Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just Believe (pt 2)

John 5:17-24 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (18) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Last week we discussed the foundational nature of faith in Christ; that intangible underpinning of the elect. We discussed Romans 10:9 & Matt. 10:32; we established that the good confession spoken of is not a cause of salvation, but an effect. Sincere faith in Christ will always elicit confession of Christ; otherwise such faith is insincere & lacking. Jesus held up child-like faith (& humility) as the emblematic goal in Matt. 18:3; conversely, a faith that remains silent is instead childish & immature. Jesus allowed Satan the opportunity to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31-34). Peter’s ensuing thrice denial of Christ gave the apostle blessed proof that, contrary to his own understanding, his faith was not yet mature. His silence delineated the humble confines of his faith.

We put forward the idea that faith, while intangible, is not necessarily unquantifiable. To some extent, we can measure it by examining what is palpable- the signs that “accompany those who believe”.

Mark 16:16-18 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (17) And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; (18) they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Note, as with Romans 10:9, it seems at first glance that a work has been given to us in order accomplish our salvation. There was no mention of a baptism as intrinsically salvific in last week’s quotation of John 3:18. If the nature of salvation both commenced & concluded with Mark 16:16a, as some in the church would lead us believe, then we would be pressed to immediately conduct a baptism after every conversion to Christ to finish the deed. But Jesus contrarily informed us, as He breathed His last on that day- “It is finished”. No work of man augments the work of God unto the glorious miracle of our salvation. The Father commenced the work of our salvation the blessed day He gave His Son unto the world & the Son concluded the work the day He suffered the weight of the world’s sins.

No, the statement “whoever believes and is baptized” is shown by John 3:16-18, 5:24, 6:40-47, 20:31, et al to merely add an attending sign to the bedrock of a belief in Christ’s work alone to save us. Indeed, that is further shown by the omission of “baptized” in verse 16b; the text does not declare “whoever does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned” now does it? Mention of the attendant sign is herein removed because it is not, in any way, a cause for our salvation. Again, it is only an effect that pours forth from so great a salvation.

But the corporate take on Scripture shows too that the “accompanying signs” listed thereafter in Mark 16 are neither all-inclusive nor all-exclusive. These are some of the evidential signs of the corporate body of believers; they are not demanded of each individual. As with the sign of baptism, there are some in the church that would like to shout over the testimony given by Paul in 1st Corinthians 12, demanding that all believers must proceed to speak in tongues, heal the sick, or test God’s patience by purposely drinking deadly potions & handling venomous snakes. While baptism is shown to be a universal sign for believers by Romans 6:3-5, clearly Paul states that is not the case for many other signs:

1 Cor. 12:4-11, 27-30 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; (5) and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; (6) and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (7) To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (8) For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, (9) to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, (10) to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (11) All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills… (27) Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (28) And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (30) Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
(31) But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Take note of all the “to anothers” Paul mentions as he speaks of us as corporately (& temporarily) the material body of Christ on this earth. Jesus Christ said to us “follow me” & gave us the promise that we would indeed do “greater works” (quantifiably), but these “works” are shown by John 14:12 to follow belief. No one person will be exalted (by the Spirit) as a sole vicar (Latin vicarius- "substitute”) of Jesus Christ & thus steal the spotlight from justifiably illuminating the one & only Son of God.

But the “still more excellent way” Paul speaks of is his lead into the greatest “sign” of them all- the way of an undeserved, yet unmitigated love. In the next precious 13 verses, Paul downplays the signs that draw the massive hype & egos for perhaps the most illustrative sign of Christ’s saving presence in the believer: a warrantless sort of affection for another.

Jesus told us that a love that simply responds to the love of another is nothing special & is quite common in man (Luke 6:32), but 1John 4:10 tells of a higher initiating type of love that comes from God alone.

We come to believe in Jesus as he reveals to us the certainties of a penalty for sin & Christ’s payment of that penalty for His children. At this point in our walk, our love for God & man is nothing special, it is simply responding to God’s initiating (agape) love. It is only as we press on, exercising the faith we have been given, that the sign of His “agape” manner of love begins to be seen. The “work(ing) out (of our) own salvation” begins with such signs as the “every tongue confess(ing) Jesus Christ as Lord” (Phil. 2:11-12). Make no mistake, the causative work of salvation was performed by Christ alone and, again, the “work” called for here is not causal unto salvation, but effectual from salvation. Introversive love reveals a repressed faith. Extroversive love is from thoroughly exercised faith. Paul is demanding that we join with him in “press(ing) on toward the goal” (3:14) in faith towards the likeness of Christ’s perfection. Agape affection is the ultimate effect of the exertion of the measure of faith we have been given. And it is then, when we exercise all we have, that more may be given to the “good & faithful servant” (Matt. 25:14ff).


MrsEvenSo... said...

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

So, what do you think the "higher gifts" are?

MrsEvenSo... said...

Or should I say, what do you think Paul's meaning is?