Picture a sumo wrestler…an aging rock star…a mad professor…a spiritual person. What did you see? Mother Teresa? A Buddhist monk? The Archbishop of Canterbury? Yourself?
Here is a description of a Christian disciple.
It all begins, not with a set of instructions, but with a pronouncement of blessing. There are people who might be considered unfortunate, pitiable even. But they live under God’s favour. They are the luckiest people in the world.
Is it possible so to emphasise Jesus’ Great Commission that we neglect his stress on the Great Commandment to love our neighbours (second only to loving God with our entire beings)?
John Stott thought so. Here’s what he wrote about it:-
‘I venture to say that sometime, perhaps because it was the last instruction Jesus gave us before returning to the Father, we give the Great Commission too prominent a place in our Christian thinking. Please do not misunderstand me. …
‘In Christ alone’ (Stuart Townend and Keith Getty) is a fine Christian song.
But what about the words that stick in the throats of many:-
Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied.
Please don’t tell me you won’t sing these words because you unwilling to think or speak of God’s wrath, and wish to sing only of his love. The song as a whole does a great job in exploring the various dimensions of Christ’s death and resurrection. …
In Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know about Them), Bart D. Ehrman writes about one of his ‘favourite apparent discrepancies’ in John’s Gospel:-
It ‘comes in Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse,” the last address that Jesus delivers to his disciples, at his last meal with them, which takes up all of chapters 13 to 17 in the Gospel according to John. In John 13:36, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” A few verses later Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going” (John 14:5).…
So respected a New Testament Scholar as Douglas Moo writes that:-
‘Reconciliation can hardly be given a central place in Paul’s theology. The language is too infrequent and the concepts too undeveloped for such a judgment. It is better to view reconciliation as one image, among many others, that is used to capture something of the meaning of God’s act in Christ for us.’ (The Letter to the Romans, 2nd ed.)
I.H. Marshall, however, contends that the concept of reconciliation may be regarded as central to a biblical understanding of atonement:-
‘The mending of relationships both with God and with our fellow human beings is a central theme in the New Testament and especially in the writings of Paul.…
‘With God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26). ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ (Luke 1:37)
So why doesn’t God simply forgive sinners, without need of any atonement? Why can’t he just let bygones be bygones?
After all, he can do anything, can’t he?
Well, setting aside the obviously absurd (God cannot create a two-sided triangle), we note with Puritan Thomas Brooks that there are three things that God cannot do:- he cannot die; he cannot lie; and he cannot deny himself.…