Whole Counsel Theology

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What does God value more than anything?

In a recent Sunday School lesson, the leader guide was going through Matthew 5:13-16, part of Jesus's sermon on the mount. The passage clearly has evangelistic overtones, indicating that we are to shine our light to the world, and that we are also to be salt in this world, carrying with it the ideas of preservation, seasoning, and communicators of the New Covenant (see Leviticus 2:13 for a bit about how salt was used for covenants). The salt illustration is possibly referencing the permanence of it.

The lesson guide that we were using nearly always does a good job in going through the text and deriving applications. The last part of the lesson for this past Sunday, found on page 26 of The Inquest study entitled "Beyond Belief" is what bothered me. It is taking us on a walk through the Sermon on the Mount, and I am very much enjoying teaching the study to our small class. Once in a while, however, certain statments need to be corrected. I read these to my students, but before I did, I asked them to listen carefully and identify any statements that might not be correct. I'll go ahead and cite the suggestions (what I read) the guide makes as closing applications to the students, though I'll put them in a slightly different order so as to put the problem statement at the end:
Emphasize the importance of believers assuming their RESPONSIBILITY as salt and light in the world.

I agreed with this statement, and they did too. We have a responsibility to share the Gospel; we are commanded to do it. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we take His message to a lost and dying world, showing that we are His by our actions and telling others we are His by our witness, which is His Gospel.
God chose us to be used as instruments in the REDEMPTION OF MANKIND.

I also agreed with this statement, as did they. For whatever reason, God decided that it would be His message preached from the mouths of imperfect people such as you and me that He would use to call people to Himself.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

Without the preaching and communicating of the Gospel, there is no salvation. God ordains those who will be saved of course, but He has also ordained the means by which He will call His elect to Himself. This means is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anyone who says otherwise is speaking contrary to the teachings of the Word of God. There -- I said it, and I meant it. :)
He has given believers the task of sharing the gospel. We are part of THE PLAN; there is no other PLAN.

This is the last statement in the section, another one I agree with. God has chosen this to be the way He draws people to Himself. There is no other plan, no other way for someone to be saved that to hear the message of Christ. General revelation doesn't cut it, that is, things observed through nature. We must know the Name of Christ.

Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.

(above emphasis mine) Only in Jesus is there salvation, and only in His Name can we go when we speak the Gospel. The Name of Jesus is critical; there is no salvation without it.
Because God loves people more than anything, He has given believers the task of sharing the gospel.

Here is where I have disagreement. One of our students, when I read this, began to sing "God Loves People More than Anything," and another agreed with it. Right then I mentioned that this statement was not true, and there was surprise in the room -- my wife reaction being the exception to the surprise (she's wonderful -- and smart too, knowing the Scriptures well). I told them that God loves HIS GLORY more than anything; God does indeed love people, but He has given us the task of sharing the Gospel for the primary purpose that HE would receive MORE glory. My wife agreed, but the rest didn't seem to, so I went on and explained.

Isn't this the teaching of the very passage in Matthew that I linked to above? Let's get the last verse of it, Matthew 5:16--

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

What is the point of our light shining before men? It is that they (those before whom our light is shining) would see our good works. What then, is the purpose of them seeing our good works? What does the text SAY? Does it say that they may see our good deed so that they can get out of Hell? No. Does it say that they may see our good deeds so that they can live in Heaven some day? NO! The text clearly indicates that the goal of people seeing our good deeds is so that they would "give glory to your Father in heaven." THAT is the purpose Jesus is teaching, that the Father would be glorified.

I also gave them a few other passages, such as Isaiah 43: 6-7 and 25, and encouraged them to study it more. God saves us for His Name's sake, that He receive glory, the same reason He chose Israel. Yes, when God sets His love on us we are saved from Hell and bound for Heaven, but we're not the main reason He does it; it is for Himself, and we should be grateful for that! God doesn't base His love on sinful creatures such as ourselves; He bases it on His unchanging majesty, the surest foundation for salvation we could ever hope for. Thanks be to God! May our desire be for His Name and renown, and may we desire that in all things He is glorified. Why should we desire this? The main reason is simple; it is His desire.

All Glory be to God Alone.

3 Comments:

  • David, I saw that you gave quite a lengthy comment on Evan Mays blog.

    I have done a linguistical study in the newest of my blogs.

    Come check it out.

    Salvation is James, is it soteriological?

    i have some more comments I want to make on Evans blog as well.

    God bless sir,

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 7:29:00 PM  

  • Hiya, Antonio!

    I'll be happy to look at it, but I doubt I'll have much to say. I said most of it over at Evan's blog, which, for my other readers, can be found here. Therefore, I don't have anything else to talk about really. :)

    I'll drop in though.

    Dave

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Sunday, January 29, 2006 9:54:00 PM  

  • People have trouble with "glory," because on earth there is no one deserving of it. I think we all know that, even non-Christians. The linguist above could perhaps explain it best, but admitting to glory-seeking is seen as selfish or shallow pursuit in the human world.

    I don't doubt the Word; I know God values glorification. Still, though, I have to consciously separate the one deserved glory (God's), which is good, from our empty sort of human glory, which is horrible.

    God does not value glory for an empty reason, as humans do. God values glory because it is right in His case, just as Justice and Mercy and goodness are right. As you said, "He bases it on His unchanging majesty, the surest foundation for salvation."

    God's plan for glory does include, however, a love of people and desire for their salvation. He does not need us sinful creatures, but He made us, He loved us, He created us from clay. Our right relationship to Him is as creations to Creator, as children to the most perfect Father.

    He created us to be able to relate and to love Him. Our right relationship to Him is that we glorify and love Him. He made that part of His plan.

    John 3:16 reminds us that God loves the world, that He sent his only son that we who believe in Him shall not perish but have life eternal.

    The outcry in your class very likely came from our human understanding of glory and worship as things a person should not seek. That is because we don't deserve it, and only God does.

    I hope your class just misunderstood you, and you weren't really downplaying their salvation. How could we glorify Him forever if we did not also live forever? How could we live forever without salvation? God showed many times how beloved people are to Him, and just how much He would sacrifice so that they would be with Him in Heaven and give glory to His name always. He told us how much one sheep meant to Him. Sheep are smelly and wayward, but He wants each to be brought to the fold. We are each loved by the Lord, and our right relationship is to glorify Him.

    So, while it is absolutely true that God values glory, it is not empty. Glory is coming from the mouths of people, His people, and He loves them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, January 31, 2009 4:12:00 PM  

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