The Four Seeds of Abraham: Natural, National, Christ, and “In Christ”

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Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.
It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one,
“And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
— Galatians 3:16 —

Who is Abraham’s offspring? Or is it, Who are Abraham’s offspring? Is it one or many? Or both?

In the Bible one of the most important realities to grasp is how the Bible presents itself. In other words, because Scripture is the inspired interpretation of God’s actions in the world—even as God’s Word is itself a divine action—it is vital to see how God’s earlier revelation prepares the way for his later purposes.

Sometimes this is called an “eschatological” reading of Scripture. That may sound complicated, but it’s not. Eschatology means “the study of last things” (eschatos = last), and most of the time people immediately jump to what they perceive are the “last things” in the Bible. However, if we consider that God stands outside of time and created all things for the purpose putting them under his Son’s feet (see Ephesians 1:10), then we must read the Bible as one unified-but-unfolding plan of redemption.

In this way, eschatology doesn’t begin in Revelation, or Daniel, or Zechariah, it begins in Genesis. And from Genesis to Revelation, God is working all things for the purposes of his people—the offspring of Abraham.

But who is/are Abraham’s offspring? Continue reading

Let Scripture Interpret Scripture

bibleIn our recent podcast on Genesis and Matthew, we considered how various aspects of the ancient Near East inform our understanding of Genesis. Indeed, there are many reasons to compare the Old Testament to the ancient Near East (and the New Testament to Second Temple Judaism). In both testaments, the historical background give us insight into the Scriptures.

That said, there is more insight that comes from comparing Scripture to Scripture, by reading the Old Testament with the light of the new, by reading the New Testament with the background of the Old Testament, and reading both testaments as mutually-interpreting books of God’s inspired word.

In fact, on that very point New Testament scholar Grant Macaskill makes this wise observation:

New Testament scholars are usually very good at examining the context and backgrounds provided by Graeco-Roman and Jewish literature, but we are generally less successful at examining that provided by other New Testament writings and bringing these to bear on our exegesis. There is a vast amount of literature that reads Paul in the light of Qumran; there is rather less that reads Paul in the light of Peter.

The objection, of course, is that we run the risk of conflating the distinctive theology of each and doing so without sensitivity to the timelines on which they are located. But these texts are the products of a movement with a certain cohesion, generated within a compact period of time. It is, then, necessary to the historical task for us to consider how they may relate to one another and to reflect upon the ways in which even their diversity may emerge from a basic unity of thought. (Grant Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament2)

I am not a New Testament scholar, but I believe his point applies to us all. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, and so we should give equal—even greater!—attention to the rest of the Bible when interpreting Scripture. Sure, let’s read extra-biblical texts that inform Scripture, but even more lets immerse ourselves in the Bible, so that our interpretations are saturated with the Bible and not just the latest academic fad or archaeological discovery.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

*Knowing* and *Being Known*: A Word Best Understood in Covenantal Context

stars.jpgNot everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
— Matthew 7:21–23 —

I suspect that Jesus words in Matthew 7:21–23 might raise some questions if one does not have a basic understanding of God’s knowledge. What does it mean that Jesus never knew you? Certainly, God knows all things, and because Jesus is God the Son, he must know all things. So what do his words mean?

The answer comes from knowing the way knowledge is spoken of in the Bible. Going back to Genesis 4, we find knowledge often describes covenantal relations—either between two people (as in marriage) or between God and man. Either way, knowledge is a relational term and one that consistently carries the idea of covenant-making and covenant-keeping.

In what follows, I share a handful of examples and come back to Matthew 7. Continue reading

Of Spaceships and City Streets: G.K. Beale on Two Kinds of “Literal” Reading

In his massive and massively helpful A New Testament Biblical TheologyG. K. Beale spends the opening chapters outlining the storyline of the Bible and the eschatological nature of the Old Testament. Rather than defining eschatology as merely that category of doctrine that describes future events, he rightly explains how the original creation came with “eschatological potential” (89). Still, what is most helpful in his approach to reading the Bible eschatologically is his approach to reading the Bible “literally.”

Much debate continues on this point today, and to quote the “theologian” Mandy Patinkin (of Princess Bride fame), I do not believe most people who demand a literal reading know what that word means. Or at least, their definition and use only consider one aspect of a literal reading—namely, a narrow reading of individual texts, without considering how a literal reading can also be applied to whole books, including the whole canon itself. Continue reading

Reading the Bible Better in 2019

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The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
— Psalm 19:7–11 —

On the eve of 2019, I want to share a new podcast that our church will host in the new year. In conjunction with our church-wide Bible reading plan, which is based on Robert Murray McCheyne’s classic plan, we are going to offer a weekly podcast that answers questions from the Bible and helps us to read the Bible . . . . and read the Bible better.

If this blog has been helpful to you over the last few years, perhaps this podcast will also be of interest. My hope is to help our church and those who listen in to read Scripture more and better—which I might define as seeing Christ more clearly and more fully in all of Scripture. As Jesus taught his disciples, all the Scriptures point to him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Yet, often we can miss how Scripture points to Christ.

For some time, I have found the most helpful books and teachers are the ones who help me see more of Christ from the whole Bible. In this blog, I have sought to share their observations and some of my own with you. In recent months, I have written very little on this blog as I’ve been finishing up a manuscript on a biblical theology priesthood.

That manuscript will be finished, Lord willing, by the end of January. After that I hope to resume more writing here. Until then, and after, I pray this podcast will serve as a catalyst for conversations about Christ from all Scripture and will complement the biblical-theological writing found on this blog.

If you are interested in listening to this podcast, you can find a button on the right side of my website, a webpage on our church website, and (in time perhaps) we’ll be able to link this podcast to Apple or wherever you find your podcasts.

As the hours tick down in 2018, let me encourage you to make plans to read the Bible in 2019. If you don’t have a plan for reading, consider using McCheyne’s reading plan. If you do have a plan, let me encourage you to read the Bible in community—ideally, in your local church. And if this blog or podcast can be of help to you in reading the Bible and reading it with an eye to Christ, then let me know some of the questions you have as you read Scripture. In print or on air, I will seek to answer them, as we seek to know more of Christ together.

Indeed, God’s Word is an incredible gift to us. May we see it as the treasure it is and shape our lives to read it and read it better, so that our wet be changed by it and our triune God would receive the glory he deserves!

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Joshua & Associates: Finding Your Place in Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

priestcolorJoshua & Associates: Finding Your Place Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

The angel of the Lord. A satanic accuser in the throne room of God. A priest with dirty clothes. The promise of a coming Messiah. And a front row seat to God’s plan of redemption. On Sunday we considered all of these items, as they appear together in Zechariah 3.

Finishing up our series on the priesthood, we saw in Sunday’s sermon how our lives fit into the incredible storyline of the priesthood. From Zechariah 3, in particular, we learned how God restored the priesthood after the exile, which served as “sign” (v. 8) for a greater priesthood to come.

If you want to understand how the priesthood moved from the Old Testament to the New, Zechariah is an important book. And this sermon will help you understand that book and how Joshua the high priest foreshadowed the coming of a greater Joshua and his friends.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below along with a few resources on Zechariah and the priesthood. Continue reading

Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

priestcolorSermon Audio: Our Great High Priest (Exodus 28–30)

Last week we celebrated the Reformation Day (October 31) and the recovery of the gospel brought about by men and women like Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora. Both of these Reformers fled the monastic life in order to follow Christ. Yet, in departing the Roman Catholic system of priesthood, they did not abandon the priesthood of Christ nor the priesthood of believers.

In fact, Martin Luther was one of the most prolific exponents of the biblical teaching that all followers of Christs are saints—a priesthood by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, in a very real sense any Protestant view of the Bible that denies the place of priesthood actually denies the very gospel which the Reformation recovered. Jesus Christ is our great high priest, one whose sacrifice for sin and priestly intercession makes faith possible.

Thinking again, therefore, about what Scripture says about priesthood, we considered in Sunday’s sermon the necessity of a high priest, and what means that Jesus is our great high priest. Going back to Exodus 28–30, we considered the original purpose of the high priest in Israel and how Jesus came to both fulfill and exceed those original expectations.

If the priesthood is something you care about, or if its something you don’t care about, this sermon is for you. You can listen to it online. Response questions are below as are a few additional resources. Continue reading

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)

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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