Monday Morning Pulpit: The Coming Kingdom Disrupts All Other Kingdoms

MondayMorningPulptiSometimes you run out of room or time in your Lord’s Day sermon, and so “Monday Morning Pulpit” is a chance to expand upon or reinforce ideas you didn’t have a chance to finish during the sermon.

Doing some last minute sermon prep the other week brought me to this gem in Herman Ridderbos’ The Coming of the Kingdom. It was incredibly helpful to recast some of the homiletical language from the sermon in the kingdom language that Ridderbos so helpfully draws out from the text:

…in John’s [the Baptist] and Jesus’ preaching the coming and break-through of the kingdom are put in the foreground, and not the state of things at the time of fulfillment. This tremendous dynamic of the divine coming which sets the world of the angels in motion (Matt. 1; Luke 2); fills the devil’s empire with alarm (Matt 4:3ff; Mark 1:24; Matt 12:29); yes, even causes Satan to fall from heaven (Luke 10:18), permeates and transmits itself in everything and in all who are touched by it. For the coming of the kingdom is the initial stage of the great drama of the history of the end. It throws man and the world into a crisis.

Continue reading

Mapping Out the Zealot vs. the Tax Collector

Aside

How do we apply the fact that Jesus made room in the Twelve for both Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector? Certainly, it must remind us that Jesus’ invitation was to a wide and deep mercy in God. Simon, who was ready to take down the institutionalized, status quo, Roman occupation is at one end of the spectrum. On the other, Matthew earned his bread and maintained a social status feeding off of the very institution Simon was seeking to destroy. Both of them need salvation found in Christ alone.

So are these political opposites, with the application being Jesus calls neo-socialists as well as fascists? Democrats and Republicans? Or does Rome function more as an icon of the passing-away-world, and not politics per se? In this case, Simon is the ascetic, jihadist, fundamentalist; Matthew the cosmopolitan, worldly promoter of any/every zeitgeist. Or is there some other taxonomy that these two disciples map on to?

Jesus Is – And Calls Us to Be – Light

Dear Zion,

Sometimes we look at all of the problems in the world, and it can become overwhelming. We see the darkness even in our own lives: broken & fractured relationships between husband & wife, parent & child, and family members; untrusting communities; dishonesty, greed and pride. So what is God doing about it now, and what are we to do?

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus came as the “true light of the world” (1:9). The only way to combat the darkness of sin, injustice, violence, oppression and pride of this world was if God’s Light came fully human into our lives to chase away the shadows. And in Jesus, the Light of the World, we see the glory of God (John 1:14; II Corinthians 4:4 – 6).

By coming as the Light, Jesus went to war against darkness. Darkness is the absence of light, and darkness cannot remain where the true Light shines. Even in the Old Testament, God had promised He would send “a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6; cf. 42:6). So God began the Light when He spoke it into existence in Genesis 1. And in our rebellion; our divine treason; our sin against God – humanity had rejected the Light and lived in darkness. But God promised to send His light again, and Jesus is our “bright Morning star” (II Peter 1:19) and the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). Continue reading

Impassibility Unto Passion

I don’t think it is contentious to say that the doctrine of God’s impassibility is falling on hard times these days. According to WCF II.1 states that God is “a most pure spirit, without body, parts or passions; immutable, immense, eternal…” Some level a charge of “Hellenistic” (read: Greek/pagan/gnostic) tones on these ideas, but I think they are eminently biblical.

I love how Roman Catholic (gulp) scholar Thomas Weinandy talks about the doctrine of immutability, and I think these words apply also to impassibility as well:

One should not be misled into thinking that God’s immutability is like the immutability of a rock only more so. What God and rocks appear to have in common is only the fact that they do not change. The reason for their unchangeableness is for polar-opposite reasons. The Rock of Gibraltar does not change or changes very little because it is hardly in act at all, and the change that it does undergo is mainly from outside causes—wind and rain. God is unchangeable not because he is inert or static like a rock, but for just the opposite reason. He is so dynamic, so active that no change can make him more active. He is act pure and simple . . .

What the critics consistently fail to grasp is that God’s immutability is not opposed to his vitality. Nor need one hold together in some dialectical fashion his immutability and his vibrancy, as if in spite of being immutable he is nonetheless dynamic. Rather, it is precisely God’s immutability as actus purus that guarantees and authenticates his pure vitality and absolute dynamism. Thus, when the critics assert that because Aquinas and the tradition believe God to be immutable they espouse a static and inert conception of God, they but demonstrate their own lack of understanding.

(Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 78–79, 124)

Some day, I would love to do a deeper study on this view of immutability/impassibility, and the sacred words of Luke 9:51:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face (πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν) to go to Jerusalem.

I know these texts bring the Incarnation into play, but there is still relevance here, I argue. Jesus was unable to be moved from going to His passion, His mission to die for His elect on the cross in Jerusalem. He wasn’t unmovable because he was like the Rock of Gibraltar, but rather because – like a laser – He pursued His Father’s will to the end. I also think of John 13:1 and other texts in this context as well.

With all His sufferings, full in view,
And woes to us! unknown –
Toward the task, His spirit flew,
‘Twas love that urged Him on.

(William Cowper “Savior! What A Noble Name!”)

The divine flame of love (SoS 8) is too strong to be moved or muted. Hallelujah!

How Does Sarah, Submissive Obedience, and Fear Fit?

Have you ever done this? A wife wants counseling on dealing with a frustration she has with her husband. I Peter 3 brings God’s truth to godly wives (dealing with unbelieving husbands), encouraging them to trust God by submitting, adorning their hearts with righteous beauty, and to act as Sarah’s spiritual daughters. I’ve often thought of Sarah as a fantastic example of this, what with Abraham’s penchant for dropping her off in various royal harems (cf. Genesis 12 and 20). It turns out, most commentators see it this way too: Sarah shows remarkable faith and fearlessness in the face of Abraham’s abdicating husbandry.

But as we’re preaching through the Abraham toledot in our Lord’s Day sermons, I was struck by the fact that Genesis 18 is the only place Sarah refers to Abraham as her “lord” (Hebrew: adon, Greek: kurios). What is more, Peter exhorts godly wives to “not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:6). Sure enough, the only time we’re ever told Sarah feared something is also in Genesis 18. The links are striking, and even Proverbs 3 comes into play. The following chart helps to lay it out (ESV and LXX below):

Genesis 18:12, 15 I Peter 3:6 Proverbs 3:25
So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord (κύρίος μου) is old, shall I have pleasure?” as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (κύριον).  
But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid (ἐφοβἡθη). do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (μὴ φοβούμεναι μηδεμίαν πτόησιν). Do not be afraid of sudden terror (οὐ φοβἡθησῃ πτόησιν) or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes

Continue reading

Like Abraham, Drive Away the Buzzards

AbrahamDear Zion,

In our sermon series on “The Gospel According to Abraham,” we’ve been introduced to the Covenant of Grace.  We saw how God furthered His Covenant of Grace with Abraham in Genesis 15, cutting the animals in half and passing through that valley of death to ratify His promise to Abraham and his offspring.  But did you notice the seemingly insignificant detail in Genesis 15:11?  “And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”  Now why would God include this little tidbit of Abram trying to scare off some buzzards?  Is it just to fill in some of the details of the story?  Or, is God’s Word so rich and intricate, that even this easily overlooked verse can teach us more of God’s ways? Continue reading

The Benefits of A Deep Sleep

I’m working through the Abraham toledot in our Lord’s Day morning sermon series “The Gospel According to Abraham,” and recently was looking at Genesis 15:12, “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram…”

The word tardemah translates the “deep sleep” that Abram experienced, and nearly every time it is used it takes some special significance.

Genesis 2:21
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep (tardemah) to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

1 Samuel 26:12
So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep (tardemah) from the LORD had fallen upon them. Continue reading

Comment: Throwing Prophecy Under the Agabus

Aside

Pastor Nathan Busenitz thinks about whether Agabus supports fallible NT prophecy, and I chime in with two further comments:

  1. Acts ought to be read in light of the larger canonical motif started in Luke’s Gospel, which shows Paul walking in the footsteps of Jesus, including Acts 21.
  2. Agabus cannot be consistent with Grudem’s own argument because of his use of the tade legei clause.

Comment

Resources for Preaching on Galatians

For the weeks leading up to December 25 (what the un-RPW world calls otherwise known as “Christmas” & “Advent”), we’re taking a 30,000 ft aerial flyover of the book of Galatians. Thinking especially that God sent His Son “in the fullness of time,” we’ll be using Galatians as a foil for considering Christ – and His benefits – that have come to us in these last days where we have the fullness of Christ. Topics like justification, adoption, freedom, covenant, the apostolic ministry, sanctification, and the Gospel will be addressed. And with the short window we’re giving ourselves, along with the 30k ft approach, that means I have to be pretty concise; so no, I won’t be doing any extended reflections in this series on “what are the στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου?”Here are some of the resources that I’ve found helpful for thinking about Galatians:
F.F. Bruce’s commentary in the NIGTC series. I love this series (usually) and I enjoy Bruce. Continue reading

Authorship of Job

I’m preparing to do a class at church on what we believe about the Bible, and I hope to address some of the issues Christians face today regarding inerrancy, infallibility, and the role God’s Word should have in our daily life. There are few better on the nature of Scripture than John Owen.

Owen (1616 – 1683) broke new ground on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in his Pneumatologia (1693). One distinction he made was between prophecy in general and the inspiration of Scripture to the prophets. “The writing of Scripture was another effect of the Holy Ghost, which had its beginning under the Old Testament. I reckon this as a distinct gift from prophecy in general, or rather, a distinct species or kind of prophecy…”

Owen notes:

Now this ministry was first committed unto Moses, who, besides the five books of the Law, probably also wrote the story of Job. Many prophets there were before him, but he was the fist who committed the will of God to writing after God himself, who wrote the law in tables of stone; which was the beginning and pattern of the Scriptures.

(All quotes from Owen in Works, III.143).

Hywel Jones notes that, prior to the modern period, most followed a reference in the Jewish Talmud to Moses’ authorship of Job (Baba Bathra, 14). However, this should be “balanced by the fact that the book was placed in the third section of the Hebrew Bible because of its acknowledged anonymity” (Jones, A Study Commentary on Job [Evangelical Press, 2007] 18).