In our last report we looked at Old Testament references concerning God’s Anointed – the Messiah. We will now look at how the New Testament presents Jesus of Nazareth as being the promised Messiah. A reminder about the word “Messiah.” It comes from the Hebrew word mashiach … Continue reading Convince Me There’s A God: The New Testament Part 4
The full title of this wonderful book is Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017). The author, Dr. Michael Licona, is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus. Lee Strobel interviewed Licona for his book “The Case for the Real Jesus” and video “The Case for Christ.”
Dr. Licona is the author of several books including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010) and Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006). He is also co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Licona is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He is also a well-known speaker and debater and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.
The full title of this new book is Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2017). Its publication is certainly timely as we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this October (October 31, 2017).
I understand Michael Horton’s concern about the upcoming anniversary –
“Frankly, I’m a bit ambivalent about this anniversary. If it is another occasion for liberals to hail Luther’s “Here I stand!” as the harbinger of modern autonomy, or for conservatives to celebrate Protestant values, or for confessionalists to rewatch the Luther movie and dredge up polemical grudges, then it will be at best a colossal waste of time. If, on the other hand, it is an occasion to allow God’s Word once again to break into our self-enclosed circles with a word of radical judgment and radical grace, then it will be a happy anniversary indeed.” Prologue, p 34
We have looked most recently at the “Apostolic Fathers” in our series. They include men like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna – disciples of the apostles of Jesus Christ. They were born during the 1st century and served as bishops and apologists.
The men who followed the Apostolic Fathers in the 2nd, 3rd and early 4th centuries fought many important battles for orthodox Christianity as passed to them from the apostles through the apostolic fathers. The writings of these brave men are important for modern Christian apologists to read because the battles they fought are similar to what we fight today. Plus, we can learn from the deep devotion they presented in both their lives and ministries.
We’ll begin with Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.
Some of the best known of the ancient apologists are the “Apostolic fathers.” They were disciples of the apostles. They lived during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and their apologetic ministries had a powerful influence on the early Christian Church. They included Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Symrna (some scholars include Papias of Hierapolis in the group). We’ve learned about Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch in previous studies. We move now to Polycarp of Symrna.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Christians often focus more on what they “get” than what they “give.” We get a lot from God. We are “saved” by grace through faith. That is not from ourselves. God gives it to us. We don’t work for it. We don’t deserve it. God gives it and we receive it.. Nobody can boast about being saved. God’s does it all and gets all the credit for doing it all. We are saved because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross not because of anything we did, do or will do. Salvation is not based on our works. It’s all based on God’s grace.
What we often forget is the next verse – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God saves us with a specific purpose in mind – serving Him through good works. We are not saved “by” good works, since there’s no way a sinner can perform any works that are “good” in God’s view, but we are saved “for good works.”
So how does that work? Let’s look at “work-walking” in the New Year – keeping this important point in mind. Work-walking has nothing to do with being saved. Salvation is by grace through faith. Work-walking is about serving God after salvation.
As a quick review, the first part of a reading plan for Christian apologists is to read the Bible indepth, in context and often. That includes an understanding of the overarching truths of the Bible. The second part is to have at least a basic working knowledge of the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, Koine Greek). The third part is to learn from the great apologetic voices of the early Church Fathers. Those Christians from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries fought many of the same battles we are fighting today. There is much we can learn from how they identified and addressed challenges to Christianity from both inside and outside the Church.