Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Survey of the Fundamentals of Discipleship

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

"Hold fast the form of sound words, . . .." 2 Timothy 1:13.

"Fundamentals" strike terror in the heart of educated liberals. Liberalism and humanism preach that there are no moral absolutes. But like it or not, there are. To live are absolutes within absolutes! In one’s blood. In one’s food. There are well over 200 "fundamentals" or absolutes without which men can not live within the conditions of the Earth. The same can be said about all the elements of life and anything that functions.

Discipling also has fundamental principles that must be understood and used. Without these basics, discipling will be aborted, deformed, incomplete, or only something that hasn't worked under a previous name.

Discipling involves fundamental attitudes and functions to accomplish its designed goal of spiritual reproduction. These functions have different applications with varying degrees of effectiveness.

They vary according to the needs and difficulties of those involved. Working with literate or illiterate people differ only as to the means of getting spiritual truths into their understanding. These goals work towards increasing obedience stimulated by cultivating their faith. This applies whether the discipler uses literature distribution, one–on–one methods or group study with lecture and/or directed discussion.

1. Discipling must be a conviction and not a fad.

Many practice and view the discipling as a fad.

To them discipling is something new and novel. When this happens most often they are not following the fundamentals of discipling as found in the Word of God. Their decision to use discipling comes from other motivations such as: stimulated new interest in learning, or for increasing attendance, or as something that they have heard other churches are doing. Because of this their program of discipling will fade away just as other fad projects fade away.

The primary motivation for discipleship must be obedience to the Lord. For the command to make disciples is prefaced by Christ is citing his complete authority in heaven and on Earth. In Matthew 28:18,". .all power (literally authority)" comes from the Greek word authority indicating what He is in His person and office. For the person who is considering the command to make disciples, it must come from his faith in who Jesus is.

He must consider Jesus is Emmanuel, God in the flesh, His High Priest who offered himself as a sacrifice for man's sins, then as Intercessor in heaven, as the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords to him, then as the one to whom all must give an account as to what your stewardship of God's Word has been? These are powerful considerations, shows a person has to made when Jesus said in Matthew 28:16– 20. This must be a conviction.! This stewardship will be a first order of consideration before Jesus' Judgment Seat!

Conviction is necessary from a practical standpoint. Because while salvation comes as an act of faith, i.e., - dependence upon God's promises, commands, and faithfulness. Discipleship is difficult because it involves not only the discipling teacher's obedience of faith, but developing the same in others. This is one reason why Jesus promised to be with those who faithfully practice discipleship (Matt 28:20). As Jesus said in John 15:5 “. . without me you can do nothing.”

This basic motivation of obedience to the Lord and His complete "authority in heaven and on Earth" (Matthew 28:18) is to demonstrate the kind of love Jesus says is accepted before Him and God the Father: For He said:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

(John 14:21 NASU)

This is reinforced by His successive statement in verse 24: "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.” (John 14:24 NASU).

An added observation is that the wording "all authority" is the only place where He used these words.

The first step of obedience in spiritual warfare

This is to know and be yielded to do his will completely[1]. The proof of our salvation is loving obedience motivated by faith[2]. Love for His person is an essential part of a saving relationship: “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Cor 16:22 NKJV).

Faith counts God and his testimony to be true which is the foundation of spiritual life: "He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.” (John 3:33)[3].

To possess these realities the Lord declared that believers must prove their faith by continuing in His Word's ministry (John 8:31, 32).

Only on this basis would they experience freedom from the dominion of sin and have enablement to fulfill His will. When this relationship with the Lord and His Word delivers one from a lifestyle of sin and self will Jesus finally accept believers as “truly disciples of Mine." (John 8:31, 32).

2. Personal Involvement.

As their discipler, Paul likens the relationship between him and his disciples to a being parent. He was following the Lord’s example who gave the experience of personal involvement.

First, He humbled Himself, becoming Emmanuel, God with us in a physical body. As a human, He experienced human frailties. He became fatigued, became hungry and thirsty, He experienced bodily pain, He experienced disappointments and restraint, and finally death and desertion. He experienced the excitement of human desires to enjoy, to contemplate.

He experienced the satanic temptations to be more than the limits He set in creating man. He set the great example of caring for human needs. He even gave them an example of personal involvement by washing their feet. He taught them by living with His twelve disciples and close associates. He taught them in the context of their circumstances.

His discipling ministry was most clearly seen with the Twelve, and also with those who follow Him[4]. He counted them as friends and, as such, confided in them (John 15:15). Their inner acting relationship was one of love. As such, He held up His example of love as the standard for His command to His disciples to love each other (John 13:34, 35).

Secondly, as a family, they shared their lives together under His parental watch care. He came as a Son working with His Father in the family enterprise.

In John 20:21, the Lord Jesus told the Apostles to go as the Father sent Him. While He had a wide public ministry of preaching and evangelizing, and making disciples, which characterized His ministry (John 4:1, 2). This sets the example for believing disciples to minister (1 John 1:3).

As in a family, personally involved applications to disciples’ progress must be monitored to discern remedial, adjustment, and special opportunity needs. In order to fully utilize the fundamentals, the discipler must discern when to use what kind of teaching and exhortation to fulfill Christ’s Commandments[5]. The Lord Jesus and the Apostles dealt with people according to their spiritual condition[6].

Some teachers are mature enough to do this without tests or measuring instruments, but most just think they can. They violate the principle of personal involvement. Most don't take the time to get to know their disciples well enough. So their information fails to be sufficient, making their judgment defective.

Insufficient information leads to hasty generalizations and inadequate guidance. This especially applies to short term counseling. Others, like pilots that don't use a check off list, discover that they have overlooked some details of real importance, to the endangerment of those they serve. For this reason I have constructed The Investment Log and Planning Guide with three analytical charts. The information must be applied to a worksheet to plan ongoing discipling in light of thought out observations. I got this concept from Rus Korth, former Southeastern Representative of the Navigators.

3. Defining according to goals

However, these discipling fundamentals must be defined in the light of their goals. Too many undertake discipling to maintain attendance, to improve the quality of life, to reproduce spiritual life, or to achieve full reconciliation with the Lord.

However, the greatest reason must come from the Lord's commandment in His Great Commission (Matt 28:16–20). The same can be said about fields of service, baptism, teaching, and group interaction.

In all of this, discipling must be characterized as personal involvement, because it must achieve the personal involvement of family. For the reconciled become God’s family. Yet without using the foundational goals the Lord designed into discipling, these good secondary goals will be like a house without a foundation or a bathtub without a stopper[7].

4. Evangelism Is Not Complete without Basic Discipling

The Lord Jesus, while tentatively accepting the faith of Jews, who had just come to believe in Him, told them that they needed a further ministry from His Word: to be ". . truly

disciples of Mine;." He said that they needed to find freedom from the ignorance of sin and to experience release from sin's domination through faith in Him[8].

Most of the Epistles were written to stabilize the faith of those who were evangelized earlier, especially in Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, and First John. Also, Paul went on his second missionary journey for this reason (Acts 15:36).

Indeed, the Council of the Apostles and the Jerusalem Church was convened because legalism had caused doubt that Gentiles could be saved by faith without Mosaic Law observance[9].

Goals of Discipling

3. To develop obedience of faith:

To faithfully relate to Jesus as one’s Great Shepherd and discipling teacher – "He calls, I follow." John 10:10, 27.

The basic goal of discipling is to stimulate obedience by cultivating faith into the character of disciples[10]. The lack of obedience of faith, as a ruling attitude, is the single greatest reason discipling failures.

Associated with this is the lack of many pastors and teachers of doing basic study of key passages in the original Greek text. Without checking the Greek text, how can the individual be confronted with Christ's commandment to disciple? How can he accept discipling as a stewardship? In effect he can not have the attitude of unconditional commitment to every Word of God, because he is a slave to a translation.

The Lord Jesus sanctified the authority of the original by saying even the smallest Hebrew letters of the Old Testament Law could not pass away, until fulfilled through His redemptive ministry. Must not believers hold the inspired Greek text of the New Testament just as authoritative. Meditate on Revelation 22:19. Translations are translations and can only have the force of how well they reflect original inspired text.

Challenge of Effort

If helps available to study the original text are used, anyone of normal intelligence and commitment to what the Apostles actually wrote, can discover the added emphasis Lord Jesus placed on the command to make disciples. For they would have their attention drawn to His citation of complete authority as the context to His command to make disciples (Matt 28:18). He made this emphasis because He knew that since spiritual leaders are so often distracted, having so many things to do. They tend to focus on the easier and short term to the neglect of the more difficult and longer term fundamentals (Luke 11:42). Discipling requires more time than evangelism or enrolling people in Sunday School. Therefore, the Lord commands discipling by making it an issue of their relation to His Person. This can be seen from the entomology of Greek word, "power" in the KJV and "authority" elsewhere.

Opposition of Tradition

Causes abound for unresponsiveness to the Lord's command to disciple. One of the chief barriers of responding to Scripture through the ages, both in Israel and the Church, is tradition.

One benefit of the interdenominational movement has been the setting aside of the divisive traditions. However, in doing so even the consideration of what the Scripture says about these issues are often dismissed. Although not the only reason, zeal for traditional understandings led Israel to crucify their Savior, just as nations with State Churches have murdered reformers.

The Word of God commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures to verify the correctness of the Apostle Paul's teaching (Acts 17:11). The Apostles command verification of truth as a way of life (1 Thess 5:21;1 John 4:1). He even says that diligence in correctly interpreting Scripture gains God's approval (2 Tim 2:15).

However, even in Jesus day, some believers could not shake the hold of traditionalism to confess Christ (John 19:38). Even more, many are just not willing to seek truth enough to find it (James 1:5–8). Too many are not diligent enough to look up the English words, let alone the words of Hebrew and Greek to be more sure of correctly interpreting God's Word. They just accept the traditional teachings of their particular group.

A lack of diligence in Bible study by not considering the original words of Scripture important enough to dig out their full meaning. This makes leaders slaves to tradition. In countries where helps are available, the dedicated student can do this by using a dictionary, exhaustive concordance, or lexicon. Without this, tradition has been allowed to hide the commandment with all authority in Heaven and on Earth to make disciples

In the case of The Great Commission (Matt 28:16– 20), a part of the problem of giving unreserved obedience to Christ’s command cannot be done without noticing the difference between "teach" of the KJV in verse 19 and the "teaching" in verse 20.

The "teaching" (didascw) of verse 20 has to do with conveying information by words and reasoning for the purpose of teaching to apply truth to one's lifestyle. As Jesus put it ". . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded . . ." While "teach" (maqhteuw) of verse 19 means to make disciples, i.e., to give the believer the internal motivation of the disciple's self concept.

The Motivating Power of Self Concept

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is." (Prov 23:7). Everyone has a self concept. One's self concept is how one conceives of what that one is in relation to his environment. It determines what his basic orientation and direction of change is. Christian marriage furnishes one of the most common and yet dramatic illustrations of how a change in self concept changes conduct and development. Godly people find entirely different roles and lifestyles from what they had before marriage or conversion took place.

All of us have observed in the classroom great differences between students’ accomplishments even though they have the same basic intelligence. Some only endure being in the classroom, others seemed at home and find fulfillment in being a student. The difference? Self concept. The ones that accept the role of being students generally succeed. The ones that think of themselves as students act like students. They find fulfillment developing through their studies.

This is why the Lord Jesus commanded the Apostles to make disciples for him ". . . unto the end of the age." By doing so, they built the Church as a fellowship of disciples (Acts 11:26). Disciples find fulfillment in learning to live as disciples. In doing so, they first find freedom and peace from the power of inbred sin, and “. . with all joy and peace in believing . .” (Rom 15:13 NASU). This is a peace in the acknowledgment of being “. . accepted in the beloved.” (Eph 1:6 KJV) and glorifying Him in reaching others in evangelism and discipling them (Mt 28:18-20). Who will find peace and fulfillment being reconciled to God. in order to fulfill God's purpose in training and redeeming them. In the New Testament, water baptism was the point of demarcation of living as a disciple.

What a Disciple's Self Concept Is.

What then is the disciple's self concept? The Greek word for disciple is mathētḗs. Its most frequent Greek use describes disciples as apprentices. We call this type of learning on–the–job training. The disciple becomes a part of his teacher’s activity, whether business, manufacturing, or philosophical school, for the purpose of learning and practicing the teacher's knowledge, skills, and lifestyle. Without a teacher that trains them, there is no disciple[11]. However, the teacher usually has several others in his activity, so new disciples were in group contexts, and from those, the teacher may choose to supervise or tutor him.

To Promote the Teacher’s Doctrine and Reputation

The disciple remains under his teacher's authority until the teacher's knowledge and skill is reproduced in him and he is practicing what he has learned. This is how the Greek philosophers, crafts, and citizenship were preserved. Because of this training, the teacher's reputation was attached to his disciple. This principle begins in its Christian application in the waters of baptism: "baptizing them in (the Greek eis: into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..."

A study on Moses’ organization of this role reveals a very similar methodology. His plan used the priests, leaders, and the family as discipling relationships (Deut 6:1–12). The training of Samuel illustrates a discipling relationship outside physical family dissent. But during the Exodus, Moses used captains over groups as small as 10 as one means of teaching the people to observe the ways and commandments of God in living situations (Exodus 18:16–22). Indeed, those who profess to be Moses strictest followers, the Pharisees, called them selves disciples of Moses (John 9:28).

Much more could be said, but Christ asserted His complete authority to emphasize His command to make disciples to the end of the Church age. Therefore, obeying The Great Commission becomes a measure of one's faith response to Christ's Person and office. To be practiced as a stewardship, discipling demands a fundamental commitment to the Lord. Being a committed disciple of Christ becomes an expression of obedience of faith (John 10:27; 8:31–36; Rom 1:5).

Acknowledgment Is Not Obedience

Acknowledging that The Great Commission calls for the making of disciples does not constitute obedience. Many speak of discipling as an "ought to" but make little effort to investigate the "why to," and the "how to" or the "get it done."

4. Discipling’s Scope Is Spiritual Reproduction

The Lord Jesus commanded mature disciples to make disciples that make disciples unto the end of the age (Matt 28:16–20). This does not mean that everyone must become a leadership disciple. For in the New Testament Church, members are given spiritual gifts and callings that differ from one another (Rom 12:3–8).

Spiritual reproduction must first experience maturity in character, knowledge, and use of the Scriptures, and secondarily in spiritual gifts (Rom 12:1–21) and callings of functions (Eph 4:11–16; Acts 13: 1–4). For instance, older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2:3–5). The scope starts with reaching the lost, and has plans within its curriculum the ability to reproduce leadership disciples that serve even as missionaries (2 Tim 2:2; Acts 14:14).

5. Disciples Must Carry the Disciple's Cross for an Exchanged Life.

"And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." Luke 9:23–25.

The Disciple's Cross Is the Disciples Appropriating Lifestyle

These words "come after me," and "follow me" describes the lifestyle of a disciple at whatever level of maturity (Luke 14:27). It is exercising obedient faith of following Christ in ways that give progressive fulfilment. The Disciple's Cross are principles of faith that exchange natural life for Christ's life. The believer does this by exercising his soul life with the disciple’s lifestyle. There are seven basic principles of the disciple’s lifestyle: sacrifice (Luke 9:23, 24); faith reckoning (Rom 6:11, 13, 16; Matt 28:19); study (Matt 11:28–30; 28:20; 2 Tim 2:2, 15); reproduction (Matt 28:16–20; 2 Tim 2:2); faith responsiveness (John 10:27; Rom 8:14); love (John 13:34, 35); and prayer (Luke 18:1; James 1:5–8; 5: 10, 15). This lifestyle functions best in a fellowship of disciples and/or a discipled Local Church (Acts 11:26; 14:21–23; 1 Tim 3:15;Heb 13:7, 17).

In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul testified of his matured experience of being a disciple (Acts 9:26–28) as he finished the experience of carrying The Disciple's Cross: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

6. Discipling Involves Accountability.

In John 20:21, the Lord sent His disciples in the same way that the Father had sent Him. In the course of His redemptive work of the Lord made so many disciples that the Jewish leaders became alarmed and planned His death (John 4:1; Matt 27:18). He would test His disciples in order to expand their spiritual life and trust in Him (Matt 16:13–20; John 6:6). He was recognized as a teacher in the style of a Rabbi. In the Rabbinic style of teaching a Scripture passage would be read, the teacher would make his comments, allow questions, and discussion (Luke 2:46, 47; 4:16–22; Acts 14:14–45). When people became disciples, the pastors were held responsible to hold their disciple's accountable to God's truth as a means of guiding their growth in knowledge, faith, and spiritual life[12] .

7. The Small Group Dynamic.

This dynamic was in operation long before discipling became a common method of training in New Testament times. The family was the first small group that God established. One of its chief purposes was reproduction, and was not confined to the physical aspect. While there was just Adam and Eve Adam did one–on–one teaching to Eve. The use and prohibitions of the Garden of Eden were given to Adam before Eve was created, she also had to be taught the names of the animals Adam had given them.

However, some small group learning as a family began when children were born. One reason that God chose Abraham was that God knew he would teach his children to observe God's ways (Gen 18:17–19). From the prayer of Abraham's chief servant, we can conclude that he taught the ways of God to his household as well, which was a small group.

Moses also used small groups as a means of teaching and enforcing God's Law. Not only was the family responsible to teach[13], but Moses organized Israel into group divisions as small as ten (Ex 18:25).

Even though the word disciple and a large part on the methodology of discipling came through the Greeks, yet, in the Gospel era discipling was practiced by many and was a part of the Jewish system (John 9:28). Discipling in small groups was an essential method of Jewish teaching. While teaching was done by lecture in the Synagogues, discussion among themselves with questioning the teacher was also a part. Relative to the Temple worship, Synagogues were small groups. The Synagogues functioned as the weekly place of worship and spiritual instruction for the people as a whole. However, for further training, still smaller groups were used to train Rabbis and leaders (Acts 22:3).

From Matthew 28:16–20, the Lord Jesus gave the responsibility for making and training disciples to mature and trained men, i.e., the Eleven Disciples, soon to be Apostles. Further, the process was to be continued until the end of the age. Therefore, from 2 Timothy 2:2 and the practice of the Apostolic Church, subordinate teachers were to continue the discipling process[14].

From 1 Corinthians 14:24–33; Hebrews 10:24, 25; 13:7, 17, this interactivity of learning and exhortation can only be done in small groups. The fact that homes were used exclusively for Church meetings indicates that the life of disciples were in relatively small groups. The large meetings spoken of in Acts were almost always for evangelistic purposes (Acts 2).

God's gift of mature and gifted men has the purpose of using every part of the Church to become a self edifying organism[15]. From observing what the Apostle Paul wrote about his associates, 2 Timothy 2:2 could describe the way they worked together in a self edifying relationship. Paul would teach the small group usually, but while he was teaching the group, Timothy would be learning by observation, and later through Paul’s one–on–one critiquing and teaching. The result was that Paul could instruct him through following his example. In a number of instances, where Paul could not go himself, he would send Timothy to do what was necessary. Indeed, the Epistles that bear Timothy's name were written both to coach and to encourage him to authenticate his ministry to the ones he was sent.

Timothy illustrated what it meant to progress from being a beginning, committed disciple to being a faithful. Then, he was instructed enough to be able to teach others as a qualified teacher. Titus also illustrates the same cycle of growth unto being a responsible teacher (Luke 6:40).

While preaching and teaching have their scriptural benefits, would not the structuring of the small discipling group according to2 Timothy 2:2 enable fulfilling the whole discipling process that we have surveyed? While those available for discipling may not be qualified to fill the higher three levels of 2 Timothy 2:2, would it not be best to work towards such a self edifying teaching structure using whatever maturity they possess?

Seven Types of Small Groups for a Self Edifying Church

Further, in the Acts, there are seven small groups functioning within the Apostolic Local Church. They are identifiable by those who participate in them as well as the function they are described to be doing. They are: growth groups (Acts 2:41, 46); Elders/Pastors groups (Acts 6:1, 4; 20:17–31). practical work groups (Acts 6:2– 5), deacons, (1Tim 3:8–13); evangelistic teams (Acts 10:21–23); teacher teams (Acts 11:2–26); prayer and missions functions (Acts 13:1–5; 15:27– 16:3).

In Acts 1, the activity could be called an administrative function. In first and second Corinthians, the collection of money for helping the poor believers in Judea could be considered under this category. If each of these groups adopted the four levels of organizing from 2 Timothy 2:2, the mature Local Church would truly be self edifying and fully reproductive in every function[16].

8. Discipling is designed either to build Churches or to a principle of self edifying operation. 

In the Acts, the word "disciples" is used 240 times, but the word Church is only used eighteen times. When the Gospels are considered, the word Church is only used three times, and that in Matthew. The word, disciple/disciples, is used over 200 times. Disciples are learners in various levels of faith, commitment, and spiritual maturity. Water baptism[17] marked a point of demarcation of full commitment to the Person and message of the discipler[18]. In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus’ disciples still identify themselves as members of Israel. In the Acts, disciples grew numerically and were identified as a distinct group within Israel. Israel grew in their rejection of the Lord and the New Testament message and dispensation.

The disciples also grew enough in numbers to need further organization (Acts 6:1–7). However, the word "Church" was not used as an identity of a distinctly new and separate group. They were only Israeli disciples that met as fulfilled Israelis.

The Word "Church," meant an assembly or call out ones. It appears only to be know as committed disciples working as an identifiable group. But as Gentiles became disciples in such numbers that their Churches were not at all Jewish, and did not in any way relate themselves as under the Mosaic Law, the Church became a new identity. In the book of Acts and in his Epistles, the Apostle Paul relates that the Church was the fulfillment of little understood sections of Old Testament prophecy (Rom 16:25, 26). The character of the Church began to appear in Acts 11:26 in the three words: disciples, Church, and Christian which are tied together as synonyms:

“And when he had found him (Paul), he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the Church, and taught (the Greek word used in Matthew 28:20 for developing disciples) much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26).

The assembly of disciples (Acts 1:16) was not called a Church (a gathering) until they had made and baptized 3000 disciples (Acts 2:47). The Church added deacons so the discipling teachers could continue their work of multiplying the number of disciples and maturing them (Acts 11:26). In Acts 14:21–23, the pattern is clearly seen in this short passage: "they taught" (maqhteuw) to made them disciples. Paul led them to become disciples by practicing the Lord Jesus instructions to new believers to stay in the Word as disciples until free from the ignorance and enslavement to sin’s domination “. . strengthening the souls of the disciples." Then, he organized them into a Local Church having appointed Elders for leadership (Acts 11:26).

In conclusion:

Fundamentals are defined as essentials. What has been covered in this essay are essential parts of New Testament discipleship. This has been demonstrated in this survey by exposition, observation, and substantiated by the Scriptures cited. The careful and committed reader will be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and search the Scriptures to see if the things cited are true.

Just remember, in the original text of The Great Commission, Lord Jesus commanded, discipling with all authority in Heaven and on Earth. If you do not stewardship discipling what will you say to Him at the

[1] 2 Cor 10:4, 5; Eph 6:10 – 20.

[2] John 10:27, 28; 14:23, 24

[3] Also: 1 John 5:10; Rom 6:10--16; John 10:10

[4]Acts 1:21–23; Matt 27:55

[5] Matt 28:20; John 21:15–17

[6]1 Cor 3:1, 2; Heb 5:12–6:2

[7] John 17:1–3, 18–22; Matt 4:19; Acts 20:28, 29: 1 Thess 2:17–29; 2:7–11.

[8] Rom 7:23–8:9; 2 Peter 1:3, 4; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:1–7

[9]Acts 15:1–32. Also compare: John 8:31–36; Gal 4:19, 20; Col 1:23, 27–29; Acts 14:21–23; Heb 4:1–11.

[10] Rom 1:5;16:25, 26

[11]  Mathētḗs is the usual word for apprentice. Any student is a disciple if he has a teacher. There is thus no mathētḗs without a didaskalos. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 416, vol 4. 

[12]Titus 1:5–14;1 Tim 3:1–5; 2 Tim 4:1–5; Heb 13:7, 17; Also examine: Matthew 16:13–20; Acts 20:28, 29; Titus 1:5–14; Hebrews 13:7, 17.

[13] Deut 4:9, 10; 6:1– 9, 20–25

[14]Acts 14:21–23; Eph 4:11–16; 1 Tim 3:1–15

[15]Eph 4:11– 16; Rom 12:3– 8

[16]Also examine Matthew 28:16; 10:1 -- 42; 18:19, 20; Ephesians 4:11–16; Acts: 2:46; 5:42; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Hebrews 10:24, 25.

[17] Baptizing in Matthew 28:19 is a modal participle. A. T. Robertson him pages 1127 and 1128 says that this shows that baptism is a means of making disciples.

[18]Luke 7:28, 29; Matt 28:16–20

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The New Testament: What Authority Without the Inspiration Doctrine?

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Just for the sake of argument, what authority can the New Testament documents have without the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration? This doctrine states that every word in the entire biblical text was inspired by the Holy Spirit so that there are no errors in the original Scriptures.

Why should we even consider such a question? A number of parties have set aside any real authority of the New Testament by denying the verbal plenary inspiration. Through out Church history the supreme authority of the New Testament has been set aside in effect by making Church or cult authority to be equal to that of the Bible.

The Roman Catholic Church has said that the Church had the authority to give them the authority of canonicity, so therefore it has the imputed power to teaching of equal authority. So for the sake of argument how do the New Testament documents stack up as sources of authority just as epistles from the early period of Church history?

What claims can they have as historical documents?

1. Historically authority.
From multiple extra biblical evidence, it has been established that they come from the first century, i.e., the time they profess to report. Further, that they are authored by their traditional authors.

a. Any document has no more authority than its author(s). The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution have authority because their authors were the duly appointed representatives of the people in two authorizations: 1. The delegates were authorized to put together a revision of the Articles of Confederation of the original States. 2. The finished documents were ratified by the elected State Assemblies. Therefore, these documents had the authority of the combined people of the United States.

b. Who were the human authors of the New Testament documents? What authority did they have? They claimed to be or accounts of eye witnesses of what they wrote (1 Peter l:2; 2 Peter 1:16). The apostolic authors claimed not only to be first hand students of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that they accurately transmitted His message (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1, 2). Most of the authors claimed to be Apostles of Christ, Christ’s authoritative representatives (Matt 10:2; Gal 1:1, 12; Eph 2:19, 20; 2 Peter 3:2, 16, 17).

They claimed, and the Church accepted their claim, that they were the officially appointed representatives by the Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of many others that heard Christ. Those that were not, did not claim to be, but the early Church agreed that they either wrote under the supervision of an Apostle or that what they said was the Apostolic message, i.e. what was established by what the Apostles taught. Again, the witness of history agrees with their claim. Both during their life times and afterwards, the most reliable witnesses ratified these claims. Even their enemies and heretics agreed with their claims of being the Christ authorized messengers .

c. The conclusion of the historical evidence:
Therefore, their teachings were reliably those of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if one professes to be a Christian and a logical and objectively honest person in the face of evidence, the New Testament documents have the cumulative authority of Christ. Of all other religious teachers, organizations and professed prophets, which have objectively substantiated evidence that can come close to equaling the authority of the authors of the New Testament? Not one!

2. Historically and source wise, the unavoidable conclusion:
So, therefore, even without the traditional doctrine of the infallibility of Holy Spirit inspiration, there can be no greater set of documents or religious teaching that can compete with those of the New Testament documents. To challenge their teachings, their grammatically established doctrines is to challenge the authority of Christ. How can one do this and still claim to accept himself as a believer and a follower of Christ?

And if one accepts the New Testament documents as the authoritative teachings of Christ, then he must accept their infallibility, because this is their uniform teaching of themselves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bug Inspired Faith

Chaplain Edward F. Lundwall Jr. (Ret).

Much has been said about great things and even miracles stimulating faith in God. But for many even great blessings didn’t move people towards life changing faith. Many Israelis didn’t let even the miracles of the Exodus or the Lord’s miracles change their on going lives. But God who delights to use weak and foolish things (1 Cor 1:27) used bugs to stimulate my faith.

For most, bugs are either trifling or annoying things. But as boys, we all liked bugs! How much fun we had getting earthworms and scaring the girls with them. Worms are only the beginning of interest in bugs for kids. I remember the fun of catching lightening bugs and putting them into a jar, collecting beautiful butterflies and stirring up anthills to see them run. One time, I was having my delight with a night crawler in getting one girl after another to squeal and screen, when Sammy got of a hero impulse. He knocked the worm from my hand and squashed it with a triumphant stomp. How memories linger for even many years. I guess that is a bugging memory!

Years later, when I got to Vietnam as an Army Chaplain, bugs were entirely different to all of us. I didn't go there to collect lightning bugs. I went there to catch men for the Lord Jesus. I didn't want to put them into a jar, but to get them to go to Heaven and to shine for their Savior if the Lord gave them long life. Strange as it may seem, sometimes faith has bigger battles with small things than with great things, like one’s life. But God can use all things for enriching our lives, for me even bugs! When we needed it most, the Lord will use even irritating, scary and hurting things to help shape our character to be like the Lord Jesus (Rom 8:28, 29). However, He especially does this when we love Him enough to trust Him when we are threatened with harm or temptation (James 1:2–4).

As soldiers, we were alerted that bugs could not only hurt us, but cause us to get sick and die! For decades armies had to fight head lice, this was one reason recruit’s heads are shaved. The Army medics gave us pills to keep us from getting malaria from mosquito bites. Because they could upset our stomachs, if these pills were not taken with food, some soldiers didn't take them and got malaria.

Therefore, the men tended to hate bugs, especially scorpions. I saw one soldier catch a scorpion. It was huge, about 6 inches long. Apparently he had been stung by one earlier and experienced the fire of its sting. He captured it with his helmet and decided to get revenge by making it sting itself to death. He had heard they would sting themselves when threatened by fire. Therefore, he squirted lighter fluid around it and set the fluid on fire. Unfortunately, his effort didn't work because he had dripped some of the lighter fluid on the scorpion so that it died by fire not by stinging itself.

The bug that inspired my faith was by a 5 to 6 inch centipede. This happened the first night I went to a field location. I did all the "official precautions" about buttoning up all the openings of my fatigues and carefully putting insect repellent on my sleeves and where my fatigue shirt buttoned. Alas, I had forgotten Job’s lament: "For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me . ." (Job 3:25). I hadn't turned my fear of tropical bugs into trusting the Lord about them. So the Lord sent this sanctified centipede between the buttoned up shirt at my waistline. Even though I grabbed it through my shirt on my left side, I didn't have a good enough hold on it to crush it. As I held it with my left hand, it stung me. So I yelled to my Chaplain's Assistant to get something to kill the centipede when I opened my shirt and let it go. All he could find was a partially empty beer can left in the squad tent. As I released this centipede it raced across my bare chest and off the cot. My assistant tried to hit it with the beer can, but missed, slopping beer over me.

As I laid on my cot, embarrassed clear down to my toes, I said to the Lord: "Well, I guess I will just have to trust you about the bugs!" From then on, I had no fear nor bug trouble for the rest of the year that I was in Viet Nam, nor did I get malaria. For I learned to conquer my fears with the Scripture verse: "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." (Psalm 56:3).

I found even greater application of this verse in the remaining 50 weeks that I was with the 1/27th Infantry Battalion. Because I learned to trust the Lord, I was delivered from many battle experiences where others were killed. When I exercised faith instead of fear in the small thing of bugs, the Lord honored my faith in life threatening combat.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Doors of Critical Circumstances

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Some call being uncomfortably cold an intolerably adverse circumstance, while others put up with life threatening situations. Some will curse the situation, and even God, yet others will pray. I have observed both.

For my brother in law who went through the liberation of the Philippines Islands. He experienced critical circumstances that were God’s instrument to bring him into the gospel ministry. For in the crisis of being buried alive in a tunnel collapsed by enemy fire, he committed himself to serve the Lord in the ministry. Through prayer, the Lord saved my life by causing the enemy to destroy his own assault force. In reasoning with God, I got peace when I prayed that if I could glorify Him more by living than by dying that He would deliver me and our unit. Again in desperate life or death circumstances, my former executive officer committed himself to God and later found Christ as his Savior and is teaching God’s Word today. Critical circumstances are but opportunities, but as with doors, they are choices that open or shut. For the believer and God seeker, adverse circumstance provide opportunity for blessing and advance in spiritual life. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 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 KJV).

However, for those who resist God’s dealing with them and refuse to let adverse circumstances be a door to spiritual life and salvation, adverse circumstances are used in their lives to bring the judgments of death and eternal loss. “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation .)” (2 Cor 6:1– 2 KJV).

While our battalion was on location near Tay Nin, Viet Nam, the monsoon rains soaked us. One man came back with his buddies to the battalion fire support base after a night on an ambush cite, chilled to the bone. I met him trying to get warm beside a fire in a sump, a bomb crater. Several other men were there, then Charlie Company commander sent another man and ordered us away because he said that sump fires can be dangerous. It was known that some lazy soldiers would throw mortar and artillery left over explosive charges in with the trash instead of burning them by safe procedures. I obeyed and walked away, but others stayed. After I had walked half way across the fire support base, a huge blast erupted from the sump fire. I rushed back and found several men killed and wounded.
One particular man was laying on the side of the sump, both legs broken looking like some rag doll’s; his left arm was worse, with bones exposed, even so he was still conscious. I bent down and asked him if I could pray for him. He almost sat up and emphatically said: “NO!” I learned later that he had been a member of a religion that taught that Protestant Clergy were not to be trusted.

Later, one of his friends told me that just before he went to the sump fire, he spoke these words: “Why doesn’t the silly old God stop this silly old rain and this silly old war!” He had closed the door to the Lord and the Lord closed the door to him. Four days later, after both legs and his left arm were amputated, he died, too much damage to his internal organs. “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” (Isa 55:6 KJV). For “. . . the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, . . .” (Gen 6:3a KJV).

Edward Lundwall Jr. is a retired Army Chaplain, endorsed by the GARBC, who first served as a home missionary with FBHM and then served as Chaplain 1967–1973. He now is a free lance writer and writes books, especially on Discipleship and the Local Church.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I like an old wash rag!

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

I was ready for my bath so I went to the linen closet for my towel and wash rag. As I looked at the neatly stacked linen, I spotted some old friends: an old dark brown towel and its wash rag. Unlike the others, they were friends for I had used them many times before. They had often caressed and refreshed my body. Like my faithful wife, they were considerably faded and their threads were coming loose and hanging around.

As I bathed I noticed that in places the old wash rag was not as soft and pliable as the new wash clothes, but there wasn’t that annoying tag with all the instructions and lawyer’s warnings on it. It was just itself doing what it was meant to do. Although every now and then the loose thread would come loose and call attention to the fact that it was coming apart because of its years of diligent service.

Although my wife doesn’t favor it because “Its just not so pretty anymore.” She likes the newer and prettier ones better. They give us a more prosperous look to any guests that may visit for a day or so. I guess its because I always want to get my money’s worth, but I like to use the old wash rag, for its still got a lot of use left in it. And I don’t have to think of the inflated price that the new ones cost with the newer and higher sales tax (for better schools, I’m told) tacked on.

Even though my old wash rag is faded, yet it still has a lot more of its color than some of the newer ones a tenth its age. Maybe its because it was made and dyed in the good old USA and not in some foreign land in cheap factories with their cheap materials and sobbing children laboring to give higher profits to greedy governments and corporations. Yes, this old wash rag is still firm showing better stuff than others that have worn until they’re cheese clothe thin (I wonder where they were made?).

You may be getting bored listening to such prattle about my old wash rag, but if you’re as mature as I am you may have guessed why it is so attractive to me. Its because I can see me in it. I identify myself with it..

What a contrast there is between seniors and youth. The most youthful, like a baby, are so very attractive because they are all potential. They have such beautiful POSSIBLE futures. One can enjoy dreams upon dreams of what youth and new things MIGHT become. Dreams are castles in the sky. There’s just no end to what they might become. They’re wagons looking for stars to hook on. But alas, so many just crash! What a great pity that such great hopes so often crash and youth destroys itself in sin, ruinous drugs, and even suicide.

Seniors, like my old wash rag have possibly much less future, but have experienced much more fulfillment. They have earned their place of honor, for if memory testifies their youthful potential has been fulfilled in service to others and to God their Creator.

One last reason I like that old wash rag: while others are ready to throw it away for the newer and prettier. Like so many seniors, it still can serve as it always has. The key to its enduring usefulness is its basic construction. Seniors who continue their usefulness have been made of the right stuff. As the Bible speaks of the godly: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, . . . They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, . . . “ Psalm 92:12, 14 (NKJ). Many of history’s outstanding men have done their crowning work in their latter life, in their golden years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Th Fruit of the Spirit

The Fruit of the Spirit and How to Experience It

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The fruit of the Spirit has been much taught and preached about, but its nature and experience is little known and experienced. Much of the preaching has been accurate, but much is lacking. The word spirit has not been clearly identified. The word spirit has been referred to in many different ways. It has been used the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, and the spirit of a regenerated believer. It is used as the attitude of worship (John 4:24), in giving wisdom (Ex 28:3), to a part of a human being (1 Thess 5:23), to a demon (Lk 8:29); and for the third Person of the Trinity of God (Matt 28:19).

Then, there are the problems caused by translators either using the wrong English preposition with spirit, or supplying the English definite article when there is no definite article in the Greek New Testament text. When people try to discern from a translation and do not consult the original Greek text of the New Testament, they make false interpretations.

Perhaps the greatest problem with intellectual interpreters is the many places where the Greek word for spirit and soul seem to be used synonymously in various passages. The neglected element in this problem is that there is probably insufficient study of the context to discern the nature of the action. If the situation described can be analyzed to know if the action’s nature involved the function of the soul or the spirit. The use of either soul or spirit would give some indication what nature of the action is. There is, and should be, close interaction within each believer. For it is explicitedly stated that they are parts of out human nature (1 Thess 5:23). Further, in Hebrews 4:12 states there is a difference between the human soul and spirit. This verse states that the Word of God can distinguish between them.

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

The Bible speaks that God gives the spirit! In the creation of man. It comes by God breathing the breath of life into Adam and that the soul is the result of this act (Gen 2:7). When humans die "the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Eccl 12:7). In Jesus’ death He yielded His human spirit back to the Father (Lk 23:36).

The human spirit is a receptor of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in applying the Scripture (John 6:63) and giving the means of transforming the believer’s soul (Rom 8:1-9; 2 Cor 3:17, 18). In Luke 9:23,24, the necessity of soul transformation is difficult to see, because the word for soul is mistranslated. Soul is rendered "life," reflecting the translator’s overriding theological system. If the translators meant biological life, it seems that the believer must physically die to get resurrected life, but how then can that one be a disciple in this life? The Greek word for physical life is not used here.

At this point it is good to give the three functions of the believer’s spirit:

1. The human spirit is the individual’s means of communion with God (1 Cor 2:11-16; John 4:24).

2. The human spirit is the part of the individual’s being that the Holy Spirit convicts one of sin (John 16:8-11; Acts 5:1-11) and a sense of right and wrong. When the spirit receives instruction in righteousness, it acts as his conscience.

3. The human spirit receives intuition to discern God’s desires and will (Isa 30:20, 21; John 6:45; 1Thess 4:45; 1John 3:17).

The human spirit is essentially a receptor. While not regenerate, it can be a place where the evil influences can work (Eph 2:2, 3 ) as well as being wooed and convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 1:9; 16:8-11). As a receptor the spirit only dominates when man’s soul is submissive to it.

There is an intimate relationship between the spirit and the soul. As humans were created in the image of God, man is therefore a triunity (1 Thess 5:23). The body functions as a place of expression of the soul as influenced by his spirit. The body corresponds to the Lord Jesus as the living visible expression of the Father (John 14:9), it is a place of expression of the inward soul and spirit. The soul is the personhood of man and so reflects God the Father. Man’s spirit is the communicator, it receives and gives to the soul, so it corresponds to the Holy Spirit. Contrary to man, God is complete in Himself.

As the Father is the will of the Trinity of God so the soul of man makes the decisions of man. The natural, unregenerate soul is like a sponge, its character is whatever it soaks up. The soul functions by observation and intellect, it receives and becomes identified with what it soaks up. A worldly person is one who soaks up the philosophy and pattern of thinking that his society, the educational and political correct of the culture he lives in and identifies with. The soul’s capabilities are intellect, emotion, and volition.

What the soul learns and accepts will instruct the emotions how to feel. According to the priorities that it learns will give the human volition the determination to carry out. Out of the abundance of what the soul (often called the heart) accepts, the person will express (Luke 6:45). This is a basic reason that the Lord Jesus said that the natural soul had to be exchanged for one that He would give.

"He was saying to them all, ‘. . If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life (Greek - soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (Greek - soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’"

"If anyone wishes to come after Me,"i.e. to become my disciple. Following to learn a new lifestyle is the most characteristic lifestyle of a disciple. Following is the means of changing life, because it involves leaving one’s past life with its relationship and culture to get what the teacher has. It is an exchange.

"‘whoever loses his life (Greek - soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’" requires a death or abandonment of all that was a believer’s life expression for Jesus’ new revelations. Learning by following is a gradual dying to live. Soul exchange must happen because all human beings have the natural life of Adam so making themselves rebellious sinners. There is no one more self centered than a baby and an undisciplined child.

The natural man never out lives this rebellion of self to become a god (Gen 15:5). "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death," (Rom 8:5, 6). Even as the believer seeks and begins to experience a new life by faith dependance upon the Lord, he still has the old life which stays in conflict with the new.

"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Gal 5:17, 18).

To begin following Jesus or receiving Him, begins with faith in who He is, that is, the Christ, the Savior of the Word (John 1:12, 49). As followers, i.e., they had "the right to become children of God," (John 1:12), but according to Luke 9:23-25, it was a process of conflict by exchanging their souls. As Paul said that he died daily, but by active faith he gained the new soul/life:

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal 2:20). This is a continuation of a faith reckoning of union with Christ in His death regarding sin and a new life as resurrected with Him (Rom 6:11, 13).

All this is necessary to understand how to experience the fruit of the spirit. In the Epistle to the

Galatian Church, he was fighting a spiritual warfare concerning what was real spiritual life. Was it living under law by the power of the flesh or being free from the Jewish Law and living according the power of the regenerate life? The new life is faith depending on Christ and His promises through one’s renewed spirit.

When people are self reliant through keeping laws, they can only produce the works of the flesh received from Adam. The latter depends upon a sinful, self reliant nature that will inevitably fail of the righteousness required by God. However, when the renewed spirit of an individual functions by relying upon communion with God, the Holy Spirit, His activation of one’s conscience, and the teaching of intuition while in communion with God, results in the fruit of the spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s central ministry is to: ". . glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:14). When the believer understands a large measure of what one has is from union with Christ, there is: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:" (1 Peter 1:8). This concept is especially revealed in places like Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1-3

At this point, the fruit of the spirit will begin to be experienced! ". . the fruit of the Spirit is love, . ." (Gal 5:22). When the reconciling love of God is received it brings about not only a union between man and God, but a focused orientation of love.

When this occurs the Holy Spirit manifests the glorious benefits of forgiveness and deliverance from the fear of God’s wrath and eternal punishment! There gives a great emotional relief! When the believer experiences spiritual rebirth and its assurance, along with understanding the treasures of becoming God’s child, the heart is filled with loving appreciation. This first fruit of the spirit spills over to create the rest of the fruit of the spirit seen in Galatians 5:22, 23.

". . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; . ."

For when the Holy Spirit manifests the fullness and richness of God’s love, the rejoicing of having received it will give the experience of joy! The more the believer contemplates the fruit of joy, a very great feeling fills one’s being of happiness, joy’s nature.

The joyous relief of being reconciled with God manifests the next aspect of the spirit’s fruit in the foundation of quiet peace. When the believer is filled with joy it gives peace. For the reality that there is nothing left between God and oneself gives an overflowing peace.

Peace becomes a part of the experience. When peace settles in, it will manifest patience with others and with difficult circumstances.

Then, the fruit of patience will be the manifestation of goodness. This aspect of ongoing goodness expresses itself in the successive aspects of faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. As the believer appreciates God’s love and its infinite greatness, the human spirit manifests the fullness of every aspect called the fruit of man’s spirit as it accepts the Holy Spirit’s teaching.

The vitality of experiencing the fruit of the spirit will be in proportion to how full a measure of love for the Lord is laid to heart in quiet contemplation of what believer one has in union with Him!

Some older believers, upon experiencing the fruit of the spirit, might even break out and sing the old doxology!

"Praise God from whom all blessing flow; praise Him all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!"

Perhaps when Bernard of Clairvaux had a high point of experiencing God’s love, he was inspired to write the first verse of a hymn that has endured hundreds of years even into hymnals of a few years ago. The first verse began: "Jesus! the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills my breast: But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest." Ending with the final verse: "But what to those who find? Ah! This Nor tongue not pen can show, The love of Jesus, what it is None but His loved ones know."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Greater Than Unconditional Love

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Unconditional love has been cited as the greatest kind of love. It has been implied again and again that this is the nature of God's love when Christ died for the sins of the world.

The lost world of sinners did nothing to deserve it. Because they could not merit it and because forgiveness is offered to all (John 1:9; 3:16; 1 John 2:2), this love is alleged to be unconditional. As Revelation 22:17 reads: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

But is this an unmerited offer unconditional from God?

It's kind of like a blind date. The dating couple don't know each other and have not solicited each other. Their interest is simply in pleasure and possibilities. In spite of the personal interaction on their date both have to receive or accept the other, at least for the date. Later, after more experience with each other, if one decides not to receive the other’s person and love, however great, the unconditional love will not be experienced. Even though for the Royal Crown of England, and associated benefits, unconditional love will profit nothing establishing marriage relationship.

The Lord Jesus offered himself as Israel’s long promised Messiah with all the benefits of God's Kingdom, but they wouldn’t receive Him. As the Lord anticipated their rejection, He lamented: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt 23:37 KJV).

As with romance, each must decide if the other person is desirable and the things associated are acceptable with the proposed relationship. Faith must take place before the relationship and love can be experienced. The one proposed to must both believe the evidence of the person’s character and worthlessness of what the other person has to offer.

Unconditional love is basically one way. God in Christ, offers everything and humans have less than nothing to deserve the offer. Their basic nature was to be self-centered, self-fulfilling, and self-reliant. They are in fact: “. . . dead in trespasses and sins;” walking “. . . according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also . .” all natural humans have their “. . . conversation . . .” in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and are by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Eph 2:1– 3 KJV).

In the measure they are successful, to that measure, they feel no vital need for God their Creator. But when each human is so self–centered, conflict is unavoidable and destructive relationships will eventually follow. But as with any creation, when the design of its creator is not followed, it's destruction will eventually follow! It will be either by its violation of design or by the judgment of its creator. The witness of man as an inventor testifies to this principle. The easiest illustration is a vehicle, when it stops functioning it is turned into scrap.

In Christ, God is offering full forgiveness, a new nature, and an eternal future with unimaginable blessed conditions (Eph 2:7). God offers unmerited love to all of us, but as human love is not fully realized until faith establishes a family relationship, so must we receive Christ as our Savior/Husband (Eph 5:22–32).

As with dating, if unconditional love is not responded to, the joy and fulfillment of married life will not transpire. As the unconditional love of God’s patience and long suffering, if it is not received and a personal relationship of faith established, the possible benefits will not be experienced. There will be no joy of forgiveness, no assurance of full acceptance, no access of approval, no prospect of expectation of commendation for faithful service and deeds done to show forth the Lord’s worthwhileness, no basis to expect a Heavenly home when this life is over.

But for those who will seek the Lord in prayer and search His Word with its precious promises, a relationship. It will be a growing fulfillment and peace in this life. But will only be a beginning. For His promise continues as: “. . . Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard , neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9).

For those who don't respond to God's internal witness (John 1:9; Rom 1:20) and His promises (Rom 10:9–17), His unmerited love will profit them nothing. Unconditional love is only an offer! If this offer, is not received it will be a basis for condemning judgment, as seen in Christ’s woeful words to Israel! This judgment was fulfilled in Israel’s 2000 years of being persecuted and climaxing in the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7; Luke 23:27-31; Rev 6:1-17).

The immediate fulfillment of receiving God’s unmerited love is: “. . this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:11–13).

At the time of death: “. . Absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:8b). And, “. . In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16:23).

And through out eternity: “. . in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 2:7).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Call to Salt 2015!

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The Lord Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13 (NKJ)

Today, most people only use salt to enhance flavor, without it, many foods lose their appeal. The Lord desires to make true believers His salt for the earth. He gives us an inner quality to make our lives palatable to influence those around us. Is not the atmosphere influenced by those who display the fruits of the Spirit much more enjoyable? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).

Fruit results from drawing upon the life of the vine. The Lord Jesus tells us that He is the True Vine and committed Christians are branches nourished by Him (John 15:1-5). Christians’ character is transformed as they live in fellowship with Him: by faith in His word, the ministry of His Word and communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Salt symbolizes two other aspects of spiritual influence. When salt saturates food, it is preserved from decay. When salt is applied to wounds or infections, it purifies and heals. God gave the Holy Spirit, as spiritual salt, to the Church to preserve life’s quality, and to influence the world. The Holy Spirit’s ministry through the Body of Christ was to convince people concerning sin, righteousness and judgment to come (John 16:8). As the salt of the Holy Spirit saturates Christians, they will exhibit the same character and attitudes as God displays and teaches in His Word. Therefore, they try to influence people as well as their nation to accept and practice with these qualities (1 Peter 4:11). If the conditions in our country were to be changed according to God’s truth, grace, love, and justice as Jesus illustrated in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), societies could be at peace with each other.

It seems to me that many Christians have lost their spiritual saltiness for joyful living, preservation, and purification when it comes to elections and political agendas. How can anyone, who knows their Bible, say that God would approve of irresponsible sex, drug addiction, race hatred, homosexuality, abortion, misrepresentation, lust for power, pork barrel politics, and the humanistic program of extracting from public life anything of His influence? Yet, I have talked and heard of many professed Christians who would vote for candidates and parties that have in their platform and their candidates’ speeches toleration of these things which God calls sin and deserving of judgment (Romans 1:17-32; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:7, 8). They even agree with Supreme Court opinions (1962 to present) that contradict, not only these issues, but of more than 160 years of precedent decisions by earlier Supreme Courts and the written opinions and practices of the Constitution’s writers. For example, even Thomas Jefferson, the quoted author of “A wall of separation between Church and State,” is reported to have used the Bible as a part of Washington, DC’s public school curriculum.

If Christians will not let the Holy Spirit and God’s principles be mirrored in their character and in their political influence, they will have lost the dynamic purpose of being God’s salt in this world. In Matthew 5:13, Lord Jesus warned that when salt loses it savor, purification, and preserving properties it becomes “…thenceforth good for nothing…” God can’t use them and men will have no trouble ignoring and further abusing them. In fact unrighteous and deceitful politicians will be mistaken for real Christians. Those who let themselves be influenced by political pressure instead of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word will be, as the Lord Jesus said, “…be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men…” They will be treated as having no significant influence, but to be dominated. Worse yet, the Lord will say to those salt-less souls, “You are lukewarm, and you make me sick” (Revelation 3:16).

Come, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this New Year, 2015, let us be God’s spice of joy, preservation, and purification…salty salt…, so that our society can be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit and the righteousness of God, and, not only find God’s peace among ourselves, but spread it globally. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will receive eternal life” and “receive power to become the sons of God” (John 3:16; John 1:12).