Category Archives: Scripture

Becoming Truly Human Through Obedience

In the life of obedience, therefore, two things come together: man in the image of God, and the law in the image of God. In declaring his law, the Lord declares what he is; in obeying the law we are being fundamentally true to what we are. Because the law reflects his image, it is the true law of our true nature. In obedience we are living according to our revealed definition, we are ‘being ourselves’ law of the Lord is the ‘Maker’s Handbook’ for the effectuation of a truly human existence and personal human fulfillment.
 
Quoted from Motyer, J. A. (2004).  Look to the rock: An Old Testament background to our understanding of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, Publications, pp. 77-78.
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Jesus’ Miracles: A Foretaste of the Renewal of Creation

[T]he miracles of Jesus were a foretaste of the physical renewal in the new creation. They were a beginning, a taster, a demonstration of what God will do at the end of time.

  • For a moment in history, Jesus fed the poor. At the end of time, all God’s people will join his messianic banquet.
  • For a moment in history, Jesus healed the sick. At the end of time, God will heal all our infirmities.
  • For a moment in history, Jesus cast out demons. At the end of time, God will defeat Satan forever.
  • For a moment in history, Jesus raised the dead. At the end of time, God will raise the dead and death will be no more.

Quoted from Tim Chester (2009). The Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection. Inter Varsity Pr., p. 182.


Jesus: Our Destroyer

Jude 5 says:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Interestingly, Jesus destroyed the rescued Israelites because they did not believe the spies’ report regarding the land of Canaan (Num. 14:29-30). Numbers 14:36-37 says:

And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land—the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord.

Referring to the same incident Paul comments, “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10)

To the extent Jude 5 and 1 Corinthians 10:10 reference the same incident, we see Jesus was the Destroyer.

Even more, concerning the Passover the “LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you” (Ex. 12:23). Thus, “Destroyer of the firstborn” (Heb. 11:28) was also Jesus.

Jesus: pre-incarnate Logos, God’s Beloved Son, Destroyer of the Firstborn.

Some might view this as odd—if not deplorable. However, if correct, I see it as Good News: the Destroyer came into this world and was mercifully destroyed on my behalf. The killer of the firstborns of Egypt was Himself God’s Firstborn, struck down and crushed in my stead.

Returning to Jude 5, it becomes very interesting how Jesus “saved a people out of the land of Egypt.” Not only does the unblemished lamb of the Passover ultimately foreshadow Jesus, “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), but Jesus was also the agent of liberation who “struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:29).

And all this points to the Final Exodus (Lk. 9:31), the Cross of Christ, where Jesus “firstborn of creation” (Col. 1:15) became the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:36), slaughtered and destroyed for our iniquities; and now is “the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Col. 1:17)

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

    …

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 4:12-13)


Understanding and Applying Scripture

Here’s a great quote on how to read the Bible and apply it in every circumstance, as Christ must always be the hermeutical key. Take from Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives) by Paul David Tripp.

That is how Scripture differs from an encyclopedia. When I use an encyclopedia, I do not need to read other articles to understand the one I am reading at the moment. One article has no connection to another; there are no overarching themes. In the Bible, however, every passage is dependent on the whole, and the whole Bible is held together by interdependent themes that run through every passage like rebar, the steel rods that reinforce concrete. If I handle Scripture topically, I will miss the overarching themes at the heart of everything else God wants to say to me. These themes give me a sense of identity, purpose, and direction that will fundamentally alter the way I think, desire, speak, and act. They will go to the root of my problem, producing change that lasts.

The sad fact is that many of us are simply not biblical in the way we use the Bible! Being biblical does not mean merely quoting words from within its pages. Being truly biblical means that my counsel reflects what the entire Bible is about. The Bible is a narrative, a story of redemption, and its chief character is Jesus Christ. He is the main theme of the narrative, and he is revealed in every passage in the book. This story reveals how God harnessed nature and controlled history to send his Son to rescue rebellious, foolish, and self-focused men and women. He freed them from bondage to themselves, enabled them to live for his glory, and gifted them with an eternity in his presence, far from the harsh realities of the Fall. (pp. 26-27)


The Necessity of Biblical Theology

Just finished The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen.

I the loved the authors’ call for Biblical theology, reading the Bible along its narrative as opposed to just Systematic Theology, proof texting, etc.

We must resist the temptation to read the Scriptures as if they were a religious flea market, with a basket of history and old doctrines here, a shelf full of pious stories there, promises and commands scattered from one end to the other. Some readers of the Bible turn it into little more than an anthology of proof texts assembled to support a system of theology. Others seek only ethical guidance, ransacking the Old Testament for stories of moral instruction. Still others look just for inspirational or devotional messages, for comforting promises and lessons for daily living. The result may be that we lose sight of the Bible’s essential unity and instead find only those theological, moral, devotional, or historical fragments we are looking for.

Instead,

The world of the Bible is our world, and its story of redemption is also our story. This story is waiting for an ending—in part because we ourselves have a role to play before all is concluded. We must therefore pay attention to the continuing biblical story of redemption. (page 196)

 

The first part of the book was amazing as the authors depicted the history of Israel in a concise and engaging manner. The end was disappointing as the authors mistakenly take the Gospel and impose it to include and encompass cosmic restoration, instead of cosmic restoration in Christ being the implication and trajectory of the Gospel. This deficient is likely attributed to the influence of NT Wright and the reconfiguration of Justification from soteriology to ecclesiology. Something I’ll blog on more when I get the chance.

Nevertheless I agree with their view of salvation, though it should be more carefully nuanced.

John’s vision in Revelation, indeed, in the whole New Testament, does not depict salvation as an escape from earth into a spiritualized heaven where human souls dwell forever. Instead, John is shown (and shows us in turn) that salvation is the restoration of God’s creation on a new earth. In this resorted world, the redeemed of God will live in resurrected bodies within a reviewed creation, from which sin and its effects have been expunged. This is the kingdom that Christ’s followers have already begun to enjoy in foretaste. (page 211)

 

Overall, it’s a very usefully and concise Biblical theology, as I heartedly recommend it despite disagreeing with some of it.

 


Jesus, the Word, and Contextualization

Reflecting on Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview by Albert M. Wolters and Michael W. Goheen, and wow! What a great read.

They make the following interesting point regarding contextualization in John’s Gospel.

John freely uses the language and thought forms of classical religion and culture that form the world of his hearers—light and darkness, heaven and earth, flesh and spirit, and more. These terms express the pagan worldview that underlies them. Yet John uses these terms and thought-forms in such a way as to confront his hearers with a fundamental question and indeed a contradiction. John begins with the announcement “In the beginning was the logos.” As he continues it becomes apparent that logos is not the impersonal law of rationality that permeates the universe giving it order, but rather the man Jesus Christ. The logos became sarx. John begins by identifying with the classical longing for the source of order expressed in the term logos, but subverts, challenges, and contradicts the idolatrous conception of rationality that had developed in the classical world. In this way John is both relevant and faithful: relevant because the uses familiar categories that express existential struggles, faithful because he challenges with the gospel the worldview that shapes those categories. (page 139)

Great point regarding not only the necessity of contextualization but the Biblical mandate for it regarding John’s understanding of Jesus, the Word made flesh.


Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture

I’m continuing to read Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching by Graeme Goldsworthy. His best book that I’ve read thus far from him.

Some favorite quotes:

If we imply “that conformity is simply a matter of understanding and being obedient, then we are being legalists and we risk undoing the very thing we want to build up. We may achieve the outward semblance of conformity to the biblical pattern, but we do it at the expense of the gospel of grace that alone can produce the reality of these desirable goals. To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as he wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self-improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade, is godless.” (page 119)

Any sermon, then, that aims to apply the biblical test to the congregation and does so without making it crystal clear that it is in Christ alone and through Christ alone that the application is realized, is not a Christian sermon. It is at best an exercise in wishful and pietistic thinking. It is at worst demonic in its Christ-denying legalism. (page 124)

 

Some other very good quotes that I’ve enjoyed and been convicted by:

If we would see God, he is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for our humanity, it is most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ. If we would see what God intends for the created order we discover that it is bound up with our humanity and therefore, revealed in Christ. While the temptation in preaching will be strong to proceed directly from, say, the godly Israelite to the contemporary believer, this method will inevitably produce distortions in the way understand the text. There is no direct application apart from the mediation of Christ. …while, no doubt, the direct approach will produce nice thoughts and, to a limited extent, even edifying one, we simply cannot afford to ignore the words of Jesus that the Scriptures testify to him. I say again, if this be the case, then the Scriptures only testify to us insofar as we are in him. (page 116)

If [Jesus] is the living Word of God, the truth, and the one from whom all things were made, no fact in this universe can be truly understood for its ultimate significance apart from him. This must include our understanding of the Bible. (page 117)

… we are legalists at heart. We would love to be able to say that we have fulfilled all kinds of conditions, be they tarrying, surrendering fully, or getting rid of every known sin, so that God might truly bless us. (page 118)

 

If we constantly tell people what they should do in order to get their lives in order, we place a terrible legalistic burden on them. … If we ever give the impression that it is possible to do this on our own, not only do we make the gospel irrelevant, but we suggest that the law is in fact a lot weaker in its demands than it really is. Legalism demeans the law by reducing its standards to the level of our competence. There is a hopelessly misleading adage that one hears from time to time, and from people who ought to know better, that God requires less than perfection, or that perfection is less than perfect because we can achieve it. In fact the law of God was not framed according to the sinful human ability to keep it, but as an expression of the perfect character of God. (page 118-119)

… the practice of some churches to have a “teaching” sermon in the morning service, and a “gospel” sermon the evening. Such a distinction is fraught with danger, for it suggests that the gospel is only what gets us stared as a Christian and is confined to evangelistic preaching, while the gospel is unnecessary for teaching Christians. This is clearly false. The distinction must therefore be made in terms of intention: conversion of unbelievers on the one hand, and edification of believers on the other. Both need the gospel, but the focus or emphasis will be different. (page 125)

If we are not going to proclaim some aspect of the riches of Christ in every sermon, we shouldn’t be in the pulpit. (page 126)

One is unlikely to assert that we are justified by sanctification, but, whether done intentionally or not, that is what happens when we allow the teaching of Christian living, ethical imperative, and exhortations to holiness to be separated from and to take the place of the clear statement of the gospel. We can preach our hearts out on texts about what we ought to be, what makes a mature church, or what the Holy Sprit wants to do in our lives, but if we do not constantly, in every sermon, show the link between the Spirit’s work in us to Christ’s work for us, we will distort the message and send people away with a natural theology of salvation by works. (page 237)

Check out the following two talks by Tim Keller that really flesh all of what Goldsworthy is saying in this great book:

Highly recommended book.