Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: righteousness

Introduction to the New Testament – 1

The Gospels
Matthew – The writer calls himself Levi; the other gospels call him Matthew, perhaps a name given to him when he became a disciple of Jesus. He was a publican before his call, a man who collected taxes on all merchandise transported along the road where he was stationed near Capernaum. This was the first gospel, written while Matthew was in Jerusalem, probably between A.D. 60 and 66. He wrote for Jewish readers, mentioning throughout his gospel all the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and how they were fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Matthew gives the most complete version of the Sermon on the Mount in chapters five to seven. These three chapters are the key to understanding the transition from the old covenant of the law to the new covenant of the gospel. Righteousness is not outward conformity to the law, but a heartfelt love of God that leads to a life of purity and allows us to mirror His love for all people.

The gospel of Matthew is the only one to mention the Gentile women in the genealogy of Jesus and the only one to mention the Gentile Magi who came searching the newborn king of the Jews.

The most complete wording of the great commission is found at the end of Matthew’s gospel, instructing the followers of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples from every nation.

After writing the gospel Matthew went as missionary to Persia and Ethiopia, where he died as a martyr for the faith.

Mark – The author is John Mark, cousin of Barnabas, close friend of Peter and mission companion of Paul. This gospel was likely written shortly after Matthew’s and before the fall of Jerusalem.

The early church fathers stated that Mark’s gospel was written at Rome for Gentile believers and based on the memories of the apostle Peter. It is the shortest of the gospels and the most vivid, as would befit the recording of Peter’s eyewitness accounts. It is not concerned with the fulfilment of messianic prophecies, but with showing Jesus to be the incarnate Son of God living among men and women and by His death and resurrection making salvation available to all mankind.

It is generally believed that after writing the gospel Mark travelled to Egypt, founded the church at Alexandria and died there as a martyr.

Luke was born at Antioch, not of Jewish parents, and studied medicine. Little is known of his early life and conversion, but he appears in Acts as a companion of Paul.

He was not an eye-witness of the life of Jesus, but consulted those who were. One of those may have been Mary, the mother of our Lord. Luke includes her genealogy, the visit of Gabriel, Mary’s trip to her cousin Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, the visit of the shepherds, the meeting with Simeon and Anna in the temple and many other details of which she would have been the only surviving eyewitness.

Luke was a Gentile, and addressed his account to a Gentile. He compiled a history of the life of Jesus from the very first angelic messages of His birth. He strove for historical accuracy, linking events to the time of specific government officials. Luke differentiates himself from the other Gospels by putting events in chronological order, and from secular Greek histories by recording only reliable historical facts.

John – The gospel of John was the last one written. It is not really a history, dealing mostly with the last six months of Jesus’ life. Nor is it meant as a tool for evangelism, but rather for strengthening the faith of the church which already existed by that time. He supplies details missing in the earlier gospels and much teaching to cultivate the spiritual life of Christians.

John was possibly the youngest of the apostles and the only one who did not die a martyr. This gospel was probably written at Ephesus, where John lived and ministered for many years.

The opening passage of John’s gospel is a masterful statement of the Old Testament concept of the Word as being eternal and the active principle in Creation and can also be understood to take in the Greek concept of the Logos which gives coherence to all the universe. John goes on to state that this Word, or Logos, is God who made all things, who is life and light and who came to earth in the form of man and dwelt among men as one of them. This gospel contains the most explicit teaching on the new birth and on the Holy Spirit and demonstrates how it is only by knowing Jesus, the Creator, Lord and Saviour, that the created world makes any sense.

A holy appetite

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled

Here is something more than mere vacuity, or penitence, or tranquil readiness. It is an ardent longing — a holy appetite for all that is right and good.
Filled — The Gospel can fill the largest desire for the true good.

-Daniel Whedon

The weakness of the law – any kind of law

The confederate flag is disappearing all over the US South. That should make black folks feel more like they belong, shouldn’t it?

At least it’s a symbolic act, one that shows that racism should not have any part in a society that calls itself civilized. Yet I fear that Mr. Roof is symbolic of a deep-rooted attitude in many people that will not so easily be changed. The laws have already been changed and black people should have all the rights and privileges of other citizens, yet  —

He who is convinced against his will
Remains of the same opinion still.

A long time ago, the apostle Paul wrote: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He is even more emphatic in Galatians 2: 20-21 — “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

The law, and this applies to any kind of law, cannot make people good. Laws, teaching, indoctrination, law enforcement, all have their place in maintaining order in society. But it is only the transforming power of the blood of Jesus Christ that can erase jealousy, hated, bitterness and replace them by love.

The very idea of racism is contrary to Christian faith — there is only one human race, we are all descended from a common ancestor, we are all made in the image of God. The idea of there being different races of mankind originates with Charles Darwin, who taught that the white race was the most-favoured race and would prevail and eventually replace the other races in the struggle for survival. Not many people like to remember that, but he did teach it quite explicitly.

God makes no distinctions between people, why should we? Christians should be a model of how all the world should live. Can we follow the model of the world in making a difference between people without compromising the faith?

Context for apologetics

Happy are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12).

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers trials; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14).

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:14-15).

These verses describe the context in which we are apt to be called upon to give an answer (apologia) for the hope that is in us. It is when we encounter persecution, slander, reproaches and trials and we are able to maintain an attitude of peace, joy and happiness. That is sure to cause some questions. Perhaps they will not all be expressed, and some might even question our sanity, But if our attitude of happiness and joy is genuine and lasting it will bring questions.

Happiness that is put on as a mask will not have the same effect. The mask will eventually slip; in many cases it will be obvious from the beginning that it is phony. My wife and I attended the wedding of one of her friends, the preacher had a big grin pasted on his face through the whole proceedings. My wife finally leaned over and whispered, “I bet he would wear that same stupid grin if he were preaching a funeral service.”

Our happiness must be the genuine thing, a supernatural happiness that is the gift of the Holy Ghost, or we will have no answer to give. We are not apt to be questioned about our hope either if we do not have a genuine and living hope.

Thus the primary qualification for doing apologetics is to be a real Christian. And if we are a real Christian, we do not have to fear being asked a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. Note those last words that the apostle adds. It is not up to us to convince someone by the force of our arguments; we only have to speak of that which we have received from God, with gentle assurance.

Obeying the Great Commission in a time of persecution

This is my only joy and the desire of my heart, that I may extend the borders of the kingdom of God, make known the truth, reprove sin, teach righteousness, feed the hungry souls with the word of the Lord, lead the stray sheep to the right path, and win many souls for the Lord through His Spirit, power and grace.

-Menno Simons

To this end we preach as much as opportunity and possibility affords, both in daytime and by night, in houses and in fields, in forests and wildernesses, in this land and abroad, in prison and bonds, in water, fire and the scaffold, on the gallows, and upon the wheel, before lords and princes, orally and by writing at the risk of possessions and life, as we have done these many years without ceasing.

-Menno Simons

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