Tag Archives: great comission

Mission starts with Babel: A cool Biblical Theology thing

I’m doing some stuff on the church for one of my subjects this semester (well, for three of them, but this one in particular is called Church, Sacraments, and Ministry). Here’s a cool bit of Biblical Theology that I’d kind of thought about before but I’ve just had to articulate it…

These passages work really nicely together to account for the global significance of the gospel…

In Genesis 11 you get the story of Babel, some entrepreneurial peeps try to build a big tower to be like God. Because they all speak the same language.

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lordsaid, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.That is why it was called Babel —because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

It’s a nice little theological account for why there are different nations – which sits just before God calls Abraham (then Abram) to start his own people – and they’re meant to bless these other nations (Gen 12:1-3).

Skip ahead a few thousand years (well, you could incorporate the nations coming in to see Solomon. I probably would). And you get the great Commission… Especially these bits in Matthew 28:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It’s global. But it’s global because the Babel type distinction (which has become a “Jew/Gentile” distinction) has been broken down by Jesus.

Paul says it this way in Galatians 3:

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Here’s some cool stuff though… Babel starts getting reversed at Pentecost in Acts 2 (I know it’s probably obvious, sometimes the obvious can be exciting though)…

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontusand Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

That, in itself, is a pretty nice piece of Biblical Theology. But what I really love is when you throw in a picture of what heaven will look like, which seems to riff on this little thread that develops through the Bible – where people get together and sing with one voice…

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Cool. Hey. Babel gets reversed so that people can sing stuff about Jesus.

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A trillion dollar tip

To say I’m not a fan of the Way of the Master evangelism methodology is an understatement. The name is misleading – unless by “Master” they mean Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort. Because Jesus didn’t evangelise the way they suggest you evangelise. I share their enthusiasm for the great commission, and for looking for opportunities to evangelise, but to suggest that all proclamations of the gospel should begin with a proclamation of the predicament that requires the gospel is a little misleading (check out their “how to botch an altar call” article.

I don’t like their methodology. I’d say that for every one person they lead to the cross they’ve turned away significantly more by the way they present the message. They’re seasoned with hot chilli, rather than salt.

And perhaps the bit I don’t like most of all is their money tract. Used by cheap Christians instead of tipping all over the US. It’s products like this trillion dollar bill that make me glad I don’t live in the states, because I can’t imagine having to try explaining the lack of monetary tip to the waitress who has done a great job of serving a customer only to be left one of these in the place of actual money:

You can’t pay for your groceries with one of these – and yet there are bozos out there (and I’ve spoken to a few Christian waitstaff who have been given these) who leave these as a substitute for a tip. Perhaps because they’ve actually bought each Trillion Dollar Bill for $5. Here. Buy some of my fake money for $5. That’s a get rich quick scheme.

Ray Comfort suggests that this note is actually a “light hearted way to get the message across” – which it could potentially be, if the message on the back was an invitation to start building a relationship with a church that teaches about Jesus. Instead the blurb on the back reads:

“The trillion-dollar question: Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell.”

That’s the opening. Now. It’s all true. And they do get to Jesus. Eventually – but who is going to keep reading? I know one guy who was converted reading some tracts, but only after he’d spent so much time with the lady who gave them to him that he thought “maybe I should read that stuff she gave me”…

Here’s where the blurb goes next.

“God, who the Bible says is “rich in mercy” sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for guilty sinners. We broke God’s Law, but Jesus paid our fine. That means He can legally dismiss our case. He can commute our death sentence: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and God will grant everlasting life to all who trust in Jesus. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.”

God loves you. He paid the price. Turn to Jesus. Trust and obey. Great. That’s the gospel. (though it does have huge potential to become pretty legalistic, doesn’t it? Is daily Bible reading really required for those who trust in Jesus?).

There is just so much wrong with the strategy behind this. It completely fails to understand the importance of medium in presenting a message. It’s just awful. How any Christian can not see how important and related medium and message are when we worship the Lord Jesus, God’s word become flesh, is beyond me. If that’s not a case of medium and message being all wrapped up together I don’t know what is.

The problem isn’t just “strategic” – in reacting against something bad (sloppy presentations of an “all loving God”) these guys have gone to the other extreme. And I’d like to see a passage in the Bible where Jesus deals with an outsider by treating them as an outsider. I’m writing an exegesis paper on the story of Zacchaeus today, where a corrupt outcast meets Jesus, who doesn’t turn to him and say “Zacc, you’re a horrible sinner and you must repent before I’ll have anything to do with you.” No. He says: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” And then Zacchaeus responds by repenting. I just don’t get the “way of the master” part of the act of handing out fake money that tells people they’re going to Hell.