Monthly Archives: February 2013

Expository Responsibility

“Whether it [the text] is long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification.” Quotation from Stott’s Between Two Worlds, as quoted by Sidney Greidanus (The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature, 11).

High View of Preaching

“No less than their biblical counterparts, contemporary preachers are called to be channels of the word of God. The metaphors of herald and ambassador apply as much to them as they did to the apostles. This high view of preaching came to clear expression in the Reformed Second Helvetic Confession of 1566: Praedicatio verbi Dei est verbum Dei (the preaching of the word of God is the word of God).”

“This high view of preaching can never be the boast of preachers, of course; it can only underscore their responsibility. For with the prophets we noticed that their authority did not reside, ultimately, in their calling or office but in the words they spoke, whether they were from the Lord. So it is with preachers today: they have a word from the Lord, but only if they speak the Lord’s word. The only norm we have for judging whether preachers speak the word of the Lord is the Bible” (Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature, 8-9).

Christ – Wisdom of God

In the third chapter of Ephesians Paul says, “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here we see Paul teaching that God is using the church on earth as a means by which to display his power to the angels–those who are the “principalities and powers in heavenly places.” Paul says that by the church–the bride of Jesus Christ–the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the angels. The “wisdom of God” encompasses a great many things, but namely it is none other than the incarnate Jesus Christ, the God-Man, “the heir of all things, by whom [God] made the world” (Heb 1:2). “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24).

Humanity teaching angels is no small thing to overlook, for it marks an important development in the maturation in the sons of Adam. In former times God used angels as means by which to deliver his word to humans (Hebrews 2:2). However, after the first advent of Jesus Christ, who is the Second Adam, we see that true humanity–the church/bride of Jesus Christ–delivers a word to the angels, a message which makes “manifold [much variegated; a wide spectrum like colors] the wisdom of God.”

Humanity is maturing, and Jesus Christ is both the reason and the proof that humanity is maturing. How so? God eternally purposed to reveal Jesus Christ–“the manifold wisdom of God”–by the church. You cannot talk about Son of God–Jesus Christ the God-Man–without talking about the church, and vice versa. In times past God spoke to humanity by the angels and prophets, however, now the Lord speaks to us (humanity) by his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1). Thus, now true humanity–the church–teaches the angels about the “manifold wisdom of God.” Because of Jesus Christ humanity has been transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). Humanity has put on the new man: Col 3:10–“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Truly humanity in Jesus Christ (and united to Jesus Christ and counted righteous in Jesus Christ) is maturing, for in putting on the new man we are “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24).

So, humanity is growing up because true-humanity/the Church knows Jesus Christ. We know Him, He who is the Son and Wisdom of God. Humanity: we are maturing, we are growing up, we are becoming wiser. Praise God!

NICOT and NICNT – Bible Commentaries

Go here for Google Book hyperlinks for volumes from the NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) and NICNT (New International Commentary on the New Testament), and much of the material can be viewed without purchasing books.

This is an excellent resource. Last year I read front to back the hardback NICOT/NICNT commentaries by Peter Craigie (Deuteronomy) and  Leon Morris (Gospel of John) and both were excellent. I recently picked up the hardback commentary on Acts by F. F. Bruce, and I look forward to reading it, but I won’t start until I finish Tim Grass’ recent biography of F. F. Bruce (started reading that biography this week).

Justification – Eye of More than One Storm

In Counted Righteous in Christ (going forward CRC) John Piper says, “The doctrine of justification is the eye of more than one storm” (42). In associated footnote Piper expounds,

Three of the major storms, worthy of attention but not treated here, include (1) ecumenical dialogues on Evangelical and Catholic doctrine; (2) the so-called “New Perspective” on Paul and the law; and (3) the relationship of faith and obedience, specifically the conflation of faith and works of faith as the instrument of justification. . . . In my view, a detailed defense still needs to be done on the historic Protestant view of the relationship between faith and obedience, so that the two are not conflated in the instrument of justification, as many in the biblical-theological circles are doing these days. (See note 35 of Chapter Three of this book.) Perhaps, if the Lord should grant time and energy, I will take up this subject in another short book.

John Piper is attempting to provide a historic Protestant response to men like Robert H. Gundry — who is merely a representative of “many in the biblical-theological circles” (mentioned above). It is Gundry who argued in a series of Books and Culture issues in 2001 (here and here) that “the doctrine that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believing sinners needs to be abandoned.” “That doctrine of imputation is not even biblical. Still less is it essential to the Gospel” (CRC, 44).

Piper continues to elaborate on this recent surge. He says,

But there is even more to the challenge. Not only does Gundry regard as unbiblical any positive imputation of divine righteousness to believers, he also says that our faith itself is our righteousness, because God counts it to be such. [Piper begins quoting Gundry] “Since faith as distinct from works is credited as righteousness, the righteousness of faith is a righteousness that by God’s reckoning consists of faith even though faith is not itself a work” [emphasis added by Piper]. But this “righteousness”–this faith–is not imputed to us, but really is our righteousness in that we respond to God in faith (by grace) and God counts our faith to be what it is–righteousness (CRC, 46).

John Piper in an attempt to be fair and charitable elaborates on Gundry’s position in associated footnote. He says,

This should not be taken to mean that Gundry believes that faith is, in and of itself, righteousness by its nature. In personal correspondence (02-04-02, quoted with permission), Gundry writes: “. . . I myself would rather say that God counts faith as righteousness even though it isn’t righteousness in the sense of a performed work. Just as God regards believers as righteous even though they’re sinners, he also regards their faith as righteousness even though it’s opposite a work of moral rectitude.”

In Chapter Three John Piper provides the necessary biblical exegesis to show that “Gundry’s arguments do not overthrow the traditional Protestant understanding of Scripture that finds in justification the imputation of divine righteousness and a clear and necessary distinction between this act and God’s subsequent and necessary work of sanctification” (CRC, 80).

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy by Thomas J. Davis

Book Review Series of John Calvin’s American Legacy by Thomas J. Davis.

Conclusion review here
Chapter 11 review here
Chapter 10 review here
Chapter 9 review here
Chapter 8 review here
Chapter 7 review here
Chapter 6 review here
Chapter 5 review here
Chapter 4 review here
Chapter 3 review here
Chapter 2 review here
Chapter 1 review here
Introduction review here
Initial thoughts here.

Book Review I wrote for

This bio is from the editor’s personal website: “Thomas J. Davis is Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI (Indianapolis).” 

This is a great read: With eleven chapters each contributed by different authors across a wide spectrum of disciplines and an editor’s Introduction and Conclusion, this important work crosses the finish line just under 300 pages, but do not be fooled, it accomplishes a great deal in a little space. Following the historical bread crumbs from the seventeenth-century to the present, and feasting upon a three-course meal, that is, considering Calvin’s legacy on American society/culture, theology, and literature, each article is thoughtful, compelling, and historically exacting–every contributer, in his or her own way, is an irenic guide, fair and charitable to 1) Calvin, 2) his American detractors (who have oftentimes mishandled his thought and written off his influence because of prejudice or stereotype), and 3) his American followers/sympathizers–overall this work achieves its aim to make Calvin, once again, “at home” in the great “American consciousness.”

Unity of Scripture by Inspiration of Holy Spirit: Purpose – Make Us Wise unto Salvation Through Faith in Christ

From many points of view the Scriptures show a manifold variety, but they present an impressive unity when considered in the light of the purpose for which they were given, to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. This unity we believe to be the result of their inspiration, and it is to be appreciated by the illumination of that same Spirit who controlled the writers in their recording of the revelation and guided the Church in its discerning of what was so inspired (F. F. Bruce, “What Do We Mean By Biblical Inspiration?” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute, 78 (1946): 120-139).

God’s Word – God’s Deed

Following the logic of Gerhard von Rad, Sidney Greidanus discusses how the OT Prophets and NT authors understood God’s word as being God’s deed:

“You have been born anew … through the living and abiding word of God.” If anyone should wonder what the word of God is precisely, Peter explains: “That word is the good news which was preached to you” (1 Pet 1:23, 25). Like the prophets and Paul, Peter is convinced of the power of the preached word. That power is not some magical force in the words themselves but is the power of God whose word it is, for the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16). The New Testament, therefore, views preaching as “God in action.” Preaching is not merely a word about God and his redemptive acts but a word of God and as such is itself a redemptive event (The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Language, 5). 

Defending Justification

Why devote so much time to defending the imputation of Christ’s righteousness when there are so many unreached people groups and millions of people who have no access to the Gospel? I will mention two things. One is that over the past twenty years of leading a missions-mobilizing church I have seen with increasing clarity that teacher-based church planting and not just friendship-based church planting is crucial among peoples with no Christian history. In other words, doctrinal instruction becomes utterly crucial in planting the church.

The second thing I would say about the doctrine of justification and missions is that Paul develops this doctrine in the book of Romans in a way that shows it is absolutely universal in its relevance. It crosses every culture. It is not a tribal concept. He does this by building part of the doctrine out of the connection between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21. For example, take only verse 19: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were appointed sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be appointed righteous.” This, along with the whole context, shows that what Christ came to do in his obedience was universal in its scope and significance. It is not just for the posterity of Abraham, but for the posterity of Adam–namely, everyone (John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ, 32-33).