Introducing new columnist Joe Fleener, who will be giving us an unconventional perspective on some familiar issues. Joe serves as Associate Pastor of Howick Baptist Church. He received his theological training at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in the USA. He is also an Adjunct Lecturer of Ethics and Hebrew Exegesis/Ruth at Grace Theological College, and the Regional Trainer for BibleWorks in Australasia. Joe is married to Mandy, and they have one son and two daughters. As a family they enjoy music, many outdoor activities, reading, and learning more about God’s wonderful creation.
Have you heard people talking about “just ‘being Jesus’” in their community, or in the name of missions?
The idea seems to be a way of advocating living a life of good works, doing good deeds for others, helping the poor get jobs, leading people out of their suffering, etc., and that this “being Jesus” is actually mission (i.e. Gospel ministry.)
Oddly enough, I read and hear people pointing to the Gospel of Mark as a basis for justifying this kind of thinking. However, I don’t see this in Mark or elsewhere in Scripture either.
Right from the start, Mark 1:14-15, we are told that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (also Mark 5:20, 6:12, 13:10, 14:9, 16:15).
What is very telling is Mark 1:36-39, “And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
Jesus emphatically states that he “came out” to preach. Even when others were looking for him, to be healed, etc., he still left for other towns so he could preach. (Notice in verse 36, preaching and demonic confrontation is mentioned, but not healing).
Then we get to Mark 6. If there was ever a community in history where someone had “been Jesus” in their midst, it was Nazareth. Jesus actually lived there for 30 years! A life of perfection was lived in their midst (something no one else seeking to just “be Jesus” can possibly accomplish), yet this was not sufficient for the people of Nazareth to place their faith in Christ.
Jesus went back to Nazareth to preach. And when he did, they rejected him.
I am sure most have heard the supposed quote from Francis Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” However, not only is this infamous quote likely not historical as claimed, it is also unbiblical!
Romans 10:14-17, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”
We must proclaim truth – the Gospel. However, the Gospel truth that must be proclaimed is propositional. So when Paul writes that his gospel is “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David” in 2 Timothy 2:8, he is stating two propositions: Jesus has been raised from the dead, and Jesus was descended from David.
To deny these propositions – that is, to say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead or wasn’t descended from David – is to deny the Gospel. If we deny the need for teaching propositional truth, we have immediately lost the only God-given, authoritative medium for the proclamation of the Gospel.