Thursday, June 16, 2016

Speaking With Authority In an Opinionated World

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, …”
Romans 1:16a ESV
I have opinions about Islam, terrorism, border control, gun control, and most of the political talking points surrounding the terrorist attack in Orlando Sunday morning. However, the last thing we need is another opinion. What is glaringly obvious is that no one, including our most informed officials at the highest level, seems to be able to speak with any level of authority. As I was watching and reading the news over the last couple of days, it became increasingly obvious that we have a complete void when it comes to people who can speak with any significant level of authority on most of the social issues we are facing in our culture. Even the President, the supposed most powerful man in the world, was largely dismissed after he shared his “opinion” on the issue. Beyond political rhetoric, his comments were irrelevant. A steady dose of relativism over the last few decades has finally eroded the ability of anyone in the public arena to speak to any issue with any significant level of authority or conviction. Especially when it comes to moral issues. What is needed today is leadership that can speak to the issues with clarity, conviction, competency and authority. Enter, the Christian preacher.
The one person in our country who can come out of the crowd of opinionators and speak with the kind of authority that is essential in this day, is the gospel preacher. It is in our day, like it was in the Apostle Paul’s day, that we need preachers to step out of the crowd of rhetorical voices and speak with “all authority.”[1] An authority that comes from God, not man. For it is God who “commands all people everywhere to repent.”[2] It is the gospel preacher who speaks the one message that all men everywhere are commanded to believe and obey and it is the gospel preacher who has been specifically commissioned with the task to proclaim this message everywhere. There is no authority on earth, that can silence him. His authority comes from the giver of all authority and cannot be usurped. Furthermore, the gospel message is the one message that can actually transform a culture and address the real needs of men and women. The primitive cultural decadence of the world around the Apostle Paul was radically transformed, not by political or community activism, but by the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:18-32 describes the destructive effect of sin on a culture without the influence of God’s restraining graces. It reads like the USA Today. While many lament the social woes of our culture and either seek to change them by some form of activism or relegate our culture to a lost cause, they are powerless to save it. Or so they think. Paul’s description of the decadent culture he found himself in follows his well-known confident assertion about the power of the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[3] Paul’s ministry in a culture that was enslaved to sin was to preach the gospel. He had a one issue platform. He went everywhere “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness.”[4] Following the singular focus of the other Apostles, who had “filled Jerusalem” [5] with this teaching, Paul went throughout the Roman empire armed with nothing but the power of the gospel and in one lifetime built the framework of a church that would become the foundation for western civilization to be built upon.
The mission of the church is not cultural change, but the effects of the gospel will inevitably change the culture. Our goal is not to save America, but rather, to build the kingdom of God. As the kingdom of God grows, the kingdoms of men will be brought into subjection. Every sin, the root cause of all social woes, is dealt with in the gospel. To the intellectuals, the ignorant, the rich, the poor, the immoral, the self-righteous, the sexually immoral, the terrorist, the politician, etc. ad infinitum, we preach Christ. The gospel is not an opinion. It is a command from the Holy Creator to his sinful creatures. Turn from your sin of self-government and to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Trusting in him alone for your salvation. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”[6]

[1] Titus 2:15: Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. ESV
[2] Acts 17:30
[3] Romans 1:16 ESV
[4] Acts 28:31
[5] Acts 5:28
[6] Acts 4:12 ESV