Last year, I joined Nicholas Piotrowski, Charles Ware, and Gus Pritchard for an event in Indianapolis called “Gospel, Race, and the Church.” Through six short messages and six panel discussions, plus a Q & A we worked through many subjects related to contemporary discussions on race and justice in the church. While this subject is fraught with landmines, the overall tenor of the event was positive, biblical, and prayerfully helpful.
To encourage candidness in the moment, the audios were not made public, so I can’t link to those. But what follows is an updated version of my second message. You can find the manuscript of the first message (Is Racial Justice a Gospel Issue?) here.
Here is the thesis that I want to argue: Your race is more important than your ethnicity.
When defined biblically and not sociologically, one’s race is more important for identity formation than one’s ethnicity. And by extension, the mission of the church is to help you make that statement true. Which raises the question. What is race? And do you know what your race is?
As insulting as that question may sound at first, I am going to suggest it is an easy question to mistake—especially if we have fused biblical ideas with worldly ideologies. At the same time, if we can answer this question from the Bible and the Bible alone, then we have hope for knowing and growing the mission of the church. This is the point that I will argue here, and here is how I will proceed.
I will show why the concept of racialization in America is popular and pervasive, but ultimately unhelpful—if not harmful.
I will attempt to draw the lines of race and ethnicity according to the Bible.
With those lines in place, I will demonstrate that the mission of the church helps men and women, who hold PhD’s in ethnic Partiality, ethnic Hostility, ethnic Discrimination, grow up into Christ, who is the head of a new chosen race, redeemed from nation (ethnē).
Last year I wrote a book on the priesthood, and tonight I will teach a lesson on the priesthood of believers in Romans 15. And so in preparation for that lesson, I am dusting off a piece of my dissertation (edited) and posting it here. It’s on the priesthood of believers.
When we think of the priesthood of believers, we often think of 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10, and rightly so. In addition to defiling the high priest’s servant when he cut off his ear (N.B. Jesus does not heal Malchus in John’s Gospel), Peter also picked up the sword of the Spirit to positively articulate a vision of the church as a royal priesthood. And in what follows, I will reflect on his thoughts from his first epistle.
At the same time, Paul too had a vision for the priesthood–a vision for priesthood that is often under-appreciated. And so, in the second portion below, I will highlight the one place where he uses the word “priest,” actually “priestly” (hierourgounta). From his usage, and Peter’s, we learn a key lesson, that the priestly ministry of the church means evangelism for all. Let’s consider. Continue reading →
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. — John 16:21–23 —
Few things in life are more terrifying or exhilarating than the final moments before a baby is born. When a wife turns to her husband and says, “It’s time,” that husband knows—or he better know—that everything he’s doing needs to stop. Now!
A few weeks ago, this scenario played itself out on national television, as Robert Griffin took a phone call and immediately ran from the field during the middle of the Fiesta Bowl. While at first his co-hosts questioned him for taking a call during the live broadcast, as soon as the reason was given, everyone understood and everyone cheered. Such is the celebration that comes when the long-awaited child is here and about to enter the world. (I share the clip with great pain for my Michigan Wolverines.)
Indeed, there is something wonderful about birth, even as it comes through immense pain for the mother and an immense sense of helplessness (not to mention adoration) for the father. Even more, childbirth is meant to picture something of God’s plans for salvation.
Like marriage, childbirth is a picture of the gospel, or at least the new birth, which comes when God grants life to his children. Explaining regeneration in John 3, Jesus indicates that this new birth—a birth from above—is much more than a metaphor. It is the very means by which God is going to save the world.
Likewise, as Jesus nears the cross, he returns to the imagery of childbirth, when in John 16:21–23, he says that the birth of pangs of salvation are here. As the bridegroom, Jesus says that “It’s time!” And importantly, he is not only saying that it is time for his cross, but he is also saying it is time for the bride (the church) to experience the pain of receiving her children.
In the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah, we discover that Mount Zion is a mother who will receive the children of God (cf. Psalm 87). And now that Jesus is going to be lifted up (on Calvary but also in glory), it is time for Mother Zion to receive her offspring. This is a key point in John 16 and one that we need to understand, if we are going to rightly relate childbirth to salvation and salvation to rearing children in the Lord.
On Sunday, I preached on this point and you can find the sermon here. Along the way, this sermon touched on appropriate and inappropriate ways to relate home and heaven, child birth and salvation—subjects that are on the forefront of Christian’s minds today.
As the moral fiber of our country continues to crumble, in large part because the family has been eviscerated, Christian Nationalism seems to offer a suitable solution. Yet, advocates of Christian Nationalism, especially those who are Baptist, should know that the foundations offered by the likes of Stephen Wolfe—see p. 217 in his The Case for Christian Nationalism—depend upon a view of the covenant that Baptists cannot affirm. For this reason and others, Baptists should be cautious of trying to reform America with his brand of postmillennialism. Instead, we should go back to Scripture to see how the new covenant informs the mission of the church, the way Christians can impact culture, and the way the law applies to the state today.
Long story short, more needs to be said on how child birth relates to salvation and how churches should foster Christian homes and influence nations with Christian truth. In the months ahead, Christ Over All will be addressing just this in two issues on the Christian Home (May) and Christian Nationalism (October). In our day, all of us need to think more carefully about how God is bringing light into the world and how the church plays a part in influencing the state. Stay tuned. Until then, however, I offer this sermon as entrée to the subject.
Have you heard of it? If not, that’s alright, I suspect this technique for reading Scripture will run its course in the next decade and be replaced by another interpretive fad in the 2030s. In the mean time, however, this way of (mis)reading Scripture will find its way into articles, book, commentaries, and pulpits. And for that reason, students of the Word and especially teachers who rely on the scholarship of others (read: all of us), should be( a)ware of this approach to reading the Bible Christologically.
To those who have been stuck in hermeneutical circles that deny typology and the need to read Scripture canonically, prosopological exegesis (PE) may sound like a great gain, as the voices of God are “unmasked” in certain parts of the Old Testament. But as Peter Gentry, Jim Hamilton, and Jim Dernell have each argued, this ostensibly Christ-centered approach to the Old Testament misreads God’s Word. Instead of following OT texts and types until they come to their full revelation in the New Testament, as God the Father, Son, and Spirit are revealed as the one God in three persons, PE takes a shortcut to the persons of the Trinity. For this reason, it is a “naughty” way to read Scripture, asMichael Carlino argues in his new piece at Christ Over All: “Give Diamonds, Not Coal: Why Prosopological Exegesis is Not the Gift You Are Looking For.”
Tomorrow, I will share my own concerns with prosopological exegesis. But today, I will offer an explanation of what PE is. What follows, then, is part of my Southern Baptist Journal of Theological article, “Reading the Psalms with the Church: A Critical Evaluation of Prosopological Exegesis in Light of Church History.” You can find this SBJT article here, along with another article that gives a constructive proposal for reading the Psalms. In both articles, I show why PE is not a reliable method to reading Scripture, and what follows is the start of that argument—namely, defining what prosopological exegesis is.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
— Psalm 119:9–12 —
A few years ago, I introduced a reading plan focused on Scripture saturation more than Scripture box-checking. As a new year begins, I return to that reading plan for myself and for others who might be interested in focusing on one (or two or three) books in a month, instead a daily selection of Bible readings.
As we all know, or should know, the Word of God is not a trifle; it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). Man does not live on bread alone, but on the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). So we should aim to read the Bible and to read it often!
Truly, the Bible is not a book to read once, or even once a year. It is meant to be imbibed and inhabited, adored and adorned, studied and savored. Mastery of the Bible does not mean comprehensive understanding of Scripture; it means an ever-increasing submission to the Master who speaks in Scripture. This is why in the closing days of the year, it’s good to consider how we can saturate ourselves with Scripture in the new year.
And today I offer a reflection on why a reading plan dedicated to saturating in Scripture may be a help for those who need to slow down and meditate on God’s Word. Or, for others, why a plan that encourages reading larger sections of Scripture might help Bible readers see more clearly the full message of the Bible.
Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to continue showing how the end-times prophecy of Isaiah 60 is fulfilled in the birth of Christ. From Isaiah 60:1–6, I highlighted three ways that Christ’s birth fulfilled the promises of (1) light, (2) joy, and (3) treasures brought to the temple. Today, I will pick up four more promises that are fulfilled in Christ’s birth.
4. Gentiles Have Been Received By Christ
In Isaiah 60:6 the LORD says kings will come to Zion bringing gifts. Now, in verse 7, we find the promise that those gifts “will beautify my beautiful house.” This “house” is a reference God’s holy temple, the place where God dwelt on earth. But incredibly, this house, its altar and inner sanctuary, were off limits–especially to Gentiles. And yet here, in Isaiah 60 we find the invitation for Gentile kings to “come up with acceptance on my altar.” The inclusion of “acceptance” is remarkable.
Under the old covenant, Gentiles were ritually and religiously unclean. In Ezekiel 44:6–9, Israel received the harshest condemnation because they permitted Gentiles to come near to God’s house. But now, Isaiah 60 says these foreign kings will be acceptable. How is this possible? The answer goes back to the international scope of the Servant’s work (Isa. 49:6–7).
While God chose Israel to be his covenant people in the Old Testament, the goal was always bigger. God would redeem a people from all nations, a theme that runs throughout Isaiah, and goes back to Abraham himself (see Gen. 12:1–3). In Isaiah 60, we now see the nations coming to Zion, bringing gifts (vv. 6–9), and building up the city of God. Listen to verse 10, “Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you.”
Incredibly, when God exiled the people of Israel to Babylon and the nations, he in turn made a way for the nations to begin coming to Zion to find salvation in Israel’s king. In Zechariah 8:23, the post-exilic prophet puts it like this, “In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Indeed, in God’s unfathomable wisdom, he would turn Israel’s exile into a pathway of salvation for the nations. And in Isaiah 60:6–16 we find the nations coming to Israel bringing gifts and finding a place to reside near God.
In the New Testament, this emigration towards Zion is seen in the way the Magi come to Jerusalem to worship the king of the Jews. Most likely, these men of the East came to Jerusalem in response to the knowledge they received from exiled Jews. Daniel is a likely candidate for this kind of knowledge, but it could be others too. For our purposes, it is clear that Isaiah 60’s vision of the nations coming to Zion anticipates the arrival of the Magi. Or to turn it around, Matthew includes their pilgrimage to Zion (to Jesus, not just Jerusalem) to show how Isaiah 60 is being fulfilled.
On this point, we can go even further. These Gentile kings did not merely come to Bethlehem, they were welcomed into the Jewish living space Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. As Matthew 2:11 begins, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother.” Let us not miss the significance of this moment. These unclean Gentiles are received into the presence of the Israel’s king because of their worshipful faith. This too reinforces the fact that Isaiah 60 is being fulfilled in the way Gentile kings are received the King of the Jews. Continue reading →
When Jesus died and rose again, rocks cracked open, tombs emptied, and creation shook. As Matthew reports it, there was an earthquake associated with Christ’s death and resurrection. And that earthquake not only shook creation, it also raised the dead. As Matthew 27:52 says,
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
While this resurrection of the holy ones is mysterious, it shows the power of God to change the world and to change a life. Death is not the final word to God, because God has the power to put death to death. And in Christ’s resurrection, this what he did and is still doing to those who he raises to life today (see Eph. 2:5)
Not surprisingly, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it also sent shockwaves into the world. First, it touched the lives of Mary, Martha, Lazarus, as well as those who saw Lazarus raised. Then quickly, news of Lazarus resurrection went viral. Just as God intended, Lazarus’s illness did not result in death but in the glory of God (John 11:1–6).
Indeed, as God’s glory spread like a light over Jerusalem, it began shake the city. Jesus’s light began to give illumine believers and expose unbelievers. Just like the rest of Jesus’s ministry in John, news of this resurrection served to separate light from darkness and faith from unbelief. More exactly, Jesus’s seventh sign served as the climactic event that would lead to his death. Indeed, Lazarus’s resurrection had such a powerful effect that everyone in Jerusalem was forced to take a side—Will you trust Jesus? Or will you reject him?
In fact, that’s the whole point of John’s Gospel and the point of the passage before us (John 11:45–12:11)—namely, to give us an unshakably faith by way of Christ’s resurrection shockwaves. Or to put it the other way round, the shockwaves of the resurrection produce unshakable faith.
Consider how this works: when we come to John 11:45 we are immediately confronted with the effects of Lazarus new life. In John 11:1–16 we have the set up for the resurrection of Lazarus. In John 11:17–44 we have the resurrection itself. And now in in John 11:45–12:11, we have the shockwaves of the resurrection.
As verses 45–46 indicate, these shockwaves do one of two things—they either produce faith or hostility. Notice the contrast here: “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”
Already in John, we have seen this kind of separation. Jesus does something—e.g., he heals the sick or he feeds the 5,000—and people must make a decision. Will you believe on him, or not? And now, Jesus is at it again. Only now he has raised someone from the dead and has performed his seventh sign within ear shot of Jerusalem.
On Sunday this is what I preached, as I showed from John 11:45–12:11 how Christ’s power to raise the dead gives us a firm foundation on which to build our faith. You can listen to the sermon here. And you can see a bit more on the passage here.
As we remember the resurrection power of Christ, may we have confidence in him to secure us and save us even from all the deadly threats that surround us.
If you have followed by blog for any length of time you know that my posting is somewhat irregular. As a pastor first, not a journalist, my priority is preaching and teaching at my local church. After that, a couple times a year, I go and teach theology at Indianapolis Theological Seminary. And then after that I do some writing for various ministries, journals, and book publishers. Long story short, my blog is the overflow of the work I’m doing elsewhere, and I hope that it blesses and builds up those who read it.
I do not say it enough, but I am deeply thankful for the folks who have through the years reached out and interacted with things I’ve written. And Lord willing, I will continue to post biblical, theological, and culture-engaging content for the sake of the church, things that will bless you when you come and read them.
That said, over the last month or so I have not posted very much. And the reason for that is because I, with a handful of other pastors and theologians, have begun a new project called Christ Over All. Some of you may know about it, but for the others who do not, I’m pointing to it today. If you go to the homepage of Christ Over All, this is what you will find:
Christ Over All is a fellowship of pastor-theologians dedicated to helping the church see Christ as Lord and everything else under his feet.
Indeed, this is our vision and our prayer. Over the last year, our team of eight and then nine brothers in Christ talked, and prayed, and strategized for ways we could serve the church with a website that engaged many of the challenges of our current culture, but that did so by slower meditations on Scripture and longer articles applying biblical theology to our complex world. Over the last month, we have outlined this vision. And you can read some of the posts here. You can also listen to our new podcast.
Next month, we begin in earnest to bring solid content to the internet, as we dust off the book by Francis Schaeffer called A Christian Manifesto. Over the course of October, we will engage each chapter and also hit some key features of Schaeffer’s life and writing. I say all that to say, come spend a month with Christ Over All learning from Francis Schaeffer and his engagement with culture, government, and other public spaces. In the months after that, we will hit other relevant subjects that, Lord willing, builds up the church.
Additionally, if you want to stay in touch with Christ Over All, go sign up for our newsletter. If you have appreciated the content of Via Emmaus, I think you will enjoy the work of Christ Over All even more.
For me personally, I will keep writing in both spaces. I will probably let most of my biblical reflections take up residence here. And I will publish more of my cultural engagement pieces at Christ Over All. I’m sure there will be some crossover too, but this is how I will aim my writing.
All in all, I share this brief update to encourage you to check out the new website and to stay tuned here as I will be picking up a rhythm of writing again soon. Additionally, stay tuned for a renewal of the Via Emmaus podcast, which will read many of the articles and also have some new content too.
Again, I give thanks to God for the many friends who have read my blog. Your feedback and questions are always encouraging. I pray that it will continue to use my writing to build up your faith, as we see Christ from all the Scriptures in order to make disciples of all the nations.
Who can take the Lord’s Supper is a question of no little dispute among those who call themselves Baptist (yes, this is a Baptist blogpost). In my estimation, the best answer to the question of baptism and Lord’s Supper goes something like this:
Those who have undergone believer’s baptism (the initiation rite of the new covenant) are permitted to eat at the Lord’s Supper (the continuing rite of the new covenant).
In what follows, I will offer a biblical typology to explain why baptism should precede Lord’s Supper. Rising from the Old Testament, these symbols of the new covenant do not arise de novo from Jesus or apostles. Rather, as we appreciate the Old Testament pattern of water-crossing that leads to feasting in God’s presence, we will see why baptism must precede the Lord’s Supper.
In short, OT “baptisms” are types of the NT baptisms and the Passover is the chief type of the Lord’s Supper. To understand baptism and the Lord’s Supper requires understanding the symbolism of these OT events. But also, because these OT “water crossings” are paired with a meals in God’s presence (e.g., Passover), we see that baptism and Lord’s Supper should also be paired together. This is the basic argument and we will consider it below in four steps, giving primary attention to the way baptism and the Lord’s Supper are informed by the book of Joshua. Continue reading →