Paul, in prison, guarded by Roman soldiers and given divine inspiration to metaphorically replace physical soldiers uniforms with a spiritual one. Such are the verses of Ephesians ch.6:10-18. All too aware of the invisible battle believers face against the hostile and evil powers of this world:-
The Helmet of salvation – protects the Christian’s mind from doubting salvation and Satan’s attempts to thwart the Word of God.
The Breastplate of righteousness – Satan often attacks our hearts the seat of our emotions.
The Belt of truth – How often lies sound like truth. Satan wants believers to be convinced, convicted by falsehood further eroding Biblical orthodoxy.
The Shield of faith – Protects us from attacks from the adversary in the form of temptations and setbacks. The shield conveys the ultimate victory is ours.
The Sword of the spirit – Is the written Word of God. We take the offensive against evil powers by knowing and trusting the truth of Scripture.
The Shoes of peace – Satan tries to put us off bringing the message of the Kingdom of God.
Verse 18 “pray at all times” – reminds us that believers fight best when they are on their knees. Prayer brings down strongholds.
Lastly, around this uniform the Christian also needs the Apron of humility (1 Peter 5:5) in order to serve one another.
Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Theologians like Clark Pinnock would say there’s a wideness in God’s mercy. All religions make exclusive truth claims. Is there relationship between them? Are all religions ultimately equal in helping man know the unknowable, finite man probe the depths of the infinite? Does God hear the prayers of non-Christians? The multicultural reality of this present age means we live in a world of religious diversity. It’s a pluralistic culture. The large white dome of a new mosque and Hindu temples with elephants carved in the doorway are quite literally just up the road. I have Sikh, Muslim, Hindu neighbours. We share a country where the world has grown smaller (through globalisation, the Internet) and is more dangerous than ever before.
Jurgen Moltmann talks of God’s goodness which cannot be limited by idols, temples, creeds, churches or even one’s own theology. Exclusivism can lead to arrogance and intolerance. Jesus said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to the fold” (John ch.10, v.16). Christianity is my religion, but there is a God who creates all people and in whom we live, move and have our being (Acts ch.17). There’s the Christian’s mandate to enter into respectful dialogue with other faiths, not to argue the superiority of our faith, but to share what we believe.
This does not mean Christians reject the exclusive claims of The Bible, or Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. Know one can come to the Father except through me” (John ch.14, v.6). Many religions claim to know God. But Christianity allows believers to know God in a very special way, as Abba Father. That’s the exclusive claim I uphold. It’s so special and unique. There’s no doubt God’s grace is intended for the salvation of the world – for all humanity – but it can’t stand up to human unbelief. Atonement means reconciliation and the Good Lord wants to reconcile the world. He is doing it in ways beyond our ivory tower understanding.
In John’s Gospel the miracles or ‘signs’ Jesus performs are given meaning through the teaching that is developed through them:-
1. Water into wine – we need the good wine of God’s life and love to flourish.
2. Feeding of 5,000 – we are hungry in our deepest selves and need to be fed the Bread of Life.
3. Healing of the blind man – we cannot see, and we need to have our spiritual sight restored to us.
4. Rising of Lazarus – we are dead inside and must be brought to life through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So fancy a brew?
(R)eceive the Father’s love
(E)mbrace God’s gift of personhood
(W)elcome the day and its opportunities to give and receive blessings.
A powerful theme in both the Old and New Testaments. God’s wrath was poured out on His Son for Jesus has already suffered for every human sin. It is we who separate ourselves from His love, not He who rejects us. The call of the Gospel is to accept His love by freely responding to it. Our response may be sudden or gradual, the offer to accept Christ’s grace remains constant.
The Bible, it seems to me, is consistent in teaching that rebellion against God is ultimately destructive and that there is a price to pay for sin. That’s why Jesus died on the cross.
It’s dangerous to build theology on what the Bible doesn’t say. The question of God’s providence has spurned lengthy debate – what about those who never hear the Gospel? I believe the righteous judge of both the living and the dead, of all the earth will do right, but the issue remains that those who hear the Gospel and deliberately reject salvation are children of wrath and bring judgement upon themselves. The Lord is ALMIGHTY not all-matey!
I’m not a Cessainionist. I recognise the functional, manifestational and vocational gifts mentioned in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4. These are still to be encouraged today. But I am thinking different about the gift of prophecy. As Genesis to Revelation is the complete revelation of God there is nothing further to be revealed. Therefore, has prophecy ceased? And has it been superseded by the lasting gift of preaching God’s Word?
The story of Hagar and Ishmael (father of the Arab nation) reveals two different names for God. Before she and her son were cast out “the angel of the Lord” – Jehovah – was used. Hagar had been under the Abrahamic Covenant and God is identified by His redemptive Name. Once she had been dismissed and was no longer under the covenant God is identified as “the angel of God” – Elohim – His majestic Name.
This suggests to me that Allah and God are the same God. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that there is only ONE Name under heaven through which people can be saved. That is Jesus Christ – (originally the angel of the Lord before He took on flesh) through whom our redemption is possible. Believers are then privileged to name God as Father and be in relationship with Him as sons and daughters. It’s only through Christ that we can come to know God in this way. Calling Him by any other name is not salvation.
The Bible supports the ACTIVIST viewpoint. The world is a dangerous place and many leaders/nations will stop at nothing to destroy freedom and peace disrupting life. War is necessary to defend ourselves from tyrants or dangerous ideologies and also to correct many injustices committed against people throughout the world. Therefore, based on this, a Christian ought to go to war out of obedience to the Lord. Of course in the free world such decisions are taken by those in government representatives of the nation and there are extensive Biblical verses regarding the Christian and the role of government (Dan.4:25; Mt.22:21; Tit.3:1; 1Pet.2:13f; Rom.13:1-7).
The Bible supports the PACIFIST viewpoint. A careful reading of Scripture would never support war. Jesus told us that Christians should turn the other cheek and leave vengeance to God. He also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” which clearly excludes military support of any kind. War is therefore unjust and all violences wrong. “You shall not kill” the 6th Commandment (although some prefer “You shall not murder” as it emphasises premeditation). “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt.5:44). Christians are to overcome evil with good. The right to take life belongs only to God.
The Bible supports JUST WAR. The only wars that can be justified are wars of self-defence. Some Christians believe a proper governing authority has the moral right to defend itself from hostile aggression and terrorism. Some of the Bible’s characters participated in warfare to resist unjust aggression (Abraham in Gen.14; Joshua, Judges et.al). Jesus also instructed His disciples to carry a sword for protection against unjust aggression (Lk.22:36-38).
“Every word of God proves true.” (Proverbs ch.30,v.5)