Blinded or just badly sighted?

I confess, I stagger between utter frustration and a measure of understanding. Because I thank God for the Bible. I recognise these 66 books (for ‘Bible’, from the Greek Biblia, is a plural and not a singular noun) as the revelation of the truth of God and of the good news of the Kingdom of God, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God initiated and instituted in Him and through Him.

But I am concerned. I see an insidious infection that can blind people to the truths found in the Bible. A blindness that sounds and sings convincingly. But a blindness, nonetheless. It is a disease that can steer us from the path of discipleship into the pit of deception.

What is this infection? Perhaps it is best to start with the clarity of Biblical revelation. Scripture testifies that our faith is to be in Jesus Christ, the fulfiller and fulfilment of all the faithful promises of God (2 Corinthians 1.20). Jesus Christ is the one whom we are to know, joined with Him at the Cross (1 Corinthians 2.2) and united with Him into His resurrection (Romans 6.1-14). Jesus Christ is the one who draws together all my humanity into His own body (Ephesians 1.1-10). Jesus Christ is the one who is the perfect, atoning sacrifice for my sin (Romans 3.25). Jesus Christ, as my Lord, now lives in me (Galatians 2.20). This is the wonderful truth. Jesus Christ can be anyone’s Lord and Saviour, when He is received by faith (Romans 10.9).

The problem is when the focus moves from Jesus Christ who died on the Cross to a cross that is a mere place of transaction, hell’s bargain-basement. To a pathology that confuses a message simply of a price paid with a true invitation: the call to repentance and faith in Jesus, who paid the price of my sin at the Cross, as Lord. The loss of sight that arises is very subtle. But it is very real. The terribleness of it hit home to me at a recent conference, when an excellent speaker told the tale of a young preacher who is known to actively solicit students for casual sexual relationships. Uncensured? How? Because the message preached in that independent congregation was that salvation was to be had by simply believing in that a price had been paid, supposedly a message of salvation by grace and grace alone! But the failure of that message was it had no call to repentance, no bowing to Jesus Christ as Lord.

Our gaze can never be on a cross alone. Our focus must be on Jesus Christ, our only hope, who died on the Cross. Through a faith expressed in believers’ baptism, we share in the death He died; and come to know the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, raising us to life again in Jesus Christ.

When the apostle Paul speaks of the power of the Cross in 1 Corinthians 1-2, it is in the context of an admonition towards sharing in the ‘weakness’ of Christ, that we might know the power of His resurrection at work in our lives. The call of the Cross is towards a life, consecrated to share in God’s way, with Jesus who paid the price. The call of the Cross is to know the power of God at work, not only justifying but also sanctifying us, working true holiness and godly fruitfulness from within us.

Our gaze can never be on a cross alone. Our focus must be on Jesus Christ, our only hope, who died on the Cross. Through a faith expressed in believers’ baptism, we share in the death He died; and come to know the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, raising us to life again in Jesus Christ.

There exists, in the spirit of this age, an attempt to commodify and make a consumer message out of the truth of Jesus Christ and His Cross. Such short-sightedness needs to be resisted and rectified. We need a refocussing on the radical faith of Christian consecration that finds expression in both Baptist and Reformed roots, sounding out in Scotland through such as the teachings of the Puritans and in the great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Godly morality and an ethical quest towards righteous justice in life, married to a testimony of salvation through Christ. Let us strive to be clear-sighted in holding to such a faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.

jim

Rev Dr Jim Purves

Mission and Ministry Advisor

Baptist Union of Scotland