I’m calling this Bible Study “Boot Camp” for at least two reasons. First, boot camp is meant to get a man into shape. It focuses on the basics of fitness and health and is meant to train a man’s instincts. Similarly, this study is just the basics, nothing fancy, but hopefully it’s the kind of “basic” that gets in your face a little. Second, boot camp is training for service. This study rests on the assumption that God made men to die. Our glory is our strength, and that strength is meant to be spent sacrificially in obedience to Jesus until there’s nothing left. Related to this is the fact that this is what leadership actually is. And to the extent that the Christian Church is weak and worldly, this is because men in the Church are fearful, cowardly, and refuse to die. This means dying to sin, dying to fear, dying to pride, dying to pain, dying to shame, dying for the good and blessing of others, and dying ultimately all for the sake of Jesus.
Nothing But the Blood: The Straight Bloody Gospel
Paul says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)
This means at least two things: First, the gospel is the kind of good news that someone might be ashamed of. It may seem embarrassing. Secondly, the gospel is the power of God to those who believe and this runs across the most entrenched divisions in human society: Jew/Greek, male/female, Palestinian/Jew, black/white/hispanic, Democrat/Republican, rich/poor, educated/ignorant, abused/abuser, etc. And both the belief and the border crossing nature of the gospel are a good bit of what makes it tempting to be ashamed of.
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:17-18)
We know of course that Jesus did send His apostles to baptize, and Paul did baptize. But I take him here to be emphasizing the supremacy of the preached word. If we can borrow a phrase from catholic ecclesiology, the Word is the first among equals. And this is because Jesus is the Word (Jn. 1:1). But this isn’t rationalism or intellectualism – as though people are saved by diagramming sentences or reading fat theology books – because the efficacy isn’t in the rhetoric or mental gymnastics. The power is in what is preached, namely the cross of Christ. Again, Paul points out that this will appear foolish to those who are perishing, but to those who believe and are saved, it is seen clearly to be the power of God. People may be tempted to ascribe power to water, but the power is in the Word. Continue Reading…