Morning Mashup 09/07


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Start your Labor Day off right with a mashup of articles for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


How Andy Mineo’s “You Can’t Stop Me” Became Baseball’s Top Walk-Up Song – Andy Mineo’s “You Can’t Stop Me” just proved it’s universal popularity by winning Baseball Tonight’s inaugural Whammy award.

(Almost) The Whole Continuous Story of the Old Testament in 11 Books – There are 11 books in the Old Testament, that almost tell the entire story of God’s redemption before Christ.

When Does Your Religion Legally Excuse You From Doing Part of Your Job? – Very helpful article from The Washington Post.

Need We Jail Each Other Over Marriage Licenses? – “The situation in Kentucky reminds all of us that America is extremely divided on issues that show no signs of weakening. This zero-sum culture war cannot continue if the social fabric of America is to have any chance of unifying around a robust pluralism.”

11 Easy Steps to Repenting on the Internet – Barnabas Piper on the brutal realities of repenting online.

The Promise of God in Threatening Pain – NFL center, Garrett Gilkey, offers helpful reflections on the sovereign promises of God in the midst of pain.

Defending the Bible, Protecting the Faith – Dr. Timothy Jones, my current family and discipleship professor discusses how believers should respond to skeptics in this interview about his new book, How We Got the Bible.

Church Discipline, Contemporary Grace Style – Rick Phillips with some weighty questions with those who identify with Tullian Tchjividjian and the Contemporary Grace Movement.

Can a Label Edify? – And here is Ray Ortlund’s response to Phillips. Admittedly, he doesn’t address any of Phillips’ questions or concerns, but does raise legitimate questions over the benefit of labels.

Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel – “As conservative Christian convictions continue to be marginalized, I fear the evangelical response might be something other than courageous love. We could be tempted to shrink back in fear if we aren’t properly propelled by the power of the gospel. Like Sayers, we may wish they all would just leave us alone.”

How I Learned to Live Joyfully – I try to read everything J.I. Packer writes. He is a superb teacher. This piece recounting Packer’s personal experiences only proves this to be true.

Faith’s true office is to see life in the midst of death. –John Calvin

3 Dangers in Misusing the Law of God


Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_ProjectIn 1 Timothy 1:8-11, the apostle Paul gives a brief defense of the nobility of the law. Very similar to what he says in Romans 7:16, the apostle writes to Timothy that the law is “good” (Gk. kalos) (v. 8). Many people today would simply have to disagree with Paul. At minimum, an increasing number of professing Christians and churches within evangelicalism are seeing the law as irrelevant. At most, they see it as detrimental. Some go so far as to boldly declare that the Old Testament is unnecessary for faith and practice. However, the majority (which has at times included myself) simply practically ignoring the Old Testament, especially the law.

All Christians are tempted to misuse the law of God. And what’s worse is that more often than not, we honestly don’t care how we are using the law, or if we even use it at all. Actually, many of our attitudes are more like, “Misuse the law? I don’t even know what the law is!” A lack of preaching from the Old Testament and the errant notion that the Old Testament is irrelevant and replaced by the New Testament has led to many churches filled with Christians who have no idea what to do with the law. The ultimate danger in this is that when you misuse the law of God you miss the gospel of God.

3 Dangers in Misusing the Law

There are three primary ways we can misuse the law of God, which can prove spiritually dangerous.

1. Trusting the law to save. 

The law of God cannot save you from your sin. It exposes your sin, but it does not give life. We misuse the law when we try to base our salvation on our obedience to its demands. In itself, the law is not enough.

2. Adding to the law’s commands. 

This was the error of the Pharisees. A good modern example of this is found in the “King James only” movement. Requiring people to ascribe to one particular English translation of the Bible is a form of adding to the law’s commands. When we do this kind of thing, we take God’s law and make it our own, adding to its stipulations as if we have divine authority. The law is good because it comes from God. Added demands are detrimental and legalistic because they come from us. We misuse the law when we try to recreate it in our legalistic image.

3. Missing the law’s purpose. 

The above two dangers fall under this final danger. The false teachers in Ephesus were using the law to promote speculations that strew far from the intended meaning and purposes of the law. Paul says their discussions of the law were vain. Isn’t the same true in many evangelical circles today? We make broad statements like, “I hate religion, but love Jesus.” We pit the law and the gospel against one another like two raging bulls trying to impale each other. When we rightly understand the law and its intended purpose, we will see that the law is not strictly opposed to the gospel. No, the law serves the gospel, the sinner, and the Christian.

In Accordance with the Gospel

The church at Ephesus under Timothy was facing false teachers who were misusing the law. They did not understand its purpose. We know this because it was not leading them to the gospel. They were ignorant, confused, and arrogant. Misusing the law produces things such as these. Whereas a right understanding and use of the law is in “accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God,” (v. 11) which produces “love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (v. 5). When we use the law as it was intended by God to be used, we will stand in appropriate awe of the beauty of its purposes. Yes, the beauty of the law is that though it is unable to save, it points us to the only One who can.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

“Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary” by Tremper Longman III


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Psalms by Tremper Longman III is published by IVP in 2014. It is apart of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series.

Dr. Longman is the professor of biblical studies at Westmont College. He has authored numerous books and commentaries. His study and comprehension of the Old Testament have been very beneficial in my life.

In this work, Longman states in the preface that the Psalms is the Heart of the Old Testament. I could not agree more. In the introduction, Longman gives helpful information regarding the Psalms in their title, composition, organization and use. He also discusses the types, styles and theology behind the Psalms which leads to Worship when we read and reflect upon the Psalms. This introduction is very helpful and shows readers how to think, use, and read the Psalms.

Longman throughout the rest of this useful commentary breaks each Psalm down with context, comment, and meaning. This is very important for Pastors, Teachers, or anyone who desires to study the Bible. In this format, the student of the Bible is able to comprehend the text in its context, understands its complexities, and then go onward to application. The Bible student who desires to reflect upon the Psalms would benefit from purchasing Longman’s commentary published by IVP.

Friends, You only get one life, and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last.


1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Is the New Testament God-Breathed?


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All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is a crucial question for the validity of the Christian faith and for witnessing to orthodox Jews. In order to answer this question, we must take a variety of things into consideration. Firstly, we must conclude from the context of this passage and the context of the New Testament (NT), that when Paul refers to “Scripture” (γραφη), he is always referring to the Old Testament (OT). Paul was specifically referring to the OT as Scripture when writing to Timothy. It was the OT that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had taught him from childhood (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). The Greek word for “Scripture” is used 51 times in the NT and every single occurrence refers to the OT. Nothing in this passage indicates that Paul is referring to any other writings that were circulating around the early church at that time.

Now that we are clear that Paul is referring to the OT in this passage, it is crucial that we understand what he meant by the word “all.” The Greek word for “all” can be just as easily and correctly translated as “every” in this passage. So, Paul is saying, “Timothy, every single portion of Scripture is from God and it is for your good!” It is not just a portion of the OT that Paul commends to Timothy. It isn’t just those epic stories or the monumental figures and events that serve as types of the Christ who was to come that Paul commends to young Timothy. No, Paul says that it is all Scripture, the entire OT, that is breathed out by God and profitable.

This is so crucial for us today. We can be so guilty of minimizing the importance of the OT. Because of cultural differences between the original authors and us, we often simply ignore the reading and study of many OT texts. The OT is not just a collection of cool stories to entertain our children in Sunday school or provoke us to speculate how tall Goliath really was or just how big the fish was that Jonah was swallowed by. The OT is authoritative and God-breathed Scripture that we will see should hold a place of supremacy in our lives.

All of the OT is God-breathed and profitable. So, all of the genealogies. All of the gruesome battle descriptions. All of the names that are so difficult to pronounce. All of the Law. All of the imagery of the prophets. All of the poetry of the psalmists. All of the suffering of Job. All real. All inspired. All authoritative. Scripture does not glean its authority from our capacity to understand it and it is not waiting for our finite and sin-ridden approval. Scripture gleans its authority from the One whom spoke it. Paul is essentially saying to Timothy, “Timothy, every single OT text is supreme and sufficient for your salvation, sanctification, and ministry because it is breathed out by God. You need it in order to face false teachers and suffering!”

All Scripture: New Testament

What about the New Testament? It is important to understand what Paul wrote to Timothy about Scripture in its historical context. As we have seen, both the historical and literary context demands that we understand “all Scripture” as referring to the OT. The question then quickly becomes, if Paul meant only the OT writings when he spoke of “all Scripture,” (and I think he did) then how can this verse apply to the NT writings? Or better yet, does this verse even teach that the NT is God-breathed as well? In short, I believe that this verse, though directly meaning that the entirety of the OT is God-breathed and profitable, carries with it some important implications that allow for the inclusion of the NT within the scope of the phrase “all Scripture.”

Is the New Testament included in “all Scripture?”

We must understand that the NT writers used the Greek word for “Scripture” in a very unique way. When they use it, they are not just referring to everyday writings. They are talking about holy writings that come from God himself. In other words, “Scripture” is a special and holy category that exclusively includes written revelation from God. Everything included in the category “Scripture” is God-breathed. At the time that Paul writes this letter to Timothy, only the OT was strictly considered “Scripture.” Only the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings were included in the category they called “Scripture” (γραφη). So, when the NT writings were added into this special and holy category called “Scripture,” it can be said of them that they are God-breathed. He simply writes to Timothy that “Scripture” is God-breathed and necessary for his sanctification and satisfaction. Though in context he was speaking of the OT, the implications of this meaning can include the NT if the NT is Scripture.

Can the New Testament be Considered “Scripture?”

This leads us to another question. Can the NT be considered in this holy and special category (Scripture)? There are five good reasons that we can consider the NT as “Scripture.”

Reason 1: In two places in the NT, we see the NT writings themselves being called “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16; 1 Tim. 5:18).

Reason 2: Jesus viewed his own teaching as having the authority of God. In John 14:10 he says, “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

Reason 3: Paul also considered Jesus’ teaching as having unique authority (1 Cor. 7:10; 11:23-26).

Reason 4: Jesus prepared his apostles to speak with divine authority (John 16:13).

Reason 5: The apostles claimed to be inspired by God (1 Cor. 2:13; 7:12, 40; 14:37; 2 Cor. 13:3).

It is clear, then, that when Paul wrote that “all Scripture” is God-breathed, he is referring to the Old Testament directly, and by implication, the New Testament. Therefore, it is worthy of your trust. Worthy of your devotion. Worthy of your obedience.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

“Interpreting the Prophetic Word” by Willem VanGemeren–A Review


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Willem A. VanGemeren. Interpreting the Prophetic Word: An Introduction to the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. pp. 544. $22.53

Introduction

Textbooks on the prophets of the Old Testament are few and far between on the bookshelves in the offices of evangelical pastors today. While revered and affirmed as canonical texts, prophetic literature in the Old Testament is rarely preached and often misunderstood by evangelicals. The message of the prophets is often lost in a world that demands to have its ears tickled by a glorified therapeutic deism that would have Isaiah and Jeremiah shudder. A quick look in a typical Christian bookstore will leave much to be desired in the prophetic literature department.

This presents a chicken and egg dilemma. Is it the lack of resources on prophetic literature that limits the preaching of the message of God through the prophets or vice-versa? The man who has greatly aided in solving this growing dilemma of prophetic ignorance is in familiar territory. Willem VanGemeren, professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has proven himself to be a relevant voice heralding the biblical theology of Old Testament texts and biblical themes in his authorship of The Progress of Redemption and his commentary on the Psalms, which is featured in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

VanGemeren has not just produced a thick space-filler on pastors’ bookshelves, but he has given the evangelical world a refreshing work that will be more often in the hands of the pastor and layman than collecting dust on a shelf. One reason, no doubt, that there are few works on prophetic literature as a whole is that there is so much diversity in prophetic writings that it can be difficult to stay focused on an over-arching theme or central purpose. However, from Moses to Daniel (and everywhere between), VanGemeren gives a rich and comprehensive presentation of the prophetic word in the Old Testament for proper and improved interpretation and application.

Summary

By turning to any page at random in Interpreting the Prophetic Word, it is easy to see that VanGemeren has a burning desire to see the prophetic word of the Old Testament heard, taught, preached, understood, and realized in a time so far removed from the prophets but at the same time so similar to the historical context they found themselves in. VanGemeren has set out in this comprehensive work to herald the “harmonious testimony” of the prophets which coincides with the teaching of the Lord Jesus and the apostles summed up by the author in these repeated words throughout the work: “that our heavenly Father has prepared great things for those who consecrate themselves to him by forming a counterculture, his kingdom on earth” (13).

VanGemeren sets out to show that “the different prophetic voices harmoniously witness in their diversity to the purposes of God in redemptive history” (13). The author carefully interprets and sketches the writings and messages of each prophet within redemptive history while being sensitive to the historical-political-economical-societal background that each prophet found himself in. VanGemeren desires to exalt the unity and harmony of the message of the prophets while not eliminating or silencing their diversity. This is what makes this work so unique. Not only does the author faithfully give a short commentary of each piece of Old Testament prophetic literature, but he also ties these individual threads together to form a working and beautiful system aimed at giving the reader a correct lens to interpret and apply these writings.

 Interpreting the Prophetic Word is systematically divided into four major sections. The book is divided in a way that helps achieve the purpose in bringing together the harmonious diversity of the message of the prophets. Chapters one through three give the reader a much-needed introductory glimpse into the nature of prophetism. Chapter one focuses on the uniqueness of Israel’s state in a pluralistic world. Israel and her prophets worshiped the One True God and had special revelation rather than man-developed religion. The development of prophetism from Moses to Jesus is heavily, if not exclusively, predicated on this reality. The prophets of God relied on revelation from God while the prophets of, let’s say, Baal relied on the religion from man. The tradition of prophetism throughout Israel’s history is then probed in chapter two as the prophets’ office, role, and message are examined from Israel to exile.

A brief explanation and description of the message of both the pre-exilic and post-exilic prophets are discussed in chapter two. The first section then closes with a look at the varying perspectives on interpreting and understanding the prophets, which VanGemeren writes is a “truly exciting” venture and honor (70). This look at interpretive models leads into the second major section.

The second section looks at the message of the Minor Prophets. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are each examined to bring out the historical and literary context of each book as well as focusing on the overarching theme of each book. This section looks both at the Minor Prophets as a whole and individually. This section and the one to follow should be a pastor’s best friend when preaching from the Prophets. Together, sections two and three (which includes the Major Prophets) compile a collection of excellent commentaries that drive home the overall message of each prophet that can often be lost with the high poetry of prophetic literature.

Finally, the fourth section, which is actually only one chapter included in Part 3 of the book, is properly titled “Living the Prophetic Word”. It ties the thread of the interpretation of the prophets together with the work of the Spirit, the coming of Christ, and the progress of redemption (354). In the words of VanGemeren, “The prophets, our Lord, and the apostles urgently set before us the way of the Spirit, of the whole counsel of God, and of involvement in the progress of redemption” (355). This chapter allows the reader and interestingly forces him or her to reconcile the diversity of the prophets with the overall theme of Scripture within redemptive history. In other words, VanGemeren argues in this closing chapter that interpretation of the prophetic word of the Old Testament must involve the power of the Spirit, Tota Scriptura, and the progress of redemption.

 Critical Evaluation

The scholarship and extensive research VanGemeren put into this volume is easily noticed by even a short skim over each chapter. There are many things about this work that make it relevant in our time and worthy of reading. The overall setup of the book makes it a wonderful resource for reference. For example, the major sections of this book, parts two and three, would be bookmarked and highlighted heavily by the pastor preaching a sermon series through Jonah or Micah, to name a couple. The organization of Interpreting the Prophetic Word makes it pleasant to refer to. Because of this and combined with the impressive bibliography, this work is worthy of using for academic research, sermon writing, and personal Bible study.

A common argument throughout this work is that God desires for his people to consecrate themselves to him by forming a counterculture, which he uses to define the establishment of his kingdom on earth. VanGemeren argues that this motif is present in the Prophets, the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the writings of the apostles. He provides excellent biblical evidence for this in each Prophet and in his closing chapter relates this to Christ and the apostles. His claim and argument are both rooted in Scripture as God has indeed been setting his people apart to be holy as he is holy from Creation on (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Pt. 1:16).

This is especially seen in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, heralded throughout all of the Old Testament (as VanGemeren shows us) and is continued and amplified in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles with the ushering in of the kingdom of God on earth and the indwelling of the Spirit in men and women. Judgment follows all who do not establish this “counterculture” while rest is rewarded to all who do. This argument from VanGemeren throughout this work is highly biblical and provides a holistic and refreshing lens through which to view prophetic literature.

While the author is careful not to bring any interpretational biases into the writing of this book, there are times when he could be more straightforward in his own interpretation. While it is noble of him to allow the reader to interpret each prophetic writing on his or her own, it would have been helpful for VanGemeren to more strongly interpret each work and then allow the reader to evaluate it. The author seems to objectively, but standoffishly probe each Prophet. There are pros and cons with this approach and while his admittedly “open” presentation of prophetic literature made his work more concise and more easily readable, it would have been helpful for him to have been a bit more straightforward. Nevertheless, any frustrations experienced by the reader in this regard in chapters 4-11 are resolved with his conclusions and reasoning in chapter 12 which made the book for me.

Conclusion

In closing, Interpreting the Prophetic Word is a book that deserves to be on every pastor’s bookshelf and should increase the amount of prophetic literature that is preached from the pulpit. Greater understanding, not only of the Prophets, but also of the Bible as a whole and the Lordship of Jesus Christ will all be gleaned from the reading of this book.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.

‘How to Read the Psalms’: A Review (Part Two)


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Longman III, Tremper. How to Read the Psalms. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

[The critical evaluation and conclusion of this book review will be included here. If you missed the Introduction and Summary, you can find it here.]

Critical Evaluation

Tremper Longman III makes many claims in his work on interpreting the Psalms. Longman’s work needs to be evaluated in light of his purpose in writing. It would not be fair to critique his work on any other basis than on what he had intended to achieve in writing. Longman wished to lead his readers to a deeper love for God through providing greater understanding of the Psalms. He successfully did that and any reader of this work would have to agree that he maintained his purpose throughout. What Longman was without a doubt consistent with is his support for his claims. Throughout this book, he gives substantial evidence for his claims—there are no weak claims made in this book. For example, Longman in his chapter on Christ in the Psalms gives overwhelming support for his claim that all the psalms are messianic in a general sense (67).

Up to this point, Longman had been demonstrating the New Testament’s use of the psalms and how we get insight into messianic psalms through Paul’s frequent use of the psalms. Longman explains how Paul saw Jesus in the Psalms, how Jesus used the Psalms, and how Jesus saw himself in the Psalms (64-66). But Longman takes it a step further and claims that every psalm generally anticipates Christ Jesus. He stops short of the claim of some scholars who say that some psalms specifically prophecy about the messiah without having any significance for the Old Testament period (67).

I find it to be significant that Longman mentions this position, considers it, and then refutes it with Scripture. He takes their claim into consideration and then uses their argument to prove his point. In doing so, Longman remained consistent in his thought by affirming the importance of the historical and cultural context of each psalm when interpreting as he had argued for in the first few chapters. At the same time, Longman supported his point that these specific messianic psalms do indeed anticipate a coming Savior and then argued that in a general sense, every single psalm looks forward to this Messiah King. And as a result, more to his purpose in writing this book, he argues that the way we interpret the Psalms changes when we see Jesus on the lines of these ancient poems (70-73).

With this as just one example of many that could be chosen, Longman is consistent in thought and thoroughly biblical in making his case for a certain interpretation of the Psalms. He covers all ground by including the importance of knowing and considering the cultural and historical reality of when the Psalms were written and who they were written by and by arguing that the Psalms anticipate a future Savior who would bring all peoples to himself to sing everlasting praises to the God of the Psalter in a eternal kingdom.

Another thing to consider in this work is how the author closed out the book. This is the most intriguing, important, and integral part of How to Read the Psalms. After laying out a method by which to interpret the Psalms, Longman puts his own method into practice. In other words, if you didn’t understand, follow him, or agree with him in the first two sections of the book, he gives a practical example of what he actually means by interpreting the Psalms. He breaks down the historical meaning and significance of three different genres of Psalms in the final three chapters of the book. He then proceeds to break down the literary aspects of the psalm at hand.

By doing these things, and then drawing out sound biblical interpretations which include reference to the gospel and the Messiah, Jesus, Longman places his work about all others that this reviewer has read in this field. He goes above and beyond the call of duty by practically putting his words into practice which is what so many young seminary students, Christians, and pastors need when they come to this large, and somewhat difficult to understand book of the Bible.

Conclusion

In closing, I was thoroughly impressed with Tremper Longman III’s work on interpreting the Psalms due to his consistent logic, thick biblical support, and massive practical implications through his examples and study questions at the end of each chapter. This work is one that is needed in the pastor’s library, the layperson’s desk, and the seminary student’s dorm. It speaks to all Christians and is helpful in drawing greater insight into the Psalter, which leads the reader to a significantly deeper love of God.

Reading the Bible Well in 2014


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Happy New Year one and all! If you have resolved to read through the Bible this year as I have, then I have three points of encouragement for you to begin this year in the Word. (1) Read the Bible!  (2) Read all of the Bible! and (2) Read the Bible better than you ever have before. I will be taking these two points and applying them to my life in 2014. I want to read through the entire Bible in 2014, but even more than that, I want to read the Bible better than I did in 2013. Although we see in a mirror dimly, I pray that by God’s grace I would see the unsearchable riches of his Word more clearly this year. To do this I know I must read and read well.

1. Read, Read, Read

I know this sounds overly simple, but it cannot be overstated. If you have resolved to read the Bible in 2014, then actually take time to read the Bible. Demonstrate your submission to the Word of God by reading it when you want to and reading it when your desire is lacking or misplaced. If you have a desire to read through the entire Bible this year, then you have a holy ambition–to know God more in his Word.

It is a magnificent grace that God chose to reveal himself through the written word. To neglect the Bible is to neglect God himself. May this thought be one of many truths that motivate you to seek God in his Word on a daily basis. Knowing God, loving God, and enjoying God come in great part by reading and meditating on his Holy Word.

Reading the Bible this year will be a journey deep down into the soil of God’s own self-revelation that will nurture your soul and strengthen your faith greatly. Your satisfaction in God will only surpass your satisfaction in other worldly passions if you saturate yourself in the soul-quenching eternal truth and sanctifying power of Scripture. Read the Bible in 2014. Take it seriously. If you are a big reader, consider resolving to read the entire Bible before you read another book.

2. Read All of the Bible

But don’t just read bits and pieces of the Bible. Don’t just read 30 days of Mark here and 15 days of Romans there. Discipline yourself and truly resolve to read the whole counsel of God in 2014. Read Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus. Read 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, and 1 & 2 Peter. Read Hosea and Malachi and Micah and Joel. Read Matthew and, yes, even read Revelation. Christian, you need God and you need his Word. Rely on the fullness of God’s Word. Read all of the Bible in 2014.

3. Read the Bible Well

But not only that. Take it a step further. Don’t settle for merely reading through the Bible. Read the Bible better than you ever have in 2014. If you struggle understanding imprecatory psalms, make it your aim to better interpret them. If you simply cannot see how the entire Bible fits together, such as the connection between the testaments, strive to open your eyes wider to see the big picture of the meta-narrative of Scripture. Or maybe you just do not understand what the biblical author meant when he wrote whatever you happen to be reading on a given day.

Marvel at the complexity of God, but do not settle for constant misunderstanding where understanding is possible. Pray for grace and work toward the end of knowing God more in his Word. Read the Bible for all its worth this year. And read the Bible to increase your joy in Christ this year. Read the Bible well in 2014.

Related Articles

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

A Bible Reading Plan for Readers

A Review of ‘The Bible and the Future’


414wAcl8loL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979. 343 pp. $19.44

Introduction

 The Bible and the Future is a Reformed eschatological masterpiece written by one of the greatest Reformed evangelical minds of the 20th century. Anthony Hoekema presents one of the most prominent evangelical works on eschatology in the first part of his three-volume journey through the major tenets of Reformed theology. His other two works, Created in God’s Image and Saved by Grace capture the doctrines of anthropology and soteriology, respectively. Hoekema served as both a pastor and professor throughout his life and his theological writings are considered some of the best Reformed theological works of the 20th century. His robust historical, theological, and biblical grasp of each doctrine he takes up to teach makes this work on eschatology one of the go-to works on the subject.

Summary

If one were to ask me what this book was about, I would simply point him or her to the title. The Bible and the Future is a book about just that—the Bible’s own claims about all things last things. Hoekema strives in this book to biblically and systematically understand and interpret what God has revealed to his people in his Word about last things.

The book is divided into two major sections. The first is a small section dealing with inaugurated eschatology in which Hoekema importantly proves that eschatology is not reserved for the apocalyptic literature of Daniel and Revelation. Rather, Hoekema scans the entire Bible and points out the eschatological direction of the Old Testament, the eschatological nature of the New Testament, along with a look at the meaning and purpose of all history, the kingdom of God, and the Holy Spirit’s role in inaugurated eschatology. This section closes with an ever-important look at the biblical eschatological theme of “already, not yet.” Hoekema shows that the new creation is already in progress, yet it has not been fully brought out. The primary purpose of this first section is to show the eschatological movement of redemptive history.

With this groundwork laid, the more familiar aspects of eschatology begin to make their way to the surface. Future eschatology is taken up in great detail in the second section of the book. This second section deals with four major eschatological themes: the death of believers, the second coming of Christ, the millennium, and the final judgment. With regard to the death of believers, Hoekema begins in chapter 7 by describing what the Bible says about physical death. Chapter 8 deals with the immortality of humans after death. Chapter 9 goes further to discuss the intermediate state in which Christians are in the presence of God, but without their resurrected bodies.

Chapters 10-13 involve discussions about the second coming of Christ. Step by step he goes through the elements of the second coming—our expectation of it, the general and particular signs of it, and its very nature.

Next, Hoekema discusses the biblical doctrine of the millennium. Consistent with traditional Reformed theology, he presents future eschatological events through an amillenial perspective. While positing the amillennial understanding of future eschatology, Hoekema very spends time in chapter 14 discussing the various views of the millennium. Chapter 15 serves as a sort of continuation of chapter 14 as it gives significant space to critique the popular dispensational premillennial position. Then in chapter 16, Hoekema goes directly to the text of Scripture that teaches the millennium in Revelation 20. While he previously described what the amillennial position taught in chapter 14, here he interprets Revelation 20 from an amillennial perspective. Chapter 16 serves as a solid representation of amillennial interpretation of the millennium by looking at the text itself.

Finally, chapters 17-20 deal with the final judgment. Hoekema begins in chapter 17 with a description and discussion of the resurrection of the body. He shows this doctrine’s centrality to the Bible’s overall eschatology (239). This thought flows directly into Hoekema’s biblical teaching on the final judgment. All aspects of the final judgment are discussed here from the time it occurs to who is judged. Appropriately, the doctrine of the final judgment is followed by Hoekema’s presentation and defense of the traditional evangelical position concerning eternal punishment. He engages those who deny eternal punishment (universalists and annihilationists) while arguing for eternal conscious suffering in hell for sinners who remain under God’s wrath.

The book closes with a glorious look at the new earth. The final state of those who are in Christ is looked at in chapter 20 (274). Where all history and this book is heading is summed up in these words, which also is a good summation of Hoekema’s eschatology: “At the beginning of history God created the heavens and the earth. At the end of history we see the new heavens and the new earth, which will far surpass in splendor all that we have seen before. At the center of history is the Lamb that was slain, the first-born from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Some day we shall cast all our crowns before him, ‘lost in wonder, love, and praise’” (287).

Critical Evaluation

As expected, Hoekema’s work is biblically faithful, theologically reliable, and historically consistent. What makes The Bible and the Future so important and reliable for any serious study of eschatology is his dual fervent defense of amillennialism and honest and fair presentation of all other millennial views. It is rare to find a theologian who stays faithful to one theological position while remaining fair to other positions. The balance of chapter 14 is very appealing. By presenting these other views alongside his amillennial perspective, this makes his arguments more reliable and persuasive.

Hoekema’s presentation of eschatology is also comprehensive. While other books in this field primarily deal with elements of future eschatology, Hoekema shows that eschatology is not limited to all things future, even showing eschatological elements throughout the Old Testament. This is a very important way to view and understand the doctrine of last things. What usually surrounds this doctrine is controversy and unhelpful charts. Hoekema does not allow this kind of thinking after reading his book because he presents the entire Bible, all of redemptive history, and all of the Christian life as having an eschatological twang to them. And when the aspects of future eschatology are taken up, they are rooted firmly in Scripture and accurately represent the Reformed understanding of eschatology.

Hoekema’s Reformed perspective does not seem to function as a blinding bias. Per usual, Hoekema gives ample attention and critique of positions he disagrees with. This fair treatment of various eschatological views makes his book all the more effective and worthy of consideration from all Christians. An example of this is chapters 14-15. Hoekema not only provides us with multiple eschatological understandings of the millennium, but he also gives us an excellent example of how to engage positions that differ from your own. He is fair, yet faithful to and confident in his own perspective.

Another very important aspect of The Bible and the Future is Hoekema’s emphasis on the importance of the resurrection of the body. He shows that this is absolutely central to future eschatology. Though after physical death and we are in the intermediate state, Hoekema emphasizes that we are not meant to be spiritual beings (239). This is excellent perspective as many Christians focus on the intermediate state or only a spiritual state in heaven when Christ returns. Hoekema eliminates this kind of thinking, which is one of the more important contributions of this book.

Conclusion

There are many evangelical works on eschatology. However, very few of these works can compare with Hoekema’s candor and comprehensive nature. After the publication of this work, there can be no serious discussion of eschatology without consideration of The Bible and the Future. Hoekema’s faithful biblical exposition and theological-historical reliance makes this work an eschatological masterpiece and maybe the most influential Reformed eschatology of the 20th century.

 

The Trial of Doubt and Denial: Jesus and His Witnesses


John_5_WitnessHave you ever experienced a season of doubt? It is an exhausting experience to doubt some crucial and fundamental truths in the faith and in life. If you have ever experienced this, then you know how easy it can be to go from being confused about a certain doctrine or even something as small as a certain verse or passage to having doubts about bigger doctrines. These doubts can escalate even to the point of questioning the truth and validity of Christianity. For a believer who knows that if Christianity is true and Jesus is who he said he was that the faith is worth defending to no end and Jesus is worth both living and dying for, doubt can be a debilitating demon. And although doubting one’s salvation can be very depressing, doubting the identity of Jesus, which is the crux of Christianity, is far worse.

How can we cope with this doubt? How can we be freed from these crucial questions? It may be that some of us never are totally freed from the infiltration of doubt–at least in this age. However, the way to flee doubt is to run to arms of truth. In court, the truth is sought after. And truth is determined, however imperfectly, primarily on the basis of evidence and the testimonies from witnesses. The claims of either a defendant or a plaintiff must be validated by the word of witnesses as well as evidence of his claim. In John 5 we see Jesus making self-attestations to his identity as God and Messiah. These are huge claims and if they are true have wide-reaching and eternal implications for every human. But are these claims valid? When doubt creeps in our minds, it is important to ground our faith in a valid and absolute truth. The defeat of doubt is found in the unshakeable and unquestionable truth of Jesus and the many witnesses who vouch for the God-man’s claim of being the rightful Savior-Judge of the earth (John 5:28-29).

Though these witnesses do provide a source of comfort for those who struggle with doubt, Jesus has a more direct purpose in bringing out these witnesses. Jesus is has indicted the Jews for not believing in him and for receiving glory from man (vv. 38, 44). These Jews were seeking honor and approval from men rather than from God. This kind of self-exalting vision makes one blind to the truth of Christ Jesus. In this chapter, Jesus places the entire world on trial and brings many witnesses to bear testimony to his claim against those who oppose him–that he indeed is the Christ, the Son of God.

The Claim

In John chapters two, four, and five, the beloved disciple records some miraculous signs that Jesus was performing. We have seen Jesus thus far in the Gospel of John turning water into wine, healing an official’s son, and healing a sick man at the pool of Bethseda. This last healing that is recorded in John 5:1-9 had an added element to it. This sign was not only noticeable and awesome because it was God-like. This sign was particularly awesome and jaw-dropping because it was performed on the Sabbath. Jesus goes from showing himself to be at least a prophet of God as he demonstrated penetrating and encompassing knowledge and power, to showing himself to be equal with God.

This is an extreme escalation and one that the Jewish leaders considered blasphemous. After healing a man on the Sabbath, which was considered blasphemy in and of itself, John tells us that Jesus was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Because of this true claim, “the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him” (v. 18). Because nobody who is not truly God that makes this kind of claim is blasphemous and deserving of punishment, even death. In fact, the only way someone would ever claim to be equal with God in this highly religious Jewish culture in a Roman occupied territory is if that someone were absolutely insane—unless of course the claim was true.

The Opposition

However, in light of this opposition from the Jewish ruling authorities (and really for anybody then and now) Jesus emphasizes his unity with the Father by saying that he only does what he sees the Father doing, which is remarkable (vv. 19-20). Salvation and judgment belong to the Son, for just as the Father “raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (v. 21). Jesus continues to expound upon his divine authority as he makes a radical statement: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (v. 22). This is radical because judgment is the exclusive prerogative of God (Deut. 32:39). In light of opposition that wanted to see Jesus killed as a blasphemous criminal, Jesus claims divinity by saying that final judgment of sin and sinners belongs to him! This Jesus is not just any prophet. This Jesus, the carpenter’s son and the Creator’s Son, is God. A quick implication of this is that there is no such thing as nominal adherence to Jesus. There is no neutral position when it comes to following Jesus. You either oppose Jesus or follow/submit to him.

The Trial

So far in John 5, Jesus has performed a miraculous God-like sign on the Sabbath and caused opposition to himself by claiming that he had equality with God. John 5 is all about Jesus’ claim to divinity. It is important to note that in John 5:18, the apostle tells us that it was Jesus himself making these claims to deity. However, in verse 31 Jesus makes an initial statement that stacks all the cards in his favor against the religious opposition of the Jewish authorities. Jesus said, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” Jesus is keeping with the Old Testament teaching concerning the need for multiple witnesses. This is seen in Deuteronomy 17:6 regarding the trial of someone accused of abominable worship: “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (cf. Deut. 19:15; Num. 35:30). In other words, Jesus is saying that it isn’t just him that attests to who he is as Messiah and God. The rest of this chapter is written by John with the purpose of demonstrating Jesus’ innocence and the world’s guilt. Those who oppose Jesus are clearly wrong, not only based on Jesus’ self-attestation, but also on the testimony of multiple other witnesses.

This in no way implies that Jesus’ testimony in and of itself is untrue or not enough to be believed on its own. However, we can believe Jesus’ claim to deity with confidence because of the testimonies of multiple witnesses. The more witnesses, the more assurance we can have of the claim.

The Witnesses

So who are these witnesses? Jesus said there are four witnesses to his authority, deity, and Messianic identity. Be sure to understand that these are witnesses to the truth. These witnesses do not give the claim truth. The deity and Messianic identity of Jesus is an existential reality and an absolute truth. These witnesses give testimonies to this reality. Allow these witnesses to encourage your faith.

1. John the Baptist

“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp… (vv. 33-35; cf. John. 1:7-8, 15, 19, 32-34; 3:26)

2. Jesus’ Own Works

“But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me” (v. 36).

3. God the Father

“And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (vv. 37-38; cf. John 8:18).

4. The Scriptures

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (vv. 39-40).

5. Moses

“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (vv. 45-47) 

Fight Doubt and Flee Denial

If you find yourself in opposition to Jesus, this is clear evidence on the testimonies of multiple witnesses that Jesus is who he said he was. And if doubt creeps into your mind about Jesus’ radical claims concerning himself, know that Jesus’ deity and identity as the Christ are built on the multiple truthful testimonies of John the Baptist, God the Father, the works of Jesus, the Scriptures, and Moses. If you deny who Jesus is, know that you are doing so despite the throng of witnesses in his corner. If you doubt or deny Jesus, it is you and your disbelieving mind that is on trial. You have been barraged with witnesses. The world that opposes Christ is found guilty in this setting and the only hope is in repentance, belief, and submission to the One whom these witnesses testify. Flee denial of Jesus’ deity by submitting to who he is.

In light of your doubt, let the confidence that comes from multiple witnesses to Jesus’ authority, deity, and Messianic identity as Savior-Judge ground you in your faith in Christ and set in stone for your life a resolve to give your life for the sake of Christ and his gospel. Allow the words of Jesus in his brief trial motif to comfort you amid your doubt. Jesus is God. Jesus is Savior. Jesus is Judge. Trust this on the testimony of Jesus himself, John the Baptist, God the Father, the works of Jesus, the Bible, and Moses. Fight doubt in pursuit of truth.

 

Jesus, Wine, and the Fullness of Time


Julius_Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_-_The_Wedding_Feast_at_Cana_-_WGA21013

In John chapter two, the beloved apostle begins to narrate some of the more notable life events of Jesus of Nazareth. What makes John’s Gospel so attractive to readers is the fact that John often serves as not only story-teller but also as story-explainer. The Gospel of John is a theological gold mine just waiting to be ravaged and relished.

After Jesus had called his disciples, the Lamb of God attends a wedding at Cana in Galilee where he and his followers were guests along with Jesus’ mother.  At the wedding celebration, our modern-day reception, the host of the wedding had run out of wine. Jesus’ mother comes to Jesus with the problem. Most of us are familiar with story from here. Jesus took six stone jars that were there for the Jewish rites of purification and filled them “to the brim” with water. Jesus then performs his first miracle according to John by turning the water into wine. And not just any wine, but the “good” wine! After narrating this account for us, John writes something very significant. He writes, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (John 2:11). This first sign from Jesus tells us a lot about who he is, the hope he brings, and the direction that all history is heading. Let’s address these one at a time. Jesus manifested his glory by showing us who he is and what he came to do.

What’s the Point?

Let’s briefly explain the significance of the wedding at Cana and Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. While many people interpret the wedding at Cana as an example of how believers should evangelize (i.e. we should interact with the lost on their “turf”) by highlighting Jesus’ involvement with the community and the friendships that he must have had, I think that this misses the point of what John was emphasizing. We need to understand that all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are theological narratives about the man and mission of the Son of God, the Christ, the Lamb of God, Jesus of Nazareth. John took ample space and time in his first chapter to painstakingly describe the significance of the coming of Jesus. The prologue in John 1:1-18 is a beautiful praise of Jesus highlighting his eternality, divine nature, and sovereignty. Quickly we see that this Gospel from John is going to be all about the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

In chapter two, we see a continuation of the description of Jesus through intentional Old Testament imagery and symbols. It seems to me that the message of John 2:1-12 is that someone greater has come and something new is being brought forth. This “something” is the age of the new covenant. It is clear that the fullness of time has come in the God-man Jesus Christ. Tom Schreiner writes, “The signs that Jesus did indicated that the promise of the new creation found in the OT Scriptures was realized in Jesus.” The imagery of this text is significant and I hope you see the importance of this miracle being the first that Jesus performed. We see three things that are highlighted by the theological significance of this account: the identity of Jesus, the hope he brings, and the end he promises.

Who Jesus Is

In John 2, we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law. This is symbolized in the fact that he filled the jars used for purification rites to the brim. John shows us that something greater than the Old Testament rituals is here. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these Old Testament rituals. While these rites symbolized purity for the Jews who obeyed them, Jesus Christ has come to be the definition of purity and to bring cleansing of sins to all who believe in him through his substitutionary death on the cross. One purpose that these stone jars and the water that filled them held was to point to Jesus. And now, Jesus has come to be the reality that these shadows dimly conveyed. Jim Hamilton writes, “The filling up of the jars used in the Old Testament purification rites seems to symbolize the fulfillment of the time in which such things would be done, and out of that fulfillment Jesus brings something as superior as wine to water, the best of wine, no less.” The superiority of Jesus screams from the pages of John 2.

The Hope Jesus Brings

The hope for sinners brought by Jesus is bound up in the significance of the wine that Jesus turned the water into. We see the Messianic mission of Jesus in this passage. The reason that the disciples believed in him after witnessing this miracle had to be partly due to their realization of what passages like Amos 9:11-15 and Joel 3:18 meant in light of Jesus. Amos promised that the mountains would drip with wine when the Messiah arrived. We see in this passage that Jesus is the Messiah or the Christ who would be his people’s rescuer-redeemer. Jesus changes water into wine, partly to show that the Messiah is here and it is through him that salvation will come. The new covenant is here and just as the wine was poured for the guests of the wedding, so will the crimson blood of the Christ be poured out for all who are invited into that great eschatological banquet.

Where All History is Headed

All history is headed toward an intentional and definite climactic end. We see this in John 2  in the significance of the Jesus’ first “sign” being performed at a wedding. Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah and Hosea spoke of the eschatological future of Israel in terms of a new wedding in which God and his people will be united in marriage through the new covenant (Jer. 3:1, 12; 31:31-34; Hos. 2:16-20). Again, Schreiner is helpful:

“It is highly significant that in John’s Gospel Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding, which anticipates the eschatological banquet where ‘well-aged wine’ and ‘aged wine well refined’ is enjoyed, and death is wiped out forever.”

Schreiner has in mind Isaiah 25:6-8 which reads, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined...He will swallow up death forever;and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,for the Lord has spoken."

In this miracle at Cana, Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom and the great wedding feast that his people will enjoy and his enemies will never see. There is coming a day when Christ comes again. This time he will not be coming as the humble Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world on a sinners cross. No, this time he will come as the fierce Lion of Judah to judge the world and everyone in it on a glorious throne. His kingdom is forever and at his table will sit Abraham and countless others from the east and west (Matt. 8:11).

The Fullness of Time Has Come

See in the wedding and the wine that the fullness of time has come. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the Old Testament religious system of worship. The hope he brings is seen in the wine signaling his Messianic mission. And the end that all history is heading toward is one of glorious judgment signified by the wedding in which the hearts of men will be judged. Christian, rejoice! For your salvation is in the Christ who came to make you pure! And your future is secure. Your place at the table of the Lord at that great eschatological wedding feast is unalterably set. Oh, but you who are not in Christ; you who are still filling up the stone jars with water; John 2 is prophetic for you. Stop trying to make yourself pure! Instead, trust in Jesus who lived purity for you and died the death that your impurity warrants you. And know that this sacrificial Lamb is also a ferocious Lion that will remove all sin and sinners from his presence forever. The fullness of time has come. Will you trust in the Christ who died for your sins? Will you take your place at the table of the wedding feast of God? Will you drink the good wine?

Sources

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by Jim Hamilton

The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments by Tom Schreiner

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