Sacrifice and the Death of Christ

by John Goldingay | When Christians think about sacrifice, they commonly make two assumptions. One is that sacrifice is essentially a way of dealing with the problem of sin. The other is that it deals with sin by causing God to stop being angry with us. Neither Old Testament nor New Testament supports these two assumptions. Sacrifice does sometimes have something to do with sin, but dealing with sin is not its main object. God does get angry, but sacrifice does not relate to God’s anger (image, Falco – Church Painted Glass – Pixabay).

The Meaning of Sacrifice

The New Testament speaks of sacrifice in a number of connections apart from seeing Jesus’ death as a sacrifice that deals with sin. For instance, when we give ourselves to God in response to God’s giving himself to us, it is an act of sacrifice (Romans 12). Paul talks about being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of the Philippians’ faith and of the Philippians’ gifts to him as an offering to God (Phil 2:17; 4:18). When we testify to what God has done, it is a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15).

The New Testament’s way of thinking coheres with the Old Testament’s way of thinking in this respect. In the Old Testament there are a number of reasons for offering a sacrifice; the most systematic account of them comes in Leviticus 1–7. First, there is the whole burnt offering, when people sacrifice a whole animal to God. They give up the entire animal. It really is a sacrifice. Second, there is the grain offering, which accompanies other sacrifices. Third, there is a sacrifice that the New International Version (NIV) calls a “fellowship offering,” the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) calls a “sacrifice of well-being” and the Common English Bible (CEB) calls a “communal sacrifice of well-being.” While it is hard to find the right title in English, in general terms the sacrifice’s significance is clear. Its distinctive feature is that God and the offerers share the sacrifice. Some is burnt and given directly to God; some is eaten by the family that makes the offering. There are three slightly different reasons why people might offer this sacrifice. One is that God has done something for them and they want to express their gratitude—maybe (for instance) they have a new baby in the family. Another is that they had promised to bring an offering in connection with asking God to do something, and God has done it—again, maybe they had prayed for a baby and they now have one. Another is simply that they want to be able to give something to God—a freewill offering (that expression comes from the name of this sacrifice).

These first three sacrifices are expressions of worship and fellowship between people and God and one another. After these, Leviticus comes to two other forms of sacrifice that do have to do with solving problems (as one might put it). The CEB uses the terms “purification offering” and “compensation offering,” which bring out their significance. The purification offering deals with situations when people have become “unclean” or “taboo.” They may have had to bury a family member and thus have been in contact with death, or they may have made a promise that they accidentally failed to keep. The purification offering puts one aspect of that problem right. The compensation offering puts the other aspect right, in making some restitution for what they did wrong. In addition, once a year on the Day of Atonement there were special purification offerings to deal with the various ways in which the people might have been affected by uncleanness of which they might be unaware. These special purification offerings made it possible for the community to clean its slate for the new year.

So none of these sacrifices dealt with real sin. Sacrifice was not designed to deal with real sin. If you had worshiped another God or set fire to someone’s grain, you could not solve the problem by offering a sacrifice. You simply had to repent and cast yourself on God’s mercy. You knew that God was a God of love and compassion and you just had to plead for God’s forgiveness. You would offer the appropriate purification offering and compensation offering as well, but the more basic resolution of the problem lay in repentance and forgiveness. As the Old Testament sometimes puts it, you would ask God to make expiation for your wrongdoing. That idea is paradoxical—expiation is, by nature, something an offender is responsible for. But the only person who can put the situation right when you have done wrong is God. It is God who pays the price for keeping the relationship going by being willing to forgive. And this is what God does in Jesus.

The New Testament uses the practice of sacrifice as a metaphor to help people understand what Christ was doing in being willing to sacrifice himself for us, but that is what it is doing—using a metaphor, using the imagery of sacrifice in a way that does not correspond to its original meaning. As is often the case with the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, it is adapting as well as adopting its way of speaking.

Anger and Sacrifice

Christians often assume there is a link between sacrifice and the assuaging of God’s anger. It is certainly the case that the Old Testament and New Testament talk a lot about God’s anger as well as about sacrifice. But they never bring these two together. Leviticus, the book that tells us most about sacrifice, never mentions God’s anger in this connection. Insofar as sacrifice deals with problems, the problems are the need to be made clean and the need to make compensation for wrongdoing. No doubt God might be annoyed if people fail to make these sacrifices (though Leviticus does not say so), but the mere fact of needing to find purification or to make up for wrongdoing does not mean there is any anger around.

In the Old Testament God does get really angry from time to time, and that anger relates to actions such as the ones we have noted—worshiping other gods or stealing someone’s land. But what you have to do when you are guilty of such actions is stop what you are doing, put right what needs putting right, and plead with God for mercy. The story of the making of the gold bullock at Sinai is a classic illustration of these dynamics. When the people make this image and make offerings before it, God gets very angry and threatens to annihilate the people. Moses’ reaction is not to offer a sacrifice but to urge God to have a change of mind, and God does so. It fits with this reaction that God later describes himself to Moses as one who is characterized by compassion and forgiveness even while also being one who will punish people.

It fits with the Old Testament data that while the New Testament describes Jesus’ death as a sacrifice dealing with sin, passages such as Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 2:17; 9:26; 10:12; and 1 John 2:2; 4:10 do not see this sacrifice as operating by assuaging God’s anger, but rather a means of cleansing that makes it possible for us to be in the presence of the holy God. Conversely, while the New Testament emphatically declares that God is angry at human sin and that Jesus’ death saves us from God’s wrath, in passages such as John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5–6; 5:9; and Revelation 6:16–17, it does not link this with the idea of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice.

Jesus and His Compensation Offering

There is one other Old Testament passage about sacrifice that has been especially influential on Christian thinking about Christ’s death. Isaiah 53 speaks of God’s servant offering his life as a compensation offering to God, and also of his bearing our punishment. Oddly enough, neither of these two lines is quoted in the New Testament, unlike much of the rest of Isaiah 53. Karl Barth comments that the New Testament does not speak of Christ’s death as his taking on the punishment for our sin, but that Isaiah 53 does do so (Church Dogmatics IV/1, p. 253). Actually Isaiah 53 does not do so, in the sense usually understood. In Isaiah 53 the word for punishment is one that usually means “discipline” or “instruction”; most of the occurrences come in Proverbs to describe teaching or correction by a parent or teacher. Thus in Isaiah 53 the King James Version (KJV) translates it “chastisement.” When Christians think of Christ bearing the punishment for our sin, they are thinking of the punishment meted out by a law court for wrongdoing, but this is not the regular connotation of this word, nor the connotation suggested by the context in Isaiah 53. The servant of God in Isaiah 53 is going through chastisement all right, going through ill-treatment at the hands of his own people and/or at the hands of the imperial authorities, but he is not going through a judicial punishment that other people thereby escape.

If you go through persecution at the hands of your own people and at the hands of others, what do you do with that experience? The possibility raised by Isaiah 53 is that you can turn it into a compensation offering. The people among whom this servant ministers have failed in their relationship with God; they have deliberately gone their own way. At the moment they have no inclination to throw themselves on God’s mercy in the way I have described above. The servant himself is someone who has not gone their way. He is someone committed to walking God’s way. So the vision raises a daring theological possibility. Supposing he asks God to take his life and commitment and ministry, which look likely to end in death, as a kind of sacrifice, one that could compensate for the rebelliousness of his people? (Of course by normal reckoning there is no way in which one person’s obedience to death could balance the rebellion of thousands, but sacrifice never works by that kind of weighing and mathematics.)

It is that possibility that is picked up in applying this vision to Jesus. He offers his life and death as a kind of counterweight to the sin of the world; obviously the person he was opens up bigger possibilities than might apply in the case of anyone else. So Jesus’ death is a sacrifice, but not in a sense that has anything to do with God’s anger or with his being punished in our place.

The Chasm

According to a common understanding, human beings are on one side of a chasm and God is on the other side. The chasm is caused by human sin. Alongside that understanding is the implication that God relates to humanity chiefly as a judge, with judges and justice understood in a Western sense: the key point about justice is treating everyone the same, and a judge’s key role is to safeguard standards of justice. God therefore cannot relate to us because of our legal guilt, which makes it necessary for us to be punished. In terms of the picture, human beings cannot cross the chasm except by means of Christ as bridge. This works within the legal image because he bears the legal punishment for sin, thereby making it possible for God the judge to relate to us.

From an Old Testament perspective this looks unscriptural, as well as being unlikely to aid the proper preaching of the gospel. It emphasizes the image of God as lawgiver and judge, and God is both of those, but the Old Testament does not draw the same inferences. As lawgiver, God is entirely free to pardon people if they repent. As judge, God is committed to taking the side of people in the context of relationship, even when they are in the wrong. This understanding emphasizes a more relational understanding of God than the Christian one. Thus Jewish theologians contrast faith within Judaism, which is a matter of a relationship of trust, and faith within Christianity, which is a matter of believing correct doctrine.

Although Christians link sacrifice and atonement with law and punishment, as if an animal (or a person) that is sacrificed is being punished in someone else’s place, the Old Testament does not link sacrifice with legal categories. And although a price has to be paid before someone is forgiven, this need not be understood in a legal way. A more relational understanding of God fits Scripture better.

The Old Testament has a number of relational pictures of God, as friend of Abraham, as husband of Jerusalem, as restorer of a needy relative, or as mother or father in relation to son or daughter. Those images may help us understand what Christ achieved on the cross.

  1. In 1969, Eric Clapton fell in love with the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, wrote the song “Layla” about her, and eventually stole her from Harrison. Whereas one would have expected Harrison at the very least never to want to talk to Clapton again, they actually stayed friends. That implies that Harrison absorbed within himself the pain of what Clapton did and the anger it surely aroused. Their friendship could therefore survive the wrong. (I do not know whether this is actually what Harrison did, but the story nevertheless illustrates the point.)
  2. Imagine a professor coming home after a faculty meeting. It has reinforced her feelings of being powerless, underpaid, undervalued, and put down. She thus acts “crabby” in relation to her husband, who has been cooking dinner and looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine with her. She complains that the curry is too hot and the wine isn’t properly chilled. He has two choices. He can respond in kind, “I’ve been here slaving over your dinner and all you do is complain.” Or he can lean into the wind and absorb the bitterness that he did not earn. He can wait untill it is used up, and thus look for the moment when they can relate to each other because it is gone.
  3. The year I went to university, my sister married a man who my parents thought was no good. He abandoned her just after their first baby was born. Our parents had enjoyed the opportunity to begin a new life after their children had left home, but they welcomed her and her baby back into their home. Without a murmur they reshaped their life again so my sister could go to work while my mother looked after the baby, and they helped her gradually to get back to independence as a single parent. They acted as parents and next-of-kin to her, paying the price to redeem or restore her.
  4. The ordinary meaning of the Hebrew word most commonly translated “forgive” is “carry.” It is what parents do for their children’s wrongdoing and what God was doing with Israel through Old Testament times. It was a process that came to its climax with the cross, which is the logical end to the Old Testament story. Seeing the way the relationship between God and Israel worked helps us see why the cross was necessary. Through God’s life with Israel God was paying the price for that relationship, making the sacrifices to keep it going. God’s people keep doing their worst to God, so eventually God paid the ultimate price for them. God showed that even killing God cannot put God off from relating to them. God will just come back from the dead.

That is the nature of sacrifice and the nature of what Christ did for us in making atonement.

This article was published in Theology, News & Notes, Fall 2012, “No Cross, No Christianity: The Biblical Shape of Atonement Theology.”

John Goldingay is the David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology. His most recent publications include the 17-volume “Old Testament For Everyone” series (WJK/SPCK, 2010–15), which provides clear, concise comment on all the Old Testament Scriptures, and “The Theology of the Book of Isaiah” (InterVarsity Press, 2014).



We Are Saved by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ

by Michael Bradley | Eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins. (image, Pinterest)

These first 16 verses all have to do with our own personal salvation in the Lord. Each one of these are major power verses and they all have to do with the first definition of grace – which is that grace is the unmerited favor and mercy of God towards mankind.
In these verses are complete and full revelation on exactly what our eternal salvation in the Lord is really all about. If you can grasp what the Lord is trying to tell you in these specific verses, you will then be able to walk away with a much better and clearer understanding as to who you really are in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and exactly how you were saved in the first place.
I will go ahead and run all of these verses together, and then point out key words and phrases in these verses so you can see exactly what God is trying to show you.

  • 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 boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
  • “… who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)
  • “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men …” (Titus 2:11)
  • But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 15:11)
  • “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
  • “… that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7)
  • “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus …” (Romans 3:23-24)
  • “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
  • “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace …” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence …” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • “For if by the one man’s offense, many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5:15)
  • “… having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)
  • But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20)
  • I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

The first thing to pick up from these verses is that our personal salvation in the Lord is not earned by any type of good works that we can do in this life – no matter how many good works we may end up doing, and no matter how good and holy those works may end up being. The quantity and quality of our works for the Lord do not matter to Him.

The very first verse listed above is the absolute number one power verse on exactly how we are to receive eternal salvation from the Lord. This verse specifically tells us, without any other possible spin or interpretation you can possibly put on it, that our individual personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by “grace” through our personal faith in Jesus Christ.

This first verse, and the two that follow right after it, specifically state that our eternal salvation is simply received by grace through faith – not by any type of works. The first verse tells us that our eternal salvation is a direct, free gift from God and “not of works.” The second verse once again says that God has saved us through His grace and not “according to our works.”

The third verse then really hammers this point home when it literally shouts out that we cannot be saved by both grace and works. It says if we are saved by grace, then works has no part in our salvation whatsoever. You cannot have this revelation both ways. If we are saved by grace, which we are, then works has absolute no part in our personal salvation with the Lord. It’s all Him and none of us. The first verse says that being saved by grace through our faith in Jesus all comes direct from God and that it is “not from ourselves.”

As simple as this revelation is to fully grasp and understand, there are still some Christians who are walking around thinking that they still have to try and earn their way into heaven by doing as many good and holy works as they possibly can.

As a result, they spend most of their life in misery and torment as they never know for sure if they will make it into heaven after they die and cross over. These first set of verses are absolute top priority for any newborn who has just been saved or any unbeliever you may be witnessing to.

Bottom line – eternal salvation is received direct from the Lord as a free gift and it can only be received by grace through our personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Salvation is simply just a matter of believing – and then accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior once you are ready to admit that you are truly a sinner in need of a personal Savior to save you from your sins.

I am going to highlight some of the key phrases in the above verses so you can see how the Lord is really trying to drive home the point that we can only be saved by and through His grace.

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith
  • Who has saved us … according to His own purpose and grace
  • We have access by faith into this grace
  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men
  • Through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved
  • By grace you have been saved
  • Having been justified by His grace
  • Being justified freely by His grace
  • Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
  • Given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace
  • In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Notice in every single one of these key phrases the word “grace” is specifically being used in reference to our own personal salvation in the Lord.

With the basic definition of the word “grace” being “unmerited favor,” there can be no question that our own personal salvation in the Lord can only be received by God’s grace through our faith in His Son Jesus.

No amount of works, no matter how good and holy we think those works may be, will ever be good enough to get us back in the good graces of our Lord and Savior.

Ritualism, legalism, and works are out the door!

They have no place in our personal salvation with the Lord – and they have absolutely no place when working with an unsaved person in an effort to try and get them saved. God has made accepting His free gift of eternal salvation through His Son Jesus Christ as easy as He possibly could.

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael & Chris Bradley

Michael Bradley was very intelligent and gifted with an ability to break down topics and easily explain and lead by a step by step as to really help people grow with their walk with the Lord. My brother Chris and I decided to start an online ministry in the summer of 2004 and officially went live in Jan of 2005. It started with us answering peoples questions via email and they became excellent teaching articles and with the feedback and fruit we were receiving, we felt led by the Lord to take these teachings to the world.



The New Testament of the Bible

by Jesus Christ Savior | The Latin Vulgate Bible published by St. Jerome served as the standard Bible for Western Christian civilization for over 1000 years (image: Jerome 345-420. Doctor of the Church- Feast Day, September 30).

There were three stages in the formation of the Gospels: the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the oral tradition of the Apostles, and the written word. There were eight named writers of the New Testament: Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude.

The Canon of the New Testament was formed within the early Christian community, the Church. The Tradition of the Fathers of the Church was important to early Christianity, for they were the ones who chose those inspired books which best reflected the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in the formation of the canon of the New Testament, and were also involved in the interpretation of Scripture. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, first proposed a canon of the New Testament in 180 AD. Three Fathers of the Church – Athanasius of Alexandria in his Letter of 367, Jerome in Bethlehem with the completion of his Latin New Testament in 384, and Augustine at the Council of Hippo in 393 – agreed that 27 Books were the inspired Word of God. The Canon of the New Testament of the Bible was confirmed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD.

Our New Testament of the Bible in the West was written in Greek. There are indications in the writings of the Fathers of the Church (Papias of Hierapolis, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, and St. Jerome) that “Matthew put together the sayings of the Lord in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could” (Papias, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 39, 16). The oldest manuscripts available to us are the Curetonian and Sinaiticus texts of the Old Syriac Gospels, the Greek Codex Sinaiticus from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, Egypt, and the Codex Vaticanus in Greek from the fourth century AD.

St. Jerome (345-420) was commissioned by Pope Damasus in 382 to produce a new Latin translation of the Bible. Jerome completed the translation of the New Testament Gospels into Latin in 384, and finished his translation from both Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament by 405. In view of his work, St. Jerome was named the Father of Biblical Scholars. The Latin Vulgate Bible published by St. Jerome served as the standard Bible for Western Christian civilization for over 1000 years. 1-3, 9, 17-22

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



What Does It Mean To Be Saved?

by Cecil Maranville | Many believe that if you just say the words “I accept Jesus as my Savior,” you will be immediately and permanently saved. Is that what the Bible teaches?

Some religious people ask others, “Are you saved?

If the answer is no, the suggested solution might be to recite a short statement: “I accept Jesus as my Savior.

Such advice about being saved implies that a simple, albeit sincere, declaration explains both the howand the when of salvation. Yet Jesus Himself counseled, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, emphasis added throughout).

Wait! Have you been told that you do not have to do anything to be saved? If that is what you have read or been told, how does it square with what the Bible says?

According to Jesus Christ, just words alone are not enough. You have to conduct your day-to-day life according to God’s will. And implied in Jesus’ statement is that complete salvation is not now, but in the future (He said, “shall enter the kingdom of heaven,” not “has entered the kingdom of heaven”).

Unconditional love does not equal unconditional benefits

We must not confuse unconditional love with unconditional benefits. An argument commonly used against what Christ said above is that God’s love is unconditional. The reasoning is that since God’s love is unconditional, His free gift of salvation is also unconditional.

It is true that God loves us unconditionally. He loves male and female, wealthy and poor, highly educated and illiterate, people of any and every racial background. His love is without discrimination or prejudice.

Does the fact that He has unconditional love for humankind mean that He gives His benefits unconditionally? That is comparing apples and oranges—two completely different issues. Unconditional love by God does not equate to unconditional benefits from God.

Of course, nothing anyone can do earns salvation. Even so, there are requirements, according to what Christ said above—and what the Bible says in numerous other scriptures.

Requirements do not mean earning salvation

Some assume that saying Christians are required to do anything in order to be saved teaches that salvation can be earned. That reasoning is false.

Can you inherit a gift you have not earned and yet be required by your benefactor to do certain things before receiving your inheritance? Sure! It happens all the time. For example, a wealthy benefactor may leave an heir a million dollars, but the benefactor can stipulate in his will that the heir must complete a college education and reach age 21 before receiving the money. Does the heir “earn” the million dollars by fulfilling the will’s requirements? No, fulfilling requirements to receive the inheritance is not the same as earning the inheritance.

If we tried to understand the doctrine of salvation by human debate, the arguing would be endless. God alone determines the parameters of salvation. And He declares it is a gift! That means God says salvation cannot be earned. It is, by analogy, an inheritance. We are heirs of salvation (Romans 8:17) by faith, not by works (Romans 4:14).

Salvation is the single greatest benefit that any human being could receive. As we explain in thorough detail in our other articles about salvation, being saved is a process that begins with the human mind turning away from living and thinking the way that comes naturally to living and thinking the way God expects.But, as in the human inheritance analogy above, God also declares unambiguously that the inheritors of salvation must fulfill certain requirements to receive it.

You would think Jesus’ words would have settled the matter, but this debate continues even today. We will come back to this, but we first need to consider what salvation is.

What does it mean to be saved?

Salvation is the single greatest benefit that any human being could receive. As we explain in thorough detail in our other articles about salvation, being saved is a process that begins with the human mind turning away from living and thinking the way that comes naturally to living and thinking the way God expects.

To draw an analogy with a race, the starting line is baptism, at which time a person’s sins are forgiven and God gives the gift of His Holy Spirit.

Some would have you think that the starting line and the finish line are one and the same.

However, the Bible teaches that the finish line, when salvation is complete, is when God changes a person from physical existence to spirit existence. Then the person is “saved” from perishing. It is no longer possible for one who is completely saved to suffer an injury, to contract a disease, to age or to die.

In everyday language, “to be saved” means to be spared or rescued from something undesirable. One might be saved from drowning by being rescued from a body of water. A person can be saved from asphyxiation by being pulled from a burning building by a firefighter. Someone could be saved from death by the successful medical treatment of an injury or disease.

What are we saved from?

The concept of salvation in the Bible is similar. A person is saved from something undesirable. In the case of spiritual salvation, the undesirable condition from which one is saved is eternal death—death from which there is no resurrection.

What did Jesus say to the woman of Samaria at the well? “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

“Everlasting life” is another way of saying “saved.” After receiving everlasting life, a person will no longer be subject to those elements that cause pain, suffering and death to a human being.

The spiritual water Jesus was speaking of is the Holy Spirit, the divine nature that is given to a person at the “the starting line” of the process of salvation.

When is a person saved?

But did not Jesus also say that a person who believes in Him has everlasting life? Yes, He did: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

The question is, when is a person saved? Well, in one sense, as soon as the conversion process begins, a Christian has within his or her mind some of God’s nature—that is, divine essence (2 Peter 1:4). God’s Spirit is the down payment (earnest) one must have for ultimate salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:11).

That does not mean that every Christian is completely divine upon conversion! It means the process has begun. That is what Jesus meant.

Reinforcing the truth that there are requirements

Now that we’ve looked at what salvation is, let’s continue our study of God’s expectations. Consider what Jesus said to a young Jewish ruler. This young man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus told him, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). We know from the scriptures we have been reading that “life” means everlasting life, which means the same as eternal life, which means the same as salvation. Again, we find there is a requirement of believers in order to receive salvation. Nothing we can do earns salvation, and yet we are required to keep the 10 Commandments or we will not be saved!

If you study this story, you will learn the young man already kept the letter of the 10 Commandments. And you will see that Jesus did not deter the man from doing so, but rather, that Christ steered the man deeper into the intent and spirit of the law. Measuring oneself by the law alone would be legalism. But searching out and living by the 10 Commandments and the spiritual intent for which God gave each one is the pathway to salvation.

The finish line

We have enough background information that we can now understand a difficult scripture, which will help bring the points of this article to a conclusion.

Four days after Martha’s brother Lazarus had died and been buried, Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Now, we can understand Jesus’ words. The believer has the promise of eternal life. But until the process is complete, the person is still subject to injury, disease, aging and death. He or she therefore is not “saved” from perishing yet.

When does the believer cross the finish line? Christ inspired the apostle Paul to relate the answer:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

Of course, these verses concern all who become believers before Christ returns. Many more will become believers during and after the Millennium. Their salvation will be the same; it will begin with repentance and baptism; it will be complete when God changes them to spirit beings.

Saved through a process

In summary, salvation is a process. It begins with repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. It continues with a Christian, out of love and appreciation, striving with God’s help to live a life pleasing to God by obeying His laws and doing His will. It concludes when God changes a physical being into a spirit being, a being that can never be injured, become sick, age or die.

Do not go by what you may have always thought or by what other people say. Look at what the Bible says by reading the Scriptures. Plus, we encourage you to read the accompanying biblically based articles on salvation and conversion on this website. Also, you may use the search box at the top of any page of the website to look for information you cannot find on any topic. And, if you need help, feel free to ask us!

 



The Eastern Christian Churches

Jesus Christ Savior | Eastern Christians share many cultural traditions but not the same religious traditions, Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). (Images of the Holy Sepulchre, detail of the dome over the Katholikon, Jerusalem by Berthold Werner).

Christianity spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. The Eastern Christian Churches are characterized by a rich heritage with Apostolic origin, and are treasured by the universal Church, for the East was the home of Jesus Christ our Redeemer!

Jerusalem is the birthplace to all of Christianity throughout the world. The Levant, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the cradle of Christianity. Antioch, Syria became an early center for Christianity, especially following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Indeed, followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). They also became known as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), particularly in the East. St. Mark the Evangelist founded the Church of Alexandria, Egypt. Philip the Deacon introduced Christianity to a minister of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza in Acts 8:27.

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

One of the earliest centers of Christianity was Edessa in the Kingdom of Osroene, located in Northern Syria and Mesopotamia across the Euphrates River. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History reported that King Abgar of Edessa was afflicted with illness and contacted Jesus in the hope of a cure. Upon his healing by St. Jude Thaddeus, King Abgar converted to Christianity.

Edessa became home to such writers as St. Ephrem of Syria (306-373 AD), a Father and Doctor of the Church. St. Ephrem wrote his beautiful hymns and religious poetry in Syriac, a dialect of the Semitic language of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Syriac became the biblical and liturgical language of early Christian Churches in the East. The theology of Eastern Churches often developed independently, outside the sway of Roman and Byzantine thought. Syriac Christianity would expand throughout Asia, extending to Chaldea and Persia along the Silk Road all the way to India and the Far East, reaching China, Tibet, and Mongolia. The first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion was Armenia under King Tiridates III in 301.

Eastern Christian Churches allow clerical marriage, for they accept the gift of human sexuality given by God, who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”(Genesis 2:18). Those Eastern Churches that are in communion with Rome are known as the Eastern Catholic Churches. 8-16

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?

by Got Questions | The Triune God of the Bible has existed and reigned from all eternity, and the second Person of the Trinity, the Son, took on human flesh at a particular point in time (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 1:5). God the Son added a sinless human nature to His eternally existent divine nature. The result was the Incarnation. God the Son became a man John 1:1, 14, (image, YouTube)

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is both God and man. Many Christians are understandably confused when it comes to understanding how Jesus can be God and man at the same time. How could our divine Creator become a human? Could a first-century Jewish man really be God? While a certain amount of mystery will always accompany this issue, both Scripture and, to a lesser extent, church tradition provide for us important distinctions to help us make sense of this matter.

While previous church councils had deliberated over issues pertaining to the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Father, it was the Council of Chalcedon (AD 481) that affirmed that Christ is “the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man.” This statement is not true simply because the council taught it. Rather, the council’s declaration was authoritative only insofar as it aligned with what the Bible teaches on the subject. Scripture is clear that Jesus is God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8), and it is equally clear that He is truly human (Romans 1:2–4; 1 John 4:2–3). Jesus claimed the divine name (John 8:58) and did things that only God can do (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 7:48–50). But Jesus also displayed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities common to humanity (Luke 19:41; John 19:28).

The belief that Jesus is both God and man is of fundamental importance. The apostle Paul wrote that an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus is required to be saved (Romans 10:9), and the apostle John provided a sober warning that those who deny Christ’s true humanity are promoting the doctrine of antichrist (2 John 1:7).

The Triune God of the Bible has existed and reigned from all eternity, and the second Person of the Trinity, the Son, took on human flesh at a particular point in time (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 1:5). God the Son added a sinless human nature to His eternally existent divine nature. The result was the Incarnation. God the Son became a man (John 1:1, 14). Hebrews 2:17 gives the reason that Jesus had to be both God and man: “He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” The Son of God took on human flesh to provide redemption to those under the law (Galatians 4:4–5).

At no time did Jesus ever cease to be God. Although He was made fully human, there was never a point when He abrogated His divine nature (see Luke 6:5, 8). It is equally true that, after becoming incarnate, the Son has never ceased to be human. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, emphasis added). Jesus is not half-human and half-divine. Rather, He is Theanthropos, the God-man. The Lord Jesus Christ is one eternally divine Person who will forever possess two distinct yet inseparable natures: one divine and one human.



How to Re-Strategize for Reaching a Lost and Dying World with the Holistic Gospel of Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ

by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba | “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Greetings to you all in the precious name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. It is a very rare and a great privilege to be chosen by God through His servants and people, to lead ECWA at this critical time in its history.

I. ECWA History
ECWA History
ECWA has come a long way since the coming of the pioneer team of the then Sudan Interior Missions (SIM) Missionaries, our founding fathers and heroes of faith, Walter Gowans, Thomas Kent and Rowland Bingham, who arrived the shores of our land in Lagos on 4th December 1893.

1. Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS)
EMS of ECWAI remember when I was appointed Director of Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). To find inspiration and get a ‘feel’ of what our pioneers went through, I decided to visit the grave of Walter Gowans at Girku. We had to drive, take a chance through the bush, go by foot through the water, enter a canoe and finally tread dangerously through the flowering shrubs before we could reach the lone grave of Walter Gowans in Girku. It is also worthy of mention that 125 years after the death of Walter Gowans, his grave is still not accessible except on foot. I wept bitterly that day beside his grave and asked God for the grace to re-intensify our effort, so that the vision He gave to our founding Fathers to reach the entire world with the gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ would not fade away during our time.

2. Build Befitting Memorials at Bida and Girku
To make matters more worrisome, I may say at a point in time, the grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump, until the ECWA Minna DCC and some visiting Western Missionaries

The grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump

The grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump

on a historical voyage and research gave some funds for the place to be cleared. There is definitely the need to build befitting memorials at Bida and Girku, where the graves of two of our founding fathers, Thomas Kent and Walter Gowans lay, to serve as memorials to ECWA’s Ministry Philosophy, so that like me, many more of this younger generations of ‘ECWANs’ can go and have their vision and passion to take the gospel to the lost and unsaved of this world renewed.

A family meeting of the brother’s of Alhaji Isah in Bida

A family meeting of the brother’s of Alhaji Isah in Bida

Since the time of arrival of our founding fathers and the evangelism and planting of their first church at Patigi, in the present Niger state, ECWA has made progress spiritually, physically, especially the increase in the number of worshippers and more visibly, materially and financially.

However, we must be very careful never to use human or any external or worldly parameters as criteria for accessing and evaluating the progress of our church. The biggest danger when we use worldly criteria to assess and evaluate our progress and standing as a Church is that we would easily suffer the Laodecian disease. When the Laodecian Church used this approach in evaluating their performance, God told them; “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

We must therefore use God’s criteria to assess and evaluate ourselves and using God’s criteria, the truth is that we are far below what God wants us to be in all respects and especially spirituality. Using God’s criteria, we stand fallen; terribly short.

II. Moving Forward
To move forward and scale greater heights and be the glorious Church that God wants it to be, especially spiritually, ECWA needs the kind of transformation that no one, no man can bring about, certainly, not I or the ECWA Executive, except God and God alone! Nothing short of a powerful supernatural move of God, resulting in revival, would bring about the needed transformation. The key to a glorious ECWA is Revival! For the avoidance of doubt, it is God and only God who can transform

What a Revival Generation Should Look Like

What a Revival Generation Should Look Like

ECWA into the glorious church that He wants it to be, without spots or wrinkle through a powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit. This must be our prayer and the prayer of all those who love ECWA and wish her well.

We have the promise of God in Psalm 110:3 to rely upon which says; “In that day of your power your people shall come to you willingly, dressed in holy altar robes. And your strength shall be renewed day by day like morning dew.” Another promise that the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind is Isaiah 43:18-19, which says; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

1. Prayer
Every one of us has a specific role to play in this end time powerful supernatural move of God in ECWA. However, one thing that God would have all of us do is to pray! In Isaiah 62:6-7, God said, I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” And ECWA is our Jerusalem. We must never be silent day or night. We must never give ourselves any rest and give God no rest, until He establishes ECWA and makes her the glorious Church He desires it to be. I have consequently printed a thirty one day prayer program which would be distributed for use by all of us as a guide and aid for us to pray for ECWA. We shall also circulate it through other channels including internet and social media by God’s grace. It is hoped that it would be updated from time to time God willing.

EMS of ECWA: Praise & Prayer, January 2019

EMS of ECWA: Praise & Prayer, January 2019

We must pray for God’s powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit, to ignite fires that would be blown into flames of revival by the wind of His Spirit, in order to destroy and consume anything that is not of God in our lives, families, church and nation. We must pray for the Holy Fire to be closely followed by a mighty outflow of the River of God from His throne of grace, into our lives and families and churches and that as God showed the Prophet Ezekiel in a vision, as the mighty River of God, the River of the Holy Spirit, the River of Living Waters flows; it would give life to the dead spiritually and if it pleases Him physically; it would set the captives free from bondage to Sin and Satan, transform lives, heal the sick spiritually and physically and generally bless His beloved people spiritually, physically and materially/financially. God has promised that; “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15

2. Open to Guidance & Leading of the Holy Spirit

The Truth About the Holy Spirit and How I Can be Filled

The Truth About the Holy Spirit and How I Can be Filled

We must be all open to the work, guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, families and churches and be absolutely surrendered to be used of the Lord Holy Spirit as God pleases. Those that surrender to the Holy Spirit for Him to use would have abundant joy and would be blessed here on earth and greatly rewarded when we shall all appear before the Lord on that day to receive our reward. Those that are indifferent would miss out in the joy, blessing here on earth and reward in eternity. Those that are opposed to the mighty move of the Holy Spirit would be overruled, set aside or removed out of the way as the case may be, but I pray that this fate would not befall any one of us in Jesus name.

Every genuine revival must be followed by discipleship. As we trust the Lord for revival in ECWA, we intend to encourage and firm up the discipleship program of the Church whereby teaching and instruction on biblical truth will also be demonstrated practically in daily life, the ultimate goal being to engraft believers in Christ, the Vine, so that he can bring him to maturity in Christ and “bear much fruit” that will last (John 15: 1-16).

3. SIM Missionaries Contributions
We remain extremely grateful for the solid foundation laid by our founding Mission, the SIM Missionaries, and the subsequent building and reinforcements made over these many years by our

Twice Lily* found herself standing on the overpass, wondering what to do with her life and how to make ends meet, as busy city traffic whizzed underneath. But God was about to do something good in Lily's life through CUP (Children's Uplift Program). By the staff of Children's Uplift Programme (CUP), South Asia

Twice Lily* found herself standing on the overpass, wondering what to do with her life and how to make ends meet, as busy city traffic whizzed underneath. But God was about to do something good in Lily’s life through CUP (Children’s Uplift Program).By the staff of Children’s Uplift Program (CUP), South Asia

parents who passed on the baton to us. In the immediate period, my predecessor and the ECWA Executive under his leadership pursued a four point agenda of ‘connecting ECWA to God, ECWA to ECWA, ECWA to the World and Mobilizing Resources for the continual Propagation of the gospel’. We are grateful to God for all the progress made over all these years, but now, I believe is the time for us to re-strategize in order for ECWA to make greater impact, in empowering its members, (spiritually, physically, materially/ financially), to reach a lost and dying world, with holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

All hands will need to be on deck in our effort of re-strategizing, in order to make greater impact in empowering ECWA members, to reach a lost and dying world with the holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Need Everyone’s Participation
Our re-strategizing for greater holistic impact of the gospel must encompass all and cover all the segments of ECWA including the Men, Women and especially the Youth and Children of the Church. We must intentionally plan to recapture especially our Youth back to the church and maintain our children as they grow and develop to spiritual and physical maturity.

As earlier noted, praying for the powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit for revival in ECWA by all, is the key to strengthening the critical fundamental spiritual bedrock needed, for the necessary structure to be further developed upon.

5. Ever Changing Culture & Persecution
Furthermore, the population of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children and the poor generally in our churches and Mission fields has reached astronomical levels. Apart from natural causes and other socio – political factors like ethnic and tribal clashes, the murderous activities of radical Islamists like Boko Haram and some Fulani herdsmen who are Jihadists, have contributed very greatly to the rise in the number of widows and orphans in many of our churches today.

I must at this stage, call on the Federal Government and indeed all governing authorities at State and Local Government levels, to show greater resolve and take more concrete steps in stopping the evil carnage being perpetrated by Boko Haram and those that are Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, otherwise, like our much respected and highly esteemed Elder Statesman Gen. T. Y. Danjuma rightly said, citizens are left with no option than to resort to self-defense. Self-defense is a constitutional and legal right to which every citizen is entitled.

Failure to rein in and prosecute these wicked men would only confirm the increasingly perceived notion that Boko Haram has rebranded themselves in form of the Fulani Jihadist herdsmen, and that they are carrying out their nefarious activities under the protection and covert support of Federal Government and its security agencies. Government must arise to the occasion and put an end to this wicked plan to annihilate Nigerians, especially Christians, in the Middle Belt Region and zones of Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Gongola, Sothern Bornu and Southern Kaduna and other parts of the North East because the corporate existence of our dear country Nigeria is being threatened.

World Watch Monitor | “It is important to put on record that the insecure situation we experience in Kafanchan and Southern Kaduna has not stopped despite the presence of Security Agents,” said Mgr. Bagobiri"

Violence in Southern Kaduna Fueled by Government Support for Fulani’s, says Bishop

We are also still calling for intensified action by the Federal Government to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls and of recent, Leah Sharibu, who is being held captive by Boko Haram, for the singular reason that she has refused to deny her faith in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Leah deserves a Nobel prize for her strength of spirit and courage in the midst of pain and suffering. We call on the international community to act on behalf of Leah Sharibu like they did Malala Yousfzai. Our prayers are with the many parents of the Chibok girls and the Sharibu family not only for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, but for their release from captivity in Jesus name.

ECWA in collaboration with other sister churches and adherents of other faiths, shall continue praying, working and doing all it can through dialogue and other means, for peace to reign on the Plateau and in Nigeria as a whole. While we pray for peace in our Land in obedience to Scriptural injunction as Christians, and also partner with Government, groups and well-meaning individuals towards the attainment of this most important value in every society, let us remember that peace is merely an illusion unless anchored on the bedrock of justice. Without justice in our society peace is a mirage, a fleeting shadow beyond grasp. It is for this reason that I call on governments and authorities at all levels to ensure that justice flows like a river in our Land by giving each citizen his or her due in spite of religion, tribe, creed or social standing. That is the real way to peace and progress. When this happens, the evils and wickedness that have plagued our country will be eliminated.

6. Immediate Need for Social Security Safety Net
As the consequence of the forgone, the number of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children within our churches today has reached a crisis proportion. In Nigeria and Africa generally, there is no social security safety net that our many members in such situation can fall back on, therefore, ECWA Leadership at LCB, LCC, DCC and GCC levels, would be encouraged to develop means and ways of ensuring that Brethren reach out to each other, in a more holistic way, so that the church can be strengthened in order to be more effective in reaching out to a lost and dying world. ECWA can no longer continue responding to emergency or crisis relief and other such needs on ad hoc basis through a standing Committee. There is need to strengthen existing structures or consider establishing a unit, at least at Headquarters level and to recruit, train and deploy staff for that purpose, so that cases of granting emergency reliefs, which have now become a permanent feature of the church, and the spiritual care and the economic empowerment of our persecuted Brethren, widows, orphans and vulnerable children, the poor and needy generally, would be given more adequate attention on a continual basis.James 1:27, says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. For this purpose therefore, we shall intensify effort for ECWA Rural Development (ERD) to be resuscitated.

The Plateau State Governor on his last visit to the ECWA General Church Council, recalled the glorious days of ERD with nostalgia. Now that he is a very close neighbor to ERD in the new Government house, our prayer is that you would be a good one, who loves your neighbor as yourself and be your neighbor’s keeper! As ECWA does its very best, we seize this opportunity to call on His Excellency to join in the ongoing effort to resuscitate ERD to serve the good people of Plateau State and Nigeria at large in Jesus name. The Peoples Oriented Development (POD) of ECWA will likewise also be strengthened. Other means of encouraging holistic ministry would be explored, so that as the scriptures say; ‘brotherly love would continue’. Hebrews 13:1

Your Excellency, the Governor of Plateau State, I must give credit to whom it is due. You have done excellently in taking care of the salaries of civil servants in the state and also paying Pensioners their due, at this twilight of their lives, when they are weak and helpless and in need of their pension payment most. I even heard you have been nicknamed the ‘Alert Governor!”, because of your prompt regular payment of salaries of civil servants. Please, keep it up and God bless you. May other governors and leaders emulate you in Jesus name. We also appreciate you for appointing many ECWA sons and daughters in your cabinet.

III. Key to the Lost and Dying World: Evangelism and Missions
As regards reaching the lost and dying world, Evangelism and Missions is the key. As we believe God for a special and mighty visitation, and powerful supernatural move for revival that would make us more effective witnesses in our various places of calling, there would be need for intensified effort in reaching out to the lost beyond our vicinity through missions, and different approaches would need to be adopted for different areas, especially in the following:

Plateau Massacre: Armed Fulani Herdsmen Attacks and Killings Targeted at Christians Across Nigeria

by Rev. Dr. Soja Bewarang | Chairman Denominational Heads Plateau and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State | Press Release By Church Denominational Heads in Plateau and Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN) Plateau State Over The Renewed Armed Fulani Herdsmen Attacks and Killings Targeted at Christians Across Nigeria on June 28, 2018.

1. The Core North
The original vision of our SIM Founding Fathers was to reach the interior of Sudan, especially the core north, with the saving gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, I was in Kano at the same time that the present S.I.M. Nigeria Director, Rev Tom Jessurun worshipped with us at ECWA Gospel Center Kano, where he challenged the church not to cower, in the face of opposition and persecution orchestrated by forces opposed to the gospel, but to forge ahead, because God’s promise that He would build His Church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it, is not for a church that is complacent or stationary, but for an advancing church that is invading the kingdom of darkness to rescue the perishing. That made a great impression on me, especially as regards the core north mission field. We must push ahead with the gospel to the Core North and believe God to conquer as many with the message of love and bring them into the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Much as God hates the wickedness of Boko Haram and some that are Fulani Jihadists Herdsmen, He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. God loves all the people on this earth because He has created us all, and this includes Boko Haram Members and the Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, whom God desires that they should not die in their sins, but come to the saving knowledge of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. We must be ready to pay the price in taking the gospel to all the world, especially the Core North of Nigeria and other difficult areas, bearing in mind that God Himself, demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

2. Remembering Our Past and Empowering the Future Generation
Again our daughter Leah Sharibu’s unflinching stand as a witness for Christ Jesus in this context is a current testimony that God’s grace would always be sufficient for us no matter the danger, even to our lives. Towards re-intensifying our focus on this vision, we shall by God’s grace, in conjunction with Call of Hope, S.I.M. and other partners, hold a special ‘Core North Gospel Summit’, an idea conceived by the late Trustee, Dr. Philip Usman, in conjunction with Elder Dele Onamusi, as soon as possible. The mention of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman brings to mind also one of our gallant Church leaders, Rev. Dr. Musa Asake, who also recently passed on to glory. Please pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit for their immediate families, the ECWA family and the entire Nigerian Christendom (A one minute silence in honor of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman and Rev Dr. Musa Asake).

3. The South
As regards the Southern part of Nigeria generally and the South-South region in particular, the greatest challenge is the battle for the truth. ECWA over the years has been known for, as our learned colleagues would assert, ‘preaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ of the gospel. ECWA Television which had its debut yesterday on the cable shall play a key role in complementing our outreach effort to this region.

ECWA TV: Reaching out to the world through media by preaching, teaching and inspiring, winning all for Christ Jesus and raising a godly generation.

ECWA TV: Reaching out to the world through media by preaching, teaching and inspiring, winning all for Christ Jesus and raising a godly generation.

Please, tune in always and encourage others to tune in to watch ECWA TV using any ‘free to air decoder’. You can also download ECWA TV Mobile App on your android phone. We shall re-intensify our efforts for urban church planting, in order to establish and increase platforms for preaching the true gospel as opposed to the very prevalent ‘different gospel’ being preached and which Paul in Galatians 1:6 condemned as no gospel at all. Also, these established urban churches would be used as bases to lunch out to other less reached groups, especially in the creeks. I look forward to hearing testimonies of special EMS missions work in the Niger Creeks, just as we have been doing in the mountains of the Core and Far North Regions of Nigeria.

4. Cross Borders Missions
With respect to Cross Borders Missions, there is need to mobilize resources in order to push the work to the next phase and greater height in the various world missions fields that we have opened. EMS of ECWA right now needs a minimum of N1billion towards this purpose. As at the present, all the support that is coming in for EMS including the two Missions Week Collections, barely cover the Home Missions needs. The amount left is able to meet only some critical needs on the Cross Borders fields. We thank God for ECWA Portfolio Management Ltd which has been making yearly contribution to this great need and I pray that other strategic Business Units will emulate EPML. We encourage our members, friends and supporters alike to invest generously in this Kingdom’s work. We remain opened to ideas as to how we can raise and fund this very urgent and critical Kingdom’s need, in order to greatly boost our effort to win souls for Christ all over the world.

5. ECWA Education & Future Ministry

Bingham University, Karu was established by the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA)

Ag. Vice Chancellor, Prof. William B. Qurix, OFR, FNIA | Undisputed events testify, from those who conceived, designed, developed and even those that are operating Bingham University that God Himself is solidly building Bingham University. This is even more so as movement to …

Bingham University is the new face in ECWA of the present and futuristic ministry in ECWA and World Missions. There is increasing need in the world of today and the future, of Missionary teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and other such tent making professionals. Many of us, including myself are products of Graduates and Professionals, including Nigerian and Western Missionaries, who sacrificed and came as Missionary Teachers. In my own case, I was taught in ECWA Secondary School Miango, which gave me a sound grounding and equipped me spiritually and intellectually to minister to my own generation. Therefore, we shall work very closely through ECWA Education Department and seek the support and collaboration of our founding Mission, SIM and relevant governing authorities, to establish a Department of Theology with great emphasis on World Missions and Urban Ministry in Bingham University, so that, our graduates, Pastors and Members alike, will not be very sound professionally, but would be best equipped spiritually and all round, to more effectively serve as Ministers of God in urban settings as well as Cross –cultural Missionaries all over the world. As we encourage lay ministry by our spiritually matured professionals in the church, Bingham University must now set the pace and make training of our Pastors who are equipped all round, spiritually, intellectually and professionally, its top and urgent priority.

EMS of ECWA shall remain our primary agent for driving the mission vision, I however call on the entire church to see Evangelism and Missions as our fundamental mandate, and to do all we can to be fully involved, by way of being powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus in the various places of our callings, and by praying, giving and supporting Missions.

Conclusion
We thank God once again for the legacy we inherited from our SIM founding fathers of a lifestyle of godly simplicity and servant leadership, transparency and accountability. I will implore all ECWA Church Leaders and members, to do our best to imbue and perpetuate this legacy in our lives and ministry and to bequeath it to future generations. Let us remember that most of our operations are being supported by very sacrificial and generous offerings, tithes and donations by members, many of whom are persecuted Christians, widows, orphans, petty traders and the poor, whom Jesus said, we would always have among us. Some others are blind, lame, dumb or crippled. We must therefore administer these financial resources with the fear of God, to whom we are accountable, especially in view of the great judgment day, that we all shall appear before the judgment throne of God to give account of our stewardship.

Understanding What the Prosperity and Health Gospel is all About

by Dr. Mrs. Eunice Abogunrin | On one hand, Prosperity Gospel is about getting the abundance from the benevolent God, while on the other hand, it is about fighting against the antonyms of prosperity from malevolent gods, spirits, people and circumstances.

To all ECWA Staff and workers managing these resources, starting from myself, we must realize first and foremost that we are children of `God. We should remember always that it is God who has called us and given us the privilege of serving Him in our various capacities and so as a staff of ECWA, God is our direct ‘Boss’ who knows and sees everything that we are doing, including our very inner motives. This comes with great privileges as well as very serious responsibilities. As our ‘Boss’, God never owes anyone, and in fact He pays very generously. The old hymn, a favorite of my father’s, Rev. (Dr.) Panya Baba, says it very well: “It pays to serve Jesus.” However, God blesses the worker according to his or her motive and faithfulness to his or her calling. More importantly, as we serve Him, we should remember the eternal rewards kept in heaven for us. Motive and faithfulness are key in pleasing our ‘Boss’ and Master. Towards this end, staff welfare would remain our priority; however, we shall review our accounting systems and operations to enhance transparency, accountability, faithfulness and prudence, in order to aid us in more faithfully serving the Lord.

I will once more conclude with the scriptural promise of Isaiah 43:19; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Finally, I ask this of you, every member of ECWA and the Church of God universal: Pray for me and the ECWA Executive that God will fulfill His divine will and purpose for ECWA. May the Good Lord spare our lives to witness and partake in the joy of celebrating His new and mighty works in and through ECWA. May He lift up His countenance upon His people and prosper His work in ECWA and beyond in Jesus’ precious Name!

Long live ECWA,
Long Live Plateau State
Long Live Nigeria

Thank you and God bless you all in Jesus name.

The ECWA Headquarter Christmas Carol (image, Romanus Ebenwokodi (Okwute)

The ECWA Headquarter Christmas Carol Celebration. image, Romanus Ebenwokodi (Okwute)

Inaugural speech delivered by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba on the occasion of his installation as president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) on Saturday, 2nd June 2018 at ECWA Headquarters, Jos.



The Apostolic Age

“by Bible Scripture | But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts of the Apostles 1:8 (image: YouTube)

Jesus named the Apostles, often called the Twelve (John 6:67), to be with him and carry on his ministry: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Nathaniel Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him (Mark 3:14-19). Following the Resurrection, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. The period of these Twelve Apostles, dating from the Great Commission of 33 AD until the death of the last Apostle in Anatolia c. 100 is refereed to as the Apostolic Age.

Prior to his Ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost on about 120 Apostles, Mary the mother of Jesus, and disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 1:15, 2:1-4). This strengthened the Apostles to spread the word of Christ Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles describes the infancy period of the Church, a time following the Pentecost when Christianity spread like wildfire. The Apostles all gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to discuss whether Gentiles who had been converted to Christianity had to observe all the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law. This gathering of the Apostles became known as the Council of Jerusalem, and set the pattern of future Councils to resolve issues that arose within the Church.

To the question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter the fisherman that answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). Whereupon Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Peter became the first Patriarch of Antioch and ultimately Bishop of Rome.

The Conversion of Paul occurred on the road to Damascus, Syria (Acts 9:1-9). Saul persecuted the Church and consented to the death of the first martyr Stephen. He had men and women who lived the Way thrown into prison. But while going to Damascus, Saul was struck from his horse by a great light and a voice asked “Why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who spoke. Christ identified himself with his Church: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul experienced the grace of conversion and first preached in Damascus. Paul, as Apostle to the Gentiles, became just as passionate spreading Christianity as he was in persecuting Christians before his conversion.

Saints Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome during the persecution of Christians by Nero, Emperor of the Roman Empire. St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul was beheaded, both probably in 64-68 AD. In fact, all of the Apostles were martyred for having preached the Gospel, except for St. John the Evangelist.

Heeding the message of Jesus Christ to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), the Apostles traveled East and West to all parts of the known world to spread Christianity. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was the first to be called to follow Jesus, and is called by the Byzantine Church the Protoclete, meaning the first called. Andrew evangelized Byzantium, appointed Stachys (Romans 16:9) the first Bishop there, and was crucified in Patras, Greece. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, is believed to have preached in Spain; he is the only Apostle to have his martyrdom recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:2). John, the son of Zebedee and the brother of James, was the “one Jesus loved.” He is called the Theologian for his mystical writings – the Gospel of John and three Letters. Christ on the Cross entrusted his mother Mary to John (19:26-27), who took her with him to Ephesus; he was later exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation in his elderly years (Revelation 1:9).

The other James, son of Alphaeus, is sometimes called James the Less, to distinguish him from James the Son of Zebedee. He played an important role as head of the Church of Jerusalem, and writer of the Letter of James in the Bible. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, he was stoned to death in 62 AD. Tradition has it that Matthewpreached among the Hebrews and wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Aramaic. Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia, Asia Minor and was martyred in Hierapolis. Nathaniel, Son of Talmay, or in Aramaic Nathaniel Bartholomew, taught the Way in Armenia. Jude Thaddeus, the author of the Letter of Jude, spread the faith to Edessa, Syria and then evangelized Armenia. Thomas Didymus, or Thomas the Twin, is known as Doubting Thomas, for questioning the Lord’s Resurrection. But when he put his hand in the Lord’s side, he reacted with a beautiful profession of faith: “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). Thomas traveled through Chaldea and Persia all the way to India! Little is known about Simon the Zealot or Matthias. 7-12

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Some Gospel Musicians to Check Out

Kirk Franklin fronted three groups—the Family, God’s Property, and the One Nation Crew—before going solo. In 1993, the group released its debut album, “Kirk Franklin & the Family,” which spent almost two years on the gospel music charts, charted on the R&B charts, and eventually earned platinum sales status. It remained at number one on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart for 42 weeks and was the first gospel music album to sell more than a million units (image: Kirk Franklin and the Family).

Last Updated: December 29, 2018

Today, access to music are unlimited. It’s so easy now to stream music anywhere….at work or home, in the car, bus, boat, train, or plane. Here are some list of Christian music performers in the gospel music genres with some amount of exposure for you to check out. Gospel music started back in the early 17th Century and encompasses traditional gospel music genres such as Southern gospel, traditional black gospel, progressive Southern gospel, urban contemporary gospel, gospel blues, Christian country music, Celtic gospel and British black gospel.

As we are all aware, singing and dancing is a way of worshiping just like prayers, Bible study and the likes. The music are listed alphabetically and you can find most of the music on your favorite music streaming platforms.

  1. Spotify – Spotify provides streaming quality of about 320 kbps, and it’s one of the most popular names in the music streaming service industry. Catalog of more than 20 million options.
  2. Google Play Music – Allows you to access their entire music catalog and not just the available streaming ones at a high streaming quality of 320kbps.
  3. Pandora – Good for free streaming of the radio stations instead of on-demand tracks at a streaming quality of 192 kbps. Catalog of more than 1.5 million options.
  4. iHeartRadio – There are absolutely no charges for access and has a whopping catalog of more than 18 million songs, 4,500 artists and 1,500 live radio stations.
  5. Mixclouds – Listen to length audios, radio shows, music mixes for free with their free App. Catalog of more than 3 million options.
  6. Grooveshark – Free with ads for users; expensive to take full advantage of the benefits like friends and family music sharing. The subscription streaming service has no ads.
  7. Deezer – Offers unlimited free music access to users for one month and then limits the access to two hours. Deezer is mature with over 30 million music options in its catalog.
  8. LAST.FM – One of the oldest and the streaming service is still free. Has a wide array of tracks, albums, artists and many more.
  9. Slacker Radio – With a streaming catalog of over 13 million, Slacker Radio provide free streaming service with ads. The subscription streaming service has no ads.
  10. Xbox Music – This is a Windows device based video and music streaming service from Microsoft. Catalog of more than 30 million options. It provides free music streaming with ads.

Here are the Gospel Artists to Check Out.
A

  • Lee Roy Abernathy
  • Jolly Abraham
  • Faye Adams
  • Kanvee Adams
  • Oleta Adams
  • Yolanda Adams
  • Mike Abdul
  • Mona Abel
  • Nii Addo
  • Uche Agu
  • Past. Kunle Ajayi
  • Doris Akers
  • Funke Akinokum
  • Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
  • Tope Alabi
  • Mary Alessi
  • Blessing Ali
  • Charles McCallon Alexander
  • The Rance Allen Group
  • Constance Aman
  • Evelyn Amo
  • Annisstar
  • The Anointed Pace Sisters
  • Inez Andrews
  • Aregopoleng Gospel Boyz
  • Vanessa Bell Armstrong

B

  • Annastasia Baker
  • Philip Bailey
  • Bonny B.
  • The Barrett Sisters
  • Elder Charles D. Beck
  • TY Bello
  • The Blackwood Brothers
  • The Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Jerry Bonsu
  • Jane Bossia
  • Irene Bridger
  • Anthony Brown & Group Therapy
  • Clint Brown
  • Nehemiah Hunter Brown
  • Anthony Burger
  • Kim Burrell
  • Myron Butler
  • Wanda Nero Butler

C

  • Shirley Caesar
  • Byron Cage
  • Erica Campbell
  • Warryn Campbell
  • The Caravans
  • Jekalyn Carr
  • Kurt Carr
  • Casey J
  • Johnny Cash
  • Alvin Chea
  • The Clark Sisters
  • Mattie Moss Clark
  • Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark
  • Rev. James Cleveland
  • Cheryl “Coko” Clemons
  • Tasha Cobbs Leonard
  • Dorothy Love Coates
  • Dorinda Clark-Cole
  • Marcus Cole
  • Daryl Coley
  • Commissioned
  • David L Cook
  • The Cook Family Singers
  • The Crabb Family
  • Beverly Crawford
  • Latice Crawford
  • Andraé Crouch
  • Sandra Crouch
  • Adlan Cruz

D

  • Daniel Dee Jones
  • Montrell Darrett
  • Afriy David
  • Carlene Davis
  • Reverend Gary Davis
  • The Davis Sisters
  • Rebekah Dawn
  • The Dixie Hummingbirds
  • Thomas A. Dorsey
  • Holly Dunn
  • Bob Dylan

E

  • Ebele the Flutist
  • Frank Edwards
  • Michael English
  • Ralna English
  • Mairo Ese
  • Anthony Evans, Jr.

F

  • Five Blind Boys of Mississippi
  • C. and Mamie Forehand
  • Forever Jones
  • James Fortune
  • Maxx Frank
  • Kirk Franklin (with The Family, God’s Property, and INC)
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Futrel

G

  • Pastor G
  • Bill Gaither
  • Cassietta George
  • Lara George
  • The Godfrey & the Xtreme Crew
  • Geoffrey Golden
  • The Golden Gate Quartet
  • God’s Property
  • Jade Trini Goring
  • Al Green
  • Travis Greene
  • Bessie Griffin
  • Greater Vision
  • Guy & Ralna
  • Guvna B
  • G4

H

  • Ernie Haase
  • Damita Haddon
  • Deitrick Haddon
  • Brother Will Hairston
  • Danniebelle Hall
  • Marshall Hall
  • MC Hammer song on every album including: Family Affair
  • Fred Hammond
  • Wes Hampton
  • Larnelle Harris
  • Harvest
  • Edwin Hawkins (and the Edwin Hawkins Singers)
  • Tramaine Hawkins
  • Walter Hawkins
  • Cory Henry
  • Jake Hess
  • The Hoppers
  • Israel Houghton
  • Cissy Houston
  • Whitney Houston album: The Preacher’s Wife: Original Soundtrack Album
  • Guy Hovis

I

  • The Imperials

J

  • Mahalia Jackson
  • The Rev. Andrew Jenkins
  • Blind Willie Johnson
  • Le’Andria Johnson
  • Canton Jones
  • Cheneta Jones
  • Mitchell Jones
  • Forever Jones
  • Joyful Way Inc

K

  • John P. Kee
  • Kelly one album: Happy People/U Saved Me
  • Ron Kenoly
  • Stephanie Keri
  • Joey Kibble
  • Karima Kibble
  • Kirk Franklin & the Family
  • Klaudt Indian Family
  • Gladys Knight
  • Rosny Kyibi

L

  • Patti LaBelle
  • Nikki Laoye
  • Last Days Fam
  • Donald Lawrence
  • Doyle Lawson
  • Lowell Lewis
  • Bishop Eddie Long
  • Dorothy Love Coates
  • Loretta Lynn
  • London Community Gospel Choir

M

  • Pasteur Moise Mbiye
  • Luther Magby
  • Mali Music
  • Mandisa
  • Tamela Mann
  • Kobby Mantey
  • Chris Marion
  • Roberta Martin
  • Mary Mary
  • Brother Joe May
  • Reverend Oris Mays
  • Donnie McClurkin
  • Liz McComb
  • Lisa McClendon
  • William McDowell
  • Jonathan McReynolds
  • Men of Standard
  • Mighty Clouds of Joy
  • Mississippi Mass Choir
  • Ericson Alexander Molano
  • Wess Morgan
  • Moss
  • Nicole C. Mullen
  • Martha Munizzi
  • Abel Chungu Musuka
  • Henrie Mutuku

N

  • Jonathan Nelson
  • Aaron Neville
  • Niiella
  • Smokie Norful
  • Dorothy Norwood
  • Nosa

O

  • Obiwon
  • Purist Ogboi
  • Muyiwa Olarewaju
  • One Nation Crew
  • Out of Eden

P

  • LaShun Pace
  • Sista Monica Parker
  • Dolly Parton
  • Gary S. Paxton
  • Guy Penrod
  • David Phelps
  • Washington Phillips
  • Wintley Phipps
  • Pooh and The Inspirations
  • Doobie Powell
  • Elvis Presley
  • Billy Preston
  • Charley Pride

Q

  • Qqu

R

  • Lynda Randle
  • Jessica Reedy
  • Karl Reid
  • Eric Reverence
  • Noel Robinson
  • Woody Rock
  • Thurman Ruth aka Thermon Ruth, T. Ruth
  • Little Richard

S

  • Samsong
  • SP Kofi Sarpong
  • Papa San
  • Ira D. Sankey
  • Marvin Sapp
  • Briana Scott
  • Guy Sebastian
  • Marilyn Sellars
  • Sensational Nightingales
  • Karen Clark Sheard
  • Kierra “Kiki” Sheard
  • Sinach
  • Ahavah Gospel Singers
  • Size 8
  • The Soul Stirrers
  • Sounds of Blackness
  • Richard Smallwood
  • Emmanuel Smith
  • William and Versey Smith
  • Sophy-Yah
  • Soweto Gospel Choir
  • The Statler Brothers
  • The Staple Singers
  • Pops Staples
  • Mavis Staples
  • Keith Staten
  • Candi Staton
  • Naomi Striemer
  • Ruben Studdard
  • The Swan Silvertones
  • Jimmy Swaggart

T

  • Tamela Mann
  • Take 6
  • Sarah Teibo
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe
  • Charles Davis Tillman
  • Tonéx
  • Shoggy Tosh
  • Trin-i-tee 5:7
  • Tye Tribbett

V

  • Yolanda Vadiz
  • Gary Valenciano
  • Virtue

W

  • The Wades
  • Hezekiah Walker
  • Albertina Walker
  • Clara Ward
  • Mervyn Warren
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Gillian Welch
  • Thomas Whitfield
  • Marva Whitney
  • We Will Worshp
  • Deniece Williams
  • Hank Williams
  • Marion Williams
  • Michelle Williams
  • Anita Wilson
  • Brian Courtney Wilson
  • Elder Roma Wilson
  • The Winans Family


The Early Christian Church

by Bible Scripture | Traditions in the Early Christian Church included the Memorial of the Last Supper – the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and reception of Communion, on Sunday the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), and Prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith during Baptism. (image: Coliseum – biblescripture.net)

The early Christian Church was faced with spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ throughout the world, often during a time of martyrdom and intense persecution.

Traditions in the Early Christian Church included the Memorial of the Last Supper – the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and reception of Communion, on Sunday the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), and Prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith during Baptism.

The Apostolic Fathers were a group of early Christian writers who knew one of the Apostles and lived about 75-150 AD, and sought to define, organize, and defend the faith, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and the author(s) of the Didache. St. Ignatius of Antioch was designated Bishop of Syria by St. Peter on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Paul. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term Catholic Church in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans.

The word catholic means universal and refers to the universal Church of Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch would not worship the Emperor Trajan, and thus was placed in chains and martyred in Rome when thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. He wrote seven letters on his trip to Rome, which proved to be a unifying event for all of the early Churches. He established the Church hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today.

St. Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) was the first Apologist or Defender of the Faith. In his First Apology written in 155, he described the Memorial of the Last Supper on Sunday, one that would be called the Divine Liturgy in the East and the Mass in the West, an event which has remained essentially the same for nearly 2000 years. “And this food is called among us eucharistia…For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God…is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” St. Justin was martyred in Rome for preaching Christianity to the Romans in 165 AD. 8-13

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



The Life and Teachings Of Jesus Christ

by Bible Scripture | “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Gospel of John 1:14 (Image of Raphael of Urbino, Italy – St. Paul preaching in Athens at the Areopagus before – biblescripture.net)

The point of origin and central figure of the Christian faith is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem (Luke 2), in fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures such as Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2. St. Joseph took his wife Mary and the infant Jesus on the Flight to Egypt to avoid Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2). Upon their return, the Holy Family settled in Nazareth, where Jesus grew and spent his childhood and early years as an adult. Hardly anything is known of his life at that time except that he was called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23) and that at age 12 he was found teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:46).  

The life of Jesus is best described in the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, while his teachings are presented by all the writers of the New Testament of the Bible. 

Jesus of Nazareth began his public ministry when he was about thirty years old. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus gave us the Eight Beatitudes, affirmed the Ten Commandments of God, and taught us the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. He spent much of his ministry by the Sea of Galilee, preaching in such towns as Capernaum (John 6:59), Bethsaida (Mark 8:22), and Magdala (Matthew 15:39), and surrounding places such as Cana (John 2:1-11) and Tyre (Mark 7:24-30). He revealed to us the mystery of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20), known as the Holy Trinity in the Church. When his hour came near, he headed toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).  

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. A parable is a narrative that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30) and the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). 

Jesus performs many miracles, demonstrating his power over nature and spirits, and thus confirming that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). In a physical miracle, such as making the blind see, or walking on water, or calming a storm, the laws of the universe are suspended through divine intervention. In a moral miracle, such as forgiveness of sins or driving out demons, the blessing of Jesus purifies the spirit. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus performed a physical miracle, healing the paralytic, to demonstrate a moral miracle, the forgiveness of sins. Only three miracles appear in all four Gospels – his own Resurrection, the greatest miracle of them all, the healing of the blind, and the feeding of the 5000 through the multiplication of the loaves.  

His public ministry lasted about three years, prior to his Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. Jesus taught transformation of the inner person. His mission was one of love, mercy, and peace (John 15:12-13). 

Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of salvation history and the mediator and fullness of all revelation. See our home page Jesus Christ for further discussion. 1-10

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Are We Prepared to Tell God’s Story?

by Regis Nicoll | Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

It seems peculiar that the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent centers not on Christ’s first coming, but his second. In all three liturgical years, the gospel passage is taken from the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’s lengthy response to the eschatological curiosities of the disciples. But maybe this is not as peculiar as it seems.

In arresting prose, the synoptic writers report the Creator of all things privileging the disciples with secrets about last things. Interweaving predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem and his future return to earth, Jesus tells them of wars, famines, false Christs, and more. His purpose was not to shock or frighten them, but to prepare them—and not just for the far off events that had provoked their curiosity.

Punctuating his revelations are warnings to be watchful, ready, and engaged in faithful service—imperatives for God’s people in every age. But for the disciples those warnings had immediate relevance which, as many times before, went unheeded.

For, in a matter of hours, Jesus would be prostrate in the garden praying, while his disciples slept; he would be hauled away by an angry mob, while his disciples fled in panic; he would be brought before a kangaroo court to be ridiculed, spat upon, and struck, while one of his closest intimates vehemently and repeatedly denied him; and he would be scourged, marched to Golgotha, and nailed to the cross, while men who had been his constant companions cowered in an upper room, abandoning him to his persecutors.

Incredibly, after three years at the feet of their master, the disciples were no better prepared for the unfolding of prophetic history than they were at the beginning of their tutelage. This should trigger questions in us: Are we prepared? Situated in history between the Incarnation and the Parousia, are we advancing his kingdom as we watch for his return?

More to the point, are we even expecting his return? Given the 2,000 year lapse, have his warnings slipped into the cluttered closets of our memory or, worse, has the delay eroded our confidence in his prophesy or, for that matter, in him?

If those questions cause hesitation, it signals the need to revisit God’s story—the biblical record of divine activity throughout the course of human history. The historical record of what God has done provides a rational basis for confidence in what he has said he will do.

Playing Back God’s Story
Reading the history of Israel is like listening to a CD stuck on “repeat.” Over and over again, widespread apostasy led to divine discipline, provoking national repentance followed by a brief period of revival.

Despite the withering warnings of prophets, the Israelites repeatedly succumbed to pagan influences when they should have been attending to God’s word, they adopted pagan practices when they should have been transforming pagan culture, and they became a stumbling block to their pagan neighbors when they should have been a blessing to them.

To break the cycle, Israel’s leaders continually played back God’s story, reminding the people of God’s benevolence toward the nation: the parting of the Red Sea, the pillars of cloud and fire, water from the rock, manna from heaven, deliverance from their enemies, and the conquest of the Promised Land, to name just a few.

The leaders also proclaimed prophesies, hundreds of them, among the people. Some were given as warnings about the consequences of disobedience while others were given as assurances of God’s ultimate plan for restoring all things.

Two things are extraordinary about the latter: first, they were made far in advance of the events they described; and, second, many of the fulfillments of prophecy—including dozens concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—were recorded and passed on to people contemporary to those events.

From Public to Personal
God’s story is more than a record of past and future works on behalf of mankind; it includes personal testimonies of his working in the lives of individuals in the present.

Daniel, who prophesied about events in the near and far future, gave witness to God’s faithfulness in the present—answering his prayers and delivering him and his friends from capital punishment. In the Psalms, David repeatedly praises God for guiding, protecting, and strengthening him. Jeremiah’s lamentations over the sins of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem include praises to God for comforting him during imprisonment and rescuing him from his enemies.

Nevertheless, spiritual vacillation produced a generation that was ill-prepared for the coming Messiah. Instead of watching for the Lamb of God who would deliver them from sin, first-century Jews were expecting a conquering King who would deliver them from Gentile subjugation.

A generation later, eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ detailed, in four independent narratives, how he fulfilled the promises in Scripture from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 3:1. And for those who failed to notice, Paul explained how the fulfillments of prophecy occurred among individuals, still living, who could contest any fictions or correct any errors.

Like the Old Testament writers, Paul also shared how God’s story had played out in his own life. In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives witness to Jesus for freeing him from the law of sin and death. He told the Corinthian church how God had encouraged and strengthened him during a time of personal torment. And to the Philippians, Paul testifies to his Source of contentment and efficacy in all things.

The gospel readings for the first Sunday of Advent remind us that God’s story did not end at Golgotha, the death of the apostles, or the completion of Scripture, but continues on the cosmic stage.

They also remind us that Christians are to be an expectant people, living in the sure hope that as God “showed up” once, he will show up again. Until then, he is active in the lives of individuals who are waiting, watching, and working to establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

A Personal Testimony
Most Christians can point to times in their lives when God “showed up”—maybe in an answered prayer, a healing, an encouraging word, or a needed revelation. Throughout my Christian life, I have had a number of such occurrences, of which I’ll share one.

I had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. My timeline, according to the oncologist, was three weeks. But three weeks turned into three months, then three years, and now, ten years after being declared in clinical remission, I remain cancer-free.

Prior to that declaration, however, two questions hung in the air like the scent of decaying flesh: “Why did this happen?” and “How will it turn out?” I had a strong inkling as to the “why” (as I’ll explain in a moment), but the uncertainty of “how” lingered. Then, one night, both questions were answered for me along with a room full of people.

Joanne and I had joined a group of twenty or so intercessors for an evening of prayer. As we got ready to pray, someone suggested, off the cuff, that we read Psalm 118, which in my NIV Bible has the rather inviting heading, “The loving kindness of God.” It was further suggested that each person read a verse, in succession, according to how they were seated. Since our seating was not prearranged, neither was the verse individuals would read.

As it so happened, my turn fell on verse 18: “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” The words left my lips and, for a moment, failed to register in my brain. When the next person seated failed to continue, I looked around. It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked from the room: mouths were agape, chests were clutched, eyes were tearing, and praises were going up. Then, I, too, was undone.

Earlier in the year, I had confessed to a church class that the greatest obstacle to my spiritual growth was overconfidence in myself. Less than one month later, I was lying in a hospital bed tethered to IVs, listening to an oncologist talk around the hopelessness of my condition, and coming to the realization that this “thorn” was beyond my ability and that of medical science to remove.

The shock of my utter helplessness was met, almost instantly, by a comforting word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Privately, the message was clear: God was addressing my greatest need—total dependence on him—with his limitless love. Publicly, this message was confirmed to a small gathering of individuals who were watching and waiting for God to “show up.”

Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

Regis NicollRegis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. His new book is titled Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

 



As Thrones Before Him Fall: Christ Is Our King

by Claire Dwyer | There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing,
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity. — Crown Him With Many Crowns hymn

This Sunday sends off Ordinary Time with a solemn celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, it was meant to counter secularism as a denial of Christ’s kingship.

The first two readings and the Psalm are thus rich in royal imagery: visions of the Son of Man coming on clouds and receiving everlasting dominion, glory and kingship, and the service of all the nations; robed in splendor, enthroned, the Alpha and Omega.

The Gospel, however, shows us this King in a different light, as a lamb being led to the slaughter. But then Pilate is let in on the secret: This kingship is not contained in the earthly realm. Rather, it is a powerful but hidden one, veiled in the temporal order. His angelic army of attendants holds back and watches with the rest of us the drama of salvation unfold as a kingdom is established that shall not be taken away or destroyed. Pilate cannot comprehend this, yet he unwittingly proclaims it: “Then you are a king” (John 18:37). And he will later have this inscribed above the cross, to the chagrin of the Pharisees. Jesus’ cross becomes the throne from which he rules and the banner under which we battle.

To the rest of the world, the paradox of a King who reigns from a cross is an insurmountable scandal. But to everyone who “belongs to the truth,” this reality is already established in their hearts. Growing in secret, putting down roots and laying foundations in the faith of believers, this kingdom is made manifest in the lives of those who have already found the beginnings of heaven even here, as they serve the King of Glory and enthrone him in their lives.

We wait for heaven to fully enter in the Kingdom of God, but the reality is that it is here now, and we are a part of it to the degree we allow it to rule in our hearts.

How much are we part of God’s kingdom? Is Christ our king? Which means, really, are we under his authority? Are we obedient to his commands? Have we subjected everything — everything — to him: family, home, health, finances and time, and especially our wills?

Are we willing to die the little layers of “death” each day that being in his service requires? Are we willing to have him overturn the tables in our inner temples? To smash the little idols that litter our interior lives? To submit to the destruction of every dream that is not the one he wills for us?

There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him the Lord of heaven,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown him the king, to whom is given,
The wondrous name of Love.
Crown him with many crowns,
As thrones before him fall.
Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For he is King of all.

Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, motherhood, spirituality and the sacred every day at EventheSparrow.com and contributes regularly to WomenofGrace.com, CatholicMom.com and EndowGroups.org. She is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.



Does Hell Play a Role in Evangelization?

by Deacon John Beagan | The crux of our problem, and the reason our Church is in such decline, is we have lost sight of the daily drama for eternal salvation. Without people’s need to be saved, the Church is just another feel-good club competing against all the others (images: William Booth preaching).
Does hell play a role in evangelization? If it does, then when and how? Catholics take many positions on this topic and they all impact the effectiveness of evangelization.

To begin, let me situate this analysis by raising three relevant points. First, discussing hell can be emotional and difficult to face for obvious reasons, such as hell’s forever state. Merely considering its possibility and reality causes anxiety. This affects people’s ability and desire to deal with it.

Second, most people leave the Church because they no longer believe its teaching. Similarly, the level of participation and enthusiasm among those who still consider themselves Catholic is reduced by various doubts and disbeliefs. The Church’s teaching on hell is one of these difficult beliefs because many people can’t reconcile it with a loving God. Thus, if we want to win them back to the Church and help strengthen their faith, we must address this subject, especially given the many references to hell and Satan in Scripture and other parts of the liturgy.

Third, it is extremely challenging to sell the Church to people who don’t need God. In this prosperous and relatively safe country, most people do not need the Lord in this life, except perhaps for an occasional funeral. Moreover, people do not need him to enter the next life either; in every eulogy I hear, the deceased has gone to a “better place.” It seems everyone believes there is a warm bright light at the end of the tunnel regardless of whether or not they ever knew Jesus.

In my lifetime, I have seen many things tried to make people feel good about coming to church, such as placing a resurrected Jesus on the large sanctuary cross, shaking hands at Mass, welcoming people at the church doors, hosting parish socials, appealing to people intellectually, adopting sound business practices, showing folks the beauty of the Church, and on and on. While all this has its place (except for removing the crucified corpus), it won’t work in a widespread sustained way until people begin to feel a need for God. In lieu of a national or global catastrophe, the only option left is to challenge people’s presumption about eternal life.

The position of preachers, teachers, and believers regarding the risk of hell varies considerably. For instance, Pew Research noted that 50 percent of college-educated Catholics do not believe hell exists.

Another popular position is that hell exists, but that it’s reasonable to hope that no one is in it. To the average listener in the pews, who is not used to theological musing and nuance, this is tantamount to saying it doesn’t exist.

A similar position refrains from discussing hell except as a topic for advanced Catholics. Within this position are two camps. The first, like the latter, believes very few people are in hell. This would explain, for instance, why sin and judgment are rarely discussed and why Confession is so infrequent. In other words, why arouse negative feelings in people and spend more time in the confessional, if everyone eventually goes to heaven?

What intrigues me most, however, is the second camp. They believe in the risk of hell, but somehow it still takes a back seat in their preaching and is reserved for advanced Catholics. This is a tactical mistake because few in the pews will take the time to consider Jesus and become advanced Catholics. To someone who believes in the existence of hell, all these positions will leave people ignorant of vital spiritual knowledge.

As a Church, we are competing against the world for people’s attention and time. Persevering in prayer cannot compete with the pleasures of the world, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. If all we do are the good and kind things mentioned above, like welcoming people and showing them the beauty of the Church, we will continue to lose Catholics at a rate of 6 or more for every 1 entering.

The crux of our problem, and the reason our Church is in such decline, is we have lost sight of the daily drama for eternal salvation. Without people’s need to be saved, the Church is just another feel-good club competing against all the others.

When I ponder how to guide my three young-adult sons, I choose to follow Jesus’s words and official Church teaching instead of accepting the complacency around me or the wishful imagining of a bishop or theologian, because the downside of ignoring God’s words is too dreadful. Furthermore, as a deacon who must preach and teach, I need to listen to my conscience and address the people as I do my own family.

Speaking the Truth Works
Several years ago, not long after my ordination, I attended my first funeral Mass as a deacon, and it was for my mother. Since much of my extended family probably didn’t attend Mass regularly, I prepared a challenging homily. As I walked down the center aisle to the front of the church, I was surprised to see my boss and Jewish colleague—two people I wasn’t expecting to preach to.

During the sermon, I emphasized the shortness of life using examples from my chaplaincy experience on a hospital cancer floor and how one particular patient was afraid to die. I finished by saying that we are on the conveyor belt of life, and that we won’t need to be scared when we reach the end, if we first get to know Jesus.

The next morning, I went to work and my boss immediately called me into her office. She started to tell me that she was Catholic, and hadn’t been to church much, but now that her children had finished youth sports, she could start going again. Smiling, I told her I hadn’t known she was Catholic until I gave her Communion.

Since then, I have become more direct in expressing concern for people’s salvation. At Baptism, for instance, families and their friends come to church expecting to celebrate the joy of a new baby. Statistically speaking, they probably don’t go to Mass regularly and yet expect to go to heaven. After acknowledging the joyful occasion, I try to pull them into the eternal drama of this Sacrament and explain how the Church anticipates the baby’s entire life by using symbols also used in a funeral Mass. At Baptism, I say, all the angels and saints are sitting on the edge of their seats wondering if the child will grow up to love God and neighbor.

Then I heighten the drama and pose a series of questions: Why did God the Father send his only beloved Son to us knowing full well he would be crucified? What could be so urgent and dire that a parent would do such a thing? From what and whom is Jesus saving us?

I mention how many no longer believe in Satan and hell, and ask: then where does the inspiration for man’s evil ingenuity come from? Can it all be explained by survival of the fittest or psychological problems?

Then I speak frankly about the fact that Catholic families have drifted away from practicing the faith and ask two more questions: If someone lives a life ignoring the crucifixion of Jesus, how is that face-to-face encounter with God his Father going to go? And how can we expect to jump into intimate union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit having never spent time getting to know members of our own parish?

Finally, I counsel them not to follow the crowd. I conclude my remarks by saying these are exciting times, a period when God is raising real Saints, and a time when, as Saint Paul says, “grace abounds all the more.”

Even though I do my best to meet them where they are then ramp up, I can see surprise and seriousness in their faces. But I cannot simply laugh, bless them and send them on their way. If I believe salvation is at stake, which I do, I must find a way to get their attention and alert them. Thus, instead of keeping hell in reserve as a topic for advanced Catholics, I bring it forward. At the climax of my Baptism homily, I lead with the crucifixion followed by speaking of the implicit risk of hell.

We live in a time when people must be convinced about Jesus and his Church. In a previous Crisis article, I discussed the need for a presentation that would promote all God’s words and invisible realities, reconcile them with a loving God, and address people’s doubts, confusion, and moral challenges. If we allow folks to believe unchallenged that the Church can be wrong about one teaching, then we clear a path for more doubts and disbelief regarding other doctrines.

Some time ago, I presented my case at my brother’s parish. It began with film clips from The Passion followed by interview clips with Exorcist director William Friedkin and an old Jesuit priest who had been featured in the docudrama, In the Grip of Evil, which tells the true story that inspired The Exorcist (as a young Jesuit, the priest had assisted at that exorcism). As with the Baptism homily, I led with the crucifixion followed by an implicit risk of hell.

My brother attended both sessions, parts one and two, over two nights. I had to twist his arm, though, because he rarely went to Mass and his children had not received all the sacraments. The following weekend, while on a ski trip with his family, he sent me this text:

So here’s the funny thing. I was thinking about going to Mass the night before but I forgot to set my alarm. I ended up waking up early and checked to see the Mass times and location. I was still laying in bed listening to Spotify off the iPad and what literally comes on is… “Take Me to Church.” I figured that was a pretty good sign to get my butt out of bed. 🙂

Then he sent me pictures of himself in front of the church.

Broaching the Topic of Hell
You might wonder why I “imply” the risk of hell instead of directly threatening people with it (another common tactic). We live in a free world where people will not tolerate being threatened; it will push them away. Moreover, if we were to succeed at terrorizing people, how could they ever freely come to know God as their loving Father, as in the story of the Prodigal Son? That said, on occasion, its shock value might be warranted.

I am under no illusion about being a talented homilist or possessing the secret sauce for evangelization. But I am very clear about two things.

First, if we want to get people’s attention and loosen their soil to be able to receive Christ’s words, we must undermine their presumption of eternal life. That is, we must appeal to self-preservation and their desire to save loved ones, and not to guilt.

Second, we need to address people’s doubts and lack of faith in a systematic way. We cannot let our brothers and sisters live burdened with disbelief without providing help.

If Catholic priests, teachers, and believers in our country rallied around the need to save souls and taught all God’s words, then the Devil would be in for a true fight. Until then, it’s up to the often-isolated faithful to help others believe and appreciate the daily drama for eternal salvation—an extra difficult challenge for those who rarely get this message.

Deacon John Beagan is an information systems developer. He lives in Watertown, MA, with his wife, Marita, a hospital floor nurse, and serves his local parishes of Sacred Heart and Saint Patrick in the Archdiocese of Boston. He can be reached at DeaconJohnBeagan@gmail.com.



The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God

The theme, or contents, or the purpose of the whole Gospel, is to set forth and make manifest to men the Glory of God (Bible Study Tools)

Two remarks of an expository character will prepare the way for our consideration of this text. The first is that the proper rendering is that which is given in the Revised Version,—” the gospel of the glory,” not the “glorious gospel.” The Apostle is not telling us what kind of thing the Gospel is, but what it is about. He is dealing not with its quality but with its contents. It is a Gospel which reveals, has to do with, is the manifestation of, the glory of God.

Then the other remark is with reference to the meaning of the word “blessed.” There are two Greek words which are both translated “blessed” in the New Testament. One of them, the more common, literally means “well spoken of“, and points to the action of praise or benediction; describes what a man is when men speak well of him, or what God is when men praise and magnify His name. But the other word, which is used here, and is only applied to God once more in Scripture, has no reference to the human attribution of blessing and praise to Him, but describes Him altogether apart from what men say of him but what He is in Himself, the “blessed,” or, as we might almost say, the “happy” God. If the word happy seems too trivial, suggesting ideas of levity, of turbulence, of possible change, then I do not know that we can find any better word than that which is already employed in my text, if only we remember that it means the solemn, calm, restful, perpetual gladness that fills the heart of God.

So much, then, being premised, there are three points that seem to me to come out of this remarkable expression of my text. First, the revelation of God in Christ of which the Gospel is the record, is the glory of God. Second, that revelation is, in a very profound sense, the blessedness of God. And, lastly, that revelation is the good news for men. Let us look at these three points, then, in succession.

I. Take, first, that striking thought that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is the glory of God.

The theme, or contents, or the purpose of the whole Gospel, is to set forth and make manifest to men the Glory of God.

Now what do we mean by “the glory“? I think, perhaps, that question may be most simply answered by remembering the definite meaning of the word in the Old Testament. There it designates, usually, that supernatural and lustrous light which dwelt between the cherubim, the symbol of the presence and of the self-manifestation of God. So that we may say, in brief, that the glory of God is the sum-total of the light that streams from His self-revelation, considered as being the object of adoration and praise by a world that gazes upon Him.

And if this be the notion of the glory of God, is it not a startling contrast which is suggested between the apparent contents and the real substance of that Gospel? Suppose a man, for instance, who had no previous knowledge of Christianity, being told that in it he would find the highest revelation of the glory of God. He comes to the Book, and finds that the very heart of it is not about God, but about a man; that this revelation of the glory of God Is the biography of a man; and more than that, that the larger portion of that biography is the story of the humiliations, and the sufferings, and the death of the man. Would it not strike him as a strange paradox that the history of a man’s life was the shining apex of all revelations of the glory of God? And yet so it is, and the Apostle, just because to him the Gospel was the story of the Christ Who lived and died, declares that in this story of a human life, patient, meek, limited, despised, rejected, and at last crucified, lies, brighter than all other flashings of the Divine light, the very heart of the lustre and palpitating center and remarkable source of all the radiance with which God has flooded the world. The history of Jesus Christ is the glory of God. And that involves two or three considerations on which I dwell briefly.

One of them is this: Christ, then, is the self-revelation of God. If, when we deal with the story of His life and death, we are dealing simply with the biography of a man, however pure, lofty, inspired he may be, then I ask what sort of connection there is between that biography which the four Gospels gives us, and what my text says is the substance of the Gospel? What force of logic is there in the Apostle’s words: “God commendeth His love toward us in that whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” unless there is some altogether different connection between the God Who commends His love and the Christ who dies to commend it, than exists between a mere man and God? Brethren! to deliver my text and a hundred other passages of Scripture from the charge of being extravagant nonsense and clear, illogical non sequiturs, you must believe that in that Man Christ Jesus ” we behold His glory—the glory of the only begotten of the Father“; and that when we look—haply not without some touch of tenderness and awed admiration in our hearts—upon His gentleness we have to say, “the patient God” ; when we look upon His tears we have to say, “the pitying God“; when we look upon His cross we have to say, “the redeeming God“; and gazing upon the Man, see in Him the manifest Divinity. Oh! listen to that voice, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” and bow before the story of the human life as being the revelation of the indwelling God.

And then, still further, my text suggests that this self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ is the very climax and highest point of all God’s revelations to men. I believe that the loftiest exhibition and conception of the Divine character which is possible to us must be made to us in the form of a man. I believe that the law of humanity, for ever, in Heaven as on earth, is this, that the Son is the Revealer of God ; and that no loftier—yea, at bottom, no other—communication of the Divine nature can be made to man than is made in Jesus Christ.

But be that as it may, let me urge upon you this thought, that in that wondrous story of the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ the very high-water mark of Divine self-communication has been touched and reached. All the energies of the Divine nature are embodied there. The “riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God,” are in the Cross and Passion of our Savior. “To declare at this time his righteousness” Jesus Christ came to die. The Cross is “the power of God unto salvation.” Or, to put it into other words, and avail oneself of an illustration, we know the old story of the queen who, for the love of an unworthy human heart, dissolved pearls in the cup and gave them to him to drink. We may say that God comes to us, and for the love of us, reprobate and unworthy, has melted all the jewels of His nature into that cup of blessing which He demonstrated to us, saying : ” Drink ye all of it.” The whole God-head, so to speak, is smelted down to make that rushing river of molten love which flows from the Cross of Christ into the hearts of men. Here is the highest point of God’s revelation of Himself.

And my text implies, still further, that the true living, flashing center of the glory of God is the love of God. Christendom is more than half heathen yet, and it betrays its heathenism not least in its vulgar conceptions of the Divine nature and its glory. The majestic attributes which separate God from man, and make Him unlike His creatures, are the ones which people too often fancy belong to the glorious side of His character. They draw distinctions between “grace” and “glory,” and think that the latter applies mainly to what I might call the physical and the metaphysical, and less to the moral, attributes of the Divine nature. We adore power, and when it is expanded to infinity we think that it is the glory of God. But my text delivers us from all such misconceptions. If we rightly understand it, then we learn this, that the true heart of the glory is tenderness and love. Of power that weak Man hanging on the cross is a strange embodiment; but if we learn that there is something more godlike in God than power, then we can say, as we look upon Jesus Christ: “Lo ! this is our God. We have waited for Him, and He will save us.” Not in the wisdom that knows no growth, not in the knowledge which has no border-land of ignorance ringing it round about, not in the unwearied might of His arm, not in that awful Presence wheresoever creatures are, not in any or in all of these lies the glory of God, but in His love. These are the fringes of the brightness ; this is the central blaze. The Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of God, because it is all summed up in the one word,—” God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

II. Now, in the next place, the revelation of God in Christ is the blessedness of God.

We are come here into places where we see but very dimly, and it becomes us to speak very cautiously. Only as we are led by the Divine teaching may we affirm at all. But it cannot be unwise to accept in simple literality utterances of Scripture, however they may seem to strike us as strange. And so I would say—the philosopher’s God may be all-sufficient and unemotional, the Bible’s God ” delighteth in mercy,” rejoiceth in His gifts, and is glad when men accept them. It is something, surely, amid all the griefs and sorrows of this sorrow-haunted and devil-hunted world, to rise to this lofty region and to feel that there is a living personal Joy at the heart of the universe. If we went no further, to me there is infinite beauty and mighty consolation and strength in that one thought—the happy God. He is not, as some ways of representing Him figure Him to be, what the older astronomers thought the sun was, a great cold orb, black and frigid at the heart, though the source and centre of light and warmth to the system. But He Himself is Joy, or if we dare not venture on that word, which brings with it earthly associations, and suggests the possibility of alteration—He is the blessed God. And the Psalmist saw deeply into the Divine nature, who, not contented with hymning His praise as the Possessor of the fountain of life, and the Light whereby we see light, exclaimed in an ecstasy of anticipation, “Thou makest us to drink of the rivers of Thy pleasures.

there is a great deal more than that here, if not in the word itself, at least in its connection, which connection seems to suggest that howsoever the Divine nature must be supposed to be blessed in its own absolute and boundless perfectness, an element in the blessedness of God Himself arises from His self-communication through the Gospel to the world. All love delights in imparting. Why should not God’s? On the lower level of human affection we know that it is so, and on the highest level we may with all reverence venture to say, The quality of that mercy …. “is twice blest,” and that Divine love “blesseth Him that gives and them that take.

He created a universe because He delights in His works and in having creatures on whom He can lavish Himself. He “rests in His love, and rejoices over us with singing” when we open our hearts to the reception of His light, and learn to know Him as He has declared Himself in His Christ. The blessed God is blessed because He is God. But He is blessed too because He is the loving and therefore the giving God.

What a rock-firmness such a thought as this gives to the mercy and the love that He pours out upon us! If they were evoked by our worthiness we might well tremble, but when we know, according to the grand words familiar to many of us, that it is His nature and property to be merciful, and that He is far gladder in giving than we can be in receiving, then we may be sure that His mercy endureth for ever, and that it is the very necessity of His being—and He cannot turn His back upon Himself—to love, to pity, to succor, and to bless.

III. And so, lastly, the revelation of God in Christ is good news for us all.

The Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” How that word “gospel” has got tarnished and enfeebled by constant use and unreflective use, so that it slips glibly off my tongue and falls without producing any effect upon your hearts. It needs to be freshened up by considering what really it means. It means this: here are we like men shut up in a beleaguered city, hopeless, helpless, with no power to break out or to raise the siege; provisions failing, death certain. Some of you older men and women remember how that was the case in that awful siege of Paris, in the Franco-German War, and what expedients were adopted in order to get some communication from without. And here to us, imprisoned, comes, as it did to them, a dispatch borne under a Dove’s wing, and the message is this: God is love; and that you may know that He is, He has sent you His Son Who died on the Cross, the sacrifice for a world’s sin. Believe it and trust it, and all your transgressions will pass away.

My brother, is not that good news? Is it not the good news that you need—the news of a Father, of pardon, of hope, of love, of strength, of purity, of Heaven? Does it not meet our fears, our forebodings, oar wants at every point? It comes to you. What do you do with it? Do you welcome it eagerly, do you clutch it to your hearts, do you say,” This is my Gospel“? Oh ! let me beseech you, welcome the message ; do not turn away from the Word from Heaven, which will bring life and blessedness to all your hearts 1 Some of you have turned away long enough, some of you, perhaps, are fighting with the temptation to do so again even now. Let me press that ancient Gospel upon your acceptance, that Christ the Son of God has died for you, and lives to bless and help you. Take it and live! So shall you find that “as cold water to a thirsty soul, so is this best of all news from the far country.”