• Are you Still Using Your Greek?

    One of the things I learnt at Bible college was New Testament Greek (I did a year of Hebrew but I really didn’t learn it!). One of the questions that gets thrown around between pastors that I meet is “Are you still using your Greek/Hebrew when you prepare sermons?”. To our shame the answer is usually no.

    I read this quote by John Wesley on a blog by Ray Ortlund:

    “Do I understand Greek and Hebrew?  Otherwise, how can I undertake, as every Minister does, not only to explain books which are written therein but to defend them against all opponents?  Am I not at the mercy of everyone who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original?  For which way can I confute his pretense?  Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all?  Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms, or even the first chapter of Genesis?  Do I understand the language of the New Testament?  Am I a critical master of it?  Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke?  If not, how many years did I spend at school?  How many at the University?  And what was I doing all those years?  Ought not shame to cover my face?”

    John Wesley, “An Address to the Clergy,”

    Ortlund then finishes the blog by saying:

    I do not believe that every minister of the gospel, to be faithful, must know the original languages.  But many should and must.  It is the standard.  Yes, let’s make room for special cases.  But they are special cases.  And if we have had the privilege of studying the Bible in the original texts, the Lord has given us a stewardship to cultivate, not neglect.

    This rebuked me because I find I use the Greek knowledge that I have only when I really have time. But using the Greek will help me with exegesis and it is a privilege  Consider this preacher thoroughly rebuked!

    Pastor, are you using your Greek/Hebrew that you learnt at college?

    You may also like:

    Preparing for a preaching series

    Guest blog: Preaching Isaiah by Barry Webb pt. 1

    Guest blog: Preaching Isaiah by Barry Webb pt. 2

     

  • Unexpected Pastoral Ramifications from the Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry series

    Martin Luther is reported to have said “Theology is never naked.” What he meant by that is that all theology is connected, so if you change one part of your theology over here it will have knock on effects to this part over here.

    This is never any more true with how we read the Bible. If we read the Bible on one issue in certain way we have to be consistent and allow people to read all parts of the Bible in the same way that we have read that one part.

    This principle has hit home recently with the publication of John Dickson, Michael Bird and Kathy Keller’s books in the “Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry series”. Around Christmas and in the days following there was a lot of chatter on social media about these e-books and it seems that a lot of people have read them or have understood the books arguments because the authors have given summaries of their arguments. This is not only good marketing but it is very generous. This I applaud.

    But since these books have been released two Christian men who have been struggling with same sex attraction for years have asked me “If these guys can read the Bible in such a way that gets us out from under what the Bible appears to be saying about gender in the church why can’t I read the Bible in such a way that lets me live in a committed same sex relationship?” Now I am not sure how Bird and Dickson would respond to these men. No doubt they would respond biblically and with great care but the question still remains if Dickson and Bird are allowed to deal with words in a way which makes us read the texts entirely differently than what they seem to be saying. (I think this is what Dickson does as he defines the words “to exhort” Gk. parakaleo and “to teach” Gk.didasko.) Why can’t a pro gay reader redefine the words that seem to prohibit homosexual unions in the Bible (i.e. the Greek words Malakoi and Arsenokoitai in 1 Corinthians 6:9 where we get prohibitions of homosexual sexual sexual activity)?

    In putting forward this blog I am not saying that Dickson and Bird are pro gay. That would be stupid and sinful on my part. But the question I would love to know is “How they would respond to this question that our brothers in Christ have put forward?”

    You may also like:

    9 things that Inform the way Christians Interact with the Gay Community

    An apology from a Pastor to the gay community

    Lies the church tells about sex: Gay people choose to be Gay

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 5:The priority of Preaching and the mission of the church

    Because of the reality of hell and the nature of the cross by far the biggest concern for those of us who are Christians needs to be the eternal fate of those who do not know Jesus. So therefore the priority of our time, money and planning should go to making sure that the most people hear the gospel as possible. At Resolved we see Social Justice and evangelism as distinct expressions of the outworking of the gospel. We agree with Stott who writes that social Justice and evangelism are “partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other.  Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside each other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other.  For each is and end in itself.  Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”[1] This is not to say that evangelism won’t be done because of social justice or that we will be trying to both evangelise and do social justice in every situation. We see both evangelism and social justice as necessary and yet distinct outworking of the gospel. But that being said, as we have noted because of the day of Judgement we put an emphasis on preaching of the gospel. Because that is what we are called to do (c.f. Matthew 28:18-20)

    This brings us nicely into the question about the mission of the church. Is Social justice part of the mission of the church? I would say no. The mission of the church is outlined by Jesus in the above quote from Matthew’s gospel. The mission of the church is to make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded them. But social justice is part of what Jesus taught and so as pastors and leaders it is our duty to help people see the need for social justice, equip them to serve the poor and displaced and to provide opportunities to do so.

    I put social justice on the same level as pastoral counselling. Christians are commanded to love each other and provide support for each other but is pastoral counselling the mission of the church? If we take the mission from  Matthew 28:18-20 then we conclude no it isn’t.  But the church would be disobedient if it didn’t partake in caring for each other.  That is the same with social justice. Is it part of the church’s mission? No it isn’t but it is commanded by Jesus and the bible and so we must do it if we are to be bible believing Christians. This being said I do believe that there is far more scriptural support for pastoral care then social justice. But this doesnt negate my point about them both not being the mission of the church but being necessary things the church does.

     

    Over the past few days we have looked at social justice form a variety of viewpoints and we have seen that even though social justice isn’t part of the mission of the church it is so biblically waranted that for a church to ignore it that church would be ignoring the teaching of Jesus. So let all churches and all Christians care for the poor because of the gospel and for the glory of Jesus!


    [1] Stott, J.R.W, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1975), 27
  • Every church must do social justice part 3: Social Justice and the Gospel

    The problem with just stating that the bible commands that we are to care for the poor is that it is a cold hard law which will either make us fall into despair because there is always poor and we can’t help them all or we will be proud because we are doing more then the next Christian or church. Christians need to be motivated by grace first and foremost. As Jerry Bridges says “We are brought into God’s Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace.  The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.” So if this quote is true then the ministry of social Justice must be motivated by grace but how is this so?

    The bible gives us a great example in 2 Corinthians 8, in verse 1-5 Paul tells us about the example of the Macedonians who out their poverty they want to give money and be abundantly generous. But Paul Gives us the theology that motivates their giving Paulstates “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The motivation for their giving is the fact that Jesus gave up his riches and made us rich. Once you were poor, once you were spiritually destitute and Jesus left behind the riches of heaven and became so poor for you. It is in the cross we see the great exchange that Paul describes here in economic terms. Because of the cross we are able to give our money away because Jesus has given us the example of how to treat riches just as he gave his riches away, we, like the Macedonians, are free to give our money to help those who are poor. Therefore it is because God has been generous towards us in Jesus and the cross that we can be generous towards those who are needy and suffering in our world.

     

  • Every church must do social justice part 2: The Biblical Witness

    The Biblical Witness

    The words of Jesus are meant to shock us, one of the most shocking things Jesus did was tell stories that seem harmless but under the surface they snare us in a loving trap which is meant to show how we as people fall far short of the mark when it comes to living as God would have us live.

    One of the most loved stories of Jesus is the Parable of the Good Samaritan which is found in Luke 10:25-37. The story is preceded by an interchange between Jesus and an expert in the law. The   expert in the law tries to test Jesus by asking him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). The expert is trying to trap Jesus by minimizing the role of the law in salvation. So Jesus replies by pointing him to the law and asking him how he reads it. He replies by quoting a mash up of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus replies “Do this and you will live (Luke 10:28). Now we have to realise what Jesus is doing. He is not saying that you can do the law and be saved; no he is trying to show the impossibility of doing the law. Because neither you nor I nor this man could possibly love God with everything we have and love our neighbours with the care and the passion for their dignity that we show ourselves. This is a trap that Jesus has set to show the expert that he has no inherent righteousness of his own. The expert should have replied in the same way that Nathan Cole a farmer from Connecticut replied when he was converted in the 1740 after hearing George Whitefield preach ‘And my hearing him preach gave me a heart wound; by God’s blessing my old foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me’[1] As Christians we need to see that we have “all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), only once we see that we can see that Jesus death bring us forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7) and his righteousness ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).

    But the expert in the law didn’t see his own righteousness wouldn’t save but he sought to justify himself (Luke 10:29). He asked the question “who is my Neighbour?” (Luke 10:29)The demand to love neighbours as yourself was a huge command and demanded a lot so in asking this question “he wished to soften the demand and not feel the obligation to respond.”[2] “He wished to define the second commandment in such a way to make its requirements reachable”[3] Then Jesus tells us a story most people know. But we need to be careful, Jesus is not telling us that we can saved by imitating the good Samaritan but he is trying to humble us by showing the love and action that God requires with the result that we see the impossibility of living this way and then accept the forgiveness that God offers.

    The story describes a man who has been beaten and robbed he has been stripped naked and left for dead. (Luke 10:30) Which means that, as a Jew, this man shouldn’t be touched. You shouldn’t touch a man who was dead because you would become ceremonially unclean. But more than that you couldn’t see whether this man was Jewish because just like today clothing showed who you were so if you were a Jew or a Samaritan it would show by the clothes you wore so him being naked it wouldn’t have been clear where is he was from and if a Jew came into contact with a foreigner they were ritually unclean. The other thing is to note the road, on this 27 kilometre long road you went from Jerusalem which is 2700 feet above sea level to Jericho which is 800 feet below sea level the road was well known as a place where robbers and thieves abounded[4] and so to stop and help this man would leave you open to be beaten and robbed yourself! So in every way this man was, at best, a major risk to help because, as a Jew you’re standing in the community if not your life was at risk. But the thing that shocks is the characters especially the hero.  The hero of the story is not a Jewish man as you would expect but a Samaritan. Samaritans were the most hated people by Jews. So Jesus takes the most hated and he makes him the hero of the story who helps the man physically and materially. But the significant thing is the way Jesus inverts the expert’s question. Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbour?” and Jesus ends the parable with a question who was his neighbour? The expert doesn’t even mention the word Samaritan he says the one who helped him. Jesus command is to go and do likewise. Jesus is saying that a person who follows him loves those around him by seeking “justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong.”[5]

    As we have seen there is a strong command from Jesus to care for those who are suffering and this is a common teaching in the rest of the Bible. In Leviticus 25:35 we read: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” We see the priority of caring for the people of God first but what is implied is that when a foreigner came into the land that the Israelites would take care of their needs.

    In the book of Galatians, Paul is commissioned to preach to the gentiles and then is commanded to that they “should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10). It is striking that in a book which is so concerned about the gospel and getting it right that there would be a commission from the Jerusalem church to Paul to care for the poor. So as Paul was to be a missionary he was also to care for the poor.

    We could go to many other places in the bible to show that the God intends us to show concern for the poor[6] but this brief survey is enough to show us that God wants us to care for the poor. But you may ask “How does the gospel fit into social Justice?” Is the Gospel Separate to social justice or does social Justice Spring from the Gospel? We will turn to these questions tomorrow.


    [1] As quoted in Keller, Timothy. Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road (P&R Publishing, 1997), 37

    [2] Bock, Darrell L. Luke. (Downers Grove, Illinois : Intervarsity, 1994)

    [3] Keller, Ministries, 38

    [4] Snodgrass, Kyle, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2008), 345

    [5] Snodgrass, Stories, 361.

    [6] E.g., Deuteronomy 27:19, Proverbs 14:31, Isaiah 3:14-15, Ezekiel 22:29, Amos 2:6-7, Malachi 3:5, 1 John 3:17-18

     

  • What does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God?

    We kicked off Resolved in 2009 with a sermon on Colossians 1:15-20 and then we preached through the whole book of Luke in almost a year and a half. Yes, you read that right, a year and a half. But in fact it worked. I never had a sermon prep day where I thought “Oh no Luke again!” and nor did I ever hear one complaint about us going through the book of Luke at such a slow clip. But since 2009 we have preached through Galatians, Exodus, Job and Ecclesiastes as well as doing topical series’ on, suffering, defeater beliefs and sex. One of the things I have noticed is that it is very easy for a series to get dry very quickly this is especially so if you are preaching a book like Galatians or Ecclesiastes which seems to be making the same point week after week.

    Add to this dilemma I have two convictions about my preaching:

    1. I want all my sermons to be expository in nature
    2. I want to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)

    There has been much written on the first point but what does it mean to preach the whole counsel of God? Especially when you have different models, you have the Driscoll/Piper/Macarthur method which seems to take books and preach on every verse over a long period and then there are other guys who preach books in a far more rapid pace tackling entire chapters where other brother may just preach on a few verses. Which method is right?

    I think I have come to realise that preaching the whole counsel of God is not expositing every verse in the pulpit but preaching the word of God in such a way that it is faithful to the text, the canon of scripture and the Gospel. This does mean I am going to work hard at exegeting the text but this will also mean that I free myself up to preach bigger chunks and to tackle books of the Bible at a faster clip then if I thought I had to exposit every verse. I am thankful to brothers who can preach slowly through books of the Bible I think I have come to realise that is not me. But I am still going to be an expository preacher who preaches the whole counsel of God!

    What do you think “preaching the whole counsel of god” means and what does it look like for you to do it?

     

  • Baptism: The Epistles

    We could look at a number of Pauline texts about baptism (e.g. Ephesians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13; 15:29, Galatians 3:27 etc.)

    But I want to focus on two texts in particular which I think capture the heart of what is happening in baptism:

    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

    “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12

    If we take these two texts as paradigmatic for what baptism is we see that baptism is a symbol showing that a Christian undergoing baptism has died and risen with Christ and now has new life. We know that a person has only truly died and been risen with Christ when they have faith in Jesus and so if baptism is a reflection of this fact why then would we baptise someone who has not yet come to faith in Jesus.

    These texts in particular should cause a person who baptises infants to rethink their position. So as we have seen in the Gospels and Acts, baptism is to be conferred on those who have made a profession of faith and therefore the Bible supports believers baptism and not infant baptism.

     

  • Baptism: The book of Acts

    In the book of Acts baptism is an initiatory rite closely associated with conversion to Christianity.

    The following examples make it clear that believing, repenting and being baptised go together in the book of Acts.

    Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

    Acts 10:43-48 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

    I could put Acts 8:35-39, 16:31-34, 18:8, 19:4-5 into the mix because they all show a strong connection between faith and Baptism but you can look them up in your own time. These passages all show a very strong connection between faith and baptism. It is like Acts is saying that if you want to be baptised you have to be a believer.  Isn’t this evidence enough to say that only believers baptism is a legitimate baptism?

    No I hear many of you say because of Acts 10 where Cornelius’s whole household is baptised (10:46). The argument here and in the baptisms of other households (i.e. Lydia in Acts 16 and Crispus in Acts 18) is that they baptised the whole household therefore the person who baptised them would have baptised any infants in the household. Two things could be said about this point. Firstly, Luke is frustrating in the scant amount of detail he clothes these narratives with. Cornelius might have been a young man with a young family or an old man with no children at home. He and his wife could have been barren, we just do not know. So in response to the scant detail we must not press the text into saying something it is not. We are left saying that he baptised the whole household and we do not know who comprised that household. Therefore, to use this text as a proof text for infant baptism is pressing the text further than it can be pressed.  Secondly, we need to see that the people who were baptised in 10:48 are described as hearing the word (10:44) and speaking in tongues (10:48) these are signs of belief in the books of Acts. Therefore,  it is exegetically safe to say that Cornelius’s household was baptised because they believed not because the early church baptised infants. Therefore even though Acts 10 is used by proponents of infant baptism it is actually a text, when exegeted closely, that comes out in favour of believers baptism.

    In conclusion, the book of Acts links baptism with belief and repentance. Therefore those who must be baptised must be able to have faith in the lordship and saving work of Jesus.

     

  • Baptism: The Gospels

    Summarising everything that the gospels say about Baptism in the space of a blog is going to be very hard but here goes:

    The majority of times that the Gospels mention baptism it is usually in connection with John the Baptist (Mark 1:4-9, Matthew 3:1-16, Luke 3:1-22.)What was John’s baptism? It was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4) and also it was a baptism that, along with John’s preaching, was to prepare the way of the Lord (Matthew 3:1-3).  If we take these passages together, John the Baptist’s ministry and preaching was one where repentance was crucial. He wanted people to repent and, for John, baptism was a sign that a person had done just this.

    The other major passage that mentions the practice of Baptism is Matthew 28:19. Now if we look at the Greek of Matthew 28:19

    πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες

    αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνοματοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,

    We see in this clause the main verb is “make disciples “(μαθητεύσατε). It is imperatival in its force meaning that as Christians Jesus is commanding us to make disciples. The other verbs “go” (πορευθέντες) and “baptising” (βαπτίζοντες) are participles meaning they are subordinate to the main verb which is to make disciples. This means that baptising and the verb go is defined in some sense by the main verb “make disciples”. So Christians “go” to make disciples and they baptise those disciples.  Therefore here, as in the preaching and baptising ministry of John, baptism is strongly linked with repentance and being a disciple of Jesus. To put it more strongly, Jesus is linking Baptism with repentance in a way which says to have a legitimate baptism the person must have become a disciple.

    Now we do see Jesus interacting with Children (e.g. Matthew 19:13-14). But not once in the four gospels do we see Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) baptising a child. This surely makes us pause to at least reconsider whether infant baptism is legitimate.

    In conclusion, the evidence from the gospels is that a person believes and repents and then is baptised. This makes repentance and belief precursors to baptism. Therefore the gospels are in favour of believers baptism and silent on infant baptism.

     

  • Baptism: My story

    I wrote last week a post entitled “Why I am not an Anglican” and one of the reasons I wasn’t an Anglican was that I disagreed with Infant baptism.

    The question was posed “How does a person who grew up in an Anglican church and went to an Anglican theological college wind up practicing believers baptism and not infant baptism?” Well as always there is a story behind every belief and my one follows…

    As already stated, when I became a Christian at 14 I went to an Anglican church and needless to say this church baptised children. But they baptised the children of unbelievers and this troubled me. I heard the parent of some children say they were Christians and they would raise this child to know and love Jesus when we all knew they weren’t going to keep these promises. When I asked about this I was told that it is the parent’s choice to make these promises and keep them and that is it a great chance to evangelise the parents by telling them about Jesus in the baptism class. This made me uneasy even though I did see people come to know Jesus through this process.

    I honestly didn’t give baptism much thought until I hit theological college. I was going to an Anglican college where baptism wasn’t mentioned all that much.  When I was in College a decided to make use of the amazing library at the college, I did this by picking a topic (e.g. gender, scripture etc.) and reading for an hour a day on that topic till I came to a position on it. Needless to say one of the topics I investigated was baptism.

    When I read stuff by Baptists I was struck by how much exegesis they did. They seemed to be constrained by the text and then go to theology. When I read people defending infant baptism I saw that they were very shallow on exegesis and then were very heavy on arguing from theology why infant baptism was legit.

    As I hope the next few blogs make clear I found the arguments of infant Baptists unconvincing. I wanted to be a pastor who was on about the text. I wanted who I baptised not be driven by anything but the text and so I found myself convinced that we should baptise Believers and not infants. I also found that my Baptist brothers had better theological arguments as well.

    I want to lay out my theology of baptism and so here is what I will be blogging about over the next few days:

    Blog 1: Baptism: My story

    Blog 2: Baptism: The Gospels

    Blog 3: Baptism: Luke and Acts

    Blog 4: Baptism: The Epistles

    Blog 5: Baptism: The covenant

     

    I hope that we all can get to know what God would have us do as we consider this very important issue.