Learning from the Past to Be Faithful in the Present: Four Reasons Why Church History Matters

church historyGod’s people are a people of history. Because our faith stands or falls with the historical events of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15)—not to mention all the historical events leading up to Christ’s advent—Christians are a people who should care deeply about history. Yet, often we don’t.

Non-denominational Christians, especially, know little about what happened before Billy Graham. Many know something of the Reformation, but few know what happened between John on Patmos and Martin Luther in Wittenberg. This is unfortunate, because we learn a great deal about our faith, the church, and the gospel by looking at all periods of church history.

To that end, this Sunday and next, we will consider deacons from an historical perspective. While our doctrinal formulations and church practices are founded on Scripture, we are benefitted by looking at church history to see how faithful (and unfaithful) churches have thought about and employed deacons. Still, before considering that subject, it might be worthwhile to remember why church history matters and how to rightly approach church history. Continue reading

The Historical Background of Psalm 74–75: A Case for Reading Psalms with 1–2 Chronicles

the-psalms.jpgIn 2017 I preached a sermon on Psalms 73–89. In it, I argued the historical background of Book 3 followed the historical events of 2 Chronicles (as this image illustrates). From this reading, Psalms 74–75 find a historical connection in Shisak’s invasion recorded in 2 Chronicles 10–12 (ca. 930 BC).

Many commentators place the “temple-smashing” description of Psalm 74 at the Babylonian destruction of the temple (ca. 586 BC). Surely, the later dating is plausible, but in my reading the textual evidence is equally, if not more, plausible for an earlier reading. And I tried to show that in the sermon.

This week, we recorded a new Via Emmaus podcast and the question about history came up again. So what follows are a few notes on Psalm 74–75 and why I believe it is best to read Psalms 73–89 in parallel with 2 Chronicles.

Take time to read, consider, and let me know what you think. If Chronicles runs parallel to the Psalms and vice-versa, then it opens large vistas in how to understand both books. Continue reading

Start With *Why*: Working for God’s Glory, the Gospel, and Christ’s Church (1 Timothy 6:1–2)

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Start With WHY: Working for God’s Glory, the Gospel, and Christ’s Church (Sermon Audio)

More than what, more than how . . . but why you do what you do will ultimately determine the success of your “doings.”

This sort of thinking has been championed recently by various thought leaders, but the principle goes back to the Bible itself. God does not just look at the outward appearance, he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Moreover, the command to circumcise your heart (Deuteronomy 10:16), was followed up with a promise that God would circumcise the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6), thus trading out the heart of stone for a believing heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26–27). In short, God’s work of salvation has always targeted the heart and why we do what we do.

And in this week’s sermon, we saw that Paul’s message to servants focuses on the same truth. Instead of giving a laundry lists of “how’s” or “what’s” for servants (or modern day employees) to follow, he gives three reasons why we should persevere in doing good work.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions can be found below.

** In preparation for the message, please consider reading about Paul, slaves, and the church or listening to the sermon on Ephesians 6:5–9. It will provide a necessary backdrop for understanding Paul’s words to Timothy.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

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From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

What are you supposed to do in church? What are elders supposed to do in church?
And how do elders and members work together in the church?

On Sunday I answered these questions with six “how-to’s” from 1 Timothy 5:17–25. In this section to Timothy about elders, Paul gives inspired counsel for providing for how to honor elders, protect elders, rebuke (sinning) elders, and appoint elders—to name a few things Paul says.

You can hear the whole sermon online. Response questions and additional resources about elders and churches are below. Continue reading

With Eyes Open to Our Common Savior: How the Lord’s Supper Makes Visible God’s New Covenant People

priscilla-du-preez-1153851-unsplash.jpgSo Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country.
— Genesis 31:53–54 —

In the Old Testament covenants were often begun or accompanied by a covenant meal. In Genesis 31 Jacob and Laban made a covenant to not do harm to one another. And importantly, this covenant was concluded with a meal. While these neighbors entered the covenant with animosity between them, they ended the meal reconciled with one another.

Again, when Israel made a covenant with God at Sinai, Moses, Aaron and his sons, as well as the elders of Israel, ate in the presence of God (Exodus 24:9–11). In this covenant-making chapter, these meal highlights the fellowship that God intended to have with his holy people. Accordingly, the people of Israel, throughout their history, were called to attend yearly festivals that included sacrifices for sin and meals to celebrate the renewal of the covenant (see Lev 23).

Even in Jesus day, the nation of Israel gathered to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Early in his life, Jesus’s whole family attended the Passover (Luke 2). And later, John recorded the events of Jesus’s ministry by reference to the various festivals Jesus celebrated (2:23; 4:45; 5:1; 6:4; etc.) Continue reading

Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

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Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

Why does Paul spend so much time on widows? In a letter with 113 verses, 16 of them (more than 10% of the letter) are dedicated to widows. Does Paul have a special ministry project for these women? Or is there something more central to the gospel here?

On Sunday, I answered those questions and attempted to show why care for these widows was so important to Paul. In particular, we saw how Paul’s discussion about widows is deeply connected to his concern for the gospel in Ephesus. Also, we saw how Paul’s gospel-centeredness teaches us to assess many matters in church and life today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a couple important resources to seeing how the letter of 1 Timothy helps us understand these challenging verses.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Caring for the Family Jesus Created (1 Timothy 5:1–8)

livingchurchCaring for the Family Jesus Created (1 Timothy 5:1–8)

Paul’s entire first letter to Timothy focuses on the family of God. And chapter 5 is perhaps the most relevant for disciples of Christ and how we care for our own families.

On Sunday we began to look at this practical and challenging chapter—what it says to pastors and their churches and to adult children and their aging parents. In short, Paul teaches us God is not just concerned about getting people to heaven, he also cares about the way his people care for one another on the journey.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources are found below. Continue reading

Everybody Deacon Now: The Call for All Christians to Serve in the Church

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11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of diakonia, for building up the body of Christ,
— Ephesians 4:11–12 —

For the last few months our church has been considering Paul’s first letter to Timothy and how the instructions for the household of God lead us to order our local church. As Paul unveils the purpose of his letter, “I am writing these things to you so that, . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:14–15).

Immediately before this purpose statement, Paul gives qualifications for elders (vv. 1–7) and deacons (vv. 8–13). And in our church we have focused a great amount of energy thinking about this office of the deacon. In fact, this Sunday at our member’s meeting we will present an update to the statement of faith and the constitution to bring our church order in greater alignment with Scripture.

That said, there is actually very little written about the “office” of deacon in the New Testament. An argument could even be made that the office of deacon is not called for like that of the overseer/elder/pastor. It is clearly not described in the same detail as the office of elder. There seems to be good reasons for this disparity, namely the need to have a clear and consistent teaching office in the church, even as the office of deacon is more flexible, need-based, and church-specific.

With all that in mind, it is helpful to go back to the Bible and see what it says about deacons (diakonos), deaconing (diakoneō), and the ministry of service (diakonia). When we do, we learn a great deal about what “deaconing” is—and what deaconing isn’t. In particular, we discover this word-group shows up 100 times in the New Testament. Yet, in all of those references, it only refers to the office of deacon 3 or 4 times, depending on how one understands Paul’s description of Phoebe (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). Most often the word relates to service of all varieties (cf. 1 Cor. 12:5), especially service to relieve the physical needs of others. Continue reading

Seeing the Invisible God: Christ’s Resurrection and the Church’s Confession (1 Timothy 3:16)

livingchurchSeeing the Invisible God: Christ’s Resurrection and the Church’s Confession (1 Timothy 3:16)

While every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection, this last Sunday we celebrated the very day when Christ rose from the grave. In Sunday’s sermon from 1 Timothy 3:16 we consider the full impact of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

In six compact statements Paul outlines the major turning points associated with Christ’s resurrection. Truly, the church is built on this one who rose from the dead and as Paul is explaining to the church how to be the church, he highlights what stands at the center of the church’s life—namely, the resurrected Christ.

In Sunday’s sermon, I considered how this confession relates to Paul’s letter and to us. From there we looked at the six different confessions Paul lists and why they mean so much for us today. You can listen to this sermon online; discussion questions and resources related to the resurrection are listed below.

Discussion Questions

Continue reading

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

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Over the course of 2018–19 I taught through the book of Hebrews at our church on Tuesday Nights. You can find the audio and notes below.

My approach: With an interest in Christ’s priesthood as the fulfillment of the whole Bible, and with a conviction that Hebrews models for us how to interpret the Old Testament, I attempted to show how Jesus is the Son of God and Our Glorious High Priest. At the same time, as the title of my previous series on the priesthood suggests, I believe the book also shows how new covenant believers become a family of priests in the kingdom Christ is bringing.

For those who read the whole book of Hebrews, you will notice that what is said of Christ (sonship, priesthood, and kingship) in Hebrews 1 is applied to all those in Christ in Hebrews 12–13. In short, Hebrews teaches us how God makes his people a family of royal priests. Often this emphasis on union in Christ with respect to the priesthood is not appreciated, but I believe a faithful reading of the book demonstrates how Christ is the great hight priest and how all those in him become new covenant Levites, so to speak.

One last note, I also attempted to show throughout much of the book how the literary structure is seen in chiastic structures. I am sure I haven’t been right in every case and that I’ve missed plenty, but in the notes you can at least see my attempt at putting the book together. If you have time, and especially if you disagree with a literary structure, let me know. I’d love to see how you put the book together.

All in all, few books in the Bible—maybe no book in the Bible—is more resplendent in its glory of Christ and his royal priesthood. Our class delighted in this truth throughout the year and found much personal encouragement in Hebrews. May you do the same. And may these notes help you in that journey.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

Fall 2018

  1. Hebrews Overview [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 1:1–4 [audionotes ]
  3. Hebrews 1:5–2:4 [audionotes ]
  4. Hebrews 2:5–18 [audionotes]
  5. Hebrews 3:1–6 [audionotes ]
  6. Hebrews 3:7–19 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 4:1–13 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 4:14–5:10 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 5:11–6:12 [audionotes]
  10. Hebrews 6:13–20 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 7:1–10 [audionotes] – Guest Teacher (Jonathan Matías)
  12. Hebrews 7:11-28 [audio]

Spring 2019

  1. Hebrews 8:1-13 [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 8:7–13 [audionotes]
  3. Hebrews 9:1–10 [audio, notes]
  4. Hebrews 9:11–22 [audio, notes]
  5. Hebrews 9:23–28 [audio, notes]
  6. Hebrews 10:1–18 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 10:19–25 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 10:26–39 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 11:1–40 [audio, notes]
  10. Hebrews 12:1–17 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 12:18–29 [audio] – Guest Teacher (Ron Comoglio)
  12. Hebrews 13:1–21 [audionotes]