Heralds of the King
- Thursday, July 23, 2009
This kingdom is to pulse with familial affection, sacrifice, and relational involvement that should find no human cultural peer at any point in history, nor in any place on planet Earth. There is to be only one community where creatures can love like the Creator: the kingdom of God.
Unreconciled, bitter, or faction-filled believers do nothing less than lie about the King and his kingdom before they've said a word! More pointedly, our relational dissonance or distance models heresy, though our words may be utterly orthodox.
Dr. Cornelius Van Til once stated in a lecture I attended at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, "All truth is the externalization of the personality of the Trinity." I was so struck by those words that I could not take notes for the remainder of the class. His brilliant presuppositional statement is reflected in the renaming of Abraham. God, who is the Father, is renaming a father to carry out his kingdom family agenda in a familial way because every family reflects the parent. This "family" has no less than God himself as our Father. Glory be to God on high! How dare we act in contradiction to his character and think it acceptable?
Time and time again this familial approach for world transformation is magnified in the Word of God. This is exemplified by the apostle Paul in Romans 9:3 as he calls the unbelieving race of Israel, to which he is seeking to proclaim the gospel, his "brothers." Paul says, "I wish that I myself were cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race." The apostle does not use this word "brothers" loosely. He appears to be adopting the familial approach to world transformation delineated in the Abrahamic covenant and applying it even to some people who want to kill him. Simply put, Paul is implying with this language that, if there is not a deep and abiding love for those served in mission, then we are not doing ministry in accord with the prescription laid out before Abraham by the living God in Genesis 17.
The apostle Paul again exemplifies this kind of familial care for his flock when he describes himself in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." He is even more pointedly familial in verse 17, when he writes about the separation from Thessalonica as follows: "But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you." The words "torn away" are a translation of one word, aporphaniz . At its heart is the Greek word orphan, which is the source of our English word for a child who has lost parents. It calls to mind the media pictures of parents being separated from a child by some unjust court order requiring that the child be wrenched from his loving parents' hands while they reach yearningly for the child, screaming over the separation. This is the picture Paul paints of leaving the Thessalonian church. So God advances his kingdom with people who have been designed to address the world with a familial-like love that has no peer.
Puritan history exemplifies this familial approach to ministry. In the 1780 collection of the letters from John Newton originally entitled Voice of the Heart: Cardiphonia, there is a biographical sketch in which the Rev. R. Cecil frankly assesses Newman's weaknesses as a preacher:
With respect to his ministry, he appeared, perhaps, to least advantage in the pulpit, as he did not generally aim at accuracy in the composition of his sermons, nor at any address in the delivery of them. His utterance was far from clear, and his attitude ungraceful.5
Newman's biographer is quick to add, however:
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