by Rev. Randy Nabors
We have no new theology, only one as old as Isaiah, Jesus, and the book of James. We have no new theology, only one that doesn’t get used as often as it should. We are believers in the Word of God, we have honored the gospel, and we did that by believing it. We found that it truly is the “power of God unto salvation.” And in this Gospel we also found the love of God. We have been loved by God through His people, and God has loved His people through us.
As those who are Reformed and evangelical, we have had to fight many battles with error. We have had to be tenacious about what Truth is, and where it comes from, and we have been diligent to articulate what we mean. We have often paid a price for such a stubborn commitment to what we believe is the only hope of future generations, that they not lose the certainty of the faith of their forefathers.
Sometimes in our battles we have not stressed all of the Word, especially when it was the Word itself that seemed to be at stake. Surely, though, there never was a true Christian who did not in some faltering degree practice what the Word teaches, especially when it comes to love. When we have not loved, we have been inconsistent with what we have preached. All of the Word, the Holy Bible, which we love, which is so powerful to save, which is complete and so clearly reveals the will of God, speaks so simply of being. It is the being that reveals what we are, not the knowing.
Living the Gospel
We have no need to attack the knowing part of our faith. It is truth that we need and which saves us. We are not attacking our intellectual understanding of the faith, just how essential it is for that knowing to have made a difference, in our being. So one could possibly be a missionary of the “knowing,” and know a great deal for oneself, and be absolutely ineffective in reaping the harvest. One can, in fact, be absolutely a hindrance, even antithetical, to the mission of the gospel by knowing, and letting others know we know it, but not living it.
It is the living of the gospel that God wants and that God uses. Certainly he could have given the world pages written from heaven, and dropped from the skies. Certainly he could have used technology to speak it, giving every man a set of headphones. For some reason God likes relationships, and so he sent His Son, by whom he has spoken to the world. We call this the incarnation and there never has been such a deed to display the Word of God.
God loves the poor, and commissioned His Son, and us, to go to them. And we bring to the poor the Word, something that is preached. Bringing the Word to someone inevitably gets us involved in their lives, or else we really have not sought to disciple them, and so the Word becomes something that is lived. These two things can be intellectually split, word and deed. We are even sophisticated enough, and wicked enough, to attempt to do one without the other. Yet, they are inseparable, for each validates the other.
How strange that we would plant churches that reflect our theological weakness, yes, even our hypocrisy. That we would plant churches of “knowers,” and give them no vision, or leadership, or example of what it means to live out the gospel, and love the brethren, and love the poor, and do good to all men, or let our light shine before men so that they might see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. So strange that we would fight a false theology of salvation by good works, and not articulate, or model, a theology that shows we are saved unto good works that have been preordained that we should walk in them.
How strange that we should become veterans of a verbal and literary war over how much each other is right, and know so little about being right, and doing good, in the world. While proud of the scars we have for the battle over Truth, should we be ashamed that we have so few scars in the doing of justice, the love of mercy, the sharing of our bread with the hungry, the clothing of the naked, and the visitation of the prisoners and the sick?
Can you see a vision of a missionary, who knows what he believes, who is rock solid on the authority of the Word of God, who knows the gospel and knows how to teach it? He knows what it is, and what it isn’t, and he learns how to put it in the language of the people to whom he goes so that they can understand it. And while he does this, he makes the widow’s heart to sing; he gives the orphan hope. He ministers Christ to the least of the brethren of Christ as he visits a woman dying of AIDS, builds an orphanage for her children, creates a home for children who sleep in garbage dumps at night, recruits a doctor to build a hospital, recruits a deacon to come and build an industry, trains a local pastor, not only in the Word but in the doing, and all the people begin to speak well of this thing in their midst. It is the Gospel, in mighty word, and mighty deed.
What would the world be like, and how would it be shaken, if holistic churches were planted in communities of need so that the things that are weak would confound the things that are mighty, and the base things, and the things which are despised, (the people God chooses), would bring to nothing the things that are: so that no flesh should glory in His presence?
Rev. Randy Nabors is senior pastor of New City PCA in Chattanooga, TN.