Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Proclaiming and Explaining

We who have believed the good news concerning Jesus Christ--who he was and what he accomplished on our behalf--are the disciples of our day.

There were just a handful at first. Now there are many.

The term "disciple" implies learner and imitator. We learn from Jesus, and we put what we learn into practice. We follow him. This, by the way, is all by the grace of God and in the power of the Spirit, or not at all.

To make more disciples, which is the task that Jesus gave to his small group of followers, is to draw people into this kind of teacher-learner/leader-follower relationship with Jesus, and also to build up and encourage and continue to teach those who have already come into such a relationship. The church, the body of Christ, with its preachers and teachers, exists in large part to fulfill this function.

Jesus, whom the disciples often called "Teacher," proclaimed the good news to all who would listen, but in more private sessions with his disciples--that is, those who had heard and followed--he taught about the consequences and ramifications of believing the good news. These two functions correspond to the terms "preaching" and "teaching."

Note: both these functions, preaching and teaching, are closely related to the gospel message (again, who Jesus was and what he accomplished on our behalf). Preaching proclaims it, and teaching explains it.

Jesus "proclaimed" the gospel to all and sundry. Jesus tended to "explain" the gospel to those who were truly his followers. Especially, Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James (the son of Alphaeus) and Thaddeus, Simon the Cananaean, yes and even Judas Iscariot.

If you are a believer, add your name to the end of that list.

Any teaching within the church that is not consciously aimed at explaining the consequences and ramifications of the gospel as it is walked out from day to day, however Biblical that teaching may be in other ways, is of secondary importance.

To put it another way, any preaching and teaching within the church that does not consciously aim at helping people to "work out" what God has "worked in," namely the truth of his grace toward us in Jesus Christ, is a missed opportunity.

Much has to do with how we understand ourselves now that we are believers. Do we understand that we are now disciples? Not merely members of a spiritual club, not merely receivers of blessings, but followers of Jesus.

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