has been written on this subject. I am not bound by what others has said and written in the past, even if someone has considered them “scholars”. I’m not that impressed with man and his wisdom, which is foolishness compared to God’s. Continue to search the scriptures Dwight, they haven’t been exhausted by those in the past, and we won’t exhaust them either. Continue to prove all things and hold on to that which is good. Notice the “good” or truth is forged out of error. Genuine humility is the only thing we have that God can use. You are right, in those analogies. We wouldn’t be where we are if we had never questioned the status quo, never ventured to think differently and depend on God’s leading. It does take courage to adopt and think God’s thoughts over our own, thanks for writing.

    Doug

  41. 8-2-2012

    Alan,

    I will not continue here with you anymore. This is your blog and I respect that you don’t want to continue on this thread. I would just say in parting, one thought.

    Keep in mind that what we are discussing here is the “way” of salvation. This is not a subject that is inscrutable, or incomprehensible. It is important that we know the way of salvation personally, because we will not be saved by mistake. God’s salvation is clear, and if there is confusion, it is NOT by design, it is simply Satan and his schemes (2Cor 4:3, 4). It is important that we know the way of salvation in detail as those who would partner with God to give the gospel to those who are lost. We want to be partners with God and give the accurate, clear way of salvation; not partners with Satan and adding to the confusion already out there. I would say that this topic is more important than ANY other here, it is a matter of life and death.

    I realize that what I wrote above applies to me too. I am not above scrutiny and open myself to any question. It is not enough to hold a position. We MUST know why we hold it.

    Regards,

    Doug

    PS. That was many thoughts!

  42. 8-2-2012

    Doug,

    I agree, and God has provided several means of scrutiny in my own life both from the Holy Spirit, from the Scriptures, and from the awesome brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of my life.

    -Alan

  43. 8-2-2012

    Alan,

    You said, “I’ve seen this topic rip apart too many relationships…” Unfortunately, Christ said families would split because of Him, children would even rise against parents and have them put to death and vice-versa. Sounds like He knew this would happen, all stemming from the Proclamation of the Simple Gospel. The Implications are huge! Unbelievers will torture and kill to stop it!

    But, why should believers be so offended, cautious, and wary of discussing the most wonderful news ever given to this world?

    From my experience, we learn to tone down this news so that it does not offend. We proclaim the Biblical headlines with an ‘Amen!’ without really understanding the details, details that can only be revealed by the Spirit of God, not years of seminary study or religious routine. Sometimes, we make up the details from this and other headlines. Often, we skip the headlines and even spiritual matters, and instead ride the emotional roller coaster of behavior modification with all its joyful climbs, sinful dips, and conviction-confession twists and loops, only to go around again and again. There is plenty of movement, but no growth. We just get better at riding the roller-coaster.

    In my experience, we do this in support groups. In these support groups, which usually meet weekly with a few additional events and celebrations inserted, we try to encourage each other with sympathy and song, prayer and petition. Words that sound wise and refreshing are amplified, and we hope we’ll remember them for more than a day.

    In these support groups, we talk of the details of our roller-coaster rides, and we say how much we love this theme park. But, we do not take the time and effort to get to know the Creator of the theme park. Our rides are personal; how could they offend? Therefore, that topic is safe for discussion, and the best part seems to be telling people to hold tight through turn one. Everyone goes through turn one. The Creator, on the other hand, to deeply know the Creator, is not safe, but He is good.

    We readily recognize these support groups as they usually congregate in or near the center of town in buildings of distinct architecture called ‘churches’. There are those who like to think that God placed them in that building in a mighty way (as in authority) and in order to control the lines for the rides, reiterate the eternal safety of the rides, keep the focus on the experience of the group, and console those coming off one. As a result, they let it be known, albeit indirectly, that their roller-coasters are better, whether the advantage be that they are traditional or modern, large or small, uptown or downtown (demographically as well as geographically).

    In all this busy-ness, the theme park Creator gets thanked, usually as an aside, sometimes even sincerely, but He is never known deeper. He is given grand labels like ‘awesome’ and ‘sovereign’, and even praised for giving us such a wonderful salvation. Emotions are scary but familiar. Let’s talk about those. The rides are fast but safe. Let’s recall our experiences.

    He is not safe. How do we talk about that which we don’t understand? Let’s go back to using labels instead. Or, He is slow to anger and His sword will pierce our own hearts. Sounds profound; let’s leave it at that. He is spiritual, we are carnal, and He asks us to walk in the Spirit. Let’s instead determine if we know how bad we are, or how good we’re supposed to be, and call that walking. He is long-suffering and we moan after five minutes. Let’s pray for today, that it will go well, or if it went well, and make small of His eternal plan.

    In my opinion, being Creator has got to be the loneliest job ever. I imagine Him creating the greatest theme park the world has ever known, and yet, the focus is always on the theme park itself, whether inside or out, and not the Creator. I want to go back to that dingy little shed behind the greasy hydraulics of the tilt-a-whirl and learn from Him, converse with Him, and let Him teach me about the Wonderful News and Himself, instead of thinking I know it from the clever headlines posted in viral emails. Yeah, the theme park was fun! But, it’s time to grow up. After all, that’s where the real adventure, the real danger, and the tremendous rewards really are. Seek Him while He may be found.

    Dwight

  44. 8-2-2012

    Dwight,

    Yes, I’ve seen what you describe from people who are all sides of the “what is the gospel” argument. I’ve found him – he found me – and I know that people who disagree with me on this issue have found him as well.

    -Alan

  45. 8-2-2012

    Doug,

    Thanks for the encouraging words, especially, “Continue to search the scriptures Dwight, they haven’t been exhausted by those in the past, and we won’t exhaust them either. Continue to prove all things and hold on to that which is good. Notice the “good” or truth is forged out of error. Genuine humility is the only thing we have that God can use.”

    Take care!

    Dwight