You Were Made for This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (and Yourself)

priestcolor“You were made for this!”

This phrase seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days: Sports commentators talk this way about athletes; teachers about pupils; mentors about those they coach. In short, it is a way of speaking that comes from a recognized “authority” on someone who is ascending in their field. It is language meant to boost esteem and put everyone on alert, that the next star is rising.

In our celebrity-crazed culture, everyone wants to be special. Indeed “special” is the carrot that has motivated so many to aspire to greatness. I’ve felt this pull and have thanked God that my dreams of athletic glory were mercifully cut short. Still, the hunger for this kind of glory remains.

And it remains with such a strong pull because we were made for glory! Not just some of us, but all of us were made to enjoy and exhibit the glory of God. And thus, until we discover the true source of glory, we will chase glory in vain. Therefore, we must see what Scripture says about the glory of God.   Continue reading

Read the Whole Bible as a Whole Bible: Rejecting Critical Source Theory and Reconciling Genesis 1 and 2

alexander-michl-724529-unsplashOne of the great questions about the opening chapters of Genesis is the relationship of the two creation accounts. Are Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 two different accounts? From two different sources? Or is there a rhyme and reason for the repetition and ostensible differences between the six days of creation in Genesis 1 and the formation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2?

Since Julius Wellhausen—a pioneering German scholar in the 19th C who advocated a source theory to the Pentateuch and who fabricated a competition between priests and Levites behind the Bible—there has grown a small cottage industry arguing that the books of Moses and the opening chapters of Genesis have multiple authors. While various “documentary hypotheses” have been put forward, four sources have often been posited. Labeled by the letters E, J, P, D, these four sources are various traditions in Israel—respectively, Elohim, Jehovah, Priestly, and Deuteronomist.

I first encountered this higher-critical approach to the Bible in my liberal arts college—stress on the word liberal. Though I had no way of knowing how to counteract this teaching at the time, I have since seen how reductionistic and unfaithful this approach is to the Bible. In particular, it short-circuits any theological intentions of the original author. In other words, whenever a tension or apparent contradiction is observed, the solution is to attribute contrasts to various sources behind the Bible. Consequently, it denies the need to wrestle with the text and understand the author’s original text.

In this way, it actually diminishes scholarship and the theological glory of the biblical text. That is, it reduces the weight of the full revelation of God. And thus, I happily and unswervingly repudiate the source theory of the Bible. Likewise, I give praise to God for Old Testament scholars who stand against the critical consensus and write for the upbuilding of the church. Continue reading

From Covenant-Breakers to Covenant-Keepers: How Christ Redeems Marriage and Divorce (Matthew 5:31–32)

sermon05

From Covenant-Breakers to Covenant-Keepers: How Christ Redeems Marriage and Divorce (Sermon Audio)

What does the Bible say about divorce?

Unfortunately, it says quite a bit. As a book that gives us everything we need for life and godliness, the Bible gives instructions about marriage and warnings about divorce. But that is not all that it says.

If our minds jump too quickly, we may only remember the words of Malachi 2: God hates divorce. But we can’t read that prophetic utterance without reading Jeremiah 3, a passage that tells how God issued a certificate of divorce to his covenant people Israel, when their sin destroyed their covenant with God. Moreover, we cannot forget the grace God gives to heal past sins, even as we read and repeat his instructions about covenant marriage and the sinfulness of divorce.

Accordingly, we must understand divorce according to the full gospel story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. In this context, we begin to see how the whole Bible gives comfort and conviction about this and every subject.

But why are we taking about divorce?

Well, to our series on the Sermon on the Mount, we had to return to one section of the Sermon our schedule forced us to postpone—namely, Jesus’s teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:31–32. With help from Jeremiah 3, I preached a message on the root problem of divorce (a hard-heart) and how Christ enables covenant-breakers to be covenant-keepers.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are additional resources—both ethical and practical—regarding marriage and divorce.   Continue reading

Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

sermon05

Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

Hurricanes. Tornados. Floods. Fires. Earthquakes.

In our world, not a week goes by that we are not confronted with extreme and life-threatening weather. Yet, there is a storm coming that exceeds anything that we have ever known. It is the storm of the Lord that will purify everything on the earth, on the way to making all things new.

On Sunday, our last sermon from Matthew 7 considered this storm and the shelter which is found in the words of Jesus Christ. Indeed, considering the way Christ finished his Sermon on the Mount, we hear again his clarion call to prepare for the last day.

You can find this sermon and the whole sermon series online. There are also response questions below. Continue reading

Wake Up! Look! Listen! And Live! How Your iPod Playlist Reveals Your Eternal Destiny (Matthew 7:15–23)

sermon05

Wake Up! Look! Listen! And Live! How Your iPod Playlist Reveals Your Eternal Destiny (Sermon Audio)

We live in a world filled with competing voices. Modern day prophets come to us at all times and from all angles. And how we respond to them has great impact on our daily living and our eternal destiny. Or at least, that’s the argument I made in Sunday’s sermon from Matthew 7:15–23.

As Jesus warns his disciples of Israel’s false prophets, he gives us great insight into who we should listen to today. And more than just giving us a church-approved playlist, he gives calls us to look at the fruit of our teachers—especially our spiritual leaders—and to listen wisely. While we can learn from all kinds of people, we should beware of who we are following.

Therefore, in this sermon, we hear a word that calls Christ’s disciples to examine themselves and those to whom they look for spiritual nourishment. Indeed, created by the Word of God, we creatures of the word, and therefore we should think carefully about how we listen and to whom we listen. And that includes this sermon!

So with that caution, you can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources are below. In particular, there are resources about Bethel Church and Free Grace Theology. Continue reading

Mizpah: A Clue for the Storyline of 1 Samuel and for Reading the Bible Better

nick-tong-76567-unsplashWhat is in a name? Or, for that matter, what is in a place? In the Bible, often there is a lot in a place or a name. Just think about Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9–10) or what Nathanel thought about Nazareth (John 1:46).

Those are just two examples of the way names and places matter in the Bible. In fact, O. Palmer Robertson has written a whole book on the theological significance of geography. And the careful reader of Scripture would do well, especially in narrative books, to consider the location where the story takes place.

For instance, in 1 Samuel Mizpah, a city in Benjamin, shows up eight times—seven times in chapter 7, once in chapter 10. And I believe this location gives significant information about the book of 1 Samuel and the ominous choice of Saul as king. Let’s consider and see how paying attention to this place helps us understand 1 Samuel and how to read biblical narratives. Continue reading

From the First Adam to the Last Adam: 15 Quotations from ‘Christ from Beginning to End’

christ.jpegWhen one of my closest friends (Trent Hunter) and my doctoral supervisor (Stephen Wellum) write a book together on biblical theology, it is not surprising I’d commend it. In fact, I did that months before it came out and as soon as it came out, I assigned our “Theology Thursday” book study, a men’s group at our church, to discuss Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of ChristWe’ll do that Thursday, but before then let me say a couple things about this new book.

In this biblical theology the reader will find a well-crafted but non-technical summary of the Bible which helps people understand how to read the Bible and what is in the Bible. Following the trajectory of the biblical covenants (with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and Christ), Christ from Beginning to End incorporates a biblical vision which I have shared with them in personal discussions and teaching for the last decade.

In fact, the book itself comes from the teaching ministry of Dr. Wellum at Southern Seminary and Ninth & O Baptist Church, where Trent worked with Dr. Wellum in his Sunday School class. This is where I met them both, and I rejoice in the publication of this book, as it so well-expresses the way I hold the Bible—as a result, no doubt, of my time spent with Dr. Wellum. Still in reading this book, one feature stood out above the rest, and one I want to highlight it here.

From beginning to end, Wellum and Hunter make a strong connection between the first and last Adam. In fact, somewhere in the middle of reading, I realized that I can’t think of another biblical theology that does as a good a job of connecting Adam to the rest of the Bible. With meticulous consistency, they show how each biblical covenant mediates the gap between Adam and Christ, and how figures like Abraham, Israel, and David both repeat Adam and anticipate the Second Adam (Christ).

Indeed, without having read the book I was already giving it away, because of my close friendship with both of these brothers. But now having read it, I commend it for a fresh reason. If you want to understand the Bible’s Adam-Christ typology, a framework that fills Paul’s letters (e.g., Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) and the rest of the New Testament (e.g., Hebrews 1–2), Wellum and Hunter’s book is the place to begin.

In addition to giving a biblical framework for the world (i.e., creation-fall-redemption-new creation) and expounding how the biblical covenants work their way towards Jesus Christ, this attention to Adam helps us understand how Christ is more than a New Israel or a Savior of our own making. He is the true man (Adam) and the one who is both God and the Son of God, according to the biblical covenants, who has come to bring redemption to all the nations—just as God promised Adam (Genesis 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3), Israel (Exodus 19:5–6), and David (1 Samuel 7:19; cf. Psalm 72).

In what follows, therefore, I share 15 quotes from Christ from Beginning to End which I pray may help you see the role of Adam in the Scripture. At the same time, if these quotes pique your interest in biblical theology and Adam’s role in God’s redemptive history, I encourage you to pick up this book and read through it. Better yet, pick up a handful of copies, share them with friends, and then meet to discuss. That’s what we are doing on Thursday. You should do the same. Continue reading

A Prayer God Hears (Matthew 7:7–12)

sermon05

Sermon Audio: A Prayer God Hears (Matthew 7:7–12)

How deep the father’s love for us / How vast beyond all measure
That he should give his only Son / To make a wretch his treasure

These words by Stuart Townend express in song what Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, namely that the Father in heaven loves his children and longs for us to come and find our greatest reward in him. Indeed, this is why Jesus Christ came, to bring the Father’s kingdom to earth by means of his death and resurrection. In the new covenant Jesus made a way for sins to be forgiven and for forgiven sinners to enter God’s presence.

In Matthew 7:7–11 specifically, we find another place where Jesus’s focus on the Father teaches disciples about the kind of access they have to God and the kind of prayer our Father in heaven loves to hear. On Sunday considered this passage and how Jesus teaches us to pray.

You can listen to the sermon online. Below you can find discussion questions and additional resources, including the majestic rendition of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by the Austin Stone Church. Continue reading

Gospel-Motivated Giving

om-prakash-sethia-301978-unsplashThis summer our church looked at Jesus’s words concerning giving. In Sunday School, we studied Randy Alcorn’s helpful little book called The Treasure PrincipleYou can listen to the series here. And in our series on the Sermon on the Mount, we have looked at Jesus words about giving in Matthew 6:1–4, treasure in Matthew 6:19–24, and trusting God with our material needs in Matthew 6:25–34. You can listen to those sermons here:

Still, giving is not just something that Jesus talked about. It is something that goes back to the beginning of corporate worship. For in Exodus, when God redeemed his people from Egypt, he led them to contribute to the construction of the tabernacle. With the gifts God provided for Israel through the “plundering of the Egyptians,” God’s people gladly gave to the construction of God’s dwelling place.

Today, as the church has become the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s people continue to give to its upbuilding, as the Lord moves our hearts. Jesus’s words about storing up treasure in heaven, and not on earth may even refer directly to this temple-directed giving (see Nicholas Perrin, Jesus the Temple), However, throughout the Bible there is a theme of God’s people giving to the upbuilding of God’s dwelling place because of the work of grace in their lives.

This is first seen in Exodus and continues until today. Accordingly, we can learn much by seeing the relationship between grace and giving, and how gospel-motivated giving is both similar and different from all other forms of philanthropy. Continue reading

The Cost of Discipleship: How the Historical Context of Hebrews Teaches Us How to Read This Book

hebrewsTonight we begin our verse-by-verse study of Hebrews in our weekly Bible study. Last week we looked at the book as a whole. You can find the audio and introductory notes here.

This week we will consider the first four verses, which introduce Hebrew’s “word of exhortation” (13:25) to a people suffering oppression (10:32–34) and tempted to shrink back from their Great High Priest. Indeed, as the book unfolds we become quite aware that the author of this book has a great concern for the enduring faith of these afflicted disciples. To understand, therefore, the pastoral intent of Hebrews we need to know something of the historical context.

And while many particulars about Hebrews are impossible to discern (like who wrote the book), we can put together a fairly accurate picture of who is addressed, where, and when. In fact, in his short commentary on Hebrews (A Call to Commitment), William Lane provides a clear picture of the letter’s background from the available content of Hebrews and the history of Rome in the first century. Here’s what he finds, Continue reading