Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Robert H. Mounce's article on the "GOSPEL"

     I recently came across an excellent article on the word "GOSPEL" in Baker's Dictionary of Theology while doing some research in Crowell Library at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. The article is written by Biblical Greek scholar Robert H. Mounce (father of William D. Mounce) and edited by Free Grace theologian Everett F. Harrison.1 The entire article is very much worth reading, but in this post I'd like to just highlight a couple of sections in regards to the clear content of Paul's gospel. First, notice what Mounce says under the heading "THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PAUL":
    
     "Paul's ministry was distinctively that of the propagation of the gospel. Unto this gospel he was set apart (Rom. 1:1) and made a minister according to the grace of God (Eph. 3:7). His special sphere of action was the gentile world (Rom. 16:16; Gal. 2:7). Since Paul accepted the gospel as a sacred trust (Gal. 2:7), it was necessary that in the discharge of this obligation he speak so as to please God rather than man (1 Tim. 2:4). The divine commission had created a sense of urgency that made him cry out, 'Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel' (1 Cor. 9:16). For the sake of the gospel Paul was willing to become all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22, 23). No sacrifice was too great. Eternal issues were at stake. Those whose minds were blinded and did not obey the gospel were perishing and would ultimately reap the vengeance of divine wrath (2 Cor. 4:3; 2 Thess. 1:9). On the other hand, to those who believed, the gospel had effectively become the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
     Because Paul, on occasion, speaks of his message as 'my gospel' (Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:8), and because in his letter to the Galatians he goes to some pains to stress that he did not receive it from man (Gal. 1:11 ff.), it is sometimes maintained that Paul's gospel should be distinguished from that of apostolic Christianity in general.
     This does not follow. 1 Cor. 15:3-5 sets forth with crystal clarity the message of primitive Christianity. Paul, using terms equivalent to the technical rabbinic words for the reception and transmission of tradition (M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, Scribner's, New York, 1935, p. 21), refers to this message as something which he had received and passed on (vs. 3). In verse eleven he can say, 'Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.' In Galatians, Paul tells how he laid before the apostles at Jerusalem the gospel which he had preached. Far from finding fault with the message, they extended to him the right hand of fellowship (Gal. 2:9)."2

     In the next section of the article titled "THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING," Mounce again draws attention to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Notice what he says:
    
     "If we wish to investigate more closely the specific content of the primitive gospel, we will do well to adopt the basic approach of C. H. Dodd (The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1936). While Dodd refers to the message as kerygma [i.e. preaching or proclamation], he is ready to admit that this term is a virtual equivalent of euaggelion [i.e. good news or gospel]. (Kerygma stresses the manner of delivery: euaggelion, the essential nature of the content.)
     There are two sources for the determination of the primitive proclamation. Of primary importance are the fragments of pre-Pauline tradition that lie embedded in the writings of the apostle. These segments can be uncovered by the judicious application of certain literary and formal criteria. While at least one [fragment of pre-Pauline tradition] purports to be the actual terms in which the gospel was preached (1 Cor. 15:3-5), others take the form of early Christian hymns (e.g., Phil. 2:6-11), summaries of the message (e.g., Rom. 10:9), or creedal formulae (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 3:16).
     A second source is the early Petrine [i.e. Peter] speeches in Acts. . . ."3

     In the statement above, Mounce referenced C. H. Dodd and his book The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments. It will thus be helpful to observe what Dodd says in regards to the content of Paul's gospel. Dodd writes:
    
     "To begin with, Paul himself was conscious of a distinction between the fundamental content of the Gospel and the teaching which he based upon it. In 1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2-6, he recalls that at Corinth he had preached 'Christ and Him crucified.' He would now like to go on to 'speak wisdom among mature persons,' and regrets that the Corinthians do not show themselves ready for it.
     Again, in 1 Cor. 3:10 sqq., he distinguishes between the 'foundation' which he laid, and the superstructure which he and others build upon it. The reference is no doubt to the 'building up' of the life of the Church in all its aspects. But a study of the context will show that what was most particularly in his mind was just this distinction between the fundamental Gospel and the higher wisdom (not to be confused with 'the wisdom of men') which can be imparted to those whose apprehension of the Gospel is sufficiently firm. The 'foundation' is Christ, or, may we not say, it is the Gospel of 'Christ and Him crucified.' Paul himself, Apollos, and others developed this fundamental Gospel in various ways. The epistles represent for the most part this development, or superstructure. But Paul was well aware that what gave authority to his teaching was the Gospel which underlay it all.
    
     In 1 Cor. 15:1 sqq. he cites in explicit terms that which he had preached at Corinth:

'that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
and that He was buried;
and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures;
and that He was seen of Cephas . . .'

'It was thus,' he adds emphatically, 'that we preached and thus that you believed.' He then goes on to draw out certain implications of these fundamental beliefs".4


ENDNOTES:

1 Robert H. Mounce, "GOSPEL," Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, Geoffrey W. Bromiley Associate Editor, Carl F. H. Henry, Consulting Editor, Baker's Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960). See the entry under "GOSPEL" on pages 254-257. NOTE: Everett F. Harrison is a well-known Free Grace advocate who debated Lordship Salvation with John Stott in 1959. For more information see the article: "Lordship salvation controversy".

2 Mounce, Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, et al., Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 256, bold added. NOTE: Mounce's article is also available online. See "Gospel, Godspel, Godspell, Evangelion" (scroll down to the second section titled "Gospel").

3 Mounce, Everett F. Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, et al., Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 256, bold added.

4 C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1962), pp. 9-10, bold added. NOTE: This book was originally published in London by Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1936.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A FEW WORDS ABOUT GRACE - by William R. Newell

 
 
A FEW WORDS ABOUT GRACE

I
The Nature of Grace

1. Grace is God acting freely, according to His own nature as Love; with no promises or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course, righteously - in view of the cross.
2. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly in the GIVER, in GOD.
3. Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled conditions on man's part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and how, it pleases. It can, and does, often, place the worst deservers in the highest favors.
4. Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace does not help - it is absolute, it does all.
5. There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace.
6. The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to attain worthiness: yet he finds himself blessed, - on another principle, outside of himself! 
7. Therefore, flesh has no place in the plan of Grace. This is the great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man. But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! For he knows that "in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing"; and yet he finds God glad to bless him, just as he is!

II
 The Place of Man under Grace

1. He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing!
2. He is not "on probation."
3. As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the Cross, and Christ is his life.
4. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: for God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them.
5. The failure of devotion does not cause the withdrawal of bestowed grace (as it would under law). For example: The man in 1 Cor. 5:1-5; and also those in [1 Cor.]11:30-32, who did not "judge" themselves, and so were "judged by the Lord, - that they might not be condemned with the world"!

III
 The Proper Attitude of Man under Grace

1. To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
2. To refuse to make "resolutions" and "vows"; for that is to trust in the flesh.
3. To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth.
4. To testify of God's goodness, at all times.
5. To be certain of God's future favor; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him.
6. To rely on God's chastening hand as a mark of His kindness.
7. A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself; but many about others.

IV
Things Which Gracious Souls Discover

1. To "hope to be better" is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
2. To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
3. To be discouraged is unbelief, - as to God's purpose and plan of blessing for you.
4. To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God, in ourselves
5. The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion
6. Real devotion to God arises, not from man's will to show it; but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy and undevoted.
7. To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God's order, and preach law, not grace. The Law made man's blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so, - in proper measure.

____________________________

Excerpted from William R. Newell, Romans Verse-By-Verse, pp. 245-247. This segment is the same as the original piece except for the following changes: (1) "fulfil" has been changed to "fulfill"; (2) "I Cor. 5.1-5" and "11.30-32" has been changed to "1 Cor. 5:1-5" and "11:30-32"; (3) The numerical points have been aligned with the left margin instead of indented.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Facts Which Constitute the Gospel


"We set out not to study human creeds, but the Bible, and we agreed to let the Bible interpret itself and mean what it wants to mean." - B. H. Carroll, from "The General Foreword" to his classic set: An Interpretation of the English Bible.

B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), the late founder and first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of An Interpretation of the English Bible, offers some keen insights in regards to "the facts which constitute the gospel." Carroll affirms that the biblical gospel includes the four facts of Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances. Notice what he says in his commentary on the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:

     "This chapter commences with the statement of the facts which constitute the gospel. The first fact, 'Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.' Three ideas are involved in that fact:
     1. Christ actually died. It was not a mere trance; it was actual death.
     2. It was a vicarious, substitutionary, expiatory death. 'He died for our sins.'
     3. He died for our sins 'according to the Scriptures' - that the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament up to the time of his crucifixion clearly foretold his actual, substitutionary, and expiatory death.
     The second fact in the gospel is that he was buried - he was dead and buried - and that was according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures testified that he would be buried. The third fact is that on the third day, according to the Scriptures, he rose from the dead; and the fourth fact of the gospel is, that risen, he was visible to men, recognized by men, and identified by men.
     Paul goes on to tell of the numerous appearances, including an appearance to him. He was buried, he rose again, he was visible after death with spiritual evidence, and his body was identified. In other words, John says, as if to anticipate many foolish statements, 'We don't know what we shall be, but we do know that when he comes we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.'
     The next thing that Paul presents is that this was not merely a preaching of his, but all the apostles preached it, as verse 11 of that chapter shows. And the next thought is that they did not originate it. He says, 'I have delivered unto you that which I also received, and you received it from me.' That was according to the sign which Christ submitted: 'He died, he was buried, and was raised.' The next argument that he makes is that every Christian in the days of the apostles believed what he said, 'As I delivered it, so you received it, and that so believing it, you are saved by it,' making it a doctrine of salvation."
________________________

Excerpted from B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 17 Vols., Vol. 13, pp. 246-247, bold added.

Note: This 17 volume set was first printed by the Fleming H. Revell Company in 1913. Broadman Press bought the copyright in 1942, and it was reprinted by Baker Book House in 1973.