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

Getting Back Into John’s Gospel: An Introduction to Jesus Christ in John 1–2

john03When John Calvin returned to Geneva, after being exiled from the city for three years, he picked up right where he left off. Rather than preaching some preacher-centered ‘I’m Back” message, he simply preached the next verse in the Bible. So great was Calvin’s commitment to verse-by-verse exposition, he made no fanfare for his return to the pulpit. Rather, he preached the next verse in the text and pointed people to Christ.

This week, our church did something similar. In March 2020, we were forced to stop gathering for two months. And though we continued to preach the Bible (online at first and soon after together), we moved from John to Psalms and Joel and other scriptures. In leaving John, we always planned to come back, and by God’s grace we were able to do that on Sunday.

Picking up where we left off, we overviewed John 1–2 to remember what those chapters said. In seven portraits from those two chapters, we saw a beautiful picture of Christ. And in return, we learned two important things about ourselves. You can find those nine truths in this sermon: Getting Back Into the Gospel of John. You can also find our earlier sermons here, plus other resources on John’s Gospel.

May the Lord bless this series and permit us to continue to study the Gospel of John.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Joshua & Associates: Finding Your Place in Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

priestcolorJoshua & Associates: Finding Your Place Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

The angel of the Lord. A satanic accuser in the throne room of God. A priest with dirty clothes. The promise of a coming Messiah. And a front row seat to God’s plan of redemption. On Sunday we considered all of these items, as they appear together in Zechariah 3.

Finishing up our series on the priesthood, we saw in Sunday’s sermon how our lives fit into the incredible storyline of the priesthood. From Zechariah 3, in particular, we learned how God restored the priesthood after the exile, which served as “sign” (v. 8) for a greater priesthood to come.

If you want to understand how the priesthood moved from the Old Testament to the New, Zechariah is an important book. And this sermon will help you understand that book and how Joshua the high priest foreshadowed the coming of a greater Joshua and his friends.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below along with a few resources on Zechariah and the priesthood. Continue reading

Unshakeable Faith: Seeking Christ Through Haggai’s Temple – Part 2 (Haggai 2:1–23)

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Unshakeable Faith: Seeking Christ Through Haggai’s Temple (pt.2)

The book of Haggai centers on God’s great promise to restore the temple during the days of Judah’s return from exile (520 BC). In this little book, there are four messages from the Lord. The second, third, and fourth messages in Haggai are all found in chapter 2, and respectively they speak about the temple (2:1–9), the priesthood (2:10–19), and the kingdom (2:20–23). These were the three focal points of this week’s sermon.

As we considered in this sermon the Lord encouraged the people by telling how he was restoring his dwelling place to Jerusalem, his priesthood to Levi, and the kingdom to Zerubbabel. Yet, we also learn that this restoration is not immediate or ultimate. Rather, like so many things in life, his plans fit into his larger aims bringing his Son to the world and leading his people to place faith in the Son.

In this week’s sermon, we place this book in the larger plan of God’s redemption and learn how Haggai helps us understand what God was doing and now has done in Christ. You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and resources for further study are found below. Continue reading

“I Will Shake the Earth”: Reading Haggai in Canonical Context

jay-dantinne-199087-unsplash.jpgHow should we understand the earth-shaking, temple-making promises of Haggai 2?

Twice in this short book, “Haggai the prophet” announces that heaven and earth will be shaken by the Lord (2:6–7 and 2:21) and that on the other side of this cosmos-shaking event (or events), the Lord will establish a greater temple (2:9) and restore hope for David’s throne (2:22–23). Because of the apocalyptic nature of these words, some have seen in them a prediction for a future millennial temple. For instance, Mark Rooker says when addressing the temple in Ezekiel 40–48, “Similar references to a temple in the messianic kingdom include Isaiah 2:2–4 and Haggai 2:9” (A Case for Premillenialism, 130–31). Likewise, David Turner writes,

The prophet Haggai alludes to the fact that this temple was unimpressive when compared with the first. However, the word of the Lord confirms to Zerubbabel the promise that God is with the nation. With words that anticipate Revelation 21:24–26 and 22:2, Haggai 2:6–9 promises that God’s judgment of heaven and earth (cf. Heb. 12:26) will result in the nations’ bringing their glory to the temple. Thus its latter end will be characterized by a greater peace and glory than that of the first temple. (David L. Turner, “The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1–22:5,” in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, 269).

Interestingly, none of the big books of dispensational eschatology that I have on my shelf (e.g., Millennialism: The Two Major Views by Charles L. Feinberg; Things to Come by J. Dwight Pentecost; Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue; The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Robert Saucy) address Haggai exegetically. Pentecost lists Haggai 2:1–9 as one of the passages he will later expound on the concept of God’s kingdom in the Old Testament (442), but he never returns to this passage. In fact, the most comprehensive exegetical statement I’ve found on Haggai is contained in the MacArthur Study Biblewhere the comments interpret Haggai as testimony to a millennial kingdom with a rebuilt temple. Here are two examples.

2:6, 7 I will shake. The shaking of the cosmic bodies and the nations goes beyond the historical removal of kingdoms and the establishment of others, such as the defeat of Persia by Greece (Dan. 7). Rather, the text looks to the cataclysm in the universe described in Rev. 6–19, the subjugation of the nations by the Messiah, and the setting up of His kingdom which will never be destroyed (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:27; Zech. 14:16–21; Matt. 25:32; Luke 21:26; Heb. 12:26; Rev. 19:19–21). (1334)

2:9 this latter temple. The Jews viewed the temple in Jerusalem as one temple existing in different forms at different times. The rebuilt temple was considered a continuation of Solomon’s temple (cf. v. 3). However, the eschatological glory of the millennial temple, i.e., the latter temple, will far surpass even the grandeur of Solomon’s temple (the former temple). I will give peace. This peace is not limited to that peace which He gives to believers (e.g., Rom 5:1), but looks ahead to that ultimate peace when He returns to rule as the Prince of Peace upon the throne of David in Jerusalem (Is. 9:6–7; Zech 6:13; Acts 2:30). (1335)

From these comments, we get a clear perspective of a dispensational reading of this passage. But is that the best reading? Should we conclude that Haggai, dated to 520 BC in the second year of the reign of Darius (1:1), is talking to the people of Israel about a future kingdom and temple that comes on the other side of the messiah, whose kingdom they have not yet seen or understood? I don’t think so, and in what follows I will aim to provide an interpretation of Haggai 2 that pays closer attention to the historical context of his message and the canonical message of the kingdom of God come in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In other words, instead of constructing a brick and mortar temple in the future with the words of Haggai, we should see how his words speak to the remnant addressed in his book (1:12, 14; 2:2) and then how they speak to the people on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11). Continue reading

A Hole in Our Holy Temple? Toward a Whole Bible Vision of God’s Dwelling Place

david-rodrigo-336783-unsplash.jpgThe MacArthur Study Bible is a treasure trove for commentary on the Bible. Many weeks in preparation for preaching I look at its notes, and profit from its historical, grammatical, and theological observations. This week, however, as I read its commentary on Haggai, I couldn’t help but notice some biblical data missing from a table on the temples in the Bible.

While not expecting comprehensive commentary in a study Bible, I was puzzled by the way the dispensational theology of the editors may have led them to excise some key biblical data. For those familiar with Simeon Trust, this is a classic example of the framework running over the text—in this case, the text is the whole Bible.

From the looks of it, this otherwise helpful table on the temples in the Bible—well, except for the dispensational stuff, again—has left some significant holes in the Holy Temple. In other words, as the following chart defines the terms, a temple must be “a place of worship, a sacred or holy space built primarily for the national worship of God” (italics mine).

Italicized are two words/ideas that encapsulate the problem. Are temples only built for national worship? What about the heavenly temple where God abides and angels and all nations worship God? Also, must a temple be built with physical materials? What about Jesus’s words in John 2, where he said that this temple would be torn down and he would raise it up in three days? Does built apply to flesh and blood?

What’s missing in this chart are key elements of a biblical theology of the temple, which touches on so many other elements of Christology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Moreover, even within the chart the definition at bottom does not hold up for all the data given.

So, to fill in the holes, I’ve modified the chart below, explained the distortions in this table, and outlined why five additions should be included in any temple. From this modified chart, we do get a more complete sense of all the temples in the Bible, although I’m still not convinced about the two temples associated with the Millennium. But I’ll save that for another day.

For now, let’s consider all the temples in the Bible. If you can think of another one, please let me know. Continue reading

Unshakeable Faith: Seeing Christ Through Haggai’s Temple — Part 1 (Haggai 1:1–2:9)

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Unshakeable Faith: Seeing Christ Through Haggai’s Temple

This Sunday we began a two-week series on the book of Haggai. If you are not familiar with this little book, it is the tenth book in the Minor Prophets, and its four-fold message serves as a turning point in the Twelve, as the Book of the Twelve shifts from looking at God’s judgment (Nahum–Zephaniah) to the restoration of God’s people (Haggai–Malachi).

In this week’s sermon, we considered the hopeful message of this prophet, who called the people to seek God first and to finish rebuilding the temple. In his first message (1:1–11), Haggai rebukes the people, the leaders, especially, for prioritizing their own comfort before the Lord’s worship. Thankfully, unlike the previous minor prophets, the people  obeyed God’s word and repent (1:12–15). In response, Yahweh promised to be with them and strengthen them as they rebuild his temple (2:1–9).

In this word of encouragement, God tells them that a day is coming in the future when he will shake the heavens and the earth, only to establish a greater kingdom with a greater temple. Thus, Haggai not only has a message for the Jews returning from exile in 520 BC, but also has a message for us. And by listening to his message, we see more clearly all God has done and is doing in Christ.

Therefore, Haggai is far more than a short word from the Lord to an ancient people. Rather, like a sturdy hinge, it swings the message of the Twelve towards God’s grace and the coming of Christ.

For those interested, you can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources are listed below. Continue reading

The Putrefied Priesthood of Jesus’ Day, or Why Mark’s Gospel Calls for a New Priest

karsten-wurth-inf1783-65075-unsplash.jpgIn his excellent book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, Peter Bolt shows how religion in Jesus day had soured. In one footnote, he surveys the whole Gospel to show repeated instances of religion gone bad.

I share the note in full because it helps us to see what false religion looks like, what Jesus had to contend against in his day, and what we should avoid as new creatures in Christ. As Bolt puts it, “Mark exposes religion as having multiple faults.” He then lists more than fifteen different evidences of priestly malpractice:cross Continue reading

“Whatever You Ask in Prayer”: A Christ-Centered Re-Reading of a Commonly Misused Verse

rob-bye-103200-unsplash“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
— Matthew 21:22 —

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
— Mark 11:24 —

In my high school year book, my senior quote was from Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Young in my faith but zealous, I was learning how to follow Christ and this verse seemed to be an appropriate way to express my devotion. Not to mention, it marked something of my eighteen-year-old theology: If I put my mind to it, Jesus could do anything.

In subsequent years, I’ve seen that my introduction to Christ came through various shades of moralistic, therapeutic deism with splashes of the Bible mixed in. I believed in God, the Bible, the historical death and resurrection, and my need for salvation, but I really didn’t understand the logic of the gospel—even though I believed in Christ crucified.

I believe God, in his unspeakable kindness, used a psychologically-slanted message of salvation to create in me a simple trust in Jesus. In a way that only a sovereign God could design, he planted the truth of Christ’s preciousness in my heart, even if it would take some time to see the darker lines of the gospel—namely God’s absolute holiness, my absolute need for atonement, and that faith included a dying to self and living for his glory (in a word, repentance is part of saving faith).

For me, college served as a crash course in theology, where the doctrines of grace began to redraw my earlier understanding of Christ and salvation. But before college, I believed Christ came to save me from hell and to help me fulfill my life’s purposes. After all I had found verses that said as much—Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 being prime examples.

So, in my misguided zeal, I quoted Mark 11:24, a verse that I think many people misunderstand. Continue reading

From Genesis to Exodus to Jesus: What Biblical Typology Might Say about Modern Day Israel

rob-bye-103200I have often read and taught on the temple-imagery in Genesis 1–2, where the Garden of Eden is portrayed by Moses as the prototypical tabernacle. I have also read and taught how the tabernacle in Exodus and the temple in 1 Kings are meant to re-present the original garden sanctuary. Still, there are many who wonder if this is a fanciful connection made up by creative interpreters, or if it is truly in the text. Interestingly, these are often the same people who often make up fanciful connections between Scripture and modern day Israel.

In what follows, I want to share a helpful summary of why we should read Genesis and Exodus together, how those chapters are designed to lead us to Christ, and how a right understanding of the biblical narrative anchors our hope in the person and work of Christ, and not the machinations of modern day Israel.  Continue reading