Grace Areas w/ Dan Rogers
Welcome to the Gospel Reverb podcast. Gospel Reverb is an audio gathering for preachers, teachers, and Bible thrill seekers. Each month, our host, Anthony Mullins, will interview a new guest to gain insights and preaching nuggets mined from select passages of scripture, and that month’s Revised Common Lectionary.
The podcast’s passion is to proclaim and boast in Jesus Christ, the one who reveals the heart of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And now onto the episode.
Anthony: Hello friends and welcome to the latest episode of Gospel Reverb. Gospel Reverb is a podcast devoted to bringing you insights from Scripture found in the Revised Common Lectionary and sharing commentary from a Christ-centered and Trinitarian view.
I’m your host, Anthony Mullins, and it’s my delight to welcome our guest, Dr. Dan Rogers. Dan is the pastor of Grace Communion Las Vegas and is a professor at Grace Communion Seminary. And until his retirement, he served as the U.S. Superintendent of Ministers for Grace Communion International. And Dan earned a Ph.D. from Union University.
Dan, welcome back to the podcast. And as you are a seminary professor of homiletics, which is the art of preaching, my question for you is this, as we get started, what advice would you give to preachers who desire to take their proclamation of the gospel to a new level?
[00:01:29] Dan: Thank you, first of all, Anthony, for having me on the podcast today, and thank you for that question. Because the first thing I would recommend is to take the homiletics and preaching class at Grace Communion Seminary. That’s a shameless plug, but very important, and I’m very serious in recommending that.
But in addition to that, I would recommend several things. Most preachers know a lot of research and study is necessary to produce a good sermon. However, prayer should never be overlooked nor relegated to a minor role. I think we probably all pray for inspiration upon our preaching, but we should not forget to pray for proper understanding of the pericope we’re going to preach.
We should pray that what we will say will be accurate and truthful, faithful to the meaning of God’s word. We should also pray for the hearing of the word, that people would hear in the message what God wants them to hear, as God wants them to hear it. We should pray as well that God will empower and motivate a response to the preaching, so that hearers can and will apply what they hear into their lives.
And also, of course, pray that God may be glorified by what is preached. But let me emphasize, I think, what is a much-needed point here. I urge all of us as preachers to preach with intensity and passion. And often when I listen to sermons, including my own, I feel that we have not preached with a passion that is appropriate.
And when I say that, preach with a passion of the text, not your own worked up emotion. Bring the written word of life with the passion, emotion, and feelings of the inspired human author. If you’re preaching from the apostle Paul, he’s encouraging, he’s sad, he’s happy, he’s exhorting, he uses diatribe, rhetoric, sarcasm, anger, and that needs to come through in the preaching of the text from the apostle Paul, as well as other writers of the New Testament.
So, I would just say, participate with the Holy Spirit in passionately calling for a response to God’s word and transformation in the lives of the hearers.
[00:03:58] Anthony: What I hear you saying is there should be integrity. That what we say matches the written word that’s been shared to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
I’m reminded of what Charles Spurgeon said, “It’s not a sermon till we get to Jesus.” It may be a great talk, may be professional, but Jesus is the point. of the sermon.
So, let’s move on to the lectionary passages. That’s why we’ve gathered here today to talk about the four texts in front of us for the month of January.
Mark 1:4-11, “We’re Not Worthy”
John 1:43-51, “Come and See”
Mark 1:14-20, “Follow Me”
1 Corinthians 8:1-13, “Grace Areas”
Let’s pivot to the first pericope of the month. It’s Mark 1:4-11. I’ll be reading from the New Revised Standard Version, the updated edition, which is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Baptism of the Lord on January 7.
So, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with] the Holy Spirit.” 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. 11 And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Dan, why was Jesus baptized? And what are the theological implications of his baptism?
[00:06:08] Dan: Anthony, I’m glad this program is several hours long, so I can answer your questions fully. But seriously, I’ll try to give brief answers, but please realize these answers in no way will be exhaustive. Jesus’ baptism is often viewed as Jesus acting in solidarity with the people of Judea, as an example for his followers or as an anointing to his offices as prophet, priest, and king at the beginning of his ministry.
But the theological implications of his baptism are that it was a vicarious baptism on our behalf, done in our place and in which we vicariously participate. It was an act of substitution and exchange.
Jesus shared in our fallen humanity and was baptized into repentance, but it was not his own repentance of his own sins, but his repentance on our behalf. We could never repent totally and sufficiently, so he repented on our behalf. Jesus took our fallen nature, our sins upon himself, and gave us his righteousness in a great exchange.
He received the Holy Spirit and his humanity on our behalf, and heaven opened to us, and Jesus stood before the Father for us. He took what was ours and made it his, and he took what was his and made it ours. He united himself to us in an unbreakable bond and union. And as did Jesus in union with him, we now stand before the Father as his beloved child.
[00:07:54] Anthony: There’s the gospel. What do you make of God the Father’s, or this voice from heaven acknowledgment, affirmation, and blessing of the Son?
[00:08:04] Dan: In the Old Testament, Adam is called the Son of God. The nation of Israel is called the Son of God. David is God’s kingly son, and Isaiah refers to the suffering servant as God’s chosen and whom he delights and upon whom he has put his Spirit.
Now, Mark’s quoting the words of the Father at the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of Jesus ministry, echo these Old Testament identifications with the idea that they’re all fulfilled in Jesus, God’s true, unique son. The statement also identifies Jesus as God.
In Hebraic, though, the expression son of does not always mean a male child of the father. Its connotation is one having the qualities or attributes of. Now, when Jesus called James and John, for example, the sons of thunder, he meant that they were loud and outspoken. So being God’s Son meant Jesus had the qualities and attributes of God. So, in our pericope, we have God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, all actively involved in the baptism of Jesus.
You can say, it was a Trinitarian thing.
[00:09:28] Anthony: It was a Trinitarian thing. And I want to remind our listeners that it’s Christ’s love that leads us to repentance and just keep that in mind as you preach. God doesn’t seem to be too fond of guilt trips. It’s his love that draws us. to him. Hallelujah. Praise God.
Let’s move on to our next passage for the month. It’s John 14:3-51. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the second Sunday after Epiphany, which falls on January 14. Dan, we’d be grateful if you’d read it for us, please.
[00:10:01] Dan: All right. I’d be happy to.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
[00:11:23] Anthony: There’s quite a lot in this text, Dan. So, let me ask you this, if you were preaching this sermon, what would be the focus of your sermon?
[00:11:31] Dan: I think a good title for a sermon on this text might be, Who is Jesus and Have You Seen Him? This is a pericope for the season of Epiphany, and Epiphany means revelation.
In other words, seeing something you haven’t seen before. The first chapter of the fourth Gospel begins with revelation and then a series of accounts witnessing to who Jesus is. Now the character of Nathanael is told by his friend Philip to come and see Jesus, who he believes is the Messiah. Now based on some facts and some prejudice, Nathanael doubts who Jesus is.
But upon seeing Jesus and hearing from Jesus, Nathaniel accepts that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. So, a point to bring out is that a conversation with a friend, even a doubting one, and an invitation to come and see Jesus and hear his message can lead to a doubter becoming a believer. Lesson: go and tell your friends about Jesus.
[00:12:43] Anthony: So, that really does touch on the next question, and you’re already digging into this. So, with the fact of “come and see,” it’s a repeated phrase, not just in this pericope [but] other passages in scripture. So, what more would you want to say about it? And is there any sort of relationship, a symmetry to the notion of go and tell?
[00:13:04] Dan: Come and see is such a seemingly innocuous but important phrase. Come is an invitation; it’s a welcome. And when you think about it, most Christian experience begins with an invitation from a previous believer. To someone who is seeking to come and see, to come and see means to experience this for yourself.
It’s when you experience Christ for yourself that you become a believer, but that usually follows an invitation from a believer who has gone to you and given you a message and an invitation to come and see. We see examples in the New Testament, such as the women at Jesus tomb, the Samaritan woman at the well, and in our text of Mark here, Philip going to Nathaniel.
The point? What does it mean? How does it relate? Tell people to come and see. Go and tell folks to come and see.
[00:14:08] Anthony: I’m going to invite our listeners to come and see our next pericope of the month. It’s Mark 1:14-20. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the third Sunday after Epiphany, which falls on January 21.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
So, Dan, if I can phrase it this way, what is the big idea of this particular passage?
[00:15:17] Dan: A big idea here is, it gives a concrete example of commitment to the ministry of Jesus, to participating with Jesus in his ministry.
Now, this directly applies today to those who know they’ve received a calling to, whatever you want to call it, the ordained ministry, the professional ministry. But some believe they’ve really been called to that kind of ministry, and they have to think about it, and what that entails, and what that means about the future of their lives.
But it also applies to all of us, as we all participate in many ways in the ongoing ministry of Jesus. So, when Jesus calls us to do something, we need to respond because it’s our time. It’s as Mark would say, immediately. It’s our time to receive and respond to God’s call.
Ministry and discipleship may call for us to leave a job, leave property, even sadly, sometimes leave family if need be. And we have to consider our response.
We can either run away from our calling as Jonah did in the Old Testament, or we can respond as Peter, Andrew, James, and John did to Jesus’ call for us to participate with him in his ministry.
[00:16:46] Anthony: Each time I read Mark’s Gospel account, I’m just struck by the speed and urgency of the storytelling. The word immediately, which you’ve already referred to, shows up numerous times in the book and in today’s text.
Even to the point where James and John leave their daddy in the boat, right? What’s behind the urgency of Mark’s telling of the Gospel story?
[00:17:09] Dan: Over half the uses of the word immediately in the entire New Testament are found in the very short Gospel of Mark. Now, there are several theories as to why Mark uses the word immediately so many times.
For example, one is, Mark was young and impetuous. Two, he prefers action over teaching. And three, he was a lousy writer. His Greek is unimpressive with lots of problems in syntax and transitions. But to give Mark some credit, he’s actually a better writer than some would give him credit for being. His purpose is to identify Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
He begins his short Gospel that way, and he ends it that way. Now, in between, his style produces a sense of urgency. He writes deliberately to that end. For Mark, the time has come. The kingdom of God has come near, and so he wants his readers to understand we need to get ready and respond now, immediately.
[00:18:24] Anthony: Let’s immediately move to our final passage of the month. It’s 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany, on January 28.
Dan, we’d be grateful if you’d read it for us, please.
[00:18:41] Dan: I’d be happy to. Chapter 8, beginning in verse 1 of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes:
Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, 3 but anyone who loves God is known by him. 4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11 So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister for whom Christ died is destroyed. 12 But when you thus sin against brothers and sisters and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never again eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
[00:21:04] Anthony: So, looking back through this pericope, the very first verse says that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Knowledge is generally revered, and certainly something we all seek. So, help us understand what Paul is really getting at with this statement, Dan.
[00:21:23] Dan: Okay the Christians in the city of Corinth were blessed with many spiritual gifts. But sadly, this had gone to their heads and caused division in the congregation. Now, one of the gifts, evidently, was the gift of knowledge. The Greek word is gnosis. And it appears to [have] become a popular catch word for the Corinthians.
Now, at least some, evidently, had come to believe that their special knowledge gave them rights and freedoms to act and behave as they wanted. Paul points out that their knowledge really is only partial, and that the basis of Christian conduct is not knowledge but love, as Paul goes on to say in chapter 13 of first Corinthians. “If I understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I am nothing now.”
In other words, if you know that the monarchy of the Trinity is located in the being of God, not in the persons of God, and you understand the perichoresis, the homoousion, and the hypostatic union, and that there is no lacuna in the prolepsis of the eschaton, but that the eschatological Parousia is certain, but you judge and tell me that because I don’t understand that, that I’m a stupid disciple and not worthy of being called a Christian … you just might be a Corinthian! (Apologies there to Jeff Foxworthy.)
[00:22:55] Anthony: As I’m looking at verse nine, Dan, thinking about just what you said. You could have all this knowledge, theological jargon, but if you abuse the liberties that you have and it becomes a stumbling block to others, that’s problematic to God. And I just want to ask you, is there any way that you can contextualize that in the modern day?
Maybe things that you see where we are taking liberty, that is actually becoming a stumbling block to others. Any words that you would say there?
[00:23:32] Dan: Yeah, I would put it this way. If I were giving a sermon and after I had exegeted this pericope, I would probably come back and say something to the effect that, what do we learn from the apostle Paul in this passage?
Some Christians, perhaps relatively new to the faith, though intellectually they knew and understood the gospel, were still subjectively and by habit tied into their old ideas and ways. We can see this today. We see Christians, maybe even ourselves, we say, cross your fingers, or knock on wood, or here’s wishing you good luck. And now we know objectively that those things are superstitions, but it’s a part of our culture, and we still subjectively use those terms.
But so, how should we, as church leaders and senior members of a congregation, act and behave toward folks, especially those who are new? What kind of examples should be set? Paul would admonish the leaders and senior members to be careful. Now what about us? Are we conscious and aware of how our example as church leaders and senior members affect those who are new to our congregations?
What about our example? Now, not in matters of indifference, but in matters that might mislead and hurt new attendees. Might we even lead them into sin by our attitude and conduct?
On one level, what if we knew that some new attendees, because of their former religion or church, believed that it was a sin to eat pork? Would we invite them over to our house or have a fellowship meal at church that offered only pork? Would that be a good way to educate them and break them in?
But even more seriously, and right along the lines of what Paul is talking about in our passage, let me give this example—because what Paul is really talking about is eating meat sacrificed to idols, but eating it at the pagan temple.
Now we’ve got to remember that the pagan temples in those days were kind of their versions of what we might call a restaurant. In other words, if you wanted to get a good steak, where would you go? You’d go down to the local pagan temple because that’s where the animals were slaughtered and butchered and cooked and served as meals. And the community would go there, and they would eat and of course they would have the dancing girls, the prostitutes, the idols and all of that. But hey, it was a good meal.
So let me give this example. It’s something that came to mind while I was watching the TV show The Big Bang Theory. Now, in that show, there’s a character named Barry Kripke.
And Barry likes to invite new acquaintances and new colleagues to have dinner with him at a buffet that has excellent food and is very affordable. Now, the buffet is located in the local strip club. So, what if a church leader or senior church member invited a new attendee to a meal at a strip club? The leader or member could argue they only go there for the food, and they have the character not to look at anything else.
Some in Corinth are making much the same argument about going to a pagan temple for a meal. Now, would any of us do that to a new member? God forbid! We could very well be leading someone into sin, even an addiction, by our so-called freedom and our belief in our own character.
Let’s realize that God has called us to follow and imitate Christ. We’re to walk as he walked; we’re to follow Paul as he followed Christ. Others should be able to follow us as we follow Paul. And as we follow Christ, it’s not about us. It’s not about our freedom. It’s not about our knowledge. It’s about love and concern for others, and we need to realize the importance of setting a right example for other people, of being a light set on a stand, of being a city set on a hill for all to see.
So, what should we do? We should spiritually discipline ourselves and let our example shine. And be a light and a guide to others, because that is love, and the greatest of all gifts is not knowledge. The greatest of all gifts is love. God has all knowledge, but God is love, and we are his children in communion with the Holy Spirit and in union with Christ.
So, what should we do? Let’s grow up to be like our Father and let us grow in love.
[00:28:55] Anthony: Hallelujah and amen.
Pastors, I want to remind you that God could have chosen angels or any other thing he’s created to preach the gospel. But he chose the weak who can sympathize with the weak. He’s chosen you pastors, you preachers, you teachers. Thank you for your labor of love and Christ’s service.
Dan, I want to thank you for participating in the many ways that you have. Thank you for your insights here today. I have no doubt there are nuggets that our preachers are going to be able to take away from our discussion here today. So, thank you so very much for your labor of love.
And I want to thank three people who helped make this podcast possible. Reuel Enerio, David McKinnon, and Elizabeth Mullins. They’re a great team and I certainly could not do this without them.
As is our tradition here on Gospel Reverb, we like to end with prayer. And Mr. Rogers, if you would we’d be grateful for your prayer over our listening audience here today.
[00:30:00] Dan: I’d be happy to, Anthony.
And let me, first of all, say thank you for the job you do on Gospel Reverb. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I think you do a wonderful job here, and I really enjoy listening to all of your programs. And thank you for allowing me to be a part of them.
So, if you join me now in prayer.
Our great God and Father in heaven, we come to you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit to praise and to worship you and to realize it is all about you.
And our preaching and our teaching and in everything we do, it’s about you, and it’s about love. Love God and love others, that fulfills everything you’ve asked of us as humans to do.
God, we need your help. We need your power. We need you in our lives. We need to participate with you through the Spirit to bring this about. But God, we trust in you and your faithfulness to do this for us.
Thank you for your word. Help us to rightly understand it, rightly preach it, rightly teach it, and rightly live by it. And let us interpret it all through the lens of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, who is our epiphany, who is the one who reveals to us your way, your word, and your being. So, we give you thanks and praise, and ask your blessing, and give you great thanks in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
Thank you for being a guest of Gospel Reverb. If you like what you heard, give us a high rating and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast content. Share this episode with a friend. It really does help us get the word out as we are just getting started. Join us next month for a new show and insights from the RCL. Until then, peace be with you!