Archive for February, 2008

Reading the Word in Worship

The reading of Scripture and the exposition of it are primary acts of worship in the church; they are offerings given to God in reverence and devotion. Reading god’s holy Word in the assembly without understanding, interpretation, or enthusiasm undermines the foundation of all worship, which is to hear from God. When the reading of Scripture is with clarity, conviction, and power, it sets the Word of God before the people in a way that demonstrates its authority and demands a response. The reading of Scripture should be one of the most powerful parts of worship–every word spoken from the Word is from God (Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, 506).

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

This is why I like Buckley, “A precocious controversialist, William was but 8 years old when he wrote to the king of England, demanding payment of the British war debt.”

From Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder
William F. Buckley Jr., died this morning in his study in Stamford, Connecticut. He died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas. As you might expect, we’ll have much more to say here and in NR in the coming days and weeks and months. For now: Thank you, Bill. God bless you, now with your dear Pat. Our deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the Buckley family. And our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice.

Preaching in your public prayers

Are there things we should avoid when we pray in public worship? I listened to a sermon recently in which a well-known expositor began his sermon by addressing Satan in his prayer. Something to the effect of “Satan, you have no authority, you are bound . . .etc.” I listened to another sermon where the closing prayer fleshed-out the preacher’s final point which he had not developed during the sermon.

How many times have we concluded a sermon and started to pray only to drift back over into the other lane and round-out a few points of the sermon in our prayer? We must avoid the temptation to keep preaching to the people in our prayers. When we pray we are no longer addressing the people but “Our Father who art in heaven . . .” Therefore pray to God, it is not a time to preach to the people or worse announce to Satan that he is somehow “bound.”

Samuel Miller wrote that “the excellence of a public prayer may be marred by introducing into it a large portion of didactic statement.” More recently, Ligon Duncan has noted “The purpose of prayer is not to provide an outline of the text, the sermon or some topic in Christian doctrine, but to lead sinners to the throne of grace.”

Any thoughts?

The Ten Most Absurd Statements in the Book of Romans

In NT Greek, there are many ways to say that something is untrue, but none so emphatic as the expression me genoito. This formula literally means, “May it not be,” but it is translated in a variety of ways:  

  • “God forbid!”
  • “Of course not!”
  • “May it never be!”
  • “By no means!”
  • “Away with the notion!”
  • “Perish the thought!”

As you read the NT, you find that the apostle Paul uses this formula a total of 14 times in his epistles, and always after a rhetorical question. In doing so, his point is to say that the idea expressed in that question is absolutely unthinkable, even abhorrent. In other words, this is the kind of thing that is so absurd that it shouldn’t even enter the believer’s mind as a possibility, and so it is repudiated by Paul in the strongest possible terms: me genoito! 

This got me wondering what kinds of things were so outrageous to the apostle Paul that they are not even worthy of serious consideration. What I found were these, the ten most absurd statements in the book of Romans. According to Paul, the following ten assertions are so absurd that we shouldn’t even entertain the possibility that they are true:  

  1. The fact that so many Jews have refused to believe in the Messiah shows that God was not faithful to keep His promises to His chosen people (Rom 3:3-4).
  2. God’s punishment of the wicked is a grand demonstration that He is unrighteous (Rom 3:5-6).
  3. The fact that both Jews and Gentiles are justified through faith alone means that the Law is nullified (Rom 3:31).
  4. Since grace abounds all the more where sin is committed, believers should continue in their sin in order to experience even more grace from God (Rom 6:1-2).
  5. Being under grace (rather than under law) should motivate us to lighten up in our pursuit of holiness and help us feel comfortable to sin from time to time (Rom 6:15).
  6. Because it arouses sinful passions, the Law itself is evil and sinful (Rom 7:7).
  7. Because it arouses sinful passions, the Law itself is to blame for the sinner’s death (Rom 7:13).
  8. God’s sovereign choice to set His love upon one individual and His hatred upon another (and before either of them were born!) is proof positive that He is not a righteous and just God (Rom 9:13-14).
  9. The current unbelief of the majority of ethnic Jews is evidence that God has rejected His chosen people Israel (Rom 11:1). 
  10. Israel’s rejection of the Messiah means that the nation has permanently forfeited the covenant promises of Yahweh (Rom 11:11).

Weekend Fun: Under Neat That

This is why you should not call in your cake orders over the phone.


The background story is as follows. A man orders a cake for his
departing colleague. Over the phone he requests that the message should
read: “Best Wishes Suzanne” and underneath that, “We will miss you”.
The cake shop proprietor not only included the instruction but misspelled

“The Anticipation of the Messiah in the OT”

How should we go about finding the Messiah in the OT? I would agree with many others who have noted that it doesn’t take a class in hermeneutical gymnastics to see that the OT anticipated the coming of the Messiah. I would suggest that first and foremost we begin with what the text actually says and means historically. At a basic level this is called grammatical-historical hermeneutics. There is good evidence that even Jesus Himself understood the OT in a literal way. So with that I offer the following thoughts and observations:

In regards to the disciples we see that when they were called in John chapter 1 that Philip reported to Nathanael that “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jhn 1:45). The way they identified the Messiah was by the OT Scriptures. They knew the expectations of the Law and Prophets and recognized Jesus accordingly. This does not mean that they grasped all the implications of such belief which time would show they did not. Nevertheless, in John 6:69 Peter would later confess on their behalf that they had “believed and come to know” that Jesus was “the Holy One of God” (an allusion to Isaiah 54:5).

Later when Peter stood on Solomon’s Porch and preached his second sermon (Acts 3:11-26) he noted that many of them were ignorant (3:17). However he reminds them that “the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (3:18). He tells them that even Moses spoke of a final prophet (3:22) and that “likewise all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days” (3:24). It was not for a lack of information that many would not believe.

Stephen’s last sermon caused him to be murdered (Acts 7). The reason is that he retraces OT history and shows that the Jewish leadership and nation as a whole had hardened their hearts, closed their ears and resisted what the Spirit had so clearly taught in the Word through the prophets (7:51-52).  In some ways this reminds us of what Jesus concluded in John 5:46-47 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

A key texts on this issue is Luke 24 where Jesus meets the two men on the road to Emmaus. They are having a conversation with the resurrected Jesus but fail to realize who he is. Luke alludes to the fact that it might be because they had unrealized expectations (cf. 24:21). When Jesus corrects them, calling them “foolish,” he says their lack of understanding is because they didn’t believe what the prophets had already spoken (24:25). So Jesus goes back through the OT and shows them that the Messiah had always been anticipated (24:27). Jesus did not need to insert Himself into the OT in order to show that the Messiah was there. Jesus did not chastise them for failing to spiritualize the OT but for not believing what it so clearly taught.

The NT begins with the assumption that the OT informs the message of the NT (Matt. 1:1). The failure on the part of the people to see the Messiah in the OT was not a hermeneutical problem. Their problem was not that they failed to spiritualize the OT but that they would not take it at face value. So it wasn’t for a lack of information that people refused to believe, it was hardness of heart against God’s testimony of Himself in the Scriptures. Time and again it is noted that they rejected the message of the OT and therefore they missed what the OT anticipated.

We see this today with modern Jews who have the same Hebrew Scriptures yet reject its message in favor of a liberation-styled interpretation whereby the Scripture is nothing more than the story of Israel’s struggle. However, if they really believed Moses they would believe in what Moses hoped for which has now been fulfilled in Jesus (John 5:46-47). I see a similar issue with some Protestants who reject the inerrancy of the OT and as a result have no basis for their many man-made conceptions of who Jesus is. This is why in many respects the Jesus of modern tradition looks different than the Jesus of Scripture. This is also why understanding the OT in its original context and preaching the OT is crucial in order for us to develop a foundational and robust understanding of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude 22-23: How to deal with problems in the original text

How do you men handle difficult texts of Scripture like Jude 22-23?  What do you do when you have 15-20 hours to finish your Sunday morning sermon and you encounter a text that has a number of diverse readings?  How would you counsel someone who has seminary training but is not a “Dr. Randy linguist”?  How much time should be spent trying to solve the following problems:

 When you come to Jude 22-23 you realize that the conservative Greek scholars don’t agree on the original manuscript.  One scholar notes “The most striking feature of the textual tradition is that some witnesses divide the text into two clauses, while other witnesses divide into three.”  That is a somewhat signficant variant.

 In addition to this one must determine if the main imperative should be “have mercy” (eleeite) or “reprove” (elenchete)?  Also, should diakrino be translated “doubters” or “disputers”?

 Even if i were a Greek scholar, like Dr. Thomas Schreiner, who spent numerous hours trying to sort out these problems for his commentary on Jude; at the end of the day Schreiner writes “certainty on whether the text should be divided into two or two clauses cannot be attained.”  If Schreiner, a wonderful N.T. scholar, who probably sight reads the Greek text comes to this conclusion, where does that leave the seminary trained pastor?

How many hours would you recommend the typical pastor invest trying to sort out P72 and Vaticanus B and Codex Alexandrinus in addition to the numerous journal articles that are written on the subject (S. Kubo, J.M. Ross, etc)?  One could spend his entire twenty hours on this issue and then come to the same conclusion as Dr. Schreiner….

 What say you?

Applying OT Law Today

J. Daniel Hays has written a helpful article called “Applying the Old Testament Law Today” [Bibliotheca Sacra 158: 629 (2001): 21-35].You can find the full article here. He notes:

What approach should believers follow in interpreting the Old
Testament Law? In accord with sound hermeneutical method, it should be an
approach that (a) is consistent, treating all Old Testament Scripture as
God’s Word, (b) does not depend on arbitrary nontextual categories, (c)
reflects the literary and historical context of the Law, placing it firmly into
the narrative story of the Pentateuch, (d) reflects the theological context of
the Law, and (e) corresponds to New Testament teaching.

Here is a summary of how he would apply his method to a particular passage:

  • Identify What The Particular Law Meant To The Initial

  • Determine The Differences Between The Initial Audience And
    Believers Today

  • Develop Universal Principles From The Text

  • Correlate The Principle With New Testament Teaching

  • Apply The Modified Universal Principle To Life Today

Are you still reading?

As pastors we all lament the fact that Bible illiteracy seems to be dramatically high. There are so many reasons for this and studies could be conducted ad infinitum. However, I am a firm believer that much of this can be overcome by getting folks in the habit of regularly reading Scripture. According to some statistics the numbers of “through-the-Bible” readers begins to dramatically decline around this time of the year. So how do you encourage your people to implement a regular reading schedule?

Worship is a response to what?

“Worship begins with the response to divine revelation. But if little time or attention is given to the revealed Word of God, read, proclaimed, or taught, then to what do people respond? The result is that worship becomes superficial or sentimental. If the church is truly interested in recapturing the spirit and nature of the prophetic and apostolic ministry of the Word in worship, then there will have to be a greater emphasis placed on reading, teaching, and preaching the Word of God, but it has to be with clarity, accuracy, power, and authority” (Allen P. Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory, 429).

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