Monday, March 05, 2007

"Side Issues" and "Gospel Issues"

Continuing the discussion from this weeks message:

As we read the Scripture, there are sometimes various questions that arise. Questions of interpretation, questions of meaning, questions of chronology, questions of applications, questions of principle, questions of history, etc.

On Sunday, I mentioned two types of questions, "side issue" questions and "gospel issue" questions. What's the difference?

A Gospel Issue = an issue in which the gospel itself is at stake.
A Side Issue = an issue in which the gospel itself is not at stake.

A side issue is not necessarily unimportant. On the contrary, it might be very important to a fully informed Christian life and worldview. It simply does not directly effect the gospel's integrity or clarity.

On Sunday, I tried to illustrate the difference by telling a story about a friend of mine who was brought to faith in Christ and later became a missionary, by someone who refused to let my friend get her derailed from the issue of Jesus and his death and resurrection and claim upon her life, by getting her to answer "side issue" questions prematurely. I gave as examples the classic kind of "smoke screen" questions that we often hear when we present the gospel to others (i.e., What about Noah, what about evolution, what about Jonah, what about the heathen in Africa, what about little babies who are born with disabilities? etc.)

These are all important issues, and they all deserve serious reflection and hard work in the text of Scripture to determine what God's word says about them. But they do not directly relate to the great summaries of the gospel that are given to us in the pages of the New Testament.

Two questions that I didn't deal with on Sunday were
1. Did Jesus go to hell and preach the gospel? (vs. 19)
2. Was there a guy named Noah who built an Ark in which only 8 persons survived a flood? (vs. 20)

I said on Sunday that those were side issue question. Important issues but not as important "gospel issues"--things that directly impact the gospel. There was a third question that I did not deal with very fully, that is the question raised by the phrasing in our English Bibles of verse 21, "Baptism, ... now saves you ..."

Today, all I want to do is give some resources for your own study and I will respond to questions that any might like to address in the comments section in the next few days/weeks.

The first resource is Wayne Grudem's commentary on 1 Peter in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. Dr. Grudem has an excellent discussion on pages 161-165. Grudem also has an excellent and balance discusssion of alternative interpretations in chapter 49.

I will give a portion of it tomorrow.

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