2.11.4 Closer criteria
This book uses five questions as criteria to pinpoint several key concepts in the Old and New Testament. These questions confirm the interrelationship between proclamation by words and deeds:
- Who is God?
- Why did God create the earth?
- Why did Jesus Christ become man, died and was resurrected?
- Why was the Holy Spirit sent to earth?
- What is Gods purpose with the church in the world with a view to the future?[i]
In light of these questions, an extensive word study, on core concepts from the Bible, is conducted below.
A bible study on the concept ‘Word’ reveals that preaching (proclamation by word) is inseparable from the proclamation by works (demonstration). ‘Word’ does not preclude ‘deeds’. but both דָּבָר (dabar) and λόγος (logos) can be translated with ‘word’ as well as with ‘deed’.[ii]
Kalland[iii] points out the key of the repeated use of דָּבָר (dabar) in the Old Testament, namely that is used to indicate that God speaks, and that his Word holds consequences. The one who speaks (דָּבָר), acts accordingly.[iv] These words reveal something: “… to grasp the word is to grasp the thought. But the word is also dynamic. It is filled with a power, which is felt by those who receive it but which is present independently of such reception”.[v] The term ‘Word’ as it is used in the Bible, therefore, signifies both the message as such and its application. The message is specific, but in practice the effect is dynamic.
God: God makes himself known through his דָּבָר (dabar) by effectuating himself and by letting people experience his divine power. This revelation is not only addressed to Israel, but to all the nations of the world (Jer 31:10; Eze 36:4), who will eventually come to God to hear the Word of the God of Jacob (Mic 4:1-2) and to sing about what they have heard and seen (Exod. 20:18). Even the deaf will hear, and the blind will see; people will rejoice in the Lord and the poor will sing praises for the holy God of Israel (Is 29:18-19).
God himself is present through his דָּבָר since He is his דָּבָר and reveals himself from the unknown through the results that He accomplishes.[vi] The Word of the Lord has an effect and works as He chooses, according to his will (1 Kgs 13:26). God stated to Isaiah that his דָּבָר will accomplish what He wants it to and that it will establish what He desires. In the passage mentioned, it is obvious that the word that God speaks and its concrete effects are connected.[vii] In the same vein, Pop makes it clear that the Word is God’s heavenly creative power, which is operating on earth.[viii] The grounding of the meaning of ‘word’ in God himself is crucial in order to understand the unity between Word and deeds in mission.
Creation and humanity: God has created both heaven and earth through the spoken word.[ix] This demonstrates the Semitic equivalence of word as speech and as fact or act (Myers, 1987). The world has sprouted from the creative divine Word (Procksch 1985). According to Myers (1987), Paul connects with this theme of ancient preaching in Romans 10:17–18: the spoken Word awakens faith.
According to Pop,[x] for Israelites the spoken Word formed a unity with the attached event and its impact. Pop considers this unity a single, living entity and demonstrates this by the word דָּבָר (dabar). A word should not merely convey the matter under discussion to someone, it should do it in such a way that the hearer can be assured that the matter is what the word describes; word and matter should be interchangeable. Then the hearer will attest that the word is true.[xi]
Jesus Christ: Pop[xii] indicates how Jesus’ words and works form a unit. His word is both a promise of salvation and a word of judgment. These two aspects generate in Christ the power of salvation as well as justice. Through these words Jesus healed the sick, called his disciples, judged the unbelievers and created the future. His words, but also his miracles, inspire awe. Jesus Christ himself embodies these words through the unity of his Person and his work.[xiii] Myers (1987) interprets Jesus’ incarnation as the revelation of God's most significant Word. According to the witness accounts of John 1 and Hebrews 1, Jesus is the personification of God’s Word by whom everything that exists has originated.[xiv] One can rightly infer from this that Jesus Christ embodies the integration of words and works: his word goes hand in hand with his work (Kittel, 1985). According to Medema,[xv] the Word is never proportionally theological, but fully relational and personal. This is because the truth came to man and was incarnated in Immanuel. The word that is addressed to man, therefore, is the Word itself and is itself God.
Holy Spirit: The Word of God effects a dynamic power through the activity of the Holy Spirit (1 Co 1:18). By means of this power God realizes and accomplishes concrete things. According to Louw and Nida,[xvi] λόγος (logos) and ῥῆμα (rēma) primarily refer to the contents of the communicated message of the gospel, as well as to the content of the proclamation on Jesus Christ.[xvii] Kittel (1985) continues by pointing out (using Eph 1:13) that the Holy Spirit seals those who accept God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is inseparably connected to the process of integrating the Word with works.
Church: In the New Testament, Christians constitute the church as believers who respond to the Word of salvation in all aspects of their life[xviii] and at the same time become bearers of the Word through whom God himself speaks (1 Pt 4:11). The Word however, mostly, albeit not only, entails a verbal account and proclamation about Jesus Christ. This includes the Word of the cross, of reconciliation and of grace, on life and truth – and not a mere random concept (Kittel, 1985). Life includes events and works and serves as an account of things that has been received and accomplished.[xix] When God expresses his Word verbally through man, it causes man to come alive: “Of His own will, He begot us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (Jm 1:18 ESV).
From a missio-Dei perspective, the church brings the Word of God to all people through audible words and visible works. The holy life and honorable lifestyle of believers also has the clear purpose of gaining the respect of people outside the congregation (1 Th 4:12; πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω [pros tous exō]) has the meaning of unbelievers.[xx]
Conclusion: The verbal account and proclamation of the Word does not exclude, but initiates witnessing through works, with the effect that Word and deeds together testifies of God’s healing and transforming grace. There is no tension between speaking and acting, words and works, because they are one.[xxi] The church is a community that witnesses God’s Word through its heart, voice and its hands (Dt 30:11-14; Rm 10:8-10). This is in agreement with Revelation according to `, in which the prophetic Word of God and its testimony becomes fully, tangibly real in Jesus Christ: “Receiving the word, when authentic, involves doing.” Christ is the incarnation of logos tou theou (Kittel, 1985).
The Word must be told and shown to make God and his grace known through Jesus Christ and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is why the integration of Word and works (deeds) is paramount in missiology.
The notion of the Lord’s blessing provides, from a missio-Dei point of view, a crucial perspective on the relation between Word and works. The Bible employs a variety of words to indicate God’s blessing: בְּרַך (brk), εὐλογέω (eulogeō), and μακάριος (makarios). This section will create a synthesis from the nuances, but not discuss each word separately.
According to both Old and New Testament testimonies, God’s blessing has a spiritual as well as practical application. For Wessel[xxii] this points towards the spiritual fruit (Rm 15:29; Eph 1:3) that the Gospel brought, as well as the material blessings[xxiii] through which people receive kindness and favor (Myers 1987).
The goal is to enable an individual to be, among other matters, successful, prosperous and productive, and enjoy a long-lasting life.[xxiv] According to Louw and Nida,[xxv] such a fruitful life indicates divine favor, implying that the verbal act itself constitutes a significant benefit. Beyer (1985) stresses the actively transferring this blessing through words and works. The result is to encourage the receivers and make them feel accepted; also to promote happiness and prosperity.[xxvi]
God: The Word as well as deeds are anchored in God, who is both the blessing and the One who grants or takes away the blessing. Because He alone is God, everything finds its origin with him: death and life, sickness and health. The sovereign God alone grants true freedom.
The presence of God is a blessing for creation as well as man, who, without this blessing, works in vain.[xxvii] God is a personal Being and, therefore, has the power to provide blessings.[xxviii] His blessing is a concrete indication that He wishes to grant freedom and grace. God reveals himself as the sovereign One of the universe who, in contrast to the heathen idols, wields both salvation and doom, as is said for example in Deuteronomy 32:39: “Look! I am the One! There is no other God except me. I put some people to death. I bring others to life. I have wounded, and I will heal. No one can save you from my powerful hand.”
He grants his divine blessing, which turns verbal works into a significant advantage.[xxix] The blessing of the High Priest is intended as prayer to God, asking for his presence, grace, and healing power over the spiritual and physical lives of his people.[xxx]
Adorable action: A blessing is also a means to express adoration, when people kneel in prayer and worship before God.[xxxi] In this sense, Word and deeds integrally presents the blessing God to humans.
Creation and humanity: Wright clearly demonstrates that blessings are linked closely to creation and that God’s gifts to his children are meant to be enjoyed: abundance, fruitfulness, long-lasting life, peace, and rest.[xxxii] The aim is for people to experience these blessings in the context of a healthy relationship with God and their fellow humans. God’s blessings, according to biblical testimony, is always linked to obedience and trust with regard to God and his law.[xxxiii] By appropriating the received blessings, a Christian glorifies God (Beyer, 1985).
The intention is that the greater one blesses the lesser one, in the same way that a father blesses his sons or a king bestows blessings on his subjects. Similarly, the rich are intended to bring blessing to the poor, the strong to the weak and the healthy to the sick – and so on. The main function was to grant someone a prosperous, significant, and productive life. In response, blessings are also used to express thanks and recognition to the grantor, whose gifts made possible such a prosperous, meaningful and effective life with regard to the imago Dei.[xxxiv]
According to Achtemeier et al. (1985), the wide applicability of blessings includes vitality, a healthy and long-lasting life, fertility, and plentiful offspring. By contrasting blessing with curse, these scholars clarify the intent of blessing: a curse can entail any utterance that eventually leads to death, be it sickness, childlessness, or natural or other disasters, such as drought, famine or war.
Carpenter and Comfort (2000) point out the fact that God blessed the people of Israel with rain, safety and security, the law, health, and “many other things.” According to Psalm 67, God’s people received his blessings in order to be a blessing to other nations in turn, with the ultimate aim that the whole world shall honor and fear God.
By referring to Jeremiah 29:7, Wright stresses that Israel did not only receive blessings, but had to be a blessing, even during exile among their enemies.[xxxv] By seeking prosperity for the city and praying for its inhabitants, Israel was not only a favored people, but also an instrument to bless all of humankind according to the promise God made to Abraham (Gn 12:1-3). God’s blessings include hope expressed for Israel’s future, both spiritual and in practice. At the same time, Israel was commanded to make God’s blessings visible within their context (environment) by means of their words and deeds.
Jesus Christ: When God blessed his children in Jesus Christ, the effect is related directly to the typical joy filling people’s lives as a result of Christ’s redemptive work, which signifies the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth (Beyer 1985, 760; Carpenter and Comfort 2000; Hauck, 1985). The reason is that Christ became flesh (Jn 1:14) in order for his flock to gain true life and have it in abundance (Jn 10:10). The concept of eternal life[xxxvi] does not only allude to life after death. It points to a qualitatively better life than that which one may already have inherited and experienced on earth. This happens when one truly believes in Jesus Christ.[xxxvii] For a believer, true life in abundance is analogous to a tree that is planted near a stream (Jer 17:8). Such a person can withstand the storms of life and drink from the source of God’s living water. This is the life of abundance that Jesus refers to according to John 10:10.
The unity between heart, voice and hands also becomes quite clear when martyrs are called ‘blessed’[xxxviii] because of their enduring faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s blessings poured out over humankind, and glancing forward, anticipating the redemption of heaven and earth. Christ embodies and administers God’s blessings through his atoning sacrifice. Christ’s sacrifice becomes instrumental in believers’ proclamation and ministry, which is oriented towards the eternal victory. The inseparable bond between Word and deed in God’s blessings is thus embodied in Christ.
Holy Spirit: The blessing of the Holy Spirit is in essence, inseparable, and integrally connected to the proclamation of the gospel in terms of heart, voice and hands. Wright highlights the following events: Jesus’ mission, the ascension, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Wright relates all of these to the God’s promise to Abraham of making him a blessing for all people, as part of the missio-Dei. In this process the Holy Spirit, as Paraclete, fulfills a key position in the propagation of God’s blessing to all of humankind.[xxxix] According to Psalm 104:29-30, God’s Spirit who renews creation,[xl] by uniting Word and deeds. Genesis 27 describes the blessing of Jacob and Esau, in which the Holy Spirit directly connects blessing with life. Blessings is vital to life, especially in the Old Testament times, because it relates to growth, bloom, progress, progeny, vitality, and power.[xli] Curse, on the other hand, entails the stagnation of life, crops, a lack of health and limited offspring.[xlii] The Holy Spirit is essential to connect Words to deeds, since He brings creation to life.
Therefore, God’s gives his commands and blessings in the name of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19; 2 Co 13:14). Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will glorify him by proclaiming him as God’s embodiment (Jn 16:14-15). This implies that the Holy Spirit explicitly points man towards Jesus’ victory over sin and Satan, which Jesus as the Christ achieved through his suffering, the cross, and his resurrection. Due to this victory and passion the believers already can taste victory in Christ. The Holy Spirit leads humans to experience the reality of Christ’s love, and themselves become, through their words and deeds, a channel of this love directed towards a broken world. The blessing of the Holy Spirit thus entails giving believers a joyful assurance in the present, and making them first fruits of God’s future glory.
Through this process, those who receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit become channels of the received compassion in order to bless others who are suffering in a broken world (Rm 8:23; 2 Co 1:3-7). The blessing of the Holy Spirit provides a guarantee and a foretaste of God’s great future, which moves people to become a blessing to others in all aspects of their lives (i.e. integrally). The holistic implications of the Holy Spirit’s blessings become clear in the understanding that the “whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rm 8:22).
Therefore, the conclusion can be drawn that a believer who is filled by the Holy Spirit develops a vision of the cosmic impact of the Gospel. Such a person becomes a witness of God’s blessings in terms of heart, voice and hands.
Church: From the perspective of missio-Dei, the church also fulfils an essential and holistic role in transferring God’s blessing to others. The most distinctive way in which the church expresses its faith is by blessing God visibly as well as audibly, by praising him with heart, voices and hands.[xliii]
Oswald (1980, 133) emphasizes that believers should pass on the blessings they receive from the Lord. People administer blessings by granting each other property and authority, by wishing each other the best or by praying for each other’s well-being.[xliv] This clearly demonstrates that God blesses his children with the intent that these blessings are passed on to fellow men in visible, audible, and tangible ways. In this sense, the view of Carpenter and Comfort (2000) is too limited when they state – based on Ephesians 1:3 – that blessings are not physical, but merely spiritual matters. Blessings are spiritual, but with tangible effects such as that the blessed fellow men may benefit and God be praised.
The topic of God’s blessings with a comprehensive eschatological impact often surfaces in the prophetic books. Isaiah looked forward to a time where God’s blessing would be realized in the present, rather than anticipated in the future (Is 19:23-24; 61:4-11). The blessings of the kingdom of heaven are promised to people in specific circumstances: the poor, the hungry, the mourners or those who are hated and despised.[xlv] These people already experience the arrival of the kingdom as a blessing (Mt 13:16-17). The Beatitudes in the New Testament is not only oriented towards future life or meant as a future consolidation.
Hauck (1985) rightly points out that members of the early church experienced God’s blessing in practice when they collected contributions for the congregation in Jerusalem. Paul, therefore, typifies this practical deed of unconditional love as a peace offering. Schaff on the other hand, emphasizes that one’s life cannot be blessed when it is detached from eternal life.[xlvi] The blessing of eternal life entails a complete consolidation and provides a divine perspective in this life. As a result, the church acts spiritually, physically, and materially from this perspective, with the view that those who suffer may find consolidation in a new way of living.
According to the mentioned perspective, the sacerdotal blessing of the Lord functions as indicator, imperative and a promise in this process. Henry (1996) refers to the task of the priests in correlation to the high priest’s blessing in Numbers 6:24-27. The priest has the task of functioning as God’s voice to the people and to teach, command and bless them. Whoever receives and lives the law, also receives the blessing. When 1 Peter 2:9 refers to the faithful as a priesthood, one can rightly deduce that the church, as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, were given the task to proclaim, command, and bless all people and to be a blessing – in terms of heart, voice and hands (Mt 28:18-20).
The realized promise of the blessing becomes clear in the testimony of Revelation. The visions depict scenes in which every creature in heaven and on earth, under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, is involved in praise and exaltation of him, who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb (Rev 5:11-14; cf. Beyer, 1985). “The living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to the One who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever” (Rev 4:9).
Conclusion: God’s blessings reach back before creation and stretch into the future age. The blessings are intended for both the spiritual and the physical life of believers and all that is on earth and in heaven (including the elect as children of God). The response is to praise his glorious grace, which he has given the elect freely in the One he loves (Eph 1:3-11). In this sense, believers can already experience eternal life in their heart and actualize it with their hands and voice. Paul refers to this situation as receiving the ‘first fruits’ or ‘deposit’[xlvii] of God’s eternal blessing. The church functions as God’s instrument to bring, and in effect be, this blessing to other people in his Name (Mt 25:34-46). According to the New Testament’s testimony, the church fulfills this role by proclaiming of the gospel holistically, in other words using their heart, voice and hands.
[i] The future things, or eschatology, can also be considered as sixth criterium, although it often resorts under the church’s ministry in the world. These two aspects (eschatology and ministry) can be distinguished, but not seperated.
[ii] Pop, 1984:581.
[iv] Pop, 1984:579.
[v] Cf. Procksch, 1985:508.
[vi] Pop, 1984:579, 580.
[vii] Cf. Kalland, 1980:180
[viii] Pop, 1984:581.
[ix] Gn 1:3; Ps 33:6; John 1:3.
[x] Pop, 1984:580.
[xi] Dt 27:15-26; Nm 5:22; cf. Pop, 1984:580.
[xii] Pop, 984:582.
[xiii] According to Kittel, 1985; Louw and Nida, 1996; Pop, 1984:585.
[xiv] Louw and Nida, 1996:33, 100.
[xv] Medema, 2011:56.
[xvi] Louw and Nida, 1996:33, 98.
[xvii] Louw and Nida, 1996:417.
[xviii] Pop, 1984:582.
[xix] See Mt 12:36; 18:16; Ac 8:21; Php 4:17; 1 Pt 3:15; also Louw and Nida, 1996:162.
[xx] Greeven, 1964:576; Louw and Nida, 1996:122.
[xxi] Pop, 1984:582.
[xxii] Wessel, 1986:144.
[xxiii] Cf. Heb 6:7; 12:17; 2 Co 9:5; also see Manser, 1999.
[xxiv] Oswald, 1980:132.
[xxv] Louw and Nida, 1996:442,
[xxvi] Ibid.; Thomas, 1998.
[xxvii] Cf. Ps 37:22; Pr 22:10; also see Beyer, 1985:756; Oswald, 1980:132.
[xxviii] Beyer, 1985; Paschall and Hobbs, 1972.
[xxix] Louw and Nida, 1996.
[xxx] Oswald, 1980:132.
[xxxi] Cf. 1 Kgs 8:54; 18:42; Ezra 9:5; also see Beyer, 1985; Carpenter and Comfort, 2000; Strong, 2009.
[xxxii] Wright, 2011:221.
[xxxiii] Beyer, 1971:757.
[xxxiv] Oswald, 1980:132.
[xxxv] Wright, 2011:99-100, 221.
[xxxvi] Greek: ζωὴν αἰώνιον zōēn aiōnion – Bultmann, 1964; Sasse, 1972:207.
[xxxvii] Cf. John 5:24; 6:47; 20:21.
[xxxviii] Cf. Mt 5:10; also see Hauck, 1985.
[xxxix] Wright, 2011:189.
[xl] Van den Brink and Van der Kooi, 2012:447.
[xli] According to Van den Brink and Van der Kooi, 2012:448).
[xlii] Frettlöh, 1999:55-57.
[xliii] Cf. Ps 103:1; 134:1, 2; also see Beyer, 1971:758; Manser, 1999.
[xliv] Cf. Gn 27; 48:9, 15, 20; 24:60; 31:55; 1 Sm 2:20; Acts 2:42-47; also see Easton, 1996; Myers, 1987.
[xlv] Beyer, 1985; Hauck, 1985.
[xlvi] Schaff, 1887:173.
[xlvii] Cf. Rm 8:23; 2 Co 1:22; 5:22.
- six key questions: God, creation, Jesus, Holy Spirit, church, future;
- biblical principles: 15 key concepts (and more);
- vision, fundamental objectives and strategy.
- culture, context, worldview and approach, language, belief systems;
- churches, church leaders, unbelievers, spiritual seekers;
- [more information in the book]
- [more information in the book]
- [more information in the book]