‘Cardiac Discipleship’: Five Ways to Pursue the Heart in Spiritual Formation

you-areYou Are What You Love is a needed corrective to overly cerebral approaches to discipleship. It is a challenge to followers of Christ to evaluate how ‘secular liturgies’ are training our hearts to love things other than God and our neighbor. And it presents a vision of discipleship that does more than just cement spiritual disciplines in new believers; it calls us seek first the kingdom and to live with hearts enlarged for Christ and his glory.

In what follows I share a few quotes where Smith speaks directly about discipleship. I hope they will whet your appetite for your book and pique your interest in how discipleship is a matter of heart cultivation.

1. Discipleship cultivates the appetite and curates the heart.

While discipleship is a matter of learning, it is more like learning how to cook than to read code. Disciples hunger and thirst for the things of God and know how to feed on him, and good ‘disciplers’ seek to cultivate cravings in the heart of new believers. So,

Discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing. Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to align our love and longings with his—to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to hunger and thirst after God and crave a world where he is all in all—a vision encapsulated by the shorthand ‘the Kingdom of God.’ (2) Continue reading

Discipling Every Nation (Matthew 28:18–20): Sermon Notes by Ben Purves

sowingThis morning Ben Purves, our pastor for student ministers, preached a thorough message on the Great Commission. He began by showing the biblical-theological links from Psalm 2 and 2 Chronicles 36 to Matthew 28, then moved to explain how the grammar of the passaged emphasizes the command to ‘disciple’ the nations, and finished with a practical exhortation for how we can enlarge our hearts for the work of making disciples near and far.

Below you can find discussion questions to his sermon and further resources on the subject of discipleship. You can also sign up for our upcoming EQUIP Conference (September 23–25), where we will consider how marriage and evangelism work together to bolster discipleship in the church. Continue reading

Jesus Has Absolute Authority

In John Piper’s 1998 sermon on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20),  Piper gives a representative list of all the things that Jesus has “authority over.”  Its a powerful reminder that today Jesus upholds the universe with the power of his word (Heb. 1:3; cf. Col. 1:16-17) and that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).

So consider: Jesus has…

AUTHORITY OVER  Satan and all demons, over all angels -good and evil – over the natural universe, natural objects and laws and forces: stars, galaxies, planets, meteorites;

AUTHORITY OVER  all weather systems: winds, rains, lightning, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, cyclones;

AUTHORITY OVER all their effects: tidal waves, floods, fires;

AUTHORITY OVER all molecular and atomic reality: atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, undiscovered subatomic particles, quantum physics, genetic structures, DNA, chromosomes;

AUTHORITY OVER all plants and animals great and small: whales and redwoods, giant squid and giant oaks, all fish, all wild beasts, all invisible animals and plants: bacteria, viruses, parasites, germs;

AUTHORITY OVER all the parts and functions of the human body: every beat of the heart, every breath of the diaphragm, every electrical jump across a million synapses in our brains;

AUTHORITY OVER all nations and governments: congresses and legislatures and presidents and kings and premiers and courts;

AUTHORITY OVER all armies and weapons and bombs and terrorists; authority over all industry and business and finance and currency;

AUTHORITY OVER all entertainment and amusement and leisure and media; over all education and research and science and discovery;

AUTHORITY OVER all crime and violence; over all families and neighborhoods; and over the church, and over every soul and every moment of every life that has been or ever will be lived.

When we face cancer or consequences for sharing the gospel, Jesus’ absolute authority marshalls confidence and assuages fear.  When we consider missions, it beckons us to move forward past armed guards, because there is no such thing as a ‘closed’ country to the Christian commissioned by the King with absolute authority.  LORD Jesus, may we be so bold.

Listen to the whole sermon: The Lofty Claim, The Last Command, The Loving Comfort.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Trinity in Biblical Theological Perspective (2)

The Trinity in Biblical Theological Reflection: New Testament Appropriations of Old Testament Evidence 

Three NT passages that are often used to support the doctrine of the Trinity are Matthew 28:19; John 1:1-8; and 1 Corinthians 8:1-6.  They show the New Testament revelation of the Trinity–one God, three persons.  However, as will be evidenced below these passages are not merely New Testament irruptions, rather they find dependence on earlier Old Testament passages.  The point being made then is that while the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly made in the OT, there are incomplete revelations in the Hebrew Bible that prepare the soul for the Christian revelation of the Triune God.  Let us consider these passages together. 

Matthew 28:19.  The Great Commission is the most explicit Trinitarian verse in the Bible.  While there are other triads,[1] no other passage of Scripture so clearly and concisely delineates the three persons of the Godhead.  It reads, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Here all three members of the Godhead are listed in order and united under a singular name,[2] and as was referenced previously this New Testament postulations depends upon Old Testament revelation, in at least three ways.  In short order, Matthew 28:18-20 has a typological precedent in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23,[3] a literary precursor in the three-fold, baptismal benediction found in the Aaronic blessing (Num. 6:22-26);[4] and a view of the Godhead that corresponds with the eschatological vision in Daniel 7:13-14.[5]  In each of these Old Testament passages there are glimpses of what is fully conceived in Matthew 28:18-20.   More to the point theologically, the significance of God’s name cannot be undervalued.  That the “I am” is now the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, marks a seismic shift in Theology Proper; nonetheless, it is one that was anticipated in the OT (cf. Isa. 7:14; Jer. 23:6; cf. Isa. 43:25 –> Phil. 2:9-11).[6]

John 1:1-18.  John’s prologue is another lucid example of the way OT ideas of Word and Wisdom were taken and applied to Jesus, so that God the Father and God the Son were inseparably united and yet hypostatically distinguished.  Consider John’s use of Genesis 1 as he introduces Jesus as the eternal Word of God—the one in whom “all things were made,” the source of all life, and the light of the world (1:1-5).[7]  That the Word, the Son of God, Jesus Christ is responsible for creation, life, and light is a clear testimony to his uncreated eternality and the fact that he is the unnamed divine agent in the Old Testament.  Köstenberger summarizes, “The prologue’s portrayal of the Word’s creative agency thus establishes an important theme [in John]… While the Word is personally distinct from God, the work he performs is nonetheless nothing but the work of God.”[8]  

Then, using imagery from the revelation on Mt. Sinai, John compares Jesus intimate knowledge of the Father with Moses fiery encounter in Exodus 19-20.  Moses was permitted into God’s presence, but he was disallowed from seeing God’s face, or later entering into his presence (i.e. the promised land).  Alternatively, Jesus Christ, “is in the bosom of the Father” (1:18 NASB).  He is the “one-of-a-kind Son” who alone has seen God and now is explaining him to the world.  In this comparison, Jesus is not a New Moses.  Rather, if the imagery from Sinai holds, he himself is YHWH in the flesh.  So that as Bauckham concludes,

Without contradicting or rejecting any of the existing features of Jewish monotheism, the Fourth Gospel, therefore redefines Jewish monotheism as Christological monotheism….in which the relationship the relationship of Jesus the Son to his Father is integral to the definition of who the one true God is.[9]

1 Corinthians 8:1-6.  Like John, Paul in his letter to the Corinthians expands the static notion of monotheism to include Jesus Christ.  Quoting the shema (Deut. 6:4) in 1 Corinthians 8:4, he argues against idolatry in verse 6 saying, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  It is absolutely fascinating to see Paul reject the existence of other (so-called) gods in one verse and then to turn and insert into the singular deity of God two names—God and the Lord Jesus, the Father and the Son.  Certainly, this Christology interpretation was a result of his Dasmascus Road experience with the risen Lord.  Richard Bauckham’s balanced explanation summarizes Paul’s thought process here,

The only possible way to understand Paul as maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God affirmed in the Shema.  But this is, in any case, clear from the fact that the term ‘Lord’, applied here to Jesus as the ‘one Lord’, is taken from the Shema itself.  Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema a ‘Lord’ whom the Shema affirms to be one.  In this unprecedented reformulation of the Shema, the unique identity of the one God consists of the one God, the Father, and the one Lord, his Messiah (who is implicitly regarded as the Son of the Father).[10]

While it has been argued by some that the semantic range of the word ehad allows for complexity,[11] this is a shocking statement.  Still, it is this kind of OT-dependent reading that best explains how we are to understand the traces of the Trinity in the Old Testament.  For nowhere in the shema is there a negation of a Triune God.  Rather, there is a firm affirmation of God’s unity, which orthodox Trinitarians also hold.  What Paul does in 1 Corinthians 8:6, however, is to unpack the unity of God in the OT in a way that fits with the greater revelation of Jesus as God (cf. Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13).  That the Spirit is not present in this passage does not deny the Trinitarian nature of the verse, it simply indicates that like the OT, aspects of the Godhead can be spoken of in isolation, though never upheld ontologically as independent or separate.

These are not the only passages either.  Other relevant Trinitarian passages in the NT that appeal to the OT  include Acts 2:17-21, where Peter quotes the prophecy in Joel to explain the events of Pentecost and the coming of God’s Spirit; Philippians 2:9-11, where Paul applies Isaiah 45:23, which speaks of YHWH, and applies it to Jesus saying God “bestowed on [Jesus] the name that is above every name;”[12] and 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30 and Colossians 2:3 which call Jesus “the wisdom of God,” the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Each of these passages develops Old Testament evidences for the Trinity—the coming of the Spirit, the Name of God, and the Wisdom of God. 

And I am sure that there are others.  Can you think of any? 

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

[1] Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21; Rev. 1:4-5.


[2]  For more on the significance of ordered relationships in the Godhead see Bruce Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance.  (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005).


[3] G.K. Beale makes this often overlooked connection in The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 169-80.  He writes, “This passage [2 Chron. 36:22-23] has three things in common with Matthew 28:18-20: (1) both Cyrus and Jesus assert authority over all the earth; (2) the commission to ‘go’; and (3) the assurance of divine presence to fulfill the commission…the 2 Chronicles passage would be viewed as a historical event to commission a temple that foreshadowed typologically the much greater event of Jesus’ ‘Great Commision’ to build a greater temple” (176-77).  This observation is very informative for understanding the work of the Trinity expounded in Matthew 28, where the Son is building the temple, the Spirit is indwelling the temple, and ultimately the temple is for God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).


[4] Viviano cites Luise Abramowski’s research and summarizes her work showing the relationship between the Aaronic blessing, the Nazarite vow, and the rite of baptism.  He writes, “Crucial to her case is the placing or putting of God’s name on the people.  This then links up with baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit” (Viviano, “The Trinity in the Old Testament,” 16). 


[5] Craig Blomberg writes, “Jesus’ closing ‘Great Commission’ of his apostles seems to allude to Daniel 7:14.  Jesus whose favorite title for himself throughout the Gospel has been ‘Son of Man,’ is given all authority on heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), just as the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision received an identical universal authority.  It is even possible that the Trinitarian formula in 28:19 reflects a modification of the triad of Ancient of Days (God the Father), Son of Man (God the Son), and angels as God’s spiritual servants as the implied agents of the Son of Man being led into God’s presence (and thus functioning analogous to the Holy Spirit), also found in Dan. 7:13-14” (“Matthew” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D.A. Carson [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 100.


[6] For more on the names of God see John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 343-61; cf. John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 98, 193-94.


[7] Andreas Köstenberger, “John” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D.A. Carson [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007], 421; see also Carson’s comments and detailed exegesis in The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1991), 111-39.


[8] Andreas Köstenberger, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008), 115.

[9] Richard Bauckham, “Monotheism and Christology in the Gospel of John” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 165.


[10] Richard Bauckham,  Jesus and the God of Israel, 101.  This quotation comes from an entire section devoted to solving this theological riddle, see pp. 97-105.


[11] The task of demonstrating God’s singularity and unity in the OT is more challenging than may first appear.  OT scholars like Michael Heiser are pressing for a reappraisal of traditional OT monotheism, where an OT binitarianism is asserted over against the classic understanding of monotheism. See his dissertation “The divine council in late canonical and non-canonical Second Temple Jewish literature” Ph.D. diss., The University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004 and his weblog devoted to the subject, http://michaelsheiser.com/TwoPowersInHeaven.  In his recent article “Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible” in Bulletin for Biblical Research  18.1 (2008), 1-30, Heiser concludes, “It is my hope that scholars will be encouraged to re-evaluate their assumptions about the reality of divine plurality in Israel’s worldview and how to parse that reality in understanding Israelite religion” (30).



The Complementarian Task: Marriage, Gender Roles, and the Great Commission (pt. 2)

Yesterday, we considered the biblical theological continuity and discontinuity of the creational imperatives of ruling and bearing children and how they are picked up in Jesus’ Great Commission.  I concluded by asking how gender roles in marriage impact the presentation and the proclamation of the gospel.  In other words, I wanted to get at how gender roles in marriage interact with the Great Commission.   Are they necessary for the discipling of the nations in such a way that if abandoned the message of salvation would be distorted or denied?  Or are they merely inconsequential components that actually impede the progress of the gospel?   Would it be better to “get over” issues of gender so that we can reach the plethora of egalitarian socities that are resistant to the gospel?  Which is it? Surely Scripture which in its opening chapter distinguishes male and female has something to say about the matter. 

In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman” (1 Cor. 11:2).  Just as Peter says, “wives, be submissive to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1ff), commending them to be daughters of Sarah who showed her husband respect and deference by calling him “lord.”  “Likewise, husbands, live with your wifes in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).  Even if the world lives to turn the Bible on its head and rejects these teachings in passionate unbelief, the Scriptural portrait is undeniable.  Men and women are equal, yet distinct.  Both made in the image of God, they are co-heirs; nevertheless in their roles and natural relations they are different.  Husbands are to lead and wives are to help.   This is the original pattern, and this is the restored relationship in the plan of redemption.  The man’s good works are uniquely masculine, while the woman also displays a particular feminine conformity into the image of Christ.  And in the Great Commission, these roles are not to be undermined.  Rather as mutually distinctive partners, husbands and wives, can, should, and must complement one another in the work, not compete for one another’s place of service.  Douglas Wilson writes about this in his book, Reforming Marriage:

A husband and wife are not to be shoulder-to-shoulder, marching off to work at the task together. Nor are they both to be home all the time, face-to-face, eternally and perpetually ‘in love.’ Rather, with both man and woman understanding their respective roles, he faces his future and calling under God, and she, by his side, faces him (Doug Wilson, 66).

The point is, Jesus’ Great Commision is not a sex-less enterprise. Rising from the dust of the original imperative to be fruitful and multiply, it is not to be accomplished by androgynous disciples; rather, it is to be fulfilled by redeemed men and women who are shaped by the Spirit into distinctly masculine and feminine representives of the kingdom. Paul commends this in Titus 2 when he instructs older women to teach younger women and older men to model the faith before younger men (cf. 2:1-10).  Though cross-gender evangelism is frequent and fruitful, this is not the same thing as biblical discipleship.  Men need godly men to whom they can pattern their lives, and women need mature females to train them in domestic holiness.

Likewise, we who claim the name of Christ must realize that the evangelistic task is not simply about winning disconnected individuals to the Lord, though many will come on their own (Matt. 10:34-36), but to see the families of the nations (Ps. 22:27)–men, women, and children–saved and adopted into the family of faith.   When this happens, relationships are built, roles are revived, the household of God flourishes, and the glory of the gospel is seen.  The gospel then does more than give eternal life to the transexual male who flees from their former lifestyle, it completes its task by “restor[ing] the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6).  Likewise, the gospel’s witness and effect is not only seen in that it redeems the soul of a pro-choice prostitute, it also dignifies that woman’s choice to become a mother, so that she may be saved through child-bearing as she “continue[s] in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Tim. 2:15).  Here we are not talking about the rudiments of the gospel–what must be believed–but the effects.  The gospel is seen in the transformed lives of men and women (cf. James 2:14ff, not coincidentally James includes a man and a woman in his illustration–Abraham and Rahab).

This kind of specific gospel transformation can only take place when gender roles are upheld.  Moreover, the Great Commission can only have its true effect when the nations obey all Scripture has to say about men and women’s roles.  This can take place in the jungle tribe that forsakes polygamy to conform their marriages into unions that resemble Christ and the church, or it can take place in the urban jungle where a young married couple decides against the pill and to pursue a family in a culture that normalizes two-person incomes.  In his wisdom, God designed his Spirit-indwelt children to find gender-specifc niches in his family–as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters–and in doing this the Great Commission is advanced.  To neglect this is to reject the whole counself of Scripture and the need to rightly reflect in our marriages and homes the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is not optional, but absolutely essential.

Focusing on the need for marital conformity to the Great Commission is instructive because it calls Christian husbands and wives to consider their marital orientation and to ask, “How are we fulfilling the Great Commission?” For those who are married, this must be the central aim of their marriages. It must become the one thing that sets the agenda for everything else. Truly, this is a high and holy calling and one impossible without the Spirit, but then again, why should we settle for anything less?  Jesus promised to all those who believe in him, that he would come and live within them, until the end of the age, and that by his Spirit we would be bold witnesses (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  This is the promise that accompanies the command to be worldwide witnesses. This reality is true personally and in marriage.

May the Spirit of Christ be pleased to grant us grace and wisdom to fulfill the task of winning the nations, through husbands who lead their families to love the kingdom of Christ and wives who come alongside their men to help accomplish the task.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss