Category Archives: A People Made Ready

The Manner in Which We Defend the Gospel

In this post, I’ll look at the way we can honour the Lord in the manner of our speaking.

I recently heard it said: “too many apologetics training programs neglect how we ought to make our defence.” Observation granted. So let’s think about the significance of speaking with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15); but first, a quick refresher on the context.

Context of 1 Peter 3:15

Peter tells the saints that they’ll be blessed if they “suffer for righteousness sake” (3:14). He continues to tell them not to fear (3:15a), but to honour the Lord by making a defence to their opponents (3:15b), and to do so with “gentleness and respect” (3:15c) so that those who slander them for their good behaviour may be put to shame (3:16). Finally, Peter tells them that it’s better for them to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (3:17). So, the saints are being to called to defend the Gospel of a suffering and gentle Saviour in a manner worthy of that Gospel (cf. Phil 1:27; Col 1:10).

Peter knows the temptation for Christians. They might respond with an offended spirit that is harsh and disrespectful. As objects of hostility, we’re prone to think of our opponents:”they’re ruthless; what’s wrong the them?” In frustration, we’re inclined to look down on them: “How inconsistent can they be?” A deep seated resentment can begin to guide our entire approach of interacting with those who mock us. We find ourselves strangely determined to prove we’re right and they’re wrong. Many times I’ve won an argument, but lost the person.

What’s the right way of answering opponents?

Gentleness and respect that reflects Christ

Peter says that when we suffer for our good behaviour and are centred out, we have a great opportunity to make the most of that situation. We’re to speak and tell people the reason for our hope. In addition, it’s of utmost importance that we speak in a manner that reflects the very Gospel we profess to hope in.

Peter has already written that we’re called to suffer for doing good (2:20-21) “because Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example, so that [we] might follow in his steps” (2:21). Peter continues, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:22-23). Behold our King! Our job is to fear him, obey him, reflect him and represent him. This includes responding to persecutors with humility, gentleness and respect. Accordingly, we read, “Do not repay evil for evil … but on the contrary bless” (3:9) … “turn away from evil and do good” (3:11; Ps 34:14) … this is what is means to fear the Lord, indeed, to “honour Christ the Lord as holy.” This means not only defending the Gospel, but doing it in a manner that magnifies the nature of the Gospel. Think about it. We say our hope is fixed on the King who was crucified, yes, the Saviour who is gentle and suffered for doing good. Oh how loudly the truth of Gospel rings when the King’s ambassadors suffer like their King! Oh what punch the Gospel gives when spread by Christians who, by persistence in doing good, answer their opponents in gentleness and with respect!

One final word

Note the “for” at the beginning of verse 18. After vv. 15-17, Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring them to God” (3:18a). What is the “for” there for? It seems as though  Peter is saying, “honour the Lord by suffering for doing good (3:15-17), for Christ also suffered to bring sinners to God.” In other words, there is an evangelistic appeal and purpose to the Christians’ defence in the midst of suffering. The gentleness and respect with which we defend of the Gospel, in the midst of our suffering, helps bring sinners to God.  If that’s not what the “for” is there for, what’s it there for?

May God help us.

Defending the Gospel Honours the Lord

In this post, I simply want to show that allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ is the reason why all of us should defend the gospel.

Honouring the Lord by Defending the Gospel

We know that we are called to honour God and his appointed King, Jesus Christ. But, does honouring the Lord include defending the gospel? I mean, are we all really called to defend the gospel? Does God honestly expect this from all Christians? Or is it just for apostles, pastors, evangelists and those who are outgoing? It certainly was a part of Paul’s job description. In Philippians, we read of his work in “the defense of the gospel” (1:7, 16). However, in 1 Peter 3, we see this was not only reserved for the apostles, but for all believers. After specific commands to servants (2:18), wives (3:1) and husbands (3:7), he calls “all of [them]” (3:8) to honour the Lord by suffering for the sake of righteousness throughout 3:8 – 4:19.

The classical text for apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15, is sandwiched in between God’s call for his people to suffer for “righteousness’ sake” (3:14) and for their “good behaviour in Christ” (3:16-17). In the midst of this call to faithfulness, Peter writes, “in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being ready to make a defense” (3:15a). Indeed, Christians who are criticized, mocked and opposed for their righteous behaviour (cf. 1 Pet 4:4-5) are called to speak up when they are centred out. They’re called to honour the Lord by defending the gospel that has transformed their lives and made them very different.  The reason why we should defend the gospel is because it honours the Lord.

Fear and Allegiance

Ed Welch writes that “what we fear shows our allegiances” (When People Are Big and God is Small, 47). If we have a strong allegiance to comfort, we will fear pain. If we have a strong allegiance to the approval of people, we will fear their criticism. Our fears show us what is dear to us, yes, what we truly honour in our hearts.

In verse 14, Peter tells the believers to “[h]ave no fear of [the persecutors], nor be troubled.” They aren’t to fear the opposition. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words not to fear “those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt 10:28). And just like Jesus, who says, “[r]ather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” Peter writes, “but in your hearts honour [revere / fear] Christ the Lord as holy.” Do not fear man, fear God (or Christ the Lord). Since our fears show us what is dear to us, what does it mean when we’re tempted to fear those who may mock us? Often times, it means we care what they think. We fear their disapproval or criticism or the prospect of relational hostility. The degree to which we value relational peace and comfort is quite impressive (in magnitude, not spirituality). So what do these fears often reveal? At least two misplaced allegiances: (1) allegiance to man (more than God); and (2) allegiance to self.

This may be one reason why Jesus teaches (in the context of fear), “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever  does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:37-39). Jesus demands absolute allegiance. He is God’s appointed King, Judge of all and Lord of the world. To waver in your faithfulness to Jesus because of family loyalties shows misplaced fear and thus misplaced allegiance. But it doesn’t only prove utter allegiance to family (one of the most prevalent idols among 1st century Jews!), it also proves allegiance to self: what will they think of me? Too often this sinful allegiance constrains us into unnatural and forced silence. This doesn’t honour the Lord. So, the next time your criticized, mocked at or questioned, look around the room and remember who the Lord is, that he is the powerful One who owns everything, is holding all things together and by whom everyone will be judged; then take a deep breath and speak accordingly. Defending the gospel honours the Lord.

Next time: honouring the Lord in the way we defend the gospel.

Spreading More Than The Gospel

Gospel Review

Our afternoon study called ‘A People Made Ready’ resumed this past Sunday. In our first study, we looked at the question, ‘What is the Gospel?’ We saw that the gospel is the announcement of the reign of God, though Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all. Essentially, the gospel is a message about Jesus.

Spreading this gospel means introducing people to Jesus – telling people the good news of who he is in light of his saving accomplishments. And since he is Lord of the world, all the people of the world must give their allegiance to him. If we profess allegiance to this King, we ought to spread this great and glorious gospel. That was week one.

But there is something else about the nature of this gospel that warrants careful consideration while spreading it: the gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline. Jesus did not appear out of the thin air.

The Gospel is the Climax of a Much Larger Storyline

The preaching of John the Baptist in all four Gospels is significant! He prepares the way for the coming of the Lord (Malachi 3:1) and the great and awesome day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). John the Baptist’s ministry is to prepare God’s people for the climax of the entire history of redemption! The gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline. Paul tells us that all God’s promises (from the OT) “find their yes in [Christ]” (2 Cor 1:20). This means God has a history of making promises. As the storyline of the Bible progresses, the suspense thickens: how will God keep his promises? Without charting out what these promises are, at least two observations are in order: (1) though the Gospel is the announcement of God’s reign through Jesus Christ, it’s a climactic announcement that shouts ‘fulfilment of promises!’; and (2) unless someone is remotely aware of the larger storyline, they are unlikely to appreciate and understand this climax.

Understanding the Storyline is Not Trivial

In Colossians 1:5-6, Paul tells the Colossians that the gospel bore fruit among them and all over the world “since the day [they] heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” This passage doesn’t tell us explicitly that we need to preach the storyline of the Bible, nor that x-amount of the storyline needs to be understood before the gospel can be rightly believed. But it tells us that people need to understand the grace of God in truth. And as is the case with any story, the more someone understands the plot (promises) of the storyline, the more they’ll understand and appreciate the climax (Lord-willing).

When it comes to the storyline of the Bible the gospel is the climax, and it is where the grace of God is most clearly displayed! We greatly serve fellow sinners when we help them see the context or big picture in which this climactic event takes place.

How do we Share Big Picture Stuff while Sharing the Gospel?

How do we do this? Though there are hundreds of thousands of people in the GTA who have, at least, a semi-Christian view of the world with a decent amount of biblical literacy, there are more who don’t. People in our culture are becoming increasingly biblically illiterate (even churches can be!). So how much of the storyline do we need to communicate in conjunction with gospel bites about Jesus? Though this largely depends on the nature of any given conversation Matthias Media’s Two Ways to Live booklet is an excellent resource for sharing the Gospel in light of the basic storyline of Scripture. (Just click the link above to see the six picture presentation).

A Brief Outline of Two Ways to Live (without pictures)

Here is a basic outline of the tract that you might find helpful:

1. God is loving ruler of the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. (Gen 1-2; Rev 4:11). BUT, is that the way it is now?

2. We all reject the ruler – God – by trying to run our lives our way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. (Gen 3; Rom 3:10-12). WHAT will God do about this rebellion?

3. God won’t let us rebel forever. God’s punishment for rebellion is death and judgement. (Gen 3; Heb 9:27). God’s justice sounds hard. BUT …

4. Because of his love, God sent his Son in the world: the man Jesus Christ. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. Yet, by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness. (Gen 12:1-3, 15:1-6; and 1 Pet 3:18). BUT, that’s not all …

5. God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world. Jesus has conquered death, now gives life, and will return to judge. (1 Pet 1:3) WELL, where does that leave us?

6. The two ways to live:

(1) OUR WAY = Reject God as our ruler. Try to live life our way. The result: Condemned by God; facing death and judgement.

(2) GOD’S NEW WAY = Submit to Jesus as our ruler. Rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The result: Forgiveness by God and eternal life. (John 3:16; Rev 21:1-5)

At the end of the booklet, the call is to (1) Talk to God; (2) Submit to Jesus; and (3) Keep trusting.

Practical Instructions for Sharing Two Ways to Live

1. The six points are six pegs on which to hang a gospel conversation. You can enter in at any point. (You don’t need to start at the first point).

2. You can elaborate more or less on any point. This will depend on the conversation you are having.

3. Learn to connect topics of conversation to the six pegs (pictures) of God’s big picture.

Here is an example of connecting a conversation to one of those pegs: If someone is reading the news and comments on how messed up the world is, you could pipe up and say, “It really is messed up, but ya know, the reason is because we all reject God as our ruler; and we try do things our way. That is the main problem. That’s what the Bible teaches. Have you ever thought about that much?” This would be an example of entering in and hanging a conversation on the second peg. If the conversation continues, you will likely talk about the fall in Genesis 3, and there is great potential to end up focusing on Jesus who redeems rebels.

Spreading More than the Gospel

So, the gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline that provides the very framework needed for understanding it. Accordingly, it’s important that we spread them together (Jesus according to the Gospels & the storyline of the Bible). Indeed, we ought to spread more than the gospel. The more biblically illiterate a person is, the more we need to give them more than the gospel.

What is the Gospel?

A New Series Called ‘A People Made Ready’

I am so thankful to Pastor Julian for giving me the opportunity to teach a 10 week series on evangelism and apologetics! We started this past Sunday and I find myself humbled and sobered by the nature of the training. Just think about it, I will influence the way people understand the Gospel and how to share and defend it. Consequently, I will influence the way the Gospel is articulated to unbelievers. Indeed, this is a humbling task! (Please pray for me).

So, with much trepidation I proceeded to start the series with a lesson on the Gospel. The Series is called ‘A People Made Ready’ and the first lesson was on ‘The Gospel that Saves Us.’ We looked at the Gospel that has made us ready – ready for Judgement and ready to give allegiance to our King until then.

John Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret

Much of what I shared is what I learned from John Dickson’s insightful book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with More than Our Lips (Zondervan: 2010). He has a chapter called, “What is the Gospel: The Message We Promote.” I strongly encourage you to get your hands on this book. But, until then, let me share with you what I have learned from him on the content of the Gospel (and what you will find in his book).

What is the Gospel?

Gospel language is used in the OT. One example is found in Isaiah 52:7,

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news (lit., “tells a gospel”),
who publishes peace, who brings good news (lit., “tells a gospel”) of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The man who has beautiful feet is the man who “tells a gospel.” Not just any gospel. This gospel is a gospel of peace, happiness and salvation, but its primary content is articulated in these three words: “Your God reigns.” This is the Gospel. Accordingly, when Jesus comes, he proclaims “the gospel of God, saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus is saying that the reign of God is here, pressing and breaking in. We know that this reign came in the person of Jesus, God’s appointed Messiah.

So, the Gospel is the announcement of the Good News of God’s reign. Isaiah 52-53 is about real events that will actually happen – real achievements and accomplishments. In Greco-Roman culture gospels were announced. They were not merely the announcement of ideas, but actual deeds and accomplishments of Roman emperors. Accordingly, the gospel is the message of reign of God in the deeds and accomplishments of his appointed Messiah, Jesus. What what deeds are we talking about? Only the death and resurrection? Paul helps us here.

Three Key Gospel Summaries in Paul

1) According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, the Gospel is the message of:

  • Jesus’ identity as the Christ (Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but refers to his office as God’s appointed Messiah/King)
  • Jesus’ saving death (for our sins)
  • Jesus’ burial
  • Jesus’ resurrection
  • all of this “according to Scripture”
  • Jesus’ appearances to witnesses

2) According to Romans 1:3-5, the Gospel is the message about how:

  • Jesus was foretold in the Scriptures
  • Jesus was born a royal descendant of David
  • Jesus was raised from the dead as God’s great Son
  • Jesus is both Christ and Lord
Interestingly, this summary focuses on the bookends of the Gospel, the royal birth and resurrection, as will the next summary.
3) According to 1 Timothy 2:8, the Gospel message is that:
  • Jesus is the Christ
  • Jesus was raised from the dead
  • Jesus was born in the line of David

It is important for us to see that these summaries are, well, summaries. Two of them reaching from birth to resurrection, thus highlighting the entire scope of what the Gospel truly is. Therefore, the Gospel is the whole story of the Messiah from his birth to teaching and miracles, his death, burial and resurrection that will establish Jesus as King, Judge, Lord and Saviour in God’s Kingdom.

The Gospels and Acts

No wonder Mark begins writing, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Mark wrote a Gospel. The content of the gospel is found in the Gospels. I asked the saints this past Sunday, “what is the Gospel?” I received a number of theologically correct answers, one of them being, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

Interestingly, listen to the way the apostles preached the Gospel in Acts; they included things like Jesus’ “mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him” (Acts 2:22), the return of Christ “whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things” (Acts 3:21), and “the baptism that John proclaimed [and] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:37-38). Of course, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of apostolic preaching, but biblical authors understood that focal point to be the climax of a gospel that is larger in its content.

Bringing it All Together: The Gospel

The Gospel is the announcement of the reign of God, though Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all. The core content includes:

  • Jesus’ royal birth secured his claim to the eternal throne promised to King David
  • Jesus’ miracles pointed to the presence of God’s kingdom in the person of His Messiah
  • Jesus’ teaching sounded the invitation of the kingdom and laid down its commands
  • Jesus’ sacrificial death atoned for sinners who repent and believe, and who would otherwise be condemned at the consummation of the kingdom
  • Jesus’ resurrection establishes him as the Son whom God has appointed Judge of the world and Lord of his coming kingdom (new creation)