a chapter two first eleven

"God wants your being more than he wants your doing."
I heard it again last week - and it was one too many times.

Sorry, folks - but that statement is a load of rubbish. I just do not know what New Testament these people are reading. Not only is the NT full of the importance of 'doing' - it is just such 'doing' that the church needs to become known for as it struggles with credibility, even plausibility, right around the western world. Doing is what will put 'runs on the board' and what the Spirit will use to open peoples' ears...

Three observations before I marshall a First Eleven (afterall, the Ashes has just commenced!) of Chapter Twos in the New Testament to prove my point. Firstly - the classic statement of John Stott: "we are justified by faith alone, but that faith must not remain itself alone." Secondly, have a think about why Luke might have placed the Good Samaritan next to Mary and Martha in his gospel? Thirdly, picture the Christian life as a timeline which passes through a door which marks the moment(s) of conversion. Before the door 'doing' means nothing; after the door 'doing' means everything. Another Stottian one: "we are justified by faith; but we are judged by works".

Now for my First Eleven of Chapter Twos:

For an opening pair I want to match an aggressive Chapter Two with a solid one, so I have chosen Ephesians and Galatians. Ephesians 2: 8-10 and "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith ... not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." In Galatians 2:7-10 Paul places his credentials on the line, "entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles ... (James, John, Peter) recognise the grace given to me ... (and ) all they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

Then I need to pick a middle-order line-up. A bit of flash-and-dash batting around someone who can build a long innings. The flashy strokemakers are James and Peter without a doubt. James hits so strongly and so simply, it makes every fielder wince: "You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone" (2:24). Mid-off is looking silly about now. But they cross and Peter comes down to the striker's end. We sing about "chosen people, royal priesthood." We delight in "once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (2:9-10) Oh yes - sing it! But just keep reading as you do so: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (2:11). The long innings comes from (1) John. The entire letter is about knowing how you can be sure you are a Christian - and the assurance comes in the form of a tightly woven and adhesive braid with strands that cannot be separated: a deep love and a true belief in combination with a full obedience. Belief and obedience cannot be separated! Being and doing weave together! "This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked" (2:5-6).

For the all-rounder I opt for the Chapter Two which has been preached more often than any other passage in the entire Bible in the past generation in NZ. It could carry the team. Acts. Those that gather to hear that first Pentecost sermon are "cut to the heart", their 'being' is transformed - and they respond with "what shall we do?" They settle on 'doing' a life together that is stunning in its simplicity and influence (2:42-47).

For my strike-bowler who can bat a bit I turn to another match-winner: Titus. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It (ie grace!) teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness ... to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives ... (while) we wait for the blessed hope (Jesus' return) ... (a Jesus who) purifies for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good." (2:11-14)

Then we arrive at the bowlers. There is one more aggressive fast bowler called Romans: "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour, and immortality, he will give eternal life ... (and) glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good" (2:7; 10). Then there is a stock bowler, content to shut down one end and bowl over after over, "continuing to work out their salvation" (2:12). This is Philippians. We need a wily spinner and find one in (2) Thessalonians. "from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth ... (and so now) may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father ... strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2:13-17). Completing the tail is a Chapter Two accustomed to coming at the end: Revelation. Be it Ephesus, Pergamum, or Thyatira here is a Chapter Two where we discover Jesus himself "holding this against you" (2:4); "having a few things against you" (2:14); "having this against you" (2:20) ... and each time it is their 'doing' that just does not measure up.

Yep - here is my team to bury "God wants our being more than he wants our doing" in the ashes where it belongs. He wants both. You cannot separate them from each other. Here is a Champion Team of Chapter Twos.

1. Ephesians
2. Galatians
3. (1) John
4. James
5. Peter
6. Acts
7. Titus
8. Romans
9. Philippians
11. Revelation

nice chatting

Paul Windsor


Dale Campbell said…
One of your best, sir!

Absolutely 'Paul'-ine. :)

too kind, dale

sometimes i wonder whether the flow in the logic in these chapter twos also exists in the flow of history...

could you argue that the preaching of the gospel - and the change in the understanding of 'being' it creates - by whitefield and wesley flows logically into the outpouring of the 'doing' of wilberforce and the others committed to the 'reformation of manners' and the abolition of slavery?
Dale Campbell said…
might it be described as a penduluum? or a failure to hold the tension between faith/works (being/doing)?
not so sure about the pendulum image here, dale.

rather than it being a case of holding these two in tension, is it not a case of recognising that one is the inevitable and irrepressible consequence of the other?

in authentic conversion, being and doing just cannot be separated. that is the issue. to say that God wants, or likes, one more than the other is just a nonsense.
Dale Campbell said…
I agree. It's not a matter of a 'tension' (as if being/doing didn't get along well together), but rather a case of (as you say) one demonstrating the veracity of the other. I fully retract the 'tension' suggestion :)

I suppose by the pendulum imagery, I was reflecting on your question of the shifting of emphasis (i.e. 'swinging of pendulum') as different preachers/theologians emphasise and react to others?
Mark Maffey said…
I think Mark 2 should also make the line-up - Lowering the Paralysed Man through the roof was as good a demonstration of faith and friendship as you'll find. Perhaps the 12th Man assisting the first eleven. Whilst I hear where you are coming from and agree that faith without works is dead, We need the Mary moments of being glued to hearing what it is God wants and then doing.

Having a programme just because every other church is doing it is not necessarily the best thing. We need to "choose the best thing" to like you clearly understand the talents God has given to you, seek the best arena(oval) to step out onto and go into bat for God, well equipped and focused on the delivery of the best we have.

There is an old book which talks about batting for God and the importance of protecting your stumps (each stump representing a key trait). No batsmen should head out to the crease without first having prepared themselves for the task ahead, knowing what is needed, aware of the team strategy, and focussed on the role they are to play.

In the same way we need to have listed to our Captain and coach and prayed about what we are to do first.

As well a game cannot be played without supporters turning up - as a prayer supporter it is not about entertained but doing as well
Brilliant Stuff!
Appreciate your willingness to address what has become an unfortunate byproduct of the gospel of grace. The challenge is how to preach this - i have attempted to address this topic myself, to preach a sermon that emphasises that these two go hand in hand. I modeled it around the concept of a suspension bridge where everything is held in balance...As always people will take what they wish to hear from what you preach...one will come to you and say what a great message of grace and another will champion your angle that works still need to be done, obviously not for salvation but out of salvation.
What must one do to be saved? Repent and be baptised...surely this encompasses both an act of belief and physical action.
anyway great Stuff Paul - and hopefully Lords will bring a better contest for the 2nd test as England can only be considered fortunate not to lose the first!
a good night of cricket last night, i see. interesting that 75% of Kiwi cricket-followers are hoping the English will win. that fascinates me. go that anzac spirit?!

maybe the key with preaching this stuff is to ensure that we really live it first? That 'random acts of kindness' are not random - but the overflow of a life grateful for grace.

then when we preach it ... as with dale, I am not sure about the 'balance' imagery. one is the inevitable and irresistible consequence of the other. one leads to the other, not so much balanced by the other.

one option for preaching might be to tell the story of a mythical first eleven of chapter twos - just for fun?!
Ha ha - is that permission to plagiarize your material -
no seriously love your approach - i'm working on preaching from Lamentations at the mo - feel free to post a great blog from that book if you like : )
In all seriousness, I have actually thought a bit about this one...

I always liked the way some of the hymns (like Amazing Grace) are in the 'public domain' with no one claiming to possess it, or own it.

While I find plagiarism particularly distasteful, I do want to be someone who holds lightly to whatever ideas I may have - and makes them available to others.

I kid myself that this is why I write blogs and not books (yeah right ... not sure how I could ever fill a book?!). But apart from the fact that I really enjoy chatting away from an active mind in this format, the reason why I blog is to serve others with ideas which might just strengthen what Jesus is calling them to be and to do.

Now back to Lamentations :)

Popular Posts