The Biblical Story of Priestly Glory

priesthoodOn Monday, I made the case that we should understand the imago dei in priestly terms. To develop that idea a bit, let me show how the biblical story line can be understood through the lens of the priesthood, as well.


In creation Adam was made to be a royal priest. Genesis 2:15 says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Or it could be translated “to serve it and guard it.” In other words, the man in the Garden was more than a prehistoric gardener. He was a royal priest. And we know he was a priest because the language used in Genesis 2:15 is used repeatedly of priests in Numbers 3. Moses, the author of both books, is making the point that Adam was stationed in the Garden as a priest—to serve the Lord by cultivating the Garden (even expanding its borders) and to guard the Garden from unclean intruders (a key work of the priest and one he failed to do in Genesis 3). In short, redemptive history begins with a priest in the Garden, one whose righteous appearance and holy vocation was breathtaking, as Ezekiel 28:12–14 describes,

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub [A better translation is the NET: “I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub]; I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

Sadly, this glorious beginning did not last long. Continue reading

The Priestly Aspect of the Imago Dei

priestIn The Christian FaithMichael Horton suggests four aspects of the Imago Dei, what it means to be made in God’s image. He enumerates them as

  1. Sonship/Royal Dominion
  2. Representation
  3. Glory
  4. Prophetic Witness

For each there is solid biblical evidence. Genesis 1:26–31; Psalm 8; and Hebrews 2:5–9 all testify to humanity’s royal sonship. Likewise, the whole creation narrative (Genesis 1–2) invites us to see man and woman as God’s creatures representing him on the earth. First Corinthians 11:7 speaks of mankind as the “glory of God.” Horton rightly distinguishes, “The Son and the Spirit are the uncreated Glory of God . . . human beings are the created reflectors of divine majesty” (401). They are, in other words, God’s “created glory,” which in time will be inhabited by the “uncreated glory” of God in the person of Jesus Christ. And last, as creatures made by the Word of God, in covenant relation with him, every human is a prophetic witness. In the fall, this prophetic witness is distorted. Humans are now ensnared to an innumerable cadre of idols (see Rom 1:18–32), but the formal purpose remains—to be made in the image of God is to be a prophetic witness.

Horton’s articulation is compelling, biblical, and beautiful. But it seems, in my estimation, to stress royal and prophetic tasks without giving equal attention to the priestly nature of humanity. To be fair, Horton refers to humanity’s priestly vocation under the headings of “representation” and “glory.” But because these are supporting the vocational idea of representation and the abstract idea of glory, we miss a key idea—the imago dei is by definition a priestly office. Or better, the imago dei is a royal priest who bears witness to the God of creation. Let’s consider. Continue reading

Entering the Land: Peter Leithart on the ‘Three Environments’ in Creation

leithartFew biblical commentators have a more fruitful mind than Peter Leithart. Sometimes his observations take off on a flight of fancy; other times they open fresh vistas of  biblical glory. In both cases, the judicious reader will find plenty to chew on. Personally, I have frequently initially disagreed with his reading only to be convinced later. Make no mistake, however, you should read his commentaries.

Right now I am reading his commentary on 1–2 Samuel, entitled A Son to Me. In it he makes a compelling argument for seeing Saul as a New Adam (81). He shows many ways how Saul, as a royal figure, falls from grace and repeats the fall of Adam—the first royal son. To set up his argument, he makes a compelling argument with regard to the land, and it is that argument I want to cite here.

What Leithart suggests is that the whole of biblical history (and geography) must be understood according to a tripartite division of the land. I have seen this kind of argument before (cf. G. K. Beale, T. D. Alexander, etc.) with regards to three parts of the tabernacle/temple, but I haven’t seen it so concisely described with regards to the “three environments” of the land.

Because the temple is made to mirror the rest of creation and vice versa, this argument should not surprise us. But, for most of us situated over three millennia from Moses and David, it is likely that we haven’t thought of the land in the way Leithart describes. Therefore, to better understand God’s geography, it is vital to have our minds renewed by the Bible when it comes to understand the world we inhabit.

Consider Leithart’s illuminating comments: Continue reading

‘Do Not Work For That Which Is Not Bread’: A Biblical Theology of Work

workGod has given us everything we need for life and godliness, the apostle Peter said (2 Pet 1:3). This means Scripture gives us all we need to know about God, salvation, and good works. It doesn’t mean that Scripture tells us how to teach grammar or solve chemical equations, but it does have much to say about work.

In fact, no matter what you do for a living, what stage of life you are in, or what sort of position you have (or aspire to have), God has much to say to you about your work. In recent days, a number of helpful books on the subject have been written (e.g., The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Work by Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, and What’s Best Next?: How the Gospel Changes the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman).

If the intersection of faith and work interests you, or if you are a Christian who has not considered how God relates to your vocation, you should make it a priority to read at least one of these. For now though, let’s glean a few truths from Scripture, which can serve as a biblical foundation for thinking about work.

A Biblical Theology of Work

Starting with creation and moving to new creation, let’s consider seven points about work. Continue reading

Biblical Theology for the ‘Non-theologian’

bibleWhat is biblical theology?

There are many answers to that question, and just as many approaches to “doing biblical theology.” Recently, friends at the 9Marks e-Journal put out a helpful resource on the subject as it relates to the church: “Biblical Theology: Guardian and Guide for the Church.” And if you keep up on the web, you may come across anything from a blog series on a biblical theology of dessert to a list of resources for understanding the framework of the Bible.

Yet, is there anything out there that simply defines biblical theology for someone whose never heard of it before? What follows is something I wrote up for our church. It expresses my own appreciation for biblical theology and how this discipline can serve non-theologians who may have never heard the term. 

(Disclaimer: “non-theologian” is a misnomer; everyone made in the image of God (that’s everyone) is by nature theological and hence a ‘theologian’ in their own right).

Defining Biblical Theology

Biblical theology can be defined in one of two ways. It can be theology that finds its source in the Bible (as opposed to ‘unbiblical theology’). Or, it can be theology developed over the whole Bible (as opposed to systematic theology, which is organized by topics; or, historical theology, which arises from various people and places in church history).

It is the latter, as a discipline of interpretation, that I want to discuss. Why? Because few things have helped me know or love God more than a clear understanding of a whole-Bible theology, and few things are more important for growing Christians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Continue reading

Noonday Light: Biblical Theology

biblical theology

In the years before seminary, when God was awakening a hunger in my heart for the bible and theology, I was introduced to the subject of ‘biblical theology.’ Now that makes sense right? Biblical theology is the mashup of ‘bible’ and ‘theology.’ Only it is more specific than that.

As my doctoral supervisor, Stephen Wellum, recently defined it: Biblical theology is the “hermeneutical discipline,” that

Seeks to unpack God’s unfolding redemptive plan, doing justice to the diversity of it, while always remembering that despite the diversity it is one plan which reaches its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is concerned to discover how the parts of Scripture fit in terms of the whole, according to God’s intention and purposes, not our own imaginative constructions. Biblical theology is utterly essential to rightly interpreting and ‘putting together’ the whole counsel of God and thus learning to ‘think God’s thoughts after him.’

In truth, everyone has a biblical theology. But not everyone has a good biblical theology. Since living the Christian life depends wholly on knowing God, his gospel, and how God’s word relates to our lives today, biblical theology is crucial matter of consideration for pastors and those in the pew. In other words, its not an optional class some Christians might enjoy. It is central to our Christian walk.

In that vein, for those who are interested in learning how to think God’s thoughts after him according to the way that God has revealed himself over time in the Scriptures, let me suggest a few quick resources.

What the Big Idea Story? Why Biblical Theology Should Matter to Every Bible-Believing Christian. Credo Magazine has come out with their latest edition on the subject of biblical theology. It’s an up-to-date introduction on the subject. (Credo Magazine)

Biblical Theology by Gerard Von Groningen. Covenant Seminary (St. Louis, MO) offers a whole seminary class on biblical theology taught by the insightful OT scholar Gerard Von Groningen. You have to sign up for the class, but the cost is free. (Covenant Seminary)

What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Stories, Symbols, and Patterns. Jim Hamilton has come out with a short introduction to the subject that helps students consider the literary structures and symbols of the Bible. These things are essential for any good biblical theology.

What’s in the Bible? Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggies Tales, has come up with a new and improved series that teaches biblical theology to young children. You can read about it here or watch a preview below. (The Gospel Coalition)

Via Emmaus. It is my meager attempt to provide on this blog a collection of biblical, theological, and biblical-theological fodder for your edification, so that you might read the Bible better.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

From Eden to Zion: A Temple Story

What is the best way to describe the Bible?

Is it a collection of verses that supply promises and warnings for the Christian life?  Is it a collection of books that each point to Jesus Christ?  Or is it an epic story of Paradise Created, Paradise Lost, Paradise Promised, and Paradise Made New in Christ?

Perhaps, the best answer is all the above.  While each of these three answers are correct, I think the last is the most difficult to see in Scripture.  In the last month, we have given attention on Sunday mornings to the tabernacle in Exodus and how it fits into God’s plan of redemption.  Because of that, I want to give you a biblical roadmap that traces God’s “tabernacles,” I think by seeing this line of dwelling places, it will give you greater ground for hope in God.  Let’s see. Continue reading

For Your Edification (10.25.13): Veggie Tales, Women Teaching Women, Halloween Evangelism, and more

For your edification, take time to see how the creator of Veggie Tales has become more biblical, how women are needed as teachers in the church, and how you can use Halloween as means of evangelism.

From Larry and Bob to Moses and the Prophets. When I first became a Christian, I loved Veggie Tales. As embarrassing as it is to say, at age 17, when I came to Christ, Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato helped inform my young faith. Fast forward a decade and Biblical Theology had replaced cartoon Christianity in my life. So long Veggie Tales.

Surprisingly, the creator of Veggie Tales himself had a similar ‘conversion.’ And now Phil Vischer, the brilliant creator of the original series, has moved from veggie-mation to biblical theology, as well. Listen to Matt Smethurst’s conversation with him and you will hear Vischer say things like this:

I launched Bob and Larry back in 1993, and personally oversaw each video release and product until 2003, when a lawsuit forced the company into bankruptcy and out of my hands. God turned what seemed like a tremendous loss into a huge blessing, as I was given time and space to get off the VeggieTales “treadmill” and just focus on him. As my relationship with God grew deeper and my love of the Bible increased, a profound thought hit me: Had I just spent 10 years trying to get kids to behave “Christianly” without actually teaching them Christianity?

 You can read the whole thing here: Veggie Tales Creator Brings Gospel-Centered, Biblical Theology to Kids. What a joy it is to see Vischer’s moralistic talking vegetables overtaken by the story of the Bible itself.

Women Teaching Women. Jen Wilkin makes a compelling case addressed to pastors for enlisting and encouraging women to teach other women in the church. In the model of Titus 2, Jen gives four reasons why pastors needs women teachers, and three ways women teachers need thoughtful pastors. Here’s her outline.

  1. She is an example you cannot be.
  2. She brings a perspective you cannot bring.
  3. She holds an authority you cannot hold.
  4. She sees needs you do not see (and that your wife probably doesn’t see, either).
  1. She needs you to affirm her.
  2. She needs you to sharpen her.
  3. She needs you to cover her.

Now, pastors, lets pray for God to raise up godly women to teach in our churches.

Halloween Is An Easy Way to Witness. While many Christians pull back on this dark holiday, it actually is a great way to make connections with unchurched neighbors. This Halloween our church will be hosting a Trunk or Treat event, but for Christians ‘trick or treating’ can be great evangelistic event.  Consider these five tips from Brian McCormack and the Verge Network

  1. Check Your Conscience
  2. When People Knock, Answer.
  3. Visit Every House On Your Block.
  4. Be Creative.
  5. Pray A Lot.

Read the rest here.

Reading a Genealogy. Adam Embry, pastor and author of a few books on practical theology (Help! I Can’t Get Motivated and An Honest and Well-Experienced Heart : The Piety of John Flavel ), has a helpful piece on how to read a geneaology. If Genesis 5, Matthew 1, or 1 Chronicles 1-9 stumps you, take a look at reflections.


A Few Thoughts on Typology

The subject of typology has been an interesting subject over the last few years. It is a place where theologians and biblical exegetes take turns cranking the hermeneutical spiral to figure out just how the Old and New Testaments work together. This subject matter—typology—was a key part of my dissertation, and it is something I think about often (read: every time I read the OT).

So, when I see friends like Jim Hamilton, Patrick Schreiner, and Matt Emerson squaring off to discuss some of the finely tuned nuances of Biblical Theology, TIS (Theological Interpretation of Scripture), and typology, I am keenly interested. Here are their posts. The comment sections are worthwhile, too.

Typology, Biblical Theology, and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Jim Hamilton)

Typology and Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Patrick Schreiner)

Typology, TIS, and Biblical Theology (Matt Emerson)

Authorial Intent and Biblical Theology: A Rejoined to Patrick Schreiner (Jim Hamilton)

Maybe at some point I will pick up the conversation on the blog here. At present I am working on finishing up a journal article that has been ruminating for about five years. Hopefully, it will be published sooner than later.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


‘I Will Give You as a Covenant’ (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8): The Suffering Servant as Covenant Mediator

As I worked on my dissertation, one of the things that struck me was the importance of the covenant mediator for any covenant. Structurally, every covenant needs a mediator; and with regard to effectiveness, every covenant depends on the personal integrity of the covenant mediator (alternately called a federal head). Continue reading