Contend Earnestly: Preach Jesus...Always

Monday, September 15, 2008

Preach Jesus...Always

I am currently reading, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, by Thomas R. Schreiner. It struck me as Dr. Schreiner was in his rebuttal of Sanders' thoughts on Judaism in both Second Temple Judaism and also Judaism in Paul's day. Sanders' main point through this is that the Jews during this time were not legalistic. Sander's tries to show that the reason that the Jews did the work of the Law was out of gratitude of the grace that God has shown them. Although I, of course, concede that this was the reason for the law, I do not believe that this is what was being practiced.

The problem is that one cannot find the grace taught in the rabbinic works in Second Temple Judaism. Sanders simply says that grace is presupposed and therefore not needed to be written to the Jews. Since the Jews knew that it was by grace that they were called and elected, there was no reason to include this in the rabbinic writings or teachings. Here is Sanders direct quote on the subject:

Very seldom is God's role in the covenant directly discussed. It is assumed so thoroughly that it need not be mentioned.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, p. 82

Based on this, Schreiner responds accordingly:

This explains, says Sanders, the emphasis in rabbinic literature on the fulfillment of commandments. Sanders' thesis on why the covenant is unmentioned may be granted in one sense. Presumably the rabbis did assume that God's covenantal mercies were the basis of all their behavior, and one must recall the nature of the literature found in the Mishnah and Gemara. Nevertheless, when one combines the failure to mention the covenant with the emphasis on obeying the detailed prescriptions of the law, one has a recipe for legalism. Such theology may not be legalistic in theory; it can always appeal to the covenant as the basis of all behavior. Theology, however, is not measured only by formal statements but also by what it stresses. Any theology that claims to stress God's grace but rarely mentions it and that elaborates human responsibility in detail inevitably becomes legalistic in practice, if not theory. This principle applies to rabbinic Judaism and to Christian churches. A church outwardly lauding grace as primary and fundamental may practice the most virulent legalism.
Schreiner, The Law and Its Fulfillment, p. 117

This is a great understanding. The main point that Schreiner is making is against Sanders' view and also Judaism's view of how to teach. This also hits us squarely on the head.

We cannot preach and teach like people understand that "it is all about Jesus" unless we show them how it is truly "all about Jesus." If we just give them things to do, steps to follow, and laws they must keep as a Christian, they will fall into legalism and so will we as the teachers. We can never assume that people "get it." We have to continue to put Jesus and the cross in the front of their eyes EVERYTIME we teach the Scriptures. The reason is that our futile minds and faulty reasoning as humans will naturally move to legalism and an understanding that it is all about what we do and not what Christ has done. So, if we just tell people to pray, read the word, tell others about Jesus, memorize Scripture and help those around them without telling them "why?," we have failed. We must always underline these things with the grace of the cross and the fulfillment of Christ. Without the preaching of the cross within these principles, we return to legalism by default.

Do not assume that your parishioners, or you, ever fully understand the grace of the cross. We must study the cross, preach the cross, pray the cross, sing the cross and live the cross. We must do this daily and we should do this because this is exactly what we will be doing for all eternity.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:11-14


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Preachers need to always preach Jesus.

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