The LORD… should He not?

November 25, 2008

…”And should not I pity Ninevah, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know there right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

The book of Jonah ends with this rhetorical question. God asks Jonah, and He also asks the reader. The open-endedness forces us to answer the question. Are we too, like Jonah, going to be so consumed in God’s goodness to us that we are oblivious or indifferent to the fact that God’s goodness is to be tasted by those from all the nations? From all peoples?

The question that God asks is not to be filed under the “Foreign Missions” section in our brains. God asks this question about people we encounter everyday… the coworker that is hard to work with, the person you commonly pass by on the street that looks a little different than you, the kid who you just don’t feel like talking to right now.

Should He not pity? Should He not show mercy?

This has been a reoccurring question for me. If I settle on a method that is literary-canonical instead of grammatical-historical, why does it really matter? Authorial intent instead of sensus plenior, who cares?

What difference does it make to the congregation that one day I hope to shepherd?

The Apostle Peter says there is significance. 1 Peter 1:10-12 is about hermeneutics. He tells us something amazing about the prophets, and then he tells us “therefore…”

Peter writes that the prophets knew that they were writing for us about the “sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” He tells us that they were writing for us about the gospel message we have heard. And then he says, “Therefore… set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13). The OT authors intended what they wrote about Christ to be for you, so then (Aorist Active Imperative 2nd plural) “you set your hope fully” on Christ. You believe completely, unwaveringly. You exert a relentless faith in Jesus Christ and the grace that is yours in Him.

This is the pastoral application and its beautiful significance. This is the “so what?” described by the apostle… The authorial understanding of 1:10-12 enkindles our faith in Jesus Christ and all that He is for us.

Hesed…

…that is, with the covenant faithfulness of God.

The trustworthiness of Him fulfilling His promise…

…that is, the gospel.

Satisfy us with the gospel so that we may be satisfied in You. 

We know God only by the gospel, and the more therein we know Him, the more we must cling to the gospel.

The terminology that includes “good Christian” can only exist in a culture of rampant nominalism. What exactly do we mean by this phrase? Is there really such a person? I think what really is meant by this phrase is someone who adequately observes spiritual disciplines, even a broad as regular church attendance.

If this theory of the phrase’s intention is true then it means it defies the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian is precisely about who you are, not duties that you perform. And the who you are is swallowed up in the realization that you are so awfully bad that it took the Son of God dying on a cross, bearing the wrath you deserve, so that we would be forgiven.

See the truth is that we all are bad Christians. Bad to the point that every ounce of our “goodness” comes from outside us.

Thank you, Father, that my badness as a Christian sets me free in your grace to embrace the goodness of Jesus Christ.

Needy

October 2, 2008

Jerry Bridges writes about a popular gospel misconception, “Once you become a Christian you don’t need it anymore except to share is with people who are still outside the door. What you need to hear instead are the challenges and how-tos of discipleship” (The Gospel for Real Life, 14). 

I would be dead if this misconception were true.

I.      Isaiah 40-56:8 (40-66)

·       The portion of Isaiah is prophecies relating to the people of God’s return from Babylon, i.e. the redeemed of the Lord’s freedom from exile

·       These passages feature some of the most staggering language about who God is and what He does. Four themes are consistent in this section:

             o      The greatness of God (consider 40:25-31; 42:5-9; 45:5-7; 51:12-16)

             o      Faith language such as “fear not” and “wait” (consider 40:31; 41:10; 43:1; 51:5)

             o      The Servant of the Lord in context of salvation, forgiveness of sin, and God’s rightouesness (consider 48:9-11; 49:5-7; 51:4-8; 52:13-53:12

             o      The salvation of the nations (consider 42:6-9; 45:22; 49:6; 55:5; 56:6-8)

 

§       Isaiah 55:1-56:8

                o      The salvation of the Lord will soon come, His deliverance will be revealed (56:1)

                o      The salvation of the Lord extends to foreigners, even to eunuchs. The “eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths” refers to God-fearing Gentiles, for the Lord will “gather yet others to him besides those already gathered” (56:3-8).

 

 

II.    Acts 8:26-40

·       To put the book of Acts in context we must begin with the command of Jesus in 1:8. Our Lord said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8, emphasis mine).

·       Luke patterns his book to be the going forth of that command. After being witnesses in Jerusalem (1:1-7:60) the narrative picks up after Stephen’s martyrdom and we see explicitly that Christians were scattered “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (8:1; also 8:4, 25). And then in chapter 9 we see the conversion of Paul who was called to minister the gospel to Gentiles (9:15). The next is Peter’s vision and numerous Gentile conversions (10:1-48), followed by the missionary activity of Paul (13:1-3).

·       But before all this happens notice the narrative insert by Luke in 8:26-40. We see the gospel coming to a Gentile, God-fearing eunuch who is reading the book of Isaiah.

Okay, so what does this mean?

                       

            Luke was reading the prophet Isaiah and understanding the mission of the church to be the fulfillment of those prophecies. We must understand that our calling to preach the gospel is not disconnected from the Lord’s consummation of His purposes! When we read the glorious words of Isaiah and see the amazing activity of the church in Acts we should not pass it off as a bygone era. Rather, it is continuing to the glory of God until the time He has appointed, and we are dissolved into the continuation and graciously called to be a part of its fulfillment.


 

 

Hermeneutic of Justification

September 21, 2008

The hermeneutic of justification is a damned thing. It arises in the theological classroom where knowledge trades in the maid apron with the intention of becoming a savior. Identity is transferred from the eternal Word  (by Whom, in Whom, and for Whom we are created) and is instead nestled in the capacity of what my finite brain can retain. The vehicle by which I understand and cherish the Scriptures (my hermeneutic) becomes in itself the trophy that I value the most. This thing is a means…. a means that I have decorated with significance beyond its worth. 

How often does this temptation arise to seek my acceptance in my how-to-read methodology rather than in the One of whom I read about! How often does this temptation arise to make the heart of the Scriptures peripheral and my method of getting there the glory! 

I don’t want the hermeneutic of justification.

Jesus Christ, I want you.

Sailhamer Together

September 14, 2008

Along with the ethos of this blog (which has seen little action in recent weeks), I am delighted to announce that there is a growing brotherhood here at The Bethlehem Institute that is interested in biblical theology, and in particular, the hermeneutics of John Sailhamer.

Tyler Kenney, a Southeastern-Treasuring Christ-Bethlehem-Desiring God employee-Sailhamerian-Calvinist-Christian Hedonist, has circulated some articles and a free lecture series by Sailhamer through the book of Exodus. Praise God for theological growth that takes place in community and intensifies our affections for Jesus Christ!

I pray that good things come from this.