‘Mystery’—Its Definition, Use, and Significance in Daniel and the Rest of the Bible

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. . . but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
— Daniel 2:28 —

. . . the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
— Colossians 2:2–3 —

In Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery, G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd show how “mystery,” as a word and concept play an important role in Daniel 2 and 4 and the rest of the Bible. Indeed, for anyone familiar with the word “mystery” (mysterion) in the New Testament, it is vital to see how this word comes from the context of Daniel. Conversely, for those puzzled by Daniel’s presentation of the last days, they need to see how the New Testament interprets Daniel and applies of Daniel’s mystery to Christ and his Church, as in Colossians 2:2–3.

In what follows, I will offer a definition of mystery, a sampling of its usage, and a summary of its implications. Beale and Gladd offer a comprehensive study of this topic, one that I would highly recommend. Many of my observations rely on this subject rely on their work. But, hopefully, all can see that it is the text of Scripture that is definitive for understanding mystery in Scripture. Continue reading

That You May Believe That Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God: 10 Things about John’s Gospel

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This Sunday we begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. As we prepare for that series here are ten things to keep in mind as we enter this incredible book.

1. John has a simple four-part arrangement.

If you want to understand a book’s message, begin with its structure. And in John, we find a simple, four-part organization.

  • Prologue (1:1–18)
  • Book of Signs (1:19–12:50)
  • Book of Glory (13:1–20:31)
  • Conclusion (21:1–25)

In this basic outline, the prologue and epilogue balance the book with two interior sections. The first interior section, the book of signs, introduces who Jesus is through a series of extended narratives that identify him with many Old Testament shadows. The second interior section, the book of glory, shows the events leading to Christ’s death on the cross—the event that displays the pinnacle of his glory.

Setting up these two “books,” the prologue introduces us to the Son of God, who is the Word of God Incarnate. With a highly tuned chiastic structure, John opens his book by focusing on how the Divine Son will bring children into the Father’s family (v. 12).  Additionally, the prologue introduces themes about the Son of God—his eternality, his deity, his dwelling with humanity, and his fulfillment of history—which will be found throughout the book.

Finally, the epilogue closes the book with the events that took place after Jesus’s resurrection. In this final section, the purpose of the book has already been disclosed (John 20:30–31), and now Jesus is sending his disciples out to bear witness to Christ. It is with great symmetry, that the book opens and closes with men bearing witness about Christ—John the Baptist is the witness who prepares the way; John and Peter are the witnesses who find greatest attention in John 21. Interestingly, this focus on witnessing is found throughout the book too and indicates the way that the Spirit blows through these pages.

As we study this book, we will look more carefully at the organization of this book. But for now, these four sections give us a place to begin. If you want to see a more detailed outline of the book, watch these two videos by the Bible Project.

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The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 4): Apostolic Preaching is Expositional

md-duran-q3lWgt6JNjw-unsplash.jpgFrom the pattern of Moses and the Old Testament priests to the teaching ministry of Jesus, biblical exposition has a long track record in redemptive history. In the New Testament, the citation and explanation of Scripture (i.e., biblical exposition) continued. And this is most evident in Acts and Hebrews, the two books we will focus on here.

The Expositional Acts of the Apostles

In Acts, Luke gives a selection of exemplary sermons by Peter (Acts 3-4), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13-14, 17). In each, the Spirit-filled preachers appeal to the Old Testament, retell the history of Israel, and explain how Jesus Christ fulfills God’s patterns, promises, and prophecies.

For instance, in Acts 13:15 Paul and Barnabas are invited to give a word of exhortation (a sermon?) “after reading from the Law and the Prophets.” It is easy to see the pattern of exposition here: read the word, preach about the same word. Paul paid attention to his audience, but he faithfully proclaimed God’s Word according to the pattern of sound words that was found in the Old Testament.

Of course, from the terse details in Acts, we cannot replicate the form of the apostle’s exposition, but we can see their commitment to explaining the Old Testament Scriptures: They showed how the Old Testament related to Jesus, and called their audiences to repent and believe. Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 3): Jesus was an Expositor

james-coleman-9S5FNcs_qPw-unsplash.jpgThe Old Testament is the not the only place where we find expositional preaching. Jesus himself preached expositionally. In fact, he was more than an expositional preacher, according to John John 1:18 he literally ‘exegeted’ the Father, meaning that he explained, exposed, and revealed the character of God in his very life and person.

As the Word Incarnate, Jesus perfectly revealed God. And as the Prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22–26), he handled the Word of God with skill and authority (cf. Matthew 7:29). For these reasons, we should be listen to what Jesus said (Matthew 17:5; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15) and follow him. And learning from him how to read and interpret Scripture, we should see what kind of expositional preacher he was.

Jesus Was an Expositional Preacher

Jesus carried on a ministry of exposition before and after his death and resurrection. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly quoted the Old Testament and provided a more accurate interpretation and deeper application by showing how the Law was fulfilled in the new covenant he was bringing.

In full agreement with his opponents that God’s word was divinely inspired, Jesus taught as one with authority (Matthew 7:29). Interestingly, with absolute authority, he did not create his own sermons; he repeatedly put himself under the word of God (cf. Gal 4:4) and interpreted how he himself fulfilled the Old Testament. (We might even find a similar pattern in the way the Father used Genesis 22, Psalm 2, and Isaiah 42 to identity Jesus as his beloved Son at Jesus’s baptism). Continue reading

From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

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From the Gospel to Good Works: A Church’s How-To Manual for Elders (1 Timothy 5:17–25)

What are you supposed to do in church? What are elders supposed to do in church?
And how do elders and members work together in the church?

On Sunday I answered these questions with six “how-to’s” from 1 Timothy 5:17–25. In this section to Timothy about elders, Paul gives inspired counsel for providing for how to honor elders, protect elders, rebuke (sinning) elders, and appoint elders—to name a few things Paul says.

You can hear the whole sermon online. Response questions and additional resources about elders and churches are below. Continue reading

Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

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Wise Mercy Means Supporting Tabitha, Correcting Delilah, and Encouraging Mary (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

Why does Paul spend so much time on widows? In a letter with 113 verses, 16 of them (more than 10% of the letter) are dedicated to widows. Does Paul have a special ministry project for these women? Or is there something more central to the gospel here?

On Sunday, I answered those questions and attempted to show why care for these widows was so important to Paul. In particular, we saw how Paul’s discussion about widows is deeply connected to his concern for the gospel in Ephesus. Also, we saw how Paul’s gospel-centeredness teaches us to assess many matters in church and life today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a couple important resources to seeing how the letter of 1 Timothy helps us understand these challenging verses.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

Everybody Deacon Now: The Call for All Christians to Serve in the Church

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11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of diakonia, for building up the body of Christ,
— Ephesians 4:11–12 —

For the last few months our church has been considering Paul’s first letter to Timothy and how the instructions for the household of God lead us to order our local church. As Paul unveils the purpose of his letter, “I am writing these things to you so that, . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:14–15).

Immediately before this purpose statement, Paul gives qualifications for elders (vv. 1–7) and deacons (vv. 8–13). And in our church we have focused a great amount of energy thinking about this office of the deacon. In fact, this Sunday at our member’s meeting we will present an update to the statement of faith and the constitution to bring our church order in greater alignment with Scripture.

That said, there is actually very little written about the “office” of deacon in the New Testament. An argument could even be made that the office of deacon is not called for like that of the overseer/elder/pastor. It is clearly not described in the same detail as the office of elder. There seems to be good reasons for this disparity, namely the need to have a clear and consistent teaching office in the church, even as the office of deacon is more flexible, need-based, and church-specific.

With all that in mind, it is helpful to go back to the Bible and see what it says about deacons (diakonos), deaconing (diakoneō), and the ministry of service (diakonia). When we do, we learn a great deal about what “deaconing” is—and what deaconing isn’t. In particular, we discover this word-group shows up 100 times in the New Testament. Yet, in all of those references, it only refers to the office of deacon 3 or 4 times, depending on how one understands Paul’s description of Phoebe (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). Most often the word relates to service of all varieties (cf. 1 Cor. 12:5), especially service to relieve the physical needs of others. Continue reading

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

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Over the course of 2018–19 I taught through the book of Hebrews at our church on Tuesday Nights. You can find the audio and notes below.

My approach: With an interest in Christ’s priesthood as the fulfillment of the whole Bible, and with a conviction that Hebrews models for us how to interpret the Old Testament, I attempted to show how Jesus is the Son of God and Our Glorious High Priest. At the same time, as the title of my previous series on the priesthood suggests, I believe the book also shows how new covenant believers become a family of priests in the kingdom Christ is bringing.

For those who read the whole book of Hebrews, you will notice that what is said of Christ (sonship, priesthood, and kingship) in Hebrews 1 is applied to all those in Christ in Hebrews 12–13. In short, Hebrews teaches us how God makes his people a family of royal priests. Often this emphasis on union in Christ with respect to the priesthood is not appreciated, but I believe a faithful reading of the book demonstrates how Christ is the great hight priest and how all those in him become new covenant Levites, so to speak.

One last note, I also attempted to show throughout much of the book how the literary structure is seen in chiastic structures. I am sure I haven’t been right in every case and that I’ve missed plenty, but in the notes you can at least see my attempt at putting the book together. If you have time, and especially if you disagree with a literary structure, let me know. I’d love to see how you put the book together.

All in all, few books in the Bible—maybe no book in the Bible—is more resplendent in its glory of Christ and his royal priesthood. Our class delighted in this truth throughout the year and found much personal encouragement in Hebrews. May you do the same. And may these notes help you in that journey.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Our Glorious High Priest: 24 Audio Lessons on Hebrews

Fall 2018

  1. Hebrews Overview [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 1:1–4 [audionotes ]
  3. Hebrews 1:5–2:4 [audionotes ]
  4. Hebrews 2:5–18 [audionotes]
  5. Hebrews 3:1–6 [audionotes ]
  6. Hebrews 3:7–19 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 4:1–13 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 4:14–5:10 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 5:11–6:12 [audionotes]
  10. Hebrews 6:13–20 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 7:1–10 [audionotes] – Guest Teacher (Jonathan Matías)
  12. Hebrews 7:11-28 [audio]

Spring 2019

  1. Hebrews 8:1-13 [audionotes]
  2. Hebrews 8:7–13 [audionotes]
  3. Hebrews 9:1–10 [audio, notes]
  4. Hebrews 9:11–22 [audio, notes]
  5. Hebrews 9:23–28 [audio, notes]
  6. Hebrews 10:1–18 [audionotes]
  7. Hebrews 10:19–25 [audionotes]
  8. Hebrews 10:26–39 [audionotes]
  9. Hebrews 11:1–40 [audio, notes]
  10. Hebrews 12:1–17 [audionotes]
  11. Hebrews 12:18–29 [audio] – Guest Teacher (Ron Comoglio)
  12. Hebrews 13:1–21 [audionotes]

Where Do Elders Come From?

churchFrom the beginning of the church, there were designated leaders. And though given various names (e.g., elders, pastors, overseers) they served the same function. As God-given leaders of God’s flock (Acts 20:28) and under-shepherds to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–4), these men were called to model the faith before God’s people and to teach the word of God, protecting God’s children from error and bolstering their faith in Christ.

A cursory reading of the New Testament shows how important these men were. In Acts we find elders in Jerusalem (11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6; 21:18) and Ephesus (20:17). When Paul planted churches in Galatia, he appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). In correspondence with Titus, he told him to appoint qualified overseers in the churches on Crete (Titus 1:5–9). Similarly, Timothy received instruction on the qualification of overseers (1 Timothy 3:1–7) and instructions for removing unqualified elders (5:17–23).

Even before Paul wrote his Pastoral Epistles, he had called churches to care for those who taught them (Galatians 6:6–9) and to honor those who led them (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). Similarly, James, Peter, John, and the author of Hebrews all spoke in various ways about the office of the overseer/elder/pastor (see James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1–4; 2 John 1; 3 John 1; Hebrews 13:7, 17). In short, the New Testament says a great deal about this important role, and it does so because the health of the church depends on those who lead them with God’s Word.

Yet, for all that it says about the office, we should ask another important question: Where do elders come from? Thankfully, the New Testament is not silent on this question. Just as it describes how to recognize an elder, it also describes where they come from. And faithful churches (and the elders who lead them), will be aware of how God raises up elders.

Where Do Elders Come From?

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best 

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best (Sermon Audio)

Who do you say you are? And what importance does your family play in defining your answer?

On Sunday we completed part 2 of a message looking at the household of God in 1 Timothy 2:8–15. We also considered just how much our culture’s individualism works against our understanding of the Bible, especially this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God’s work of salvation is always aimed at creating a people, not just saving individuals. Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword and to separate people from their families in order to make them part of his family. His words in Matthew 10:34–39 are unsettling, but they are also saving. He concludes, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If we take Jesus seriously, he calls us to radically redefine our lives by his words and his family. In this sermon, I applied this concept of being adopted into Christ’s family to understand the challenging words of 1 Timothy 2:11–15. You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading