God at Work: Learning About the Doctrine of Vocation from Gene Veith (and Martin Luther)

work“Vocation” is a word that comes from the Latin word for “calling” (vocare). In modern vernacular it often is an unimpressive synonym for work, i.e.,  vocational training. However, in Scripture, the word is filled with significance, even dignity. God calls us to himself, out of darkness and death, into the life and love of his beloved Son. Therefore, Christians must understand “vocation” not as a mundane description of work, but rather a dignified “calling” to serve God and the creatures who bear his image. Truly, to ignore or minimize this vocation is to miss a significant facet of the Christian life.

When the Reformers like Martin Luther threw off the shackles of Rome, they restored the doctrine of justification by faith alone. However, contesting the clergy-laity divide, they also esteemed the priesthood of all believers and the doctrine of vocation. In fact, in church history any study of vocation must consider his writings, for he wrote so much and so well about this doctrine.

workTaking this into consideration, Gene Veith an evangelical Lutheran has captured much of Luther’s doctrine, make that the biblical doctrine, in his excellent book God at Work: Your Vocation in All of Life. Introducing his topic, he writes, “When God blesses us, He almost always does it through other people” (14). This, in a sentence, is the doctrine of vocation. Or more exactly, this is the fruit of the gift of vocation.

In what follows I’ve traced the themes of his book and encapsulated a number of his best quotes. I hope it piques your interest in this topic, even as it paints a picture of why vocation is so important for the Christian.  Continue reading

‘Married for God, Divorced for Good?’ (1 Corinthians 7:10–16)

sermon photoFirst Corinthians 7:10–16 brings us to one of the most heart-wrenching passages in Scripture. As it deals with marriage, divorce, and remarriage, it gives counsel to Christian marriages (vv. 10–11) and “mixed marriage” (vv. 12–16) that are looking into the teeth of divorce. In the context of a horribly sad week (#AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastille, and #DallasPoliceShooting), I bookended this sermon with the gospel truth that God comforts those who are broken by sin. My prayer is that as God’s truth is declared, it brings clarity and comfort.

You can listen to the audio from Sunday’s message or peruse the sermon notes here. For those who want to go deeper, there are discussion questions below and resources explaining the Majority and Minority position on divorce and remarriage. Continue reading

From Capital Punishment to Christ’s Propitiation: What Leviticus 20:13 Means for Christians Today

 

orlando-tragedy

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, our summer intern (Timothy Cox) and I drew up a biblical response for our church. Our hopes were to clarify the differences between the Bible and the teachings of Islam. Although one Bible verse (Leviticus 20:13), taken out of context, calls for the death of gays and lesbians, Christians should never accept this as a blanket endorsement for the violence we witnessed in Orlando. Rather, Christians must defend the poor and oppressed without running roughshod over the Bible. The fulfillment of the law is love (Romans 13:8), and thus as the sacrificial love of Christ constrains us to share the gospel of grace and truth with a lost and dying world, so it compels us to rightly interpret Scripture so that we may be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in the gospel. That was the intention behind this article. 

May God use these words to clarify what Scripture does and does not teach about capital punishment, so that Christians would love *all* their neighbors. And may all our neighbors know the propitiating love of God promised in the Law and fulfilled in Christ.

**********

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
— 1 John 4:10 —

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, where 49 people were killed and over 50 injured at a gay night club, Christians weep for the loss of life and are left wondering what to say or do. On social media, trending topics have included gun control, terrorism, homophobia and Islamic extremism. In light of the terrorist’s professed allegiance to ISIS and other radical Islamic groups, it is especially important for Christians to distinguish between the Quran’s teaching on homosexuality and the Bible’s. Now, more than ever, it is important we convey gospel-centered compassion, even as we hold firm to biblical truth.

In order to do that, we must look at Leviticus 20:13:

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death.”

Read by itself, this passage may seem to catch Bible-believing Christians red-handed with a verse that proves their Bible needs to be updated or abandoned. However, because the Bible is not a collection of individual sayings; Leviticus 20:13 must be read in light of its historical and covenantal context. Indeed, only a whole-Bible theology of sexual ethics and capital punishment can rightly explain this verse.

With this in mind, we will show why this verse does not permit violence against homosexuals, and why the Bible is fundamentally different than the Quran and Islam’s other holy books, which do endorse violence towards the LGBT community. In actuality, the command for capital punishment in Leviticus 20:13 becomes a pathway to Christ’s substitutionary death, not a harbinger of hate. Continue reading

Blood Moons and Smoke-Filled Skies: An Already and Not Yet Approach to the Day of the Lord

moon

When we read in Acts 2:19-20, “And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the  sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,” we who are unaccustomed to apocalyptic literature are quick to scratch our heads and ask: What does this mean?  Our doctrinal convictions keep us on the trail: Scripture is perspicuous (i.e., clear) and true, therefore, Peter must means what he says. He is surely not incorrect. But how can the moon turn to blood? Should we really expect the Sea of Tranquility to fill with blood, just like the Nile in Exodus?

When reading such language in Scripture, we do well to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture and that in this case, the apocalyptic language of Joel 2 is being cited by Peter to explain the historical events of Pentecost–the outpouring of the Spirit foretold in Joel 2:28. However, for reasons we will see, Peter also includes the more troubling language. Therefore, to understand the whole section lets consider four biblical-theological points that will help us see how the Day of the Lord is both a present and future reality—a method of interpreting the Old Testament that the Apostles often employed.

1. Historical Acts 2 quotes apocalyptic Joel 2.

Importantly, the strange language comes not from the historical narrative of Luke, but rather the prophetic literature of Joel. In this way, he is quoting an Old Testament prophecy to explain the events of recent history—i.e., the ostensible drunkenness of the disciples (Acts 2:13). Therefore, we must not read these words as portending to a literalistic interpretation—the moon is dripping blood. Rather, Luke is telling us how these strange, poetic words have come come true in the historical events of Pentecost. Continue reading

Books on Biblical Theology: A Brief Annotated Bibliography

biblical theologyYesterday evening I taught on ‘Seeing Christ in All the Scripture‘ in our Sunday evening service. As we emphasize the discipline of biblical theology this summer at our church, I put together a handout showing how the New Testament teaches us to read the Old Testament and how the Old Testament demonstrates a series of pattern which culminate in Christ. You can see the front of that handout here. Below is the back side, which lists and introduces books on biblical theology for children, beginners, and beyond.

Children

  1. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm – Perfect for ages 3–103, David Helm traces the idea of God’s People in God’s Place under God’s Rule. He teaches young children how to read the Bible with Christ at the center.
  2. Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – Suitable for ages 5–105, Martyn Lloyd-Jones daughter goes into greater depths than Helm. She too shows how the types, shadows, and patterns in the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ. At points, her story Bible is quite funny as it considers the stories of Scripture.
  3. The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski – Ideal for ages 7–107, Machowski’s book takes the story of Christ even further. It includes a couple questions about the story on each page, as well.

Together, each of these illustrated children’s Bibles contain slightly more content as they teach young ones (and older ones) how Christ is the pinnacle and linchpin of the whole Bible.

Beginner

  1. According to Plan: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy – In my estimation, this is the introduction to biblical theology. It gives a short ‘how-to’ and a readable overview of the whole Bible through the gospel of the kingdom. He has also written a more comprehensive biblical thelogy: Christ-centered Biblical Theology that gives even more explanation of his method and approach.
  2. God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts – A short, eight-fold explanation of redemptive history centered on the kingdom of God.
  3. Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael William – It gives a short, Christ-centered interpretation of every book in the Bible. Any teacher doing a BT overview should have this book.
  4. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Storyline by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen – Speaks of the Bible as a five act drama, where the analogy of drama is effectively used to explain redemptive history.
  5. The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney – Any student of Biblical Theology should know Clowney, and this worship-inducing book is the best introduction. Preachers should also commit to reading his short book Preaching and Biblical Theology.

Intermediate

  1. The Goldsworthy Trilogy by Graeme Goldsworthy – Three-Books-in-One: Goldsworthy applies his ‘gospel-centered’ approach to the whole Bible, Wisdom literature, and the book of Revelation. For those tired of reading Revelation in light of shifting current events, Goldsworthy shows how Revelation is a book about Jesus.
  2. Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster – Picking up the royal themes of people and place, Dempster beautifully shows the unity of the Old Testament.
  3. Magnifying God in Christ: A Summary of New Testament Theology by Thomas Schreiner – This abbreviation of his outstanding New Testament Theology gives a rich overview of NT Theology. He also has a large, but very readable Biblical Theology, The King in his Beauty.
  4. From Eden to the New Jerusalem by T. D. Alexander – Tracing six crucial themes (e.g., temple, sacrifice, sovereignty, etc.), this book shows how to move from Genesis to Revelation.
  5. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Although large, this is the one-stop shop for biblical theology. In three sections, a bevy of evangelical scholars (1) give instruction on how to approach biblical theology, (2) introduce every book of the Bible, and (3) summarize many important Biblical Theological themes. Every serious Bible teacher should have this reference work.

Advanced

  1. Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos – The classic work on Biblical Theology. This book is hard-going at times, because it contains a great deal of interaction with higher-criticism (the academic viewpoint that takes the Bible as as compilation of man-made books, not a unified revelation, inspired by God). However, if you can wade through the chaff, you’ll benefit immensely from this Princeton Giant—not to mention, you will gain an appreciation for what it took for the modern genesis of evangelical biblical theology to emerge.
  2. God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants by Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry – Contrasting Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, these two Baptist scholars argue for a series of covenants (progressive covenantalism) as the “backbone” of the Bible. This book abbreviates and gives some response to objection to their earlier book, Kingdom through Covenant.
  3. Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock – A well-researched and irenic book which updates older models of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalist and non-dispensationalists alike would benefit from this well-argued book.
  4. The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale – Long, but worth the read. If you ever want to see how exegesis flows into Biblical Theology for the sake of the church, this is your book. At the same time, this book makes a whole-Bible argument for why Christians should not expect a future reconstruction of the temple.
  5. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Jim Hamilton – Hamilton shows how salvation and judgment redound the praise of God in every book of the Bible. Hamilton’s forte is showing the literary structure of each book and how each book contributes to theme of God’s glory.

There are countless other books that could be added to this list, and thankfully more continue to be published each year. If there are others that should be mentioned, feel free to suggest them in the comments. For now, I will commend these books to you, with one additional series: New Studies in Biblical Theology. Recognizable by its silver covers, this series edited by D.A. Carson holds nearly 40 individual studies on Biblical Theology from a wide array of evangelical scholars. These studies are fantastic for tracing themes throughout both testaments. (And to make these books even more accessible for pastors and teachers, Andy Naselli has served the church well by writing up a Scripture index for these volumes).

In sum, few areas of study have been more encouraging to my soul than biblical theology. Gaining an understanding of the Bible as a whole is something Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 24:27, 44–49) and it is something we should give great attention.

May the Spirit of truth illumine our eyes to behold Christ in all of Scripture, and may these resources serve in that study.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

How the Spirit and the Word Prepare You for the Lord’s Supper

bibleWho can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:12–14 —

How do you approach the Lord’s table when your heart is uncertain of it’s spiritual condition? If you question the errors of our heart, as David did in Psalm 19 (“Who can discern his errors?”), what will compel you to confidently take the Lord’s Supper? Will you withdraw from the bread and the cup when sin plague’s your soul? Or might the Lord’s Supper be an appointed means of reconciliation via remembrance?

These are not hypothetical questions, but realities Christians face as we commune with a holy God. Paul warned that anyone who takes the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner “drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Therefore, he calls us to “examine” ourselves and “then . . . eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (v. 28).

But how do we do that? If our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and lead us to evil and idolatry (see Jeremiah 3:17; 13:10; 18:12) how shall we be able to examine ourselves? Thankfully, as with all aspects of salvation, God provides what he demands, and the answer comes in the working of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

By means of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enables God’s children to rightly examine themselves and to come to the Table with fresh faith and repentance. Indeed, consider three ways the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to prepare you for the Lord’s Table. Or to put it the other way, here are three ways you should, by the Spirit, prepare your heart for communion with the Word of God. Continue reading

Introducing “How” To Do Biblical Theology: Fifteen Axioms from Graeme Goldsworthy

atpThis week our Sunday School classes begin a summer-long study of According to Plan: An Introduction to Biblical Theology.

It is not hyperbole to say Graeme Goldsworthy’s book was revolutionary in my understanding of Scripture, theology, hermeneutics, and preaching. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with him; I know many friends and ministers of the gospel who have.

If you have not read him—or heard of him— let me whet your appetite. The first seven chapters of his book outline a basic methodology for biblical theology. Without including everything, I’ve laid out fifteen axioms about biblical theology from his introduction.

Certainly, these axioms do not exhaust the subject. They don’t even exhaust Goldsworthy’s contribution (see his Christ-centered Hermeneutics and Christ-centered Biblical Theology), but they do make a sizable dent in introducing “how” to do biblical theology.

So, take up and read. Tolle Lege. Then go back to Scripture with a greater hunger and skill in seeing Christ in all Scripture—the personal and spiritual aim of all good biblical theology.

  1. Biblical theology is more than being “biblical” in our theology — “Deciding to be biblical, and believing and acting upon what the Bible teaches, does not solve all our problems” (19).
  2. Biblical theology is Christ-centered, meaning “biblical theology shows the relationship of all parts of the Old Testament to the person and work of Jesus Christ and, therefore, to the Christian” (23). Likewise, “Biblical theology enables us to discover how any Bible text relates to ourselves. Because Christ is the fixed point of reference for theology, we are concerned with how the text relates to Christ and how we relate to Christ” (71).
  3. Biblical theology is a methodological approach to showing [how all parts of the Old Testament relate to Christ] so that the Old Testament can be understood as Christian Scripture” [cf. 2 Timothy 3:14–16]” (23).
  4. “Biblical theology needs to emphasize some theme or themes which provide basis for understanding the single, unified message of the Bible” (77). Any valid biblical theology will show from Scripture is unified message, and how it relates to the final and full revelation of God in Christ (Hebrews 1:1–2).
  5. Biblical theology is a verbal map of the overall message of the Bible,” and “Biblical theology enables us to map out the unity of the Bible by looking at its message as a whole.” (23–24)
  6. Biblical theology provides the basis for the interpretation of any part of the Bible as God’s word to us” (25). As William Dumbrell has said elsewhere, “Interpretation of the Bible demands a framework within which the details are set. . . . We need to know the big picture before we look at the details.” (William Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus, 9).
  7. Biblical theology, speaking generally, stands between systematic theology and exegetical theology. In practice, biblical theology is most like historical theology, as “it contains a history of God’s revelation to mankind” (32). At the same time, biblical theology is what insures systematic theology is biblical, as “systematic theology will constantly make use of biblical and historical theology” (32). That said, biblical theology is most closely related to exegetical theology; it is “the last stage of exegetical theology . . . which examines the process of progression of God’s revelation to mankind” (35).
  8. Not every “biblical theology” is equally biblical, for “many biblical theologies have been written in which the biblical presuppositions have been rejected in favor of humanistic ones” (48). Importantly, biblical theologians must the inspiration, authority, and unity of the Bible.
  9. Biblical theology must affirm a number of underlying presuppositions about the Word of God and the world we live. Goldsworthy enumerates five (45):
    1. God made every fact in the universe, and he alone can interpret all things and events.
    2. Because we are created in the image of God we know that we are dependent on God for the truth.
    3. As sinners we suppress this knowledge and reinterpret the universe on the assumption that we, not God, give things their meanings.
    4. Special revelation through God’s redemptive word, reaching its high point in Jesus Christ, is needed to deal with our suppression of the truth and hostility to God.
    5. A special work of the Holy Spirit brings repentance and faith so that sinners acknowledge the truth which is in Scripture.
  10. Biblical theology should learn how to read the Bible from the apostles — “Jesus claims . . . he himself is the subject of the Old Testament. His teachings constantly point to the Old Testament as that which he fulfills. Thus the Old Testament does not stand on its own, because it is incomplete without its conclusion and fulfillment in the person and work of Christ” (52).
  11. Biblical theology should be a Christian endeavor – “In doing biblical theology as Christians, we do not start at Genesis 1 and work our way forward . . . Rather we first come to Christ, and he directs us to study the Old Testament in the light of the gospel The gospel will interpret the Old Testament by showing us its goals and meaning. The Old Testament will increase our understanding of the gospel by showing us what Christ fulfills” (55).
  12. Biblical theology recognizes that God’s Word is a progressively revealed revelation” — The Old Testament “is revelation because in it God makes himself know. It is redemptive because God reveals himself in the act of redeeming us. It is progressive because God makes himself and his purposes known by stages until the full light is revealed in Jesus Christ” (57).
  13. Biblical theology avoids the mirrored extremes of literalism and allegory — “Literalism involves the very serious error of not listening to what the New Testament says about fulfillment. It assumes that the fulfillment must correspond exactly to the form of the promise.” Conversely, “allegory assumed that history is worthless as history. Allegory results when a supposed hidden meaning is read out of something that on the surface is historical but which in fact has no value as history” (67).
  14. Biblical theology pays attention to the typological structures of the Bible — “Typology . . . takes account of the fact that God used a particular part of human history to reveal himself and his purposes to mankind. But it was a process, so that the historical types are incomplete revelations and depend on their antitype for their real meaning [e.g., the substance of Christ interprets the shadows of the Old Testament]. Typology rejects the principle of literalism [the belief that “says the historical promises lead to exactly corresponding historical fulfillments”]  . . . It also rejects the principle of allegory. [the belief that “says the historical promises and events are of significance only for the hidden meanings which lie beneath them”]. (68)
  15. Biblical theology ought to ground its methods of interpretation in the principles of the Reformation — “The literal or natural meaning of the text was what the text intended to convey to its original readers. It was thus a rejection of the allegorical interpretation that regarded such [historical-grammatical] meaning as irrelevant. Most significantly, however, the reformers did not see the literal meaning as being exhausted until it found its fulfillment in Christ. Thus, they recognized that the literal meaning at the Old Testament level pointed to a future event with a fuller meaning. Unlike allegory, the connection between the two was a matter of revelation in the Bible itself.” (68–69)

Continue reading

Discipleship 101: What is a Disciple?

discipleWhat is a disciple? The answer may not be as easy as it might first appear.

First, there is a shift in the meaning of the term ‘disciple’ from the Gospels to the book of Acts. For instance, in John 6 many of Jesus’ ‘disciples’ leave him. These are the ones who followed him to hear his teaching and to eat his bread, but when he calls them to eat his flesh and drink his blood, they cannot stomach their teacher any longer.

In this situation, disciples are simply those who followed and learned from Jesus, but were not converted by him. You could use this label to describe Judas. He was a disciple in one sense, but not in another. He followed and learned from Jesus, but because he failed to follow Christ until the end he proved to be a false disciple. Thus, in the Scriptures themselves, there is some ambiguity in the term.

But it is not just in the Bible where our labels fail us. In popular Christianity, there are also various definitions of discipleship. And this difference comes before we begin to discuss discipleship programs and practices. So how do we decide what a disciple is?

Not All Definitions of “Disciple” are Equally Biblical

Two rich studies on discipleship can be found in Michael Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship and Jonathan Lunde, Following Jesus The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship. Gleaning from their observations, I would summarize three different ways “disciple(s)” might be defined. Nota Bene: These definitions are not equally biblical.

1. Disciples are committed believers.

Salvation is one thing, discipleship is another. There are Christians and then there are disciples. This posits a two-tiered system in the Christian life—with the saved in the first category and the sanctified (i.e., disciples) in the next. The problem with this dichotomy is that it rips apart the unified work of salvation, and it does not fit with biblical language. In Acts 4:32, the church is described as a band of believers; but Acts 6:2 describes the church as “the full number of disciples.” Disciples, therefore, are believers; believers are disciple. No tiers!

2. Disciples are ministers.

Like the twelve, disciples are called to a special ministry of service. This results in a view where churches have clergy and laity, disciples and congregants. This separation is often found in special dress for the clergy, or unhealthy veneration of church leaders.

By contrast, the Great Commission calls all people to discipleship and to disciple others. Church work is for everyone. In this way, disciples are ministers, so long as we keep Ephesians 4:11–12 in mind: pastor-teachers are to equip the saints (disciples) for their work of service. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Jesus calls all his disciples to learn his trade and join him in the work.

3. Disciples are Christians. Christians are disciples.

While every follower of Christ is at a different phase in their spiritual pilgrimage, Christianity is not two-tiered. While wisdom cautions against young disciples leading, there is no two-stage approach. Rather, as in any family, there are babes, children, young adults, and mature adults. The same is true in the church. Every member of the church should be considered a disciple of Christ, and every disciple should be passionate about making disciples.

A Definition of Discipleship

In light of these previous observations, here is an provisional definition:

A disciple is a man or woman who is a new creation in Christ that no longer lives for self, but who has (1) believed on Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and (2) lives to learn, follow, and imitate Christ in all areas of life.

To say it another way, if we take our cues from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20): disciples (a) identify themselves with Jesus Christ in baptism; (b) labor to learn and apply all the commands God has given; and (c) serve our Lord with their various gifts in the process of heralding the message of Christ and reproducing disciples. Put simply, this is Great Commission Christianity. And this is what the twelve did, what Paul did (Acts 14:21), and what Paul called his followers to do (2 Tim 2:2).

For followers of Christ, discipleship is not an optional extra for interested Christians. It is certainly not a program churches can add or subtract. It is at the heart of what Christ is doing in the world. And it is at the center of what it means to be a follower of Christ—to be a disciple who makes disciples.

In the weeks ahead, we will consider this topic more. For now, let us pray and ask God to give us a vision for seeing God raise up disciple-making disciples. This after all was God’s good command to his followers.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Made Alive By the Spirit: The Pneumatology of Galatians (pt. 1)

windIn Galatians Paul spends a great amount of time explaining justification. That is to say, he argues that people are declared “right with God” as they place their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In this way, Paul lays the ground work for the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide: By Faith Alone are we saved.

In Galatians 2:16, he writes,

A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and no by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

And again in Galatians 3:10–14,

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse…but the law is not of faith, rather…’Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’–so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

However, this leads to the question, for those justified by faith, what does Paul say about sanctification? If salvation (in this case, righteousness) has nothing to do with personal holiness or obedience, how does Paul’s gospel restrain anyone from gross immorality or ethical indifference? His answer is the Holy Spirit. And in systematic fashion he unfolds in Galatians a powerful description of what the Spirit does in the life of the believer. While Paul does not undertake the task of providing a comprehensive pneumatology, he does provide a rough outline of the Spirit’s work from conversion to consummation, with the absence of the gifts of the Spirit.

In what follows, I will outline a brief pneumatology from the book of Galatians. Here is the outline. I will tackle three of these today and three in the next week or so.

  1. Born of the Spirit (4:29)
  2. Received the Spirit (3:2–3, 14)
  3. Alive in the Spirit (5:5, 25)
  4. Walk in the Spirit (5:16)
  5. Desires of… Led by… Fruit of the Spirit (5:17, 18, 22–23)
  6. Walk in the Spirit (5:25)

Continue reading

The Making of a ‘Theologian’: Twelve Ways to Grow in Grace and Knowledge of the Lord

lutherA few weeks ago I wrote a blogpost, “Theology is not Just for Theologians.” This week Edmond Sanganyado ran a post (“Becoming a Better Theologian“) on the same subject, where he queried more than twenty theologians on how to grow in knowing and loving God (i.e., theology). He received responses from Jonathan Leeman, Kevin Vanhoozer,  Tim Challies, to name a few. He also included a few thoughts I shared.

I’ve developed those reflections further below, and laid out twelve aspects to growing as a ‘theologian’ (i.e., one who thinks about God). These are addressed to individuals in the church but could easily be adapted by pastors to encourage his congregation to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), which is the aim of spiritually-enriching theology.

Twelve Ways to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of the Lord

1. Delight Yourself in the Lord. 

Good theology begins with a soul satisfaction in the Lord. This includes conversion, but goes further. Because understanding is enhanced or hindered by our loves, the first thing a good theologian must do is love God in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) is not just a command for decision-making, it is also necessary for doctrine-making.

Often heresy and errant theology (which are not exactly the same) are produced by men who are embittered towards God or trying to win the approval of others. In other words, because biography shapes theology (as in the case of Friedrich Schleiermacher), it is possible for bad theology to crop up from some misunderstood crisis in life. At the same time, good theology is sweetened by the grace given in times of suffering. Martin Luther said suffering was essential for making a theologian. A good theologian, by implication, must think rightly about God in trying times. And thus he or she must begin with delighting in the Lord. Continue reading