The Center and Core of the Whole Bible

I’ve been reading through Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, the conservative New Testament professor at Princeton Seminary who stood against the liberal theology that was making inroads in the Presbyterian Church of America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Throughout the Book, Stonehouse highlights key sections from Machen’s works. In one of them, titled What is Faith?, Stonehouse recounts where Machen clearly sets forth what he believes to be the “center and core” of the whole Bible: the grace of God. And I couldn’t agree more. He writes,

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Confidence in the Text

We have been working through the book of Jonah in my Hebrew class, and this week we discussed several nuances in Hebrew that are tough to see in our English translations. The question was asked, “how do we show these differences when we teach or preach?” Our professor gave a response that caused me to reflect on one of the greatest privileges of seminary: gaining confidence in the text of the Bible.

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God Walks on Water, Jesus Walks on Water

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Jesus walked on water. Most people are familiar with this story. It may even be one of Jesus’ most remembered miracles, aside from rising from the dead or turning water into wine. But too often I read over it quickly and take it for granted. But this week I noticed a connection I haven’t seen before and I was able to see the profound message of the miracle in a new light.

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One of the Hardest Parts of Seminary

When I came to seminary, I assumed the most difficult aspects would be leading a balanced life, memorizing Greek and Hebrew vocabulary, or reading a large quantity of material well. But tonight I experienced what I’ve consistently found to be one of the most challenging aspects of seminary: relationships. It’s not difficult to find people to have a relationship with. In fact, it’s just the opposite, and that is the challenging part. There is an overwhelming amount of opportunities for good relationships with people who love Jesus.

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A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Bible and Mission”

Summary

BibleandMissionIn Bible and Mission, Richard Bauckham seeks to respond to postmodernism’s rejection of universal metanarratives in favor of particulars by demonstrating that the Bible consistently moves from the particular to the universal, and thus, particulars are the means by which God achieves the universal. In other words, Bauckham wants to show the reader that the Christian faith is not just another universal truth claim that can be dispensed with in favor of particular or diverse expressions of religion, but that the Bible contains a series of God-ordained particulars that open the door to His universal kingdom. By establishing this movement from the particular to the universal in the Bible, Bauckham hopes to provide the reader with the ability to read the Bible in a way that takes seriously its missionary direction by taking both the particular and universal seriously, and achieving the latter via the former (11).

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Ernie Reisinger on Doctrine and Christian Experience

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I’ve been working my way through Geoff Thomas’s biography of Ernie Reisinger and came across one of the clearest explanations of my own views regarding the importance of doctrine and Christian experience. Thomas quotes from Reisinger’s pamplet entitled Doctrine and Devotion,

“Doctrine is to Christian experience what bones are to the body. A body without bones would be like a lump of “glob,” utterly useless. Likewise, Christian experience without roots is like cut flowers stuck in the ground. They may look pleasant for a while, but ultimately they will fade. The other side of this truth must also be taken into account, that is, bones without flesh are but a dead skeleton. Doctrine without experience is useless.’

Thomas provides helpful additional commentary, “It is not enough to speak of immediate experiences of God without doctrinal knowledge. God must be worshipped in truth as well as in Spirit. Truth can be stated in real words, and when that is done there is Christian doctrine. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus without knowing what Christ taught must be a vain quest. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we are to have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles, so sound Christian character does not grow out of unsound doctrine. The church that neglects to teach sound biblical doctrine weakens church membership. It works against true unity. It invites instability in its fellowship. It lessons conviction and puts the brakes on vital progress in the congregation.”

He concludes regarding experience, “Mark well that apostasy from the faith has never resulted from a prayerful and diligent submission to God’s Word. If the great doctrines do not produce and develop such Christian character of true zeal, genuine holiness, self-denial, and evangelism, then those doctrines are not being held properly or else they have become an end in themselves.”

May God grant that we recognize the importance of and continue growing in both Christian doctrine and experience!

How did Jesus Come “By Blood and By Water?” An Exegetical Summary of 1 John 5:6

1 John 5:6- Text

Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐλθὼν δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος, Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· οὐκ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι μόνον ἀλλ’ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι καὶ ⸀ἐν τῷ αἵματι· καὶ τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν, ὅτι τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ ἀλήθεια

Translation

“This is the one who came by water and blood, that is, Jesus Christ. (He came) not by the water only but by the water and by the blood. And the Spirit is the one who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.”

The Views

What does it mean that Jesus came “by water and blood?” There are at least six views: The first view understands the “water and blood” to refer to the rites of baptism (water) and the Lord’s Supper (blood). The second view understands the “water and blood” to refer to the “blood and water” that poured out of Jesus’ side on the cross (John 19:34-35). The third view takes the “water and blood” as referents to Jesus’ baptism (water) and his atoning death on the cross (blood).[1] The fourth view understands “by water” to refer to Jesus’ baptism ministry and “by blood” to his death. The fifth view takes “by water and blood” as a reference to natural birth, viewing the phrase as an argument for his real humanity. The sixth view takes “water and blood” as a unit reflecting the Jewish understanding of the body as composed of water and blood, making a statement analogous to John’s description of Jesus coming ‘in the flesh’ in 4:2.

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The Great Commission, “Go” or “As You Go?”

Should the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 be rendered, “Go and make disciples,” or “As you go, make disciples”?

The word translated “go” is the participle πορευθέντες. Participles are similar to words in English that end in -ing­ or –ed, and they have the form of both a verb and an adjective. Πορευθέντες is a verbal participle in relation to the main verb μαθητεύσατε: “make disciples.” As Merkle states, verbal participles like πορευθέντες often function as main verbs or verbs that are coordinate with a main verb. These participles can take on the mood of the main verb and become parallel to it. An example would be Luke 17:19 when Jesus tells the leper, “rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” Rise (Ἀναστὰς) is a participle parallel to the main verb go (πορεύου). This use of the participle is called attendant circumstance.

Although some view πορευθέντες as a temporal participle (describing the “when” of the main verb) and translate the verse “as you go, make disciples,” most scholars say the evidence points to the attendant circumstance use of the participle in Matthew 28:19. Thus the participle πορευθέντες takes on the mood of μαθητεύσατε (an imperative), and becomes parallel to it. It should then be rendered as a command parallel to the main verb ‘make disciples,’ “Go and make disciples…”

Merkle concludes, “while we acknowledge that the participle πορευθέντες is not the main verb (and not the main command) in the Great Commission, without doubt it carries an imperatival force (“Go!”). Consequently, the church is given a command to go to the nations in order to make disciples.”[1]

 

[1] Benjamin Merkle, Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019), 99-101.

Why Did Jesus Say “I Thirst” On the Cross? A Sermon on John 19:28-29

I had the privilege of preaching the Good Friday sermon at our home church in Raleigh this year. When I was asked to preach, I was told that I would be continuing a series of the last seven words of Jesus, and the words that I would preach would be the words “I thirst” recorded in John 19:28. At first glance, I wondered how I could preach an entire sermon on these words. But as I continued to study them, I wondered how I could preach only one sermon on these words! What I found as I studied made this my favorite sermon I’ve preached to date. I wanted to share it here as well as my sermon transcript in case anyone would rather read it. However, please be aware that I try to write my manuscripts as I will preach them, so the verbiage/writing style may not be top-notch English!

[Transcript: “I Thirst”; John 19:28-29]

If you knew you had just a few hours left to live, who would you want to talk to, and what words would you say? I would assume that most of us would want to speak to those we love, and we would want to offer words that express our love, that give comfort, and maybe even direction. When people have this opportunity- to think through and speak their “last words,” it can have a great impact. These words are remembered and cherished by those who hear them. Yet they also have the effect of revealing the heart of the person speaking them- who they love, what their hopes and fears are, whether they are content, joyful, or afraid.

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Magnifying Christ as the Sovereign God of Technology

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In our day and age, we have technophiles, technophobes, and people in the middle. Technophiles are incredibly enthusiastic about technological developments, while technophobes are deathly afraid of them. But the Christian can stand comfortably balanced between the two, because the God of all of this stuff- all our technology, rules over it all.

Technology is a tool, and tools are given to us by God. The first stone Adam used to crack open a coconut was a tool. It was a token of technological advancement. As the centuries have passed, God has given us the resources and abilities to continue advancing our tools. These tools are not inherently good or bad in themselves. However, they can find themselves in the hands of a person doing good or evil, something beneficial or detrimental. They are not new “gods” unless we revere and worship them as such. They are neutral. However, as Doug Wilson points out in Ploductivity, technology is a form of wealth. The Bible describes wealth as a blessing, but a blessing that can easily turn our hearts away from God (Deut. 8:10-20). Therefore we must view our technological tools with grateful suspicion. We should be grateful for the blessing that they are and desire to use them to honor God. But we should be suspicious of our hearts that can quickly turn blessings into a means of forgetting the God who blessed us in the first place.

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