Jesus is God: Four Ways to See Jesus’s Divinity in John’s Gospel

marcos-paulo-prado-xec7srO4U5c-unsplashThis month our church returns to the Gospel of John, and specifically we have started to look at the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17), picking up in John 14. For those familiar with John 14–16, as well as the whole book of John, you know how often trinitarian themes, doctrines, and verses emerge. As John recounts the way Jesus speaks of his Father, the promise of sending the Spirit, and the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, we have perhaps the richest vein in Scripture for mining trinitarian gold.

To help our church, and those reading along here, I am going to begin posting some short pieces on the doctrine of the trinity and the key ideas related our God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today, I will begin with a note from Scott Swain, author of many works on the Trinity, including Crossway’s Short Studies in Systematic Theology volume, The Trinity: An Introduction.

In his blogpost, “How John Says Jesus is ‘God’,” he offers four ways to think about Christ’s deity in John, and he concludes with this fourfold textual proof of Jesus’s divinity from John. All told, Swain actually offers seven ways to think of Jesus as God. And what I include here is the four point, with four proofs. Take time to consider each, and then as you read John, keep your eye out for the ways that John presents Jesus as God.

1. Jesus shares the divine name(s).

According to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus shares his Father’s holy “name” (Jn 17:11; cf. 12:41). Throughout the Gospel, Jesus is not only acclaimed as “God” (Jn 1:1; 20:28), he is also identified by God’s proper name YHWH, “the linguistic token of God’s uniqueness par excellence,” along with the “corona of connotation” established by various OT ways of expounding God’s proper name (Kendall Soulen). The monogenēs is called “the one who is” in John 1:18 (echoing Exod 3:14 LXX). Jesus is called “the Lord” in John 1:23 (citing the Tetragrammaton from Isa 40:3) and John 20:28 (echoing Ps 35:23 [34:23 LXX], which calls YHWH “my Elohim and my Adonai”). Perhaps most significantly, Jesus identifies himself as the one true God by means of a series of absolute (Jn 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8) and predicate (Jn 6:35, 41, 48; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) “I am” statements, which echo YHWH’s own self-identification in the Old Testament (Deut 32:39; Isa 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6).

2. Jesus possesses divine attributes.

He shares God’s eternal and unchangeable being, in contrast to temporal and changeable creatures (Jn 1:1-3; 8:35, 58). He manifests YHWH’s unique “glory” (Jn 12:41, alluding to Isaiah 6), abounding in “grace and truth” (Jn 1:14, which alludes to Exod 34:6). He has “life in himself,” just “as the Father has life in himself” (Jn 5:26). Jesus is a divine king (Jn 18:36) who holds all divine authority in his hands (Jn 3:35; 13:3).

3. Jesus performs divine works.

As the Word who created all things (Jn 1:3-5), Jesus also proclaims the divine name to creatures (Jn 1:14, 18; 17:6, 26). Because he holds all divine authority in his hands, he executes divine judgment, raises the dead, and grants eternal life to whomever he will (Jn 5:21-22, 25, 27; 10:18; 17:2). Jesus predicts the future, revealing that “I am he” (Jn 13:19). Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise (Jn 5:19), completing the divine work of salvation that the Father gave him to do on the cross (Jn 13:1; 19:3). For all the aforementioned reasons and others,

4. Jesus is worthy of divine honor.

The Father “has given all judgment to the Son, that all might honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (Jn 5:22-23). Jesus is worthy of the same faith that is due God (Jn 14:1; cf. 3:14-15; 8:24; 20:31), and also the same love (Jn 14:15). As one who shares the divine name, he is “lifted up” and “glorified” as “I am” (Jn 8:28; 12:32, 41). After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas exclaims, “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28), a scriptural expression of covenant devotion (Ps 35:23). Though personally distinct from the Father as his Word and monogenēs, Jesus, according to John, is “one” God with the Father in every way (Jn 10:30).

From these four points and others, we have every reason to see that the Bible is unequivocal in calling Jesus ‘God.’ And thus, we should worship him not only as a good and great man, but as our God—Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and Second Person of the Trinity. Indeed, let us come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, bringing him all the praise he deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Prosopological Exegesis: Four Reasons Not to Buy This Modern Approach to Scripture

books on the table

Yesterday, I explained in four points what Prosopological Exegesis (PE) was and is. Today, I offer a point-by-point examination.

This excerpt comes from the following from “Reading the Psalms with the Church: A Critical Evaluation of Prosopological Exegesis in Light of Church History” SBJT 25.3 (2021): 87–91. The larger article engages various approaches to the Psalms, and compares older modern versions of Psalm studies to the new approach found in PE. Suffice it to say, I am concerned with what PE offers. And here are four reasons why:

  1. PE’s use of Greco-Roman literary tools and dramatic practices are anachronistic, and should not be used for interpreting Scripture.
  2. PE’s rejection of Enlightenment typology misses the way Scripture employs typology; we need to go back and evaluate what true biblical typology is and is not.
  3. PE’s defense of orthodox doctrine comes at the expense of biblical unity, an interpretive practice that will ultimately undercut orthodoxy.
  4. PE’s interpretation of Hebrews is mistaken; we need to evaluate how Scripture interprets Scripture.

Here is the full text, explaining each point in detail.

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Worshiping Christ at Christmas: Two Christmas Sermons (Isaiah 60 and Matthew 2)

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This year, Christmas Day afforded the church a double blessing. Each Lord’s Day, the saints gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. And on that day, the first day of the week, the day of new creation, we (God’s new creations) bear testimony to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord.  This we do every Sunday, in order to worship God and bear witness to his gospel.

This year, however, with Christmas on the Lord’s Day, we also gathered to declare that Jesus Christ, the Lord, is born. Indeed, Christmas is the holiday that reminds us of the Lord come to earth, such that those of earth might come to heaven. Wonderfully, our church gathered twice in less than 24 hours to rejoice in all that Christ is and has done.

On Christmas Eve, we gathered to meditate on what it means that the Magi came to worship Christ, the king of the Jews (Matt. 2:1-12). Then, on Christmas morning, we gathered again to see how the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 60. Indeed, Isaiah tells us that light has come into the world (vv. 1–3) and that light will one day engulf creation (vv. 19–22)—a prophecy that Revelation 21–22 picks up and applies to the new creation. In between the first coming of the light (in Christ’s birth) and its final establishment (in the new creation), we can continue to see how the light of God is coming into all the world, as the nations come to Zion and worship the Lord.

Those were the themes of our Christmas celebration. And I share the sermons below, so you might be able to dwell on these glorious truths. You can also find a pair of theological reflections on Isaiah 60 here and here. And if you need more Christological gold, take a look at what Christ Over All has published this month—Christology at Christmas. These essays are some of the best things I’ve read on the meaning of Christ and Christmas.

Come and Worship the True King (Matthew 2:1–12)

Let Us Come to Zion and Worship Christ (Isaiah 60)

Indeed, Christmas is one day behind us, or 364 days ahead us, if you are already counting. But the realities of Christ’s Incarnation, as well as his Lordship, abide year round. Therefore, may we continue to worship the Lord who was born in Bethlehem and the Lord who now reigns in Zion.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Pexels.com

Last Things First: Four More Ways Christ’s Birth Fulfills An End Times Prophecy

The Adoration of the MagiPicking 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

Last Things First: Three Ways Christ’s Birth Fulfills An End Times Prophecy

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The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light;
but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 
20Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
— Isaiah 60:19–20 —

In Revelation, one of the most intriguing and incredible promises in the book is the day that will have no end, when the Lord becomes the light of the world, and night is no more. You can find this in Revelation 21:22–27, or more concisely in Revelation 22:5,

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

This culminating vision of a full and final union between God and his people is the goal of history and the purpose for which God created the world. Indeed, many are the connections between Genesis 1–2 and Revelation 21–22. Yet, Revelation is also picking up the promises of the Prophets, showing how God will unite Christ and the Church in a glorious end-times, cosmic temple. In particular, Isaiah 60:19–20 (quoted above) is in view when John records the fact that “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23).

This vision of the end times is speaking of the future and has no antecedent in history, right? Well, that’s what I want to consider. Clearly, every day still turns to night, there is much darkness in the world (both physical and moral), and the consummation of the kingdom has not come. At the same time, if we let Scripture interpret Scripture and we consider what Isaiah 60 means in its original and canonical contexts, we find that this enlightening chapter is not only fulfilled in Christ’s second coming. It is also fulfilled in his first.

Last Things First

In what follows, I want to show how Isaiah 60 is fulfilled in the birth of Christ. In other words, Isaiah 60 does not skip over the first coming of Christ in anticipation of his second, for in Isaiah’s day, there was only one coming of the messiah. Only after Christ came in humiliation to die for the sins of his people did it become apparent that there would be an inter-Advental period (i.e., a time between his first and second coming).

In theology, this “already-but-not-yet” structure to redemptive history is called “inaugurated eschatology.” It simply means that Christ has inaugurated his kingdom, but he has not consummated it. Revelation 21–22 speak of this consummation. Yet, we should not conclude that the application of Isaiah 60 to this end time event denies an earlier application or fulfillment.

In fact, as we read the birth stories of Christ, we discover at least seven ways that Isaiah 60 is fulfilled in the birth of Christ. And so, with hearts filled with joy in Christ’s birth, I want to show you how the last things promised in Isaiah 60 began when Christ first came to earth.

Three Ways the First Advent Fulfills Isaiah 60

To let the text lead, I will simply highlight a portion of Isaiah 60 and then show where it is fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Again, the goal is not to deny the later, greater fulfillment of Isaiah 60 in the new creation of Revelation 21–22, but it is to recognize the way that the new creation has already begun (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). To that end, let’s consider three ways Isaiah 60 is fulfilled in the birth of Christ, and tomorrow I’ll add another four.

1. Light Has Come Into the World

In Isaiah 60:1–3, we find a testimony that God’s light has come into the world. Verse 1 announces, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” This is quickly followed in verse 2 by a contrast between the darkness of the world and the in-breaking light. Even more, verse 3 declares that “nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

These verses promise a day when God will fulfill his purposes for Israel. In the Old Testament, the light of God was placed in Israel and the nations were supposed to come to that light. By means of Israel’s law and wisdom (Deut. 4:6), the kings of the nations would come to Zion like the Queen of the South came to Solomon (1 Kings 10). And here in Isaiah, the prophet promises a new light, a new Solomon, and new flood of nations.

Indeed, this idea has already been proclaimed in Isaiah 2, as the law would go out and the nations would come into Zion. At the same time, Isaiah 9:1–2 speak of Zebulun and Naphtali as tribes positioned in darkness who have seen a great light. In that context, there is the promise of a child from David’s line who will establish a righteous a kingdom (vv. 6–7). In the fullness of time, Isaiah 9:1–7 is fulfilled in the birth of Christ, and so is Isaiah 60:1–3. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and when he was born, his star shone in the heavens and the nations came to him (Matt. 2:2; cf. Num. 24:17).

In this way, Isaiah 60 does speak of the future arrival of God, his light, and his kingdom. But importantly, this arrival came in the birth of Christ and now continues to shine in the darkness, until this same Christ comes again.

2. Joy Has Erupted in the Darkness

If light has entered the darkness, then joy follows. And this is what Isaiah 60:4–5 indicate. Speaking to Zion, the city of God, who was previously barren and empty (Isa. 49:14), Isaiah reports a flood children coming home in verse 4 just as God promised in Isaiah 49:15–23 and 54:1–8. This homecoming is the source of joy, which is described in verse 5.

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. (Isa. 60:5)

The idea of the “wealth of the nations” will be further developed in vv. 6–9, but let us not miss the value of the people themselves. Those who were in darkness, enslaved to idols, in bondage to wicked rulers, and those who were wicked themselves, these are the ones who are now coming to city of God, the place of their new birth. Because of the Servant’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s power, these children of God are coming and with them joy has come to Zion.

Such joy is repeated when we consider the joy of Christ’s first advent. Unlike Israel, we cannot say that our joy is only future. Rather, as Romans 14:17 tells us about the kingdom today, “It is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and jpeace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, Paul can command the people of God to rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4), because the Lord is here. And he has been here in the flesh and now by the Spirit since that great day when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. As Matthew 2:10 reports, “When [the wise men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

This exceeding joy is not a rhetorical flourish, it is a fulfillment of Isaiah 60. And we should not miss the connection. Jesus birth brought eschatological joy—a joy that death itself cannot steal, because the child born of Mary died and rose again to secure his people’s salvation and eternal joy.

3. Treasures Have Been Brought to the Temple

This truth is the one that launched this whole meditation—namely, the fact that wise men came bearing gifts of “gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). The first two elements are a direct connection to Isaiah 60:6. Listen to what it says.

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.

The third gift of myrrh is more enigmatic. Why is that included? As a perfume associated with burial, it could be a subtle indication that this king was born to die. Indeed, his work of salvation, which would include his sacrificial death, was already presented in Matthew 1:21. So that’s possible. But it’s also possible, and more fitting with the context of Isaiah 60, that the idea of frankincense is related to the temple.

As Craig Blomberg, following Davies and Allison, observes, there is in Matthew 2:11, “a possible Jesus/Solomon typology here . . . in part because gold and frankincense were firmly associated with the temple that Solomon built (1 Kings 10:2, 25; 1 Chron. 9:29; 2 Chron. 9:24; Neh. 13:5, 9)” (CNTUOT, 5). This seems to be going in the right direction, for not only does the temple theme reinforce a sacrificial reading of the gift, but it also fits Isaiah 60. As noted, the nations are flowing to a purified Zion, a place where God now dwells with his people. Even more, Isaiah 60 mentions the way their gifts will beautify the house of God and the sanctuary of the LORD (Isa. 60:7, 13).

In the New Testament, Jesus comes as the true temple (John 1:14), and he will replace the temple by bringing destruction on Jerusalem’s stone buildings (Matthew 24), and raising up a new temple in his body (John 2:19), in which he is the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19–22; cf. Matt. 16:18).

Restricting ourselves to Matthew 2, it is fitting to see the kings of the nations bypassing Herod and his temple (vv. 1–7), in order to bring gifts to Jesus (vv. 8–12). Indeed, if gold and myrrh were gifts given to Solomon and gold and frankincense were given to Zion, then their combination shows this truth: Jesus is the true temple. And true worshipers will seek God at his feet, not at the footstool in Jerusalem.

Such worship at God’s new creation temple does not need to wait until the second advent. Instead, this is a truth for us today. When the Son of God took on humanity, he became Immanuel, the place where God dwells with man and man with God. This was true for the wise men bringing gifts to Bethlehem instead of Jerusalem. And this is true today. We do not go to or look for a new temple to be built. Instead, when we gather with the living stones of Christ, we who are the Spirit-filled temple of God, are coming to Zion (see Heb. 12:22–24).

One day this temple, which is composed of new creation stones, will fill the earth. Until that day the light and the darkness will battle, joy will rise and fall, and earthly temples (i.e., churches) will live and die. Yet, the eternal hope remains—there is coming a day when the Christ who was born in Bethlehem, will bring Zion to earth. And we know this is true, not just because we have words that promise a future glory. We have the Word of God made fresh, as we see the glory dawning now. Jesus as the Word made flesh is raising dead flesh to life, and every place where the people of God gather to worship, they are bringing their gifts to God’s temple.

For today, these three points are enough. For together, they both show us how Isaiah 60 has been and is being fulfilled. Tomorrow, I’ll come back with four more as we wrap up this meditation. But for now, let us give thanks for the God who makes promises and keeps promises. At Christmas, it is good to remember that our hope for the future has already come. Jesus Christ is that hope. And what he has begun, he will complete until the final day.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Carlos Roberto Cu00f3rdova on Pexels.com

The Servant-King Who Brings Peace to Earth: An Advent Message on Isaiah 49–54

three kings figurines

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
­­– Isaiah 53:4–5 –

I heard the bells on Christmas Day / Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet / The words repeat / Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come, / The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along / The unbroken song / Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, A chant sublime / Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

These are the opening words to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow famous Christmas song, “I Heard the Bells on Xmas Day.” You’ve probably heard it, but if not I’d recommend the version by Caroline Cobb + Sean Carter. At the same time, you may not know the story behind the song, but it’s worth the telling.

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Faith, Hope, Love, and a True Savior: Four Questions of Life and Death (Isaiah 36–39)

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Faith, Hope, Love, and a True Savior: Four Questions of Life and Death (Isaiah 36–39)

In Isaiah, the middle of the book presents us with a series of questions: Will you trust God when you are under threat? Will you turn to God when your life is in peril? Will you see God’s discipline as an act of love? And who is the king that can save you?

Truly, the book of Isaiah is not only one that foretells the coming of the messiah. It is also one that calls us to trust in the God who promised to send his Son as our messiah. In the events of Hezekiah’s life, which take center stage in Isaiah 36–39, we find an example of how one man trusted God and then failed to trust God. Indeed, Isaiah 36–39 is both a living parable for believers and a series of historical events that moves the story along in Isaiah’s long book.

On Sunday I preached a sermon these four chapters, complete with a spiritual parable about squirrels. If you are looking to learn how to have faith, hope, and love in the midst of hard times, this sermon may serve you well. In looking at Hezekiah’s faith and folly, we learn how to trust God and how to look for the greater king to come, the son of David who is greater than Hezekiah, the greatest of Israel’s kings (2 Kgs. 18:5).

Indeed, during this advent season, we continue to walk through Isaiah’s Gospel in order to see God’s plan of salvation. And in God’s plan of salvation, we not only find the promise of a king who will save his people (Matt. 1:21). We also find instructions for how the people of God shall respond to this Savior-King. To that end, you can listen to this sermon on Isaiah 36–39 to see how God calls us to trust him even when it costs us. This handout on Isaiah 36–39 may also help you to see what is in the text.

Until next time, let us continue to proclaim Christ from all Scriptures in order to make disciples of all the nations.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Trust in the Lord, the Promises of God Incarnate (A Sermon on Isaiah 28–35)

Seed of the Woman 1024x1024With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas Carols upon us, the holiday season is now here. And with the holidays comes the making of many lists.

Santa has his list. And I am sure many readers of this blog have theirs. Whether it is a list of things to get done for Christmas or a list of this to wrap up before the new year comes, lists are a part of life. And lists can be all sorts of things.

They can be harmful, if your list is filled with grudges. Or, they can be helpful, if they help you remember all that your need to do. And they can even be misunderstood, if they are intercepted and read out of context.

Recently, my daughter found a list of family names with corresponding items under each. Still learning how to read, she thought it was surely a list of Christmas presents. But actually, when examined, this list contained all the school work to be done before Christmas. Such are the ways of lists. They can help, but they can also mislead.

In fact, lists can have negative consequences when we read the Bible. If you haven’t noticed, Scripture is not written in list form. Oh, it has lists. The first eleven chapters of Genesis contain two of them; they are called genealogies. Likewise, throughout the Bible, you can find lists of names, places, treasures, and laws. In short, the Bible is not against lists; it’s just that, on the whole, the Bible is not a list.

Resultantly, when we grind the Bible into list form, as many sermon-makers are quick to do, we run the risk of missing its message. Even more, when we turn the Bible into lists, we often miss the Messiah!

That said, there are times when it is helpful to put the truths of Scripture in list form. Systematic theologies do that, as do many sermons. And though I think the listicle sermon often misses the shape of the text, there are times for it. And this Sunday was one of them.

After riding an airboat through Isaiah 1–12 and a helicopter over Isaiah 13–27, I offered a sermon with four encouraging truths from Isaiah 28–35. Without abandoning the literary structure of the text, I focused on the applications that came from these eight chapter. To find those applications of the gospel, you can listen to the sermon here. You can also find the literary structure of Isaiah 28-35 here.

So far, preaching Isaiah 1–35 has been a challenge, but it has been a happy challenge, as it has forced us to see how the whole book fits together and leads us to Christ. Truly, Isaiah is glorious book, so let’s keeping reading it. And as you do, I pray these sermons may help you as you read.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Salvation and Judgment From Zion to Zambia: An International Comedy (A Sermon on Isaiah 13–27)

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Salvation and Judgment From Zion to Zambia:
An International Comedy (Sermon Audio for Isaiah 13–27)

Sermon Handout: Isaiah 13-27 PDF Slides

Has the Bible ever made you mad? Have you ever stopped reading the Bible because you couldn’t understand it? Are there parts of the Bible that you have avoided because they are too difficult to comprehend? To each of these questions, I can offer an affirmative response, with illustrations to prove it.

For instance, a number of years ago Isaiah 13–27 was one of those places. Or rather, it was somewhere in Isaiah 13-19. Reading those chapters, with their endless judgments against ancient foreign powers, I got frustrated and put the Bible away. Looking for a word of encouragement, the endless oracles made no sense.  After all, what do Philistines and Moabites have to do with me? As it turns out, there are lots of ways that God’s judgment on these nations applies today (see Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), but it took some time to see it.

Fast forward two decades from the time I closed the book on Isaiah 13–19, and I can say that these chapters are some of the most exhilarating in the Bible. But such exhilaration requires learning how to read them on their own terms. And on Sunday, that’s what I attempted to do as I preached Isaiah 13–27.

Based on literary clues in the text, we find that Isaiah 13–27 is a single unit, broken into three main sections, maybe four (13-19 / 20 / 21-23 + 24-27). Accordingly, to hear the message of this section (1 of 7 in the book), requires listening to the whole thing. Just as understanding The Count of Monte Cristo requires reading beyond the imprisonment of Edmond Dantès, so too these chapters must be read from beginning to end—-just as the whole book of Isaiah must be read to understand its good news.

Indeed, while stretching for the preacher and the listener, I attempted on Sunday to show how this whole section hangs together and offers an international comedy. Moving from the bad news of God’s judgment on wicked nations to the good news of salvation offered to a remnant from all nations, I showed how these 15 chapters work together to bring us hope for a glorious future.

If you are interested in hearing how this all goes, I would encourage you to begin with last week’s sermon on Isaiah 1–12 here. (Don’t miss the Isaiah 1-12_Handout). And then with another set of Isaiah 13-27 notes in hand, you can listen to this week’s sermon on Isaiah 13–27 here. All told, it is my hope to preach Isaiah in 7 sermons. So stay tuned for an ongoing overview of this glorious book.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Ripple Effect of the Resurrection: How Resurrection Shockwaves Produce Unshakeable Faith (A Sermon on John 11:45–12:11)

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The Ripple Effect of the Resurrection: How Resurrection Shockwaves Produce Unshakeable Faith (A Sermon on John 11:45–12:11)

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.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds