Doctrine of the Church: Authority in History, the Reformation, and Today

Introduction

Authority has been a discussion in church history throughout the years. Early churches were often regional with the bishop of the region having a vast amount of power. Later the church became more centralized until the clergy oversaw and had authority over every aspect of the spiritual and sometimes governmental aspects of the laity’s lives. The reformation at its core was a change in these power structures. The disruption of a centralized power resulted in war and blood in the streets. Out of the chaos, denominationalism grew into the primary expression of Christianity in the world today. Each denomination handles the issue of authority differently; however, they all share, even the Roman Church, marks of the decentralization of power that happened in the reformation: local autonomous churches most of all bear this reformation mark.

Major Theological Components of Authority

The topic of authority is indeed a very early subject in the church. Ignatius, of the earliest writers, says, the “bishop [is] one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority”[1] and to oppose the bishop makes one “utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ.”[2] In Ignatius’ time, the canon was not fully understood, so the bishop would outline the expected texts for his people, authorize who could administer the ordnances, and be the final authority on membership. Fast forward about 300 years, and Augustine, responding to Faustus, gives a glimpse of how he views the authority of the scripture and the church together. Augustine says, “you forthwith deny that Matthew wrote the narrative, though this is affirmed by the continuous testimony of the whole Church.”[3] Augustine seems to view the church as complementary to the scriptural authority, or perhaps coequal. Near the same time Augustine is writing, the foundations of the Papacy were being laid by a man named Leo. Shelley explains, “Leo [in] his entrance into office he extolled the “glory of the blessed Apostle Peter … in whose chair his power lives on and his authority shines forth.”[4] Patterson agrees with that “Leo I launched the medieval papacy.”[5] Throughout the middle ages “the hierarchical government of the Western church imitated secular imperial structures.”[6] The clergy, overseen by the pope, were the supreme authority in all matters of faith for the laity. Aquinas gives a picture of how doctrine worked in this time, “just as the Pope is said to absolve a man when he gives absolution by means of someone else: [the priest].”[7] At this point the church claims all authority over the laity, even the power to forgive sins, and sole authority to interpret scripture.

Components of Reformation and Modern Denominations

The authority to forgive sins and how that authority was used was a spark in the heart of a German monk, soon to turn reformer, Martin Luther. The 95 Theses that Luther nailed to the church door is dominated by the idea of indulgences. Not a new topic in Luther’s day, but one that the reformer Luther addressed. Luther’s primary issue can be summed up as, who can forgive sins but God, and when did God sell that forgiveness? Just four years after nailing the theses to the door Luther is excommunicated from the church. Geoffrey gets right at the heart of the reformation stating, “it quickly became apparent that the protest involved a drastic rethinking of the way in which Christ’s authority is exercised.”[8] The fact that the reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Tyndale, immediately began translating the Bible into the vernacular shows they believed the authority was on the scripture for each person to see. The visible argument of the reformation might have been justification, but the true separation between Rome and the Reformers was the issue of authority. Luther attacked the church’s power structures themselves, removing the divide between the clergy and the laity, declaring all Christians priests, and removing 5 of the 7 sacraments, keeping two, Baptism and the Eucharist. The only two sacraments instituted in scripture. In some ways, this freedom that came was a disaster. The reformers fought over what and how the scripture prescribed the sacraments and all of Europe ended up in what is called the 30-year war, Christians killing each other in the streets. The war can be attributed to the issue of authority. The reformer’s ideas left a power vacuum. Even as late as the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, the Christians were still enforcing worship with governmental authority. But it was the sons of the pietists that won in the end. The congressionalist took the pietist’s principles of separation of church and state and founded independent congregations all over Europe and the new colonies. Slowly distilled into the world, the denominations emerged, each with slightly different authority cultures. State churches like the Anglicans, some with presbyteries like the Presbyterians, and some fiercely independent like the Baptists. Even the Roman Church evolved, allowing its members to access scripture and removing its anathematization of the other groups.

Major Theological Components in Ministry

Baptists fiercely guard their independence, even within the Baptist community. Each church is usually autonomous and a member of the coalition by its own choice. This means that while there are shared principals each church has its own distinctives. Theologically a church must be ready to define its own theology and, or, accept a historical confession. For example, a Reformed Baptist church might hold primarily to the 1689 London Baptist Confession (LBC), while a more traditional Baptist church might use the Baptist Faith and Message. There are also different leadership models, single pastor, a multiplicity of elders, elders and deacons, ETC. In almost all cases, pastors, elders, deacons require approval by the congregation. Each church will have bylaws that define how the approval process works. In the case of this Reformed Baptist, the leadership model is a plurality of elders. The elders are selected by the congregation. These elders administer the church membership, ordinances, and care for the flock. Theological distinctives are confessed in the LBC.

Conclusion

The LBC says, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”[9] Indeed, throughout history, no matter how humans organized their church, the church of God has relied on the scriptures as authoritative matters of faith. The reformations primary impact was freeing the biblical text from the church and giving it to the reader. No place more exemplifies this freeing than the local church, where arguments happen, people see one thing or another, and doctrinal distinctives are rediscovered with every generation. The people of God will always be able to move forward because of the power and authority contained in holy scripture.

 

References:

[1]. Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 69.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 325.

[4]. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 137.

[5]. Kendell H. Easley and Christopher W. Morgan, eds. 2013. The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic. 163.

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, Philip W. Goetz, and Daniel J. Sullivan, trans. Laurence Shapcote, Second Edition., vol. 17, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 574.

[8]. G. W. Bromiley, “Authority,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 367.

[9]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2478.

 

Bibliography

Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988.

Easley, Kendell H, and Christopher W. Morgan, eds. 2013. The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Schaff, Philip, ed. St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists. Vol. 4. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995.

Sproul, R. C., ed. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015.

 

1 Peter 2:4-10 Exegesis

Historical Background and Introductory Issues

The primary historical concerns for exegesis are authorship, date, audience and purpose. An understanding of these four areas is beneficial for a sound exegesis because it allows the exegete to keep the text in its intended context.

Authorship

            The author of the letter is identified as Peter in the letter itself. The letter opens with the words, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles …”[1] For the believer that is assured of God’s perfect revelation in scripture, that would be enough to conclude that Peter wrote the correspondence. However, there are several early citations of the letter as external evidence as well. Polycarp cites from the letter[2], and though he does not mention Peter, it proves that the letter was an early writing. Peter is directly cited as the author of the letter by Irenaeus saying, “Peter says in his Epistle: “Whom, not seeing, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye have believed, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”[3] These attestations and the internal autograph make it more than reasonable to conclude that Peter is the author.

Date

            If Peter is accepted as the author, then the date must be prior to his death. Clement speaks of Peter’s death saying, “Peter, … had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.”[4] Though the date is argued, the context of what Clement is saying places Peter’s death near 64 AD. This is probably why 64 AD is the date that the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible uses.[5] Given the time of travel between the first and second letter, this first letter is certainly before 64 AD. Grudem places it in 62 or 63 AD[6] based on the lack of mention of Peter in Paul’s prison epistles.

Audience

Like Peter’s authorship the letter states who it is written to, “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”[7] The Christians throughout Asia minor are the readers. The word, διασπορᾶς translated dispersion in the ESV, could indicate that Peter was writing to the Jewish believers. However, the letter is not without application to the whole group of believers considering the letter speaks in broad terms about the whole body of Christ. The passage for examination here, 1 Pe 2:4, states “you come to him, a living stone.”[8] The “you” in the text refers to the body of Christ made up of the both Jews and gentiles. Perhaps Peter knew some of the recipients because of his sermon in Acts 2 as there were people from “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia”[9] among the hearers. Eusebius indicates that “Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia9 to the Jews of the dispersion.”[10]

Purpose

Grudem sums up the purpose very well by saying “to understand the letter was written by Peter to distant Christians in genuine need of its teaching and encouragement.”[11] Matthew Henry, drawing from the theology of the book, states the purpose as “instructions needful for the encouragement and direction of a Christian in his journey to heaven.”[12] Peter is too early on the scene to be addressing gnostic concerns. However, there is one controversy that raged in the early church that Paul seemed to address endlessly and that is the Judaizers. There is no direct evidence the Peter was addressing the Judaizers, but it would have been an issue in the church at the time of writing.

 

 

Tracing of the Passage 1 Peter 2:4-10

 

Explain the Tracing

            4b infers from 4a that Jesus, “him” is chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5a is a result of the statement from 4a to stay in him means to be chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5c infers from 5b that if they are priests, they offer sacrifices to God and 5b-c is the result of 5a; they are priests because they are chosen in him. 6b is the ground for the statement in 6a that the scriptures call Jesus the chosen one. Verse 6 is the ground for the statements in verse 4 and 5, Peter is reinforcing his point with the authority of scripture. 7a is an inference from 6a-b that believers are the receivers of the blessing. 7c is the ground for Peter assertion that unbelievers will not receive the blessing believers will in 7b. 8b infers from the quote in 8a that they do not believe because they are not obedient to God’s word. Verse 8 is support by restatement for the information in verse 7. 7b-8b are support by negative concessive statement for 6a-6b, what happens the obedient believer is contrasted to the unbelieving disobedient person. 9b infers from 9a that if the chosen believers are a priesthood, it is to proclaim the excellencies of God. 10a-10d are negative positive statements that reinforce the transformation of God’s people. 10a-10d are an inference from 9a-b. And finally, 6a-10d are a restatement and refinement of the idea expressed is 4a-5c.

Word Study in the Passage

            In 1 Peter 2:4 the word ἐκλεκτὸν translated chosen in the ESV, appears. This word is important to study because the readers understating of it and how it is used will impact the outcome of the exegesis. Just what is chosen and how is it chosen? Answering those questions can vastly impact the view of the text. The lemma ἐκλεκτός is used 4 times in 2 Peter and each reference is connected to people, or person.

1 Peter 1:1-2: “To those who are elect (ἐκλεκτοῖς) exiles.”[13] Here Peter addresses his letter to the elect. In the sentence Πέτρος (Peter) in the nominative case, he is the subject of the sentence, the elect is in the dative, they are the indirect object. The word πρόγνωσιν translated foreknowledge in the ESV is in the accusative and is the direct object. The foreknowledge of God is the thing that identifies the elect.

1 Peter 2:4: “you … in the sight of God chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν[14]).”[15] There the relationship is reversed. The ἐκλεκτὸν are the accusative and the θεῷ is the dative. This is stating the same relationship in reverse. The elect is identified as having a relation to God’s seeing them.

1 Peter 2:6: “a cornerstone chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) … whoever believes in him.”[16] The exact same relation exists in verse six. In this case the “him”, is identified in its relation to being the ἐκλεκτὸν. The reader is supposed to understand that the ἐκλεκτὸν is the one they should believe in.

1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) race.” In verse nine the ἐκλεκτόν are now the subject, nominative case, and the object is the περιποίησιν, translated possession in the ESV. The elect here are again identified by being the possession of God.

            In each of these contexts the elect are/is identified in relationship to God. By God’s foreknowledge, in God’s sight, and as God’s possession. The Oxford Press A Greek-English Lexicon gives the definition of ἐκλεκτός as “picked out [or] select,”[17] This rendering is consistent with the usage in 1 Peter. Grudem helps to give a sense of how the word is used throughout the new testament when he says “The word [ἐκλεκτοῖς] in the New Testament (twenty-two times) always refers to persons chosen by God.”[18] That is certainly the sense in which Peter is using it here. One of the best examples of the words being used as Peter does elsewhere in the New Testament is Romans 8:33a “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (ἐκλεκτῶν)”[19] This is a very strong statement about the elect relating to God as his. This is perfectly consistent with 1 Peter 2:9 where God is the possessor of the ἐκλεκτὸν.

Theological Exegesis and Theological Synthesis

Exegesis

            R.C. Sproul says of this sections that “the letter’s recipients, as Jewish and Gentile Christians, are viewed as exiled Israel—the true Israel—as it continues in Christ and those who identify with Him.”[20] This is exactly Peter’s point and why he quoted Isaiah 28:16 “I am laying in Zion a stone”[21] and applied it to the New Testament believers. The action from the text is in verse 4 and that is, “As you come to him.” The rest of the periscope is explaining through both positive and negative statements what the result of coming to him is and identifying who they are coming to. The him in the text is clearly Christ and he is the chosen and precious. Peter pictures the ones that come to Christ as looking like him; as he is “a living stone” the ones that come to him are “like living stones.” The imagery is of the temple, the believers in Christ have become living temples to God ready to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”[22] and “proclaim the excellencies of him who called”[23] them. Grudem explains the connection Peter is making with the history of God’s people saying, “[t]he long history of God’s dwelling place among his people finds New Testament fulfilment in the people of God themselves.”[24] The periscope concludes that many “stumble because they disobey the word.”[25] With Peter’s multiple quotes from scripture and this statement about not obeying the word, it is clear he holds the text in high regard.

Synthesis

            Lea explains that this text fits in to the greater conversation of Peter as “[a] description of the people of God.”[26] A good way to see this is to consider the preceding periscope, 1 Peter 1:13-2:3. Lea entitles this previous periscope “[a] demand for holiness.”[27] Notice the words “obedient children” in 1:14 and how that same theme is pictured in of those that “disobey the word” in 2:10. The periscope in 2:4-10 is a foundational concept for the rest of the letter.  A great example of this is 1 Peter 3:7 where Peter says the male, specifically husbands is to “honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.”[28] Peter appeals to the woman being “heirs with you of the grace of life” as the reason to act.  Peter is appealing to the shared nature that is described in 1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”[29] Throughout the text Peter will encourage the reader to holiness, practical action, and even to be emotionally motivated “for the Lord’s sake.”[30] That is to say, Peter expects that they will act this way, because they are the Lords “own possession.”[31] To sum all this up in Peter’s words, your bride price is “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,”[32] so act like it.

 

References

[1]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[2]. Polycarp of Smryna, “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 33.

[3]. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 472.

[4]. Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV, ed. Allan Menzies, trans. John Keith, vol. 9, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897), 230.

[5]. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Mark, Gospel Of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988. 1401.

[6]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 38.

[7]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[9]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:9.

[10]. Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 132.

[11]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 43.

[12]. Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 1 Pe 1:1.

[13]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[14]. All Greek word are referenced from, Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

[15]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[16]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[17]. Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 512.

[18]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 52.

[19]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:33.

[20]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2238.

[21]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[22]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:5.

[23]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[24]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 108.

[25]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:8.

[26]. Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1):. 17.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 3:7.

[29]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[30]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:13.

[31]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[32]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:19.

 

Bibliography

Bray, Gerald, ed. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 17. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1): 17–45. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000795026&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, and Roderick McKenzie. A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Menzies, Allan, ed. The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV. Vol. 9. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897.

Sproul, R. C., ed. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

 

Jesus Christ as the New Covenant is the Foundation, Prize, and Proclamation of the Church

Understanding of the Work of Christ

The relevance of his nature as fully God and fully man

The Hypostatic Union is the knowledge that Jesus exist as two natures. Some, like Athanasius, thought that “the Nicene [creed] is sufficient, as against the Arian heresy, so against the rest.”[1] Yet, over 200 years it was refined and hedged into the understanding that “[t]he union of the divine and human nature in Christ is a permanent state resulting from the incarnation, and is a real, supernatural, personal, and inseparable union.”[2] Athanasius, appealing to the authority of “[the Catholic Faith [that] was published,”[3] cited the Nicene creed that, Jesus “came from the heavens for the abolishment of sin.”[4] Since only God can live perfectly and only humans can have sin Jesus must have both. A human nature to bear the sin and a divine nature to be the perfect law keeper.

His life

            His life is where he, again as Athanasius said citing of the creed, “fulfilled the Economy according to the Father’s will,”[5] This “Economy” is that sinless life that the author of Hebrews references when he said that he was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”[6] In this he passed the test that the whole human race had failed in Adam. A test that humans were never intended to pass, it was always to be his victory, because the purpose of all creation is Christ as the visible manifestation of the Godhead.[7]

His death, resurrection, ascension

            In death he became the “propitiation by his blood”[8] because God “made him to be sin who knew no sin.”[9] The divine nature in Christ cannot become sin because God cannot sin.[10] This necessitated Christ’s human nature and it is that nature which in the garden cried, “not my will, but yours, be done.”[11] The resurrection then vindicates his sinlessness and declares that he has the right to claim lordship. The inspired Apostle Paul wrote that by the resurrection Christ was, “declared to be the Son of God.”[12] Since death could not hold him all those that are in him are free of deaths sting. Just as the first Adam brought death to God’s people the second brought life to all God’s people.[13] In ascending he took his place as King, Prophet, and High Priest. The most immediate need for the sinner is perhaps his ever-living intercession as High Priest. The ascension was also to make way to send the Spirit.

The sending of the Spirit

            The Spirit is the seal and presence of Christ for the church. Where Jesus said I will build my church, Holy Spirit acts in perfect unity with this decree by empowering, sealing, sanctifying, and teaching believers. This work of the Spirit unifies all believers into one catholic (universal) church.

His return

            The method of Christ’s return is debated however, one thing that cannot be debated is his status as final judge. Paul writes, God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.”[14] This man is Jesus.

The Kingdom

            Jesus’ first and continuing message was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[15] From the very beginning in the protoevangelium,[16] in Moses,[17] by the Psalmist,[18] and in the prophets[19] the Kingdom had been promised to come. In the words of Jesus, it had come, it was now. What then had happened with Jesus that made the transition from future to now? David and Isaiah explain that the Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of Christ when Christ’s enemies are his foot stool[20] and the government rests on his shoulders, [21] then Kingdom is at hand. Jesus proclaimed this reality with his final words, “it is finished.”[22] In a very real sense the kingdom had come and yet there remains a fulfillment to be seen as noted by the Apostle Paul when he points to a coming day when “he will judge the world.”[23]

            The Church and the Kingdom of God

What is the Church?

            Allison excellently sums up the church as “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.”[24] For this exercise, it will work to think about the church as the people of God from all time and in all places. This is the reason Athanasius calls the creed “Catholic Faith [that] was published.”[25] It is that all believers are scripturally beholden to hold to “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”[26] It is a single universal confession that all believers, the people of God, share. The core of that confession as Paul explained, “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”[27] and believe that what the scriptures say about his person and works are true. As already stated, the Kingdom of God is all things having come and coming under the feet of the Lordship of Jesus Christ; so, this confession of the church that Jesus is Lord is how the church and Kingdom fit.

How Does the Church fit Into the Kingdom?

            On the night that Jesus died, he made mention of the New Covenant represented in his blood and body.[28] With his own life Jesus inaugurates the New Covenant by his personal work, this covenant is the foundation, prize, and proclamation of the Church. Jesus can provide this royal boon because of his victory and all things being placed under his feet. The author of Hebrews explain that he is the great and final prophet who has “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”[29] and is able in his own blood to be the prophet, priest and king of “the covenant he mediates.”[30]

The foundation is the covenant which creates a body who confesses the Lordship of Christ. The people of God’s prize is the covenant blessings from him. Paul explains God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”[31] This covenant promised is “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”[32] until the eschatological expression of the Kingdom where “we acquire possession of it.”[33] That inheritance is the fully revealed Kingdom as the author of Peter explains, the church is a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[34]

Indeed, the prize is the Kingdom in its full eschatological glory where nothing limits the relationship between Christ and his chosen church. The proclamation is the work of the Kingdom in the interim. Jesus said of his followers that they were not of the world but in the world,[35] they were to not fear because he had overcome the world,[36] and they were to baptize,[37] that is to give the outward sign of the inward confession that Jesus is Lord, to all those who would be disciples.

Allison quotes a poignant question, “Is the church to be seen as an instrument to accomplish God’s purpose in creation or is the church the expression of God’s ultimate purpose itself?”[38] Of course the resounding answer is yes! The Church is the instrument by which “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world”[39] and, as much as the church displays the Lordship of Christ in the New Covenant, it is the current expression of God’s ultimate purpose. It is always important to make the statement that the kingdom is here, not because the church is here, but because the King is here.

Christian Traditions and Theological Characteristics

Theological Reflection

            Shelley points out that the sacraments and how they are administered in the church history depends greatly on the view held of the church. When “Ambrose refused the emperor Communion”[40] it set the precedent for how much power the church would have. This is to be expected if the church is the expression of God’s Kingdom now. The discussion of the church here had been from a reformed historic premillennial view. Different traditions would place a different level of emphasis on the now and on the future based on their eschatological approach. For instance, a preterist or postmillennial view would place far more emphasis on the now, while a dispensational pretribulation view would place even more emphasis on the final fulfillment of the kingdom. The primary point is that there is room for disagreement and for the different weights that different traditions place on their Ecclesiology. For example, those postmillennial might see the church as the tool that brings the whole world into the kingdom for which they might adopt a high ecclesiological practice. This is often the case among the traditionally reformed. However, even with those circles there are people like “Kuyper [who] attempted to mix different thought worlds.”[41] The point is that even with a specific tradition it is not always possible to nail down an Ecclesiology. Shelley explains that the “[t]he Reformation unintentionally shattered traditional Christendom.”[42] With this shattering came the many ecclesiological systems.

 

 

 

References

 

 [1]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 453.

[2]. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878), 31.

[3]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 454.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 4:15.

[7]. Ibid, Col 1:15.

[8]. Ibid, Ro 3:25.

[9]. Ibid, 2 Co 5:21.

[10]. Ibid, 1 Jn 3:9–10.

[11]. Ibid, Lk 22:42.

[12]. Ibid, Ro 1:4.

[13]. Ibid, Ro 5:12–15.

[14]. Ibid, Ac 17:31.

[15]. Ibid, Mt 4:17.

[16]. Ibid, Gen 3:15.

[17]. Ibid, Deut 18:15

[18]. Ibid, Psa 110:1.

[19]. Ibid, Isa 9:6.

[20]. Ibid, Psa 110:1.

[21]. Ibid, Isa 9:6.

[22]. Ibid, Jn 19:30.

[23]. Ibid, Ac 17:31.

[24]. Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 29.

[25]. Athanasius of Alexandria, “Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson, vol. 4, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 454.

[26]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jud 3.

[27]. Ibid, Ro 10:9.

[28]. Ibid, Lk 22:20.

[29]. Ibid, Heb 1:3.

[30]. Ibid, Heb 8:6.

[31]. Ibid, Eph 1:3.

[32]. Ibid, Eph 1:13.

[33]. Ibid, Eph 1:14.

[34]. Ibid, 1 Pe 2:9.

[35]. Ibid, John 17:14.

[36]. Ibid, John 16:33.

[37]. Ibid, Matt 28:19.

[38]. Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 52.

[39] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 24:14.

[40] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 98.

[41] Daniel Strange, “Rooted and Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction between Church as Institute and Church as Organism, and Its Usefulness in Constructing an Evangelical Public Theology,” Themelios 40, no. 3 (2015): 432.

[42] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 342.

[43] Gregg R. Allison. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 52

 

 

Bibliography

Allison, Gregg R. 2012. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Vol. 4. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892.

Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds. Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1878.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995.

Strange, Daniel. “Rooted and Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction between Church as Institute and Church as Organism, and Its Usefulness in Constructing an Evangelical Public Theology.” Themelios 40, no. 3 (2015): 430–445.

 

Passover Theme in John: Jesus as the fulfillment.

Introduction

John is often referred to as the evangelist. This is because, in the literature attributed to him, he states quite directly that his purpose in writing was “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.”[1] John writes with Greek words, however, those words are crafted in a way that seems intended to appeal to a reader who could appreciate the connection between the work of Christ and the history of Israel. By linking Jesus to the history of God’s people, and picturing Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of that history, John gives the reader insight into God’s design for salvation. Namely that God saves, for, to and from himself, by means that are beyond human ability. God’s power to save and method for saving are explained in the great protestant proclamation of the Five Solas: faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.  The story of God’s purposes is the joy of the Biblical exegete seek out; employing language study, historical background, and cross-referencing the texts are just some of the skills required to dive deeply into the bounty that the scripture provides. In the Gospel John agrees with the other New Testament writers as to Jesus being the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for redemptive history; because God accomplished redemption through the ultimate “Lamb of God”[2], fulfilling what the Passover promised: Jesus’ story can be traced from before the first Protevangelial promise[3] to the last text as his people enjoy eternity with their savior and king. The story of redemptive history is about Jesus, for Jesus, and through Jesus, to the glory of God so that sinners would be saved from God.

Historical Background of the Book of John

Date and Location

            Since Clement (c. ad 150–215)[4] cites from John, the authorship can be safely assumed to be prior to Clement. Irenaeus makes probably the clearest reference to the location and by that gives a clue as to its date when he said that John wrote the Gospel “during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”[5] This means that the data would be somewhere between the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. and, assuming John is the author of Revelation, 95 AD. This date is further supported by the p52, (papyrus) which is dated in the early second century.

Authorship

            Overwhelmingly the church fathers, Papias, Clement, Polycrates, Irenaeus, and Dionysius attributed the authorship to John the Apostle.[6] John is also listed as the author in the Muratorian Canon documents.[7] In the early years, there was an advantage to apostolic authorship. As the Canon was not fully recognized, yet it was almost universally agreed on that apostolic authorship was expected for any document that belonged Canon. This atmosphere of argumentation about the Canon would give any early centuries person a good reason to push for John’s authorship, if for no other reason than making the case that the text was scripture. However, in the intervening centuries, several theories have been broached about the authorship; though none of them have been able to clearly refute the attribution to John. As Strauss put it, even with all the other theories about authorship, “The most likely candidate for authorship remains the apostle John.”[8]

Audience and Purpose

            John’s overarching purpose is stated in the text “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.”[9] However, there is some speculation as to other motives that might have driven John to write. Speculations range from John feeling the need to supplement the other gospels, John’s battle with Gnosticism, or John wanting to inform the readers as to the institution of the sacraments.[10] However, Kruse points out a very compelling point about purpose when he said, “[s]eeing that the Gospel was probably written originally in Greek, we may say it was intended primarily for unbelieving Greek-speaking Jews.”[11] This hypothesis fits with John’ stated purposes. It seems reasonable to guess that John wrote the Gospel with the local Greek-speaking Jews in Ephesus in his mind; so that they might come to believe.

Passover Theme in the Gospel of John Cross-Reference Old Testament

The lens John uses in his Gospel is fully fixed on Jesus. Wang points out that John’s Gospel gives more time to “Jesus’ passion” than any of the Synoptics.[12] The reason John writes is to foster faith in Jesus and, as Lee puts it, to stress “the identity of the Johanne Jesus.”[13] This identity that Lee speaks about is the Jesus who fulfills the plan of God’s redemption. Even though the fulfillment themes in John are many, perhaps the most powerful is that of the Passover. Dvorak points out that the Passover is a major theme in John because while the “Synoptics record Jesus’ attendance only at the Passover Feast that immediately preceded his death, [but] John, however, recounts three [Chapters 2, 6, 12] Passovers ….”[14] In the prologue, John sets the stage for Jesus’ climatic fulfillment of the Passover when he reports John the Baptist’s proclamation “Behold, the Lamb of God!”[15] There is only one reason to associate Jesus with a Lamb. That reason is pictured in the Exodus account of the first Passover where the Lamb took the death that would have been for the firstborn and by its sacrifice provided covering and life for the firstborn children of Israel. In contrast, the Egyptians, who had no covering, lost their firstborn to the angel of death that God sent.[16]

After the reference to the Lamb in the prologue, in Chapter 2, Jesus is said to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and, on this occasion, Jesus drives all the of animals out of the temple. Clearly, in Jesus’ words, this was about how they had made “my Father’s house a house of trade.”[17] However, when it is put into the great theme of John’s narrative, we see that John is using this incident to communicate Jesus as the true purifier of the temple. R.C. Sproul seems to interpret John’s words here consistently with the idea of Jesus as the purifier when he wrote, “Jesus is the final and full expression of what was only a shadow in the OT (Heb. 10:1).”[18]

Jesus again visits the temple on Passover in Chapter 6 and this visit is right on the heels of feeding the multitudes and walking on the water. John is linking the reader’s mind back to the Old Testament when he recounts these, just as the Hebrews had walked through the sea[19] by God’s power Jesus walked across the sea[20] of Galilee and just as God had fed the people with the bread of heaven,[21] Jesus fed the people.[22] Jesus makes this connection plain when he said, “Moses who gave you the bread from heaven.”[23] Jesus goes on in Chapter 6 to expand on the theme of himself as the Passover Lamb. In the Old Testament, after the Lamb was sacrificed and the blood covered the door to the house, the people were to eat the Lamb and leave nothing of it[24] and Jesus tells the crowd that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”[25] This picture proved too enigmatic for most of the crowd who left off following him.

The final Passover in John is the one in all the Gospel accounts. R.C. Sproul says of this Passover account, that starts in Chapter 11:55, “[a]t this Passover feast (cf. 6:4), the Lamb of God, who takes away the world’s sins (1:29), will be sacrificed.”[26] It is interesting to note that Jesus in John 18:1 crosses the Kidron valley this night after promising a new covenant in his blood, this is the place where all the false altars were cast when Hezekiah rededicated the temple[27] and Selman points out that it is at this point in Israel’s history that “[t]he original smearing of doorposts and lintels (Exod. 12:7, 22–23) is replaced by sprinkling on the altar.”[28] Since this was Passover night, it would have been the 14th day of the month, Jesus as the Lamb goes out into the twilight[29] to be taken like the Lambs from Exodus. Charles Spurgeon very clearly explains Christ as the Passover fulfillment with these words,

Come, let us keep the Passover this night, and think of the night when the Lord delivered us out of Egypt. Let us behold our Saviour Jesus as the Paschal Lamb on which we feed; yea, let us not only look at him as such, but let us sit down to-night at his table, let us eat of his flesh and drink of his blood; for his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed.[30]

Reasons and Purpose for the Saving of Mankind

The Lord tells the Children of Israel, not for you I have done this.[31] God in no uncertain terms declares that salvation is for the vindication of his name alone. In John, we see the Monergistic formula for salvation more than any of the other Gospels. In John 6 the only people that come to Christ are the ones drawn by the Father,[32] in John 10, only those that are his hear his voice,[33] and in John 17, Jesus intercedes for his alone.[34] Jesus over and over again in the text of John states that he has come to do the will of the Father and the Fathers will is that Jesus will “raise him [the one the Father draws and evidenced by faith in Jesus] up on the last day.”[35]

The Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation codify how the scripture describes salvation. In answering the question of God’s purpose in salvation, Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone) is the most pertinent of the Solas. God said in Isaiah 43:1–7, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! … whom I have created for My glory.” [36]

The need for the salvation of mankind is because of God’s justice. As a just God, he must punish the wicked; but, because of His love, He makes a way for salvation so, in the end, it is God the sinner needs to be saved from, His justice, and it is God who saves the Sinner for his glory because of his love, as a display of his Grace. The scripture says that God desired to “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.”[37]

Skills of a Detailed and Accurate Exegesis

The exegete finds great joy in deciphering and interpreting the scriptures. The three main categories of understanding the scripture are understanding the text itself, understanding the historical background, and being able to locate the text in the greater narrative of the passage, the book and the story of redemptive history.

For the passages in John, one of the primary keys was seeing the theme of Old Testament Prophecy fulfilled. This requires knowledge of the overall biblical text. For example, seeing the significance of the fact that Jesus crosses Kidron before he is turned over to the Jews and that it happens at twilight takes knowing the Exodus account and the accounts in 2 Chronicles. The exegete must have a good grasp of scripture and that is why Paul says that it takes a skilled tradesman in the word to handle it correctly.[38]

The second most important skill for the Johannian texts, in this case, is a good grasp of the flow of the text itself. The passage where Jesus says that the Kingdom of heaven is attended by eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:57) was problematic to the people in Jesus’ day because they did not know what to do with it. Paying careful attention to the text in this case and seeing that Jesus starts with the statement (6:40) that believing in him gives life, then two times after that, one positive and one negatively, he equates eating and drinking him to the thing that gives life. It becomes clear that Jesus is using eating and drinking him as a metaphor for believing in him.

The last of the primary skills required for this text is the historical setting of the book. The exegete must rely on the historian for a lot of the information in this part. There are always some clues in the text about place and authorship but, especially with John, the clues can be few and far between. Knowing the historical setting can give many clues and to the who, what, where, when and why of the text.

Conclusion

Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise of redemption. He is the serpent crusher. He is the ark. He is the Passover lamb. He is the promised Messiah. John’s gospel text is about showing Jesus as God’s promised means of salvation. Through Jesus, God saves his people, from himself, for himself, and by himself. Jesus is the Lamb that covers the sin of the world.

 

References:

[1] John 20:31, ESV.

[2] John 1:29, ESV.

[3] Genesis 3:15.

[4] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 24.

[5] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 414.

[6] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 24.

[7] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 25.

[8] Mark L. Strauss. 2007. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 334.

[9] John 20:31, ESV.

[10] Colin G. Kruse. John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 24.

[11] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 21.

[12] Wang, Lian (Pseudonym). 2017. “Johannine View of Persecution and Tribulation.” Lutheran Mission Matters 25 (2): 359.

[13] Lee, Dorothy A. 2015. “‘Signs and Works’: The Miracles in the Gospels of Mark and John.” Colloquium 47 (1): 91.

[14]. James D. Dvorak. 1998. “The Relationship between John and the Synoptic Gospels.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41 (2): 201

[15]. John 1:36, ESV.

[16]. Exodus 12:1-31, ESV.

[17]. John 2:16, ESV.

[18]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1855.

[19]. Exodus 14:22, ESV.

[20]. John 6:19, ESV.

[21]. Exodus 16:4, ESV.

[22]. John 6:11, ESV.

[23]. John 6:32 ESV.

[24]. Exodus 12:8, ESV.

[25]. John 6:53, ESV.

[26]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1879.

[27]. 2 Chronicles 30:13–22, ESV.

[28]. Martin J. Selman, 2 Chronicles: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 11, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 519.

[29]. Exodus 12:6, ESV.

[30]. C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ Our Passover,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 2 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1856), 1.

[31]. Ezekiel 36:32, ESV.

[32]. John 6:37–46, ESV.

[33]. John 10:27, ESV.

[34]. John 17:9, 20, ESV.

[35]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:40.

[36]. Isaiah 43:1–7

[37]. Romans 9:23, ESV.

[38]. 2 Timothy 2:15, ESV.

What is the Cost: Discipleship Reflection

Model for Christian Discipleship

Three times in Mark Jesus prepares his disciples for his upcoming victory against the enemy and in each case, they seem reluctant to see what he “taught”[1] them. In Mark 8:31 Jesus uses the word δεῖ (translated must in the ESV) in relation to his mission to the cross and in the other two accounts (9:30, 10:33) he uses παραδίδοται, in present tense followed by the two uses of κτεινω in future tense creates, as France puts it, “[emphasizes] that the future course of events is already decided.”[2] The understanding gained from Jesus’ words is that the course of the Disciples life is decided by God. A faithful disciple is not forging their own path but, as Jesus often said, is seeking to do the will of God. Jesus sought to do the will of the father so wholeheartedly, that it was impossible for him to fail at it.

Coupled with the picture of whole-hearted service to God’s will, a theme of self-sacrifice appears in each account: “deny himself.”[3] “be last of all and servant of all,”[4] “be slave of all.”[5] Clearly Jesus means to communicate that being a disciple is about following God’s will even when it costs, and it always will, the things that by human nature seem good.

Expectations for the Christian Life

Paul writes that suffering for a Christian is welcome because we gain hope through enduring it.[6] The writer of Hebrew bridges Paul’s words to the life of Jesus in these words: “[f]or the joy set before him [Jesus] he endured the cross.”[7] That cross is something Jesus says all his followers must bear.[8] The condemnation of the cross in Jesus’ day was that of condemnation of the worst sort. The picture that Jesus draws by equating following him with the cross is that the follower of Jesus must be condemned to the world. R. C. Sproul explains that Jesus, in his actions, “sets the pattern for the experience of all who follow Him.”[9] However, as seen in the words of Paul and the author of Hebrews, it is not a condemnation of tears, rather the Christian “Count it all joy”[10] to suffer because that suffering produces joy and in the age to come “glory beyond all comparison.”[11] The Disciples clearly did not understand this concept of joy and glory producing suffering at the time Jesus spoke to them. They shrank back and “were afraid”[12] to speak with Jesus on the matter. However, each of them boldly received suffering and most death for Christ in the time following Pentecost. Indeed, suffering for Christ’s “sake and the gospel’s”[13] become the dominant theme of Christianity for 250 years following Jesus’ ministry.

Success as a Disciple

The word translated rejected in Mark 8:31 (ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι) means “fail to pass the scrutiny”[14] and Jesus is clearly talking about the interactions between himself and the Sanhedrin. However, Cole suggests that Jesus wants the reader to understand that “the true danger for all is that of failing to pass the scrutiny of God.”[15] Success as a disciple is summed up in these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”[16] With Christ as the example of this good and faithful servant, the Christian must understand the title of good and faithful only goes to those that “take up [their] cross and follow.”[17] In other words, the successful disciple is the one who has condemned the world and the things of the world to themselves in order to live for Christ. This is not an easy task, it is, in fact, impossible short of divine intervention, because, by nature, humans resist God.[18] The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus “has made perfect for all time those who are being sanctified.”[19] The actor in both cases is God, Jesus perfects those that are being, receiving, sanctification. The receiver in both cases is the disciple.

Text Impacts on Life

The two themes that emerge from Mark’s narrative are first that Jesus as the example shows that the Christian must be condemned to the world and alive towards God, and second, that this is accomplished by being a servant of all.[20] Perhaps the most poignant verse for personal application is Mark 8:38. The idea of Christ being ashamed should be revolting to the disciple. The understanding in the context shows that if Christ is ashamed of someone that person will fail to receive eternal life; however, the primary reason the idea of Christ being ashamed should be revolting is found in one word, love. If a person can look at the passion of Christ and not be moved to do whatever that savior asks, even to the loss of life, then that person has no love in them.[21]

Personal Life and Discipleship

In the personal walk, it is easy to grow cold and the disciple must continually stoke the fire of their passions for Christ. John Piper artfully stated that understanding that the center of the Christian life is finding joy in God and finding that joy frees us from the bondage of fear.[22] The disciple must seek in the text of Mark to see Jesus’ mission as the greatest joy in his life. It was the writer of Hebrews that said Jesus “endured the cross … for the joy that was set before him”[23] The repeated nature of Jesus’ instruction gives the reader a clue on how to find this joy. On no less than three separate occasions, Jesus teaches the disciples about what will happen to him. After his resurrection, he continues teaching by “interpret[ing] to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”[24] Receiving the repetitive teaching of Christ, through the scriptures, is the way a disciple receives this instruction today. It is not going too far to say that, when the disciple lacks in their mediation on the teaching of Jesus in the whole of scripture, they will lack in their application.

References

[1]. In two of the 3 accounts, Mark uses the word διδασκω (to teach).

[2]. R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 371.

[3]. Mark 8:34, all citations are EVS unless otherwise noted.

[4]. Mark 9:35.

[5]. Mark 10:44.

[6]. Romans 5:3-5.

[7]. Hebrews 12:2.

[8]. Mark 8:34.

[9]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1751.

[10]. James 1:2-4.

[11]. 2 Corinthians 4:17.

[12]. Mark 10:32.

[13]. Mark 8:35.

[14]. R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 209.

[15]. R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 209.

[16]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 25:23.

[17]. Mark 8:34.

[18]. Romans 3:9 -18.

[19]. Hebrews 10:14.

[20]. Mark 9:35.

[21]. 1 John 4:8

[22]. John Piper, When I Don’t Desire GOD: How to Fight for Joy(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2013). 13.

[23]. Hebrews 12:2.

[24]. Luke 24:27.

Matthew’s Birth Narrative: Matthew 1:18–25

Introduction

Matthew is the Jewish gospel writer. Throughout his gospel, Matthew is concerned with showing Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. To convince his audience of the validity of the claim that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, Matthew pays close attention to the teaching of Jesus and juxtaposes them with the actions of the Jewish leaders. Matthew is very concise in his description of events, often using far fewer words to describe the events when compared to the other synoptic gospels[1] and draws upon the Old Testament, showing Jesus as fulfilling the prophecies of the Messiah. The challenge Matthew has is that for several hundred years before Jesus was born, the common understanding was that the Messiah would be a conquering king and rid his people of the cursed heavy-handed Romans. The birth narratives in Matthew 1:18–25 contains all of the characteristics of Matthew’s approach, he provides a verse concise summation of events as he focuses mainly on using the life of Jesus and the meter to exegete the Old Testament, and he helps to align the readers understanding that Jesus does come as a savior but perhaps not the kind of savior that the people had expected.

Matthew and the Old Testament

The issue Matthew is addressing in the periscope is the Virgin Birth. R. C. Sproul calls the Virgin Birth “… a watershed doctrine, separating orthodox Christians from those who do not believe in the resurrection and atonement.”[2] Some have argued that Matthew is defending the Virgin Birth against some that accused Jesus of illegitimate birth[3]; however, this seems unlikely considering that the Jews in John 6 seemed to have accepted Joseph as Jesus’ father: “Is not this … the son of Joseph, …”[4] Matthew’s primary concern is connecting Jesus in the mind of his readers with the long-awaited and prophesied savior. There are three indicators in the periscope that show Matthew’s desire to explain Jesus’ virgin birth as related to the Old Testament.

First, Matthew establishes Joseph as “just man.” At no time does this attribute to Joseph get taken back. Matthew clearly wants to show that Joseph believed the Jesus was conceived virginally, because being a just man Joseph would have engaged his right under the Law to divorce Marry, privately, before two witnesses.[5] This narrative is to lend legitimacy to the virgin birth narrative.

Second and probably most compelling, Matthew say “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.”[6] Matthew makes it perfectly clear he wants his reader to see the connection between Jesus, and the prophesy in Isaiah about a son born of a virgin. It is no coincidence that Matthew said, the Lord had spoken through the prophet. Matthew is clearly setting up for the argument that Jesus predicted his own virgin birth through Isaiah.

Third, Matthew directly quotes from the Old Testament in connection with Jesus. If a virgin gave birth, to a Jewish mind, it would be hard to avoid concluding that the son that was born was the Messiah. Matthew starts then with this virgin birth to anchor the rest of his text as he makes the argument for Jesus. Matthew knows that even though he does not directly site it, his Jewish readers will know the words from Isaiah that the virgin birth is a sign from “the Lord himself.”[7] The sign giver in Isaiah’s words is אֲדֹנָ֥ (Adonai) and Jesus makes himself to be this in Matthew 22 when he quotes from Psalm 110: Yhwh said to Adonai sit at my right hand.[8]

Parallel of Passage Events and the History of Israel

One of the most salient parallels is that of dreams. This would have been accepted by the Jewish reader that God communicates through dreams because of the parallels found in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament who dreamed sheaves of wheat[9] and the sun, moon and stars.[10] Matthew assumes that his readers understand the authority of dream messages that come from God. Because Joseph, the father of Jesus, is having the dream, probably leads Matthew to focus so much on Joseph in his narrative when compared to the other gospels such as Luke who focuses primarily on Mary. Luke’s focus on Mary might be attributed to the fact that when Luke was writing, Joseph would have been dead by that time.[11]

A second parallel exists in the powerful connection in Matthew’s text to the creation account. The Holy Spirit is seen as the agent in Genesis 1 that brings about Gods creation. This same Holy Spirit is depicted by Matthew as “the agent in Jesus’ conception” [12] and Matthew clearly intended to depict “[t]he agency of the Spirit in bringing the Messianic age.”[13] Nolland points out that even in how Matthew words “τὸ γεννηθὲν ἔστιν ἐκ, which creates a measure of separation between the verb,”[14] is intended to separate the idea of God’s work in Mary’s conception from the visceral human male role. Matthew, as carried on by the Holy Spirit, wants the reader to think of God as creating life in Mary’s womb in a supernatural way.

Similarities of Audience and Background the Old Testament time and Writing of Matthew

Matthew primarily uses the Septuagint in his citations and he often modifies it to make the meaning he is getting at plainer.[15] Matthew does precisely that in his citation from Isaiah 7:14. He adjusts the word καλέσεις[16] (he will call) to the word καλέσουσιν[17] (they will call). Matthew probably feels the need to adjust the wording due to the massive expectation placed on the messiah by the Jews of his day. Even the apostles, after years with Jesus, where expecting an imminent kingdom as they fought over who would sit at his right and left hand when he ruled.[18] The common people wanted to make him king according to John.[19] This fever pitch for a messianic king was not a new issue. Judas Maccabeus’ was probably the most famous of the Christ figures that had taken the stage prior to Jesus. Jesus was not the last contender in this saga either. A man by the name of Barcocheba[20] claimed and defended the title of messiah up until the 70 A.D. crushing of Jerusalem.  Barcocheba was able to do that because the Jews wanted a military leader. This climate is why Matthew was so precise in his wording, not only in the additional adjustment of he to the they in the Isaiah citation but also when Matthew carefully cites the Angel’s words “…for he [Jesus] will save his people from their sins.”[21] Matthew wants no mistake in his readers minds, Jesus is not to be confused with the military leaders that have and will come claiming to be the Messiah; Jesus is the Messiah because he fulfils the prophecy about him.

Matthew is also opening a door that has long been thought to be shut and that is continued revelation from God. In connecting Jesus with the Old Testament as the fulfiller of these prophecies, Matthew is saying that the 400-year silence is over, God has sent the Messiah to exegete the Old Testament.

Conclusion

Matthew 1:18–25 was written for the express purpose of portraying Jesus as the Messiah that Israel needed, however, history shows that he was not the messiah people wanted. Matthew provides a concise and careful citation of both Isaiah and the angel in Joseph’s dream as he shows that Jesus is the measure of the Old Testament and what it says about him is important; Matthew then draws the reader’s attention to Jesus as savior not from any earthly enemy, but that enemy which no earthly power can overcome, sin. Matthew’s case is simple, Jesus is the Messiah not because of massive military victories, not because of all the miracles he performed, but because he fulfilled the prophesies he made about himself through the prophets in scripture.

 

 

[1]. Mark L.Strauss. 2007. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 217

[2] R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 1782.

[3]. R. E. Brown. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1977.

[4]. John 6:42.

[5]. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 447.

[6]. Matthew 1:22.

[7]. Isaiah 7:14.

[8]. Matthew 22:44.

[9]. Genesis 37:7.

[10]. Genesis 37:9.

[11]. John 19:26-27.

[12]. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 82.

[13]. R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 82.

[14]. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 93.

[15]. Paul D. Wegner, “Isaiah, Theology Of,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 379.

[16]. Septuaginta: With Morphology, electronic ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979), Is 7:14.

[17]. Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), Mt 1:23.

[18]. Matthew 20:21.

[19]. John 6:15.

[20]. Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 177.

[21]. Matthew 1:21.

The emergence of Pietism and its influence upon the Great Awakenings

Pietism cannot really be understood without taking into account the impact of the writings of the Puritans. In the center of both the Puritan and pietist movements is an emphasis on holiness and a personal rebirth. These ideas of personal application are not a denial of the Reformation. Calvin talking about faith said “… man’s mind has to go beyond and rise above itself in order to attain it.”[1] No one can fairly accuse the Reformers of denying that personal holiness and personal faith in God were important. The Puritans were the heirs of this Reformation idea that “Christianity “is not apprehended merely by the intellect . . . but it is revealed only when it possesses the whole soul.””[2] The pietists were also influenced by the Anabaptists, who were the first real Congregationalists.[3] A good example of the Anabaptist influence on pietism were the Moravian and the communal living they did on the Zinzendorf estate. Not seeking to use rules of law to enforce Christianity in an ever increasingly secular world, instead the pietists preferred to seek community and preach to the world the personal Christ. It is precisely these two traits of the Pietist movement, the Congregationalists mentality and the idea of personal rebirth and call to holiness, that came from the Anabaptist and the Puritans, which set the stage for the great movers in the Great Awakening.

Johnathan Edwards said in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that the reason he was drawn to reflect on the subject of hell very well might have been “… for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation.”[4] This idea of personal conversion was something that came from the Pietists understanding of God and the community of believers. It is important to notice that the Great Awakening was brought about by preachers and not statement, especially in America. People like John Winthrop, a statesman and preacher, along with the Great Puritan experiment had come and gone. To be sure there were the “Old Calvinists”[5] who were still doing church the old-fashioned way. However, the method of Edwards and Whitfield, in what would become America, and John Wesley in England was to bypass the ruling body and go straight to the people. John Wesley was known for speaking to several thousand people at a time in public for hours at a time. Goerge Whitfield is famed to have preached more 1000 sermons in one year. Clearly, the big movers in the Great Awakening are people that believed that Christianity was something a person could choose and they should also choose where to congregate. Something that is not a highlight of their sermons was instructions on which church to attend.

Just as the big preachers of the Great Awakenings were not focused on which church to attend, Wesley even left the Anglican church in order to found the Methodists, which is a highly congregational denomination, especially when compared to Anglicans. The big movers in the Great Awakening emphasized personal conversion.[6] Personal commitment and conversion, or turning to God from sin is, Lane argues, found in both the writings of Calvin and Philipp Jakob Spener, who Lane calls the founder of Pietism.[7] Clearly, some part or idea of personal conversion was held by the reformers and that became a central theme for the Pietists. This theme of personal conversion is also seen in Johnathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Edwards said that the “door of mercy” was “thrown … wide open” by Christ.[8] This was spoken of by Edwards in a personal invitation for the person to seek refuge themselves. There was no instruction by Edwards about seeking absolution, sacrifice, or sanctuary in a church, rather absolution, sacrifice, or sanctuary are found between the believer and Christ personally.

Congregationalism, personal holiness, and personal conversion are the main theological themes that flowed from the Reformation through the pietists to the preachers that sparked the great awakening. These themes found their home in the hearts of many, who lived in a world where the secular was challenging the sacred for control of the hearts of men. The institutionalism of Christendom had been left behind, but the world and each person still knew and will always know of their need for a savior. That personal savior is only Jesus Christ.

[1]. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 559.

[2]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 282.

[3]. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, Updated 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Word Pub., 1995), 248.

[4]. Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards,” Blue Letter Bible, , accessed March 26, 2019, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/edwards_jonathan/Sermons/Sinners.cfm

[5]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 264.

[6]. Ibid, 276.

[7]. A N. S. Lane, “Conversion: A Comparison of Calvin and Spener,” Themelios 13, no. 1 (1987): 20.

[8]. Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards,” Blue Letter Bible, , accessed March 26, 2019, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/edwards_jonathan/Sermons/Sinners.cfm

Liberalism and Evangelicalism

Social Engagement Between Evangelicalism and Liberalism

The difference between Evangelical and Liberal social engagement is best summed up by looking at intent or authority. Both groups intend to make an impact in the world. The Evangelicals wanted to call people to join the orthodox Christian position without compromising that position. The issue really comes down to Biblical authority and inerrancy. The Evangelicals “… retained their belief in biblical inerrancy, but were more willing [than the fundamentalists] to engage the culture …”[1] On the other hand, Liberalism left behind the idea of inerrancy and “… made many new claims into which traditional Christianity had to be assimilated.”[2] The differences between Evangelicals and Liberals is the question, why Christianity? The Evangelicals in holding biblical inerrancy accepted the simple, biblical understanding that God intended the salvation of people “… to the praise of his glory.”[3] The Liberals, on the other hand, saw Christianity as the way to right the wrongs of the world. Machen was correct when he called Liberalism “a different religion from Christianity.”[4] In the liberal view, the general moral principles of scripture were first and foremost about making people better. The person need not even believe in the existence of God as long as religion gave them something to ground their life and moral decisions. For example, Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965) spoke of God as “being itself”[5] and many charged him with being practically an atheist.[6] Tillich’s God had been lost in transcendence to where he had no personality or power to do anything. Tillich’s Christianity was simply about helping people explain their existence. Tillich perfectly exemplifies the liberal purpose in using Christianity to engage social issues; making man the center of the question. Evangelicals on the other hand call men to make God the center of everything.

Similarities and differences between Carl F. H. Henry and Walter Rauschenbusch

Carl F. H. Henry

            Carl Henry was one of three great personalities behind the New Evangelical movement; the other two men were Harold J. Ockenga and Billy Graham.[7] Carl Henry was a Theologian and his emphasis was on maintaining an orthodox understanding of scripture without compromise while still engaging the world in a meaningful way. During his time at Fuller, he helped create the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) that welcomed Christian scholars in a “trans-denominational forum of evangelical scholarship.”[8] The one requirement for this society was the agreement on Biblical inerrancy.[9] Carl Henry’s reasons for helping to create this ecumenical  society were laid out in his work, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in which he depicted the fundamentalist as having retreated from “the full gospel mission.”[10] Carl Henry engaged with scripture as the authority for Christianity and therefore he understood that the world needed a personal savior, because of personal sin.

Walter Rauschenbusch

If Carl Henry represented the new Orthodox Evangelicalism, Walter Rauschenbusch was the poster boy for Liberalism. Well known liberal Baptist pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick who preached a sermon titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”,[11] said of Rauschenbusch that “he opened a new era in the thought and effort of American Christianity.”[12] The Liberal idea of Christianity, and certainly Rauschenbusch’s idea, was that Christianity was for social reform: righting the wrongs of the world. Reinhold Niebuhr referred to Rauschenbusch as “… the real founder of social Christianity …”[13] All of the men, Fosdick, Niebuhr and Rauschenbusch saw no need for orthodox beliefs and did not believe in inerrancy. Rauschenbusch’s approach to scripture was a mix of myth like Rudolf Bultmann,[14] and existentialism like Schleiermacher and Tillich. In Liberal theology, sin was a corporate thing and Rauschenbusch sought to “… reclaim the ‘sinner,’ America, for the kingdom of God.”[15] Rauschenbusch sought to use the church as a platform for justice reform to the end that the world would be changed for the better.[16] Rauschenbusch saw sin as a corporate malady that needed to be corrected.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Both Approaches

Liberalism

The sides represented by Carl Henry, New Evangelicalism, and Walter Rauschenbusch, liberal, social Christianity, have, at the core, very different ideas about the purpose and application of Christianity. The Liberal goal was to “make Christianity palatable to a mindset that could no longer accept traditional orthodoxy.”[17] To do this, the liberal needed to reinterpret scripture in the light of modern thought and reappropriate orthodoxy.[18] This has the effect of more engagement as there are many who would call themselves a Christian for the purpose of change and would never believe what is traditionally Christian. The problem is that now, the liberal has redefined Christianity, so that fairly leaves open the critique that it is no longer Christianity, but something different. Liberalism becomes something that uses the words of Christianity, the ideas of Christianity and then perhaps some of the morals of Christianity, without the millennia-old meaning of Christianity. Put simply, Liberalism’s weakness is that it is not Christianity in the traditional sense. It may have some social application, but it is not concerned with real guilt before a real God.

Evangelicalism

            What is the nature of God? If the critique of Liberalism is that it does not deal with real guilt before a real God, then the question is what is this God? Carl Henry in speaking for the new Evangelicals based his arguments on the nature of God. If God was real with a mind and a will and that God had revealed himself, then scripture was about understanding and relating to God.[19] The strength of this approach is that it is traditionally Christian. It allows for the Word of God to be used as God intended it. It makes the person morally responsible before a personal God. This approach might be harder for the modern mind to digest; however, a traditionally Christian view, informed by the Bible, is that in the end, any form of Christianity will eventually just be foolishness to the world.[20]

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists

It is a difficult task to maintain an orthodox position and be culturally engaged. The reason that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists split was the difficulty engaging the world in a way that was conducive to conversation without leaving orthodox Christianity. At one time the words Evangelical and Fundamentalist were synonyms. The core tenant that both the Evangelical and the Fundamentalist movements held was that of the inerrancy of scripture. The differences came at first in the method of cultural engagement. Because of this difference about cultural engagement, “Carl Henry, along with others such as E.J. Carnell, George Eldon Ladd, and Paul K. Jewett, decided to launch a revised evangelicalism.”[21] The Fundamentalists would simply make inerrancy the dividing line and would not engage people that did not already accept inerrancy. On the other hand, Evangelicals felt constrained by scripture to be engaged without compromising. The Evangelicals, “… sought to defend and expound Christian evangelical orthodoxy in a way that avoided the vicious polemical tone of the past.”[22] Since the separation the Fundamentalist movement has further separated itself. At one time Fundamentalism was the new hope, but now, even in some Evangelical circles, it is a dirty word. Likewise, since the split, some accuse the Evangelicals of becoming more liberal. Future generations may find themselves with a need to redefine again.

 

Bibliography

[1]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 807.

[2]. D. Jeffrey Bingham, Pocket History of the Church, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 149–150.

[3]. Ephesians 1:12, ESV.

[4]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 797.

[5]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 124-125.

[6]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 124-125.

[7]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 807.

[8]. Ibid, 809.

[9]. Ibid, 809.

[10]. Ibid, 808.

[11]. John Woodbridge and James A. Frank III. 2013. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 800.

[12]. Ibid, 215.

[13]. Charles W (William)Weber. 2014. “The Relationship of Walter Rauschenbusch to Foreign Missions: The Social Gospel and Cultural Change.” American Baptist Quarterly 33 (2): 215.

[14]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 89.

[15]. Charles W (William)Weber. 2014. “The Relationship of Walter Rauschenbusch to Foreign Missions: The Social Gospel and Cultural Change.” American Baptist Quarterly 33 (2): 215-216.

[16]. Scott E. Bryant. 2008. “The Optimistic Ecclesiology of Walter Rauschenbusch.” American Baptist Quarterly 27 (2): 117.

[17]. D. Jeffrey Bingham, Pocket History of the Church, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 149–150.

[18]. Ibid, 149–150.

[19]. Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997). 294.

[20]. 1 Corinthians 1:23.

[21]. Carl Trueman, “Uneasy Consciences and Critical Minds: What the Followers of Carl Henry Can Learn from Edward Said,” Themelios 30, no. 2 (2005): 33.

[22]. Ibid.

Psalm 1 Translation and Commentary

Translation and Summary

Translation

Verse 1: Blessed is the man, not walks in the counsel of the wicked, in sinners way not stands, and in seat of scoffers not sits;

Verse 2: rather[1], in the instruction of the LORD he delights and in that instruction he meditates day and night.

Verse 3: and he will be like a tree planted above streams of waters, which fruit gives in season and leaf not fade, and all that he does prospers.

Verse 4: Not so the wicked, rather like the chaff which is driven away by wind.

Verse 5: Therefore, not stand wicked in the judgment and sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Verse 6: because, knows the LORD the way of the righteous but way of wicked perish.

Comparison Summary

            The overall flow of the Psalm is a different between the translations. In Psalm 1 there are three couplets and a mid-point. The ESV and my translation recognize this by using a semicolon in verse 1-2 and verse 5-6 and a period in verse 3-4. Next, of the four translations only mine and the ESV keep the word “אִ֗ישׁ” a male noun and keep it singular. Both the NLT and NIV remove the gender and the NLT makes it plural using the word “those.” The NLT and the NIV keep these themes for the person(s) being spoken of throughout their translations. My translation and the ESV use a literal methodology and that is seen in word choice. An example of word choice is the word “עֲצַ֪ת” (council). The ESV stays with the literal, however, the NLT changes it to “advice” and the NIV translates it “step”, which is the farthest from the literal translation. Obviously, many of the translational choices are about readability. In my translation I intentionally stayed with original word order as much as I could and stayed within the gender and number of the words. This results is my translational being the least readable of the four.

Theological Words Summary

יֶהְגֶּ֗ה (meditate)

The root is “הגה” which is to “moan, growl, utter, speak, muse.”[2] This word is used Joshua[3] in a fashion very similar to Psalm 1. In the Joshua context the word meditate is connected with the concept of speaking the words of the Law. Three alterative uses are in Isaiah 16:7, 38:14, 59:13 where they are translated “mourn,” [4] “I moan,” and “uttering.” The phrases meditate(s) and law appear together in three places Josh 1:8, Ps 1:2, and Ps 119:97. In each of those cases the context is that meditation on the law is brings good.

פִּרְיֹ֨ (fruit)

The root “פרה” is used 344 times in scripture and means “fruit; offspring, descendants; produce.”[5] The nature of this word is that it crosses the testament boundary and is connected by concept/meaning with the word “καρποὺς” (fruit). Jesus in Matthew 7:17 and Paul in Galatians 5:22 use this word “καρποὺς” when talking about the type of actions that someone does or the action that God produces in someone. The use in Psalm 1 is conceptually connected to Jesus and Paul’s usage in that good fruit is evident in the life of those that follow God.

מִּשְׁפָּ֑ט (Judgement)

This root “מִשְׁפָּט” is used 422 times in the old testament and it is about justice: “The term is often used to express both the attribute of justice as well as the execution of judgment in litigation.”[6] A good clear example is, Exodus 23:6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.”  This word also has the definite article, indicating a definite time in which this will take place. Conceptually the idea of the judgment has always existed in Biblical language and it is a cross testament concept.

Verse-by-Verse Commentary

1)         The word translated blessed could also be translated as happy.[7] It is the same word used when the Queen of Sheba spoke of the fortune of Solomon’s servants in 1 Kings 10:8. This happy blessing is conditioned on a way of life. In the first verse we see the author use the words walk, sit, and stand. This gives the idea of a full life of activities. When a person is going about their day, they are in one of these three states: walking, standing or sitting. Also connected to the three states are three types of companions, wicked, sinner, and scorner. So, the happy man is the one that, no matter part of the day he is in, is avoiding three types of influence.

2)         The words “כִּ֤י אםִ֥” (because if), which according to Garrett are best rendered “rather,”[8] starts the next verse. This shows that verse two is antithetical parallelism, the opposite of the action in verse one. Verse one is about what the happy man does not do and verse two is about what he does do. The opposite, what he does do, in this case is to imbibe the induction of the LORD. In the first verse, walking, standing and sitting represented the idea of every place in life; the concept of day and night in verse two represent a completed life again. So, this happy man is about the instruction of the LORD in every part of their life. An interesting note is the concept of mediation. Much of western thinking is influenced by far east concepts of meditation. Eastern meditation is usually the practice of completely emptying the mind. The Psalmist here does not seem to think of meditation in the terms of emptying the mind, rather it is the concept of filling the mind in order to mouth or mumble the words of the instruction.

3)         The tree is the concept of life, and the word stream is plural indicating abundant provision. Not just one source of provision but many streams feeding life of success. The end of the verse indicates that this happy man will have a prosperous life. The idea of the prosperity being connected to devotion comes from the Torah, instruction, itself. In Deuteronomy 12:28 Moses charges Israel “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you …”

The Psalm is in two parts and the end of verse three represents the mid-point and we understand that verse three and four make up “the centerpiece of the psalm.”[9] The second half of the Psalm acts in an antithetical parallelism to the first half. The first half is about the righteous and the second half about the wicked or ungodly. The first half climaxes in a single statement in in verse three and second half starts out with the single statement and moves into a couplet. Both halves are a direct inverse of each other.

4)         The second half of the Psalm is dedicated to discussing the wicked man and the Psalmist starts with an analogy that the wicked man compared to the righteous man is like grass compared to a tree. The comparison is also about life. The tree is planted and growing but the chaff is the byproduct of dead grasses. This structure appears in Jeremiah 17:5–8, however, the contrast here is more final. As Kidner puts it, the construction in the last half of the Psalm “goes as far beyond Jeremiah’s contrast of fruitful tree and desert shrub.”[10] The emphasis here in verse four is on the chaff and its instability. The wicked are not just dead grasses, they are blown away. They have no place or no footing, again in opposite of the tree that has a place, “above streams,” and a footing in being “planted”.

5)         Right off we see the finality of the word “מִּשְׁפָּ֑ט” (judgement). It carries the definite article. So, it is not some judgment or a possible judgement, is the definitive judgement. Isaiah 2:14 says that the LORD has a day against the wicked.[11] The Psalmist here is also referring to a specific time where the LORD calls to account the actions of the person. Here the reader gets a glimpse into why the righteous person is happy. Not only does the work of the righteous prosper, but by contrast, we understand that the righteous do stand in the judgment. The wicked man has to fear the judgement, the righteous man has no fear and therefore he is happy.

6)         Verse six forms a couplet with verse five, in a very similar fashion to verse one and two. Verse five is about what the wicked will not do and verse six is about what they will do. The final word, “אבד” (to perish) has within its domain the concepts of destruction. It indicated not just a falling away or failing, but also an active destruction. Perhaps the Psalmist intends to make a final statement that if a man cannot stand in the judgment he will be destroyed. The word is also meant to be understood as corresponding to the word “יַצְלִֽיחַ׃” (to prosper). Verse three concludes that the righteous prospers and correspondingly the conclusion for the wicked is to perish.

Application Points

            Blessedness is the first teaching point to emerge. it is worth noting that when Jesus spoke, in the sermon on the mount, he attached this concept of blessings to certain actions that best display the kingdom of God in action. It is important to note here that Jesus’ concept of being blessed is a journey to the cross and that picture of Christ’s successful work leads to the second teaching point.

Success or prospering are concepts that are often misunderstood and very often mishandled in the western evangelical context. It is important to point out that Jesus prospered at all he did, especially in his mission to “to seek and to save the lost.”[12] The prospering of a Christian is tied to the idea of kingdom work in their life. As an example, we see Paul the Apostle considering himself successful in his sufferings.[13]

The last point, the Word of God is what produces righteousness. The blessed man is blessed in being holy, set apart, from the sinner and the wicked and the scoffer and set apart for the instruction of God. Jesus’ words about freedom found in the Word are among the most poignant to understand this: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[14]

 

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[1]. Garrett,  D. A., & DeRouchie, J. S. (2009). A modern grammar for biblical Hebrew. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic. 82.

[2]. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 211.

[3]. Joshua 1:8

[4]. All Scripture citations are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[5]. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017).

[6]. Matthew Aernie, “Judgment, Final,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[7]. Joshua G. Mathews, “Blessing,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[8]. Garrett,  D. A., & DeRouchie, J. S. (2009). A modern grammar for biblical Hebrew. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic. 82.

[9]. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 65.

[10]. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 65.

[11]. Isaiah 2:14

[12]. Luke 19:10

[13]. Colossians 1:24

[14]. John 8:31–32

 

Bibliography

Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 65.

Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 211.

Garrett,  D. A., & DeRouchie, J. S. (2009). A modern grammar for biblical Hebrew. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic.

The Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017).

Evangelism and Discipleship: Jonah and Paul juxtaposed.

Evangelism and Discipleship

Introduction

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship forces his reader to face the fact that the only reason and method for living is living for “Christ alone above all else.”[1] This is the recurring theme of evangelism and discipleship; Christ, God, is all in all and all is owed to Him. Jonah is used by God to evangelize the Ninevites and he is a picture of the personal loss when discipleship does not follow evangelism. Paul was called to reach the gentiles for Christ; yet, Paul carries out his call not just by evangelizing and leaving but also by teaching and training. Paul and Jonah are two characters that demonstrate both evangelism and discipleship in the different testaments. Every Christian has a call not only to share the Gospel but also to be in the process of being discipled and discipling others.

Principles of Evangelism in the Old Testament and New Testament

Jonah is the perfect place to start with when talking about evangelism in the old testament. Evangelism starts with God’s call: “word of the Lord came to Jonah”[2] The call to evangelism is consistent in both testaments, the great commission[3] and Paul’s call[4] attest to God calling his people to evangelism. The only difference between the call to evangelism in the old and new testament is that in the old, the call was more to individuals with the people of God and in the new testament it is more universal to all the people of God. After the call there is the going to do evangelism. Jonah shows the inescapable nature of the call of God to this task and so does Paul. Jonah got the fish and Paul got knocked of his mount and blinded. After the call and the going is the message. Between Jonah and Paul, the real propitiation had come. The means that Jonah’s message was slightly different than Paul’s. Jonah said repent[5], Paul said repent and believe.[6] There are three principles to evangelism as outlined in the lives of Jonah and Paul, the call, the going, and the message.

Principles of Discipleship in the Old Testament and New Testament

The necessity of discipleship is clear in the life of Jonah because his life can be juxtaposed with that of the life of Paul. After the Ninevites repented, Jonah was disconsolate; yet, when the Corinthians repented Paul rejoiced in them.[7] Jonah and Paul are the perfect mirrors of each other in this case. Both Jew’s, both called to evangelize Gentiles, yet one is happy with the success and the other is not. Discipleship is the difference. Jonah left without getting to know the people, he was the one person they knew and had the influence to teach them the ways of God’s people and he abandoned them.[8] Paul, on the other hand, did not stop at the proclamation, Paul stayed and taught them what they needed to know. Paul taught a young man right out the window.[9] So, by being about discipleship Paul rejoiced and Jonah missed out. Principles of discipleship is probably best summed up in Deuteronomy 11:19, God’s call on his people is that as they go, as they stay, in all the ways that they live they teach about him and learn about him in community.

Evangelism and Discipleship in Your Supervised Ministry Placement

Throughout the text from scripture, and pointedly in places like Genesis 3:15, God has shown his desire for reconciliation[10] between Him and His people. McRaney points out that the stakes in evangelism are eternal.[11] Discipleship is always connected to evangelism. Bonhoeffer put it like this, “Happy are they that know that discipleship is just a life that springs from Grace and that Grace simply means discipleship.”[12] The purpose of the minister is not to invent new ideas. The minister is to carry out the call of evangelism and the task of discipleship by learning as Timothy did from Paul and then passing it on. The supervised ministry placement is just that. It is a younger learning from an older in order that the mission will be carried on.

Conclusion

Paul and Jonah were called by God to go and give the message of repentance. They are just a small example of the people God has called. In their lives it is clear that evangelism and discipleship are not separate tasks, they may not happen at the same time but one is a continuation on from the other. God’s calls, people go and preach the message that brings people into a discipleship relationship with God and each other.

 

 


[1]. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 2015).

[2]. Jonah 1:1, ESV.

[3]. Matthew 28:20, ESV.

[4]. Acts 9:15, ESV.

[5]. Jonah 3:4, ESV.

[6]. Acts 16:29–30, ESV.

[7]. 2 Corinthians 13:11, ESV.

[8]. Jonah 4:5, ESV.

[9]. Acts 20:9, ESV.

[10]. Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003). 16.

[11]. Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003). 15.

[12]. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 2015).

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press, 2015.

McRaney, Will. The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003.