What about those who cannot express their faith?

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30374960116_727c3db981_bAt the recent post, I outlined a few points to keep in mind when it comes to the question: “What about those who have not heard the gospel?” The basic principle must always be that the Bible be the ultimate authority when it comes to any theological question. The Bible is clear that everyone born in Adam is born in sin (Rom. 5:12-21), there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), faith comes through hearing the gospel, and whoever ‘confess with [their] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [their] heart that God raised him from the dead‘ will be saved (Romans 10:9). Therefore, the command to proclaim the good news to all the earth still stands and is still urgent.

There is one huge question, however. What about those who are unable to hear nor comprehend the gospel nor express their faith? We are not talking about those who can but never have the chance. We are talking about those who don’t even have the ability to do so. This includes still-born babies, infants who died at a very young age, or people with intellectual or physical or mental disabilities. Apostle Paul writes in Gal. 3:22 that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ is given to those who believe. However, what about those who don’t even have the capacity to comprehend the gospel, let alone believe?

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What about those who never heard the gospel?

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Image result for aloneOur church has just finished our preaching series on 1 Thessalonians. We have Q&A in the service to allow the congregation to send SMS questions to the preacher to attempt to answer after the sermon. When I preached on 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11 on the return of Jesus, one question that came up was this:

In relation to the dead rising up, what about non-Christians who never heard the gospel?

Now, in the passage, Paul is trying to give comfort to the Thessalonians by assuring them that those who have died will not miss out when Jesus returns. Those who have passed away will be raised again to be with Jesus together with those who are still alive. Therefore, they must not grieve as if they have no hope. So, Paul is not dealing with the conditions or destiny of nonChristians. However, the question about those who never heard the gospel comes up rather often, both in the service and in personal conversations. So, I thought I will write some of my thoughts on this issue.

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Approaching God through the Psalms – Psalm 3​

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pexels-photo-272064My bedroom is right at the front of the house facing north. It’s great because the bedroom gets the sun almost throughout the day. At the same time, whenever a car passes by, the neighbour dogs bark, or the birds chirp, I can pretty much hear it. They can be a blessing or a curse. The birds chirping – a blessing. The dogs barking – can be a blessing or a curse, it depends on the situation. At night, however, the whole situation can turn totally upside down. The birds chirping that is welcome during the day, is not so welcome at night, especially when you realise that there is a bird’s nest in the roof and the baby birds could not stop chirping at night, and meanwhile, you are trying to sleep. Although the barking of the neighbour dogs adds to the sense of safety of your street, you can’t help but worry a little bit whether or not something bad is happening. Afterall, if a bad guy broke into the house through the window or an alien hover boat crashed into the house, it is quite likely that my bedroom window is the one to go first. Furthermore, as I am a light sleeper (I am heavy, but I am a light sleeper), the littlest of sound would wake me up at night. So, a restful night is actually a great blessing for me. Actually, it can be a great blessing to you as well, whether or not you believe that alien hover boats exist.

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The Loneliest Person on Earth

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Courtesy of www.pixabay.com

Who do you think would make the top 5 in the list of the loneliest person on earth? An astronaut who spend months in a space station? A remote convenient store worker who spend twilight hours by himself awaiting any lonely customer wandering in before dawn?

On March 28, 1934, Admiral Richard Byrd decided to live alone in an isolated advance base to study the weather through the Antarctic winter. He would not see any other sign of humanity for more than four months. Byrd wrote in his diary that at the moment the lonely feeling started to sink in, “the things of the world shrank to nothing.”

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“But, they don’t deserve my honour!”

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The fifth of the Ten Commandments says: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

There are parents who are always forgiving, always present, always loving, never yell, always humble, quick to apologise, and slow, I mean extremely slow, to anger. They are very rare, so let’s humour me for a while. For those with such parents would find it no issue to honour their parents. Or at least, they could not say, “But they don’t deserve my honour!”

But what about those with parents who fall short from our imaginary perfect parents? What if my parents really don’t deserve my honour? Should I still honour them? Why should I? Surely, God does not want us to honour our bad parents, does He?

Let me share with you a few things that hopefully may help you think through this issue when it comes to honouring bad parents.

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Earth-shattering Moves

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“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
– Acts 16:25–26

As a Chinese Indonesian, I grew up reading some Kungfu comics and watching many Kungfu movies. Not the Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan’s type. But the ones where the guys adorn man buns with long smooth silky hair and the girls always use their big long sleeve to dab dry the droplets of sweat off their foreheads (think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon movie, but with a much worse visual effect). While Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan have their Wing-Chun or Wushu skill to defend and to attack, the crouching-tiger-type ones would also have their secret move before unleashing an earth-shattering chi-releasing move that will incapacitate their enemies (think Kungfu Panda but without the cute fluffiness).

Well, Acts 16:25-26 records literally an earth-shattering move of Paul and Silas. They had been beaten up with rods and thrown into a deep dungeon with their feet chained. Paul was schooled not in a kungfu academy, but in a Rabbinic education system under Gamaliel. Silas was a prophet and a church leader. So, in that dungeon, kungfu moves would not come to their mind at all. However, they knew some ‘moves’ that would unleash an even greater power. They prayed and they sang. Yup, that’s right. Instead of mouthing some secret magic spell, they talked to God. Instead of screaming, ‘Jiaaat! Haiyaaaa!’, they lifted up scriptural songs and praises to God. Little that they knew, their moves would literally shake the earth, opened all the doors of the prisons, and unfastened all the prisoners’ chains.

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Missiological Snip

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Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
(Acts 16:3)

At the first leg of Paul’s second missionary journey, he stopped at Lystra. There, he recruited Timothy as his protégé, and Acts 16:3 says that Paul circumcised him (or at least Paul had Timothy circumcised if he did not get his own hand dirty). This comment, however, might simply pass simply as a factual reporting, a nice-to-know-and-let’s-move-on kind of fact. However, reading what happened just before this event would inevitably raise at least one question.

In Acts 15, Paul had just debated the Jews who came to Antioch from Judea about the merit of circumcision for one’s salvation. The Jews insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). Paul, however, insisted that the snip-snip was unnecessary. None of them was willing to back down. So, Paul brought the matter up (or south) to Jerusalem Council. The apostles and the leaders at Jerusalem would need to settle this matter swiftly: do Gentiles need to be circumcised to secure their salvation? The council made a historic decision that Gentiles did not need to become Jews (or proselytes) in order to receive salvation in Jesus. This was a big win to the Gentiles. So, Paul returned to Antioch with affirmed and endorsed conviction that circumcision is indeed not meritorious for one’s salvation.

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The Longing for the King

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micah5v2But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
       who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
       one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
       from ancient days.
– Micah 5:2 –

Prophet Micah prophesied about the imminent judgment of God on His people due to their centuries of rebellion. Instead of leading the people to worship and obey God, their kings have been leading them astray. Instead of shepherding and caring for the people, their leaders have been greedily devouring their own people. Therefore, God has pronounced exile as the punishment on the nation of Israel.

However, the prophets declared good news in the midst of the ‘bad news.’ Micah, for example, prophesied that despite the grim outlook, God would bring forth a ruler. This new ruler will come from the clans of Judah and will be born in Bethlehem. However, although this new ruler is from the clan of Judah (fulfilling Gen 49:10), the origin of this ruler is actually from ‘of old’ or from ‘ancient days,’ which really testifies to the divinity of this ruler. In the following verses of Micah 5, it is said that this ruler will ‘shepherd the flock in the strength of the LORD,’ and His flock will dwell securely in peace.

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“Shhh! Keep it to yourself!”

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“And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.” – Mark 3:12

As we read and study the book of Mark, we cannot help but notice that Jesus ordered individuals not to tell others about Jesus. In the beginning of His ministry, for example, he did not permit the demons to testify about Jesus even though they knew exactly who Jesus was (Mark 1:34; 3:12). Some say that this is because Jesus didn’t want demons to be among His witnesses. However, this was clearly not the case because Jesus also gave people the same order (Mark 1:44; 5:43; 8:30).

One of the reasons, I believe, was that Jesus knew that if many people knew who He was and what He could do, Jesus would not be able to move freely into towns to preach the Kingdom of God, which is the primary reason why He came (Mark 1:38). True enough, in Mark 1:45, Jesus could no longer openly enter a town because of his popularity.

However, I believe this was not the primary reason because interestingly, in Decapolis in Mark 5:19, Jesus actually said to a man healed from demon possession, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So, there must be yet another reason for this ‘secrecy.’

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“How can I, unless someone guides me?”

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desert-279862_960_720So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. – Acts 8:30–31

As one of the top blokes in Jerusalem church, Philip was inevitable busy with the new-planted Jerusalem mega-church. If he had had his own way, he would have stayed in Jerusalem helping to disciple the 3000 new converts. Plus, he was one of the seven appointed to be in charge of the social justice department in the church (Acts 6). However, the Spirit had a different plan for him.

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