Glory from Beginning to End: Ten Things About Psalm 29

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon, here are ten things about Psalm 29.

1. Psalm 29 is the third creation psalm and third “mountain top” in Book 1 of the Psalms.

This point is easier to show than to tell. In the following graphic, we see how Psalms 8, 19, and 29 stand at the center of various chiastic structures (“mountains”) in the Psalter. (You can hear how this outline works here).

Book 1

Arranged in this way, we might read Psalms 8, 19, 29 together and see how the God of creation was to be worshiped by mankind (Ps 8), in response to the word of God (Ps 19), and in the temple (Ps 29). Even more, we can see how glory connects these creation psalms together.

Psalm 8 says God crowned mankind with glory and honor. Psalm 19 speaks of God’s glory displayed in creation. And Psalm 29 speaks of God’s glory coming into the temple. In all of these ways, we discover how manifold God’s glory is.

2. The creation imagery of Psalm 29 recalls the ancient battle songs of Israel.

For instance, the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15) uses creation imagery to describe God’s power to destroy his enemies. Deborah’s song (Judges 5) does the same. And according to Derek Kidner, this is a common way ancient Near Eastern songs were composed.

Early Canaanite poetry was similar in this respect.. Whether David was building the psalm out of an ancient fragment, or turning to a style that would recall the old battle-hymns of God’s salvation, the primitive vigour of the verse, with its eighteen reiterations of the name Yahweh (the Lord), wonderfully matches the theme, while the structure of the poem averts the danger of monotony by its movement from heaven to earth, by the path of the storm and by the final transition from nature in uproar to the people of God in peace. (Psalms 1–72142). Continue reading

‘Power’ in Paul’s Letters: How Apostolic Miracles Magnify the Gospel Message

powerWhat does Paul think of power? How does he define it? When he speaks of “the working of miracles” (1 Corinthians 12:10), does he have modern charismatic signs in mind or something else? When Paul speaks of power, what is he talking about?

These are just a few questions we need to ask when we consider the word dunamis in Paul’s letters. And fortunatley, it is not too difficult to find what Paul thinks about this word, for he uses it often. However, if we come with preconceived ideas about “power evangelism” or “charismatic gifts” we might be less able to see what he originally meant. So lets consider what he says.

Power in Romans: The Gospel Defines Paul’s Understanding of Power

In Romans Paul begins with the gospel. Romans 1:1–7 defines Paul’s apostleship in terms of the gospel and Romans 1–-11 give us the fullest explanation of the gospel in Scripture. First, in Romans 1:4 Paul speaks of the power of the Holy Spirit to raise Christ from the dead, a reality that will shape Paul’s understanding of the gospel (and its effects) through all his letters. Then second, he defines the gospel as a matter of power in Romans 1:16–17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

For Paul the gospel is the way in which God’s power brings salvation to sinners. The power of God raises the dead to life, beginning with Christ, and does the unthinkable: it declares the guilty “innocent” and the dead “alive.” Because righteousness and life are related in Paul’s thinking (see e.g., Romans 5:18–19), it is not surprising that justification requires the very power that raised Jesus from the dead. Continue reading

What Demonstrates the Power of God? Miraculous Signs or Spiritual Resurrection

powerAnd I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 2:3–5 —

A number of years ago I visited a church where the pastor proclaimed that God would build the church “on signs and wonders.” From his statement, the pastor revealed his theology—the miraculous gifts of the early church (e.g., tongues, healings, prophecies, etc.) are still normative and should be pursued, even promoted, as the normative means by which God builds his church.

More recently, Bill Johnson, a popular-but-false teaching ‘pastor’ from Redding, California, has argued that “working miracles is closer to the normal Christian life than what the Church normally experiences.”[1] In his bestselling[2] When Heaven Invades Earth, Johnson makes apology for the place of the miraculous today. He argues that denial of miracles has to be taught to Christians, stating, “The doctrine stating signs and wonders are no longer needed because we have the Bible was created by people who hadn’t seen God’s power and needed an explanation to justify their own powerless church” (105–06).

That’s a strong claim, and one that bears examination. Is it true the church—for most of the nineteen centuries leading up to the birth of the Charismatic movement (1906)—hadn’t seen God’s power because they failed to pursue the miraculous gifts? Is it true that God’s power is, as Johnson defines it, in “working miracles”? Or might it be the case that power as emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:3–5; 4:14–20, for instance, is something different than what these Charismatic pastors mean? Continue reading

The Creative Power of the God’s Word

When God’s people hear about God and what he requires, they will respond.

– Mark Dever

Meditate on this quotation with me for a minute, and consider the creative power of God contained in his life-giving, faith-inspiring, soul-saving Word.

“When” – in the fullness of time God sent his son (Gal. 4:4), and at just the right time God sends his Word to us on the lips of faithful saints.

“God’s people” – when the elect of God hear the Word of God, the power of God converts them and they are saved.  “You do not believe because you are not part of my flock,” Jesus says in John 10:26, for if you did believe you would prove to be sheep.  The good news of the gospel is that all that God intended to save, he in fact does save, and he does so as His word comes to them.  This is a missions imperative.  “I have many in this city who are my people,” God says to Paul (Acts 18:10), and the same is true for us (cf. John 10:16).

“hear” – The gospel comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and this hearing comes by the general and prolific call of the gospel.

“about God” – This is the good news.  We know God in and through and because and by way of Jesus Christ.  As we proclaim Christ and him crucified, we make known the love and justice of God.

“and what he requires” – This reflects both the law which leads us to cry out for mercy and the instruction necessary for believers to live lives pleasing to God.  Either way, God’s requirements are not left hazy for those who have the Word. 

“they” – The gospel is for the masses.  This plural reflects the countless millions who have not heard the name of Jesus, and the millions who have.  The gospel creates new covenant communities, and it nevers accomplishes salvation apart from drawing people into fellowship with one another (cf. Heb. 10:24-25; 1 John 1:5-8).

“will” – Positively, absolutely, the gospel will accomplish all that was intended to do (Is. 55:8-9).  It is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16) and it effectually calls men and women to faith and effectively converts them from wrath-deserving enemies to reconciled children.  It will save and it will upbuild the church wherever it goes.

“respond” – The gospel requires a response of repentance and faith.  Nothing more, nothing less.  This response is singular event with lasting and life-changing effects.

Perhaps, in writing this sentence, Mark Dever did not pause to consider each word like this, but he could have.  God’s omnipotent Word calls dead souls from the grave to new creation lives filled with good works.  Likewise, God’s word creates and shapes the church.  May we never forget the potency of the Spirit-breathed Scriptures and may lay everything aside to participate in carrying this message across the street and all over the world.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss