Already, But Not Yet

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The introduction below was taken from a book review I wrote as an assignment for one of my seminary classes, New Testament Biblical Theology.  The book, Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed, was written by one of my best professors, Dr. Tim Gombis. The rest of it is from a study I put together for our small group a few weeks ago.

Introduction: When Jesus died, rose again, and ascended into heaven, this ushered in the time “when judgment and salvation were accomplished, the long-expected moment of victory and divine triumph. In this sense, God has fulfilled his promises and the sending of the Spirit. In another sense, however, God has confirmed in Jesus and the sending of the Spirit that his promises are going to be fulfilled in the future. The ultimate day of victory is still on its way.”  The consummation of God’s plan of redemption, vindication, and new creation, the “day of the Lord” as it is often referred to in the Jewish Scriptures, is obviously in the future. And yet, Gombis explains, “the new age has indeed already arrived with the pouring out of the Spirit of God on God’s people, now made up of Jew and gentile, people from every nation integrated into one new people.” He continues, “What is unique about Paul’s thought, as we have noted above, is that while the ‘day of the lord’ has arrived, we still await the future ‘day of the Lord.’ Because of this, the new age has already arrived, but it is not yet present in its fullness.” He concludes that the church lives “between the times,”

Exposition: This “already/not yet” concept is expressed often:

  • Rom. 5:1-5 – We have been justified and have peace with God (already); we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (not yet)
  • Rom. 5:9-10 – We have been justified and reconciled (already); we shall be saved from God’s wrath (not yet)
  • Rom. 6:22 – We have been set free from sin which leads to holiness (already); the result is eternal life (not yet)
  • Rom. 8:23-25 – We have the firstfruits of the Spirit (already); we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons (already, but not yet) and the redemption of our bodies (not yet
  • Rom. 8:29-30 – God foreknew and predestined (already) His children for the purpose of that they might be conformed to the image of His Son (already, but not yet); those who were predestined, were also called and justified (already) and will be glorified (not yet)
  • 1 Cor. 10:11 – The fulfillment of the ages has come (already, but not yet)
  • 2 Cor. 1:20-22 – Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises God made in His old covenant (already, but not yet); He set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our hearts as a down payment (already), guaranteeing what is to come (not yet)

Application: Understanding this New Testament concept/theme of Paul’s writings has helped me immensely in my daily walk. I know that we, like Paul, live in a time between Jesus’s first and second comings. This means that there is much of the Kingdom we can experience now, but there is much more that will not be fulfilled completely until He returns once again as King of Kings. I can rest in His sovereignty when I go through trials and see injustice in this world. These days where Satan has free reign are indeed numbered. There will be a day, SOON, when He makes all things right again.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on the Church

This is number seven of eight confessions that I had to write for my three Systematic Theology courses with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  They were extremely challenging assignments for me, but I got much out of completing them.  I am trusting that others may find them to be helpful as well.

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Biblical images/Who are its members: I believe the church is the family of God, a community of subjects in His Kingdom, who are His chosen covenant people that He bought with Jesus’ blood.  The church is the body of Christ with Jesus as its Head.  It is His holy temple.  The church is God’s people.  The church is His sheep, with Jesus as their Good Shepherd.  It is God’s building; its members are living stones and Jesus is the foundation upon which He will build His church.  It is His pure and spotless bride, the remnant of Israel, citizens of heaven, the City of God, the pillar of truth, and the wheat in God’s field.  The church is made of born-again believers in Jesus Christ as well as Old Testament saints, Jew and Gentile, male and female, gathered from every nation.  The church invisible is that group of true believers; the church visible consists of both true believers and false ones.  On Judgment Day, Jesus will say to the false ones, “Depart from me – I never knew you.”  (Matt. 16:15-18; John 10:14-16; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 27; Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18; 1 Pet. 2:4-6.)

Attributes/Marks of a true church: I believe that the church invisible is one unified group of Christ-followers represented by many Christian denominations.  It is pure and holy and continues the work of Jesus’ apostles.  A local church functions as the true church when it preaches and follows the Bible as its primary authority, baptizes believers in Christ, and regularly celebrates the Lord’s Supper as a body of baptized believers.  (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, 381.)

Relation to the Kingdom/Activities of the church: I believe the church is the center of the Kingdom of God on earth.  It has been called to make disciples of all nations.  The church must meet together regularly in local assemblies for the purpose of hearing God’s Word as it is preached by gifted preachers and study God’s Word as it is taught by gifted teachers.  Members must fellowship with, serve one another, evangelize the lost, and minister in good works of mercy and justice to those outside of the church so that the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, experienced, and expanded for the glory of God.  (Mt. 28:19-20; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:42; 1 Pet. 2:9.)

Baptism: I believe that Jesus commanded His disciples to continue this ordinance so believers would have a clear picture of the believer’s identification with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.  It is a public testimony of the conversion that has already taken place.  The preferred mode is immersion, and is done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This has continuity with the Old Testament rite of circumcision, and as such is a New Testament ceremony of covenant renewal.  It is more than a mere symbol.  When baptism is accompanied by the preaching of the Word, God works in the hearts of those who participate to build them up in their faith.  It is to be done only one time, soon after a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  It is to be administered by church leaders in a proper way.  (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 22:16; Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21-22.)

Lord’s Supper: I believe that Jesus at His Last Supper established this ordinance to provide a regular opportunity for the church to call to mind the sacrifice Jesus made as He gave His body and blood for the remission of our sins. It is a corporate testimony of faith.  The elements are wine or grape juice and bread.  This has continuity with the Old Testament Passover meal, and as such is a New Testament celebration of redemption.  It is more than a mere symbol.  When the Lord’s Supper is accompanied by preaching of the Word, God works in the hearts of those who participate to build them up in their faith.  It is to be administered on a regular basis by church leaders.  (Matt. 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:23-29.)

Form of Government/ Leadership/Church offices: I believe that the local church should be led by a group of male elders.  They must meet all of the required qualifications (a married man of integrity who is mature in his faith and able to teach).  Some of them could be full-time pastors while others could be laymen.  They should lead, manage the church business, exercise spiritual oversight, make decisions, solve disputes among members, and serve the body.  Deacons should also meet the biblical qualifications and serve the members of the body and the community of faith as needed.  Jesus declared the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.  (Acts 15:19, 20; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 2:11-14, 3:1-12; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4.)

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on Salvation

This is number six of eight confessions that I had to write for my three Systematic Theology courses with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  It was a good assignment.  I put a lot of thought into it.  I hope that others will find it helpful.

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Election: I believe that in eternity past, God chose certain people to save through faith in Jesus Christ.  This was based on God’s foreknowledge, which does not mean that He merely knew we would choose to believe in the future, but that He knew and loved His sheep beforehand.  God predestined us to be saved by grace and not works; He chose us long before any of us chose Him.

(Matt. 11:27, 22:14; John 5:21, 6:37, 10:26, 15:16, 17:9; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30, 9:10-24, 11:2-6; Eph. 1:4-5, 11; 2 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 1:10; Rev. 17:14.)

General and Effectual calling: I believe that God invites all people to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation.  Because of total depravity, humans cannot willfully choose to believe without the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit. All people that the Holy Spirit personally invites to have faith in Jesus Christ will believe and be saved.  Unlike the general call, this one cannot be resisted.

(Isa. 45:22; John 6:44, 65, 7:37; Acts 2:39, 16:14; Rom. 1:6-7, 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:9, 26, 2:14; Eph. 4:1; 1 Thes. 2:12; 2 Thes. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 3:1, 9:15; 1 Pet. 2:9, 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3, 10.)

Regeneration: I believe that just before conversion, the Holy Spirit causes a sinner to be born again so that one who was once blind can see the truth of the gospel and one who was once dead can come to life and respond in faith.  This supernatural action changes the heart of a soon-to-be new believer, overcoming their inability to obey, and enabling them to genuinely repent and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.  Becoming a new creature in Christ begins here and continues over a lifetime of transformation through the process of sanctification.

(Eze. 11:19-20; John 1:13, 3:3-8, 6:65; Rom. 3:11; 1 Cor. 2:14, 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 2:11-13, 3:10; Tit. 3:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 5:1.)

Conversion – Faith and Repentance: I believe that faith and repentance are necessary steps required in the salvation process.  Both involve the intellect, emotions, and will.  God gives those to whom He has regenerated the ability to respond to the call of the gospel by admitting they are a sinner and turning from their sin, and then believing and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.  Repentance involves confession of known sin, contrition, brokenness, and a change of heart from self to God. Faith involves acknowledgement of, total surrender to, and a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Faith and repentance also must continue to be pursued on a daily basis as a key element in our sanctification.

(Mt. 4:17, 18:3; Luke 5:32, 13:3; John 3:16, 36, 5:24, 6:28-29, 40, 20:31; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, 26:17-18; Rom. 1:16-17, 3:22, 4:5, 5:1, 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11:6, 12:2.)

Union with Christ: I believe that all believers are identified with Christ: His life, death, burial, and resurrection.  We died with Him and are raised to new life; we are in Him, and He is in us.  This union is irreversible.  We possess the very presence of God through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us.  This spiritual identification with Christ depicts a close personal relationship which is to be experienced daily, radically changing our attitudes, will, and behavior.  Our union with Christ is described as branches attached to grapevines, stones in a building joined to the cornerstone, and parts of a body connected to its head. This union with Christ is true individually as well as corporately as a church.  All other benefits of salvation are ours only because of our supernatural union with Him.

(John 14:20, 23, 15:4-5; Rom. 6:3-8, 8:1, 9-11, 38-39; 1 Cor. 12:27; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20, 3:27; Eph. 1:1 2:19-22; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2, 27; 1 Thes. 1:1; 1 Pet. 2:4-5; 1 John 3:24, 4:13; Rev. 3:20.)

Adoption: I believe that immediately at the moment of salvation, all believers become an adopted child of God, a member of His covenant family.  This close familial relationship with God as our Father is a permanent, binding, and unbreakable change of status.  With it comes all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a child of God.  We become an heir to His kingdom.  When God becomes our Father, fellow believers are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

(John 1:12-13; Rom. 8:14-17, 9:26; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:26-29, 4:4-7, Eph. 1:5; 1 John 3:1, 10.)

Justification: I believe that immediately at the moment of salvation, all of the believer’s sins are completely removed and forgiven.  It is not based on works, but on the atoning work of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, and imputing His righteousness to us and our sins to His account.  By God’s grace alone, received only through the means of faith alone, in Jesus Christ, God legally declares us righteous in His sight.  This happens only once at the moment of conversion.  Justification brings reconciliation between God and the believer, which grants eternal life.

(Gen. 15:6; Ps. 32:1-2; Acts 13:39; Rom. 1:17, 3:21-28, 4:1-8, 23-25; 5:1, 8-9, 18-19, 10:3-4;    1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:15-16, 3:6; Phil. 3:9; Heb. 9:15, 10:10-14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:2.)

Sanctification: I believe that God declares all believers holy in status.  By His grace, He also enables believers to become more holy in experience, as He transforms them into the image of Jesus Christ over a lifetime until glorification. This development of spiritual maturity empowered by the Holy Spirit will not make a believer sinless, but they should sin less, as we in faith and obedience put on the new nature that was created in Christlikeness and put off the old fleshly human nature. A life characterized by experiential holiness is the goal of conversion.  This requires our disciplined efforts to regularly yield to the control of the Holy Spirit as He works out in words, thoughts, and deeds that which He has put in our hearts.  It will bring God’s discipline when we do not yield; He uses trials and suffering in our lives to get us to focus once again on Him.  If there is no evidence of spiritual transformation, i.e., the fruit of the spirit, good works, or living in sin deliberately, one should evaluate if they ever had genuine saving faith.

(Matt. 7:15-23; John 17:17; Rom. 6:11-19, 7:14-25, 8:9-13, 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:16, 7:1; Gal. 5:17, 22-25; Eph. 4:22-24, 5:1-2, 26-27; Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13; Col. 3:1-10; 1 Thes. 4:3-8, Heb. 6:1, 10:14, 12:1-13; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:13-16, 2:11, 21; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; 1 John 1:5-10.)

Preservation/Perseverance: I believe that every follower of Jesus Christ will persevere in faith and faithfulness until death or when Christ returns. A true disciple will never fall away; God will ensure that they persevere until the end due to His unlimited power and unchanging purpose. Christians must continue to make every effort in faith to trust and obey in order to finish the race.

(John 3:16-18, 5:24, 6:37-40, 10:27-30; Rom. 8:1, 29-39, 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 4:7, 18; Tit. 3:7; Heb. 7:25, 10:35-39; 1 Pet. 1:3-7; Jude 1, 24.)

Glorification: I believe that all believers will finally reach absolute sanctification into the image of Jesus Christ at the consummation of all things at His Second Coming. This is a complete work of God alone; there is nothing for believers to do to assist in the attainment of this eternal state of perfection. We will be given a resurrection body. We will no longer be under the constant influence of sin; we will be totally free from the presence of sin for eternity. As the new earth is restored to its pre-fall state, so too the believer will completely reflect the image of God.

(Matt. 25:34; Rom. 8:17, 21, 29-30; 1 Cor. 15:49-54; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thes. 3:13, 5:23; 2 Thes. 2:14; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 3:4-7; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:3-5, 5:4; 2 Pet. 1:11; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:3-5.)

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on Christ

I wrote this confession about three years ago as an assignment for my Systematic Theology II class that I took while working on my Master’s degree.  It’s a bit longer than the others.  As you read, you will see why it was necessary.  Here is what I believe concerning Jesus Christ.

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The Son’s preexistent divinity, promised coming:

I believe that the Second Person of the Godhead eternally existed before creation, absolutely equal in deity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Scripture states that in the beginning was God’s own Word, the expression of His being.  The Son co-created and sustains all things with the Father and the Spirit.  The coming of the only begotten Son of God was planned in eternity past, promised by God, and foretold by the prophets throughout the Hebrew Scriptures long ago.

Incarnation and birth:

I believe that the Son of God took on human soul and body in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who was called Immanuel, God with us. Although the Son was of one essence as God the Father, in order to be fully human inside and out, He temporarily laid aside the independent use of His divine attributes by coming to earth as a servant who obeyed His Father, even unto death on a cross.  He was supernaturally conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, which fulfilled prophecy and made Him to be the Son of God.

The God-man; divinity and humanity:

I believe that Jesus was undoubtedly the God-Man; fully and inseparably both divine and human. He possessed all of the attributes of God and man in body and soul at all times as one unified person, but without sin.  Jesus knew this about Himself.  The Lord was uniquely qualified to be the one and only mediator between God and humanity.  This is essential because He needed to be both God and man to pay the penalty for our sins and represent us as our merciful and faithful high priest, Savior, and deliverer.

Jesus’ life/moral character, ministry/message:

I believe Jesus the Messiah was sent by God the Father to die for humankind and reconcile the world to Himself. Jesus completely obeyed God the Father and depended on the power of the Holy Spirit to live a sinless life.  He did this so that He could transfer His righteousness to our account.  Jesus’ ministry was one of compassion for the needs of the lost, the last, and the least; to show us God’s love and bear all our human sufferings.  His clear teaching and message was that His authority as King was right there in our midst, on earth as it was in heaven.

Roles as messiah, prophet, priest, and king:

Jesus was the anointed Savior who was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures; the Messiah, the Christ. He fulfilled all the burdensome requirements of the Old Covenant Law.  He took on the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest and king: to speak the word of God to us, represent us before God, and rule over us in His kingdom.

Jesus’ death; nature of the atonement:

I believe that Jesus willingly suffered and died a cruel death on a cross at the hands of political and religious leaders under the sovereign plan of God the Father. The blood of Jesus Christ, His death, paid the penalty for the sins of the entire human race.  It purchased our freedom, granted forgiveness, and fully justified those who believe in Him.  Jesus’ death was an acceptable sacrifice in our place which satisfied the wrath of God towards us.  This brought reconciliation between us and God, redeemed us from Adam’s curse, restored God’s image in us, and delivered us from the powers of Satan, sin, and death.  All who receive God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ become God’s adopted children and have eternal life with Him.

Jesus’ burial and resurrection:

I believe that after Jesus died on the cross, He was taken to a borrowed tomb, and was buried for three days. As He had predicted, God raised Him from the dead.  The stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, setting Him apart from every other religious leader throughout history.  His resurrection signified that God was satisfied with His sacrificial death on our behalf, and that He had victory over Satan, death, and the grave.  The fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead gives believers hope as we too will be raised from the dead to live eternally with our Lord.

His ascension, restoration of glory, ruling at God’s right hand, promised return:

I believe that after appearing to many over forty days, Jesus gave His disciples final instructions and then was taken up in a cloud into heaven. Immediately, Jesus was restored to His rightful place in glory, seated at the right hand of God the Father, where He intercedes for His followers and reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will remain there until the time comes for Him to visibly return to earth, render judgment on the living and the dead, and usher in the final consummation of His eternal Kingdom just as He had promised.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His Church at Pentecost:

I believe that the ministry that Jesus did and the things He taught while He was among us have continued through the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised many times and gave to His followers at Pentecost. This is the means by which the Church will experience the presence of Jesus always and be able to preach the gospel to all nations in His mighty name.

Scripture listing:

Gen. 1:1, 26, 3:15; Deut. 18:15; Ps. 2:7, 22:1, 14-18; Isa. 53:3-12; Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 1:20-23, 3:16-17, 26:63-64, 27:46, 57-60, 28:6, 18-19; Luke 1:26-35, 19:10; John 1:1-3, 12, 18, 29, 3:16, 8:58, 10:30, 14:26, 15:13, 19:30, 20:31; Acts 1:1-11, 3:22-26, 10:38-43; Rom. 3:21-26, 4:25, 5:8-11, 15-19, 8:3-4, 32; 1 Cor. 5:7, 15:3-6, 20-22; 2 Cor.5:21; Gal. 2:16, 3:13-14; Eph. 1:7,  20-23, 5:2; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:13-20, 2:9, 13-15; 1 Thes. 4:14-17; 1 Tim 2:5; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Titus 2:13-14; Heb. 1:1-4, 2:14-17, 4:15, 7:24-27, 9:15; 1 Pet. 3:18, 22; 1 Jn. 2:1-2, 3:1, 4:10; Rev. 1:17-18.

Confessional sources:

The Creed of Constantinople (381); The Definition of Chalcedon (451); The Athanasian Creed (500; 2nd part); The Belgic Confession (1561; Articles 8-10, 18-23); The Heidelberg Catechism (1563; Questions 12-24, 29-52); The II London Confession (1689 Baptist Confession; Chapters 2, 8, 11); Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism (1855; Questions 6, 20-28, 32); The Nottingham Statement (1977; Statements B, C); Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Affirmation (1986; Sections 23-27); Hendrickson Topical Bible (pages 69-134).

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on the Fall

Here is the fourth of eight confessions I wrote for the three Systematic Theology classes I took while earning my seminary degree.  This one, written in December 2013, goes hand in hand with the one I posted two weeks ago on Humanity.  What I appreciated about this seminary program was the exposure to the historic confessions of the faith to help us wrestle with these essential doctrines.  This statement still resonates with me today.

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I  believe that sin is a failure to obey, submit to, or conform to God’s requirements. It can either be an outward act or internal motive.  It is a violation of God’s holiness, is totally contrary to His original perfect design and divine purposes for us in the world.  It is always rebellion against God’s rule, even if it just appears to only hurt self or others.  It is putting someone or something in place of God.

I believe that Adam’s sin against God in the Garden of Eden began an unbreakable pattern of sin and guilt that has been passed on to every human being since then, except for Jesus. God gave Adam free will, the serpent tempted, but Adam made the fateful choice to reject God’s authority and disobey.  This one act of disobedience resulted in death and eternal condemnation for all human beings.

I believe Adam’s sin forever distorted God’s image in us. We no longer reflect His holiness, but have become slaves to sin.  Our relationships with others are characterized by competition, selfishness, blame, distrust, deceit, ingratitude, disharmony, criticism, and hatred.  We cannot fully accomplish our divine purposes to fill the world and subdue it; there are unnecessary difficulties in our work and extra pain in childbirth.  All the abilities God gave to enable us to serve Him are now impaired, weakened, and infused with evil in every way.  Our tendency now is to think, say, decide, feel, imagine, create, and do things that are the complete opposite of and contrary to God’s ways.  Male and female rebel against the roles that God designed to be complementary, which bring conflicts to future generations . The creation itself is subject to chaos because we are not able to faithfully subdue and care for it.  We can no longer adequately rule on His behalf and under His authority, since we rebelled against it.

I believe that Adam’s sin has infected the human race with a disease that only Jesus Christ can cure. This total corruption of our nature begins at conception and manifests itself from birth.  We have become creatures who can no longer understand, submit to, or do God’s will; we do not even want to.  As a result, we are broken, but we look everywhere else but to God in order to get fixed.  We feel guilty before God because it separates us . We hide from God, knowing that our sin angers and grieves Him.  It keeps us from fulfilling our divine purposes with one another and with creation.  Because we failed to fulfill our role as stewards of God’s creation, Satan now has free reign to rule the world.

I believe that all aspects of life are drastically impacted by sin; the world is now out of control. Humans steal from and kill one another; even babies in the womb are not safe.  We distance ourselves from those who are a different color, disabled, uneducated, or less fortunate.  We value things that are evil and worthless, and disrespect those things that are good and pure.  We abuse ourselves, our loved ones, strangers, and the environment.  Mental illness, gang violence, drug addiction, war, injustice, crime, unemployment, poverty, political corruption, babies having babies, divorce, racism, suicide, famine, and such as these are evidence of how far we have strayed from our original design.

Scripture listing:

Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1ff, 6:5, 11-12, 8:21; Ex. 20:3; Josh. 23:16; 1 Kin. 8:46; Ps. 5:4, 14:1, 3, 51:4-5, 53:1-3, 130:3, 143:2; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20, 29; Isa. 53:6, 59:2-8; Eze. 18:20; John 8:34; Rom. 1:18-32, 3:9-18, 23, 5:12-19, 8:7-8, 20-22; 1 Cor. 2:14; Gal. 3:22, 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1-3; James 1:13-15; 1 Jn. 3:4.

Confessional sources:

Hendrickson Topical Bible (pp. 367-446); The Second Synod/Council of Orange, 529 (Canons 1 and 2); Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Affirmation, 1986 (Sections 13-17); The Westminster Confession, 1646 (Chapter VI); The Belgic Confession, 1561 (Articles 14, 15); Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism (Questions 12-18); The New Hampshire Confession (Section 3); The Second Helvetic Confession, 1566 (Chapter VIII, IX).

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on Humanity

Here is the third of eight confessions I had to write for my three Systematic Theology classes I took while earning my Master’s degree with Cornerstone University/Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  I hope it will encourage believers to reflect on this essential doctrine of the orthodox Christian faith.

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I  believe God created the world from nothing and designed it to meet humanity’s every need. He provided food and water to sustain life; He made light and darkness for work and rest.  God said that His creation was very good; however, it was incomplete.  By design, it required humans to work together to subdue, rule, multiply, and fill it in order for it to reach its fullest potential.

I believe humans were created out of the dust of the ground and made in God’s image. They were given innate qualities to reflect God’s holiness, designed to be in covenant relationship with Him and live in harmony with other humans.  They were created male and female to complement one another and bring to life future generations.  God gave them abilities to think, speak, feel, imagine, create, procreate, and work with their hands in order to accomplish His divine purposes: to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.  Humans had great potential, yet needed to mature.  They were made to be good, but also had the capacity to freely choose to disobey God.

I believe that humans were made a little lower than the angels, were biologically similar to other living creatures on earth, but far superior to all of them. Humans were given all of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical attributes needed to faithfully subdue, rule, and fill the earth God made.  They were put in authority to do this well, on His behalf, and under His authority.

I believe that the relationship between humans and God established at creation was characterized by freedom, dependence, trust, worship, obedience, fellowship, rest, and love. Adam and Eve’s relationship was comprised of gratitude, openness, harmony, cooperation, acceptance, and love.

I believe that humans had several mandatory activities they were called to do. They were to procreate and populate the world with humans who would seek and submit to God and cooperate with one another.  They were to subdue the wild earth, bring order out of chaos in their sphere of influence, and fill up that which was empty, as God Himself had done.  They were to take care of the other living creatures.  They were to work, worship, and rest.  They were to do it willingly; using the capable minds, emotions, wills, and bodies that God gave them, all for His glory.

I believe the ultimate goal of man’s caring for and filling up creation is the glory of God. In this pursuit, humanity finds their own fulfillment, joy, peace, meaning, harmony with one another, and fellowship with God as they fulfill His purposes. As man faithfully subdues and cares for the earth the creation itself increases in beauty; it flourishes, is under control, becomes orderly, and fulfills its own purpose to continuously sustain human life.  This also brings God more glory.

I believe these truths are important for the church to understand because in order to fully comprehend and appreciate our lostness in sin, our need for salvation, and the blessings of redemption through Jesus Christ, they need to know what God had given humans before the Fall. It is also vitally important to understand the inherent value in all humankind, no matter what race, nationality, gender, age, economic status, or disability – all are made in the image of God.

Scripture listing: Gen. 1:26-31, 2:7-25, 5:1-2, 9:6; Dt. 4:32; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 8:3-8; Ps. 104:14-15; 139:13-16; Prov. 22:2; Eccl. 7:29; Isa. 43:7, 45:18, 64:8; Mt. 19:4; Acts 17:24-28; Col. 1:15-17.

Confessional sources: Hendrickson Topical Bible (pp. 184-187, 303-321); Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Affirmation, 1986 (Sections 7-12); The Westminster Confession (1646) (Chapter IV); The Belgic Confession (Article 14); Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism (Questions 10, 12); Baptist Faith and Message, 1963 (Article 4).

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on the Doctrine of God

This is the second of eight confessions I had to write as a student in the three systematic theology classes I took with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  This was a challenge.  We had to hit the highlights of what we believed in 500 words or less, and it had to fit on one page.

I already posted one on Revelation and Scripture.  Every few weeks I will post confessions summarizing what I believe regarding the following essential topics: humanity, the fall, Christ, salvation, the church, and last things.  Oddly, we had to write one on angels, which I probably won’t post, and we did not have to do one on the Holy Spirit.  I may have to write one down the road.  My desire is to build up fellow Christians in their understanding of basic doctrines of the faith and to encourage believers to wrestle with these themselves.

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I believe that God is triune.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one essence and yet three distinct, simultaneously functioning persons (the Father gave the Son, who sent the Holy Spirit).  They are equal in position, and there is complete unity amongst them in perfect fellowship.  Each is of the same divine essence, has existed from eternity, and possesses all of the divine perfect attributes.  (Gen. 1:26; Dt. 6:4; Mt. 3:16-17, 28:19; Jn. 1:1-3, 10:30, 14:16, 26; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2.)

I believe that God is eternal.  He has no beginning and will never cease to exist; he always is.  He interacts with us within time, moment by moment.  He is constantly aware of what is occurring now.  (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 3:14; Job 36:26; Ps. 90:2, 93:2; Rev. 4:8-9, 22:13.)

I believe that God is immutable.  He can never change his essence, his perfections, his will, and his purposes, as he is already perfect.  (Ps. 33:1, 103:17; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8; James 1:17.)

I believe that God is omniscient.  He knows all that can be known, including people’s thoughts and future events that will (or may) take place.  (Ps. 33:13-15, 139:1-4; Jer. 1:5; Mt. 10:30; Heb. 4:13.)

I believe that God is omnipotent.  He alone possesses unlimited power to do what his moral nature allows him to do.  (Job 42:2; Ps. 89:13; Jer. 32:17; Luke 1:37; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 1:8.)

I believe that God is sovereign.  He completely rules the universe; he is in control of every detail.  What he decides to do, he does.  Man’s decisions or actions do not interfere with God’s plan; he works out all things in accordance with his will.  (Ps. 115:3; Prov. 21:1; Isa. 46: 9-11; Mt. 28:18.)

I believe that God is omnipresent.  His whole being is able to be everywhere.  He is not limited by space.  God’s presence, comfort, and joy are with those who have faith in Jesus Christ, no matter where they are.  (Ex. 33:14; 1 Ki. 8:27; Ps. 16:11, 139:7-10; Jer. 23:23-24; Mt. 1:22-23; Jn. 14:23.)

I believe that God is holy, righteous, and just.  He is set apart above all others; he is the absolute standard of moral purity.  He cannot be in the presence of sin; he will impartially judge all those who are unrighteous in his sight.  (1 Sam. 2:2; Ps. 119:137, 145:17; Isa. 6:3; Rom. 2:5-11, 3:25-26.)

I believe that God allows evil in the world.  Evil, pain, suffering, death, disease, and natural disasters are a mystery.  Much of it is due to people freely choosing to sin, resulting in a world that is fallen.  God will ultimately overcome evil; he works all things out for his glory in spite of it and because of it.  (Gen. 3:2-3, 17-19; Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23-24; Rom. 8:18-22, 28; 2 Cor. 4:16-18.)

I believe that God loves.  He is full of infinite compassion, goodness, and patience for his people.  He provides for our needs.  He proved his love by sacrificing his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins.  (Ex. 34:6; Dt. 10:15; Ps. 145:9; Isa. 43:4; Jer. 31:3; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8, 8:35, 38-39; 1 Jn. 4:8.)

I believe that God is merciful and gracious.  In his abundant mercy, he withholds his wrath; in his amazing grace, he gives much more than we deserve.  (Ps. 86:15-16, 145:8; Jer. 3:12; Eph. 2:4, 8.)

I believe that God is faithful and true.  He is completely worthy of our trust.  His Word is truth; he always keeps the promises he made to his covenant people.  (Ps. 119:160; Lam. 3:23; Heb. 10:23.)

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Confession on Revelation and Scripture

Here is the first of eight confessions I had to do as a student in the three systematic theology classes I took with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  These were some of the more challenging assignments I had.  I hope they are helpful to some who have not thought in-depth on these various orthodox Christian doctrines.

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I believe God reveals himself through his creation.  All that has been made, from the stars above to chemical processes at the molecular level, and his constant care over his creation clearly shows God’s existence and illustrates his divine attributes, such as his power, wisdom, and love.  He made man and woman in his image with an innate awareness that he exists, and put them in a world and a universe designed to sustain life and bring glory to him.  Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s authority, which prevented them (and all of us ever since) from seeing and acting rightly with God.  (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 19:1-2; Rom. 1:19-20; Gen. 3:6; Ps. 104:1-30; Isa. 6:3.)

I believe God continued to take the initiative to reveal himself to us through acts of mercy and grace as well as judgment throughout history. He revealed himself through direct interaction with a limited number of individuals by communicating verbally and appearing in visions, dreams, and physical form or unusual signs.  God made promises to his chosen people, and confirmed his faithfulness through mighty acts of deliverance and other manifestations of his power.  God gave his laws to them, and blessed those who obeyed and provided consequences to those who disobeyed.  (Gen.12:1-3; Ex. 3:2-6, 14:21-31, 20:1-17; Heb. 1:1.)

I believe that at the perfect time and place, God ultimately revealed himself by sending us his only Son, Jesus Christ. He is called “Immanuel, God with us” and the “Word”, who was with God and who was God.  Jesus said that those who saw him had seen God.  He was the image of the invisible God; God in the flesh.  (Mt. 1:23; Jn. 1:1, 14:9; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2-3.)

I believe God has inspired (breathed) his message to us in a dynamic way, using a combination of divine and human factors.  The Holy Spirit supernaturally directed the writers of Scripture to accurately use only the right words and exact grammar needed to faithfully convey his truth.  By reading Scripture, unbelievers can come to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  For believers, through the work of regeneration and illumination, the indwelling Holy Spirit will guide their minds so that they can fully understand, remember, be transformed by, and obey God’s truth.  (2 Pet. 1:20-21; Mt. 5:18; Jn. 14:26, 16:8, 13, 17:17.)

I believe God intended that the written record of his words and mighty acts in Scripture be carefully preserved and circulated so that we would know him and make him known. The entire collection of 66 books of the Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is fully inerrant (essentially correct for the purposes for which they were written), complete (there is nothing missing and nothing else needs to be added), unified (tells a single story), our final authority, and clear enough so that a child can understand the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and the basics of Christian faith and practice.   Its message is trustworthy, powerful, life-changing and unchanging.  The Bible will continue to speak to all generations and all cultures for all time.  (Dt. 6:6-9; Ps. 19:7-11, 119:130; Mt. 24:35; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Rev. 22:18-19.)

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Matthew – The Kingdom of Heaven

matthew2-ocn

This is a paper I wrote in the fall of 2013 for a seminary class I took on the Gospel of Matthew.  I learned a lot doing research for this assignment.  I think it turned out well.  Enjoy!

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I.  Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to present a moderately detailed overview of the major theme of “The Kingdom of Heaven” as it is presented throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

N.T. Wright, in a lecture given at the Inter Varsity Press Conference in January 1999, stated that the Kingdom of heaven is “The rule of heaven; that is, the rule of God, being brought to bear in the present world.” Turner (2008: 42) explains that kingdoms in general require “a ruler, those who are ruled, the exercise of that rule, and a realm in which the rule occurs.”  According to Beasley-Murray (1992: 19), it refers to “the fulfillment of the promises of God in the OT of the time when God puts forth his royal power to end injustice and oppression by this world’s evil powers and to establish his rule of righteousness, peace and joy for humanity – in a word, to fulfill his purpose in creating the world.”  Let us see how this rule of God plays out.

II.  Where the Theme Occurs

Turner (2008: 37) asserts that the term kingdom of heaven is clearly at the very heart of Matthew’s Gospel, occurring 32 times.  John the Baptist proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (3:2).  Jesus used the same words in 4:17, and instructed His disciples to give this exact same message in 10:7.  Jesus mentions it repeatedly in the Sermon on the Mount (5:3, 10, 19 (twice), 20, and 7:21).  In the narrative of the centurion, Jesus spoke of an eschatological feast “with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (8:11).  His parables in Matt. 13 illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like (v. 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, and 52) as well as the parables in 18:23, 20:1, 22:2, and 25:1.  In addition, Jesus taught that little children are role models if you want to be great in the kingdom of heaven (18:1-4, 19:14).

III.  Why Matthew Uses the Term

A quick check with an online search tool or a concordance will confirm that the phrase kingdom of heaven is found only in Matthew, while the term kingdom of God is used frequently in Mark and Luke.  According to Turner (2008: 38-39), some (but not all) dispensationalists have argued that there are several eschatological distinctions to be made between the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of heaven, but that appears to be doubtful and unnecessary.  To refute this idea, he states that in Matt. 19:23-24 the kingdom of heaven (v. 23) and kingdom of God (v. 24) are presented synonymously.  Both phrases are also used in parallel passages (cf. Matt. 13:31 & Mark 4:30; Matt. 19:14 & Luke 18:16).  Turner rightly concludes, “despite various arguments to the contrary, there is ample evidence that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are identical.”  Ladd (1986: 24) concurs: “the simple fact is that they are quite interchangeable.”

So, why does Matthew say it this way? Turner (2008: 39) states the reason Matthew consistently chose the phrase kingdom of heaven was that he was using a literary device called a metonymy.  Kaiser and Silva (2007: 335) define it as “a figure of speech whereby a word is changed from its literal meaning to a sense other than its referent, but one that is associated with it.”  Blomberg (1992b: 73) states the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is a circumlocution, or indirect manner of speaking.  He adds that it may also refer to the idea that “all power and authority in heaven are given to Jesus.”  Turner (2008: 41-42) goes on to say that it “avoids mentioning the name of God by containing a word that is readily associated with God.  This would fit with Matthew’s Christian Jewish audience, since it would reflect special piety for the divine name. . . So the expression ‘kingdom of heaven’ is part of a general pattern centering on Matthew’s conception of the earth as humanity’s abode and heavens as the abode of God and God’s angels.”

Gundry (1981: 137) provides a few alternate views. He states, “On the other hand, Matthew does not hesitate to use God’s name elsewhere, so perhaps ‘kingdom of heaven’ reflects Daniel 2:44 and accentuates the majesty of God’s kingdom, as in that passage.  Jesus may have used both phrases, His choice depending on the audience and on the emphasis He wished to give.”  This seems more than plausible.  However, Gundry submits another possibility, that Jesus actually used the phrase, “kingdom of heaven”, but Mark and Luke translated it into the “kingdom of God” because their Gentile audience may not have understood that heaven’s kingdom implied God’s.  He later points out that it is more likely it was the other way around, and that Matthew changed the word in his Gospel for emphasis as described previously.

IV.  Key Words Used in the Theme

Matthew does use the more popular phrase kingdom of God several times (12:28, 19:24, 21:31, 43).  It is not entirely apparent why.  Turner (2008: 39, 42) suggests that they are most likely mere variations of literary style.  In one of these texts in particular, he concludes: “Perhaps ‘kingdom of God’ is used in 12:28 because of the previous mention of the Spirit of God earlier in the verse.”  In 19:24, it is quite interesting because Jesus uses kingdom of heaven in verse 23, illustrating that the terms are indeed synonymous.

On fifteen occasions, Matthew uses the word kingdom all by itself, as a shortened form of the same concept.  It generally has a similar meaning; of “heaven” or “of God” clearly seem to be implied in most cases.  Examples include: Jesus preaching the “good news of the kingdom” (4:23 and 9:35), the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come” (6:10), Jesus’ admonition to “seek first his kingdom” (6:33), His mention of non-believers, “subjects of the kingdom,” who will be thrown outside (8:12), Jesus’ explanation of the meaning of the parables of the sower (13:19) and the weeds (13:38, 43), and Jesus’ charge to the disciples regarding preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” to the whole world (24:14).  Ladd (2001: 657) indicates: “The kingdom of God is also the kingdom of Christ.  Jesus speaks of the kingdom of the ‘Son of Man’ (13:41, 16:28).”  There are a few exceptions where the divine kingdom is not referred to at all: (4:8, kingdoms of the world; 12:25, kingdoms divided; 12:26, Satan’s kingdom; 24:7, kingdom against kingdom).

Another word of a similar nature that Matthew used quite frequently is king, which, as Turner (2008: 38) points out, occurs over 20 times.  Six instances refer to God the Father (5:35, 18:23; 22:2, 7, 11, 13); eight refer to Jesus (2:2; 21:5; 25:34, 40; 27:11, 29, 37, 42).  King Herod is mentioned in 2:1; in 2:2, the magi see Jesus as a much more significant ruler, as king of the Jews.  Turner (2008: 79) points out the obvious contrast between Herod’s kingship, which is “merely a political office” and that of Jesus, who is like David (1:6), having been given by God a “genuine and legitimate” kingship.  Radmacher (1999: 1136) states that although the Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus’ identity as king, Gentiles like the magi did at His birth, and the Romans did in a sign above the cross at His death, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (27:37).

V.  Related Themes or Ideas

There are several related themes throughout the Gospel. Matthew often points out the authority of Jesus.  It set Him apart from the Jewish teachers of the Law (7:28-29; 21:23-27) and gave Him the ability to forgive sins (9:6, 8).  Matthew tells of the Roman centurion, how he was both under authority and in it, as was Jesus (8:3-13).  Matthew mentions that Jesus had divine authority over storms (8:26-27).  He also gave authority to His disciples to heal and drive out demons (10:1), which He Himself obviously had (8:28-34).  He declared Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath (12:8).  After he was raised, he said He had authority over all things (28:19).

Matthew recorded several instances where Jesus stated that He will be responsible for making decisions at the judgment day (7:21-23, 11:22, 24, 13:41, 42, 16:27, 25:31-34), implying that He is and will be equal with God in heaven.  In a similar fashion, Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom was also reflected in many references to other eschatological events to take place in the future kingdom, such as feasts (8:11 and 26:29), His second coming (10:23, 16:28, 25:30), and His eternal reign (19:28, 20:21).

Matthew contrasts the polar opposite of God’s kingdom as the kingdom of Satan, referring to his current (then and now) authority or rule over the world in Jesus’ temptation in 4:8-9 and in His discussion with the Pharisees in 12:26.  Ladd (1986: 26) indicates that the Gospels commonly refer to “two ages: this age and the age to come. . . This age is the time of sinfulness, evil, and rebellion against God; the age to come will see the perfect establishment of God’s rule in the world and the purging of all sin, evil, and rebellion. . . . Satan is the ‘god of this age’ (2 Cor. 4:4)”  Ladd concludes, “From one point of view, the theology of the entire NT can be understood in terms of a titanic conflict between God and Satan, between the powers of light and the hosts of darkness. . . This divine victory will be achieved only in the age to come.”

VI.  Different Ways Matthew Uses the Theme

John preached a message of repentance because the kingdom of heaven “had come near” (NIV); was “at hand” (KJV, RSV, and ESV).  It was used again when Jesus began to preach and then when He sent His disciples out to preach.  The fact that God’s rule in heaven was now going to be manifested on earth through the Lord Jesus Christ required a response of submission to the King.  Saucy (1994: 177) agrees, stating that “the message of John, Jesus, and the disciples associated the kingdom with a demand.  Given the coming lordship of God in judgment, there is only one task for humanity: repent.”  Saucy (1994: 179, 182) also indicates that early in Jesus’ ministry, it becomes apparent that the preaching of the good news of the kingdom was tied to “the promised hope of the Old Testament. . . The kingdom message of John, Jesus, and the disciples in Matthew 1-10 was the same kingship of Yahweh called for in the Old Testament.”

When Jesus mentioned the kingdom several times in His Sermon on the Mount (5:3, 10, 19, 20; 7:21), He was again highlighting changing ones values and priorities. Youngblood (1995: 730) emphasizes: “His ethical teachings, for example, cannot be understood apart from the announcement of the kingdom.  They are ethics of the kingdom; the perfection to which they point makes no sense apart from the present experience of the kingdom.”  Later, Jesus would emphasize a shift from external to internal righteousness (e.g., 5:21-22, 27-28).  Ladd (2001: 659) agrees: “The righteousness of the kingdom is an inner, absolute righteousness (5:20, 48).”

Gundry (1981: 138) observes that Jesus put most of His teaching about the kingdom of heaven in parables. Through these parables, especially in Matthew 13, Jesus showed how very different this new divine kingdom on earth would be, in both the present and the future, in contrast to what the Jewish leaders had been expecting and teaching.  Not all could enter this kingdom; they had to possess a righteousness greater than the Pharisees (5:20), do God’s will (7:21), and have the humility of a child (18:4).  It would start out small but grow immensely (13:31-32).  There were secrets of the kingdom (13:11) that only Jesus’ followers would see.  Saucy (1994: 182) comments, “The kingdom of God appears in new terms as a ‘mystery.’”  Gundry (1981: 138) explains, “Jesus designed the parables of the kingdom to obscure the truth in figurative language from non-disciples who had refused to heed His plain talk, as well as to illustrate the truth for disciples, to whom He explained at least the more elaborate parables.”

Most importantly, Matthew presents this crucial theme as both a present and a future reality.  The concept is commonly expressed as, “already, but not yet”.  Carson (1994: 4) reminds us that this messianic kingdom (which had already begun) was the fulfillment of OT prophetic hopes.  Blomberg (1992b: 73) teaches that the verb used in Matt. 3:2 that is translated “is near” is better put as “has drawn near”, implying that the kingdom had arrived decisively.  Beasley-Murray (1992: 20) indicates that when Jesus said His kingdom was “near” (4:17) He was referring to “the beginning of the sovereign action of God that brings salvation, the end of which will be a transformed universe.”  He suggests the word “inauguration” is appropriate when speaking of the kingdom.  Jesus’ acts of compassion such as healing the sick, raising the dead, as well as other miracles, testified to the fact that He had kingdom authority and that His kingdom was here and now (cf. Matt 11:5, 12:28).  Gundry (1981: 137) added that with respect to Jesus’ casting out demons (Matt 12:28), “Jesus began to say the kingdom had already come . . . God’s rule was invading the world in the person and activity of Jesus.”  Beasley-Murray (1992: 22) concurs: “God is fulfilling these works of the kingdom in and through Jesus.”

In contrast to the present reality of the kingdom, Ladd (1986: 24) reminds us that “The coming of God’s kingdom is an eschatological event when the kingly reign of God, which is His de jure, will be manifested on earth de facto, so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.”  In addition, he states that many of Jesus’ messages point to the kingdom “as the eschatological order to be established when God manifests His kingly rule.  In such sayings, the kingdom is interchangeable with the age to come.”  (See Matt 8:11.)  Ladd (2001: 658) describes: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will sit on the throne of judgment.  The wicked will suffer the condemnation of fire; the righteous will ‘inherit the kingdom’”  (See 25:31-46; 13:36-43; 19:28.)

Beasley-Murray (1992: 24) is quick to point out that the beatitudes in Matthew 5, “primarily have in view the future kingdom . . . The beatitudes thus are revelations of the riches of the grace that, experienced in the present, will be known to the full in the unveiling of the glory of the consummated kingdom of God.” However, Blomberg (1992a: 34) disagrees, seeing the beatitudes as “balanced between present and future aspects.”  Gundry (1981: 138) adds plainly, “Jesus taught both present and future forms of the kingdom.”  Turner (2008: 42) wisely summarizes by stating that the present aspect of the kingdom of heaven seems to emphasize the dynamic exercise of God’s rule here and now, whereas the future aspect focuses on the physical realm of the kingdom of heaven at the consummation.

Closely related is the debate over whether the kingdom is rule or realm.  Blomberg (1992a: 31) observes that “Beasley-Murray rightly defines the kingdom more as a reign than a realm, more as a power than a place.”  Blomberg (1992b: 74) declares, “The kingdom is not currently a geographical entity, but it manifests itself in space and time in the community of those who accept the message John and Jesus proclaimed.”  Turner (2008: 43) strongly agrees: “Insistence that the kingdom is essentially a concrete realm leads inevitably to viewing it as strictly future as well, and this will not do in Matthew.”  (See 3:2, 4:17, and 10:7).  Turner later adds, “the kingdom exists as a microcosm today and as a macrocosm when Jesus returns.”

Ladd (1986: 24) explains that biblical scholars have had different opinions on whether the basic meaning of the kingdom of God refers to “an ‘abstract’ idea of God’s rule or reign, or a ‘concrete’ idea of the realm over which He will reign – in this case, the age to come.” Ladd complicates matters – “A future rule, a present rule; a future realm, a present realm; eschatology and history: this is the rather confusing picture presented in the Gospels.”  He states that those who were liberal in theology minimized the eschatological considerations and focused on Jesus’ ethical message; others did the opposite.  However, Ladd concludes that most scholars have accepted both present and future viewpoints and combine them in some fashion, recognizing positive components from both.  Turner (2008: 107) counsels us: “Instead of thinking of the kingdom as a concrete entity that is either present or future, on should view it as gradually and dynamically exerting its power through the words and works of God’s messengers.”

VII.  Summary of Matthew’s Use of the Theme

The announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven by John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new thing had come; it is both discontinuous and continuous with the Old Covenant.  We see a similar message in the short parable found in Matt. 13:51.  Jesus, with the authority given to Him by His heavenly Father also said numerous times in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said . . . but I tell you . . .”  Jesus’ arrival clearly inaugurated a brand new way in which God would forever deal with His people; the birth of His Son, Immanuel, who is God with us (1:23) changed all the rules.  The ruler of this kingdom was right here among us, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  However, Jesus was also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants, and embodied the Messianic hope of the Jewish nation.

The kingdom of heaven, experienced here and now, is defined by a portion of Jesus’ model prayer is this: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10). It also points to a time and a place in the future when Jesus returns in glory, and believers will see the beautiful picture that John paints in Rev. 11:15, and is sung so well in Handel’s Messiah: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”  Ladd (1986: 27) provides this observation: “In the mission of Jesus, God has entered into history in His kingly power to defeat to defeat the powers of evil and to bring to people a foretaste of the blessings of the eschatological kingdom while they still live in the old age.”

VIII.  Impact on our Lives and Ministries

The theme of the kingdom of heaven has greatly impacted the way I think about Christianity and live out my faith daily. It contains foundational truths, such as: that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here working among us, are in charge; I am to be completely subject to their authority; ultimately their kingdom is not of this world.  To be given the knowledge of the secrets of this kingdom is a gift I do not take for granted.  It is only by God’s grace that I am a member of this kingdom now and look forward to an eternity worshipping at His throne.

Being a son of the kingdom of heaven presents me and my fellow believers with huge individual responsibilities: to be humble, to be pure in heart, and to sincerely obey my King. I need to be ready for His return.  I need to remember that when He returns, there will be a great eschatological reversal, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first and evil will die.

This kingdom of which I am a part consists of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world – the church. Blomberg (1992a: 35) challenges most conservative evangelicals with a comment on the kingdom as a community: “If it is important to stress the present, powerful activity of the kingdom, first in Jesus and then individually in the lives of his followers, surely it is even more important in an age and culture of radical individualism to stress the corporate aspects of the kingdom.”  There is a lot for the church to do in terms of preaching and being the good news to a lost and dying world that will come to an end.  Ladd (2001:660) reminds us of our ultimate purpose: “When the church has proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom in all the world as witness to all nations, Christ will return (Matt. 24:14) and bring the kingdom in glory.”

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Summaries of Paul’s Argument in Romans (9-16)

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Here is the second half of my original summaries of Paul’s argument in his epistle to the Romans that I wrote for my seminary class on the book.  I am hoping many will find it helpful.   (Click here for my summary of the first half of Romans.)

Romans 9

Chapter 9 begins another major section in his epistle, where he will address God’s plan to redeem the Jews. Paul abruptly changes his tone from his passionate expression of confidence in the power of God’s love which nothing can separate us from at the end of chapter 8 to one of deep sorrow and grief over Israel’s general lack of faith in Christ.  Even though he knows that nothing can separate him from God’s love in Christ (8:39), he says that he would be willing, if it would help, to be separated from Christ for the sake of fellow Israelites, his “kinsmen according to the flesh.”  He points out that God gave Israel every advantage: adoption as sons, covenants, Law, temple, promises, patriarchs, and even Jesus as their Messiah.  However, he wants to make clear that Israel’s failure to fully come to faith in Jesus Christ does not indicate that God’s promises have failed. To the contrary, God’s purpose in choosing them has always been through electing a remnant. He reminds them that not all of Abraham’s descendants were children of the promise, but only through Isaac (not Ishmael).  God chose Sarah over Hagar.  In like manner, God chose Jacob over Esau.  Starting in verse 14, Paul uses a rhetorical diatribe style to address objections to his line of reasoning.  The first objection is of a perception of injustice in God choosing one over another.  He brings up another familiar Old Testament story that clearly showed God’s redemptive purposes, that of Moses and Pharaoh.  God chose to have mercy on the Israelites and to harden Pharaoh.  Paul deals with a second apparent objection to God finding fault with those who do what he had already destined them to do.  Paul replies with a commonly known reference to the potter and the clay: God has the right to make some for wrath and others for mercy. God has chosen and called his own people from among both Jews and Gentiles. Paul then quotes the prophets to point out that it was God’s plan all along. He addresses one final objection, regarding the fairness of providing God’s righteousness to the Gentiles by faith and not to the Jews who pursued God’s righteousness by works of obedience to the Law.  He concludes by referring to Jesus Christ as the cornerstone that the Israelites stumbled over.

Romans 10

In this short chapter, Paul continues expressing his concern over Israel that he began in chapter 9 using a style similar to a lament psalm. In only 21 verses he quotes Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets twelve times to get the attention of the Jews and to show that the gospel message of Christ that he preaches is consistent with what the Scriptures have always said.  Paul begins this section with a personal appeal, referring to his readers as brothers. His concern is for their salvation; for the most part, Israel has not embraced their Messiah.  In their zeal for God, they have pursued the law.  However, due to their own pride, they have missed out on his important message of righteousness by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who fulfills the purpose of the law and brings God’s righteousness to all who believe.  Paul then contrasts the righteous life lived under the burden of the law with the righteousness that is based on faith. He brings a Christological viewpoint to the Old Testament Scripture that spoke of God’s word being near – not way up or way down.  This word is the gospel, and this is the perfect place and time for Paul to expound the gospel that he highlighted in chapter 1 as being “the power of God for salvation to all who believes.”  The message is simple: confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.  Paul deliberately uses the same terms “mouth” and “heart” that he had just quoted from Deuteronomy 30 in verse 8; both of them are involved in the process of believing which is expressed in confession. This result is God’s righteousness being granted and salvation being realized at the future judgment, which takes away all disappointment and shame.  Here, as he has on several occasions, Paul reminds his readers that this gospel message applies to all who calls on Jesus in faith, both Jew and Gentile.  Next, he uses a rhetorical stair-step argument to trace the logical progression that is involved in everyone who believes, from the gospel message being delivered up to the moment of salvation.  He starts at the end and works backwards: from calling on the name of the Lord, to believing, to hearing, to preaching, to being sent out. The implication is that unless Paul and the other apostles were sent out to preach the good news, there would be no one who believed and were saved.  This good news, however, has been rejected by Israel, despite the fact that they did hear and they did understand God’s message, as evidenced by further testimony by the writers of the Old Covenant.  Because of this pattern of rejection, which was true in Isaiah’s day, and is just as true now, Paul states that God has brought in the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.  He closes with another lamenting statement picturing God’s long-suffering arm, reaching out to his people, who refuse to submit and believe.

Romans 11

At the end of Romans chapter 10, we were left with a prophetic image of God patiently stretching out His hands to a “disobedient and obstinate people,” the Jews. Paul continues his lament psalm regarding Israel’s disobedience.  Lest his readers think that God may have abandoned his covenant with Israel, Paul again uses his rhetorical diatribe style of teaching to address this concern.  “God has not rejected His people, has He?” The obvious answer is No! “May it never be!” As evidence of the fact that God still has a plan for Israel, he presents two individuals.  The first being himself, as Paul is an Israelite that God has brought to faith. The second is Elijah, who thought incorrectly that the entire nation had abandoned God, not knowing that He had called a remnant of 7,000 believers.  So now, God has set aside a remnant of believers out of Israel by his grace. Paul emphasizes here that God’s choice was through grace, not works.  Paul then addresses the concept that some were chosen by God out of Israel, and others were hardened, either by God, or by their own disobedience, or a combination of the two. Paul uses three quotes from the OT to describe unbelieving eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear the truth.  He addresses a concern about Israel’s stumbling, as to whether it caused them to fall away completely from God’s plan.  Again, his response is, “May it never be!”  However, he is quick to point out that Israel’s general unbelief caused an opportunity for the Gentiles to come to faith, for the purpose of making Israel jealous. In addition, if Israel’s “transgression” and “failure” resulted in “riches” for Gentiles and ultimately for the entire creation, certainly there will be so much more when Israel finally does come around to receive God’s covenant blessings through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul takes time to focus on his Gentile readers at this point, exhorting them to not be arrogant regarding their own status in comparison with that of Israel. God still has a plan for Israel, and the Gentiles should be grateful to have been allowed to become part of it. Paul then uses a metaphor comparing Israel to an olive tree and the Gentiles as branches who have been grafted on to this tree.  The unbelieving Israelites are compared to branches that have been broken off (which may remind some readers of Jesus parable of the vine and the branches from John chapter 15.)  Paul’s point is to remind them that they have been attached to Israel as God’s chosen ones, and that the “rich” root of the olive tree nourishes them as grafted in branches, not the other way around.  He indicates that God has shown both his “kindness” and “severity” to all concerned.  Paul states that there is hope for unbelieving Israel; if they repent, they will be grafted back into the olive tree where they belong.  In conclusion, Paul informs his Jewish and Gentile readers of the mystery of God’s plan for Israel – there has been a “partial hardening” of Israel and an increase of Gentiles entering the kingdom, but this is only a temporary situation. Eventually, God will bring back “all Israel” to himself, through faith in Jesus Christ, as the Prophets have said. Despite the fact that they may be enemies of the gospel now, God has made an everlasting covenant with his chosen people through the patriarchs.  He loves them, and his calling is “irrevocable.”  Paul reminds the Gentiles that God has shown them mercy in spite of their disobedience and that he will show mercy to Israel as well in spite of their disobedience.  As he completes this major section, he proclaims the depths of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, and His incomprehensible judgments and ways.  Paul leaves them with a joyous benediction highlighting that all good things have come from God and through God; He alone deserves all the glory and our praise.

Romans 12

In light of God’s mercy shown to both Gentiles and Jews, which Paul mentioned at the end of chapter 11, he urges the church to respond accordingly. He exhorts them to present their bodies to God as an act of humble submission and worship. He qualifies this continual presentation as a “living and holy sacrifice”.  This is both similar (in holiness, acceptability, and cost) and dissimilar (someone is alive, as opposed to dying) in comparison with the ritual animal sacrifices done under the old covenant.  In addition to their bodies, they are to submit their minds as well. This process of not being conformed but transformed is to be done by continual remembrance of which realm they are in – either in Adam or in Christ, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and empower them in the path of God’s will, as he had already taught them in chapters 5-8.  As a result of this submission as individuals (and corporately) of body and mind unto the triune God, Paul says that their transformation should affect their relationships with one another in the corporate body.  He sets forth a series of specific ethical guidelines, covering such areas as humility, exercising one’s spiritual gifts, and sincere love and devotion for their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul also mentions several other aspects of normal Christian behavior, such as prayer, giving, hospitality, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep, and being at peace with all.  Paul closes chapter 12 with the exhortation to not be overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good.

Romans 13

As chapter 13 begins, Paul continues this thought of how believers’ submission to God (vertical) should impact their relationships with others (horizontal). He skillfully moves from consideration of how to treat those inside the body of Christ to how one should treat those outside the community of faith.  The first command given here addresses one’s relationship with government. Keeping in line with the theme of submission to God (12:1) and submission to fellow believers (12:10), Paul tells them to submit to “governing authorities.” He assures them that despite appearances to the contrary, they have all been established by God for good purposes, to maximize good and to minimize evil in the world.  Paul mentions that submission to authority directly applies to the paying of one’s taxes.  To continue this concept of paying what is due, he provides a principle of not owing anything to any, but owing love to all.  He who loves, Paul reminds them, fulfills the Law.  Bringing in a couple of well-known Old Testament references, he establishes what Jesus had also brought to light, that loving one’s neighbor is the ultimate goal of the law.  In closing, he focuses their attention on a solid motivation for living right – eschatology.  The day of Christ keeps getting closer; it is time to take seriously our obligation to put off the deeds of the flesh and put on Christ-like goodness, as he had already made clear in Romans 6.

Romans 14

Paul continues to teach the Roman church how the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2) should manifest itself in their horizontal relationships. He is concerned about divisions between various house churches in Rome, or disunity within them. He focuses on how to relate to those who are considered either “weaker” or “stronger” than how they perceive themselves. The basic message is that unity is greater than liberty. He addresses the stronger first, giving them a command to “accept the one who is weak in faith,” and to not judge or look down on them. The weak are also exhorted not to judge those who seem to take a freer attitude toward what they perceive to be lifestyle priorities and requirements. The reason both groups are to accept one another is that God has accepted each of them; he has warmly welcomed all who put their faith in Jesus Christ into his covenant family.  Paul points out that all are servants of the Lord. He will take care of His own; they are not to take His place as master and judge. Whether or not one eats or does not eat, or observes special days or not is up to the individual; it is a matter of faith, gratitude, and submission to the Lord in their own respective renewed minds. Paul resorts to his forceful rhetorical diatribe style once again, and pinpoints the matter of judging one another, “Why do you judge your brother?” He reemphasizes this familial relationship and reminds the church of a Day when God will judge all justly. Why do we judge one another when we have one Judge who is over all?  As a result of our equal standing before God, the church should be sensitive to the needs of fellow believers, especially the strong (which Paul identifies with) towards the weak; they should modify their behavior so as not to be a “stumbling block” to them or hurt them. To the weak, he subtly instructs that really “nothing is unclean in itself,” which is something Jesus himself taught (Mark 7:19). The rule for all is to live “according to love.” Paul reminds them that the kingdom of God is not about externals, anyway; it is about God’s righteousness as a free gift through faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21), peace through reconciliation with God which should lead to peace with those who have also been so reconciled (Rom. 5:1), and the joy the Holy Spirit provides to all who truly believe and are following his lead (Rom. 8:2-17). Since God has fully welcomed those whom he has saved, Paul states, all need to make it a priority to pursue peace with fellow believers and build each other up, not tear each other down. At the end of chapter 14, Paul reminds them what he had said earlier about all things being clean, that everyone needs to work out their own convictions based on faith and not to have any doubts.

Romans 15

As chapter 15 begins, we find Paul continuing to address the strong, encouraging them to bear with and be patient towards those they consider weak, not just please themselves. As an example, he points out that Christ selflessly bore our weaknesses as he gave himself for us, taking our punishment. As he has just quoted from Psalm 69 and is about to bring in more OT quotes into his argument, he instructs that the Scriptures bring us encouragement which yields hope. He shares with the church a prayer-benediction-blessing, asking God to give them unity (the same mind, with one accord, with one voice), so that they can glorify God together. He reminds them of what he had said in 14:1, regarding accepting each other as Christ has accepted them. Why was this important for his readers? Unity, specifically now between Jew and Gentile, was always the ultimate plan of God, through Israel, to the world. To support this, he provides several OT quotes about the Gentiles. Paul then closes with another benediction regarding hope, joy, and peace. The apostle continues his final exhortations to the church, reminding them that in Christ they are “full of goodness” (due to the sanctification of the Spirit), “filled with all knowledge” (by the renewing of their minds), and are thus “able to also to admonish one another.”  Paul brings them back to his purpose in writing this very pastoral letter, which is to give the message of the gospel to both Gentiles and Jews. He does not want to call attention to his own efforts, as his ministry was only by God’s grace and calling.  He does, however, want to boast in what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished through him as he preached the gospel far and wide in the power of the Holy Spirit, resulting in the Gentiles coming to faith and obedience. His main goal was to preach where others had not, which explains his delay over many years in reaching Rome, and which he finally plans to do, on his way to Spain. Paul mentions that he hopes to see the church to enjoy some time with them, and trusts that they will support him in his outreach efforts. Before he arrives, though, he states his intention to go to Jerusalem to bring a monetary love gift that he has been collecting for a while from other Gentile churches, as they recognized their obligation to help. He asks the church to pray together for his protection along his journey in order to arrive in joy and refreshment. He leaves them with another wish of God’s peace.

Romans 16

As chapter 16 begins, Paul mentions a long list of people, starting with his sister in the Lord, Phoebe, who is helping him deliver the epistle to Rome. He sends a series of warm greetings to many brothers and sisters in Christ, some of whom he has known for some time, and others he has only heard of. He exhorts all to greet one another with a holy kiss, and urges them to watch out for people who might cause division and deception within the church. He desires them to be wise and holy, and reminds them that God is more powerful than their adversary the devil. After he states one more grace wish, he sends a few more last-minute greetings. Paul closes with an excellent benediction, highlighting God’s ability to build up his church, and includes many of the themes he used throughout his epistle: the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s revelation, Scriptures, obedience, and faith.  His last words boast in God’s wisdom through Jesus Christ and to his eternal glory.

Russ Gehrlein

Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015.  He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor.  Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.