Archive for the ‘OT Preaching’ Category

Mike Vlach on the NT use of the OT

Mike Vlach, Associate Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary, is now blogging. I think he waited this long so that he wouldn’t be accused of being trendy. His first two posts right out of the gate take up an aspect of our current subject, the NT use of the OT. See the links highlighted below:

Should we spiritualize a text? Did Jesus?

We’re having a great discussion about preaching the OT in a post down below. One of the misconceptions of Jesus’ statements about the OT in Luke 24 is that He changed the meanings of OT texts or what some may call “spiritualizing” their meaning. This needs to be unpacked but I’m not convinced that Jesus or the Apostles changed the meaning of any OT text . . . ever! If by that it is meant that they set aside the meaning of the original text and replaced it with a new meaning. Expansion, elaboration, and intertextuality is one thing but saying that Jesus and the Apostles set aside the original intent of the author is a forced argument (usually for the sake of one’s theological system).

Guess who said the following (emphasis mine):

Within limit, my brethren, be not afraid to spiritualize, or to take singular texts. Continue to look at passages of Scripture, and not only give their plain meaning, as you are bound to do, but also draw from them meanings which may not lie upon their surface.

Preaching the OT

How should we preach the OT? This is a question that is often pondered by pastors and theologians alike. First, we need to drink deeply from Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:16-17. When the Apostle penned those words, he was speaking directly about the Hebrew Scriptures (our OT). This should at least give the expositor some pause before he utters statements like, “we need to make the OT relevant.” I’m not trying to split hairs but the Scripture is alive and relevant well before we get to any application in our sermon.

Secondly, it is unnecessary and wrong-headed to make Christ appear in OT passages where the authorial intent or progressive revelation (also intertextualities) does not lead us to such conclusions. Beware of those who can make Jesus appear with any mention of blood or wood (i.e., the cross). The fact is, the Messiah is fully anticipated in the OT so we do not have to make Him appear by being clever but by faithfully expositing the text and that in the context of redemptive history. For specific help on this read this and this.

Thirdly, I am somewhat questioning of the constant pleas for Christ-centered preaching if that means excluding Jesus’ own emphasis on glorifying the Father (see John 17) or downplaying the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. I think it is important that our preaching not be Christless but for that matter it should not be deficient in any aspect or person of the holy Trinity.

There has been some helpful articles on this subject lately and what follows is a sample:

Thoughts on Psalm 70 and sore knees

The comedian Brian Regan has said that you know you’re getting old when you can pull a muscle in your sleep. There are days in which we feel our human frailty more than others. To be sure, the aching back, the sore knees, and the like are a part of, what we might call, growing closer to eternity. So we mumble things like, “I can’t wait for heaven” or “this back won’t hurt in its glorified state” and we say this with a slight chuckle but with a real hope that this is the case. However, if we can borrow an phrase from Schaeffer, how shall we live today? We are right to believe in a future new heaven and earth in which Christ will gloriously reign but we have to ask, how is He being exalted now in the world of sore knees?

David sets up a memorial in Psalm 70 that reminds us of this very tension. He brackets the Psalm with a cry for the Lord to “hasten” to his side for help (vv. 1, 5). There appears to be shades of an eschatological hope in future glory while at the same time a present trust in the Lord (vs. 4b, 5). So in this present, ugly, painful, and even sneering world (vs. 3) we can still say, “Let God be magnified” (vs. 4c). So rather than making the “most” out of a difficult situation, David exhorts us to make the most of God even while the back still aches.

Ezekiel and the “call” to ministry

Daniel Block, reflecting on Ezekiel’s call to ministry in Ezek 3 notes an important theological implication concerning the “call” to ministry. His statement is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject yet it’s worth considering.

First, whoever would serve as a messenger of God must recognize that the calling comes from God alone. Neither the needs of the field, nor oratorical gifts, nor any other external qualifications authorize one to enter divine service. Moreover, the God who appoints his servants also defines the task, chooses the field of serivce, provides the message, and assumes repsonsibility for the outcome. The less evident the fruit for one’s ministry, the more critical is a clear sense of calling.

from Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24, NICOT, 130.

Is the Sabbath required for Christians?

I have touched on the issue of Sabbath a few time here at ET with a few comments and quotes (See Is the Sabbath for everyone?, Is Sunday the Sabbath?, Is the Sabbath abolished?, Remember the Sabbath?). To date, the best book I’ve read on this is the classic From Sabbath to Lord’s Day edited by D.A. Carson.

Justin Taylor has recently posted excerpts from Tom Schreiner’s upcoming book with an edgy, postmodern title, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. I found his answer to the question, “Is the Sabbath Still Required?” one of the most succinct answers I have ever read on this difficult subject. Read the whole thing here. Here is the conclusion of the matter:

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16–17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sabbath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which believers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.

“Word to your mother” ~V. Ice

Faith in the OT

The only thing that is going to cause an Israelite to take an expensive, flawless animal and sacrifice it is faith in what Moses has said (71).

From James Hamilton, “John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch: A Review,” SBJT 14.2 (2010): 62-76.

Unusual advice on preaching (from Luther)

Johann Schlaginhaufen, a boarder in the home of Martin Luther and one of the recorders of “Table Talks,” received the following advice on preaching from Luther in 1531. I’m certain I’ve never read this piece of advice on preaching before:

One who diligently reads the Book of Kings [i.e., 1 & 2 Kings] will become a powerful preacher.

And all the OT professors say, “amen.”

Not under the Law, seriously, no really I mean it

Testimony time around the campfire

I once set off a fire alarm at church camp but that’s not important right now. I’m always interested to see how expositors handle the issue of the Law, especially the Decalogue. About six years ago I preached through Exodus 2o which personally brought enormous clarity to me on many issues. I became convinced that as an expositor I cannot strip the commands of their penalties, stipulations, and context and still remain faithful to the text. The Law is a unit that stands or falls together and squinting my eyes while trying to read through and around Leviticus won’t help. Most of the sermons that I have read or heard tend to run to so-called modern day applications without dealing adequately with the meaning and resulting purpose of the Law. This series was a watershed for me and the more I studied the issue the more I saw in Scripture how Jesus really is the fulfillment of the Law (Matt 5:17). Furthermore, this wonderful truth doesn’t require me to cross my fingers behind my back.

In short, with apologies to my Truly Reformed brothers who are praying for my conversion, I generally agree with Doug Moo who wrote that “the entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that this law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people” (“Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, ed. Wayne Strickland, 319-76, 2nd ed. [Zondervan, 1996], 343. I have friends who respond to such quotes like an out of control patient with turrets syndrome. Outwardly they say “that doesn’t square with the Bestminster Official Catechism of Orthodox Reformed Belief” but inwardly they’re probably thinking “you’re a filthy antinomian, away with you.” By the way, hurling the charge of antinomianism does not close the case.

A test case

Next time this subject comes up among your circle of preacher buddies ask this question: “how should we understand Exodus 20:8-11?” Some are “all in” (e.g. seventh day adventists) but they conveniently cross their fingers on the “you will die if you violate this command” part (e.g., Ex 31:15). The next group responds with a “that’s an easy one” glimmer in their eye and remind you that the Law is divided into three parts: ceremonial, civil, and moral, the moral being the only part we are still under in some mysterious way. After you ask your friend to show this neat division in Scripture he quickly gets a call and has to visit someone in the hospital.

I recently received a review copy of Al Mohler’s new book Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments. Immediately I turned to chapter four wherein Mohler works through the sabbath question in relation to Ex 20. He does a good job of summarizing the various applications of this particular command. Option 1 is to observe the sabbath on the seventh day, option 2 is observe the sabbath on the first day, and then he offers a third option which is participate in worship on “The Lord’s Day” (87-90). Most folks I know would fall under Mohler’s third option where the Lord’s Day (Sunday) replaces the Sabbath because the Sabbath has been transformed by its fulfillment in Christ. However there’s something unsettling about this “option.” Here’s how Mohler concludes:

Are there things we ought not to do on the Lord’s Day? Certainly there are. Anything that would detract from our worship should not be done on the Lord’s Day. Anything that would rob the Lord’s Day of priority of worship should not be done. Anything that would be on our minds when we are worshipping, as if we can only get done with this in order to go do that, is a matter of sin, no matter what it is.

While most evangelicals and Chick-fil-A employees would nod in agreement there’s still something that doesn’t square here. How is this conclusion justified in light of passages like Romans 6:14, 14:3-4; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 7-9; James 1:25 just to name a few? I’m not bringing this up because I’m against meeting on Sunday’s for congregational worship but the difference between “we do” and “we must do” is a massive theological issue that directly points to how we truly understand what Christ has indeed accomplished for us on the cross. What say you?

Myths and Misnomers about the New Covenant

Jason Robertson left a comment under Matt’s post that raised more questions than it answered. You can read it in it’s entirety here. He continues to make the same tired point that is factually untrue which in sum is:

Regardless of how you try to parse my words or divert attention away from the theological issues the fact remains that at its core Dispensational Theology (DT) denies the fact that the Church is in the New Covenant.

In dealing with myths about Dispensationalism, Michael Vlach makes the point that “Most books [blogs?] critical of dispensationalism often emphasize the dispensationalism of the early twentieth century and do not adequately deal with more recent dispensational scholars” (Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths, 53). A similar point is made by John Feinberg, that such are “reacting to what they think dispensationalists hold rather than to the logic of the system itself” (Salvation in the Old Testament, 48).

In addition to the resources Matt mentioned in his post, I would also recommend Robert Saucy’s The Church in God’s Program. Here Saucy writes:

The Scriptures, however, do not reveal a separate new covenant. The blessings for the church of the indwelling Spirit and the inward law (2 Cor 3:3-6) are the same as those promised to Israel (Jer 31:33-34). Moreover, as has been indicated, Jeremiah’s prophecy is directly applied to believers in the book of Hebrews. The fact of only one new covenant does not, however, necessitate that the church is fulfilling Israel’s prophecy in her place. Rather, both Israel and the church share in this covenant, as in the Abrahamic covenant, for the new covenant is the realization of the salvation of the Abrahamic promise” (78).

I think Saucy is making an excellent point that is often overlooked in many discussions about the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a progressive manifestation of the Abrahamic Covenant. Here is why dispensationalists of all types and stripes see a remaining ethical distinction between Israel and the Church (note: not a salvific distinction!). It is because “progressive revelation from the New Testament does not interpret or reinterpret Old Testament passages in a way that changes or cancels the original meaning of the Old Testament writers as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics” (Vlach, 60). Therefore the fact that the Church is now saved by the New Covenant in no way cancels previous promises made to Israel such as those of the Abrahamic Covenant.

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