Do we live in a theological bubble? Are we failing to major on the main thing? Has theology become the focus instead of obedience? When did it become acceptable to let Calvinism or non-Calvinism determine our biblical approach to the call to make disciples? Nate Akin wrote an article recently entitled The Conservative Resurgence, Calvinism, and Plurality of Elder (http://www.baptisttwentyone.com/2013/05/the-conservative-resurgence-calvinism-and-plurality-of-elders/).
As I read the article I began to think of one idea. Is it possible that our theological systems dictate how we engage with the command to make disciples? Which as we know, is the only imperative given directly to the disciples following the resurrection. Matthew 28:18-20 is widely known as “The” commission statement. However, all four Gospels and even Luke’s historical account, Acts, contain an idea that contributes to the command to “make disciples.”
- Matthew 28:18-20 tells us that the imperative from Christ is “make disciples,” by going, baptizing, and teaching. There is no way around the fact that we are commanded to engage in the intentional and unintentional work of making disciples. Intentionally by pouring into a small group of individuals regularly, unintentionally through relationships with those that do not have a mutual understanding of what you are doing.
- Mark tells us that “we” are to preach the Gospel to all creation. I suppose that would include the “elect and non-elect.” Clearly this verse does not single out any segment of the population to be afforded the Gospel.
- Luke tells us that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all the nations. Repentance is the key to forgiveness! No one can respond in repentance and faith without the special revelation of God. We are those called upon vessels used to verbally share the redemptive story.
- John tells us that we are sent out as the Son was sent by the Father. The Son relinquished the responsibility to you and me. We have been thrust into a dangerous world, under the authority of the one who controls all things.
- Luke tells us in Acts that our mission encompasses everyone everywhere. No one is excluded. God has redeemed some from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The picture found in the book of Revelation portrays a multi-ethnic group worshipping around the throne room!
In his article, Akin references the idea that many of the persons on either side of the “reformed/unreformed” coin might have more in common than originally thought. He said,
I just want to add a side note about the young reformed group in the SBC. I believe if there was humble, open dialogue on both sides, then they would find that they have much more in common than they think. I think many of these young reformed have been heavily influenced by the CR in that they are committed not only to reformed theology, but also Expository Preaching, an absolute commitment to Penal Substitution that permeates their preaching, and to the primacy of the church.
I agree with his verdict, but caution that the young reformed are Bible believers before they are reformed believers. Without the Word, there would not be a “reformed system” to follow. While the reformed system does have MANY thoroughly biblical interpretations, it is not infallible. The debates we entertain usually center on issues that should be considered secondary or even tertiary. Nathan Finn said in his article, Calvinism, Cooperation, and the Southern Baptist Convention,
This is my argument: within the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvinism needs to function as a third-order or tertiary issue for the sake of cooperation. I understand that for many folks, their view of the “doctrines of grace” is actually a second-order issue. I know many Southern Baptists of various theological stripes who join a local church partly based upon their understanding of issues like election, effectual calling, and the extent of the atonement. I think this is perfectly understandable. Nevertheless, in the context of the wider SBC, these doctrines should be understood as tertiary rather than secondary (http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/2013/05/28/calvinism-cooperation-and-the-southern-baptist-convention/).
What I would like to suggest is we all espouse biblical interpretations with our freedom to do so, but must agree upon the imperative command of Christ to “make disciples.” You are not free to interpret away this command. Akin does mention the fact that the young men rising up in ministry today are getting back to the necessary expository preaching of God’s Word. As a pastor/elder you are called to equip the saints, according to Paul in Philippians 4:12. That work is the labor of the ministry.
If God has called men that have different interpretations to the SAME ministry, then should the SAME ministry be our focus and NOT the interpretations? Should each and every Bible believing pastor/elder focus on training his congregation to do that which Christ calls? Wouldn’t that fit into the third component to making disciples, teaching them ALL that I commanded?
In our day and time we have become hung up on theological interpretation, and I think we are missing the “command.” We have relegated the theological positioning and postulating to stand as the benchmark of fellowship INSTEAD of the command of Christ. We must unite under the banner of Christ’s imperative instead of encamping ourselves. This only creates greater division, which is exactly what Satan desires. If our ideas and interpretations do not functionally help to make disciples, then they need evaluation.
We talk about wanting to have open discussions and debates, but really what for? If these issues truly are tertiary as Finn suggests, then should we give up our freedom and right to espouse them for the sake of the Gospel? Should we put aside our meetings, conferences, and panels that do nothing but throw fuel on the fire? Have theological systems become an obstacle to the Gospel, and the focus of making disciples?
What if we ALL met together for the singular purpose of worshipping Christ, and strategized on how to lead our churches to effectively make disciples of ALL the nations? What if we ALL worked together for the common good of the Gospel? What if we did this WITHOUT having a committee to form a document to serve as a “peace treaty!?” What if “conferences” to combat heresy and false religions, like during the first centuries?
I know I am not suggesting things that haven’t been discussed before, but what in the world will it take for it to finally happen? When will we lay our theological prejudices aside and unite under the banner of Christ and Him crucified?
Have we missed the singular command of making disciples, for the forest of our theological systems?