Category Archives: Church

Apostolic Faith

I am in the process of reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  by Dr. Donald Whitney and I was reminded yesterday of the importance of not only Scripture memorization but of meditation as well. I have allowed both of these two disciplines fall by the wayside over the last year and decided that this morning would be different. I would both meditate and seek to memorize Scripture. I’m glad I did because through meditation on God’s Word, I noticed two great truths, one of which I will write about tomorrow. The other is the topic of today’s blog.

The second bout of meditation came because of my attempt to memorize Scripture. My daughter is trying to memorize all of 2 Peter for her Bible Quizzing competition, so I thought why not do it with her. In all transparency, I was supposed to be doing it with her a while ago. So I opened up to 2 Peter 1 to memorize the first verse. Here it is in the ESV: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” What a verse!

Unlike 1 Peter, we don’t know where this letter was headed. The only addressees are those who have obtained a faith of equal standing. One could rightly say that any and every believer is the recipient of this letter from Peter. There are certain words that need to be focused on in this short verse: 1 – Obtained, 2 – equal standing, and 3 – by.

Obtained

The first word that we need to let sink deep into our souls is the word obtained. It could also mean received. But this is not the usual word in the Greek for receiving something. This word means to receive by lot. As the New American Commentary on 2 Peter states, “Zechariah obtained by lot the privilege of offering incense in the temple (Luke 1:9). Roman soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ garment (John 19:24). Judas was appointed to serve in an apostolic ministry (Acts 1:17). In each instance receiving something by lot is a give that one receives,” (p. 285). That isn’t to say that it was by sheer luck that this faith came to people. Remember what the Proverb states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD, (16:33, ESV; italics mine).

What does all this mean? That if you are a believer you have become one by divine decision. As Peter Davids wrote in the Pillar New Testament Commentary on 2 Peter, it “thus indicates that faith is something that God has given them, a favor from tehir heavenly patron,” (p. 162). You obtained your faith. You didn’t conjure it up out of no where. While some would find this as bad news, this is absolutely fantastic news. If faith relied upon me to develop, I’d be waiting for eternity. There are so many dry seasons in life, so many painful moments, so many losses and broken dreams that my faith would be non-existent. Yet God has granted me faith. I have obtained it from God, not myself, and for that reason, though storms or droughts may come, my faith shall continue, not because of my strength, but because of His.

Equal Standing

Here is the meat of my meditation. This faith is of equal standing with the apostles’ faith. Another way of saying it is that it is of equal honor. We tend to see the apostles as those with faith that is better or bigger than our own. That may be somewhat true, only in that the apostles faced circumstances that grew their faith that we may not ever experience. But bigger does not mean more valuable. Stronger does not mean more blessings. Peter wanted to assure his readers that their faith was just as valuable to God as Peter’s or Paul’s or John’s or any of the other apostles.

Here is why I think it is just as valuable. The value of faith is not based upon who is believing, but upon who is being believed upon. Since Jesus is the object of our faith and since God has granted the faith to us (thus both originally from and going back to the Godhead), the faith of the believer–an believer–is equal to the faith of any other believer. We shall not receive less blessings or privileges than others. As Tim Keller once said and many before him, “It is not the strength of your faith, but the object of your faith that actually saves you.” And I would add “and by which your receive all your spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (cf. Eph 1:3).

Do you realize, fellow-believer, that your faith is on equal standing, equally honorable, as that of the apostles. The faith that they obtained was no greater, no more valuable, no more stronger than yours. As Peter wrote in his first letter, “In this you rejoice (that God has given you faith unto salvation), though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV). We see the apostles’ faith as greater or bigger or more valuable, but in reality it is shinier. The dross has been removed and it shimmers and shines. Trials removed the dross and impurities that this fallen world and fallen bodies have mixed within it. We all want the apostolic faith, and we have it, but what we don’t have yet is the shine. Only trials will bring the shine as they remove the dross. But let us remember that the faith we have, they too had, no more, no less.

By

The last word is the word “by.” This faith again comes by our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Specifically by His righteousness. There is debate as to what this phrase means apparently. I originally took it to mean that God’s grace came through the righteousness of Christ and because of His righteousness we were granted faith. That is one idea. The other is that righteousness here means fair or just. Thus in Jesus’ fairness, we are each given an equal standing of faith. I say, why can’t it be both!?

Jesus is equitable; He’s fair, but He is also gracious. He willingly and graciously gave of His righteous standing a equal standing of faith. Because this faith is by His righteousness, we cannot lose it any more than He could lose His righteousness. There may and probably will be times when our faith is weak, but that doesn’t make it less valuable and it doesn’t make it cease to exist. As Paul stated to the Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (1:6, ESV).

In conclusion, the faith that we have, it is from God by the gracious and fair righteousness of Christ. It is just as valuable and honored as that of the apostles whom we tend to look at as giants in the faith. Let us know that God will be removing impurities and shining and buffing this faith that he has given to us. It is part of the process. Jesus is going to present us, “holy and blameless and above reproach,” (Col 1:22) and “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” (Eph 5:27). May it be so, and may God grant the strength along with the trials.

The Ingredients for Evangelism

D. T. Niles once said, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”[1] If Jesus Christ is the Bread of life, then we who were once in need of that life now have the ability to tell others where it is to be found. But let’s face it, there’s no table with which we can point and say, “The bread’s over there.” I would more liken evangelism to baking bread than telling where bread is. Baking is much more difficult than pointing. There are ingredients when one bakes bread. Having done it many times, I know that flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter are typically the least amount of ingredients necessary. Of course, there’s the kneading of the dough before it bakes. In evangelism, there are probably just as many ingredients that go into it.

  • First prayer. Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, that it was the power of the Holy Spirit that would come upon them to be His witnesses. That power is utilized greatest through prayer. Prayer gives a heart for evangelism to the evangelism. It also softens the heart of the one who is to hear.
  • There is an understanding of the gospel itself. If the evangelist doesn’t understand the gospel rightly then he cannot speak it plainly. Jesus explained the gospel in Luke 24:46-47, “And [he] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem,” (ESV). The gospel is that man has sinned against God and that Jesus suffered, died, and rose again for all who would trust in him and repent of their sins. Those who believe will have their sins forgiven.
  • There is courage upon the part of the evangelist. Evangelism is not an easy task, but again we have the power of the Holy Spirit, but beyond that we have Christ Himself. As Matthew recorded his words, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (28:20c, ESV).
  • As silly as it may sound, there needs to be the evangelized. That seems to go without saying. Yet, this is often the missing ingredient. By that I simply mean that many Christians don’t know anyone to tell about Jesus. Like the baker who goes to his refrigerator to grab eggs and suddenly realizes she has none, so the Christian is who finally becomes determined to proclaim the gospel. There’s no one to tell. This has to change within the church.
  • Which leads to the next ingredient; there must be a heart—a passion—for the lost person. Spurgeon wrote, “When you know how to carry a man on your heart, and have felt the burden of his case, you will have his name engraven upon your soul.”[2] Theodore Roosevelt is given credit with coining the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is true. Does the evangelist care about the person with whom he speaks, or is there no earnestness in the soul or in the lips?
  • Still another ingredient is time. While it is easy to give a tract to someone and it takes little time to do so. That is not exactly evangelism in its fullest sense of the word. The one who desires to evangelize needs to set aside time to talk to others. Like anything else, it must be planned on doing. Other moments, events, or druthers will crowd out evangelism if one is not intentional.
  • Finally, I would say that there needs to be determination. While one needs to be sure to make time to evangelize, one also needs to be determined to evangelize. How easy is it to go out for a cup of coffee and start chatting things up and never actually get to the gospel? How often does one know the calling to evangelize and yet haphazardly thinks that they will get around to it one day? Determination is a key ingredient.

After all these ingredients are mixed together, one has a good base-bread. Depending on the individual and where he/she is in their spiritual walk, will depend on extra ingredients. Sourdough bread takes the same base-bread ingredients as French bread, but there are other ingredients that go into each. The same will be for individuals. There is no cookie-cutter way of evangelizing and we cannot expect one way to work with everyone. That being said, be patient. Let the dough rise. Knead it here and there when appropriate, but give it time for the ingredients to meld and the yeast to rise before trying to bake it. Sometimes the lost is close already to receiving Christ, sometimes they are not. We must be careful; almost always there will be some hint of what happened with Peter in Acts 2. After preaching the gospel, the people, “heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do,” (v. 37, ESV)? If the Spirit is truly convicting the lost person, they will respond. Then we can finish baking.

Okay, enough with the metaphor. Jesus is the bread and not the actual work of evangelism. But if one is not clear as to what evangelism is, people may tend to think that “just talking about Jesus” is evangelism. There is definitely more to it than that. There is a lot that goes into the prepping, the evangelism itself, and the aftermath. Jesus told us not only to share the good news, but to make sure that in that we are also discipling—developing the new convert to live a life worthy of his/her calling beginning with baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). So perhaps being a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread is technically true, I find it leaves a lot of questions as to how exactly that happens. I hope this helped at least a smidge.

[1] Quoted by Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism is. . . How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville: B&H Academic Publishing, 2010), 55.

[2] Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1961), 181.