I’m nearing the end of listening to the podcast series on the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It has struck me to the core in more ways than one. I’ve recommended it on Facebook multiple times, but I feel like an echo chamber doing so. I can hear myself shout it from the mountain tops but I’m not sure anyone hears.
Why does this affect me so much? Because I lived through and went through a similar experience but on a much smaller scale. Smaller in terms of it was a small church, but larger because it was a small church. What I mean is that we were not in some distant relationship to the issue like many at Mars Hill. Of course, there were those there that probably had it worse than us. They experienced firsthand the abuse Driscoll dished out, and then they lost their jobs, they lost their church, and they lost their friends in one failed swoop.
I see how narcissists simply move on. They do damage, they defend, they deflect, and then they trample. It’s easy for them. It was easy for Driscoll. He has moved on. He is now pastoring a new flock in the Phoenix metro and most of them probably have no clue who he is or what he’s done. He’s a great storyteller, as the podcast has repeatedly told the listener, and he really is. I went to Mars Hill once while in Seattle and it was really cool at the time.
Yet, Mark moves on. He left the bus after it had rolled over many and left a mountain behind it. Narcissistic leaders are not new, and sadly Driscoll isn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last. What motivates these people? I don’t know, but it is probably insecurity. It probably stems from Daddy or Mommy wounds. Maybe it’s from childhood trauma or a sense of bravado that needs to be the center of attention. No matter the cause it’s a real thing, and when these guys get into a leadership position, and they always end up in leadership positions, they tend to steamroll people and leave dead bodies in their wake.
I wish I could write more. I wish I could write more eloquently about the issues, and about how the damaged people are still damaged, and yet the Driscoll’s of the world move on. We were “lucky” I suppose. We didn’t depend on them for our livelihood, and we had other friends. We landed at other solid churches, and we never blamed God or questioned our faith. We questioned people, and we should question people, because it’s the people doing ungodly things that hurt others, not God Himself.
And the hope is that God uses it for blessing others. How can we forget those that have suffered far worse than us? How can we forget what Paul went through at the hands of others, or our Lord Jesus Christ so that we might receive His benefits? I don’t think I’m like Jesus by the way, but I want to be. I will work at it, and I’ll work at being able to be a blessing to those that have suffered at the hands of an authoritarian leader. If God sees fit to use me this way.
If you haven’t, I encourage you to listen to this whole series. It is really done remarkably well, even to the amazing production level that Driscoll himself sought. How ironic.
No matter what seek Christ and stay close to Him. He is a comfort in the deepest storms. He is worthy of our earthly suffering. No matter what.
I once heard Joe Theismann say, “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” I understand the sentiment. It’s a “nice” statement. Being nice is not a biblical position, but it is a biblical position to be kind. Kindness has the connotation of virtue, and of being useful. Nice, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary is softness or delicate. Modernity has told us it’s nice to be nice, but the Bible has a different solution to properly deal with people given the context necessary to deal with them. We can’t always be nice, but we must be truthful and loving, and sometimes love is not received well.
We started our summer vacation and that included a trip to Iowa. Yes, I know, who goes to Iowa for vacation? We have now lived in New Mexico for three years. It was a planned trip, and we had a desire to see many friends. The time spent with them has been sweet, and renewing affections for them and us was unnecessary, the affections have never left.
We also knew there was the possibility of encountering our old “friends” from Grace Fellowship (GFC). If you are new here you can brush up on who they are here,here, and here. In short, they are the church we were members of for nine years. When we left the church, I was serving as a Deacon and we were in good standing. We had never been under any discipline. We attended faithfully (of course that was required) and we gave faithfully and abundantly to the ministry (God loves a cheerful giver as we were reminded of every week). But we were giving to the Lord, not to them, although they were charged with the stewardship, I digress…
In the six or eight months leading up to our departure, I began having conversations with the pastor, Mike Reid, about legalism. The church was going through a lack of joy phase, admitted by the elders, and certainly experienced by our family. As time progressed it became evident, that they had zero intention or desire to make any course corrections. They were firm in their resolve, we might say, to stay the course. The course, of course, was not just legalism. It was far worse and looking back it was hard to imagine just how bad it really was and still is. I expect this post may help shed some light on those skeptics, or the ones that might think it’s time for us to get over it. I’ve addressed that topic as well previously; you can find that article here if you are so inclined.
The week we’ve spent in Iowa has been surreal. It’s a great place. It’s beautiful, it’s green, it’s friendly, it’s almost everything you would want in a place to live, except for the roads, the winters, and the cultish, or dare I say cult, “The Church of Davenport” that we once called home. I’ve not come to that distinction lightly. It took a long time for me to call it a cult. The more I’ve studied, read, and discussed the issue with others far more advanced than me, I can come to no other conclusion. The audio below will hopefully convince you as well.
Since coming to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel I have given myself to seeking the Lord and living as God calls me to live. I fail often. I get back up and seek again. The one thing I’ve never sought to do is be willfully ignorant nor rebellious to His word. I know what the Bible teaches about most major doctrines. I understand many theological nuances. I am well-studied on many topics. I understand my own weaknesses and shortcomings. But I would never knowingly dishonor the Lord through my actions. That is what I’m being accused of doing by writing these articles and appearing on the Apologetics Live podcasts to expose GFC.
What I can’t get my mind around is whether Mike Reid thinks the same thing. I’ve tried to reconcile his salvation with his actions. He has stated that I’ve questioned his salvation. I certainly do urge him to examine himself. Just as he has urged so many to examine themselves.
What I find reprehensible are his actions.
It is after all, “by their fruits that we will know them”(Matthew 7:20). What are the fruits of Mike Reid and Grace Fellowship’s actions? These are just a few.
He has a poor reputation in the community and abroad. I would say that every church in town knows of GFC and knows how they act. It’s not just that they are active in the open air. I have no issue here, but it is that Mike himself is thought of as being imbalanced. I have personally spoken with several pastors locally, and many others nationally that know of him and know what he does. This alone should disqualify him from ministry.
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7).
He is not above reproach. He has a loose tongue and often says things that are unbecoming of a pastor. Those that have been around him when he is in a casual setting know this about him. I’ve written before about how he asked my wife if “all her parts were still working” while riding in the car with another man. It is disgraceful to say something like this, but then never to recognize just how boorish this is and never come back and say something. “You know Jen, that was inappropriate of me, I’m sorry.” He can’t do that because this would show weakness from a man that touts holiness.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Titus 2:7-8).
I could say so much more, but I’ve been fairly exhaustive in my critiques in previous articles.
The main crux of this article is to highlight our encounter here in Iowa with a man from the church while in a grocery store on our very first night here. I’ll call him Peter for the sake of this article, but that’s not his real name. Jen and I anticipated the possibility of running into someone from GFC while here. It was simple really, we agreed to say hello in a friendly manner. We wouldn’t seek a conversation, but we would be polite, and kind. There were no internal motivations on our part as we have been accused. If we saw Mike Reid or one of the other elders, I had planned to be, “not as nice” and would say something to the effect, “how long will you go on hurting people?” I think an appropriate response to what they’ve done in their fourteen years. There is a well-attested list of those damaged under their “ministry.”
On our first night, we went into Hy-Vee (grocery store chain) to pick up some milk. Moments into the store I saw Peter walking my way. My wife was ahead of me and she turned and pointed at him, but I had already seen him. I said, “Hello, Peter.” He turned and looked at me, probably quite surprised as you will hear in the audio. He was caught off-guard. He returned the hello and then stopped to talk. I believe he was ready to extend a hug to me, but I offered my hand instead, and he took the handshake. We spoke for a few minutes, he introduced us to his sweet daughter, five years old, as she willingly informed us. We exchanged a few pleasantries and asked a few questions, and he did the same. There was nothing nefarious, and in hindsight, his actions to be kind back to us were keeping with his instincts and his love for others.
He and I were once friends. He respected me, and I liked him. We did a lot for his family. Jen did a LOT for them. But we did it because we loved and cared for them, not out of a sense of obligation.
As we departed the store Jen and I said, I’m betting the church knows by now that we are here. We also discussed we hope he doesn’t get in trouble for talking to us because we knew if he told Mike he would have some serious questions to answer to. I’ve been on the receiving end of those situations. You do something inadvertently or violate the rules, or don’t do something you should have, and you’ll get a call into the pastor’s office, or a meeting with the elders and a firm rebuke. “I need to love you more than that Kev,” Mike has told me before. I cringe to think of Peter getting the beat down when he was caught flat-footed by us. We didn’t do anything to hurt him or them intentionally. I hope it is an opportunity for him to reflect on the lack of grace at the fellowship “church.” Perhaps, an opportunity to see what we saw so many years ago now, and actually think for himself rather than being told what to do and think.
That happened on a Friday night and Monday morning someone sends me a text and says, “Hey, check this out.” He had no idea we were in the Quad Cities, and I don’t know how he came across it, but as I listened, I knew immediately what it was all about, because I’ve seen it play out more than once. I’ve seen grown men either make some sort of a mistake toward the church or ask too probing of a question and then end up “repenting” over their egregious sins toward the elders. I would have to believe Peter got up and confessed his sins of “ministering to us” that night in the store. I’m sure he sought the elder’s forgiveness and the congregation’s forgiveness for not honoring his lord and savior, Mike Reid.
After all, this is all about Mike. It is his reputation that was offended. It was his leadership that is being threatened. What I found most shocking, was his insistence that everyone in the church be on guard and ready to defend HIM. He was very clear that this was about HIM and HIS reputation, and the people that had interactions were not ready to stand up for their poor ol’ pastor who is being treated so terribly.
Does that sound harsh?
In my non-professional view, however, supported by others that are in the know, Mike fits all the descriptions of a narcissist. If you listen to this recording it exhibits narcissistic behavior. He is controlling, he demands obedience, and he is afraid of losing a grip on these people. Did I mention he is controlling, not to mention his visible anger? It rolls off his tongue. To post this monologue publicly exhibits his narcissism as he twists the Scriptures to fit his own needs.
I will cite some examples but there are many. He says that we have been “put out” of the church. I stated above that we left while in good standing. Our being “put out” was after we left. So, his claim that we were put out is only to make it sound good to him and the congregation. As if, they had done it biblically. No, we LEFT the church. It’s like getting fired after you quit. No employer with a shred of intelligence fires someone after they quit because then they are liable for unemployment, but GFC excommunicates’ people like it’s going out of style. They fire them after they quit.
He says we are the chief revilers and slanderers, and in effect, is hoping God strikes us down. Here again, Mike uses the Scriptures to meet his needs. He refuses to look at all the things he has been accused of. Not just by me, but by fourteen years of victims of his “ministry.” For there to be true reviling and slandering these things must have no basis in truth. If I went out and said he was a bank robber I would be reviling him and slandering him, but he’s not a bank robber. What I have said via the written or spoken word is true and if anyone would like to contradict those statements I’m willing to stand behind them and provide evidential support.
The truth is that he just doesn’t like the exposure. It’s easy to say I’m the slanderer and in this, he becomes the slanderer of me. He is the reviler, he is the slanderer, and he is the divisive one, and this is what narcissists do best. If I’m a believer and Peter is a believer, we are both members of the universal church and unless there is good reason to believe that I am in unrepentant sin then Peter has every right to greet me with a “holy kiss” and doesn’t need to cower because his pastor has been offended that I’ve exposed his hypocritical lifestyle. Peter did the right thing. He handled the situation with grace and love because he knew it was the right thing to do. Sadly, it probably didn’t end up that way. I only pray he realizes it someday.
In his rousing monologue linked below, Mike gave explicit instructions to his congregation on how to deal with us if they see us in public. We attended a high school baseball game and saw one of the leading men of the church. He is a man that is not afraid to tell you what he thinks. He is not afraid to offer a stern rebuke. I saw him walking straight toward me. We would have been difficult to miss. He approached and was within touching distance then took a hard left turn never making eye contact although I was looking directly at him.
I’m sure he had to consider if the confrontation was worth it or not and decided it wasn’t by the fact he didn’t engage. He has plausible deniability. I’m confident he saw us. He has a reputation that I’m sure he wants to protect. That is probably more important than Mike’s honor, or so I theorize, perhaps the congregation doesn’t fully agree with Mike on this issue? Will others engage us if they see us while we finish our days here? That’s hard to say.
I write this hoping that others will read these words and understand the dangers that abound. These dangers are especially real in what parades itself as Orthodox Christianity. Abuse abounds. Narcissism abounds. Legalism is only one branch of the tree. At the root lies an authoritarian leader that needs his ego stroked. Mike Reid loves to have his ego stroked, he loves, or demands to be called pastor. He loves it.
Please take the time to listen, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. I desire to be very careful with my words. To be exact in my accusations, and not to accuse without good cause. I’m not the arbitrator of who is saved and who isn’t, but I think if someone consistently hurts people and calls themselves a pastor, they better be prepared to examine their testimony of faith and see if it aligns itself with the Scriptures. It seems to me they are self-deceived. The track record is long and speaks for itself, and many have testified to its validity.
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:19—20).
Lord help us stand against tyranny and abuse in the church so that they may fear the repercussions of their actions.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
Where did the gospel message first begin? The Gospel of Mark points to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy regarding the gospel. If John fulfilled this prophecy, the gospel had a previous beginning point.
Jesus said these remarkable words, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The critical, exegetical work of the Lord Jesus Christ tells us the gospel begins with Moses and that it is throughout all of the Old Testament.
To uncover the gospel in its totality requires starting at the beginning and showing that the Bible is a unified book bound together by the common theme of God’s good news declared to sinful man. If this thesis statement is true, there should be overwhelming evidence of the gospel message throughout the Old Testament as it points to Christ. This paper seeks to provide examples of the gospel throughout the Old Testament, which points to Christ as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The First Gospel
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Gen. 3:15).
When sin entered the world through the serpent’s deceit, God cursed mankind and all of Adam’s posterity (Rom. 5:12). The Apostle Paul declares Adam was a type of the one who was to come (Rom. 5:14). The obvious question to ask is, who is this one? Genesis 3:15 sets the answer to man’s sin problem and reconciliation with God in motion. C.H. Spurgeon said, “This is a most glorious promise, the first and only until the time of Abraham.” What is revealed in this verse is nothing less than a divine promise of deliverance. Adam plunged humanity into sin and death through his act of rebellion. God saw the need in the immediate, as He had seen it before time began in the promise of a Redeemer. The great evangelist George Whitefield captures the predicament and the Divine’s answer to the problem:
An amazing scene of divine love here opens to our view, which had been from all eternity hid in the heart of God! Notwithstanding Adam and Eve were thus unhumbled, and did not so much as put up one single petition for pardon, God immediately passes sentence upon the serpent, and reveals to them a Savior.
The Lexham Bible Dictionary states Genesis 3:15 as the first gospel or protevangelium: “PROTEVANGELIUM Latin term meaning ‘first gospel.’ It refers to the promise of Gen 3:15 that the ‘seed of the woman’ would conquer the ‘seed of the serpent.’ This concept is applied to Jesus as Messiah (see Rom 16:20; Gal 3:16, 19, 29).” In the opening chapter of Genesis, God had pronounced His work in creation as good, but after Adam and Eve’s creation, He pronounces the entirety of His work, “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Genesis chapter three sees the introduction of the serpent, the devil of old, and the manipulator of Eve as Adam stands by and observes the scene (Gen. 3:6). Immediately, things have changed, “then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen 3:7). They immediately experienced something previously unknown: guilt, so they hid from God.
In the gospel message, the concept of guilt is an essential element. For Adam to know of his need for grace and mercy, he must understand he has violated God’s standard. God is not a harsh and capricious God, so He approaches Adam. K.A. Matthews offers a reason for God’s approach: “God is depicted as a gentle father seeking out his own. The means of uncovering their deed (like the serpent’s means of entrapment) is interrogation rather than charge and denunciation. The effect is pedagogical and permits the guilty to witness against themselves by their own admissions.”
God metes out the consequences of their sin through a series of curses. First to the serpent, then to the woman, and finally to Adam, but within the middle of the curses is the gospel’s promise. In His great love, God has paved a path for forgiveness and reconciliation through the offspring; the seed of the woman will come as a promised deliverer.
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13).
Spurgeon said the gospel’s promise has been silent since the Garden, but not without types and allusions. Types and allusions are given to the reader through God closing the doors of the Ark, as one example, the Ark being a type of Christ and Jesus the narrow gate. God’s revelation is progressive, and as so, He unfolds history in humanly understandable bits and pieces. Understanding the worldwide flood as a manifestation of God’s justice yet the salvation of Noah and his family representing His mercy is imperative to form an accurate understanding of God in all His attributes.
The world has continued its steady decline since the flood, and it is apparent it needs the gospel. Robert Gonzales writes, “Yahweh’s judgment on the Babel endeavor did not eradicate human sin any more than his worldwide Flood erased antediluvian evil (8:21). Instead, it resulted in the dispersal of sinful people-groups throughout the ancient world.” God continues to reach out to the Sons of Adam and covenant with him. The covenants begin with Adam and continue throughout redemptive history, but Adam’s progeny continues to break the promises. God is undeterred in His actions toward mankind, and as revelation continues to progress, God again initiates, this time with a Chaldean named Abram:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3).
The gospel message is revealed to Abraham in a promise from God to bless him and to make his offspring more numerous than the stars in all the heaven, and God sets His love upon him, not only in material blessing but through faith (Rom. 4:9, 22; Gal. 3:6; Jam. 2:23). “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). There are significant theological implications in the salvation of Abraham. The text articulates that salvation is by God’s grace, not works. Abraham believed the LORD, but the belief exhibited here is initiated by God. Abraham was not seeking God; God was seeking Abraham (Gen. 15:1). Matthews provides a succinct explanation:
The narration describes Abram’s response as belief (trust) in the Lord. The Hebrew construction translated “believed” (heʾĕmin + bĕ prep.) means to place trust in someone with confidence (e.g., Exod 19:9; 1 Sam 27:12). The general idea is reliance, and the orientation of the person’s trust is the future. The LXX renders the Hebrew by episteusen, “[Abram] believed.” There is no exact equivalent in the Hebrew for Greek’s pistis (“faith”) and pisteuō (“believe”), but this verbal form (hiphil) of the word ʾāman comes closest. Here Abram’s trust is placed in the Lord (bĕyhwh), whom he believes will carry out his promise (cp. Exod 14:31; Jonah 3:5). The text emphasizes that Abram entrusted his future to what God would do for him as opposed to what he could do for himself to obtain the promises.
Abraham’s faith was predicated upon God’s intervention, not his acting upon God’s work, as many confuse the roles of faith and works. R.C. Sproul adds, “When Abraham believed the promise of God, God counted him righteous, so Paul is arguing that works did not justify Abraham, nor was he justified by circumcision.” Whether Old or New Testament, the gospel message must be consistent with the root cause being faith. Sons of Adam have no ability within themselves to reach up to God for salvation, and God must always do the reaching first.
To whom does the gospel message extend? Is it only for the Jew or for the Gentile as well? God promised redemption for His people, but in defining His people was, the gospel limited to only Jews. Isaiah seems to clear this up, and being a comprehensive prophecy of the gospel message, the prophet explains that this message will come to all nations. The Gospel of Matthew explains that this fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus residing in the region of Galilee (Matt. 4:14-16). The message of Isaiah is replete with references to the nations of the world: “He says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth’” (Is. 49:6). When confronted with the truth of the world’s salvation (John 3:16), Nicodemus should have hardly been shocked. How did this esteemed teacher of the law miss something so obviously spelled out in Isaiah? John Calvin drives home the point:
He now adds, that this labour will be efficacious, not only among the people of Israel, but likewise among the Gentiles; and so it actually happened. Moreover, when the preaching of the Gospel produced hardly any good effect on the Jews, and when Christ was obstinately rejected by them, the Gentiles were substituted in their room. And thus Christ was “appointed to be a light of the Gentiles, and his salvation was manifested to the very ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
The gospel message is a thread that runs through the entirety of Isaiah, just as it does through the entirety of the Old Testament, and from the appointing of the prophet, there is an immediate theme of conviction, repentance, and atonement, all necessary elements to the gospel call (Is. 6:4-7). Immediately the prophet volunteers to the heavenly call and receives the instruction that the people will not listen, a common New Testament reference (Cited Matt. 13:14, 15; Acts 28:26, 27; [Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Rom. 11:8]. While Isaiah is abounding with the gospel message, the Servant Songs provide a glorious view of God’s message of salvation to man.
It would be challenging to pick just one song in this incredible series. J. Nicholas Reid describes it like this:
So it is with the Servant Songs of Isaiah. These passages—Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; and 52:13–53:12—make reference to the Servant of the Lord, and each could, like a single mountain, command attention that extends well beyond the treatment given here. In fact, one might feel the temptation to dwell only with one song without reference to the others. Another temptation might be to collapse each passage into the other, rushing from the victory of 42:1–9 to the suffering of 52:13–53:12.
Can one passage possibly due justice to God’s eternal plan to reveal His Son to the nations in all His glory? While the songs bring amazement, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 has captured the imagination of many throughout history. It culminates in that epic statement, “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” (Is. 53:5). This prophecy describes the brutal death the Servant would suffer, but it also proclaims the gospel. Christ suffered that His people might have peace with God. He bore the sin reserved for man. The innocent man dies for the guilty. Penal, substitutionary atonement perfectly defined.
Isaiah’s gospel is clear. It is evident and apparent that God declared the good news through this point in redemptive history, and as it unfolds, He continues to show the same message through the minor prophets.
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me’” (Jon 1:1-2).
Jonah is a prophet of God that appears to be in a crisis of faith. Jonah’s mission is to go to Ninevah, but he rebels, as the story quickly reveals. Can a gospel message be found in a rebellious man called to proclaim the good news to a wicked nation? The evidence is readily available that Jonah wanted nothing to do with God’s commands, and while he ultimately completes his mission, the gospel is intended for Jonah as much as for the Ninevites.
Bryan Estelle, in his book Salvation through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah, writes,
In short, it seems that the author of Jonah has God intending the fish to rescue Jonah. The fish is not a means of punishment but of snatching from drowning. Jonah is saved in spite of his recalcitrance, and thus he experiences the pity and mercy of God. Hence the climactic exultation “Salvation comes from the Lord” (2:9) is a fitting conclusion to the psalm. 
Estelle makes an excellent point. God mercifully provides a fish to save Jonah from certain death, and this shows He is a God that rescues sinners, those hardened against His commands. Estelle, quoting Jacque Ellul, draws a comparison between Jonah and the scapegoat:
What counts is that this story is in reality the precise intimation of an infinitely vaster story and one which concerns us directly. What Jonah could not do, but his attitude announces, is done by Jesus Christ. He it is who accepts total condemnation.… It is solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that the sacrifice of Jonah avails and saves. It is solely because Jesus Christ has accepted malediction that Jonah’s acceptance has something to say both to the sailors and to us.
The comparison between Jonah and Christ is applicable since Jesus Himself drew the parallel between Jonah’s time in the fish to Christ’s time in the grave (Matt. 12:40). Jonah is a type of Christ and falls short of the antitype, Christ. Jonah’s gospel message shows the tender mercies of a loving God that saves despite human failures and human rebellion. Jonah is a prophet in crisis, going through a crisis of faith, but Jonah’s story is not about Jonah and how he overcomes his problems and saves the day. The gospel of Jonah shows how God condescends to save the unworthy: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jon. 2:9). Matthew Henry summarizes the gospel succinctly: “Jonah’s experience shall encourage others, in all ages, to trust in God as the God of their salvation; all that read this story shall say with assurance, say with admiration, that salvation is of the Lord, and is sure to all that belongs to him.” The gospel message may be veiled in the Old Testament through types, shadows, and illusions, but in Jonah, the gospel stands out as a bright light in a dim room.
When Jesus declared the entirety of the Scriptures spoke of himself (Luke 24:27), he declared the gospel message from beginning to end. The Old Testament Scriptures provide shadows and types and, most importantly, clear examples of the gospel message. The gospel message permeates throughout the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ declared that this message begins with Moses and runs consistently through Malachi.
The examples listed above are only a few compared to God’s provision. What of the redemption of Ruth by Boaz showing him as a kinsman-redeemer, Rahab’s deliverance and her inclusion in the lineage of the Messiah, or the love shown by Hosea to Gomer. The reader of the Old Testament Scriptures need not look far to find countless examples and far too numerous to articulate in such a limited space.
God has not left the world without directions. These directions lead to the cross of Christ, whether in the Old or the New Testaments. The cross and the gospel are the central themes of God’s design to bring glory to Himself. God has declared the answer, which is found in the work and person of Jesus Christ. It is the critical work of the exegete of God’s word to root out these gospel jewels for the edification and benefit of the hearer, to proclaim with joy that salvation is of the Lord. The Old Testament concludes with a gospel promise, just as it began with one in Genesis 3: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1).
Barry, John D., et al., eds., “Protevangelium,”in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
Calvin, John and William Pringle, trans., Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, vol. 4., Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.
Ellul, Jacque, The Judgment of Jonah, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971, quoted in Bryan D. Estelle, Salvation through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel according to Jonah, ed. Tremper Longman III and J. Alan Groves, The Gospel according to the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005.
Estelle, Bryan D., Salvation through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel according to Jonah, ed. Tremper Longman III and J. Alan Groves, The Gospel according to the Old Testament Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005.
Gonzales, Robert R. Jr., Where Sin Abounds:The Spread of Sin and the Curse in the Book of Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.
Mathews, K.A., Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.
If you grew up in my generation, you know exactly what this means. Lucy would set up shop and offer advice for a nickel, usually to her best client Charlie Brown. Here is where my analogy ends. There’s a difference here between this cute cartoon of the 70’s and what most people want to offer today.
Today it’s often unsolicited advice and I’m not sure how psychiatric it really is.
What is it about human nature that always wants to fix things and fix them quick?
I guess I will apologize in advance, but I’m not trying to be passive-aggressive or roundabout to point out people’s habits. We all have them, and we all do this. It is part of our sinful nature, but like anything else, some are more prolific at it than others.
Stuart Scott wrote about the manifestations of pride in a little booklet called From Pride to Humility. It’s good and quite convicting.
One area he discusses is Voicing preferences or opinions when not asked.
Fixer’s gonna fix….
I know because I’m a fixer. When my wife tells me a problem I want to analyze and find a solution, but that’s not what she’s looking for. She wants me to listen. She wants me to empathize. She wants me to be there for her. It’s that simple.
The problem for most of us is the desire to assert our opinions. Even when we haven’t been asked. The antidote for this issue is Being a good listener.
I learned something from a man that I consider incredibly humble. I went to see him once when we were contemplating a major life decision. I told him about the problem and asked him what he thought. The first thing I noticed was he sat there for a little while and thought. He didn’t rush in to answer me right away. Then he asked me some questions. He was seeking to understand the situation more fully. Perhaps he had missed something. He was a good listener. Then he spoke. He is and was the epitome of being “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).
If we want to impart our wisdom (and we all have some) then we should be sure we fully understand the situation. Then, and most importantly, be sure they are asking for advice.
We all have some expertise in something, but the humble will express their thoughts only when asked. Do we remember Job’s friends? They were awesome at first. They sat with him for seven days and seven nights and never said a thing. When Job expressed his sorrow and regrets, they saw this as an opportunity to advise Job of his problems and provide the solution. That wasn’t what Job needed most. I think it’s a valuable lesson.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Acts of the Apostles is the playbook for the theology of evangelism and missions for the New Testament church, and when the Lord Jesus Christ departed the earth he did not provide a detailed list of requirements, but that the revelation of the Holy Spirit would provide all they needed to be witnesses.
Matthew Henry provides an overview of Acts,
Christ had told his disciples that they should be his witnesses, and this book brings them in witnessing for him,—that they should be fishers of men, and here we have them enclosing multitudes in the gospel-net,—that they should be the lights of the world, and here we have the world enlightened by them; but that day—spring from on high the first appearing of which we there discerned we here find shining more and more. The corn of wheat, which there fell to the ground, here springs up and bears much fruit; the grain of mustard-seed there is here a great tree; and the kingdom of heaven, which was then at hand, is here set up. Christ’s predictions of the virulent persecutions which the preachers of the gospel should be afflicted with (though one could not have imagined that a doctrine so well worthy of all acceptation should meet with so much opposition) we here find abundantly fulfilled, and also the assurances he gave them of extraordinary supports and comforts under their sufferings. 
Christ said he would build his church. His resurrection proved his words were true, and now he promised the Holy Spirit would empower them for the mission. In our modern-day context, it is hard to imagine the confusion this group must have faced. There continued to be a misunderstanding of Christ’s mission, as evidenced by their question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The thought of becoming witnesses, or martyrs, as the word means, would have been a complete shock to them at this time. Hence, the need for the Spirit of God to fill them with power.
The Acts of the Apostles provides a critical understanding of the beginning of the New Testament Church, and the starting point for Spirit-empowered evangelism and missions. Acts primarily contain historical narrative, and how do Christians apply a narrative to the work of evangelism and missions? Do these narratives serve as prescriptive imperatives for the church, or are they only descriptive? If they carry implications for the modern church, how should they be enacted? This paper will seek to define the role Acts plays in evangelism and missions, and how to carry forward the Lord Jesus Christ’s call to reach the nations.
The Lord Jesus Christ has provided the instruction to wait upon the Holy Spirit, to receive the power of the Spirit, and then to go into the world and be witnesses. Christ has given this instruction in what one might describe, like concentric circles. It starts in Jerusalem and begins to expand from there and to spread out.
While expressing their concerns about the coming kingdom, Christ redirects the conversation. The real need they had to prepare for the mission ahead is power. R. C. Sproul provides a commentary,
Jesus went on to say that as soon as He received His crown, He would declare the sending of the Holy Spirit upon them, upon His church, to empower their mission. The mission of the church, the reason we exist, is to bear witness to the present reign and rule of Christ, who is at the right hand of God. If we try to do it in our own power, we will fail. The reason for the outpouring of the Spirit is not to make us feel spiritual. It is not to give us a spiritual high. It is so that we can do the job that Jesus gave the church to do.
Thinking about the impossibility of the task at that moment in time must have been overwhelming. These young believers probably had no idea what it meant, but the Lord was clear what the intention was, and he articulated in no uncertain terms the job was not to restore an earthly rule, but to be witnesses to what Christ had done. In our modern context, it may seem like a more relaxed time and an easier task, but would that be the case? Michael Greene has this to say,
Wherever they went, Christians were opposed as anti-social, atheistic and depraved. Their message proclaimed a crucified criminal, and nothing could have been less calculated than that to win them converts. To the Greeks such a story showed how ridiculous the new faith was; to the Romans how weak and ineffective it was; while the Jews could not bring themselves to stomach it at all. To Jew and Gentile alike Christians were offensive, on account both of the doctrines and of the behaviour credited to them. All this they had to live down if they were going to win anybody at all for Jesus Christ. 
It was not an easy time to be a Christian, and it was not an easy task the Lord had laid before these Christians. It was an impossible mission, with impossible odds, but in the hands of a living God, all things are possible, and it does not take long to realize God can do impossible things with ease.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38).
What does it take for the salvation of three thousand souls in one sermon? Peter, being anointed by the Holy Spirit, delivers a powerful message on the streets of Jerusalem, and at this moment, the New Testament church begins. There are several noteworthy points about Peter’s sermon that are relevant to the work of missions.
The first point is that Peter bases his argument in the Scriptures. Peter cites the prophet Joel, the Psalms, and references the life and death of David, stating that David is still in the tomb, but Christ is risen, as prophesied, and not only this, but this Jesus is declared both Christ and Lord.
Secondly, Peter argues that Jesus proved himself to be the Christ through might works. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—” (Acts 2:22).
Lastly, there is a call to repentance and faith in Christ. What is noteworthy in Peter’s methodology and the sermon is this emulates the model utilized throughout the book of Acts. The gospel call goes out. God saves the elect. Peter, and the rest of Acts, is an exercise in what Voddie Baucham refers to as Expository Apologetics, and in his book, he defines what it means,
In its simplest form, expository apologetics is about three things. First, it is about being biblical. We answer objections with the power of the Word. Second, its about being easy to remember. If we can’t remember this simplicity, we won’t use it in our everyday encounters. Third, it is about being conversational. We must be able to share truth in a manner that is natural, reasonable, and winsome.
The theology and philosophy behind evangelism and missions must begin with the authority of Scripture. Peter illustrates this perfectly; additionally, it must hinge on the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing to bring to the table outside of the truths of the Scriptures. Peter’s sermon to Jerusalem illustrates this perfectly.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:4-5).
The New Testament church had been established and was growing nicely. God was blessing the work of evangelism. In all the success, the church seemed to have forgotten its mission was to expand outward. These early Christians begin to suffer persecution, but now it is going to force the church out of its nest.
Saul has begun his reign of terror, and God uses this to spread the gospel into Samaria. God always uses persecution to break the church free from its comforts. J. H. Bavinck provides a critical understanding of this,
And still further it is of importance to notice the means God used to move his reluctant church to missionary work. During the time of the apostles he utilized the persecution in Jerusalem, and in later centuries he employed many different means. He let the Roman Empire be flooded by diverse nations, and thereby made his church again become active. 
The scattering is a natural occurrence to persecution, and what happens as a by-product? Christ is proclaimed abroad. This paper will explore the concept of evangelistic methods later, but for now, it is crucial to see that Philip is an evangelist, and he has a missionary zeal for his calling. Philip is entering Samaria, he is openly preaching Christ, and people are converted.
The conversion of Saul begins the expansion into further points of Judea and Samaria; additionally, Peter’s vision reveals the gospel is also for the Gentiles.
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:34-38).
The gospel message begins to spread through the means of persecution and conversions. Sinners receive the gift of salvation and go forth to proclaim the message—ordinary people, not professional ministers. J.H. Bavinck remarks, “In particular it is to be noted that the book of Acts makes repeated reference to the use made of unofficial preachers.”
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them (Acts 13:2-5).
The conversion of the Apostle Paul is one of the most significant events in history. God used Saul to scatter the church, but God then used Paul to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Paul’s knowledge of the Jewish scriptures and his training in Judaism, as well a knowledge of logic and rhetoric, made him a formidable apologist for the Christian faith. Additionally, Paul’s empowerment of the Holy Spirit enabled him to endure suffering beyond comprehension.
R.C. Sproul commenting,
We can commission people, but we have no power. We can license, ordain, and send people on sacred tasks, but unless the Holy Spirit anoints them, their labors will be in vain. In this brief text we find the onset of the most significant missionary undertaking in the entire history of the church, indeed in the entire history of the world. (189, 190).
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul was enabled to take the gospel throughout the entire Mediterranean region, and finally to Rome. The significance of the gospel getting to Rome means that it would continue its spread throughout the Roman Empire, and to the ends of the earth, and this should be the concern of every Christian today. John Piper makes this clear,
We should love to hear how the advance of King Jesus is faring. We should love to hear of gospel triumphs as Christ plants his church among peoples held for centuries by alien powers of darkness.
This is God’s design in world history—that people from all nations and tribes and languages come to worship and treasure Christ above all things. Or as Paul put it in Romans 15:9, “that the Gentiles [all the peoples] might glorify God for his mercy.” There can be no weary resignation, no cowardly retreat, and no merciless contentment among Christ’s people while he is disowned among thousands of unreached peoples. Every Christian (who loves people and honors Christ) must care about this.
Paul’s evangelistic methods and approach to missions should compel the church to consider its approach, whether in theory or practice is to be determined, and the next sections will tackle these topics.
And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen (Acts 13:14-16).
Evangelism is nothing more complicated than the propagating of the message of the good news that in Christ, God has provided the gift of salvation. The message is consistent, God is consistent, but methodologies take different approaches given the needs of the moment. Acts primarily deal with the ministries of Peter and Paul, and while the narrative is different, there are similarities in the methodologies.
Looking into the ministry of the Apostle Paul shows a clear pattern of his methodology. He arrives in a new community; he begins by entering the synagogue, reasons with the people, and he attempts to win converts, and when enough are converted, a church is planted. In some instances, this goes well for Paul, but in many situations, Paul’s intrusion into the community is unwelcomed and ends in violence.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 9:19-22).
It was evident by the context of this passage that Paul had achieved a reputation. He was well known to have been the one that was seeking to destroy the church and punish all adherents to this new religion called The Way. Paul’s conversion was remarkable in countless ways; however, what is even more remarkable is the immediacy and urgency with which Paul begins his new ministry. Paul has a plan, and he immediately puts it into practice. What is this plan? Reasoning from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ, this is a consistent pattern of Paul (Acts 9:19, Acts 13:5, 15, Acts 14:1).
Paul’s methodology was presuppositional. He reasons from the Scriptures. Acts 17 provides three examples of Paul’s evangelistic efforts in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens.
Thessalonica: “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2).
Berea: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue” (Acts 17:10).
Athens: “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17).
Paul had formed his theological framework for evangelism. His intent and method were to engage the Jews in the synagogue and engage the Gentiles in the marketplace. One slight modification to this is the conversion of Lydia. In Acts 16, Paul comes across a small community that did not have a synagogue, so he goes to where they meet.
“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together” (Acts 16:13).
No matter the place or the setting, Paul is prepared to evangelize, and while he is primarily speaking and reasoning, we also see Paul preaching at the Areopagus. In their book, A Certain Sound, Ryan Denton, and Scott Smith argue, “Crowded markets and thoroughfares were always seen as excellent opportunities for proclaiming the gospel.”
Paul’s consistent pattern of reasoning is apparent as we examine the evidence Acts lays out, and we saw this similarly with Jesus as he began and continued in his public ministry, and in addition to the ministry of teaching, Jesus preached as he went into the towns. Let us turn our attention to the public preaching of the gospel as an approved method of articulating the gospel message to the masses.
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words” (Acts 2:14).
Preaching in the open-air is rich in tradition throughout the entirety of the Bible, but we see clear examples of how this spread Christianity throughout the world. Starting in Jerusalem at Pentecost, Peter delivers a message that many consider one of the greatest sermons ever preached, except for the Sermon on the Mount, by the Lord Jesus himself. Not even Christ had this kind of “success,” or so the argument might go, but God, for his purposes, chose to save over three thousand souls at this moment.
Preaching in the open air needs no apology, and although not readily accepted, it is none the less, the method employed by the biblical writers throughout the Scriptures. Spurgeon said, “It would be very easy to prove revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places.”
Denton and Smith argue forcefully for open-air preaching from the book of Acts,
After Pentecost the disciples went to the streets with their message, which explains the enormous number of new converts piling into the church. Peter proclaimed the Word of God at Solomon’s Portico, which would have been outside (Acts 3:11-26). Philip preached on the streets of Samaria (Acts 8:6-8). It is true Paul and others preached in synagogues, but their most memorable seasons came while preaching in the open air. The entire city of Antioch was shaken by Paul’s outdoor deliveries (Acts 13:44-52). His first European convert came as a result of open air evangelism (Acts 16:11-15). His address on Mars Hill was in the middle of the city, away from the confines of the synagogue (Acts 17:22-34).
It is difficult to imagine that more evidence would be required for this method of gospel proclamation. Peter, James, John, and Paul sought to proclaim Christ, to evangelize the nations, and they did it through reasoning and preaching.
The final section of this paper turns to the theology of missions in the book of Acts. This first missionary journey begins with the sending out of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark.
“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them” (Acts 13:4-5).
The first missionary journey provides very little insight into Paul’s missiology, it supports our earlier premise that he reasoned in the synagogues, but it does not provide details about church planting. However, as we look deeper into his second journey, Paul’s past comes into focus.
“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 15:22).
Our first clue is that there is a church established in Antioch. This church is organized under elders, and the apostles provide oversight.
So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also (Acts 15:30-35).
We can surmise since Paul and Barnabas remained to teach and preach; they were additionally training men in the ministry, and clearly, Timothy was a disciple and went on to be the pastor in Ephesus.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1).
The third missionary journey has found new churches planted throughout the regions, and we see them now in Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch, Caesarea, Galatia, and Phrygia. Disciples, churches, and missions are spreading like wildfire throughout these regions, and the Lord is growing converts quickly. As Paul is preparing to depart from Ephesus, he leaves the elders with instructions, which are still applicable to the church today.
Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:31-32).
Paul had a clear and distinct call to the mission field, and his methodology and theology are evident throughout Acts. Paul had a desire for the glory of God and sacrificed his comforts, and all he held dear. He sought to fulfill his call to spread the gospel. The missionary call is to die to self, to give up all the world values. Jim Elliot knew this calling and gave it all in the pursuit of the glory of God.
‘My going to Ecuador is God’s counsel, as is my leaving Betty, and my refusal to be counseled by all who insist I should stay and stir up the believers in the U.S. And how do I know it is His counsel? ‘Yea, my heart instructeth me in the night seasons.’ Oh, how good! For I have known my heart is speaking to me for God! No visions, no voices, but the counsel of a heart which desires God.’
Christ-centered missiology must include hunger and thirst for the glory of God, a Scriptural based directive, and counsel from those that have gone before. The Acts of the Apostles provide the most transparent overview of how this works itself out practically. Additionally, we have the pastoral epistles, and other letters in the New Testament to support our theological framework.
A properly informed theology of evangelism and missions includes the truth of the scriptures and the testimony and example of those that have traveled this path previously. The goal is to apply God’s truths to the hearts and minds of God’s people, through reasoning, proclaiming Christ, planting churches, which have oversight. God, in His great mercy, has provided various means by which his truths can be received, and the primary means is the preaching of his Word. Whether this is in the context of missions, in a church pulpit or on a street corner, God is gracious to provide his truth and provide a means by which the elect will be saved, sanctified, and ultimately glorified.