This Sunday I decided to return to the book of Hebrews. I wanted to encourage Sonrise Baptist Church toward loyalty in & to Jesus Christ. In fact, this loyalty will demonstrate itself in Loving God and Loving Others (10:19-25). The preceding section (7:1-10:18) discusses Christ’s high priestly office and sacrifice. It is in this section (10:19-25) that the author connects the truths concerning Jesus from the preceding section to the implications of those truths for the Christian life. The connection the author desires to make is this – meditation upon Jesus Christ and His accomplishments brings about motivation to love God and others.
The believer’s positional sanctification (he is “in Christ”)
- Jesus Christ was made a priest by an oath and He lives forever (7:20-24) = believers can be saved (7:25).
- Jesus Christ went through heaven (9:11-12) = believers can be in the presence of God and have eternal redemption (9:12, 24).
The believer’s progressive sanctification (he can grow in Christ)
- Jesus Christ put away sin (9:26) = believers can be sanctified forever (10:10).
- Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice and sat down (10:12-13) = believers can be qualified to worship continually (10:14).
The author begins v. 19 with “therefore,” connecting & drawing upon the preceding lengthy exposition of truth (7:1-10:18). As he begins this exhortation section, he points to two objects believers have. They have boldness and a high priest. The boldness, or authority/confidence to enter God’s presence comes to the believer because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. As a matter of fact, the worshiper is emboldened by the work of Christ; He has won the believer’s confident entrance to the divine presence. This boldness comes through the means of Christ’s blood and His body. This authorizes believers to enter God’s presence; and to enter any time they desire.
Believers also have a high priest; one who rules over the household of God. The believer is within the sphere of Christ’s activity and He sustains believers. Christ’s ministry is over the household of God, His enthronement, acclamation, and worship by angels places Him as one who presides over its administration. This informs believers that they are in a sphere of Christ’s activity and He sustains His people. These two objects, authorization and access is the basis for the author to encourage believers toward three exhortations:
- Let Us Draw Near – The believer is to ‘constantly’ approach God; a closeness to God that is unhindered. This ‘drawing near’ transcends time and space, for it is not just limited to a church worship service. Rather it is a cultivated daily practice of knowing Him intimately. It is coming to Him sincerely/genuinely and faithfully. What are you doing to know God more intimately?
- Let Us Hold Fast – The believer is to keep a tight grip on the confidence in God’s provision in and through salvation. The believer holds fast through a Christian hope that is grounded in the person and work of Christ. In changing circumstances, what is your anchor?
- Let Us Consider One Another – The believer is to pay close attention to, and look closely/intently at others. The goal for doing so is to aggressively stir up others to good works. Believers must have a caring response toward others. Active support and concern for the welfare of one another of matters of critical urgency in the life of the church, especially when exposed to testing and disappointment. They are to have a consistent involvement in the life of the people of the body. Are you meaningfully engaged in the life of the body? To whom in the body of Christ are you giving encouragement this day, or this week by your presence, your actions, or your words?
Sooner or later one of my favorite passages had to come from the Gospel of Mark. Well, today . . . that was the case. I have spent roughly 5 years studying this Gospel and have come to love its story. It is the story about Jesus Christ. There is little question that Mark’s intent is to communicate Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. But there is more to the story. Mark not only answers the question, “who is Jesus?” but also answers the question for his readers, “what is it that I am to do now that I know Jesus?” Mark 8:31-38 provides part of the answer. I have the hope of one day settling down and writing a book regarding Mark’s account of the Cost of Discipleship. In other words, what does it mean to follow Jesus? I think Mark provides one of the best perspectives.
Mark’s account of the story of Jesus is captured through Jesus’ travels across the landscape in a three-fold fashion (Part one = in and around Galilee, Part two = ‘one the way’ to Jerusalem, and Part three = Jerusalem). These three sections of Mark’s story provide the backdrop to the story regarding Jesus’ identity and the disciples’ responsibility. Mark 8:22 begins the central section, or part two, of his story. It is in 8:29 that we learn of Peter’s insight. He recognizes Jesus is the Christ. Although Peter correctly identifies Jesus, he fails to understand the significance of this identity. What Peter, and the other disciples, did not grasp was the relationship between a confession of who Jesus is and a confession of what he must become.
The Teaching of Jesus, His Mission (8:31-33) –
Jesus redefines the disciples’ idea of Messiah (v. 31). It is necessary (δει) that Jesus suffer, die, and rise again on the third day. Peter responds to Jesus’ claim (v. 32). He responded that Jesus was in error (“Peter took him”). In other words, instead of closely following Jesus, Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to teach Him; quite the opposite of a disciple. Peter therefore stopped being a disciple (“began to rebuke him”). Peter failed to closely follow (οπισω) Jesus; hence Jesus’ reminder/rebuke (v. 33) that Peter’s focus was man-centered rather than God-centered. Peter’s response to Jesus’ teaching provided another opportunity for Jesus to correct Peter’s misunderstanding; that is, what is required to follow Jesus?
The Teaching of Jesus, His Expectations (8:34-38) –
What is interesting about Jesus’ invitation is that it is for both the crowd and the disciples, for Jesus also desires that people follow Him, not just his disciples. His expectations regarding discipleship is relevant for everyone; not just the disciples. Jesus begins by setting-up a scenario. This scenario is basically asking, “who will closely follow (οπισω) after me?” If one decides to follow Jesus; here are the expectations (v. 34):
- The believer must surrender (“deny himself”) to God. Basically Jesus is stating that it is necessary for the believer to disown any claim that may be urged by the self, sustained willingness to say ‘no’ to oneself in order to say ‘yes’ to God. Your desires are God-centered.
- The believer must be willing to suffer (“take up the cross”). This is an illustration of humility and shame; that is, the believer is willing to suffer the cost of following Jesus; even if that means death.
- The believer must continually share (“and follow me”) the same path as the leader. Wherever the path leads and whatever the path may bring, the believer will submissively and willingly follow.
Jesus then provides four reasons to follow Him (vv. 35-38):
- If you closely follow (loyally follow) Jesus, there will be eternal life/value to following Christ (v. 35). In other words, one’s willingness to lose his physical life for the sake of the gospel will in turn guarantee one’s eternal life. If you closely follow Jesus, there is to be a total and exclusive claim of Jesus (“for my sake and the gospel’s”). For believers, Jesus Christ is known through the proclaimed word of the gospel. When confronted by the call to closely follow Him, disciples do not have a ‘both . . . and’ choice — both Christ and their own lives. They stand before an ‘either . . . or’ choice. The claim of Jesus is a total and exclusive; that is, the believer cannot allow a convenient compartmentalization of natural life and religious life, of secular and sacred. The believer stands under Christ’s claim.
- If you ‘do not’ closely follow Jesus, gaining everything is a poor bargain (v. 36). You see, to gain the whole world is not worth losing your present life, much less your eternal life. And the interesting claim, nothing . . . and I repeat, nothing, will buy back your present life, much less your eternal life once you have lost it. It is worth gaining everything your heart desires?
- If you ‘do not’ closely follow Jesus, gaining everything is really absolute loss (v. 37). What will a man give in exchange for his soul? Is this really a question, or is this an indictment against gaining the world and losing one’s life in the process?
- If you closely follow Jesus, you receive eternal life (v. 38). This is Jesus’ plea. Those currently ashamed of Jesus are alienated from God (“adulterous and sinful generation”). Jesus’ call to loyally follow Him will be rewarded with future glory; that is, the glory of the Father.
What does following Jesus look like in your life? Are we like Peter, though we may not physically pull Jesus aside, are we assuming a role, as teacher, that we do not have the right to assume? Functionally we do this when gratification of self is more important than the surrendering of self. We’re selfish people; we need to be selfless people. According to Jesus, a willing, loyal, and humble submission to God’s ways are paramount if we expect to receive the glory of the Father.
Outside of the Book of Mark, Hebrews has become a special book to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and studying this book. I just can’t help but read portions of Hebrews and sit back and comment, “Thank you Jesus Christ for your sacrifice on my behalf.” I honestly do not know how anyone could read the book of Hebrews and not be moved to love our Savior more and more. One such passage for me is Hebrews 7:20-28.
The author of Hebrews wrote his homily to encourage his readers. They are at a place in their life where the continued choice to follow Christ could mean death (cf. 10:32-34). Well . . . how does the believer move on; press on to maturity in these situations? The author uses the superiority of Jesus Christ to provide the encouragement to his readers – it is all throughout the book. In this section (7:20-28) the author demonstrates that Christ is the superior, or ‘great,’ high priest.
There are two benefits for the believer through the superior priest (vv. 20-25). These benefits are based on the reliability of God. In v. 20, the author implies a rhetorical question; that is, ‘how was this new order of priesthood established?’ It was through God’s oath (“he was not made a priest without an oath”). God’s oath stands behind Jesus Christ, He supports His Son’s mission; that is, the arrangement God has established for those who approach Him.
- Benefit one – the assurance for effectiveness
- The approach to God is guaranteed (“Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant”). As the guarantor, Jesus doesn’t ‘just’ step in the gap for us; rather He stakes His person and His life on His word. He provides security that the new and better covenant will not be annulled; the believer’s hope rests on secure terms. This is why the author states that there is a better hope for the believer (cf. 7:19).
- Benefit two – eternal and ultimate salvation
- The finality of Christ’s sacrifice assures that salvation lasts forever. Jesus is qualified to exercise the priestly ministry because of His eternal nature (“He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood”). It is not so much that Jesus is the only one to do it; He’s the only one qualified to do it.
- The finality of Christ’s sacrifice also assures that salvation is absolute and complete (“he is able to save to the uttermost”). Jesus completely saves! Nothing else is required – His one time sacrifice is complete and final. Jesus continually lives effectively acting on behalf of His people; that is, it is unlimited. He approaches God on the believer’s behalf (“always lives to make intercession for them”).
The author concludes this paragraph with an exposition of the superior high priest (vv. 26-28). Jesus’ character is that He was precisely appropriate to us, the believer; that is, He perfectly fits the circumstances and needs of believers. He was the perfect sacrifice so that the believer can draw close to God. He was obedient to the Father, even while living a life of common humanity. Jesus put an end to the Levitical sacrifices, for His sacrifice was definitive, unique, and complete (“he did it once when he offered up himself”). The priests were subject to sin and imperfections; Jesus was sinless (cf. 4:14-16). He is the guarantor of a relationship to God because of the quality of His life through obedience, the swearing of an oath, and the unblemished sacrifice.
Definitely a lot to be grateful for as a believer. Jesus Christ completely saves us, intercedes on our behalf before the Father, and secures our salvation through His perfect sacrifice. We have hope! This ought to help us meditate on the gospel a little differently this week. Isn’t the gospel message more than a message? After reading this paragraph in Hebrews, its a relationship, its help and hope in the time of need, and its the realization that we are in the presence of God. Do we meditate on these things? When we are struggling, what comforts us?
Think back to the time when you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior . . . What did you do? Who did you tell? What kind of an effect did the gospel message not only have on you, but others that were close to you? I’m sure it was an exciting time; one that you will not forget.
The Apostle Paul communicates the Thessalonians’ response to the gospel and how their response effected others. Paul demonstrates a spirit of gratitude toward God for this effect of the gospel both on the Thessalonians and those to whom they contacted (cf. 1:6-10). This is part of Paul’s thanksgiving section (1:2-3:13) within the first Thessalonian letter.
Paul knows that the gospel effected the Thessalonians. There are two reasons why Paul knows this:
- Paul preached the gospel not with his words, but with the divine power of the Holy Spirit (1:5). The Spirit was at work within the Thessalonians’ lives convicting them of the truth of the gospel (1:4-6).
- The Thessalonians became imitators of Paul and of the Lord (1:6). They did so by welcoming Paul’s message, the gospel; and did so during hardship. The Holy Spirit produced joy in their spirit.
Paul also provides the result of the Thessalonians’ salvation and its effect on others (1:7-10). Due to the change in their lives, the Thessalonians manifest Paul’s influence in three ways:
- They became a model church (“so that you became examples . . .”). They traveled; other churches could see firsthand their character. Their reputation was known everywhere; that is, despite their difficulties & persecutions – they were still active in extending the gospel to others. “The saints at Thessalonica could take heart precisely because their own behavior under severe pressure was being used in the lives of others. . . . In this way they model the character of Christ to believers in various places who may be in similar circumstances” (Stallard, 20).
- They were a missionary church (“For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth”). Their witness was like a loud ringing sound, as a trumpet blast. The Thessalonians’ faith went everywhere and because of this Paul did not find it necessary to preach in certain areas.
- They were a repentant people (“and how you turned to God from idols . . .”). They changed both in attitude and action; that is, a radical reorientation of the heart took place. Stallard states, “Notice that they turned to God from idols, not from idols to God. It wasn’t that they become fed up with their idols and then decided to give God a chance. No, they turned to God and found him so satisfying that they dropped their idols” (21).
Paul concludes this section with the objective or purpose (two purpose infinitives) for the Thessalonians’ repentance. They desired to serve (δουλευειν) the living and true God; worship Him. They also expected to wait (αναμενειν) for God’s Son from heaven. Jesus is coming from the abode of God (from the presence of God that will be revealed in glory). This Jesus was raised from the dead, providing hope for their and our resurrection (cf. 1 Thess 4:13-18) and Jesus will deliver them and us from the wrath of God, providing salvation for their and our lives.
The Thessalonians were a changed people; so much so that everyone knew about it. Can that be said of you? Do you ‘sound forth’ the gospel message? Think about all the people you cross paths with and the opportunities you have throughout any given day, are you active in the proclamation of the gospel?
You are a changed person; when was the last time you thanked God for the gospel? Could someone observe you and know you’re changed? Do you find God satisfying? Or must you go elsewhere? Oh dear believers, . . . let you and me emulate the Thessalonian believers such that as we await Jesus’ return for us, we worship God and tell others of the same faith & hope that may be theirs too.
God is good. I have had the privilege to be a part of a pastoral team (Kevin Carson, Craig Carson) at Sonrise Baptist Church for 13 years. It truly has been a pleasure to serve alongside of them. God has re-directed my path and has provided something great for me and my family. I informed the church that May 24 will be my last Sunday as one of the pastors. I have taken a faculty position at Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA. I will be one of the New Testament/Greek professors; replacing Dr. Rodney Decker – my mentor and friend.
In the meantime, pastor Kevin Carson announced that I will take the next 6 weeks and teach some of my favorite New Testament passages. I began this series this morning. The first passage I taught was Philemon vv. 4-7; Paul’s thanksgiving. This is one of my favorites because Paul exemplifies a prayer-life that is grateful to God on behalf of another; Philemon. His prayer also admonishes Philemon toward a gracious generosity that serves others.
This prayer is given to admonish Philemon, who has a faith-relationship with Jesus Christ, toward the generous sharing of resources (“communication of your faith”) that demonstrate Christian grace while accepting back Onesimus; his runaway slave. Paul desires that Philemon’s faith becomes effectual. The way Philemon is to do this is by understanding that every good blessing which belongs to him as a Christian (“by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus”) is to be shared. O’Brien in the Word Biblical Commentary summarizes Paul’s admonition in this way, “I pray that your generosity, which arises from your faith, may lead you effectively into a deeper understanding and experience of every blessing which belongs to us as fellow-believers in the body of Christ” (p. 281).
Paul prays that Philemon’s generous love for the saints continues for two reasons (v. 7; “for . . .”). The first reason is that Paul continually has great joy and is encouraged. Also, the saints’ hearts are ‘cheered up;’ they are at rest. You see, Philemon’s regular demonstration of grace and love toward the saints must continue; that is, even toward Onesimus his runaway slave. Paul’s point throughout the letter is to admonish/exhort Philemon to express godly love despite cultural expectations or differences.
What does the “communication of your faith” look like? Is your generosity a reflection of the blessings received through your relationship with Christ? Is your speech and actions “refreshing to the saints?”
It is hard to believe just how quickly time seems to escape us. My oldest son, Jack, was born on February 9, 2002. He was born during the second semester of my doctoral program. His entire life, at least through his first 11 years, was spent knowing his daddy as a student :). He and I endured; though at times not easy. I appreciate the young man that he is becoming. I am thankful to the Lord for his grace to give me such a son; His gifts truly are good and perfect (James 1:17). My only prayer is that Jack would continue to love Jesus and walk in faithfulness to Him (3 John 4).
I began a short series in Sunday school this Christmas season titled The Gift of Jesus: A Look at Jesus through the Epistle to the Hebrews. My intent throughout the series was to provide the members of my church with truths related to and that characterized Jesus Christ as the Son of God while also encouraging them to meditate upon the truths.
I just taught my last lesson in this series (Jesus enables the believer to worship – 10:5-25) and thought the author’s exhortations were worthy of thought for a new year. Therefore without a lot of review, I’ll get right to the point. The author’s concern is the endurance and faithfulness of his audience. They are under stress and are experiencing humiliation (10:32-33) because of their profession of Christ. He is a pastor at heart and writes to encourage his readers (13:22).
The author presents the definitive and decisive sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins; that is, Jesus’ broken body (10:5-14). And it is Jesus’ one time sacrifice that forever perfects, wholly sanctifies, the believer. “The sins of God’s people have been decisively put away; a sin offering is no longer necessary. The basis for speaking about a decisive putting away of sins is the efficacy of the sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross” (Word Bib. Comm., 269). Sins no longer provide an obstacle to a relationship with God; Jesus’ sacrifice is enduring and unending. Believers now enjoy unhindered access to God in worship (10:19-21). The task of the believer is to act upon these truths in obedience (10:22-25).
There are three exhortations the author to the Hebrews presents (‘let us . . .’ commands) that I will use as a means to encourage the believer this new year, 2015. Based upon Christ’s sacrifice, thus resulting in the believer’s free access to the heavenly sanctuary, he/she can approach God in worship. The believer is to . . .
- Continually cultivate a daily practice of knowing God intimately. And he is to do so by placing a firm trust in God; who has shown Himself faithful in the dealings with His people. [Let us draw near, 10:22]
- Tightly grip a hold of hoping in God. And do so by meditating on your privileged status as the people of Christ even in spite of changing circumstances. [Let us hold fast, 10:23]
- Aggressively stir up other believers through encouragement and love. And do so by having a caring response; meaningful engagement in the life of the body. [Let us consider one another, 10:24-25]
The believer is to ask . . .
- For what do I yearn? Or what are my energies and efforts being drawn? Am I like Moses, drawing near to God in a ‘face-to-face’ intimacy crying out to Him, “teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you.”
- To what am I committed? Or what is my anchor amidst life’s difficulties? At the moment of temptation, at the moment of frustration, or at the moment of complete & utter loss; do I find myself resting in God’s goodness, resolve, and faithfulness?
- With whom will I walk? Or to whom in the body of Christ will I minister this day, this week? We need others spurring us on toward love and good works. The community of believers is vital, they offer the needed mix of accountability and encouragement.
I met Dr. Decker in July of 2001. My wife and I visited Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA where I would spend the next 11 years working on my PhD in New Testament. Little did I know at the time just how much this man would teach me regarding the interpretation of Scripture, teaching the Scripture, and living the Scripture. A scholar indeed.
Of course, I owe all the praise and glory to Jesus Christ who made my friendship with Dr. Decker possible; but on the other hand – I am grateful for the impact he has made on my life. Dr. Decker not only taught the biblical languages and how to appropriately blend them in the pastorate, he modeled it. I had Dr. Decker for seven PhD courses, NT exegesis to hermeneutics to biblical theology. He provided balance, while emphasizing the importance of the study of the original languages in the pastor’s study, the pulpit, and the classroom. He expected a lot of his students and “held the bar high;” there was no trying to get things done just to say you got them done. He had high expectations because he understood the importance of learning and studying God’s word.
Not only was Dr. Decker my professor in seven courses, but he was also on my comprehensive exam board and dissertation committee. He was very helpful and made it possible for me to be successful. It did not matter how many questions or emails I sent, he would always answer them with dignity, scholarship, and encouragement – typically signed, . . . “press on.”
He knew the difficulty students endured in a PhD program, because he himself went through the rigor. He compassionately came alongside his students, yet held them to a high standard of expectation. He and his wife graciously opened their home for students to have a hot meal and fellowship about their families. He was interested in his students. It was almost as if we became friends; though we understood our place :). I count it a distinct privilege to have known this man; this scholar. Each time I open my Greek New Testament, I am reminded of the importance of knowing God’s word and accurately communicating it to others.
To Dr. Decker, I say thank you. Thank you for your gracious spirit, scholarship, and encouragement to me, a young student who desires to accurately reflect the authorial intended meaning of God’s word. You, Dr. Decker, are a mentor, a friend, a colleague.
I think there are some theological and hermeneutical issues that ought to concern the NT Church today; . . . why is there a concern? Because we are in a most troubling world today. We live in a society that does not value truth, it does not accept truth, and it certainly does not live according to truth. This truth of which I write is God’s Word; that is, His holy word, His inspired and inerrant word, His authoritative and sufficient word. This truth is literally the creative breath of God (2 Tim 3:16).
The larger context of which I bring these theological crises to you is that the Church is ministering to their community, but doing so within a postmodern culture. This culture is constantly asking, “how do I interpret the world around me?” And as today’s culture/community continues to ask this question, they are coming to different conclusions each time they ask.
Postmodernism, according to Greg Christopher, can be defined as the calling into question the traditional understanding of the relationship between language and reality. Postmodernism concludes that truth is social rather than individual. The method of arriving at the truth is not simply through rational investigation, but includes affective factors as emotions and intuition. People have no way of validating knowledge because they are captivated by the community. The ultimate implication is that truth does not exist outside of the community to which one belongs, and thus knowledge is relative.
Here are four theological crises that concern me:
(1) The crisis of scriptural authority – The Chicago Statement of Inerrancy (1978) states in the preface “The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age.” The Statement also declares some affirmations regarding the authority of Scripture:
“The Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God . . . and in its entirety is revelation given by God (Articles 1, 3). Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses . . . and Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit (Articles 11, 12). Lastly, the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ (Article 19).”
The evidences to the authority of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21). The concern today, there is an erosion of biblical authority. There are evangelicals that challenge the authority of Scripture. For example, William Webb delineates a ‘redemptive-movement hermeneutic’ in his book Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Webb believes that the New Testament does teach that wives should be subject to their husbands . . . but only for the culture in which the New Testament was written. In today’s culture, he believes the treatment of women is an area in which a better ethic is expressed than the one intended within the Scriptures. In other words, the intended meaning must be adjusted to fit the culture today. This is a real problem; Webb is undermining the authority and intended meaning of God’s Word.
(2) The crisis of interpretive certainty – The clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read and study it.
Pettigrew states, “Scripture can be and is read with profit, with appreciation and with transformative results. It is open and transparent to earnest readers; it is intelligible and comprehensible to attentive readers. Scripture itself is coherent and obvious. It is direct and unambiguous as written; what is written is sufficient. Scripture’s concern or focal point is readily presented as the redemptive story of God. It displays a progressive more specific identification of that story, culminating in the gospel of Jesus Christ. All this is to say: Scripture is clear about what it is about” (TMSJ fall 04).
(3) The crisis of hermeneutics and theological method – The discovering of the author’s intended meaning through the consistent implementation of a literal-grammatical-historical methodology that results in a traditional, dispensational theological understanding of God’s Word is my hermeneutic; the hermeneutic that properly interprets His Word. This is being challenged today.
Tremper Longman states, “In a postmodern world, it seems wrong, even ridiculous, to believe that we can recover some hypothetical author’s meaning or even believe that the text itself contains the clues to its meaning.”
Walt Kaiser states, “The most basic crisis in biblical studies must be placed in the discipline of exegesis. In many ways, it is this crisis that has precipitated the other theological crises. The process of deterioration in biblical preaching has been the discipline of biblical exegesis” (Toward an Exegetical Theology).
If our exegesis is not sound, we run the risk of providing nothing other than our opinion. My concern today is that our hermeneutical methodology rests on ‘what the text now means to me, the reader/interpreter; rather than the verbal meaning given by the scriptural author when it was originally written. A text can never mean what it never meant.
(4) The crisis of the gospel – Who is Jesus? Is He knowable?
There is a risk in sharing the gospel today. The risk is the relevancy of Scripture. My concern is that we are trying to make the gospel palatable for those listening. The potential pitfall is that we may be working on crafting a Jesus to fit this postmodern culture. There is no need for this, for the New Testament Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) clearly state who Jesus is; His identity is based on Scripture.
An example of this is in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus stills the storm and the disciples respond out of fear and ask, “what manner of man is this?” Mark records two chapters later (6:45-52) that Jesus answers the disciples’ question. Jesus walks on the water toward their boat and states, “be of good cheer, it is I.” The phrase ‘it is I’ is literally the phrase ego eimi, which means “I am.” Jesus was stating to the disciples that the “I am” was here; He is God. Mark’s intent throughout his Gospel account is to identify Jesus as the Son of God; there is an identity crisis throughout his story. This is what today’s culture is going through now; there is an identity crisis concerning Jesus.
As a church, we need to be clear in expressing who Jesus is and what he has done. The basis for this is the authoritative Word of God; biblical vocabulary must be used in the description of our Savior. Culture today wants to make Jesus a moral human; not the Son of God who can forgive sins.
Conclusion – doing theology today is not a simple task.
Evangelicals must define the relationship between the gospel and culture. This has been one of the primary concerns of evangelicals since the Reformation period. However, it is important that they do so under the authority of Scripture; while correctly interpreting the Scriptures. It is incumbent upon as us preachers/teachers of the Word of God to engage this culture with, not our truth; but with God’s authoritative Word. As we communicate His truth, it must be done with relevancy and accuracy. I challenge you today that exegesis must be done accurately . . . and it must begin with us. D. A. Carson states,
“Tragic is the situation when the preacher or teacher is perpetually unaware of the blatant nonsense he utters, and of the consequent damage he inflicts on the church of God. Nor will it do to be satisfied with pointing a finger at other groups whose skills are less than our own: we must begin by cleaning up our own backyard” (Exegetical Fallacies, 16).
Presented at Fellowship Week, 2014 – Baptist Bible College, Springfield, MO.
Here is a picture of my under-8 division boys soccer team enjoying ice cream following the indoor season. We took 4th place. It was an interesting season; again most of my players had never played indoor soccer. I think we did an excellent job.
The spring season begins this weekend (March 22). They are improving each time they play – way to go boys!