Book Review: The Kingdom of God from the Theology in Community Series

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in Reviews

Book Review: The Kingdom of God from the Theology in Community Series

The Kingdom of God is the rule of a eternal sovereign God over all creatures and things (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:3). The Kingdom of God is also the designation for the sphere of salvation entered into at the new birth (John 3:5-7), and is synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Kingdom of God embraces all created intelligence, both in heaven and earth that are willingly subject to the Lord and are in fellowship with Him. The Kingdom of God is, therefore, universal in that it includes created angels and men. It is eternal, as God is eternal, and it is spiritual—found within all born-again believers. We enter the Kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that Kingdom for eternity. It is a relationship “born of the spirit” (John 3:5), and we have confident assurance that it is so because the Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16).  God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all of His creation. However, the designation “the Kingdom of God” encompasses that realm which is subject to God and will be for eternity. The rest of creation will be destroyed. Only that which is part of the “Kingdom of God” will remain. Today God mediates His Kingdom through believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit and obedient to the Word of God (1st Peter 2:9).

In the helpful new book in the Theology in Community series The Kingdom of God edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, the contributors seeks to set forth what the Kingdom of God is from the Old and New Testament, and apply the teaching of the Kingdom of God to miracles, Satan, demons, the Church, end times, as well as what it means today.

While all of the chapters are helpful, I particularly thought Dr. Anthony Bradley’s chapters “The Kingdom today” was helpful. In this chapter Dr. Bradley argues for the connection between orthodoxy (what Christians believe) and orthopraxis (how Christians live). He notes that, “The Bible is clear that we are to be people of faith and practice” (229). He explains that “Even with the best intentions and commitments we do not always know what is best, and, if we are honest, we must recognize that what is best is not always clear. Our orthopraxis and pursuit of justice means that, in our frailty ad imperfections, the best we can do is rely on prudential judgments guided by clear principles. Is there a framework to help us get started? This chapter suggests that “God has provided such a  framework in His Word and creation so that the scaffolding of the kingdom of God presented in the previous chapters can move God’s people into mission” (229-230).

The focus of Dr. Bradley’s chapter is on the question, “What are God’s people to do in the kingdom to press the claims of Christ everywhere in creation?  The answer has much to do with how we understand the nature of love, human dignity, our neighbors, and civil society as well as what we believe about what humans deserve, how we are to live in equality, how we reciprocate with others, and what people need” (230).  The goal of Christians in the Kingdom is to respond to God’s grace by putting His glory on display so that we may invite others to taste and see how good it is to be in covenant with God.

The Kingdom of God in the Theology in Community series is a very helpful exploration on what the Kingdom of God means from Scripture, as well as what the Church has taught on the Kingdom. Throughout the book various scholars tackle thorny issues related to the meaning of the Kingdom of God. I recommend this book to Pastors, seminary, Bible college students, and serious Bible students interested in exploring the Kingdom of God from Scripture, church history and its meaning for Christians today.

Title: The Kingdom of God (Theology in Community)

Authors: Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson

Publisher:  Crossway (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Gospel-Centered Evangelism and Discipleship

Posted by on Nov 29, 2012 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry, What We Write About

Acts 1:8 holds to the settings of Acts 1:1-2:13 which opens up with explaining the Promise of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost. The foundation for Acts is laid in the first eleven verses as Luke discusses the Kingdom of God and the Great Commission. The Commission of Jesus is set within the context of a question concerning when the kingdom of Israel will be restored (Acts 1:6). The question the Apostles asked was a routine one since Jesus has been resurrected. The Promise of the Spirit led them to think that the Messianic Era had dawned, and the final salvation of Israel was imminent. The reality is that the Apostles were still thinking of a political and military kingdom that would drive out the Roman armies and restore national sovereignty to Israel. Jesus corrects the Apostles, telling them in Acts 1:8 that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, not to triumph over the Roman armies, but to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world. In other words Jesus’ return is in God’s timing, and in the meantime there are key things believers are to do.

The backdrop for Acts 1:8 is Luke 24:44-48, “4Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus statement “my words” refers to His teaching concerning His death and resurrection (Luke 9:21-22). Jesus of Nazareth and the risen Lord Jesus are one and the same. The Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms refers to the divisions in the Old Testament in Jesus’ day. “Psalms” is an example of a synecdoche, in which one of the books in the Writings represents the whole. True understanding of the Scripture occurs when one understands how all of redemptive history fits together and is a gift of God (Luke 9:45; 18:34). Luke 24:45 teaches that the Christ should suffer, which repeats verse 26 and emphasizes that Jesus’ death and resurrection were necessary in order to fulfill God’s providential plan. Repentance and forgiveness of sins form the basis for the content of the Gospel while in His name provides the authority for how salvation is affected. As eyewitnesses, the Disciples served as guardians of the Gospel (Luke 1:2). The Promise of My Father refers to the Holy Spirit who had been promised by God the Father (Acts 2:33). The coming of the Holy Spirit had been announced by John the Baptist as a sign that the Messiah had come (Luke 3:15-17). The Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to fulfill their commission as Jesus’ witnesses (Acts 1:8). The futuristic present tense of the words (“I am sending”) emphasizes the certainty of the Spirit’s coming.

Acts 1:8 teaches that the Apostles (and every believer after them) will “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus corrects the disciple’s question (v.6) with a commission: “this time” (v.6) would be for them a time of witnessing for the gospel, and the scope of their witness was not to be just Israel but the entire world. The word translated witness is the Greek martus meaning, “One who testifies, bears witness, declares, confirms.” A witness for Jesus Christ is simply someone who tells the Truth about Him. There is a sense in which believers do not choose whether or not to be witnesses. They are witnesses, and the only question is how effective their witness is.

Verse 8 is the thematic statement for all of Acts. It begins with the Spirit’s power that stands behind and drives the witness to Jesus. Then it provides a rough outline of the book: Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), Jude and Samaria (chapters 8-12), and the ends of the earth (chapters 13-28). “You will receiver power” is a phrase that has caused a great deal of discussion among interpreters on whether the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of ordinary believers prior to Pentecost or in a lesser way or not at all, except for the empowering for special tasks. On either view, something new that needed to be waited for was here. This powerful new work of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost brought several beneficial results: more effectiveness in witness and ministry (1:8), effective proclamation of the gospel (Matthew 28:19), power for victory over sin (Acts 2:42-46; Romans 6:11-14; 8:13-14; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:10), power for victory over Satan and demonic forces (Acts 2:42-46; 16:16-18; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4), and a wide distribution of gifts for ministry (2:16-18; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 1 Peter 4:10; Numbers 11:17, 24-29). The Spirit is tied to power, which refers here to being empowered to speak boldly by testifying to the message of God’s work through Jesus. The Disciples’ direct and real experience of Jesus and his resurrection qualifies them as witnesses, but the Spirit will give them the capability to articulate their experience with boldness. The Disciples likely understood “power” in this context to include both the power to preach the gospel effectively and also the power (through the Holy Spirit) to work miracles confirming the message. The same word (dynamis) is used at least seven other times in Acts to refer to power to work miracles in connection with gospel proclamation (Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7;; 6:8; 8:10; 10:38; 19:11).

Christ’s death and resurrection form the basis for the Christian faith. Paul said in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Paul saw Christians as united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:6; 8:-11; Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1). God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection resulted in God’s approval of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their “justification.” As a result of believing in the death and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit, who is the supernatural and sovereign agent in regeneration, baptizes all believers into the Body of Christ (1st Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit also indwells, sanctifies, instructs, empowers for service, and seals believers unto the day of redemption (Romans 8:9-11; 2nd Corinthians 3:6; Ephesians 1:13). The significance of the resurrection is that Jesus empowers believers through the Gospel to live lives that are transformed by His grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make disciples and be used for His glory.

Paul in Ephesians 1:19-20 gives us a hint of the meaning of Jesus “sitting at God’s right hand” when he said, “And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places.” God’s great power that very power which raised Jesus from the dead and lifted Him by ascension back to glory to take His seat at God’s right hand, is given to every believer at the time of salvation and is always available (Acts 1:8, Col 1:29). Paul therefore did not pray that God’s power be given to believers but that they be aware of the power they already possessed in Christ and use it (Ephesians 3:20). The power Jesus gave us was power to be His witnesses. The term “power” appears ten times in Acts, sometimes referring to miracles or other effects of power (Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7; 8:13; 10:38; 19:11) and other times to enablement (Acts 3:33; 6:8). The “right hand of God” was a sign to the disciples that Jesus had gone to heaven. Jesus told the disciples that He had to go away so that He could send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15). He had told them in Acts 1:8 that they would, “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” which would be on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), proving Jesus’ statement as truth. Paul says in Romans 8:34 that Jesus, “is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. The meaning of “God’s right hand” refers to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Jesus is of equal position, honor, power and authority with God the Father (John 1:1-5). The very fact Jesus is sitting refers to the fact that His work of redemption is done.

There is much discussion in Christianity today regarding the definitions of biblical evangelism and discipleship. Luke teaches in Acts 1:8 that power was granted not to establish believers own kingdom but to build the Kingdom of God. John Calvin on Acts 1:8 said, “For hereby he meant to drive out of his disciples’ mind that fond and false imaginations which they have conceived of the terrestrial kingdom, because he showeth unto them briefly, that his kingdom consisteth in the preaching of the gospel. There was no cause, therefore, why they should dream of riches, of external principality, or of any other earthly thing, whilst they heard that Christ did then reign when as he subdueth unto himself (all the whole) world by the preaching of the Gospel. Whereupon it followeth that he doth reign spiritually and not after any worldly manner.” Much of the discussion regarding evangelism and discipleship in the Church begins with, “How can I reach postmodern people?” While this question is valid by beginning immediately with, “How can I reach postmodern people?” and not with the Gospel the Church is relegated to the arena of philosophical speculation rather than authority from God’s Word. The Church does not stand on its own authority but on the authority of Christ’s finished work. Believers have received power from the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Christ’s glory.

The Church is robbed of its God given authority when it compromises the person and work of Jesus. There is a need for a clear understanding and a rediscovery of the gospel in the 21st century. Jerry Bridges says, “The gospel is not the most important message in history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living their lives by it. Only the Holy Spirit can take the gospel to the hearts and minds of men and women and change them into disciples of the Lord.” Liberal Christianity has contributed to a faulty understanding of Christianity that focuses on what a believer needs to do in order to please God rather than living out the truth of the Gospel. The Church is being robbed of its power not from just false doctrine, false teachers but by a faulty approach to the Gospel. American Christianity is experiencing decline because of a Gospel of performance rather than Gospel of transformation.

The message of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 4:25). The Gospel is the message of the Bible and the means God uses to draw sinners to Christ, bring them into relationship with Himself, build the Church, and expand the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is not just a call to salvation but the call to discipleship. Jesus’ “call to discipleship” is the call to abandon all, take up the Cross and follow Him. Jesus in [Luke 9:23-27] said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Discipleship is not a program, but the very mission Jesus gave the Church to fulfill. Discipleship is not just an object to be achieved because that focuses on the numbers of people. Biblical discipleship focuses on becoming like Jesus. In His ministry, Jesus cared about where people were going, and spent time with people who were hurting, ill, sick, afflicted, and demonized. Jesus shows people in His life how not only to care for people, but how to love people the way they were created to experience love. Biblical discipleship is thoroughly grounded in the person and work of Jesus.

Bock, L, Darrel, Acts (Michigan, Baker Academic, 2008), 63-64.

Boice, James Montgomery, Acts (Michigan, Baker Books, 1997), 10.

Bevins, Winfield. “Gospel Centered Discipleship: The Foundation for the Gospel”, July 2009, accessed August 9th, 2009.

Calvin, John, Acts 1-13, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XVII (Baker Books, 2009), 47.

Ger, Steven, The Book of Acts: Witnesses to the World (Tennessee, AMG Publishers, 1994), 25.

Macarthur, John, The Macarthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12 (Illinois, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1994), 21.

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Profession without Prayer

Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in Quotes

J.C. Ryle, from A Call to Prayer:

I do not deny that a person may pray without heart and without sincerity. I do not for a moment pretend to say that the mere fact of a people praying, proves everything about their soul. As in every other part of religion, so also in this — there may be deception and hypocrisy.

But this I do say — that not praying is a clear proof that a person is not yet a true Christian. They cannot really feel their sins. They cannot love God. They cannot feel themselves a debtor to Christ. They cannot long after holiness. They cannot desire Heaven. They have yet to be born again. They have yet to be made a new creature. They may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk — if they do not pray.

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Book Review: Organic Outreach for Famlies

Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in Reviews

Book Review: Organic Outreach for Famlies

The traditional definition of marriage and family in our culture is under attack by those who wish to not only redefine what the family is but also what is socially and therefore culturally acceptable definition of the family. Into this fray many writers in the past year or two have written books on marriage to try and help Christians to think through what the Bible teaches about marriage and the family. Many of these books make helpful contributions but very few of them help us to think through what it means to be a family on mission and to reach our neighbors for Christ. Thankfully the Harneys have written a very helpful book to address this concern called Organic Outreach For Families Turning Your Home Into A Lighthouse.

At the heart of the book is the “recognition that we can’t given what we don’t have. If we want our homes to be lighthouses of God’s grace, it begins with us, with our grasp of the gospel of God’s grace and our walk with the Lord. As we walk with Jesus, revel in his grace, long for him to be glorified, and delight in our friendship with the Savior, we naturally bring this good news to the most important people in our lives, our children” (27)

The more I think about marriage and the family the more convinced I become as the Harney’s have already that our witness in our homes matters just as much if not more than our witness outside the home. As a married man how I treat my wife, and the animals in my home is a reflection of what is really in my heart. I say with my mouth, and type with my fingers for others to hear and read that I love Jesus Christ. It’s all too easy to walk through the motions as if that is what is what biblical Christianity is: a life to “show off” what we know rather than a life of truly delighting in and savoring the precious promises God has extended to us in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. All is not well in the homes of many Christians throughout our country and our world because many can just walk through the motions but when the rubber meets the road and times get tough—those are the times that we run to what we truly love—ourselves or our Savior, Jesus Christ. This is why I’m convinced more than I ever have been (and apply this truth to my own home) that the message we preach to ourselves must be the Gospel and not a false gospel of self-improvement.

The Harney’s are onto something in their book that  I think is missing in most of the marriage books I’ve read in the past five years or so, and that is an emphasis on our grasp of God’s grace and our growth in that grace. This is not to say that the other books primarily focused on this point, because many make other contributions to the topic of the family that this book does not. Where this book excels and offers a significant contribution is in the area of how we as Christians can by growing in the grace of God—advance the mission of God by first focusing on our growth in grace. This approach is one that personally resonates with me because growing up as I did in a dysfunctional home, I saw how dangerous it can be to know the right answers without also experiencing and living by the truth from God’s Word.

Organic Outreach For Families Turning Your Home Into A Lighthouse is an important book that is grounded in the Word of God that will help families to remain focused on what is eternal in order to advance the work of Christ’s in and through the home for the praise and glory of God. This book will help families to learn how to practically be on mission for Jesus by first helping teach you how reach your children with the Gospel, second, how to share God’s grace with your extended family, and finally help you to understand what it means to open the doors of your home in order to make it attractive and welcoming for the purpose of shining the light of God’s grace into your broader community.

Title: Organic Outreach for Families: Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse

Authors: Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney

Publisher:  Zondervan (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book winners for Thanksgiving Book Extravaganza

Posted by on Nov 26, 2012 in Book Giveaways

First, I want to first thank Crossway, Christian Focus, Dutton Adult, Zondervan, New Growth Press and David Cook, for allowing me the opportunity to do this book giveaway.  Second, I want thank all of you who shared and commented on the book giveaway.  Thirdly, the winners of the book giveaway are Marguerite Harrell who won a copy of Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul, Chris Land won a copy of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Michael Boling won a copy of Glorious Ruin, Kevin Fiske won a copy of Gospel Deeps, Jeremy Seifert won a copy of InDoctrination, Bill Chandler won a copy of Accidental Pharisees, Chad Carlson won a copy of Dangerous Calling, Paul Emery won a copy of Life in the Fairway, Evan Lee won a copy of Glorious Ruin, Mark Lamprecht won a copy of The Hole in Our Holiness, David Norman won a copy of Multiply Disciples Making Disciples, Paul Emery won a copy of Life in the Fairway, Chad Miller won a copy of The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul, Jonathan Holmes won a copy of Sexual Sanity, Austin Nelson won a copy of Sexual Sanity, Elizabeth won a copy of Nothing Is Impossible with God, Jason Stonehouse won a copy of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship, Aaron Crews won a copy of Accidental Pharisees, Julie won a copy of When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography, Jordan Andlovec won a copy of How Do We Know the Bible is True Vol. 1, Gretta Johns won a copy of When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography, K. Hughes won a copy of The Work of Christ, Roger Leonhardt won a copy of Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul, Zachary Uram won a copy of Heart of the Matter, Philip won a copy of Heart of the Matter, Tom Perry won a copy of Multiply Disciples Making Disciples, Ron Mioni won a copy of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship, Doug Connelly won a copy of How Do We know the Bible is True? Volume 2, Austin Ross won a copy of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Dr. Tim Keller.

Fourthly, I want to welcome the new visitors to Servants of Grace. Running this giveaway encourages some of you who have been long-time readers or new readers to leave your first comments on a blog post here. I sincerely want to thank you whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace for taking the time to leave a comment, and hope and pray you will join in on future discussions on content on Servants of Grace.

Whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace, I wanted to take a moment to tell you what you can expect from Servants of Grace on a typical week. A typical week will see between 6-10 posts. Monday, we usually post a book review, or an article. On Tuesday’s we have a blog post geared towards men. On Wed, we have a post geared towards ministry. On Thursday, we typically post a book review or article. On Friday, we have a book review or article. Coming soon we will also have  regular sermons from some of our contributors based on the Bible. On Saturday, we post a book review or article. On Sunday’s we post a book review, or quote and a weekly roundup of the week’s posts. On some weeks we will have more blog posts as we now have a variety of contributors. This schedule gives you an idea of a typical week here at Servants of Grace.

Finally we have many contributors to Servants of Grace, all of whom love the Gospel and want to strengthen believers and local Churches with the Gospel.  These are exciting times for Servants of Grace, and I am truly thankful that so many of you have participated in the book giveaway. I look forward to future discussions with many of you in the coming weeks and months on a variety of biblical, theological and practical issues. May the Lord richly bless you.

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