All you need to be a witness for Christ

We all long (or we should) to see individuals come to Christ. We are encouraged and motivated when we see those being baptized into Christ. Yet, many of us become nervous, anxious, and downright scared when faced with the conviction to share the gospel with another individual. Our minds run frantic, wondering what others will think of us, or if they will deny our attempt to reach out to them. Sometimes, our hesitancy to speak to others about Christ revolves around our lack of confidence in how much we know about the Bible. We feel that a doctoral degree in theology is required before we can accurately share the Gospel with others; but this is not the case. While, we should seek to learn all we can from God’s Word, knowing everything in the Bible is not required to be a witness for Christ. The only requirement for telling others about Christ is your story; what has Christ done for you!

In the 9th chapter of John we discover a most exquisite story of a man blind since birth. Following the man’s miraculous healing by Jesus, the Pharisees, who are outraged because Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, arrive on the scene and begin to interrogate the previously blind man. The Pharisees are convinced that Jesus is a false prophet and that this miracle was the result of some scam or hoax. However, after clear proof that the man was in fact born blind and the miracle was undeniable, the Pharisees approach the man again and say “give glory to God, we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner.” The response of the blind man is incredible: “whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

This man had become a witness for Christ, and he didn’t even know that much about Christ. He had no scriptures to quote or a carefully developed theological framework. He did know one thing however, he once was blind and now he sees! That was proof enough for the blind man, and it should be proof enough for us. Therefore, when you go to share Christ with others and you become worried about what people will think of you, or if you know enough scripture, remember the blind man. Tell all those around you about how you once were blind, but now you see. That’s all you need to be a witness, and I promise you, it’s all the proof you’ll need!

Original Sin or Original Grace?

Below I have outlined a chapter in Dr. Jack Cottrell’s book “The Faith Once For All.” The chapter attempts to discuss the issues regarding the doctrine of original sin and specifically how one should understand Romans 5:11-21. I found the content fascinating. What do you think of Dr. Cottrell’s conclusions?

 

Original Sin or Original Grace?

What is the meaning of Romans 5:12-19?

Cottrell believes that this passage teaches original grace not original sin.

Cottrell seeks to answer four questions in explaining original grace in Romans 5:12-19.

 

Question 1: What is the purpose of this passage in relation to the epistle as a whole?

  • It is best understood as continuing the theme of assurance that began in 5:1.
    • Paul assures his readers that we can put all our hope and confidence in one saving act (the cross) of one man (Jesus Christ).
    • In verses 1-11 there are 10 references to the saving efficacy of Christ and his cross.
    • Some may wonder “isn’t this expecting a lot from just one man?” Yet this is essentially what the gospel asks us to believe. Therefore, the one act of Jesus on the cross has the power to save the whole world.
    • In order to show that Jesus’ one act can in fact save the whole world Paul shows how the one sinful act of one man (Adam) effected the whole human race.
    • So, in verses 11-19 Paul compares and contrasts the one sin of Adam and the one act of righteousness of Jesus. His argument moves from the lesser to the greater: If we can accept the fact that the one sin of man brought sin and death upon the whole world then surely we can believe the one act of Christ can bring salvation upon the whole world

Question 2: Does this doctrine teach the doctrine of original sin?

  • This passage definitely teaches that humanity has inherited more than just physical death; there is a spiritual death as well.
  • However, the biggest problem to the approach that every child is conceived in a sinful state is that it assumes that Paul’s main subject is Adam’s sin and its consequences. This is not the case however; Paul’s subject is Jesus and his cross, and the universal, all-sufficient consequences of that saving event.
  • In reality it does not matter which view of “original sin” one takes because Paul’s main point is this: whatever the whole human race got (or would have gotten) from Adam has been completely canceled out for the whole human race by the gracious atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Question 3: What is the scope of the words “many” and “all” as they are used in 5:12-19?

  • If the answer to the above question is correct why do so many still teach a doctrine of original sin? The answer lies in how they interpret the words “many” and “all” in these verses.
  • Most all interpreters view the words “all” and “many” to be synonymous terms not contrasting each other but contrasting the words “one” in reference to Adam and Jesus. In other words the term “all” is used to convey totality, but is not meant to be broader in scope than “the many.”
  • The problem lies in how one applies these terms to Adam on the one hand and Jesus on the other. The common approach is that when the terms are used in relation to Adam they are universal in scope but when used in conjunction with Jesus they are more limited and do not literally mean all people. Therefore, Adam’s sin did in fact come to all people but Christ saving work is only given to those who have received Christ by faith.
  • More often these terms are understood in light of an Augustinian view of original sin which are stated thus: The consequences of Adam’s act extended to all who were in him or belonged to him when he sinned—which includes the whole race; but the consequences of Christ’s act extended only to “all” who were in him or belonged to him when he died—which only includes the elect.
  • It must be emphasized that the above approaches are false. The reason is that all attempts to reduce the words “many” and “all,” when used of Christ, to anything less than their scope when used of Adam, would negate the whole purpose of the Adam-Christ comparison!
  • The question of assurance is this: can I have confidence that Christ’s work is sufficient for taking away all of my sins—and the sins of the entire world? Paul’s answer is yes based on how Christ one act of righteousness has already counteracted everything brought upon everyone by Adam’s one sin.

Question 4: Does this passage teach universal salvation?

  • Some do take Paul’s use of “all” and “many” to teach universal salvation
  • However Cottrell argues that this passage does not teach universal salvation for the following reasons:
    • The primary focus of this passage focuses on how Christ’ one act of righteousness counteracts the one sin of Adam for every single individual.
    • However, Paul here absolutely does not say the same thing about the consequences of all our personal sins. Personal sins are only removed through personal faith.
    • The universal language in this passage only refers to what we have inherited from Adam.
    • From a practical point of view this passage addresses the question of the spiritual state of infants when they are conceived and born. Infants are therefore born in a state of original grace because of Christ one act on the cross negating the one act of sin committed by Adam.
    • However, when one reaches the age of accountability they enter into a state of personal sins which requires personal faith in Christ to receive forgiveness.

What I learned from a Jehovah Witness

Recently I sat down and had a conversation with Ida and Jim, a couple who are Jehovah Witnesses (from now on referred to as “JW”). I met Ida two weeks previously, while dropping a friend off at their house. I asked if we could get together in the future so that I could learn about what JW’s believe and teach. She was delighted, wrote down her number, and said that I could call and set up a time to meet.

I agreed to meet with Ida and her husband Jim at their Kingdom Hall (what JW’s call their place of meeting). I received a friendly greeting as I was ushered into their building. After some small talk and a quick tour of the building (there building’s are very simple in architecture and are only built to hold no more than 130 people. I hear that they build their Kingdom Halls in about 3-4 days time), we sat down to discuss what the JW’s teach about the Bible.

Now,  before you get the impression that I am on the road to conversion, let me assure you, I am not convinced JW’s are in line with the claims of the Bible. In fact, I truly believe that many fine folks have been severely misguided in their understanding of scripture(especially the teachings of Jesus.) Nevertheless, I was impressed by a couple of areas in which I think evangelical churches could learn.

Diligence in Evangelism

Ida and Jim told me that they spend 12 hours a week going house to house sharing their faith with strangers, 12 hours! Admittedly, much of this motivation comes from a works based understanding of salvation. However, The church could glean a lot from the effort JW’s make to reach converts. It is true that the bible teaches salvation apart from works, but many Christians forget that salvation is for the purpose of good works . The Bible teaches that we strive to do good works because of God’s grace. James points to this truth when he says we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only; that faith without works is dead. Imagine if Christians sought to do half of what Jehovah Witnesses do to reach the lost, what kind of results would there be?

Focus on Teaching

The JW’s do not  place much focus on extravagant and attractional worship services. There auditorium is very simple: a pulpit, a microphone, a sound booth, and chairs. They sing songs, but it is all done with a CD accompaniment led by a volunteer. What they do place a lot of emphasis on however, is teaching the Bible (Indeed, with a high emphasis on the Watch Tower magazine). They meet three times a week and have over 2 hours of Bible Study each meeting. The reason JW’s are firm in what they believe is because they are having it engrained in them multiple times a week. The problem obviously, is that they are taught not to learn the scriptures on their own, but what those, who organize the Watch Tower magazine, tell them the scriptures mean. Nevertheless, we could learn a lot from JW’s intentional focus on Bible study. It may prove productive for Christian Churches to place more emphasis on Bible teaching than creating attractional worship services and programs.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the belief system of the JW’s has some severe problems. There denial of the deity of Christ, strange understanding of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation, and continued false predictions of the end times are just a few of the flawed teachings presented by the JW’s. Yet, the two areas mentioned above display a couple of areas in which the evangelical church could gain insight. Hopefully, we are always seeking to improve our growth in Christ. Ironically, we sometimes learn from those outside of orthodoxy.

P.S. I will be meeting with Ida and Jim again to discuss the Deity of Jesus. Pray that the truth will be exposed and their eyes will be opened.