Saturday, June 10, 2006

Session 2 - The Essence of Christian Faith

This is my personal summary of session 2 of Defense and Fight for the Faith by Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 21th May 2006. It was live telecast from Jakarta to Singapore and was originally in Indonesian language. The summary is my personal translation.

From the last session, we discuss about 4 types of faith. The second and forth type are the faith that comes by hearing the Word of God. We are saved by faith, and after we are saved, we walk by faith.

What about self-confident faith that thinks God will answer whatever we ask? This is the faith that comes from self-confidence that is already tainted with sin and is mixed with the belief that God is omnipotent so one could use God's power to achieve whatever he wants. However, God's sovereignty cannot be robbed by human will. He is indeed omnipotent, but He is also sovereign in His will.

A true faith believes that God is Almighty, receives the salvation of Jesus Christ, believes and follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit to journey through the abundant life in Christ.

The greatest gift of God the Father to the world is the gift of His One and Only Son so that the world could be saved through Him. The greatest gift of God the Son to His Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit so that the Church could be guided to live abundantly according to God's eternal will. The greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is to bring the Word of God from heaven down to earth so that the people of God could understand His will. Therefore, true faith is faith in the Trinitarian God.

God has His eternal will. God created the world. Christ came to earth for His work of redemption. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ. We see that God is Creator, Redeemer and Revealer. These are the three important aspects of God's works – creation, redemption, revelation. How do I know that God has eternal will? It is through His revelation. Therefore the works of the Revealer enable me to understand God's creation and redemption. And it is through faith alone we can understand God's revelation (this is the difference between Christianity and other religions). The Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts and brings us to Christ through the Scriptures. And Christ brings us to the Father.

Reformed apologetics work in the direction where God is the Center, the Initiator who reveals Himself, rather than men proving God.

What then should be the focus in apologetics (defense and fight for the faith)?

The Old Testament conceives the New Testament. The New Testament fulfils the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophesies about the New Testament. And then New Testament realizes the Old Testament.

Of all that have been prophesied in the Old Testament, all have been fulfilled in the New Testament, except the eschatos (the last days).

When the disciples were on their way to Emmaus, they were really downcast because Jesus had just been crucified 3 days before and His body was now missing. At this state, Jesus met them and went through the Torah and all the Prophets with them to expound what the Scriptures prophesied concerning Himself (Luke 25:25-27). At such a dispirited state, His disciples were taught of God's eternal will in the Scriptures concerning Christ.

Christ had to die before He was resurrected. Christians have to see both the glorious Christ and the suffering Christ. Jesus corrected their faith. To people who were so downcast, Jesus could rebuke them for their slowness to learn. However, today many churches simply pluck out verses from the Bible to find stuffs that people want to hear. Spiritual revival happens when we begin to understand that the essence of Christian faith is centered on the Person of Christ.

Christ's sufferings are absolute necessity. It follows that the absolute necessity of the sufferings of Christians in order to prove our faith also needs to be seriously considered. The Christ who died is the Christ who rose again.
God's intervention through significant events of history shapes Christian faith. What are these events?

Christ was born, Christ lived a perfect life, Christ was crucified and died, Christ rose again, Christ ascended to heaven and Christ will come back again.

Everything has been fulfilled except His second coming. All these ‘kairos’ (significant moments in history that has connection with God's eternal will) became the framework of our Christian faith. So the history is not moving blindly but is working out God's eternal will.

Creation is the starting point. The last day is the consummation point. In between this linear progress of history, there is an intersection point in between, the Incarnation. The Apostles’ teaching is centered on Christ Jesus, His birth, His holy life, His death on the cross, His resurrection, His ascension and His second coming. This is the focus of our apologetics.

So Paul said, “I know WHOM I have believed.” The center of faith is not a list of doctrines, but is on a Person in history, Jesus Christ.

General apologetics fight for the truth of God's existence. This can also be done by other religions that believe in the existence of God. But the focus of Christian faith is Christology and the Church is fighting for this.

There are many outside the church but they are God's children that are yet to be saved. At the same time, there are many devils' children inside the church but they are in sheep's clothing. Who will become the defender of the Truth?

Why do we have to defend the Truth? Does the Truth need to be defended?

Actually, there is no need to. God does not need to be defended. Like the lion in a cage, we do not need to defend that it is a lion. Just let it go free and it will prove itself to be a real lion. However, God calls us to defend the Truth because He loves us so that we who are unworthy might have a part in His eternal will as we work with Him. It is a great comfort God gives to us that He actually entrusts us to do such great work. Therefore, do not come to ministry with any other motivation. God can see our heart.


At 3:35 AM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

I heard someone once said "God doesn't need our defence, but the sheep do!"

Guard the flock entrusted to us :)


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