gospel

This past weekend, the United States celebrated Independence Day. Two hundred and forty five years ago, the signers of the Declaration penned their names to a treasonous statement of freedom.

The subsequent victory in the War for Independence led these newly free colonies to create a government. The United States is the one greatest political experiments in human history. Combining Judeo/Christian principles with Enlightenment ideals, the founders gave the world a model for representative government. The Constitution and Bill of Rights have been unparalleled in simplicity and clarity in its written limitations on the government.

As a follower of Jesus and citizen of the United States, I am deeply grateful for the religious freedoms provided in the Constitution. Many billions across the world know no such freedoms. Followers of Jesus in many nations must meet in secret to worship Christ.

With the freedoms we have in the United States, we are in danger of taking those freedoms for granted. My hope is that the isolation and limitations we experienced during Covid-19 pandemic serves to motivate us in expressing our religious freedom by living out our faith regularly and faithfully.

I also hope that we will develop a burden for the unreached peoples of the world in praying for gospel witness to be made available to them.

One of the more striking mission declarations in the Bible is the promise of Revelation 5.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:1-10 (emphasis mine)

In this vision, John witnesses the praise of heaven. In that praise, heaven affirms that every people group and language will be represented in heaven.

According to the joshuaproject, there are roughly 17,500 total people groups in the world with nearly 7,500 of those groups considered unreached. Unreached groups are those without a gospel witness in their language.

From Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, and Revelation 5, it is God’s desire that people groups all over the world hear the good news about Jesus. Therefore, the mission of leading our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus is part of our responsibility. While we must pray for our neighbors and share the good news where we are, we must also be willing to send the gospel to those who’ve never heard the message of Christ.

One of the best ways to be attentive to our calling to unreached people groups is to pray for them. For each month at Wilkesboro Baptist, we’ve chosen an unreached people group to pray for.

Our prayer group for the month of July, 2021 are the Kazahk people group of Kazahkstan. The Kazahks have about 16,000,000 people in 25 countries, though around 12,000,000 of them live in Kazahkstan. They are predominantly Muslim. Devastated by the Russian Civil War of the early twentieth century, many Kazahks were displaced. They are currently searching for an identity and desperately need the hope and identity that can be found in Jesus Christ. There is a small Christian population (.10% or 1/10 of 1% of the national population). They are still considered unreached. You can read more about Kazahk people here as well as discover specific prayer points for this people group.

Would you take some time today to pray for the small group of Jesus followers among the Kazahk people? Would you pray for the many millions who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would you take a moment to use your freedom to pray for this unreached people group and the unreached peoples of the world?

Scripture is clear with regard to its primary message: salvation.

In this post, we are still under the doctrine of Scripture. We’ve explored canon, inspiration, manuscripts, inerrancy, and sufficiency. In today’s post, we will explain the clarity of Scripture.

We need to recognize some caveats about the clarity of Scripture. First, not all texts in the Bible are equally clear. The original autographs were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Translating from the original autographs is challenging at times because some words from one language do not have specific equivalent words in another language. Some texts of Scripture require more diligent study than others based on context and meaning. Some passages are plainly more difficult to grasp than others (see 2 Peter 3:16).

Second, the relative clarity of Scripture is also affected by the reader of Scripture. I’m indebted to Robert Letham’s Systematic Theology for this post, and he wrote on this issue:

“Some readers are less able to understand than others, whether by lack of knowledge or education, lack of Christian experience, or a deficit of intelligence… Hard work is needed to explain it. The role of the human interpreter, the knower in the process of knowing, is significant.”

Robert Letham, Systematic Theology, 207.

But just because some Scriptures might not be as clear as we’d like them to be or we may not be as certain of our interpretation of some passages as we’d like, does not mean that Scripture lacks clarity. Amazingly, the 66 books of the Bible, 40 different authors, and a variety of themes throughout these books, the primary message of the Bible is clear.

Even with the above caveats, we can nevertheless affirm the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity is the theological term for lucidity or clarity. (The following affirmations are just a sampling, and they are far from exhaustive in the Scripture references that address them).

  • With regard to who God is and what God wants us to know about himself, Scripture is clear (Genesis 1:1).
  • With regard to who mankind is and what God expects of us, Scripture is clear (Genesis 1:28, OT Law).
  • With regard to who Jesus Christ is and what he did to secure salvation, Scripture is clear (Gospels, John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1).
  • With regard to what it means to experience salvation, Scripture is clear (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 5:8; 6:23, 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9).

See previous posts on the doctrine of salvation: soteriology, atonement, redemption, regeneration, election, justification, adoption, union with Christ, sanctification, and glorification.

Scripture itself is the primary means for communicating the gospel. It is clear unto salvation. Two examples will suffice.

First, Scripture is clear enough for both children and adults to experience salvation. As a pastor, I preach Scripture regularly and share it personally when witnessing. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of leading both of my children to Christ as well as other children and adults. The primary communication tool that I use to explain salvation is the Scripture. Scriptures on salvation are gloriously clear. It is because of the clarity of Scripture that God has brought billions to faith in himself.

Second, Scripture is the primary communication mechanism from God to people for their conversion. I just finished a fascinating audiobook, Defying Jihad, by Esther Ahmad. Esther grew up a devout Muslim and was on the path toward becoming a suicide bomber. But a dream where she saw Jesus disturbed her devotion to Islam. Providentially, God placed a man in her life who was a Christian. Esther’s conversion to Christ was initiated by a dream, helped along by a couple of Christians, but her conversion only occurred as began reading the Bible. God brought salvation to Esther from the Bible. Esther’s only prior biblical understanding came through the false perspectives of Islam. She did not have a church, a teacher, or Bible study helps. She had the Bible. And God made it clear enough for her to reject Islam and follow Jesus.

In subsequent weeks we will discuss topics like the authority of Scripture and the need for clear and beneficial interpretive strategies regarding Scripture. But one does not have to be a Bible scholar or a trained academic to understand what the Bible has to say about salvation.

God put that information on the bottom shelf for all of us to grasp. God cares about his creatures enough that when he wrote his book to us, men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, geographical and cultural differences, anywhere and anytime, could understand the message of salvation from the pages of Scripture.

As an aside, our prayer partners at Wilkesboro Baptist Church this week are Wycliffe Bible Translators, Adam and Ruth Huntley and family. The reason we care about and prioritize the translation of the Bible in the languages of the peoples of he world is because the Bible is clear, especially about salvation and eternal life. Would you take a moment and pray for Adam and Ruth and other Wycliffe translators?

Photo by Randy ORourke on Unsplash