Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Gospel According To Sze Zeng, Peter & Paul

In yesterday's post, I highlighted an excerpt of Sze Zeng's article on NCC's building project where he said NCC "don't know what is a church and the gospel". In that article, Sze Zeng also provided a link to a 19/9/2008 article which he wrote, entitled "What is the Gospel?"

I append below Sze Zeng's conclusion in the 19/9/2008 article:

So now we know that the character of the Gospel, as we have seen, is not some vague divine messages. Neither is it some ‘prosperity’, ‘health and wealth’, or ‘hyper-grace’ news that guarantees emotional, psychological, monetary, or materialistic fulfilment in the first place.

The Gospel is first and foremost the reckoning of the presidential sovereign of Jesus. In St. Peter and St. Paul’s word, the Gospel is, “Jesus is Lord” (Acts 10.36, Romans 10.9, 2 Corinthians 4.5). In today’s term, it is, “Jesus is Prime Minister/President”.

The new order of God, which is personified in Jesus, is directed to liberate the socially and religiously marginalized people in the society, and among each individual within it. It concerns social justice and the whole community at large.

We do not have evident that shows Jesus to concern over individual financial aspiration or constraints. Neither do we have contextually-interpreted texts recording his promises of good health and abundant wealth to his disciples. His healings are not merely for the well being of individuals but the signs of his authority as the delegate who launched God’s agenda into the world.

The disarming love that underlies God’s agenda uncovers the significance and power for society to advance hope, peace, and love. Yet this love never stops critiquing and challenging individuals by its object of a crucified and resurrected Messiah of how such advancement can and should be done.

Therefore any ancient or present-day Gospel that is emptied of the message as exemplified through Jesus’ life and ministry, that Gospel is not the jargon of the Christian community as understood historically and through the church tradition. (Galatians 1.6-9)

"Coincidentally" Pastor Lawrence preached today on what the Gospel is. He began by quoting Romans 1:16-17 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”"

The Gospel is about God revealing to us His righteousness and that we receive His righteousness through faith in Jesus. Peter and Paul showed us what the Gospel is through their preaching:

Acts 10:34-43 (NKJV)
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom theye]">[e] killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.

Peter preached that whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins (v43). At that point, when Peter was still speaking those words to Cornelius and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and the Jews who witnessed this were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles too (Acts 10:44-45).

The Holy Spirit could not even wait for Peter to finish preaching his sermon and fell upon Cornelius and his household just when Peter was telling them that whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins but Acts 13:16-41 records a full sermon preached by Paul.

In that sermon, Paul also preached the same thing - whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins - "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." (vv38-39)

"‘prosperity’, ‘health and wealth’" and "emotional, psychological, monetary, or materialistic fulfilment" are just the effects of believing the Gospel of Christ and should not be confused with being the Gospel.

This is the Gospel - through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. This is what NCC preaches and we are not ashamed of it!


Sze Zeng said...

Hi Stanley,

That's precisely why I think NCC's teaching of the gospel is not complete and misleading. NCC's teaching is always centered on St. Paul but dont really have any idea what to do with the 'gospel' proclaimed in the 3 synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke).

Unless we can understand the synoptic, we should not extrapolate St.Paul's teaching as if it overshadows or provides a frame to understand the former 3.

In fact it should be the other way around. St. Paul's teaching should be read under the framework of the 3 gospels. The reason is obvious. The 3 gospels are the narrative of Jesus' works and words. Even Acts is a continuous work of Luke. And St. Paul's works and dealing in his letters are responding to the works and words of Jesus. So St Paul's understanding should be understood together with the synoptics.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

It should be noted that Paul received his revelations direct from the Christ who had died on the cross, was buried and now risen.

1 Cor 11:23-24 (NLT)
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”

Paul expounded on the last supper even though he was not physically present and he said he received his revelation from the Lord himself, not from Peter or the other disciples who were present with Jesus that night.

Paul himself said in Gal 1:11-12 that he received the gospel direct from the risen Christ.

Gal 1:11-12 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

When we read the words of Paul, we should adopt the same attitude as the Thessalonians who accepted Paul's words as the very word of God.

1 Thess 2:13 (NLT)
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.

Paul's revelations from the risen Christ as revealed in his epistles helps us to better understand the context of the synoptic gospels which mostly records the words and works of Jesus before the cross.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Stanley,

Don't get me wrong. I dont mean that St Paul's gospel is secondary or inferior compared to the pillars in Jerusalem (Gal 2.9).

My suggestion is this:

When we want to understand what did St Paul mean in his letters we have to ask a few questions first. Unless we ask these few questions, we will very likely misunderstand St Paul. That is because St Paul's letters are not written to you or me or Joseph Prince who are living in the 21st century, globalized South East Asia.

Imagine a friend passed you a letter written by an ancient Greek named Augustus to his companions in Athens about their god Zeus. And you start reading it to see if there is any relevance to you in this time, in your context. When we read St Paul's letters, we are doing something like that.

So the few questions that we need to ask are:

What was St Paul's main concern in his letters?

What were the questions that St Paul was answering in his letters?

Who were the immediate audience of St Paul's letters?

And if you read Acts, you will see that St Paul's teaching of the gospel is different when his audiences are different. When he was with the Jews, he talked about being justified from the law (Acts 13.39). Whenever St Paul talked about 'the law', he was usually talking to Jews because the gentiles or pagans wouldn't know and didn't care about Jews' law, in the same way you would't care about the Syariah law.

And compared how St Paul talked to the Jews with the way he talked to non-Jews in Act 17.22-33. In his sermon to the non-Jews, he doesn't preach about justification from the law. He talked about Jesus being the appointed King, who will bring the world into and under his order soon.

And the question here is this: Are you a Jew or a non-Jew?

If you are a non-Jew, then how would you have perceived St Paul's message as a non-Jew? You wouldn't care about the law or share the Jews' struggles for justification in the same way you wouldn't care about the Syariah law.

Yet though St Paul preached different message with different emphases to different audience, we can still see the converging point in his message: Jesus is the appointed messiah whose resurrection from the dead has vindicated his claims as the Ruler of the world. Those Jews and their sympathizers who are under the law are justified by believing in him. Those non-Jews who don't know about the law are overlooked (Acts 17.30), but now required to submit themselves to Jesus as their King.

Sze Zeng said...

And i think i have to also make clear that I didn't have NCC in mind when I wrote about those teachings on prosperity. I've sufficiently familiar with Joseph Prince's teaching as I spend many hours reading his book. Sometimes I read a chapter a few times to make sure I get what he means.

And I dont think NCC teach antinomism as others think.


Thy Word Is Truth said...

You know JP and NCC clearly teaches this false "Gospel" below:

"Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour will not only save you from sin and hell, but also give to you health, joy, peace, love, hope, unconditional acceptance, favour, the power to get wealth, all good things you can think of and more."

eekpil said...

Why would proclaiming that "Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour will not only save you from sin and hell, but also give to you health, joy, peace, love, hope, unconditional acceptance, favour, the power to get wealth, all good things you can think of and more" be tantamount to preaching a false "Gospel"?

Would you agree that Jesus Christ is:
- the Lord who is able and willing to heal;
- the joy of all the Earth;
- the Prince of Peace,
- God's perfect love personified;
- our hope of glory
- the beloved in whom we are accepted;
- the Lord who enables us to be able and willing to give (in terms of material possessions, time, efforts, love) generously to help others;
- the source of all good things

The way I see it, receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior means that I also receive Him as my Lord of ALL, my Savior to whom I turn to for any and every kind of challenges I face in life.

When I say that take Jesus as my EVERYTHING, I mean just that: EVERYTHING - including health, joy, peace, love, hope, unconditional acceptance, favour, the ability to be generous with others (with our time, our energy, our material possessions), and all good things I can ever ask or think.

So, in that sense, I really don't see what's wrong with the statement.

Would you like to point out which portion(s) of the statement you find problematic or false?

Thy Word Is Truth said...

When anyone declares a "gospel" inviting one come to Jesus to get "favour, the power to get wealth, all good things you can think of and more.", one declares a false gospel and a false christ.


"It's idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God it starts to get from something else.So covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God. Or: losing your contentment in God so that you start to seek it elsewhere. Covetousness is a heart divided between two gods. So Paul calls it idolatry. "

God is to be magnified by the offensive and "foolishness" nature of true Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is to be desired above ALL, Christ is to be desired above ALL. God chose the foolish Gospel of a despised and suffering Christ. God sovereignly by grace draws and calls a sinner to come to Christ by allowing the sinner to see the beauty of the Cross of Christ. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1Cor 1:18, 20.

When one comes to Jesus Christ, one comes to Jesus Christ ALONE. When one comes to seek $$$, one come to a false Christ or an "idolatry" offering the prospect of $$$.

This "gospel" from JP and NCC is the sad perversion of true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The false "gospel" from JP and NCC robbed Christ of His due glory. "Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour will not only save you from sin and hell, but also give to you health, joy, peace, love, hope, unconditional acceptance, favour, the power to get wealth, all good things you can think of and more."

eekpil said...

Thy Word Is Truth,

We all go through different stages in our walk with God, don't we?

I don't know about you, but I did not start out my faith walk with Jesus because I had a pure heart that appreciated Him and Him alone, without any trace of selfishness. No. I started my walk with God like a typical self-centered child, who thought only about what I needed and wanted. I wanted to be saved. I wanted to enjoy heaven. I wanted God to hear and answer my prayers. It was all about ME AND MY BLESSINGS.

As I matured more in the Lord, I began to think more about how I can be a blessing to others. I started to find ways to serve and to give to people - first just within the church community, and eventually beyond the church to the society/ world at large. It became more about OTHERS AND HOW I COULD BE A BLESSING TO THEM.

After coming to NCC (in late 2002)and sitting under the ministry of Pastor Prince, I began to see more and more of how beautiful Jesus is in and of Himself, and I started to really appreciate how truly amazing His grace is. As I learned more and more about the goodness and generosity of my Savior and Lord - Who not only blesses me but also allow me the privilege of being a blessings to others, my focus started to be more and more on Him alone. More and more, it is about JESUS AND ONLY JESUS.

From being purely self-occupied, to being more others-occupied, to being more and more Christ- occupied, it has been a journey for me.

I don't claim speak for every believer, but at least for myself, and for many believers that I know personally in NCC, our faith walks are a journey we are taking, and along this journey of faith, NCC has played and is playing an important role in helping us becoming less self-occupied, less others-occupied, but more Christ occupied. :)

eekpil said...

Thy Word Is Truth,

I would really want to encourage you to see "wealth" and "prosperity" not just in terms of money and material possessions.

If you find those two words offensive, may I suggest we use the phrase "more than enough for ourselves that we may give generously to others". How about that? :)

I don't have a million dollars in my bank accounts. But I believe I have more than enough to give to others. And because I believe so, I give generously.

If and when I find myself facing financial challenges (which I had, several times in my life), I continue to hold on to the truth that the Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want. I continue to be generous in my giving because I truly believe that I have more than enough because Jesus Christ is my Shepherd.

(Note: I am not giving you mere theoretical arguments here. I am sharing my life and how I actually live it. If you so demand, I will gladly provide you with the evidences of my giving of money and time to churches and various charitable organizations over the years)

Man has his needs and desires. Every Man seeks to be satisfied. Every Man seeks to blessed with good things. Man, by his very nature, covets.

How would you address this problem of Man's covetousness?

I suggest the solution is to point man to Christ. Because in Christ, every need and desire of Man is fully met.

I believe what Man really covets is the Presence of Christ. And honestly, I don't see anything wrong with me coveting the Presence of Christ, do you?

eekpil said...

A person may see NCC as MAN-focused: always preaching about MY blessing of health, MY blessing of wealth, My blessings - it's all about ME, ME, ME.

But to another person who has been with the church for some time, and whose life has been transformed by the appreciate of the preaching of Christ and the message of grace and righteousness, he sees NCC as CHRIST-focused: always preaching about CHRIST'S blessing of health, CHRIST'S blessing of more than enough to enable us to be generous, CHRIST'S blessings - it's all about CHRIST, CHRIST, CHRIST.

Similar facts based on observation, but totally different conclusions, because of the different perspectives taken, and the level of understanding and appreciation of the church and the messages preached.

Interesting, isn't it? :)

Stanley Wong said...

Hi ThyWordIsTruth,

Suppose you bought a ticket to watch a live concert of your favourite singer. When you presented your ticket to the attendant at the entrance of the concert hall, he gave you a limited edition T-shirt featuring the picture of your favourite singer.

So the point is this:
Your main purpose for buying the ticket to the concert is to listen to your favourite singer sing but it so happens that the ticket also came with the free gift of a limited edition T-shirt. Is it fair for someone else to accuse you of buying the ticket just because you wanted to have the T-shirt?

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi Stanley,
Your story though humorous is irrelevant as a analogy to explain the perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by JP and NCC.

The Jesus Christ whom ALL flesh (both true believers and those who not believers and those whom claimed to be "believers" but never believed) and angels will have to knee and bow and confess He is The Lord of Lords and King of Kings said:

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You CANNOT serve God and money." Mat 6:19-24

If you honestly discern the Lord's words, you can hear: Did you came for me truly ? or You came because I fed you once and you came thinking I can give you things like fish and bread. Did You really came to seek me truly and submit to me ? or you came because you thought I can give you health and wealth and $$$.

My friend, stay true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which I think you know and believe.


Bobby said...

Hi Thy-Word-is-Truth,
My aged uneducated mother goes to church (a BP church) because she wants to go to heaven when she dies. We have explained to her the gospel, Jesus, His love, salvation, etc. Notwithstanding, she still tells everyone that she wants to go to heaven and she is afraid to go to hell, so she goes to church. So, tell me, is my mother saved? She goes to church driven by fear or should I say because of a need. This is not about money. What say you?

Thy Word Is Truth said...

Hi LipKee,
I appreciate your attempt to share your experiences, I do not intend to cast aspersion on your experiences.

The issue is at hand is the perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The sad perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as typified by the teaching from JP's book below, how can any Christian who truly believe and love the Gospel of Jesus Christ not feel grieve and rightly conclude that "NCC as MAN-focused: always preaching about MY blessing of health, MY blessing of wealth, My blessings - it's all about ME, ME, ME." ??

"My friend, the moment you are born again, you have Jesus in your life. And when you have Him in your life, get ready to prosper for gold will come to you! But don’t look for the gold, look to Jesus - He is the power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18) The presence of the Son of the living God in your life attracts prosperity. Because of His grace toward us, Jesus though He was rich, was made poor at the cross for your sake so that “you through His poverty might become rich.

Beloved, when you have Jesus in your life and when you know that He has paid the price for your prosperity, you can boldly declare, “Jesus was made poor at the cross for my sake so that through His poverty, I am made rich in all things!” - Joseph Prince, ‘Rich Through Jesus’ Poverty’, in id., Destined To Reign Devotional: Daily reflections for effortless success, wholeness and victorious living (Singapore, 22 Media Pte. Ltd., 2008), p. 357.

Look through the whole devotional yourself, JP is NOT talking about spiritual wealth, it is clearly MATERIAL WEALTH and MATERIAL PROSPERITY.

Did your Lord Jesus, at the garden in Gethsemane, agonized and shuddered at accepting the cup the Father has asked Him to so that Jesus "paid the price for your prosperity"? This is a FALSE gospel presentation and a false Christ is being presented.

Anyone who truly love the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Savior will reject this sad perversion of the Gospel.

The Gospel is the power unto salvation to be preached for the conversion of sinful souls of men and women to repent and turn to Jesus Christ for their only hope for eternity to be with their Creator, do NOT pervert it !


Daughter Of Sarah said...

Bob - she is in Christ regardless. Jesus knows her heart and know what she blv more than we do. Amen? =) I am sure He will bring her revelation in time to come. Amen.

T.W.I.Truth -

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You CANNOT serve God and money." Mat 6:19-24

What is meant here is that you can either love God or money more. NCCs sermons do not exalt money or materialism above Christ.

The focus is Christ, our all-in-all, as Stan tried to point out, the provision comes because of the grace Jesus brings to our life.

And His blessings bring with them no sorrow because Jesus knows just how much we can handle in terms of blessings before it becomes a burden and a curse. For those who are good stewards and who are willing to part with the cash anytime to advance God's Kingdom, they might be bless more. But for those who hold wealth in high regards, who hold position in career in high regards = higher than their regard and priority for Christ, until they can learn to be good stewards & love Jesus first, the blessings might skirt them for longer.

Many of us come to Jesus because we delight ourselves in Him not because we delight ourselves in His gifts. It is not fair to suppose that we are a covetuous lot who perceive the sermons covetuously.

The sermons are not about money as i said, they are about Jesus's victory on the cross and the glory of Christ. But if a person has a deepseated passion for money over Christ inside his heart already, he will hear what he wants to hear- $$$. But to one who doesn't focus on $$$ what they see first and foremost is Christ.

And because we sit at his feet, passionate to drink in His Word, we need not fear not being provided for. Jesus could have just not fed the crowds. If they were there to hear His Word, they should happily starve physically. But He fed them spiritually and physically. God knows our needs in all areas and He is our provider in every area too. He won't feed stone to his kids if they ask for bread. (And in no way am I saying we should all be asking to be millionaires- our prayer is Your will be done according to Your victory on the Cross, I believe you mean to cause me to be in a better place in each area of my life. Thank you Abba Father that your Word has declared that the path of the righteous grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day. AMEN!)

Daughter Of Sarah said...

SZ: Regarding, "And I dont think NCC teach antinomism as others think." - Thank you for sharing that pov with us.

eekpil said...

Thy Word Is Truth,

I believe that because I have Jesus in my life, I have the power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18). I believe and I boldly proclaim that "Jesus was made poor at the cross for my sake so that through His poverty, I am made rich in ALL THINGS" - not merely spiritual or material, but ALL things - both spiritual and material.

Now, do you therefore conclude that I am a lover and servant of money? Do you therefore consider me as a lesser (or even false) believer? Do you therefore see me as someone who perverts the gospel?

Or would you reserve your comments about me until you get to know me better as a person, until you see how I relate to people and conduct my daily affairs, until you see the fruit (or lack of fruit) in my life?

The Jesus I know did not MERELY speak about spiritual blessings only. The Jesus I know taught me to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and ALL THESE THINGS (material blessings) will be added upon me.

Similarly, NCC does not merely teaches about spiritual blessings only. NCC teaches the congregation to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and and ALL THESE THINGS (material blessings) will be added upon them.

As I've written previously, two different persons may observe the same facts about NCC and read the same words written by Pastor Prince, but arrive at totally different conclusions about the church.

After having served with the pastors, leaders and other members in the church for more than 5 years, my personal conclusion is "NCC is CHRIST-focused: always preaching about CHRIST'S blessings of health, CHRIST'S blessing of wealth, CHRIST'S blessings - it's all about CHRIST, CHRIST, CHRIST."

Stanley Wong said...

"NCC is CHRIST-focused: always preaching about CHRIST'S blessings of health, CHRIST'S blessing of wealth, CHRIST'S blessings - it's all about CHRIST, CHRIST, CHRIST."


Daughter Of Sarah said...