Archive for March, 2006

What’s that “expository” stuff all about?

For all the talk around here about “expository this” and “exposition that” it would be helpful to provide a working definition of what we’re talking about. Today, Phil Ryken moves us in that direction with this offering from Reformation 21, see here. What do you think abou t this definition?

Trashy Novels

“Trashy Novel” is the only way I know how to describe anything from the pen of the former Bishop of Newark, NJ, John Shelby Spong. My first encounter was when my philosophy professor at university thought it would be a good idea for his budding students to read Rescuing the Bible from the Hands of Fundamentalism. Let’s just say that experiment got real ugly real quick. Spong has continued to put out his brand of ideas over the last decade disclaiming any form of biblical orthodoxy on issues from the virgin birth to homosexuality. His latest work is called The Sins of Scripture where he continues his diatribe against Christianity from the “inside.” I thought about writing a review of it but I was pleased to see Dr. John Makujina had written a fine piece for CT. Spong should not be taken seriously for the merits of his writing because they have as much merit or scholarly insight as a harlequin romance novel. However, he should be taken seriously for the fact that many have been duped by his fanciful research and enormous popular appeal. His publisher, Harper of San Francisco, has made sure that the target audience of his writing is the people that we pastors are entrusted to shepherd and feed. See Makujina’s review here.

Classic Craigen

For those of us who have sat under the teaching of Dr. Trevor Craigen of The Master’s Seminary, we are familiar with his famous syllogisms of systematic theology. Here is one that I found that is specifically for the expositor of Scripture (HT: Apelles).

IF the Illumination of the Holy Spirit is not the giving of new revelation but the internal witness of the Spirit that produces a fullness of conviction about the certainty and the reliability of the Truth, the Word of God, in the mind and heart of the believer AND

IF the Bible itself (1) refers to a growth in knowledge about what it teaches and (2) argues for teaching of the doctrines of Scripture to the believer and (3) calls for the reader to be diligent in his study so that he might rightly divide the Word of Truth AND

IF the Bible reveals that Christ raises up those gifted in teaching and preaching to have oversight of the flock in which they are found AND

IF the doctrine of the ministry of the Spirit is not seen as divorced from the Word of God but as essentially linked to it, using it, and through it working in the lives of God’s own AND

IF the Bible itself places an emphasis on the mind of the believer calling for it to be renewed and strengthened and, in so doing, places before the believer an array of imperatives both negative and positive to which he is expected to respond as he grows in knowledge and application of the Word of God to his own life that he might be spiritually mature

THEN the ministry of preaching and teaching must be (1) linked continually to the Word of God, (2) the product of an earnest study of that Word, (3) the impartation of a body of doctrine as well as that Truth being brought to bear upon life, and (4) carried out with prayer and with an expressed desire for the lives and hearts of the hearers

FURTHER This means that preaching cannot be done without earnest preparation and without proper regard to the context, grammatical and historical, in which it was first given. It entails both an understanding of just what the Spirit caused to be said to those alive at the time of writing and giving AND then carefully determining just what it means for believers who come to its pages after that time

BUT Since preaching will demonstrate to its hearers how the text has been carefully and prayerfully handled as it is interpreted

THEN The one preaching must be very careful to teach by example what he himself desires to be, namely one who properly and rightly handles the Word on which he bases his teaching and exhortation

SO THAT The hearers and fellow-students are left with the distinct realization that no text can be just made to say whatever the speaker wants it to say regardless of its context, that is, the hearer receives constantly a lesson in good Bible study

Shepherd’s Fellowship Blog

The Shepherd’s Fellowship now has a blog which should be of interest to preachers. See it here.

Calvin and his critics

Few names in Christian history have drawn the venomous rancor as that of John Calvin (1509-1564). One may disagree with his exegesis or despise his theology but one cannot easily dismiss Calvin as irrelevant. Sentiments like those of popular historian Will Durant are easy to come by. Durant said, “We shall always find it hard to love the man, John Calvin, who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.” It appears that some respond to a caricature of the man rather than what is known of him through historical accounts and his vast body of work. How sad it is that so many truly despise John Calvin but have never read his works or studied his life.

One need not agree with all his conclusions to recognize his considerable influence on Christianity since the time of the Reformation. As for myself, I have come to different conclusions than Calvin in the areas of ecclesiology, sacraments, and eschatology just to name a few. At times I find some of his exegetical conclusions in his commentaries to be forced through the grid of his anti-Rome stance. However, his conclusions are all the more amazing when one considers how little he had to work with in the way of historical precedence. While he consulted the theologians of his day and appealed to the early Church Fathers, his primary focus was upon the text of Scripture. It was his exegesis of the text which bore the fruit of a faithful pulpit ministry. All pastors and theologians should drink deeply from this man’s work for they will taste not only a theologian but a father, a husband, a pastor, and friend who was firmly rooted in real life without the strangle-hold of the ivory-tower mindset. He was a man who was made of clay and yet was greatly used to shape Western Christianity in the post-Reformation world more than any other single individual. Everyone and every persuasion after him from John Owen to Jonathan Edwards, from Karl Barth to Louis Berkof have ridden the coat tails of this great saint. Even none other than his staunchest critic, Jacob Arminius, recognized Calvin’s formidable influence when he wrote:

“Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself (a Dutch divine, 1551–1608); for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the (Heidelberg) Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men.”

Today, while new forms of preaching are being explored, it is Calvin who exemplifies faithful Spirit-filled exposition. Likewise there are some who are shunning proposition-rich systematic theology. Yet it is Calvin who shows us that theology can be more than a set of discombobulated theological statements. I am still hopeful that far from vindicating a man like Calvin, many will rise to the occasion and vindicate the necessity of solid exposition married to the rich substance of systematic theology. This is precisely what Calvin gave his life to and the modern preacher should do no less.

Are you sinfully judgmental?

I recently picked up Dave Swavely’s new book titled, “Who are you to judge? The Dangers of Judging and Legalism.” I was interested in the subject for a variety of reasons so I thought it may be a good buy/read. Anyone who has been in ministry for anytime has probably been accused of being judgmental, unloving, and/or legalistic.
In my own life I know there are some occasions when this is indeed true. I try and justify my critical spirit claiming “I’m just being discerning.” Sometimes I fall short in this area and thus I see the need for repentance.
There are other times of course when I am misaccused of being unloving or judgmental when I am simply following the principles of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Many people in the church today simply lack the will to discern (see Macarthur’s excellent book, “Reckless Faith”). These folks accuse anyone and everyone of everything when it comes to the arena of legalism/judging. All of us see the ramifications of this in the fulfillment of Ephesians 4:14, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
I decided to start by reading the appendixes of Swavely’s new book. I was intrigued by the title of one, “The Ultimate Human Judgment.” Swavely tries to answer the question, ‘So how can we judge whether someone is a Christian or not?’ Pastor Swavely makes a few good points saying we can never know for certain whether or not someone is genuinely saved. Ultimately only God knows the heart. If someone makes an orthodox profession (p. 185) then we should assume that person is speaking the truth. He writes, “So our relationship to other professing Christians as brothers and sisters is based on a presumption of faith. Or to put it another way, we call them believers, accept them as believers, and treat them as believers.”
I was ok with this appendix until I read the following sentence, “The biblical writers did not attempt to determine or distinguish true believers from false believers within the church. They accepted people’s profession of faith, as long as it was a credible or biblical profession…” Wait a minute! What about the book of 1 John and all the tests that are laid out for us. 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.” What about the book of James?
On page 186 Swavely writes, “I would suggest that when someone has professed personal faith in Christ, been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and identified with the church, we are then under obligation from Scripture to make NO NEGATIVE JUDGMENTS about the validity of his faith” (emphasis mine). I understand where Pastor Dave is trying to go with this but in my mind I do not fully agree. He continues, “That obligation remains even when a professing believer seems to exhibit a lack of fruit, or even if he commits repeated heinous sin, because in those cases the other members of the body are called to encourage, admonish, and if necessary discipline him…”
The problem is most churches baptize anyone who makes a profession of faith and then they do not treat those people as N.T. Christians (through encouragement, admonishment, accountability, discipline, etc). I agree with the author that, “we must think twice before concluding that a fellow member of the body is not a true Christian.” Ultimately God is the one true Judge.
Do you think it is judgmental for churches to withhold baptism for those who profess Christ? My personal desire is NOT to limit baptism only for the spiritually mature or to the super saint. I believe baptism is for any person who professes saving faith in Jesus Christ. I do think it is important to test the profession of faith to determine if it is genuine saving faith as much as is humanly possible (again James and 1 John are so helpful here). I know non-Lordship brethren often accuse Reformed believers of super imposing spiritual conditions on the gospel message. As you know, many people simply do not understand the biblical components of saving “faith.” I concur with Dr. Stuart Scott’s biblical interpretation here.

“Understanding Saving Faith (“believing” – Jn.3:16; 1:12)
a. The Knowledge (content) of the Gospel Facts with Jesus as the object of faith = Noticia (Jn.17:3; Heb. 6:4; 10:26; Jas.2:19)
b. The Agreement (intellectual assent) with the Gospel Facts = Assensus (Mt.13:20; Jn.6:44,65; Acts 26; Heb. 6:4; Jas.2:19)
c. A personal transfer of trust and reliance from oneself to Jesus alone for your Justification = Fiducia.
This involves godly sorrow and repentance for all sin, an about face and an all-out pursuit to love, submit to, fully trust in and follow after the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to His revealed will by the Spirit’s enablement (grace, Acts 11:18; 2 Ti.2:25). This saving faith will always result in good works (Eph.2:10; Jas.2:26).”

I’m just wondering how Swavely’s appendix works itself out? Are these accurate quotes? Do they even matter? Should churches be less restrictive when it comes to membership or baptism? Any thoughts????

Expository Preaching Resources

Wikipedia on expository preaching.

CT article “Farther In and Deeper Down”

Tom Pennington on “Making the connection”

Bryan Chapell on “The Truth about Expository Preaching”

Carey Hardy on “Turning Exegesis into Exposition”

Tom Ascol on “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures”

Al Mohler vs. Bill Easum on Preaching

Al Mohler
on “Expository Preaching and the Recovery of Christian Worship”

R. L. Dabney on Expository Preaching

Rutherford House editorial on preaching

Augustine the expositor?

I have been reading Augustine lately. When I was in New Orleans last year (pre-Katrina), I found an old second-hand bookstore in the French Quarter that had a copy of Augustine’s work on the Trinity which also contained his sermons on 1 John. I was generally familiar with his more popular works but reading his sermons has deepened my understanding of Augustine’s expository ministry. Much like Calvin, it is tempting for us to think of Augustine as merely a stuffy theologian but both men were faithful pastors devoted to the exposition of Scripture. After reading his sermons, I found Hughes Oliphant Old’s understanding of Augustine to be spot on:

“In his homiletical work, Augustine gave first importance to expository preaching. This was quite consistent with the whole theological system. Augustine had a strong theology of grace, and a strong theology of grace leads to a strong emphasis on revelation. Sermon after sermon we find our preacher intent on nothing so much as explaining the Holy Scriptures, for there it was that God revealed himself” (from Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: Volume 2 The Patristic Age, 345-46).

Are preachers “prophets”?

Should preachers today be considered “prophets”? Dr. Bill Barrick of The Master’s Seminary argues that “foretelling” and “forthtelling” is a popular yet misleading distinction. He writes:

“Lest the reader misunderstand, let me make something clear: I am not talking about the confusion of the charismatic preachers and theologians. No, I am talking about non-charismatic, evangelical preachers, teachers, and theologians who are either confused or are creating confusion.”

See the full article here.

Diotrephes is Back: Part Three (final)

Love of Power

The lust for power in the ministry is equally destructive and always leads to isolation from those authorities to whom we are accountable. Diotrephes opposed John’s Apostolic leadership because he viewed others as obstacles to the furtherance of his own power and control. Verse 10 says he was “not satisfied with” mere slander, but also tried to hinder the outreach ministries of other churches. In his resentment he refused to serve a traveling band of missionaries (“…neither does he…receive the brethren” – v.10). Leaders who love control are always suspicious of others because they fear the loss of importance or status. Scripture teaches that we are never to shepherd “…as lording it over those allotted to [our] charge” (1 Peter 5:3). The sheep are a delegated responsibility from the Chief Shepherd to whom we shall give an account. When a leader does not tremble at the very thought of accountability to Christ he is left to his petty intimidations and oppressive tactics. Anyone who stood against Diotrephes became a target of his bitterness. He manipulated his own congregation, incited them to disfellowship with anyone who went against his orders. This is not leadership but personal domination! How can you know whether you have fallen into the power-hungry trap? Examine your life and look for the following evidences: Viewing others as a threat to your success; Unteachable when contradicted; Letting others be blamed for your failed decisions; Withholding important resources and information needed by others; Unwilling to delegate responsibility. These are the marks of self-centered and self-protective leadership. The body of Christ suffers greatly when shepherds are lured away by power and praise. We must work against such weaknesses by cultivating a Christ-focused heart and mind. Paul’s calling as an Apostle was not to be undermined, but he personally saw himself as a nobody (2 Corinthians 12:11). A tyrant in the ministry will foster a church full of abusers who fight each other for recognition. Loyalty to Christ is nurtured by leaders who love and promote Christ. Trust in God modeled by the leadership begets a growing faith in the hearts of the sheep. Where the elders are an example of humility, gentleness, and servanthood the flock of God flourishes in peace and safety. We must flee the seductive influence of power and praise by putting our hearts in check, forsaking any Diotrephes-like tendency, and returning once again to the servant-life. God’s people deserve the best of our stewardship.

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