Archive for February, 2012

Simply Jesus

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

Used by Permission from Beyond Evangelical The Blog of Frank Viola

Today, I’m featuring N.T. Wright on the blog. This interview fits in nicely with our series on Beyond Evangelical. But first, a little context.

My favorite New Testament scholar of the 20th century was the British scholar F.F. Bruce. Bruce was a “bright and shining light” in 20th century evangelicalism. He was prolific, churning out high quality work year after year. He had the rare ability to write academic books as well as popular (accessible) books. Bruce’s specialty was Jesus and Paul.

F.F. Bruce also understood the importance of chronology in New Testament studies. Consequently, he published a translation of the New Testament that put all of Paul’s letters in chronological order. (Yes – cough — F.F. Bruce was a major inspiration for me. Hence, I credit him in my Untold Story of the New Testament Church.)

In addition, Bruce was a powerful apologist, substantiating the historicity of the Gospels in the face of 20th century liberalism. To top it off, F.F. Bruce was a capable theologian as well as a New Testament exegete (a rare combination).

Enter N.T. Wright. Another British evangelical scholar.

Click this link to read the unedited interview:

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Several times I’ve talked about modern day church and the way it is way off base from what it should be.

It is not that I am against church, but it is a matter of being clear on the proper meaning of the word. Not that we have to be politically correct in description, but I feel we need to be clear on the matter in regard to our mindset.

Normally when the word church is mentioned, we all think of a building we go to on Sunday to learn about God. We also think in terms of how much we go to church as being a guide to how spiritual we are, or how close we are to God. We think of the doctrines, rules and regulations placed on us by the church as ways to make us better Christians.

We need to reset our thinking. The Church is not a building. The Church is the bride of Christ, all of us who are saved by grace. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The building is just a place where we can meet and conduct spiritual meetings and Christian social events.

Just as the mindset we have when we talk about the word of God. We first think of the Bible. The Bible actually are the words of God, but the true living Word of God is Jesus. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word of God. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading the words of God, but we need to focus on the fact that the Word of God is alive and living within each of us as born again people.

Although sometimes it may seem unimportant of how we think of church or the Bible, it is very important that we understand what is really meant. The old mindset of a building and a book need to be replaced with the fact that the Church are those of us who are redeemed through the blood of Christ and the Word of God is Christ Himself, alive and living within us.

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Living in Grace

There seems to be some confusion among Christians in regard to grace living and law living. I usually don’t write this long of an article, but felt the added scriptures were necessary to show that living by the law is no longer necessary, thanks to the grace Jesus provided.

I think the mistake a lot of  Christians make is that we don’t truly accept the whole idea of grace. Grace is a free gift given to us by God. When Jesus died, he took all our sins upon Himself and destroyed them, covering them with His blood. We were totally unable to fulfill the law and live a perfect life, so He lived a perfect life for us and then took our sinful nature upon Himself and provided salvation for all who would accept Him (Galatians 2:16, 19-21  nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified… For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly”).

He then put His perfect, righteous nature in us and made us sons and daughters of God. Nothing we did, and nothing we can do can add to it, or pay for it. It is a totally free gift provided by Christ. It is hard for us to accept this without feeling the need to do something to justify God’s love for us. If think that if we do this or that and don’t do this sin or that sin, then we are worthy to come to God. This is performance based living and not grace. Grace is a gift. Grace is God seeing us as perfect and righteous, not of our own doing, but the free gift provided by Jesus’ blood.

Jesus lived by the 10 commandments, but here is the important part, we need to remember that Jesus lived under the Old Covenant Law (Galatians 4:4,5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons). Jesus had to live by and obey all the commandments, ceremonial rules and laws so He could fulfill the old covenant. Jesus said on the cross, ‘it is finished’, meaning He had lived under the Old Covenant and lived a perfect life and fulfilling the law, thereby making Him the perfect sacrificial Lamb that would take away the sins of the world.

Not until the time of His death and resurrection was the Law fulfilled and a New Agreement took effect. The new covenant did not start until this time. This new agreement is one in which we live by grace, and not by trying to fulfill the Law, which we never could do in the first place. That is why Jesus came to earth, because we could not live a perfect life and keep all the commands and laws of the Old Agreement. So since the old covenant has been fulfilled and we live by grace, why do so many of us still feel a need to try to live by old testament rules and regulations, since we never could do it anyway? Why do we seem to want to put ourselves back under slavery to an old testament set of rules when Christ has fulfilled them and done away with that need (Galatians 5:1-4 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision (a part of the law), Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace). When we accepted Christ as our sacrifice, we in a sense died also. And since we died, we can now live free from the law (Romans 7:1-8 “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “you shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead”).

Before grace, we could not live by the law because we are an imperfect people. Now that Jesus has become our perfect sacrifice and fulfilled what we could not, we are saved by grace and we live a perfect sinless life in God’s eyes because of the gift He gave us. We are sinless in God’s eyes because of Christ, although we still fall from time to time in this life, it is all covered by the blood of Christ, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. We are no longer required to live up to the Law that we couldn’t live up to in the first place. If we try to fulfill the Law but fall in just one area, we are guilty of all the law and worthy of death.

Now that we live by grace and faith in Jesus, the law, which was our tutor to point out our sin, is no longer needed (Galatians 3:23-26  But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (the law). For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus). To say we need to live trying to obey the 10 commandments is saying that Jesus blood alone was not enough to cleanse us from our sins.

The Bible goes so far as to say that if we still try to live by obeying the old covenant law we live under a curse (Galatians 3:10-13For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “he who practices them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).

We are told in Matthew to ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Mat.5:43-48). Obviously there is no way we can do this on our own, but God wouldn’t have told us to be perfect if it weren’t possible to do so. Since we couldn’t do it on our own, He made a way for us. The only way we can be perfect, is through grace. Accepting the free gift of grace through Christ will allow us to live out the new covenant commands of Christ, which are to accept Christ, love God and love others. The law that is mentioned under the new covenant is always to accept Jesus, love God and love others (Galatians 5:14  For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”; (1 John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us); (1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also); (2 John 1:6  And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love). We are totally incapable of living up to the law and we are no longer required to do so. Christ died and by His grace, He put His righteousness in us and we are perfect and righteous in God’s sight.

God has provided such a fantastic gift of freedom for us, and most of us today just don’t realize all that entails. Because of grace, it is as though we have never sinned and will never sin. Not because of anything we have done, or can do, but because God loves us enough that he sent his Son to take our sins, past present and future, and because of His grace we stand perfect in the eyes of God. Now we need to walk in that freedom and follow the Spirit, loving God, loving others and not worry about the old covenant law, but live a life for God through love (Galatians 5:16-18  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law).

Thanks be to God, we now live in grace, not trying to live up to rules and laws that we cannot do on our own, being free in Christ and living a life of love for God and for all we come in contact. We no longer do things because we are bad if we don’t, or displeasing to God, but we do them now because we love God and want to do what pleases Him.

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Can you even imagine it? We, you and me, saved by grace and now considered to be the righteousness of God.

Funny, it almost feels sinful to think that way, but God said it and it is true. Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for us, we are now God’s righteousness.

A lot of Christians want to tell us that we are poor sinners saved by Grace. True, we are saved by Grace, but we are no longer considered poor sinners. Stop letting religion tell you that you aren’t good enough. In your own strength, no, you aren’t good enough. But through Christ, we have been given the gift of salvation. Through His grace, we are now the righteousness of God. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus in us. Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

Stop condemning yourself. ‘There is now therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NASV).

Stop trying to do things to earn God’s love and grace. We are now His righteousness because of Christ. No matter what we do, or don’t do, God has provided us with salvation, forgiveness of sins (past, present and future), and now sees us as His perfect sons and daughters because of Christ. The Law was given to point out our sin and prove to us that we could not live a perfect life. Thanks be to God who provided His own Son as an offering for sin. He fulfilled the Law and became sin for us. We no longer have to try and live by the Law or the Old Covenant. We are now free from sin, and no longer need the Law to point out that we can’t do it on our own.

Let’s start enjoying the freedom we have in Christ, and start living through love for God and love for others. Don’t let someone tell you that you are anything less than the righteousness of God.

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