Lonergan and The Law of the Cross

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and one of the most influential Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century.  In an effort help others understand the redemption he proposes a theory called the Law of the Cross.  Lonergan looked to the development of western culture and developed his theology to include human science and degradation of human value.  Regarding this William Loewe writes, “it invites theology to enrich itself with the discoveries of the empirical and human sciences and of historical consciousness; more grimly, it presents the cultural crisis engendered by the deterioration of the objective status of meaning and value” (Loewe 162).  Lonergan proposes that Christian faith is the example that changed the world.

The goal of humanity is to make the world a better place.  In short, we want to humanize everything.  This does not mean that are seeking to get rid of God, but that we are seeking the greater good.  However, we are human and we get greedy, try to pump up our ego, and look to satisfy self.  Individual bias, group bias, and common-sense bias distort our humanity and development.  In our individual bias we do what is best for ourselves at all costs.  We make a God of ourselves and our satisfaction reigns supreme.  In our individual bias we look to the good of our group instead of the good of the whole of humanity.  The benefit of the group is what is important even it hurts someone else.  This is an individual bias that is taken to the next level.  The result is two groups that have a hatred for each other and the criticism of the group is not heard because it is not in their interest to hear it.  The only way to maintain “happiness” in the group is with more money and power.  Common sense bias states that one can solve all problems.  It is cocky and thinks too much of itself.  In short, this bias leads to over confidence and pride.  This bias can lead to a way of thinking that leads to a complacency in the way things are.  Since it has always been that way then it must stay that way.  This line of thinking has led to many evil and destructive acts in the world.

The solution to these three biases, or reign of sin as Lonergan puts it, is the Law of the Cross.  This view offers a fresh perspective on Christian identity and it s implications in the world (Loewe 163).  The Christian faith looks to the example of Christ, and the belief that he changed the world.  Through his work on the cross he gave the world a whole new meaning.

The three-bias mentioned above are counteracted by the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Charity, or love as we call it now, counteracts these acts of evil.  It is through charity that we let go of our egos and recognize the image of God in other people.  It is through charity that groups look out for the welfare of others to make the world better.  It is through charity that we look past our own common-sense views to see if there is a better way.  We hope that others see the sufficiency of Charity, and faith holds the other two together because it helps us grasp the truth of who God is.

 

Works Cited

Loewe, William P. “Lonergan and the Law of the Cross”. Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977) 162-74

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Guest Post: How Can God Die On The Cross?

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

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Not long ago, I was talking with someone about how Jesus is both God and man. I explained how the Bible affirms this, especially in the beginning of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14).

“Jesus cannot be God because Jesus died on the cross,” the man retorted, “and God cannot die.”

Have you ever found yourself pondering this dilemma? Something just doesn’t sound right when we say that God died. It’s as if we are saying that while Jesus was in the tomb for three days the world was without God.

But a world without God would be impossible. Existence is one of God’s attributes. Recall what God said to Moses when asked about His name: “I am who am” (Ex 3:14, Douay-Reims translation). St. Thomas Aquinas even described God as “Him who is subsisting being itself”.1 Existing isn’t just something God does, it’s something He is.

Even more, our existence depends on His. It’s in God that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God stopped existing (even for a moment), creation itself would know about it. It wouldn’t be pretty…

So how do we explain that God died on the cross? We’ll need to investigate two questions: What is man? And what is death? Let’s begin.

 

What is Man?

Man is like an Oreo. An Oreo is made of chocolate cookies and white frosting. Take away one of those two components and you don’t have an Oreo anymore.

Similarly, man is composed of both body and spirit. That is, he has both a material component (his body), as well as a spiritual component (his spirit). Take one away and he isn’t complete.

Consider the second creation account in Genesis 2. We read that, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” And after this, “the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). First God forms man’s body, then he infused in that body the breath of life, a spirit. And it wasn’t until both came together that the first man was complete.

So man is a fusion of both body and spirit. Commenting on this, Frank Sheed said that, “only in man spirit is united with a body, animates the body, makes it to be a living body.”2

So when Jesus took on flesh, He took on a human body, and His divine nature was coupled with a human nature. (For those of you who like big words, this union is what theologians call the Hypostatic Union).

It can be difficult to imagine the God of the universe taking on a human nature. And it can be even more tempting to reduce His humanity to a more comfortable and “bitesize” understanding. But make no mistake, He was (and is) just as much human as we are, similar in all ways except sin. He experienced anger (Matt 21:12-13), sadness (John 11:35), temptation (Matt 4:1-11), and yes, even death (Matt 27:50).

So when we say that Jesus died, we mean it. His death was as real as any other human’s death.

Now that we’ve looked at what a human is, we can move on to what death is.

 

What is Death?

When we talk about death, it’s easy to be nearsighted. We tend to think of it as “The End” (roll the credits). And understandably so, since death marks the end of our earthly lives, and it’s a tragic event for everyone. But that view of death ignores all mention of an afterlife.

As Christians, we don’t see death as the end. It’s a comma, not a period. Consider St. Paul when he said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain… my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:21,23). Though it seems like the end, death only marks a transition from this life into the next.

Death is when our spirit leaves our body, ending our time on Earth. Our spirit passes into the afterlife. Our bodies, on the other hand, remain on earth, lifeless. As it is written, “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl 12:7). Frank Sheed describes death in these words:

A point comes—suddenly if there is violence, or by slow wearing—when the body can no longer respond to the life-giving energy of the soul. That, precisely, is death. The body unvivified, falls away into its elements. But the soul does not die with the body. Why should it? As a spirit it does not depend for its life upon the body: matter cannot give life to spirit.3

So death isn’t the end. Though separated from the body, the spirit lives on.

Now that we’ve defined what man and death are, we’re finally ready to come back to our original dilemma.

 

Did God Die?

Yes, God did die. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity was tortured to death at the hands of Roman soldiers. Nailed to the wood of the cross, moments before His death, He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then, Luke tells us, Jesus “breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus’ death on the cross was just as real as any other human death. When His body could no longer sustain life, His spirit departed the material world, leaving His body lifeless. But does this pose any problem for a Christian? Does this sound like a dilemma?

Of course not. The world was not without God for three days. Jesus lived on, in spite of His separation from His body. Dying in no way blotted Jesus out from existence. It only separated Him from His body, causing Him to depart from this world.

So if anyone ever objects that Jesus can’t be God because Jesus died, simply explain that death only separates the spirit from the body, and that in no way poses a dilemma for a Christian. God came that He might redeem us through His death on the cross. And redeem us He did.

Image result for jesus on the cross

 

Sources

[1] Summa Theologiae I, Q 4, Art 2,
www.newadvent.org/summa/

[2] Sheed, F. J. Theology for Beginners, 1981, p. 10.

[3] Sheed, F. J. “Life After Death.” Theology and Sanity,
http://www.ecatholic2000.com/sheed/untitled-31.shtml

The Deeds of Jesus

Every Sunday in the creed we declare that Jesus is our Lord, but what does that mean?  What implications does that have on our lives?  In the Gospels Jesus tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love God (Matthew 22:37), and show mercy (John 8:11).  How do his words correlate to his deeds, and what does that mean for us as his followers?  This post will take a deeper look at the scriptures referenced to illustrate how the words that Christ spoke correspond with his actions.

Jesus often spoke of what we now the call the perfect commandment.  Jesus spoke about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself.  The first verse mentioned above is Mark 12:31 which states, “The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (NRSV).  To love your neighbor means so much more than greeting them when they are in their front yard.  Whether they treated him as he deserved or not, Jesus showed compassion to everyone (Collins 51).  He healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, St. Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14, and healed a multitude in Matthew 14:14.  In healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Jesus shows that his salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.  In addition, this was a member of the occupying government and an enemy of the Jewish people.  He shows us what we must do with those we do not agree with.  We must still them as people as they are created in the image of God.

To go along with loving our neighbor, Jesus tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).  How is loving God a deed of Jesus?  As the Son of God he is the only way to the Father, and Christ said we can only know the Father through him (John 14:6).  To love God with all your heart is to go where he leads and to do what he is telling us to do.  In short, we must follow his will if we love him with our whole being.  Jesus demonstrated this is many ways, with the most notable being his Passion.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the human will of Jesus manifesting itself.  He is so terrified about what he must endure that he begins to sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  This is a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, and occurs when an individual in experiencing extreme stress.  He prayed that he may not have to endure, and this shows he is human.  He was scared, and above all it means he can relate to what we go through.  Though he was terrified, Christ knew his mission and because of his overwhelming love we are redeemed.

In John chapter 8 Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who are circling a woman and looking to stone her for the sin of adultery.  According to Leviticus 20:10 this was the consequence for such an action, but adultery takes two people.  The woman was about to get stoned, but where was the man?  It is speculated that the man was in the crowd that was wanting to stone the woman, and this was a way to trap Jesus.  He knew what was going on, and said if someone present has never sinned then he could throw the stone (John 8:7).  Jesus told her to stop sinning, and did not condemn her.  He forgave her for the sin by saying “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11 NRSV).  Jesus showed mercy and did not just talk about it.  We see this several times in the Gospels, but this example is significant as the penalty was death for such a sin.  He gave the woman a new life and hope, and tells us to do the same.

 

Image result for jesus

 

Works Cited

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

Martin Luther and the Cross of Christ

Martin Luther is a name that all Christians have heard, but most take the name for granted.  They know him as the leader of the Protestant Reformation, and rightfully so as his theological endeavors led to a split from the Catholic Church.  Though this was a sad time in history, Luther was a brilliant theologian and he blessed Christendom with many theological insights.  One such insight into the cross of Christ, and to Luther authentic Christian theology was included the theology of the cross.

In the time of Christ, the cross was an instrument of torture and death.  People were left to hang for hours until they suffocated.  It was a brutal death and was mostly used to serve as an example to political rivals.  In the view of Luther, the cross represented two different things.  Firstly, the cross represented the evil of sin and the promise of the judgement of God.  However, as sinners we are forced to face the judgement of God.  In his holiness we become afraid, and we when we confront this fear we come to recognize it as something entirely different.  We come to recognize it as the mercy and love of almighty God.  In this regard, the cross becomes good because it represents the very instrument of our salvation. We see this in Luther’s Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians where he writes, “Christ is Lord over the law, because he was crucified unto the law.  I also am Lord over the Law, because by faith I am crucified with Christ” (Luther 44).  Here we see Luther’s theology of the cross played to its logical conclusion.  In the crucifixion, Christ makes something good out of a horrible situation.  An instrument that was used to torture and kill is now seen as an instrument of love and mercy.  The salvation received is passive on our part because Christ did all that was needed.  We accept salvation when the law drives us to desperation (as it did for Luther) and thus to faith in the mercy of God revealed in the cross.  Basically, Luther was teaching that a Christian was one who had the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.  Regarding this Luther writes, “In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that he should pay for the with his own blood.  The curse struck him.  The law found him among sinners” (Luther 68).  In exchange for taking our sin upon his shoulders, the Father now sees us as righteous.  According to Luther, when this happens the righteousness of Christ is imputed into the Christian.

This was a great consolation to Luther and not a terror.  Luther was plagued by fear and anxiety for many years.  In his early years as a monk, Luther fell into nominalist tendencies.  He was trying to do everything within his being to please God, but when we do it on our own we are doomed to frustration and not feeling good enough.  This is what happened to Luther, as he thought that doing works would then lead to God giving him grace.  This is what Luther called“an experience in hell” and led to Luther hating God.  His insight into the cross of Christ allowed him to see the victory that the cross stood for.  It was now a symbol of great joy, and no longer a cause of pain and anxiety.

WORKS CITED

Luther, Martin.  Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Project Gutenberg. Web. Accessed December 9, 2017.

3 Ways To Share The Gospel To Culture

-Featured Guest Post by Jeff Perry-
Presenting the gospel has always been a recurring topic among Christians. I asked a handful of individuals what the gospel was in their own words?

The gospel helps us pray, and get into the Word more and become more like Christ.”

The gospel directs our hearts to love as Jesus did.”

The gospel saves us so we can glorify God

The gospel leads us to remorse and salvation.”

Do you see the confusion? Look again and notice how these answers are EFFECTS of the gospel. Each answer using an action verb; helps, directs, saves, and leads. Paul say’s we are saved by Grace not by works.

What Is The Gospel? The Announcement Of Jesus

  • Creation couldn’t save itself, so God came down in the flesh of Jesus. The promised One (Gen 3:15) to save back His people. Jesus lived a sinless life and willfully went to a cross as the propitiation (In place of) death, the wage of sin. Not only did He sacrifice Himself as payment for sin, Jesus proved His sacrifice was enough with the resurrection. We can be confident Jesus paid the price towards a holy God. By faith, we reunite to God through forgiveness because the debt has been paid on our behalf.

The fullness of the gospel goes beyond understanding and reasoning. Psalm 147:5 “Great is our LORD and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” The overlying principle is God’s availability and willingness of reuniting with those who want too.

1, Know The Gospel

We just covered our first step to apply the gospel to culture, knowing the gospel. How can we give something we don’t have? Misunderstanding the gospel will result in a misrepresentation.

2. Know The Culture

This leads us to our second step, contextualization. This is a fancy word that implies, “To know the moment.” In the book Center Church by Tim Keller, this is a continual theme. His definition is best.

“Contextualization is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.” ~ Tim Keller

Contextualization is translating and adapting the communication and application of the gospel to a particular culture without compromising the meaning and details of the gospel itself.

  • This does not mean we are surrendering the gospel and changing Christianity to fit within the world view. Instead we adapt the gospel to a particular culture or audience.

In other words, contextualization confronts and completes each society’s cultural account with the gospel as the solution.

3. Share It

The best way to share the gospel to culture, is to share the gospel to culture. Let us be intentionally active. Steps 1 and 2 are meaningless unless it is used. In military terms, we can know the mission and the target, but without activating the missile the mission fails.

How can you be intentionally active within your culture?

~Grace & Peace

 

More Information

Jeff Perry is a writer at Absolute Aspiration.  The goal of his work is to encourage others to share the Gospel of Christ to a hurting world.  You can follow Jeff on his website or on Twitter.  He lives with his wife and three children in Buffalo, New York.  They attend church at the Chapel in Cheektowaga.

Thank you Jesus!

What did Jesus do to save us?  The importance of this question is one that has a real possibility to be understated.  It is a question that has been asked for all of church history, and theologians have debated it for centuries.  The reason is because it is the eternal question with eternal significance.  The nature of the question lies within the very nature of the Gospel itself.  Within the scope of this paper we briefly look at how Gregory the Great, Anselm, and Albrecht Ritschl answered the question.  In addition a look into how John Calvin modified Anselm’s theory will be discussed, and a look at the Moral Influence theory of atonement looked at along with it must be rejected.

Gregory the Great was the last of the Latin doctors of the church and was the first Pope to use the phrase “Servant of the servants of God[1].”  He believed Augustine was the greatest church father and he applied the soteriology of Augustine in a synergistic nature[2].  Synergism coordinates the human will and divine grace as both being factors in conversion[3].  This played heavily into how Gregory answered the question presented.  To get the grace needed one had to be crucified with Christ.  This meant having an attitude of extreme repentance, doing penance, self-denial (of most if not all bodily pleasures), partake in the sacraments of the church, and do works of love[4].  He also started to formalize the medieval doctrine of purgatory.  In his view Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man.  Faith was needed, but man had to constantly show that he was in a state of penance.  According to Scholar Roger Olson, “His theology had the effect-perhaps unintended-of destroying any sense of assurance or security about salvation for most medieval Christians[5].”

A few centuries later Anselm asked “Cur Deus Homo?  i.e. Why did God become man[6].”  Anselm saw the atonement in a way different then the popular Ransom theory.  Anselm believed that, for the atonement to be sufficient, then Christ had to be human and divine[7].  In regards to this theory Paul Enns writes, “God chose to resolve the matter (of sin) through satisfaction by the gift of his son[8].”  Since the honor of God was restored through the sacrifice of Christ sinners reap the reward of forgiveness of sins through faith.

From Anselm and Gregory the Great we now turn to 19th century liberal Protestant theology.  One of the leaders in this brand of theology was an individual by the name of Albrecht Ritschl.  He said to separate Christianity from science and separated it into two basic truth claims.  The claims in question are judgment of fact and judgment of value[9].  According to Ritschl Christ saved us by giving us the Kingdom of God on Earth.  This is done by humanity uniting themselves in love without a teaching about Heaven, Hell, or the afterlife.  In essence Christianity, according to Ritschl, is reduced to a system of moralism[10].  His system could be summed up by saying that the sacrifice of Christ changed men’s moral attitudes and caused them to accept God’s rule in their lives[11].

As previously discussed, in Anselm we find the Satisfaction theory of atonement.  Since man sinned then a sacrifice had to be made by a human, but the whole human race is tainted by sin.  The only acceptable sacrifice was Christ who was fully God and fully man.  Through Christ honor was restored to God.  The Protestant reformer John Calvin looked to modify Anselm’s theory.  John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, put forth the Penal Substitution theory of atonement.  This development stated that Christ died in our place, and he was punished where we should have been punished.  In regards to this John Calvin writes, “clothed with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory[12].”

What did Jesus do to save us?  Three individuals were looked at, and three theories were briefly discussed.  In regards to the theories of atonement touched on it is clear that evangelicals must reject the moral influence theory.  The theory is inadequate to describe the atoning work of the savior.  In regards to this the Franklin Johnson states, “The theory makes the death of Christ predominantly scenic, spectacular, an effort to display the love of God rather than an offering to God in its nature necessary for the salvation of man[13].”  In this theory Christ dies not to free man from the penalty of sin, but to bring about a new system of morality.  There is nothing about repentance, God’s holiness, God’s Justice, or God’s mercy in this theory.  The atonement and salvation are not a moral exercise because a proper confession comes before salvation[14].  Christ died for the sins of man, not to be a martyr for a morally superior society, though that should be a result of true conversion.

I now leave you with a few passages from scripture that help answer this question.

John 10:11- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Galatians 3:13-“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Isaiah 53:4-6- “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;     we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 3:18- “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

2 Corinthians 5:21- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Peter 2:24- “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus died for our sins and his finished work on the cross is perfect.  When we trust him by faith we are clothe in his righteous robe.  Thank you Jesus for this awesome gift that I do not deserve.

 

[1] Erwin Fahlbrusch et al, ed., Encyclopedia of Christianity, vol. 2, (Boston, MA: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 471.

[2] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 287.

[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910), 786.

[4] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 288.

[5] Ibid, 289.

[6] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007), 157.

[7] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 323.

[8] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 334.

[9] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 548.

[10] Ibid, 548.

[11] J.D. Douglas and Philip Comfort, eds., Who’s Who in Church History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 1992), 574.

[12] “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin College, accessed June 24, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.xvi.html.

[13] Franklin Johnson, The Fundamentals, ed. R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon, vol. 3, (Los Angeles, CA: Bible Institute Of Los Angeles, 1917), 68.

[14] Malcolm B Yarnell, The Formation of Christian Doctrine (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2007), 191.

Ransomed

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Mark 10:45

In the ’90’s there was a movie starring Mel Gibson named “Ransom.”  In the film a son was kidnapped, and the captors demanded a tidy sum for the child’s release.  In today’s verse Christ tells us that he is the ransom for our enslavement to sin.

To drive the point home let’s look at the last three words of today’s verse.  A ransom signifies a loosing, it sets a debtor free.  The word “for” means “in behalf of” which indicates the substitutionary death that Christ died in our place.  He paid the penalty for our sin.  “Many” is meant to contrast the situation.  One person (Christ) died and the ransom is paid for many. Amen!  We go through a lot in our lives, and there are time we feel down.  On a personal note I like to remember his verse.  It reminded me that I was bought with a very large price tag, and I must live up to the servant leadership of my master.  Let us never forget what Christ did for us.  He ransomed us so we may have life eternal!

No Turning Back

In business we are taught that if we adhere to something only half of the time then we will get half of the results. In much of the same way it is the same with our walk with Christ. Sure we accept Him and He is our Lord and Savior, but is He truly the Lord of our life? Are we still holding on to our personal agenda and placing the agenda of Christ to the side? This differentiates the followers of Christ from the Disciples of Christ.   Disciples know the cost and allow Christ to enter their life and turn it upside down.

A recent pew research study showed that there are roughly 2.18 Billion Christians in the world[1]. The church is still growing around the world, but imagine the impact if there were a greater emphasis on making Disciples? Most churches focus on evangelization, which is very important, but evangelization and Discipleship need not compete. In fact, they are linked together to transform a sinner to a saint. This is done in three stages which are declaration, development, and deployment[2].

Declaration is the first stage of being a Disciple, and is where individuals make the decision to follow Jesus. In this sense someone is making the conscious decision “to recognize and accept who Jesus is as Lord, leader, and master of our lives”[3]. When people make the decision to follow Jesus they have thought it through, and are not reacting based only on emotion. In their mind they have decided that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and are making Him their leader.

The great twentieth century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it another way. He states “Those called leave everything they have, not in order to do something valuable. Instead, they do it simply for the sake of the call itself, because otherwise they could not walk behind Jesus[4].” In the stage of declaration the individual takes on the role of an investigator, and investigates Jesus. Did He really exist and die on a cross? Are the claims of His followers true? Some people may investigate sources outside of the Bible to come up with their conclusions. Whatever the case may be Jesus is at the center of the process, and the goal of declaration is to arrive at a place of committed belief.

The second stage in the process is development and is where disciples learn to live and learn the teaching of Christ. It is a step that is also known as obedience. We can acknowledge Jesus as savior all we want, but this is where we learn His teachings. Dr. Earley states “The second stage of discipleship requires that we embrace the cross, forsake all to follow Jesus, and bear fruit by abiding in Christ[5].”

The Apostle Matthew is a good representation of this stage. He was born a Levite and most likely trained in the Torah from an early age. He knew he Jesus was, and most likely recognized Him as the Messiah if only privately. Then one day he was collecting taxes and the call for obedience came swiftly. Matthew 9:9 states “And Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he rose, and followed Him.”

Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that a disciple must take up his cross daily, and like Matthew we must do it. In other words Jesus is reminding His disciples that following him will involve suffering and hardship[6]. Matthew went from being a follower with a knowledge of who Jesus was, and went to an individual who made a commitment and was obedient. We come as we are to this stage, trust Jesus, and allow Him to clean up our lives. This is important because many people think they have to clean up their lives beforehand. Jesus chooses us as disciples for what we will become, not for what we are in our current state. Jim Putnam writes “This second attribute of a disciple is primarily a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit. It speaks to people at the heart level, as they assimilate the Word of Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to transform their inner being[7].”

This second stage of obedience is sometimes the most difficult because human beings by nature are impatient. We get the idea that since progress is slow that we are not doing it correctly, but that is not the case. This development process is a lifelong process. It is a commitment prayer, involvement in a church, studying the scriptures, and getting involved with the churches mission to save souls.

The third and last step in making a disciple is that of deployment. Jesus was a Rabbi, and in His day a Rabbi taught at progressive levels. This helped build trust, obedience, and commitment. Jesus deployed the disciples when He felt they were ready to replicate His teachings. The training of the disciples culminated in what we now call the Great Commission. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to me on heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Their training is now complete, and they are being sent to do the same. That command is still valid for the church today. W. H. Mare writes “The message of the commission, seen applied from the time of the fall of Adam, through the period of the cross, is to be proclaimed throughout this present age to the second coming of Christ[8].”

This last stage of the process, as with the others, is not optional. A disciple of Christ is also called to be a missionary. They are someone to carry the Gospel, and proclaim it, wherever they are. Jesus came and told people to repent, He taught His disciples and sent them out, and that means that we must do the same. To not do that would mean that we would not be obeying.

Dr. Early states “It was not twelve special men who were sent out as missionaries. All of us are sent. It is not only extra-special people who have been sent on a mission for God. All disciples have been sent[9].” We must be obedient and go where we are sent. It may be to work every day, overseas, school, or in our neighborhoods. We can go out daily and live and proclaim the Gospel no matter where we are. We must obey the command that Christ gave us and go.

The Great Commission were the last words that Jesus spoke, and as anyone knows, the last words a person speaks have special meaning. These words were sewn into the very fabric of the disciples’ hearts, and out of love for their master they did everything possible to fulfill that mission. In fact, all but one disciple were martyred to fulfill that command.

In conclusion these three steps have a couple things in common. The first and most important is that Jesus is at the center of it all. We accept Him as savior, calls us to follow, teaches us, and sends us out to repeat the process. Secondly the three steps of declaration, development, and deployment create stepping stones that build strong Christians that will be ready, and able to make an impact on the world. These three principles are a wakeup call to all of us. Are we truly following Christ? Are we being obedient to what He is telling us to do? Are we not going out like we should, and leaving that burden on church leadership? If we are in Christ then we are ministers of the Gospel, and He is telling us to go spread the word.

WORKS CITED

“The Size And Distribution Of The World’s Christian Population,” Pew Research, accessed May 23, 2014 December 19, 2011, http://www.pewforum.org/​2011/​12/​19/​global-christianity-exec/​.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2013.

———. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2013.

Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.

W.H.Mare. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen, and H. Wayne House, Compact Bible Commentary Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2004

[1] “The Size And Distribution Of The World’s Christian Population,” Pew Research, accessed May 23, 2014, http://www.pewforum.org/​2011/​12/​19/​global-christianity-exec/​.

[2] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2013), 59.

[3] Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 46.

[4] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 58.

[5] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2013), 68.

[6] Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen, and H. Wayne House, Compact Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2004), 717.

[7] Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 49.

[8] W.H.Mare, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 524.

[9] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&​h Publishing Group, 2013), 81.

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