A Verbal Microcosm (1)
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1.8-12
A time for clarity
In our day, all who believe in Jesus Christ need to be very clear about what they mean by such a profession.
We need to be clear to the people around us, because misunderstanding about Christianity abounds. Certain figures in the media, academia, pop culture, and the political realm are determined to put Christian faith in an undesirable light. And we keep dishing them up substance for their arguments. The inconsistencies, failings, blunders, hypocrisies, shallowness, and missteps of contemporary Christians are readily seized as fuel to stoke the fires of resentment, hatred, smugness, and intimidation where religion is concerned. If we cannot be clear about our faith to the people we see each day, the messages they receive from our detractors will shape their thinking instead.
We need to be clear to our children, because those who deny the faith, and are committed to eradicating it as a moral force in our society, are aggressively plying our children with ideas about family, friendship, right and wrong, personal identity, and the world as a whole that are contrary to Scripture and detrimental to human wellbeing. Typically, those presentations are more, and more convincing and overwhelming, than what most Christian children receive about the faith. We need to work harder at training our children for faith in Jesus, so we need to be clear, for their sakes, about what it means to believe.
And we need to be clear to ourselves. We may be facing some serious challenges to our faith in the days to come – more serious and closer-to-home than have confronted us hitherto. If we are not clear about what we believe, we may succumb to temptations to accommodate our faith or simply to conceal it when a clear and convincing testimony and witness is in order; or we may abandon it when the pressure becomes too great.
The apostle Paul can help us. The verses cited above outline what might be called a microcosm of the Christian faith. In the studies that follow, we will examine these verses in the light of Paul’s experience, to make sure the faith we profess is the same as Paul’s.
We begin by looking at seven verbs in this passage which will provide the pegs on which our understanding of the life of faith may be draped. The first of them is φανερωθεῖσαν, phanerotheisan – “has been revealed” (v. 10).
Christianity is a way of life that comes to us by revelation from God. Men did not think up the Christian faith, as evolutionary thinking insists. According to that view, all religion is nothing more than the exercise of human imagination to explain difficult phenomena, recurring events, and favorable conditions or consequences. Where human reason fails, imagination kicks in, and posits higher beings and deities to account for life’s mysteries. Christianity, the evolutionist explains, is merely a more sophisticated form of animism, pantheism, ancestor-worship, and other more primitive religions.
But faith in Christ does not come to us via the human imagination; it is revealed to us by God. It was revealed to Paul first in a flash of light and a voice from heaven, then from searching the Scriptures of the Old Testament to explain and better understand what he had come to know (Acts 9.1-19; Gal.1.11-17).
Christian faith is revealed knowledge – revealed to us by God, from a mind that is infinitely wiser and more complex and wonderful than all the minds of every human being who ever lived, combined (Is. 55.8, 9). As much of that divine mind as we can understand is revealed to us in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, which were given by inspiration as the Spirit of God revealed the will of God to ancient writers (2 Tim. 3.15-17; 1 Pet. 1.19-21). That revelation is surer, more reliable, and more productive of wellbeing than all the schemes and philosophies and false religions of the world.
Our faith in Jesus Christ has come to us by revelation; God has revealed Himself and His will – what we must believe and do if we would have full and abundant life with Him. We do not apologize for the fact that we believe in revelation. We do not seek to skirt the issue, or to make God’s revelation palatable to finite and fallen human reasoning. Indeed, we find that, the more we understand of what God has revealed, the more we understand of the world and its people, situations, histories, cultures, and challenges. The revelation of God confronts us, as it did Paul, and as it must all who would understand God and the Christian faith.
The unbelieving world scoffs at the idea of revelation. But it will be hard-pressed, upon seeing the hope such revelation produces in us, to explain our faith in any other way (1 Pet. 3.15). We do not call on our unbelieving contemporaries to try seeing things our way; we call on them to hear the Word of the Lord.
The revelation of Christ
We insist, moreover, that what God has principally revealed is Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1.10), the eternal Word and Son of God, Who was made flesh and walked among us, was crucified, dead, and buried, and Who now sits at the right hand of God, calling people everywhere to repent and believe in Him.
We do not offer the world a new way of thinking about life. We offer them Jesus.
We do not promise to improve their politics, purify their culture, amend their morals, refine their tastes, or satisfy their every want or whim. We promise to show them Jesus, Who has reconciled the world to God and is making all things new.
We do not offer them Jesus and whatever else they may choose to embrace as well. We offer them Jesus only, Jesus exclusively, Jesus entirely, Jesus completely, Jesus and Jesus alone. He is salvation. He is glory. He is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. He is the Treasury of all wisdom and knowledge; He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the power to make all things new.
All that God reveals to us is but further embellishment and enhancement of what He revealed in Jesus, when He came among us for our salvation. While Jesus is not everything, all things consist in Him, and He is determined to fill all things with Himself (Eph. 4.8-10). Nothing in our life makes sense, has any lasting purpose or use, brings us complete satisfaction, or enables us to do anything good apart from Jesus. Jesus is the Beginning and End of all things; all things find their place and purpose, meaning and use, goodness and glory in Jesus alone.
Paul’s faith was a revealed faith, focused on Jesus Christ as Son of God, Savior, Christ, Lord, and King. This faith we have, like Paul, by revelation from God. As God worked through divine revelation to bring Paul and us to Himself, so He will work through revelation – “Thus says the LORD” – to accomplish all His holy and righteous and good purposes. Christian faith is revealed religion. Never let go of or back down from that.
1. What do we mean by saying that Christianity is revealed?
2. Why is it important that Christians stand in this revelation, and that they increase in it?
3. How are some ways that Christians should confront the world with the revelation of God?
Next steps – Preparation: What can you do to improve your grounding in the revelation of God which is in Christ Jesus? Review your current practice of reading God’s Word and seeking Jesus there; make improvements as needed.
T. M. Moore
To Know Him clarifies what it means to have eternal life in Jesus. What in Heaven is Jesus Doing on Earth? shows you the nature of Christ’s ongoing work from the right hand of God, and how you fit into it. You can purchase these books by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.