Archive for August, 2007

Manhood and Womanhood from Genesis 3 (pt 1)

We have covered 2 key issues thus far. The first key issue was: (#1) Men and Women are equal in Value, Dignity, & Personhood.  That truth is essential when building a Biblical foundation for manhood and womanhood.  When one accurately interprets the second chapter of Genesis a second key observation should be made: (#2) Men and Women have different roles that are part of God’s creative order.  In other words, God created us equal yet different.  We are equal in essence, but we have different gender-defined roles.  Last session I provided Biblical evidence to support this conclusion. We started our study in Genesis 1 and then spent our second and third sessions in Genesis 2. We’re now going to spend some time looking at (you guessed it) Genesis 3.

 

So what about the whole curse thing?  What changed after Adam and Eve sinned?  How does Genesis 3 fit into our understanding of this very topic? 

 In some regards, the curse did distort the roles that God set in place in Genesis 1-2.  Remember now, God created Adam and Eve as equals yet He also designed them with gender defined roles (read Genesis 2).  In other words, The curse did not introduce new roles per say rather it distorted God’s original roles. 

Let’s observe Gen. 3:16-19 together.  Genesis 3:16-19,  To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Both Adam and Eve were judged by God for there roles in the fall.  Both Adam and Eve sinned.  Yet no matter how intense this Divine judgment appears to be it was actually very gracious.  God said in Genesis 2, “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die!” (Gen 2:17)  Man did not deserve to live another day or to breathe another breath.  God allowed Adam to live some 800+ years on the earth.  He allowed Adam and Eve to have a family and learn more about the way of redemption.  We serve a merciful and gracious God.  For believers even in God’s judgment we see His love and grace (Hebrews 12).

 

It’s not an overstatement to say the following: “Childbirth equals pain.”  If you’re a father you sort of know what I mean.  If you’re a mother you really know what I mean.  All women suffer during child birth especially those who had children during those days when modern medicine and epidurals were not yet invented.  Talk about punishment!  The physical pain women endure during this process a result of the fall. Genesis 3:16a, To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”

 

To be continued…

Commentaries on the Gospel of John

On my way out of the office last night, my arms were half-full and I was running ten minutes late. As I was scrambling about to depart, it occurred to me at the last moment that I should bring home some work to do the next morning before heading in to church. Since I am currently preaching through the Gospel of John, I decided to grab some commentaries to read for Sunday’s sermon. From my shelf of commentaries on John, I quickly and instinctively grabbed the four which initially seemed best to me in the rush of the moment:

  • Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

  • Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

  • Kostenberger, Andreas. J. John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

  • MacArthur, John F., Jr. John 1-11. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 2006.

On the drive home, I took a moment to reflect on whether I had grabbed the “right” commentaries. I have only been preaching John for a couple of months now, so my favorites have not yet emerged in any kind of definitive way. But so far, I decided, my initial instincts served me well. If I were only allowed to use four commentaries as I preached through the remainder of the gospel, these would be my selections. At least for now.

For those of you who have preached through the Gospel of John—or are currently in the process of doing so—which four would you use?

If God is Soveriegn, Why Pray

Here are the links to Matt Waymeyer’s series on prayer: “If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

A brief note about McKnight’s post on The Assumption of Mary

If my grandmother were still alive she would be remembering today The Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In short, August 15th is a feast day on the Roman Catholic calendar whereby Catholics remember that Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” Enter Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, who writes in a post today:

“I think we’ve got to get back to the Bible to see what it says. Themes about Mary are found not only in the Bible; the early churches struggled with how to understand Mary. Was she sinless? the immaculate conception? and what about her death?”

I happen to agree with what McKnight says here, at least so far. We do need to get back to the Bible in how we understand Mary and yes the early churches struggled with lots of things including how they viewed Mary. However I think McKnight leaves this exhortation open-ended at the end of his article with a logic that seems to be missing on a few cylinders. He concludes by stating:

“The question we need to ask about Mary is this: Was she also taken into the presence of God miraculously? As Protestants we go to the Bible first, but we find nothing like this in the Bible. Does that mean it didn’t happen to Mary? None of us believes that everything was recorded in the Bible, so we are left to examine the evidence and make up our own minds.”

In short, a necessary implication of what he states here is that we as Protestants go to the Bible first but if we or any other ecclesiastical institution are unsettled with what we find there then we are free to construct a case (“evidence”?) and “make up our own minds.” If this is acceptable biblical scholarship in the case of Mary would McKnight do this as well with Mary’s Son? In other words, it is true the Bible does not tell us every detail of Mary’s life nor of Jesus for that matter (John 21:25). However we are not free to add details that the Spirit of God did not inscripturate and even more so we are not to take such details, whatever they may be, and raise them to the level of binding and infallible dogma (which is what happened with The Assumption of Mary on November 1, 1950 in the Munificentissimus Deus).

We are bound to God’s Word in life and practice. When we study the text and stand before the people of God we are to preach what it says without the embellishment of historical constructs that would seek to add more than what is there. I am not arguing that history is unimportant or that historical developments are unnecessary. However, the doctrines that we do preach should rest upon the authority of Scripture for it is this that makes us uniquely “Protestant” especially on days like today. It is possible that McKnight did not intend to go this far but in his attempt at rapprochement he has conceded the Roman Catholic argument for the nature of authority.

Nota Bene at Summer’s end

If it’s not obvious by now, I have been enjoying a hiatus from blogging for the last number of weeks. I have found that blogging consistently through the summer has been all but impossible. I will be returning very soon but in the meantime I have enjoyed the excellent and provocative posts from Caleb and Randy. These boys know how to stir the pot. I wish Randy would stop holding back and give us more on the Psalms.

Here are a few things of interest that I have noticed along the way.

  • Our own Matt Waymeyer (who doesn’t have time to write for us) has delivered a wonderful two-part series looking at the question: “If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?” (Parts one and two) over at Pulpit Magazine.
  • Our fellow blogging friend Thabiti Anyabwile has written a book that I hope will fill a great void in my own understanding (The Decline of African American Theology, IVP).
  • Steve Weaver has written, along with Michael Haykin, a volume on Hercules Collins called Devoted to the Service of the Temple.
  • Martin Downes interviews African pastor Conrad Mbewe. I remember hearing this brother about eleven years ago and I still remember his powerful expository preaching.
  • Did Derek Webb drop the ball on the gospel? (see discussion and comments here and here).
  • If you happen to be anywhere near my hometown of Mobile, Alabama in October you might want to check out this conference on preaching with Steve Lawson and John MacArthur. While you’re there I also recommend you dine at the Original Oyster House on Mobile Bay.
  • I don’t know where you are but it’s really hot here…a breezy 103 tomorrow!

Blessings to all

Musings on the Psalms (Part 2)

In my last post, I made the implication that Psalms 1 and 2 provide the appropriate hermeneutical and homiletical gateway to the Psalter in that Psalm 1 shows true wisdom as the result of meditating upon Torah in light of Psalm 2 which focuses the reader upon the messianic implications inherent to the Psalms. Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is that the psalms have a messianic, wisdom context. If we pay appropriate attention to the rest of the book and particularly to the breaks within the book that have been provided, this point is enhanced. Again, all of this is not necessarily original to me.
Books 1 (Pss 1-41) and 2 (Pss 42-72) are broken off as “The prayers of David the son of Jesse” (Ps 72:20). Now, it is important to note that not all the psalms in this section are attributed to David (e.g. Pss 42-50) and that later psalms in the Psalter are also attributed to David. However, this verse can be considered as more important than simply a remnant of an earlier collection that was swallowed up by the rest of the book. Rather, this verse focuses the reader upon the importance of Books 1 and 2 in presenting David as a model of the future Davidic king that was to come, which is clearly in line with Psalm 2. Now, there is much that I could present to you to show this, but suffice it to say that there are many passages within these first two books that have messianic implications. My point here is to show the connection between books 2 and 3.

Book 2 ends with Psalm 72, which is a prayer for the king. If Solomon is indeed taken as the author (and I am fully aware that the title could equally be understood as being “for Solomon” and not “by Solomon” yet I could still make the same argument based upon the picture of Solomon in the rest of the OT), then the fact that Solomon is praying for the future king is important. In particular, it shows that Solomon understood that he himself was not the son whom the Lord promised that David would have (2 Samuel 7). In other words, Solomon prays that some future king’s name would endure forever and that nations might call that future king blessed (72:17). Thus, we have Psalm 72 expressing a significant messianic hope in the sense that the Messiah would be a son of David. Even more significant for our topic here, when you turn your attention to Psalm 73, you find a typical wisdom-oriented psalm, as Asaph struggles to answer the question of the goodness of the Lord (see my discussion of this psalm here).

Turning out attention to the end of Book 3, Psalm 89 brings the first three books to what amounts to a low point. The psalm, which clearly expresses the confidence of God’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with David (see particularly vv. 26-29), ends with the psalmist wondering how the Lord could have reproached the footsteps of His anointed. For our discussion here, however, the important point is that Psalm 89 ends with a focus upon the promises made to David, which when read within the context of the Psalter again has messianic implications. Interestingly, Psalm 90 begins Book 4 with a psalm of Moses and another psalm of wisdom (see particularly v. 12).

At the end of Book 4, there lies in Psalm 106 a cry on behalf of the nation for forgiveness and deliverance. Thinking about the great rebellion of the nation in the past, the psalmist recognizes the Lord’s compassion because of His loyal love and His covenant (vv. 44-46). In light of this, the psalmist prays for the same salvation, in particular for the hope that the Lord would “gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And glory in Your praise” (v. 47). This clearly reflects the hope that those in exile had and a hope that the parts of the OT connects to the Messiah. Psalm 107, the first psalm in Book 5, also traces the Lord’s lovingkindness to His people. Interestingly, at the end, the psalm takes a turn as the psalmist asks, “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD” (v. 43). As in the other two occasions, a psalm with messianic implications is followed by a psalm concerned with wisdom.

So, in conclusion, my primary point is to show that the rest of the book mirrors the intent of the introduction to the book. Just as the Psalter opens with wisdom and Messiah, so the rest of the book continues the theme at its transitions. The implication: The book of Psalms presents messianic hope, and the wise person will meditate upon these things until the Messiah comes. It is no surprise, then, that when the NT authors began writing about the person of Jesus as the Christ, they found much in the Psalms that presented a picture of the Christ.

Hermeneutical and Homiletical Musings on the Psalms

The Psalter has long fascinated me in my study and teaching, just as it has so many believers who have gone before all of us. Not a few believers have found comfort, encouragement, and conviction on the pages of the book. However, I would like to raise some questions in this post and those that follow about how we read and preach Psalms. For the most part, during my Christian life I have approached the book as if it were (in essence) 150 separate devotions for my enjoyment. Therefore, studying the Psalter meant flipping to a psalm and diving in, reading it as if I were the psalmist. His needs became emblematic of my needs; his praises became catalysts for my praises; his enemies became pictures of my enemies. All in all, those are not bad things, and let me say from the very beginning that the psalms can be read devotionally (to a point). Whatever I say here or later does not negate the fact that I still find those things in the book.

Yet, I would like to raise the bar a little. Does the book (i.e., the text before us as it has been handed down) give us some clues about how it should be read? Should the book be read as a whole? Is there a method to its composition? These questions are not original to me, but I dare say that our preaching (and for that matter our biblical theology) is greatly affected by how we view this issue. So to get started, let me make a few observations that many others have made about Psalms 1 and 2.

Consider the following, which shows connections between the two psalms on a semantic level via the repetition of key words and on a structural level through the use of an inclusio.

Psalm 1

Psalm 2

1:1 How blessed (‘ashre) is the man…    
1:2 And in His law he meditates (fr. hagah) day and night. 2:1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising (fr. hagah) a vain thing?
1:6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way (derek) of the wicked will perish (fr. ‘bd). 2:12a Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish (fr. ‘bd) in the way (derek), For His wrath may soon be kindled.
    2:12b How blessed (‘ashre) are all who take refuge in Him!

In addition to these connections, which again others have recognized, there are some other interesting connections:

  • Ps 1 contrasts the sinner with the righteous person, whereas Ps 2 contrasts a sinful world with the righteous Son (obviously taking the psalm messianically).
  • In both psalms, the wicked are done away with (like chaff in Ps 1; like broken pottery in Ps 2).
  • In both psalms, the righteous person is firmly established, either by streams of water or upon holy Mt Zion.
  • Both psalm are concerned with expressing piety. In Ps 1, it is shown by meditating upon Torah; in Ps 2, by doing homage to the Son.
  • In contrast to the psalms that follow, neither of these psalms bears a title.

In and of themselves, these are very compelling reasons to believe that these two psalms were intentionally placed at the beginning of the Psalter. If you buy this argument, then the question becomes, Why?

The conclusion that I make about the presence of these two psalms directly impacts my hermeneutical and homiletical approach to the book. I believe that these two psalms, as the gateway to the Psalter, provide the two primary topics with which the book is concerned and by which its jewels should be mined. That is to say, the Psalter should be read with these psalms in mind. If Psalm 2 expresses the messianic hope of the Psalter (and I believe it does), then we should not be surprised to find that the book has much to say about the Messiah. Moreover, we should not be surprised when David (for the most part) is taken as the prime example of the righteous king. I will have more to say about this later, but suffice it to say, I believe the the Psalter is messianically composed. At the same time, Psalm 1 shows how meditation upon Torah, God’s Word, produces righteousness and fruitful. This psalm, which has long been recognized as a wisdom psalm, expresses the path to true wisdom. Thus, the conclusion I am making is that the Psalter has also been sapientially composed.

Ultimately, with these two psalms as its introduction, the Psalter invites the reader to press on with the recognition that by meditation upon its words one will become wise, for he or she has found the messianic hope inherent to its verse. The proper response for the reader, then, is to praise God in light of this and to continue to meditate upon Torah.

Therefore, hermeneutically, these two psalms provide the proper lens by which to understand the rest of the book. Homiletically, we should never stray too far away from these principles of interpretation, consistently reminding our hearers of the purpose of the Psalter as we have it. I believe that reading and preaching the psalms in context is the key to faithfully understanding and imparting their theological message.

If my arguments were dependent completely upon these two psalms, I might question their validity. However, what I would like to show in my next post is how the book on a global level reflects this sapiential, messianic composition.

Blessings…

Thoughts on the Table

“We do well to keep steadily in view the simplicity of the Lord’s Supper. The less mystery and obscurity we attach to it, the better it will be for our souls” (Peter Jeffrey).

“Some neglect it altogether; some completely misunderstand it; some exalt it to a position it was never meant to occupy, and turn it into an idol” (J. C. Ryle).

“The Lord’s Supper was meant to increase and help the grace that a man has but not to impart the grace that he has not. It was certainly never intended to make our peace with God, to justify, or to convert” (J. C. Ryle).

“Not one of the writers of the New Testament ever speaks of the sacraments as a sacrifice, or calls the Lord’s table an altar, or even hints that a Christian minister is a sacrificing priest. The universal doctrine of the New Testament is that after the one offering of Christ there remains no more need of sacrifice” (J. C. Ryle).

“A clear view of the intention of the Lord’s Supper is one of the soul’s best safeguards against the delusions of modern days” (J. C. Ryle).

“Show me a man that really feels his sins, really leans on Christ, really struggles to be holy, and I will bid him welcome in my Master’s name. He may feel weak, erring, empty, feeble, doubting, wretched, and poor. What matter? St. Paul, I believe, would have received him as a right communicant, and I will do likewise” (J. C. Ryle).

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