Tag Archives: Jesus

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 Great Commissions of the Bible

If one were to stop and think through what evangelism is, having only the “Great Commission” passages, he would probably come up with something to the effect of: By Christ’s authority and by the power of Holy Spirit, we are commanded to go into all the world, teaching and so proclaiming to every person in God’s creation that Christ was to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day for the remission of sins upon the repentance and faith of the sinner, baptizing the new convert and teaching them to live in a manner worthy of their calling, taking upon ourselves the very mantle of Jesus.

This means that Christ has the authority not only to send us out as evangelists, but that He has the authority to give us lost souls to save. As with Paul who having been threatened by the Jewish leadership was told by Christ Himself: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people,” (Acts 18:9-10, ESV). In these two verses, we see Jesus’s authority commanding Paul to keep speaking and His authority by proclaiming there were many still yet to come to faith.

Yet, it is also done in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon wrote, “Dependence upon God is our strength, and our joy: in that dependence let us go forth, and seek to win souls for Him.”[1] Without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in believers’ lives and the lives of the lost to regenerate their souls, they are helpless and weak.

In one’s evangelism effort, there is not to be one stone left unturned. As believers, each ethnicity or people group is to be evangelized, and no believer is to be prejudice toward any, but are to proclaim the truth of the gospel, and upon the convert’s repentance and faith, baptize them into the fellowship that is Christ’s church. But according to the “Great Commission” passages, the job does not end at baptism, but continues as the evangelizer teaches and builds them up in their faith so that they are not those who fall away due to trials, tribulations, or the of this world.

This is a command. As Dave Early wrote, “The word commission is a military term meaning ‘an authoritative order, charge, or direction.’ . . .The one disobeying the commission would be subject to court martial.”[2] Thus there is a seriousness within the commission. It is not a suggestion, nor is it to be taken lightly.

If one were to look at the five passages in question, he would see that there are similarities but also differences in each one as to how the church is to live out the commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told His followers to go in to all the world. The same would be true in Mark and Luke as well. But in Matthew, one reads that he is to make disciples and baptize the converts. He does not leave room for Savior only theology as he instructs His followers to teach them to observe everything He commands.

In Mark 16:15, one simply reads she is to proclaim the gospel. Like all of Mark, this is a very succinct verse. When one gets to Luke, the definition of the gospel comes through: the Christ must suffer, die, and rise again for the remission of sins. This then strengthens the doctrine of the church as to what the gospel is and what it is not. What is vital to actually evangelize and what is simply information-swapping.

As one reads John recording Jesus’s words that He is sending His followers just as He was sent (cf. John 20:21), one sees that Jesus was the example of how the commission was to acted upon. One is to spend time with those who are lost. One is to have a heart for those who are like sheep without a shepherd. One’s mission in life is to win souls to Jesus. That can only be done by testifying as to who Jesus is and showing what He has done, as read in Acts 1:8.

None of these verses get the full picture of evangelism in and of themselves, but read in light of each other, the church gains an understanding of the action she is commissioned to take. That being said, if I had to pick only one of these five passages, I would have to choose Luke 24:46-47 as the gospel is clearly delineated within those two verses. There is the mention of repentance and the remission of sin by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.

What are your thoughts on the Great Commission passages (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8)? Did I get anything wrong? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments section; I’d love to hear from you.

[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1981) 39.

[2] Dave Early and David Wheeler, Evangelism is. . . How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville: B & H Academic Publishing Group, 2010), 21.