I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Gay marriage, homosexual marriage, same-sex marriage, lesbian marriage, civil union…All of these are terms used in the ongoing campaign that homosexuals are waging against the American culture and people to gain the “right” to marry as heterosexuals do.  Why?  Simply put, to destroy our belief in God.

The basis for marriage between one man and one woman is traced all the way to the beginning of time as recorded in the Bible.

… for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:20-24 (NKJV)

Jesus uses this very scripture reference to defend marriage when confronted by the Pharisees with questions of divorce (Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:4-9).  In fact, Jesus always talked about marriage in this context of one man with one woman.

We see Jesus using word pictures and metaphors concerning marriage throughout His earthly ministry.  They range from attendants for a bride waiting for the groom’s party to come take them to the wedding (Matthew 25:1-13), to the wedding contract used by Jesus in the Lord’s supper that shows how His sacrifice would be for our salvation from our sins (Luke 22:19-20), to the return of Jesus to take up His bride to the wedding feast and eternity (Revelation 19:7-10).

Marriage between one man and one woman was very important to Jesus.  As such, it became important to the apostle Paul as well.  And why shouldn’t it be since Jesus Himself instructed him after Paul’s conversion (see Galatians 1:11, 12).

Having therefore been instructed by Jesus, Paul then instructs the church at Ephesus about marriage.  He gives a very succinct picture of roles and relationships between the husband and wife particularly in how the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church.  Then, quoting the same scripture that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees, Paul emphatically states,

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:29-32 (NKJV)

Marriage between one man and one woman is a reminder of the relationship that exists between Jesus Christ (the man) and his bride the Church (the woman).  Any other type of arrangement as the homosexuals are attempting to do destroys what God has created.

If two men were to “marry” then using the analogy that Paul used there would be two Christ figures.  Only one ever lived to save that which was lost by dying on the cross and be raised from the dead.  That one is Jesus Christ.  To have two parties claiming the headship of Christ in a “marriage” is to denigrate Jesus Christ and His ministry.  The two men become pictures of anti-christs and only deny both Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV)

If two women were to “marry” then again using Paul’s analogy there would be two Churches.  They would be picturing two false religious systems.  These systems would not exist for the saints to worship God but rather to enslave and destroy them instead.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. Revelation 17:1-6 (NKJV)

Homosexuals say they want to marry as heterosexuals do so they may gain health benefits.  This makes sense sexually transmitted diseases and other disorders are disproportionately high among the homosexual community making the need for affordable health care a priority.  However, the average median income for homosexuals ranges from upper middle-class to “rich” which suggests that “affordable” healthcare is not really out of reach.  They want to be their own gods.

Others will say that they want a way to publicly express their love for and to a partner in the same way heterosexuals can.  One has to wonder why as the average homosexual relationship typically lasts less then five years.  Given that there are indeed some long-term anomalous relationships, this would drive the average down closer to one or two years if those relatively few anomalies were removed from the statistics.  Is this the love they want to express?  And even for those who have “married” in states in which it is allowed, the divorce rate is equal to or higher than the heterosexual divorce rate.  They want their own system.

Homosexual marriage has nothing to do with benefits, or love, or constitutional rights.  It has everything to do with destroying belief in God, His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, and responsibilities of the universal Church in this world.  The fact that Satan is using homosexuality in this particular fashion is both appalling and frightening.  The fact that the Church seems powerless is both not-surprising and saddening.

There is a challenge therefore offered by homosexuals to the Church.  They are saying, “If you will not be who you say you are, then we will take it for our own and destroy you.”  It is a challenge that is not easily countered in today’s homosexual favoring media.  There is a way that the Church in America can defeat the challenge being presented.  That way is to heed the warning Jesus gave to the church at Ephesus:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV)

The Church needs to turn back to Jesus Christ.  She needs to be separate from the enticements of this world.  She needs to repent and return to being that place in which the saints – those Jesus gave His life for – gather to worship God and share His love obediently.

——-

Lord, thank you for the salvation that comes by your Son’s shed blood washing our sins away.  We praise You for grace and mercy.  Help us to repent of our continued neglect of our relationship with you.  Bring us back to that marriage picture of Christ and His Bride.

I pray also, Lord, that heterosexual and homosexual sinners all would receive that same gift of salvation.  May they all become as new and join the Church as You prepare to receive Her to You.

In Jesus’ Name…

Amen.

A Pondering Thought Train


RR Crossing

Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

–When God gives His gifts how do we know?

–And when we realize we have them how do we know to use them?

–Do we use just the ones we want?

–Or are we supposed to use them all?

–What are God’s gifts?

–Does gifting constitute “calling?”

–Is “calling” a gift?

–What is the responsibility of a “calling?”

–Does gifted-ness enable “calling?’

Fifteen Pro-life Truths

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother’s womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.

11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.

12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.

13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.

14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.

15.Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Christmas Time

Christmas Time

When you look at decorations on a Christmas tree, like this one in the picture, many things are reflected — other decorations, objects in the room, or the photographer perhaps.

As we start in earnest to prepare for Christmas how do we reflect the purpose for having Christmas? If we are brave and true to our Christian calling then we should by all accounts reflect the character of He who has called us His children.

Too often, however, we do not reflect God, His calling in our lives, or our true purpose of worship. What reflects, in our pious modern-Christian way, is God in name only — a non-god that mirrors our human self-assertiveness.

We make God into our image. We try to give Him our wish list. We try to make Him emote our feelings.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

He who is the Word gave Himself to become flesh — that is, God became fully human. He lived here on earth for 33 years. And He kept all His glory. In this glory is grace and truth. This grace and truth shone out from Him and was given from the cross.

This season, I challenge you the reader, to join me in reflecting the glory of God and not the non-god of this world.

An Advent Sermon

An Advent sermon by Karl Barth (who departed this world on this date in 1968).

The Church of Jesus Christ
Sermon on Romans 15:5-13

Dear friends! The church of Jesus Christ is a company, a troop, a gathering – a “congregation” according to the old and beautiful word which we must once again learn to understand – a [communal] congregation which is held together not by common interests, nor by common blood, and not even by common opinions and convictions, but by the fact that in it again and again – not to be silenced, nor counterfeited, nor confused with any other sound – that voice rings out which we hear at the beginning and again at the end of our text: “May the God of patience and of consolation give to you …!” “May the God of hope fill you …!” The voice which thus speaks to us, so entreating and at the same time so giving, so earnestly and also so friendly, is – in the words of the Apostle Paul – the voice of God’s own Word, from which the church of Jesus Christ is born, from which she must again and again be fed, and from which alone she can live. – God knows who God is; and in his Word he tells us: he is the God who gives patience, consolation, and hope. God knows that we need him like nothing else, and yet have no power over him; and in his Word he tells us that, he collects and pulls our thinking and willing together and to himself so that we must plead: “May he give to us! May he fill us!” And God knows how near he is to us, how ready he is for us; and in his word he tells us that, by laying on our own lips, as if from very near by, a sigh uttered in the deepest and surest trust in him: “May he, he give to us! May he fill us!” Let this voice, with which God says to us what he knows of himself and us, come from ever so far away (the Apostle Paul really is far away from us, and the whole Bible is very far removed from all the other books and newspapers which we read): if only this voice rings out with its sound, its message, its claim and encouragement, then the church of Jesus Christ is there, in and of which I too, by hearing this voice, “become and will remain a living member forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 54).

But in this Advent season we have reason to reflect: That there is a Word of God for us and thus a church of Jesus Christ as a place of consolation, patience and hope which come from God: such a thing is not self-evident. Such a thing is not simply always and everywhere, like the air we breathe. Such a thing is not simply given to us, either by nature or by history, so that we could simply dispose of it as if it were something that belonged to us. That there is God’s Word in the church: such a thing is neither grounded in human psychic life, nor is it a cultural achievement, nor does it belong to the essence and being of any ethnic group or race, nor is it grounded in the necessary course of world history. Rather it is a secret and a mystery with which our existence is, not provided from within, but clothed from without; which is grounded, not in any sense within us, but absolutely in an alien power and might over us. That there is church and God’s Word, is true because and only because – as our text says &endash; “Christ hath received us”: received us like a beggar from the street, received us as people who did and could not think of receiving him, but who could only be received. We can also say: adopted, as an orphan is adopted, as something which we are not at all by our own power, namely as his brothers [and sisters] and as children of his Father. We can also say: taken along or taken into that region where he, the Son of God, leads, reigns, bears responsibility, cares, and is at work, so that no one but he may have worry and care. By our own power, we would never have reached and come into this region. But he has taken us in. That is the message of Christmas, which we may soon celebrate again: Christ has received us! Indeed he has received us “to the praise of God”: not as though it had to be that way, not according to any law of nature, or because God needed us, and not because of our needs and wishes, but because it was right for him in his freedom to be great and glorious in our being received, adopted, taken along, and taken in by his Son. That is why on Christmas night the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is pleased”: that is, in whom he, God, is pleased!

But, precisely according to our text, all that is true in a noteworthy double sense:

In the first place, it certainly means something quite comprehensive: He has accepted and taken on humanity, namely in order – as God – to be our neighbor, and at the same time – as man – to be God’s neighbor. So that in him God’s kingdom has come near to us human beings, and again in him we human beings may stand before God’s throne as pleasing to God. Because God himself in Jesus Christ has vested and clothed himself with and in humanity, therefore we are vested and clothed with the secret and mystery of the Word and of the church.

But in the second place here something quite special is given us to think about. It is not a matter of course that we belong to Jesus Christ and he to us. “Christ hath become a servant of the Circumcision for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the promises which came unto the Fathers.” That is: Christ belonged to the people of Israel. This peoples blood was in his veins the blood of the Son of God. He took on the nature of this people when he took on humanity, not for the sake of this people, or because of the advantage of its blood and race, but for the sake of the truth, viz. for the sake of demonstrating the truthfulness and faithfulness of God. Because God had made a covenant with, and given his presence and the promise of an unparalleled redemption to, this and only this people: a stiff-necked and evil people [Ex. 32:9 etc.], but precisely this people – not to reward and lift up the Jews, but to confirm and fulfill this free, gracious promise of God “made to the Fathers” Jesus Christ became a Jew. He said once of himself, that to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and only to them was he sent (Matt. 15:24, cf. 10:5-6). That means for us, who are not Israel, a locked door. If it is nevertheless open, if Christ nevertheless belongs to us too as we to him, then it must once again be true in a special sense that “Christ hath received us unto the praise of God”. That this is so, we are reminded by the existence of the Jewish people to this very day.- Frederick the Great is said once to have asked his personal physician Zimmermann whether he [Zimmermann] could give him an absolutely certain proof of the existence of God, and to have got the laconic reply “Your Majesty, the Jews!” Zimmermann was right. The Jew reminds us with his existence that we are not Jews, and thus that by nature [eigentlich] we are “without Christ, foreign, and outside the citizenship of Israel, and foreign to the testaments of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). The Jew reminds us that it is something special, new and wonderful if we nevertheless are “no longer guests and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). We are not that by nature. The Jew, in his so puzzlingly strange and just as puzzlingly indestructible existence among all other peoples, is the living proof that God is free to choose whom he will, that he certainly does not owe it to us to choose us too, that it is grace if he chooses us too. It could well be that one resists this admittedly strict proof of God, that one resists the God of free grace, if one all-too-passionately resists the Jews. But the special, new and wonderful thing about the fact that Christ – although a “servant of the Circumcision for the sake of God’s truth” – has also received us, consists in the fact that the elected and graced people of Israel treated its Redeemer no otherwise than … all peoples of all times and places would have done in Israel’s place. That is, it rejected and crucified him, not in foolish haste, not by mistake, but in precise and conscious continuation of the way in which it has always treated its God. “My people”, as God so often called this people, showed itself once again and now definitively as “Not my people” [Hos. 1:9]. But the prophet Hosea had said precisely the opposite, and now it became true in the crucifixion of Christ! “Where it was said to them: ‘You are not my people’, it will be said to them: ‘O ye children of the living God'” (Hosea 2:1). “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” [Luke 23:34]: that was said to this people on Golgotha. Only that this could now no longer be said just to Israel. By making itself equal to the other peoples, Israel had also made the other peoples equal to itself. The locked door was opened. Israel itself had to open it. God’s covenant and truth were not broken, but were fulfilled in those in Israel – but also in those among the Gentiles – who now recognized and accepted God’s mercy as the work of his covenant and his truth. For that was the fulfillment of the covenant, the faithfulness of God precisely in Christ’s death on the cross: “God concluded all under unfaith, so that he might have mercy on all”(Rom. 11:32).

Therefore it follows: “The Gentiles praise God because of mercy.” Note well: not because they are better, purer, more upright than the Jews! If there were an advantage, the Jews would have it to this day: not because of any good qualities, but because it pleased God to elect them, to make with them a covenant which he fulfilled in Christ in order to keep it also with us. Therefore the Gentiles praise God: because to them who were not Israel, in Christ crucified in the midst of Israel, God showed and confirmed his mercy to them too. Because the covenant with Israel for Israel and for the Gentiles was revealed as covenant of grace for sinners, who cannot boast of any kept faithfulness, who can live only by mercy, but who really may live by mercy. – Therewith cease both the advantage of the Jews and our disadvantage. That is what a genuine Jew cannot understand to this day: viz. that precisely the covenant, which God indeed made with his and only with his people, has now – in the rejection of Christ by this his people – been revealed as the free and un-owed goodness which God wants to do to everyone. Precisely this covenant!, says St. Paul, and lets precisely the book of this one old and now fulfilled covenant speak for and testify to the glory of God among the heathen: “Therefore will I praise thee among the Gentiles, and sing thy name.” “Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people!” “Praise the Lord, all Gentiles, and extol him, all peoples!” “It will be the root of Jesse, and he will rise up to rule over the Gentiles; on him shall the Gentiles hope.” Thus, therefore, has Christ received us to the praise of God. “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus Christ was a Jew. But in that, in the sins of the Jews, he bore and bore away the sins of the whole world including ours, the salvation from the Jews has come also to us. We rejoice in this wide-open door, when we rejoice that there is a Word of God for us and thus a church of Jesus Christ. How should we, whenever we think about that, not also and above all think of the Jews? And how should we, whenever we think about the Jews, not think above all that “The Gentiles praise God for mercy’s sake”?

Now we can understand the second thing that our text has to tell us about the church of Jesus Christ: As Christ has received us to the praise of God, so “receive one another.” That is a law which may not be evaded. That is a command, and indeed a strict and inexorable command. But the Gentiles and the Jews, all those received by Christ, who praise God for mercy’s sake, fulfill this command. They receive each other. “To receive one another”: that means, to see each other as Christ sees us. He sees us all as covenant-breakers, but also as those with whom God will nevertheless keep his covenant. He sees us in our pious and worldly godlessness, but also as those to whom the kingdom of God has come near. He sees us as those who must simply rely on mercy, but also as those to whom mercy has already come. He sees us as Jews struggling with the true God and as Gentiles at peace with false gods, but he also sees us both united as “children of the living God” [Hos. 2:1]. Indeed, with our own eyes we cannot see each other as such. When we see each other with our own eyes, then it regularly happens that we miss both the fact that we are covenant-breakers and the fact that God nevertheless keeps his covenant. Then we take much too seriously both the excellences and the faults that we see in each other; then we both praise ourselves and each other much too loudly, and blame each other and ourselves much too vehemently. But in any case we simply do not receive each other. Then we are in the market place, but not in the church. Then the Word of God is silent. But when it is not silent, when we consider that we are received by Jesus Christ to the praise of God, then we see ourselves and each other with the eyes of Jesus Christ: and that surely means that our deep covenant-breaking, godlessness and pitifulness, but also God’s faithfulness ruling unmovedly over each one of us, are revealed to us, and that – despite all excellences and faults, praise and blame – however important they might be in their place – we can only reach out and shake hands with one another, in order with each other to praise God’s faithfulness to us the unfaithful. If and when we see ourselves and each other thus, then we receive each other, then we are in the church of Jesus Christ. For that is the church of Jesus Christ: the congregation of those who – hearing the word of the God of patience, consolation and hope – receive each other, even as Jesus Christ has received us. That is “the communion of the saints”. The praise of God for mercy’s sake has brought them together and, through thick and thin, will keep them together. Will hold them together in such a way as no friendship, no like-mindedness, no ethnic or national community, and no state can hold people together. Will hold them together in such a way as in the whole world only the members of the body of Christ are held together by him, their head.

And now we may close with a brief indication of the things which, in our text, are prayed for:

In the first place, it is that “ye be of one mind with one another according to Jesus Christ, so that unanimously with one mouth ye may praise God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Which is to say: From our mutual receiving of each other as Christ has received us, there must follow that in the church of Jesus Christ one thought and one will becomes living and powerful in all: indeed not just some human unity of thought and will, but a unity of perhaps very disparate human thoughts and wills in the intention of making loud the praise of God for mercy’s sake, of passing it on, of awakening it even in those who do not yet know that they have received mercy. This intention would then have to be carried out “unanimously with one mouth”. But that means: the church of Jesus Christ would have to be a community, a congregation, who together recognize the word which they have heard in order to confess it together. The church must be that! But is it that? If it is that, then where is its recognition and its confession? And if it is not that, why isn’t it? Our text bids us simply to pray for the church, that it may become a church of recognition and of confession. If only we would once again, and with one accord, pray for that! And what does it mean to pray? To cry out, to call, to reach out so that for us too that might be true which is true once and for all: that Christ has received us. The church’s recognition and the church’s confession would then follow such a prayer, if prayed in earnest, as surly as thunder follows lightning.

The second thing is this: That God “may fill you with all joy and peace in faith, that ye may have full hope by the power of the Holy Ghost.” That means: From our mutual receiving of each other, as Christ has received us, there must follow that in the church of Jesus Christ all joylessness would at least be on the way to becoming joy, all peacelessness at least on the way to peace, all distress about one’s own present would somewhere finally be overflowed by hope in the presence of the Lord. Does our church lack confession and recognition because so much unmoved and immovable joylessness, peacelessness and distress is in us? Or is there so much stark joylessness, peacelessness and distress in us despite our supposed faith, because recognition and confession are lacking in our church? We must certainly presume that th Christ has received us to the praise of God. If that remains hidden from us, then ere is a definite connection here. And therefore it is understandable that here too we are simply admonished that we must pray for the church, pray that joy and peace in its faith may prevail, that we – not by the strength of our will or mind, but by the power of the Holy Spirit might partake of a full, an overflowing hope. And again our prayer must simply be a sighing that this might not remain entirely hidden from us: that Christ has received us to the praise of God. If that remains hidden from us, then we will hardly receive each other; and so long as we do not receive one another, how could we have peace, joy and hope? They certainly stand and wait just outside our door. And they will be given us. If and when we earnestly ask for the one thing we must ask for.

In these times, the thoughts of many are concerned more seriously than before with what is lacking in the church and for us in the church. Note well that our Pauline text does not speak of that; but where it could talk about that, it simply prays and thus also bids us pray to the God of patience, consolation and hope, who is the Lord of the church. When we hear that, and let ourselves be told that we simply should, may and can pray, then it may become clear to us that there is one thing – and indeed the decisive thing – which is not lacking today in the church and for us in the church: namely the Word, from which the church is born.

When we hear this, viz. that there is a prayer that can do many things, then we certainly have the Word of God. Let us keep it, by doing that which by the Word of God is thus urged upon us! Perhaps these times have come upon our church in order that we might learn – otherwise and better than before – to pray, and thus to keep that which we have.

Karl Barth should be allowed a place in discussions about ‘doctrine of scripture.’

Comfort Ye

In discussions concerning the doctrine of scripture modern evangelical theologians and scholars often dismiss the profound insight of Karl Barth. That is not to say Barth was always right. There is much to disagree about his theology, a great deal which needs to at least be given serious consideration when formulating ones own theological positions, and common ground that will help all as they walk toward the common goal of knowing God. Herein lies a brief exploration of why Karl Barth should be allowed a place in discussions about ‘doctrine of scripture.’

Karl Barth was schooled in the liberal ideologies that characterized theological thinking in the early twentieth century, particularly in Europe and especially Germany. He had a “revelation” akin to that of Martin Luther’s Romans 1:17 experiences in which Luther realized the errors being taught by the church. Barth saw in the world, especially post WWI, the inconsistencies of liberalism with the message God shows in the Bible. This led to his book The Epistle to the Romans. He considered his first edition inadequate and rewrote it shortly after its publication. The sixth edition has become a marker in conservative theology. Barth makes the serious theologian put aside any preconceived notions and enter into dialogue that starts with God, His Word, and His Will. It is exactly that challenge that makes Karl Barth controversial.

Controversy does not need to be the definitive word in our conversations about Barth. The pride of being the one correct position often clouds our judgments and hence interferes with the purpose of theology – understanding God and communicating that understanding to others. When a new voice – or a voice newly heard – arises, we should listen to the reasoning in the sound of the instruction instead of rushing to drown out that voice because it does not fit neatly into the arrangements of conformity. If Barth could put aside the conformities of the respected German liberal theologies of his day then he should be afforded the same due process in our discussions about the doctrine of scripture in our day. In fact, as Mark DeVine has noted about Albert Mohler’s observations, “many evangelicals who worked hard to cast Barth as an enemy of the gospel showed little evidence of having read him.[1] DeVine quotes J. I. Packer (God Who is Rich in Mercy), “Barth’s purpose of being rigorously, radically, and ruthlessly biblical and his demand for interpretation that is theologically coherent, is surely exemplary for us.”[2]

Packer rightly observes Barth’s most outstanding quality in his theology that should drive us to better understand him, and how we can bring his conclusions to a place where they bolster and strengthen consensus views instead of standing outside in a place of critically derived snobbery. Packer gives credit to Barth by saying “he laid constant stress on God’s sovereign freedom and lordship in grace, on man’s incapacity in his sin to feel after God and find him, on the reality of God’s communion with us through the Word that he speaks to us in Christ, and on the instrumentality of the Scriptures in conveying to us the knowledge of Christ and of grace that they exhibit.”[3] To hear Barth in his own words,

We talk of sovereignty, a command, an obedience, a willingness and allegiance unlike any other, because in him we meet a sovereign unlike any other. When Jesus rules God rules, and God rules when Jesus rules. That is why this sovereignty is quite unlike any other sovereignty, and why there is not other obedience on earth like this one.[4]

This view of God and the sovereignty of God is what drives Barth’s theology. Such a high view of God is indeed refreshing in this time of scholarship where individuality leads many a well-meaning preacher to deduce for himself the meaning from the text instead of letting the text reveal God to him. The distraction of trying to redefine each word of the Bible in an effort to maintain cultural relevance is not present with Barth. “There must be absolute confidence in holy scripture…”[5] The preacher must approach scripture as revealing God to the reader and hearer. “Scripture says the same thing, but it constantly says the one thing different ways.”[6] In essence, scripture is the written revelation of God to His elect. Through its pages He enables us to interact, fellowship, and worship Him. A Person is revealed therein and that Person becomes synonymous with the very scriptures themselves.

Barth identifies in A Shorter Commentary on Romans the person of Jesus Christ as being the motivation for Paul in his ministry and for his correspondences. “…Paul has at once spoken very substantially of the cause that moves him. This cause is a person (Romans 1:1)…This Lord has given him the grace of the apostolate (Romans 1:5) the office of an accredited ambassador, and this office commissions him to proclaim the Gospel, the good news.”[7] The words Paul communicates to the church at Rome are not the charter for Paul’s ministry. The words are how Paul describes what Jesus entrusted to him – the task and lifework that Paul would undertake.

What then do we do with Barth’s assertion that Scripture is merely a witness to the ‘Word of God’ and not actually the ‘Word of God?’[8] We should allow that Barth is at the very least not incorrect if he is not totally accurate. Today’s conservative evangelical thinking relies heavily on what Steve Wellum[9] identifies as the ‘Received’ view.[10] As can be seen already, Barth held scripture in high regard and viewed them as being the authority to which all must be held accountable. This holds closely to the Sola Scriptura principle that came out of the Reformation which is held by most conservative evangelicals today.

So where is the disagreement? Where those that hold to the supposed ‘Received’ view of scripture will stop at scripture only being the Word of God, Barth holds that the Word of God has a Trinitarian aspect similar to the Trinity. That is, it has a threefold meaning: Word revealed (Jesus Christ), Word written (scripture), and Word proclaimed.[11] Eberhard Busch, in The Great Passion, says of Barth that “the object of theology, that is, what Barth calls the ‘Word’ or ‘revelation,’ is truly identical with the person of Jesus Christ.”[12] Quoting from Barth himself (Der Götze wackelt),

The saying in John 1:14 is the center and theme of all theology…I have no Christological principle and no Christological method. Rather, in each individual theological question I seek to orient myself afresh to some extent from the very beginning – not on a Christological dogma but on Jesus Christ himself.[13]

“The Word of God is the Word that God spoke, speaks, and will speak in the midst of all men.”[14] Hence, the threefold elucidation of Barth fleshes out the one-dimensional stance of the so-called ‘Received’ view. It presents God as speaking now today and not just in the past. Busch says as much himself in the forward to The Word in this World, “the question is much more whether [we] hear and pay attention to what God says – not only said, but says.”[15]

It is the ‘we’ that brings Barth’s view of the doctrine of scripture to a place of compliment with that of the ‘Received’ view. The ‘Received’ view, in its attempt to get back to the original text, relies on a new evangelical magisterium[16] to provide meaning to the text for the congregations. This elitist’s ideology has become a prevalent form of theology in many churches. It drives polity, directs outreach, and derives leadership functions. By allowing Barth’s view to stand alongside the ‘Received’ view the text becomes a living text that speaks God’s Word to our hearts instead of a moldy document we can only understand correctly if someone else shows us how. Jesus as the Word is not just a figure in history but a living Savior. He becomes the object of all the functioning of the church as He is proclaimed.

As a Barthian view of scripture is allowed to come into our theological discussions then the church takes on a whole different dimension itself. Instead of being the social club looking for relevance in this world the church would rediscover its purpose of being – proclaiming Jesus, the Word. The community of the elect will coalesce into a community of faith. “It is the commonwealth gathered, founded, and ordered by the Word of God, the ‘communion of the saints.’”[17] The church has the self-realization of unmerited salvation. The rallying point shifts from the number of members to the discipling of its members. The Word stops being a static document sometimes read before Sunday school and rarely read in church services. Instead, the Word becomes the living person of Jesus Christ who the church gathers to worship and proclaim in all antiquity and in all eternity yet to come. “Christian community exists only where the promise [the Word] is heard and believed [and hence acted on].”[18] Furthermore, if God is to be realized in our churches then churches need to have God revealed to them. “God is revealed in Jesus Christ through the witness of Holy scripture.”[19]

The ‘Received’ view as the main point of reason for creating community becomes an incomplete rationale. While it provides a wonderful framework upon which to build a more complete paradigm its reliance upon the verbal-plenary [20] aspect of revelation is its only true strength. The danger is that the paper and ink of the manuscripts and its ensuing translations becomes the object of worship rather than the Giver. Without the perception that Jesus is the Word of God first and foremost as in Barth’s theology then the tendency is for the written word to take precedence and become worshiped, even if inadvertently, in His place.

In sum, our statement distinguishes the Word spoken in the existence of Jesus Christ from all others as the Word of God. When we think of these others, we do well to include even the human words spoken in the existence and witness of the men of the Bible and the Church. In distinction from all these, Jesus Christ is the one Word of God.[21]

Karl Barth has been a controversial figure in theological circles. Many are introduced to him via the vehicle of negative descriptions and derogatory critiques. A cut-and-paste sound-bite mentality pervades the discussions that may ensue about him and his theology with hardly any true substantive reading of his works. There are some that have dared to read Karl Barth and interact with him thereby keeping alive the dialogue that fuels healthy theological explorations. William Willimon opines in his introduction to The Word in this World, “We are a profoundly insecure people and the source of our insecurity is revealed to be not Islamic terrorists but rather the God who commands us in Jesus the Christ. I’m therefore hearing Barth’s sermon as a call across the years…to be the preacher that God has called me to be.”[22]“Preach on, Karl Barth.”[23]

[1] Mark DeVine. Evangelicals and Karl Barth: Friends or Foes?, (a paper delivered at the Annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado 2001).[2] Ibid.

[3] J. I. Packer, Encountering Present-Day Views of Scripture, http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article­_views_packer.html

[4] Kurt I. Johanson. ed. The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth. (Regent College Publishing: Vancouver, British Columbia, 2007) 48.

[5] Karl Barth, Homiletics. (Westminster/John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky 1991) 76.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Karl Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans. (John Knox Press: Richmond, Virginia 1963) 15.

[8] S. J. Wellum, Systematic Theology I Handouts (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: Louisville, Kentucky 2007) 30.

[9] Ibid, 29.

[10] Lecture notes indicate that the received view is tied closely to the identity thesis that states Scripture is the Word of God, as brought out by B. B. Warfield. It states also that even if not provable the original manuscripts should be considered without error in all regards and allows that copies may themselves contain errors. Barth is not without fault in this regard as he believed the first eleven chapter of Genesis to probably be myth, though he viewed them to hold the same authority as the rest of scripture.

[11] Ibid, 30.

[12] Eberhard Busch, The Great Passion. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan 2004) 30.

[13] Ibid, 30.

[14] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: an Introduction. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan 1963) 18.

[15] Kurt I Johanson,. ed. The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth. (Regent College Publishing: Vancouver, British Columbia, 2007) 7.

[16] This borrows from the Roman Catholic view that only a select group could provide correct interpretation of the scriptures as only they had the scholarship and technical skill to necessary for such a task. This was one of the underlying issues of the Reformation – letting the commoner read for himself the Bible thereby hearing from God.

[17] Karl Barth. Evangelical Theology: an Introduction. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan 1963) 36.

[18] Karl Barth, Preaching to the Captives. CD ROM. 1957.

[19] Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man. (N. P., Pilgrim Press 1928) 195-6.

[20] Wellum. The Bible is the very Word of God itself in that all (plenary) is inspired of God, right down to the very words of the text (verbal).

[21] Karl Barth. Church Dogmatics. (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 1994) 230.

[22] Johanson, 22.

[23] Ibid.

The Church’s Commission


Karl Barth was schooled in the liberal ideologies that characterized theological thinking in the early twentieth century, particularly in Europe and especially Germany. He had a “revelation” akin to that of Martin Luther’s Romans 1:17 experience in which Luther realized the errors being taught by the church. Barth saw in the world, especially post WWI, the inconsistencies of liberalism with the message God shows in the Bible. This led to his book The Epistle to the Romans. He considered his first edition inadequate and rewrote it shortly after its publication. The sixth edition has become a marker in conservative theology.

While Barth is often decried by the liberals as being conservative in approach, the conservatives have embarrassingly ignored Barth, especially when his thinking challenges them to think. Often labeled “neo-orthodox”, he more correctly should be viewed as challenging “neo-protestantism” – which ironically is cloaked in “neo-evangelicism” today. Barth makes the serious theologian put aside any preconceived notions and enter into dialogue that starts with God, His Word, and His Will. It is exactly that challenge that makes Karl Barth controversial.

During the 1930’s the government in Germany developed legislation that dictated how churches were to conduct themselves. Barth and others saw this as a threat and came together to oppose these dictates. The Barmen Declaration was the end product of their efforts, Barth being principle in its formation. The application of the statements made are eerily apropos to today’s so-called church system. Read the principle statements below, with my thoughts on each following, and see a glimpse of Karl Barth.

1. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me” John 14.6.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs in somewhere else, that one is a thief and a robber. I am the Door; anyone who enters through me will be saved. John 10:1, 9

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine that the church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures, and truths as God’s revelation.

Today’s church will turn to progressive revelation, magisteriums, charismatic leaders, or public opinion to chart its course. This statement shines a spotlight on the inconsistencies our churches exhibit today in the twenty-first century.

2. “Jesus Christ has been made wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption for us by God” I Cor. 1.30

As Jesus Christ is God’s comforting pronouncement of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, and with equal seriousness, he is also God’s vigorous announcement of his claim upon our whole life. Through him there comes to us joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free, grateful service to his creatures. We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would belong not to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

Barth, being steeped in Reformation theology, saw that to claim the title “Christian” means to be under His sovereignty in all areas of life. It is based on grace from God and not anything having to do with our own doing.

3. “Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together” Eph.4.15-16

The Christian church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.

We reject the false doctrine that the church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.

The church is community. It has no one person to represent it other than Jesus Christ. As such, we must act together to proclaim the message of the church – the gospel of Christ who lived, died, and is resurrected, coming again. To turn from this necessity is wrong. It was wrong in Barth’s day and it is still wrong today, though it is the common practice.

4.”You know that the rulers of the Gentiles exercise authority over them and those in high position lord it over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” Matt. 20:25-26

The various offices in the church do not provide a basis for some to exercise authority over others but for the ministry with which the whole community has been entrusted and charged to be carried out.

We reject the false doctrine that, apart from this ministry, the church could, and could have permission to, give itself or allow itself to be given special leaders further vested with ruling authority.

The church today worships its leaders. The “word of faith” movement is noted for this. The Southern Baptists are especially known for this. The Roman Catholic church also should be highlighted. When the basis for ministry hinges on the office held, the books written, the school led, or the vote of cardinals, or speaking ex-cathedra then the church is not the church anymore. It is a club.

That is not God’s way. Jesus rules the Church. Man is allowed to participate.

5. “Fear God, honor the King!” 1 Peter 2:17

Scripture tells us that by divine appointment the state, in this still unredeemed world in which also the church is situated, has the task of maintaining justice and peace, so far as human discernment and human ability make this possible, by means of the threat and use of force. The church acknowledges with gratitude and reverence toward God the benefit of this, his appointment. It draws attention to God’s Kingdom (Reich), God’s commandment and justice, and with these the responsibility of those who rule and those who are ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word, by which God upholds all things.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the state should and could become the sole and total order of human life and so fulfill the vocation of the church as well.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the church should and could take on the nature, tasks and dignity which belong to the state and thus become itself an organ of the state.

This is the true definition of what could be called “separation of church and state”. Let the state perform its function and let the church perform its function. Sadly, the church usually abdicates its function to the state with the result being “the welfare state”. When the church actually starts performing its God-ordained roles and purposes then perhaps the state will stop seeing the need to censor the church.

6.”See, I am with you always, to the end of the age” Matt. 28:20

“God’s Word is not fettered” 2 Tim. 2:9

The church’s commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ’s stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver to all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God. We reject the false doctrine that with human vainglory the church could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of self-chosen desires, purposes and plans. The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgement of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a confederation of Confessional Churches. It calls upon all who can stand in solidarity with its Declaration to be mindful of these theological findings in all their decisions concerning church and state. It appeals to all concerned to return to unity in faith, hope and love.

Verbum Dei manet in aeternum.

Self-chosen desires, purposes, and plans – these words written over seventy years ago describe the truth about the church today in the twenty-first century. I stand in solidarity with this Declaration, as Barth has written here. It is time for the church to step up and start being The Church.