Thursday, July 10, 2008

THE way of the Master: An exposition of Mk 10:17-22

With regards to the current controversy over Ray Comfort's planned appearance at a WoF conference, Coram Deo have sortof responded in this post of his. There are of course many points all of us agree, in that the Gospel is sufficient for salvation for heretics if they will repent and believe in God. Also, there is nothing wrong about preaching the Gospel anywhere. One issue with Coram Deo that I have here has to do with the mode of preaching the Gospel and the consequences that follow, especially with regards to preaching at a WoF event. I will use this short exposition of Mk. 10:17-22 as the foundation text for addressing this issue.

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mk. 10:17-22)

In this passage, we can see Jesus talking to the rich young man in a setting analogous to evangelism, except that the subject of evangelism Himself is the evangelist here. Furthermore, this scenario is every Christian and Evangelist's dream come true. After all, what more can we ask for than for unbelievers seeking us out to enquire about the way of salvation? No need to break into cold sweat and be afraid of rejection; they naturally come to you enquiring about God and the way of salvation. Yet, even here, Jesus shows us the way to address seekers, and as it can be seen, we should proclaim the Gospel and not tone it down even if such a prospective convert and eager seeker reject the message in the end (Mk. 10:22)

Jesus' response to the question of the rich young man is to emphasize the commandments of God (v. 19), and call upon the rich young man to follow them. Here we can see that the commandments of God can merit salvation if they are perfectly obeyed (Rom. 2:6-11; Jas. 2:10). Of course, such is impossible for fallen Man and therefore the Law is meant to show us our desperate condition (Gal. 3:24; Jas. 1:23-25) in order to bring us to Christ.

Back to our passage, we can see that Jesus is using the Law in an attempt to show forth his status as a Law breaker. Incredibly, the rich young man claimed to have obeyed all of them from his youth (v. 20), which will therefore mean he has merited salvation! It is after hearing this that Jesus exposed his major area of sin: covetousness (the Tenth commandment as well as the First Commandment). Jesus called upon him to sell everything he has, give to the poor and follow Him (v. 21). His sin thus exposed, he went away sorrowful because he will not part with his great and many possessions (v. 22)

Now, as we look at this passage, we must ask ourselves why did Jesus not immediately name the tenth commandment in his first list of commandments to be obeyed. Also, why did Jesus answered the way he did, by asking the rich young man to DO something instead of just asking him whether he obeyed the tenth commandment?

We can see from the portrait of the rich young man that he thought he have followed ALL of the commandments. When Jesus named the commandments, He didn't name all of them, but it would be understood that the ten commandments are implied. Jesus did not name the tenth commandment here in order to make it explicit that the rich young man thought he obeyed all of the commandments of God. As it is with Man, we so easily treat God's standards lightly and so it is no surprising that there would be many self-righteous people who think that they have fulfilled the commandments of God like the Pharisees for one.

And that is why Jesus followed through with a very specific application of the Law which exposes his sinfulness. In the case of the rich young man, Jesus called him to sell all that he has and gave them to the poor, and then follow Christ. This is not because Jesus needed the money or required that of his followers (the same was not asked of people like Joseph cf Lk. 23:50), but through the failure to obey, it shows forth the specific sin of the rich young man. Contrary to his assertion therefore, he did not obey all of the commandments from his youth. His sin exposed, he chose to retreat from the light rather than turn to Christ for his salvation.

So what does all this have to do with the case of Ray Comfort? I have been saying that my main contention with Comfort's preaching at the WoF event is that he may be speaking Christianese there. Comfort's action is therefore analogous to Jesus' first answer to the rich young man; it does not truly 'connect' with the WoF heretics. A "simple" Gospel presentation using traditional Christian terminology is useless against the WoF heretics since they reinterpret all of the jargon we use into their heretical equivalents. What is needed is something analogous to Jesus' exposing of the rich young man's sin. The Gospel message to WoF heretics at a WoF event MUST be stated in a way to connect with them and get past their redefinitions of the Gospel terms. Just as Jesus uses a practical application to get past the self-righteous fog clouding the eyes of the rich young man, Comfort (and all who preach the Gospel) could use such practical aspects of the Gospel to show forth the soul-damning lie the WoF movement teaches and call both its adherents and teachers to repentance. Failure to do so would be total miscommunication, and therefore there would be no true Gospel communicated to these heretics and their followers. As an example, Comfort could talk about the sin of materialism as seen in many of the WoF teachers living like kings on earth, and how such a sin damns souls to hell.

So with this, I would urge Ray Comfort to preach the Gospel in THE way of THE master, our Lord Jesus Christ, to expose the sins of the WoF teachers and adherents. Do not preach using Christianese which might as well be Greek as well as the communication of the Gospel is concerned. Of course doing that would probably mean no more invitations to such events to be sure, unless the WoF teachers there repent of their heresies, but we are called to preach the Gospel no matter what the consequences anyway. So if Ray wants to go there to preach the Gospel, do it properly like Jesus did, otherwise do not go there to muddy the waters.

8 comments:

Coram Deo said...

Daniel,

That was an excellent exposition of scripture. Thank you for sharing.

I would still note in passing however that you seem to hold to what I believe to be an errant belief that somehow satanic, sinful, unregenerate deception is more powerful than the absolutely sovereign One True and Living God of the Holy Bible when you make the unscriptural statement:

"A "simple" Gospel presentation using traditional Christian terminology is useless against the WoF heretics since they reinterpret all of the jargon we use into their heretical equivalents. What is needed is something analogous to Jesus' exposing of the rich young man's sin. The Gospel message to WoF heretics at a WoF event MUST be stated in a way to connect with them and get past their redefinitions of the Gospel terms.

What you are actually saying Daniel is that the eternal gospel of grace is somehow INSUFFICIENT or INADEQUATE, even "USELESS" as the sole means whereby God in His good pleasure and perfect will has chosen to convert His elect, yet this is the exact opposite of the teaching of scripture!

It seems that this is the same touch point that I keep coming back around to with practically everyone on this issue - the all-sufficiency of the gospel itself.

The gospel of grace IS enough!

The gospel of grace is MORE THAN sufficient!

We can trust God to faithfully do His work in supernaturally, miraculously, and monergistically regenerating and converting His chosen ones from every kingdom, tribe, tongue and nation by the faithful proclamation of the gospel of grace to the praise of His glory alone forever and evermore!

In Him,
CD

PuritanReformed said...

Coram Deo:

thanks for the compliment. I think however that you still do not get what a few of us are trying to drive at. The issue is never whether the Gospel is sufficient - it is. The question boils down to this:

Q: Can the presentation of a "simple" Gospel message using traditional Christian jargon be understood by the WoF teachers and adherents?

My answer to that question is no. If the presentation cannot be understood, then of what use is it? As it was commented on the Puritan Fellowship blog(http://www.puritanfellowship.com/2008/07/way-jesus-didnt-do-it-ray-comfort-to.html), and I agree:

"Let me ask you: If I preached the Gospel in Greek to a room of people who didn’t understand Greek, and I told you afterwards I gave them a “faithful proclamation of His eternal gospel of grace” then I‘m sure you would object by saying, “no you didn’t because no-one in this room speaks Greek,”
And I’m sure you would think I was being ridiculous if I then replied is “the Lord God Omnipotent is so powerless” "

Hope this helps to show you what we are actually driving at.

Coram Deo said...

Daniel asked:"Q: Can the presentation of a "simple" Gospel message using traditional Christian jargon be understood by the WoF teachers and adherents?"

If they are among God's elect whom He has predestined unto salvation from before the foundations of the world to be His inheritance among the nations then the answer is a resounding "YES!!"; and if they are not then no amount of preaching, teaching, or reaching will result in their conversion by any means since salvation is ALL OF GRACE!

The gospel is understood by all men in exactly the same manner - by the supernatural and miraculous regeneration of the Holy Spirit, His effectual calling, by irresistible grace, and by the hearing of the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ.

Using the example at hand Ray Comfort, presumably, will be speaking English to an English speaking audience, not an unknown foreign language therefore your "Greek" example is a non-sequitur.

Yet according to the scriptures apart from the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit's opening of the unregenerate sinner's hardened, darkened, desperately wicked and depraved heart of unbelief then the simple gospel of grace, even if spoken in the hearer's native tongue with absolute precision by the mightiest and holiest saint who ever walked the earth, might as well be preached in "Greek" spiritually speaking since apart from grace the unregenerate, lost, worldly sinner cannot possibly understand the things of the Spirit.

But it has pleased God to open the hearts and minds of His elect and to mercifully and miraculously convert them from spiritually dead, hell-bound sinners into lively stones fitly joined together to the praise of His glory alone forever and evermore!

And the really amazing and deeply humbling part is that some lowly bondservants - such as Ray Comfort for example - may be used of the Lord to be His instruments of grace by the faithful preaching of the foolishness of the cross which is the eternal gospel of grace whereby God has chosen in His infinite wisdom and good pleasure to redeem a peculiar people for Himself.

I understand what you and others are driving at, but it seems to me that what's actually driving this issue is a misconception of grace.

Thanks for the edifying exchange!

In Christ,
CD

PuritanReformed said...

Coram Deo:

there is a world of difference between being convicted of the Gospel message, and understanding the Gospel message. The former is the responsibility and job of the Holy Spirit, whereas the latter is what we are responsible for. Can God by His grace enable anyone both to understand and to believe the Gospel? Sure, he can. Does that mean that therefore we shouldn't care less if our message cannot be understood by the masses? No.

Back to the issue of evangelism, can reprobates believe the Gospel? No! But can they understand the Gospel? Sure, they are cognitively able to understand the Gospel, for otherwise the Scriptures are not perspicuous. They understand it but reject it nonetheless, since it is foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:18).

ISTM that what you are arguing for is that we shouldn't care whether the Gospel is presented so as to be cognitively understandable by the audience, since God will save His elect anyway. Just because God is able to save some in spite of what we do does not mean that we couldn't care less how the Gospel is presented. To say that smacks eerily of certain argumentation forms of Hyper-Calvinism.

Back to Ray Comfort, sure, God would probably still be using him for the salvation of souls from the WoF cult, to the praise of His glorious grace. But what does that have to do with whether Comfort is indeed presenting the Gospel as it should be presented? The Gospel is to be presented so as to be understandable by all as much as possible, including the false teachers. That God chose to save some through Comfort in no way reflects on him and his methods in the same way as that God chose to save some through Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels etc.

Anyway, thanks for the interaction. May God be glorified through this exchange.

vincit omnia veritas said...

CD,

YOu wrote:

"The gospel of grace IS enough!

The gospel of grace is MORE THAN sufficient!"

What is the Gospel? What are EXACTLY the words/message of the Gospel?

Yours truly,
Vincent

vincit omnia veritas said...

CD,

I hope you can clarify this:

"the all-sufficiency of the gospel itself."

"All sufficient" for what?

What do you mean by "all sufficient?"

VC

Coram Deo said...

Vincent,

The gospel is the Truth as revealed by the One True and Living God, the infinite Creator and Judge of the universe and it is spiritual truth.

Of the gospel John Piper well said:

"Gospel" means good news—but what makes the good news good? What is the goal of the gospel, without which it is no longer good? It is that Christ’s death brings sinners to God! Were it to bring us anywhere else we would be left hopeless. But the gospel is that God gives us himself—Christ died to give us Christ—, and this self-giving is his highest mercy to us and the best news for us! The most profound, most exceedingly gracious, final and decisive good of the good news is Christ himself as the glorious image of God revealed for our endless satisfaction."

Maybe the more important question to ask here is "What ISN'T the gospel?"

It's not as if the eternal gospel of grace is a certain set of phrases or exact words that must be arranged in some rigidly predetermined and perfectly ordered manner by a clever and gifted human agent/orator so that his listener(s) can perfectly cognitively and intellectually assent to a set of propositions and then by an intellectual assent to those truth claims declare himself righteous before God.

Daniel said:"ISTM that what you are arguing for is that we shouldn't care whether the Gospel is presented so as to be cognitively understandable by the audience, since God will save His elect anyway."

I honestly have no idea why you would think that I'm arguing such a point Daniel - of course I'm not arguing this point - although I suppose it could be argued given the example of Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost - yet this being said I would personally find some difficulty with the normative use of this method in the post-apostolic era.

At any rate, carelessness with the gospel isn't something I've ever advocated in any way, shape or form.

With respect to election I do in fact believe that God will infallibly save all His elect to the uttermost and that He will accomplish His perfect will by the foolishness of the preaching of the cross since this is His chosen method according to His good pleasure to bring Himself much glory.

In Christ,
CD

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear CD,

The gospel is the Truth as revealed by the One True and Living God, the infinite Creator and Judge of othe universe and it is spiritual truth.

>Well said. It is the TRUTH. And ALL TRUTHS are propositional truths.





It's not as if the eternal gospel of grace is a certain set of phrases or exact words that must be arranged in some rigidly predetermined and perfectly ordered manner by a clever and gifted human agent/orator so that his listener(s) can perfectly cognitively and intellectually assent to a set of propositions and then by an intellectual assent to those truth claims declare himself righteous before God.

>But as with ALL TRUTHS (which include the Gospel), the Gospel as elucidated within the pages of Sacred Writ has a set of propositional truths (i.e. that P).

Anything less or more than that P is not the Truth of the Gospel. That is fundamental to the Law of Non-Contradiction.

Both P and non-P (which includes P+1 or P-1 for that matter) cannot be the SAME Gospel (which answer your question as to what is NOT the Gospel).

The Gospel therefore DO HAVE a set of propositions, and that is what I am asking you to define. How can you know what is NOT the Gospel unless you can define to us what IS the Gospel?

What then IS the Gospel (that P)?

By the way, did you read my other questions? I hope you can furnish us with an answer, as I require your answer to point to certain … points. :P