What We Believe
Receiving God’s Word
“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also stand, through which you also are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you…For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day…and that he appeared…so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.”
I CORINTHIANS 15
Paul uses the word “receive” twice in this passage. The original word is paralambano, which means “to take to oneself”, “to seize”, “to possess”. How does a person receive or seize God’s word? Through the proclamation of the gospel message – “so we proclaim to you and so you come to believe.” – “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10.17). In John’s Gospel he tells us to “gaze” at Christ – to have Jesus fill our eyes and lives. Therefore, the foundational principal upon which any Church exists is that the gospel word is proclaimed, AND it is possessed, taken into one’s self, in faith/trust. There is no Christian church without this specific proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus for your sin. “A Christian congregation should never gather together without the preaching of God’s Word and prayer.” (Martin Luther). Receiving God’s word happens, corporately and missionally, in the weekly worship service. However, it also occurs in the “mutual consolation of the saints” – Christians fellowshipping, praying and consoling one another. To facilitate this, Emmanuel uplifts the Small Group ministry model for our congregation. Small Group ministry is one of the places where we receive God’s word, but also the context where Christians are engaged in discipleship. Small groups are the very best place, not only to hear God’s word, but to submit ourselves to God’s community and to make a deliberate step of commitment. “Gospel shaped people are enabled to form deep community, and yet, only in deep community, can we become gospel shaped people.” (Timothy Keller). Consequently receiving God’s word means much more than just attending worship services – being in a crowd. It is a holistic “seizing”, “possessing”, “taking into oneself”, of the entire scope of the gospel message, and what God is doing in the greater Tacoma community.
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
“Above all clothe yourselves with love” (Colossians 3.14). When one receives the gospel message something drastic and amazing occurs in the life of the believer: their love grows beyond the scope of their own self, desires and wishes. They begin to have a heart for God, which means to daily bow in repentance and to love the things that Jesus loves. The Greek word “love”, agape, means self sacrifice, focusing life away from narcissistic needs, and onto the power of Jesus. In a church community this manifests itself this way: “Honor one another” (Romans 12.10), “Serve one another” (Galatians 5.15), “Offer hospitality to one another” (I Peter 4.9), “Teach one another…admonish one another” (Colossians 3.16). Emmanuel’s Small Group ministry is intended for this very purpose, and we believe that a person cannot completely experience the full scope of God’s purpose outside of this transformative communal commitment. This, along with audible proclamation, dynamically communicates the gospel message to the world around us – the world Jesus calls us to serve.
“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
I Samuel 12
Inevitably, perhaps spontaneously, a gospel centered heart will have deep passion for those who do not profess faith in Jesus Christ. That is, Christians will serve the world around them, and in so doing, serve not just the world, but the Lord himself. The gospel is not opposed to the world, and Christians are not called to retreat from the world. Conversely, God loves the world (John 3.16), and commands us to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28). We honor the gospel, and honor Jesus, when we show Christ’s love to the needy. The Christian church should have an overwhelming fire of desire for others to know Jesus and the gospel. Therefore, we should speak the word to them, AND take our money, time and effort and serve the world so that they may know the peace of God (Philippians 4.7). “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29).