The Gospel of Jesus Christ is no amalgamation. It is not an admixture of two separate entities. Nor is it the confluence of the eternal purpose of God with the whimsical agency of mankind. As I have heard from my friends of the African-American Church: “He is God all by Himself.”
The Word made Flesh is singular, solitary and sole. To borrow from the title of a contemporary hymn, it is “In Christ Alone.” Or hearkening back to the Reformation: “Solus Christus.”
Any Gospel ministry that adheres otherwise forsakes the ability to provide traction. It is unsustainable. Thus the well-meaning desire to see fruit that will remain eludes many sincerely intentioned ministry leaders resulting in disappointment and frustration. Oft the accompanying plea is, “Where did I go wrong?” For many the allure of ministry is an enchantment - the spell of which must be broken. If we are only disillusioned, the illusionment remains - and we quixotically charge of in pursuit of another.
The above paragraphs were sparked by my reading from the International Standard Version: ‘Jesus told them, "I AM."’ John 18:5 Almost all other versions insert the pronoun ‘he’ but it is not there in the original. Once again His reply to those who had come to take Him captive was no amalgam. Christ Himself had initiated this discourse by asking: “Who are you looking for?” He provided the question that He might also provide the unequivocal answer: “I AM.” The pronoun is not only unnecessary, it is misleading. A pronoun is indefinite - of a general reference. There is nothing indefinite nor general about Christ’s response and His claim to Oneness with the Father–the One and Only source of eternal salvation.
This discourse takes us back to our sincere pursuit of fruitfulness. In His eternal purpose Christ states: ‘This was to fulfill what he had said, "I did not lose a single one of those you gave me."’ John 18:9 (17:12). Fruit that will remain comes in no other manner than through sovereign initiative. Peter’s impulsive response was to draw his sword and sever the ear of the servant. Might we say here that the drawing of the sword of the flesh will render the intended hearers of our message deaf? The Savior’s immediate response was: “Put your sword back into its sheath.” The arm of man’s might is impotent to accomplish the purpose of God. He then announced: “Shouldn’t I drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Only that which has been given by the Father is capable of being sustained - and that too, by him.
One is reminded here of Christ’s words of commission to Peter: "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17 This is followed almost immediately with a correcting rebuke when Peter began to waver from the truth: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Matthew 16:23
In my forty plus years of Gospel ministry I find this singular - holistic - truth primarily in the teachings and legacy of the Reformers which has come down to us as Covenant or Reformed Theology. The counter to unadulterated ministry is quick to come. Centuries before the Reformation Augustine had his Pelagius; Calvin and Beza had their Arminius; Spurgeon his downgrade controversy and so on. All of which indicate a turning from the substantive traction of the truth to a slippery slope of amalgamation - “I am he.” Christ alone becomes Christ and human agency - thus the pronoun he. The allure is subtle, but then again all deception is subtle or it would not be deception.
Many of the most fruitful praying, preaching, sending and serving ministries of the past centuries have had their roots firmly planted in the rich soil of the Reformation: Knox, Zinzendorf, Edwards, Whitefield, Newton, Wilberforce, Carey, Taylor, Carmichael, Muller and of course Spurgeon to name a few. And this is what is missing in many of our contemporary ministries. These men and women knew it was not about them, but God. In our day of abundant resources we have not yet become so convinced.
the LORD is one
God had said of Himself: “This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” Exodus 3:15 There is no admixture here - no alchemy. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4 The glory of God is in no need of alloy.
A young pastor friend recently penned these words of caution to a contemporary setting: “My prayer is that they aren't decreeing their imagination, but the revealed will of God.” He was expressing his concern for authenticity–there is nothing more relevant to a seeking society.
Our God is not synergistic, but monergistic. He is not waiting on our cooperation. If the Messiah came in the fulness of the Father’s timing will not His Consummation come also likewise? Does God need our help - no! Does He use chosen vessels (Acts 9:15) to serve His purpose - yes! That singular purpose is that His Son would be the First of many (Romans 8:29) to bear the image of God (Hebrews 1:3).
Recently I heard a radio commercial for a novel written on the life of Ruth. It spoke of her “chance encounter” with Boaz. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. There are no chance encounters in the eternal purpose of the One slain before the foundation of the earth. How have we become so shallow - exchanging the truth about God for a lie, and worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Why do we want to think it is about us? Partly because we want to elevate personalities. We want to look up to Biblical “heroes” - yet every one of them was qualified solely by the sovereign choice of God. As has been said, “He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I am perplexed every time I hear someone referred to as a “great man of God.” When are we going to see chosen men and women of a Great God?
greatest motivating factor
There is not one word written here that engenders passivity. This is the greatest motivating factor in all of the universe. The conviction that I have been caught up into the eternal purpose of God spurs me on. Often by well-meaning friends we are referred to as the founders of this or that ministry. My reply is, “We didn’t find it, it found us. We were not looking for it.” “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.” Romans 10:20 KJV
There are no hybrids in the plan of God for hybrids are sterile - incapable of producing after there own kind. His plan is sons and daughters begetting sons and daughters that His Son might be the firstborn of a great company. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;..” Romans 8:29 These He will present to Himself - “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27 ESV
Herein is no amalgam, alloy, hybrid or pronoun - Solus Christus: In Christ Alone.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.