Take Up Your Bed and Walk: Seeing Jesus as the End of the Sabbath in John 5

Window N6, Cloisters, Gloucester CathedralWhen Jesus said “I have come not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17), what did he mean? Specifically, what did he have in mind with respect to the Sabbath? Is the Fourth Commandment (Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy”) an enduring command mutatis mutandis? That is, once we make the necessary changes to the day, the place of our worship, and the full revelation of God in Christ, do we keep this day? Or do we not?

This question has generated entire books and led to more than a few fissures in the Church? And one of many arguments for Sabbatarianism (i.e., the ongoing practice of the Fourth Commandment) is that the New Testament does not need to reissue a command for the Sabbath, if it is laid out plainly in the Old Testament. But what if the New Testament actually issues a command that stands against the Fourth Commandment? Is it possible that the New Testament doesn’t reissue a command for the Sabbath, because there are places where it abrogates the old covenant system of Sabbath?

In answer to that question, one may think of Colossians 2:16–17 or Romans 14:5, or even Matthew 5:17. If Jesus fulfills the Sabbath in himself (see Matthew 11:28), then does that bring the old covenant practice to an end? This is where my reading of Scripture, informed by the likes of Steve Wellum and Thomas Schreiner leads, but recently I have found another passage that confirms this reading—one that I have not seen elsewhere. And so, I offer this reflection on John 5:1–18 and its copious use of Jeremiah 17:1–29, a passage that bears directly on the Sabbath. Continue reading

Seeing New Creation Light in John 2–4: Three Ways Jesus Replaces the Darkness of the Old Covenant

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A few weeks ago I offered a literary analysis of John 2–4. Today, I’ll add a few more thoughts on this remarkable passage.

In John 2–4, Marriage and Resurrection Go Together in Sign and Substance

First, there is an undeniable inclusio that connects Jesus’s first sign (turning water into wine) in John 2:1–12 to his second sign (healing the royal official’s son) in John 4:47–54. Observing the connections between these two bookends, Jim Hamilton finds 6 connections, to show how John mirrors these two events. Here is how he frames it (John, 101).

  • A need is communicated to Jesus (4:47; cf. 2:3),
  • but he initially rebuffs the petitioner (4:48; cf. 2:4).
  • When the petitioner responds in faith (4:49; cf. 2:5),
  • Jesus gives a command that is obeyed (4:50; cf. 2:7-8),
  • at which point the need is met (4:51-52; cf. 2:9-10).
  • These are then identified as the first and second signs, in response to which people believe in Jesus (4:53-54; cf. 2:11).

To this we could add the observation that the wedding takes place on the third day (John 2:1), as does the healing of the official’s son—i.e., it occurs on the day after the second day (4:40, 43).

From these seven links in the text, it would be a failure to “hear” John if we did not read them together. And what happens when we let the wine interpret the healing and vice versa? My short answer is that the themes of the wedding and its wine, combined with the resurrection of the son, are make a theological claim that the resurrection of the Son is what brings the wine of God’s new creation marriage. Continue reading

Covenant Life: Yesterday, Today, and Forever (Joshua 24)

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Covenant Life: Yesterday, Today, and Forever (Joshua 24)

On Sunday we looked at Joshua 24, the last chapter in Joshua, and concluded our series on this Jesus-centered book.

In Joshua 24, the soon-to-be-departed leader of Israel called Israel to renew their covenant with God. By reminding Israel of God’s grace in their past and calling them to seek Yahweh’s grace for their present, Joshua renewed a covenant that anticipated a greater covenant in the future.

Indeed, as we have seen in all of Joshua, this book points to Jesus with remarkable, and at times shocking, clarity. It is not a book where we have to read Jesus back into the Old Testament. Instead, as the first book written after Moses, a book that helps us learn to read the rest of the Prophets and Writings, Joshua (Yeshua = Jesus) is unmistakably Christotelic (written to bring us to Christ at-the-end). And Joshua 24 may be the most fulsome in  leading us to Christ. At least, that’s what I argue in this sermon!

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

Beloved, Keep the Faith: What Jesus’s Final Words Say That Joshua’s Can’t (Joshua 23)

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Beloved, Keep the Faith: What Jesus’s Final Words Say That Joshua’s Can’t (Joshua 23) (Sermon Audio)

In Joshua’s penultimate chapter in Joshua, we hear a word from Joshua calling for an ultimate commitment to God. Speaking to the people he has led out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, Joshua says “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God” (v. 11).

In short, Joshua’s last words to Israel urge Israel to keep the faith. Only, as Joshua 24:31 indicates, Israel’s faithfulness is very short-lived. Only one generation after Joshua continues to keep the covenant (renewed in Joshua 24). Thus, for all that Joshua has done and said, it is ultimately ineffective. And as we read his words today, we can feel the same kind of discouragement, if we don’t place the weakness of his sermon with the eternal life that Christ gives with his final words.

Indeed, in this week’s sermon we will see how Joshua’s final words, like his entire life, are meant to lead us to Christ. From this connection everything that Joshua can be applied to us today, with (re)assurance that our faith will endure because Christ himself is keeping us (Jude 2), even as we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).

You can listen to the sermon online. For more on Joshua 23, you can read this week’s Ten Things blogpost: Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashJoshua 23 is the penultimate chapter in the book and a call for Israel to make an ongoing, ultimate commitment to Yahweh. Here are ten things about this chapter to help us understand its main point with applications for us today.

1. Joshua 23 is the second of three assemblies that close the book of Joshua.

In the last three chapters of Joshua, the book comes to a close with three assemblies. In chapter 22, an emergency meeting is called when the Western tribes fear that the Eastern tribes committed idolatry by building an altar on the banks of the Jordan. In chapter 24, Joshua leads the nation to renew their covenant with Yahweh. But in Joshua 23, before that formal process of agreement, Joshua gives a more personal appeal for Israel to love God with all their heart and to guard themselves from idolatry.

In this way, Joshua 23 serves as a bridge between Joshua 22 and Joshua 24. It unites the three chapters with the theme of idolatry—or rather, a warning against idolatry. More specifically, this chapter focuses on the leaders in Israel, who are listed in verse 2: “elders, leaders, judges, and officials.” Importantly, as Joshua comes to the end of his life (vv. 1–2, 14), he is looking to this next generation of leaders to keep covenant with God. This shows how the nation prospers when the nation has faithful leaders (cf. 24:31). Continue reading

How God’s Judgment upon Achan’s Sin Teaches Us to Find Grace in Christ: 10 Things about Joshua 7

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashAchan’s sin has often been used and misused to identify sin in the life of Christians today. But what does it mean in its original context? And how should we apply it today? Here are ten things about Achan, his sin, God’s wrath, and God’s grace, all found in Joshua 7.

1. Joshua 7 is not (primarily) about prayerlessness or sinful self-reliance.

What is Joshua 7 about? Many want to single out Joshua’s lack of prayer or the spies foolish self-confidence as the problem in Joshua 7. Others want to commend Joshua for taking the next step into the land without waiting. Wryly, Dale Ralph Davis cites these conflicting interpretations and observes,

One expositor blames Joshua for acting without prayer while another commends him for acting with haste; one says it was bad that action was taken without prayer, yet the other claims it was good to have action without sloth. We are at hermeneutical sea unless we take seriously the writer’s own intention as expressed in verse 1. (Joshua, 59)

Indeed, Joshua 7 demonstrates many evidences of the author’s intention and by paying attention to the literary shape of the passage, we can see that God’s presence and the satisfaction of God’s wrath stand at the center of this story. Continue reading

Ten Things About Deuteronomy 4:32–40: Or, What It Means for God to Speak from the Midst of the Fire

10 thingsIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon on expositional preaching, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:32–40.

1. Future hope (vv. 25–31) is based on God’s past actions (vv. 32–39).

Grammatically, verse 32 begins with the word “for” (ki). This opening word reveals the relationship between verse 32 and what comes before it. Previously, verses 25–31 explained the future mercies of God—what Yahweh promised to do to restore his people (vv. 29–31). Verse 32 explains why Israel can have confidence in this future grace. Because God saved Israel from Egypt with omnipotent power, so we can trust he will act in power again to restore his people in the future. In short, Israel’s future hope (and our hope) stand on the powerful working of God’s grace in the past.

2. Covenant obedience (v. 40) is also the past actions of God (vv. 32–39).

On the other side of verses 32–39, we find another implied reason for action. Covenant obedience (“keeping his statues and rules”) is motivated by the redemption of God from Egypt and the revelation of God’s word at Sinai. In short, just as God’s previous works of salvation strengthen our future confidence in God, they also call for faithfulness. Continue reading

Ten Things About Deuteronomy 4:1–14

10 thingsIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon on worship, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:1–14.

1. Deuteronomy 4 is the last chapter of Deuteronomy’s covenantal introduction.

In Deuteronomy Moses follows (and reformulates) a covenant structure identifiable by anyone living in the ancient Near East. Just as covenants made between kings and their servants (i.e., Suzerains and their vassals) followed a standardized pattern, so does the book of Moses.

Ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty Treaty[1] Deuteronomy as a Covenant Document
Preamble (“These are the words . . .”) Preamble (1:1–5): “These are the words of Moses addressed to all Israel . . .”
Historical Prologue: a survey of the relational history between covenant partners Historical Prologue (1:6–4:49)
General Stipulations General Stipulations (ch. 5–11): general commands to love, serve, fear Yahweh
Specific Stipulations Specific Stipulations (ch. 12–26): an exposition of the Ten Words
Divine Witnesses: various deities called to witness the treaty Blessings and Curses (ch. 27–28)
Blessings and Curses: relating respectively to the maintenance of breach of the covenant Divine Witnesses (see 30:19; 31:19; 32:1–43)

From this outline, we see where Deuteronomy 4 is situated. It is the final word of the covenantal introduction (i.e., the historical prologue). Moreover, in a way that deviates from the classical ANE treaty formula, it adds covenantal instructions that anticipate the next sections—namely, the general and special stipulations given in chapters 5–26. Continue reading

With Eyes Open to Our Common Savior: How the Lord’s Supper Makes Visible God’s New Covenant People

priscilla-du-preez-1153851-unsplash.jpgSo Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country.
— Genesis 31:53–54 —

In the Old Testament covenants were often begun or accompanied by a covenant meal. In Genesis 31 Jacob and Laban made a covenant to not do harm to one another. And importantly, this covenant was concluded with a meal. While these neighbors entered the covenant with animosity between them, they ended the meal reconciled with one another.

Again, when Israel made a covenant with God at Sinai, Moses, Aaron and his sons, as well as the elders of Israel, ate in the presence of God (Exodus 24:9–11). In this covenant-making chapter, these meal highlights the fellowship that God intended to have with his holy people. Accordingly, the people of Israel, throughout their history, were called to attend yearly festivals that included sacrifices for sin and meals to celebrate the renewal of the covenant (see Lev 23).

Even in Jesus day, the nation of Israel gathered to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Early in his life, Jesus’s whole family attended the Passover (Luke 2). And later, John recorded the events of Jesus’s ministry by reference to the various festivals Jesus celebrated (2:23; 4:45; 5:1; 6:4; etc.) Continue reading

A New Covenant Perspective on Fasting

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“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
— Matthew 6:16–18 —

This Sunday our church comes to Jesus’s words about fasting in Matthew 16:16–18. In preparation, I have read many commentaries and articles on the subject, but one question lingers: How does the new covenant impact fasting?

In his immensely helpful chapter on fasting, Donald Whitney identifies fasting as numerically greater than baptism—77 uses of fasting in the Bible, compared to 75 uses of baptism. Yet, does that mean fasting is equally important for the new covenant Christian?

I am not sure. While the Bible regularly talks about fasting, most of the occurrences are found in the Old Testament. And while every word of Old Testament is useful for our instruction, I wonder how fasting relates to the covenants? Or to turn it the other way, is there a difference between fasting under the Law and fasting under the Gospel (i.e., the Law fulfilled)? Could that explain the difference in emphasis? That is what I will try to answer below. Continue reading