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Improving the Quality of Your Eternal Life

Improving the Quality of Your Eternal Life

ImprovingEternalLife_Paperback(6x9 Right)Grace Theology Press is pleased to announce a newly released resource that will help you frame and focus your life toward that which is truly important - Improving the Quality of Your Eternal Life: A Primer on New Testament Exhortations to the Believer by Thomas M. Lancaster.

Dr. Dave Anderson, President of Grace School of Theology, says concerning this book: “Most Christians think about eternal life as something that goes on forever in linear time. Of course this is true, but unbelievers also have an eternal life that continues forever. The difference between the two groups is not the quantity of existence, but the quality of existence. But that’s not all. Tom Lancaster paints a beautiful portrait showing how the quality of eternal life for the believer can get better and better. With his gift for simplicity and clarity, he unpacks passage after passage in the New Testament showing us how one can improve the quality of eternal life by improving his walk with Christ today.”

I think you will find Tom Lancaster’s new book able to provide a word of encouragement as well as a word of exhortation that will help you reorient your life toward an eternal perspective. Hear the words from the preface of the book.

“Some may find the title of this book intriguing, if not preposterous or incredible. Isn’t life in eternity (at least once we are freed from our sin nature) supposed to be perfect? How then can its quality be improved? Moreover, even if a believer could presume to effect such a change, how would he do it? As unfamiliar as this may be to some, the concept of contributing to the quality of one’s eternal life is a significant topic in the New Testament. It is repeatedly mentioned by Jesus and is a frequent concern of the writers of the epistles.

The ability to contribute to the quality of eternal life, however, must be distinguished from gaining eternal life. Gaining eternal life is acquired only by placing one’s trust in the work of Jesus on the cross, for justification is gained by faith alone. Contributing to the quality of eternal life, on the other hand, can only occur after one becomes justified; and is directly linked to paying the cost of discipleship, or ‘running the race with endurance.’

So important is the abundant aspect of eternal life that Jesus exhorts His followers to contribute towards it at any opportunity, using every worldly resource at their disposal. This is the essential meaning of the parable of the “unjust steward” in Luke 16:1-9. Here Jesus tells of a steward who, having just learned of his imminent firing and not wanting to be forced into manual labor, sets out to create friends in the business world by reducing their indebtedness to his master. Upon learning of his steward’s actions, the master, though still releasing his steward, commends him for his shrewdness. In applying the parable, Jesus says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting kingdom.” Jesus points out that unbelievers (sons of this world) are quite adept and clever at using worldly resources to lay up for themselves so that they may enjoy the later years of their lives. As a mild rebuke, Jesus says that believers (sons of light) are typically far less dedicated in using their worldly resources (unrighteous mammon) to lay up for themselves so they may have an abundant eternal life. His rebuke is magnified when one realizes that the “sons of the world” are laying up that which will perish; while the “sons of light” have the opportunity to lay up what can never be destroyed! The subjects of the chapters of this book derive from Jesus’ voiced concern in the parable of the unjust steward.

It seems evident from Scripture that there is a hierarchy among believers in the coming kingdom. This ranking stems from the devotedness of disciples and has application to all believers. In running our individual ‘races,’ we might ask ourselves: Are we living with the expectation that we will someday face Jesus, who will judge all that we have used in building on the foundation He has laid? (Ch. 1) Are we responding to the divine call in our lives? (Ch. 2) Do we love Christ more than all else in this world? (Ch. 3) Are we investing our lives in things of eternal value? (Ch. 4) Are we earnestly preparing to meet our groom? (Ch. 5) Do we openly confess Jesus and the gospel message by the way we live? (Ch. 6) Are we making the gospel attractive to others, or do we bring offense to the name of Jesus? (Ch. 7) Are we abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit? (Ch. 8)

The chapter titles contain the familiar terminology used in the gospels and epistles that refer to the above questions. The driving force behind the writing of this book was a desire to address the misunderstanding of these familiar terms and Bible passages.”

If you like what you just read, let me encourage you to order a copy of Improving the Quality of Your Eternal Life.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press

Being Mindful of Bias

Being Mindful of Bias

In the Christian publishing world, there are always new research tools that aid in theological and biblical studies. One of the standard lexical tools is the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014). The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTT), which came out originally in 1976, was published under the leadership of Colin Brown as the general editor. This resource tool has been updated recently (2015) and edited and fully revised by Moisés Silva. Both the original version and the latest revision are very helpful.

Many times we forget that tools, whether they be study Bible notes or theological dictionaries, do not come neutral in their perspective. All of them have some form of bias built in. It is essential that we know this and work at spotting the bias as we use the tools carefully and not uncritically.

The revised NIDNTT article on pistis / pisteuo edited by Dr. Silva reveals some apparent bias. This is now the standard Lexical word study book that most students and pastors use after they read the newest edition of DBAG that has itself adjusted the meaning of pisteuo from the previous edition by adding commitment and obedience as essential to one’s life as evidence of real faith. The change in the latest edition of DBAG appears to be without any reference to new source material to validate the addition. I have selected a few portions of the article on pistis/faith from the NIDNTT that manifest a certain theological predisposition toward the usage of the term.

NIDNTT

Here “faithfulness” and “faith” stand close together—indeed, are conceptually inseparable. Abraham’s trust in the divine promise cannot be severed from his firm commitment and obedience (cf. his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, ch. 22), and therefore those who follow after his footsteps are both believing and faithful (see M. Silva, “Old Testament in Paul,” in DPL 630–42, esp. 640–41).[1]

Jesus himself lived by faith and encouraged others to follow his example (cf. J. Schniewind, Das Evangelium nach Markus [1931], 120). Expressions like ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22), and πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), suggest a special kind of faith in God specifically related to Jesus. The antithesis between small and great (Matt 17:20 par. Luke 17:6) presents a contrast between the human attitude and the greatness of the promise. What takes place in a human being is small compared with the greatness that comes from God.

When Jesus spoke of such boundless faith, he appeared to be teaching something new. Yet his claims were distinct from wild enthusiasm, because they were inseparable from the act of speaking with God and even wrestling with him. It must not be forgotten that every summons and statement of Jesus contained the elements of faith, trust, knowledge, decision, obedience. His preaching cannot be understood apart from the many-sided aspects of faith and trust. The faith of Jesus was deeply involved in the act of living and was on a completely different plane from hypothetical abstractions.[2]

3 The Pauline tradition. (a) Paul’s ministry, though formed within the context of the Hel. Christian community, presupposes a continuity with the teaching of the Palestinian Jewish church. His calling by the risen Lord led him to grapple with the partic. questions raised by the churches. He naturally describes Christians as οἱ πιστεύοντες, “those who believe, believers” (Rom 1:16; 3:22; 4:11; 1 Cor 1:21). Their turning to God is described as an act of believing (1 Cor 15:2, 11). Thus ἡ πίστις denotes receiving the message of salvation and conducting oneself on the basis of the gospel (Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; note also the expression “one faith” incl. in Eph 4:4–6[3]

What is more significant, the thought forms in the Johannine writings are distinctive. Faith arises out of testimony, authenticated by God, in which signs also play a part. The call to faith is addressed to all people (John 1:7), and those who belong to the truth hear the call of God (18:37). Faith and knowledge are not two processes distinct from each other, but instructive coordinates that speak of the reception of the testimony from different standpoints (6:69; 17:8; 1 John 4:6). Faith alone receives the testimony and possesses knowledge; conversely, those who know the truth are pointed to faith. The hearer should understand that both are involved in salvation: acceptance of the testimony as well as the personal response and reformation that conform to the testimony.[4]

As in the paraenetic tradition elsewhere, James is conscious of the need for personal faith to be tested and proven (Jas 1:3; cf. 1 Pet 1:7). He demands renunciation of all conduct that conflicts with living faith and the Christian confession (1:6–8). For him, faith and obedient conduct are indissolubly linked. Faith understood merely as trust and confession is not able to save. Only through faithfulness does faith come to completion (2:22). The opponent that James has in mind does not attack faith as such but apparently exempts himself from obedience. (On the relationship between faith and works, see ἐργάζομαι G2237).[5]

The Roman Catholic Church sought to comingle justification and sanctification to a ruinous end. The reformation sought to differentiate but did not eliminate the connection completely. To the degree that we are confused in our lexical studies, we will have a corresponding confused theology. Exegetes, theologians and pastors are “verbavors”-consumers of words. We just need to be sure we understand their meaning.

Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Grace Theology Press
Managing Editor

[1] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 763.

[2] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 767.

[3] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 767.

[4] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 769–770.

[5] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 771.