Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sermon Notes from "Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius." Sermon by Keith Stell.

[The following notes are from the April 27, 2014 PM worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

3 John.

I. Gaius: a great commendation for a gospel witness
A. The gospel reproduces within the saints of God the message of Christ.
B. "Redeemed people live redeemed lives."
C. Christians will desire more and more to demonstrate the character of Jesus.
D. Christians will rightly discern Christ's presence in fellow believers.

II. Diotrephes: a strong correction for a tyrant
A. "Preeminence" is only found one other place in the New Testament: Col 1:18, which speaks of Christ.
B. If we seek our own preeminence, we will obscure the glory of Christ.

III. Demetrius: three questions for self-examination
A. What do mature Christians testify about my life?
B. What do the apostles testify about my life? (How does my life match up with the New Testament?)
C. What does Christ testify about your life? (Is my life Christ-exalting?)


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Monday, April 28, 2014

David and Goliath: Three Awesome Details You May Have Missed

For the past few weeks, previous to this week, my Sunday school class at New Georgia Baptist Church studied the David and Goliath account from 1 Samuel 17. The lessons have focused on David as an example of  faith and godliness versus the unfaithfulness and worldliness of Goliath (and Saul). Even taken at just this level (without examination of David's place in redemptive-history or considering how this account plays into covenant development, etc.), it is amazing how many valid applications can be drawn from the text.

Virtually anyone reared in a church environment will be familiar with the basic features of what the Bible says concerning David and Goliath. Anyone who has read through the Bible a few times will be aware that certain features (most notably, David's beheading of Goliath) are omitted from children's storybook versions of the tale. But the depths of Scripture are truly marvelous, and re-studying the same passage consistently yields new treasures along with the old (cf. Matt 13:52). Each week, I have noticed additional features in this well-known text: features that help me better appreciate the Spirit-inspired account.

Since I'm currently trying to write an adventure novel, I have been interested in how certain details-details I hadn't necessarily noted before-serve to build tension in relating what occurred at the valley of Elah. In addition to every other way in which 1 Samuel 17 may be properly viewed for edification, the passage is also an amazing example of plot development.

And so, dear reader, let me draw your attention to three awesome details in the story of David and Goliath that you may have missed:

1. David grabbed a bear by its beard and beat it to death with a rod! (v. 35)

Part of the reason that I overlooked this feature of the account was confusion due to the way that verses 34-36 have been translated. The King James Version (in v. 34) has David saying, "there came a lion and a bear and took a lamb out of the flock." So I (wrongly) got the idea that perhaps the lion and bear attacked simultaneously. The New King James Version reads, "when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock" (Hebrew usually does not differentiate between the conjunctions "and" and "or:" the reader must determine which is appropriate from the context). So I (wrongly) got the idea that somehow David was being ambiguous about whether a lion or a bear had attacked the flock. Recently, as I was reading commentaries and sermons on the text, I came to realize-as you may have realized on your own-that David was indicating that a lion then a bear took a lamb from the flock. These were two separate occasions. (This is one of the myriad of scriptural passages in which the principle, "Every fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses," is incidentally at play, 1 Cor 13:1.) When David switches to the singular pronoun in v. 35, "I went out after him and attacked him," the antecedent to the pronoun is the last noun in the combined subject of v. 34, i.e., he is only talking about the bear in v. 35.

The picture may have been clear to you, dear reader, without all this detailed thought, but I had to work through the language to bring it into focus due to some wrong images that I formed in my head when I read this passage as a youth.

According to v. 35, a bear had taken a lamb from David's flock. David hunted down the bear and rescued the lamb from its mouth. The bear, obviously angry from having his prey taken away, reared up to attack David. Did David do what I probably would have done? Did David drop the lamb and run? Did he freeze in fright? No, instead he took his shepherd's rod, jumped up, grabbed the bear by the hair of its chin, and beat the raging beast to death. This was quite an impressive line on David's resumé for the position of giant-fighter!

2. David walked onto the battlefield basically unarmed! (v. 40)

Aided, I think, by an over-imaginative preacher's presentation of the David and Goliath account that I had heard at some point in my youth, I had always imagined that after David spoke to King Saul and refused the king's armor he left Saul, went off by himself to a creek in the woods, then-in deep contemplation, drawing upon his experience-carefully chose five perfect stones for his sling. But notice that v. 40 does not say that David went to a creek; it says he chose five smooth stones from the creek [or "the brook"]. The Hebrew has the definite article. In other words, readers are to understand that a particular creek is in view. But where is the creek to which the text refers? Can we answer this question with any degree of certainty? I believe that we can. As my Sunday school teacher, Mike Ross, pointed out, there is a creek flowing through the valley of Elah itself. The original audience would have known that, so when they read "the brook," they would have naturally thought of the brook already implied in the text through the mention of the valley of Elah.

Notice, then, the movement indicated in v. 40. David left Saul, he went directly to "the brook" (that is, the creek in the middle of the valley of Elah), he chose five smooth stones (his movement would have necessarily been visible to both the Israelite and Philistine armies), then he approached the Philistine.

The author of 1 Samuel had spent three verses of Chapter 17 describing Goliath's mighty armor (vv. 5-7). By contrast, when David first arrived at the valley of Elah he had only a stick in his hand and a sling (and, if you think about what a "sling" is, we're basically talking about a leather strap here). When he arrives at the battlefield, he does not even have stones for his sling. This is, by any usual standard of reckoning, a terrible battle strategy on David's part. But David trusted God, and-after the Philistine "cursed David by his gods" and David declared his trust in the LORD-David ran up toward Goliath, grabbed a stone from his pouch, slung it, and struck the Philistine on the forehead (vv. 48-49).

3. David was still carrying Goliath's head when he returned to Saul! (v. 57)

The blow from David's sling was apparently mortal, but David actually dispatched the giant with Goliath's own sword (compare vv. 50-51, which use different Hebrew words for "kill"). David cut off the villain's head and took Goliath's weapons. What I didn't realize, however (until I was re-reading this story for Sunday school), was that David kept the giant's head with him. In v. 57 I was confused by the pronouns (for example, the NKJV reads, "Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand"), and so I thought that the text may have been indicating that Abner carried the giant's head to Saul. But, no, the NIV and NET capture the sense of the Hebrew: both indicate that David was still holding the head of the Philistine in his hand. In other words, David had apparently been walking around with this gory thing, showing it off to people.

Conclusion

These details from 1 Samuel 17 highlight the fact that David was an intense warrior. They also point to ways in which David is a type of Christ. David's amazing bravery in defending his flock points to the zeal with which our Good Shepherd will defend His elect. David's victory over Goliath, when David was so physically unimpressive (and relatively unarmed) next to the giant, points to our Substitute, who had "no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him" (Isa 53:2) and who conquered on our behalf, not through mighty physical weapons but through faithfulness to God the Father. David's display of the giant's head points to our victorious Lord, who-through His work on the Cross-has crushed the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15), "rendering powerless him who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14), and whose work guarantees that Satan will be publicly and finally judged (Rev 20:10).

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Sermon Notes from "The Glorious Prayer." Sermon by Dr. James R. Burdette.

[The following notes are from the April 16, 2014 worship service at New Georgia Baptist Church.]

John 17:6-19.

I. The Subjects of His Prayer
A. His apostles
B. All believers (John 17:20)

II. The Reasons for His Prayer
A. It is God's will that believers remain in the world for the purpose of evangelism.
B. In this world, believers will face persecution.

III. The Requests of His Prayer (vv. 11-19)
A. Unity
B. Joy
C. Protection
D. Sanctification

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sermon Notes from "The Agony." Sermons by Dr. James R. Burdette.

[The following notes were taken from the April 13, 2014 worship services at New Georgia Baptist Church. If my notes are correct, then the sermon from the evening service expanded the third point in the morning service-"Its Hopefulness" (meaning, in context: the hopefulness found in the agony of Christ).]

John 19:28-30.

The Agony of Christ:

I. Its Reality: Jesus apparently had gone without drink since the Lord's Supper, when He had refused the final cup of wine.

II. Its Humility: "If Jesus said, 'I thirst,' He knows all our frailties and woes." - C.H. Spurgeon

III. Its Hopefulness (xref. John 4:7-10; Heb 4:15-16) "It is finished" was a statement of completion, dedication, and victory.

A. Christ had completed the work for which His Father had sent Him to earth.

B.  Dedication: "It is finished" was a statement used in specific ways in Jesus' day.
1. It was used of a faithful servant upon carrying out his assigned duty.
2. It was used in finance, indicating a debt that had been paid in full.
3. It was used by the high priest as a proclamation upon completing the appointed sacrifices.

C. "It is finished" indicated that Christ had defeated Satan (xref. Gen 3:15)

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sermon Notes from "Discipline for Our Good: The Father's Love for His Children." Sermon by Mitch Chase.

[Sunday before last, my family visited Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. Here are my notes from the sermon that morning.]

Hebrews 12:4-13.

I. Observation (v. 4)
A. "You're not dead yet."
B. The "sin" mentioned is apostacy.
C. We are called to endure.

II. Quotation (vv. 5-6 xref. Prov 3:1-12)
A. Remembrance is crucial for endurance.
B. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." - Tertullian, 2nd c.
C. Rom 8:28.
D. God is not the Father of everyone (in the sense of covenantal love).

III. Interpretation (vv. 7-11)
A. "God is the perfect Father."
B. We should value God's fatherly favor above all else.
C. God's fatherly discipline lasts all our lives.
D. "God has never experienced any fatherly regret."
E. We must trust God is acting for our good, for our holiness.

IV. Application (vv. 12-13)
A. The "straight paths for [our] feet" will include great joy, but they may also include great suffering.
B. "The race is won or lost inwardly."

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Heaven Is For Real! (and so is necromancy)

Several Bible passages should cause Christians to question (and ultimately reject) accounts of heaven tourism, such as that related in the book Heaven is for Real (the film version of which is now out in theaters). One could note the many differences between the saccharine images painted by modern authors and the accounts of strange and glorious heavenly visions found in the Bible. Or one could note  that the Apostle Paul indicated that when he was caught up into Heaven, he indicated that neither he nor anyone else was permitted to speak concerning the details of Paradise (2 Cor 12:1-4; this may be one reason why the other biblical accounts of heavenly visions regularly seem to incorporate symbolic of apocalyptic images).

As John Piper recently indicated, however [HT:: Justin Taylor], there is no need for systematic or even biblical-theological formulation in order to understand why Christians should reject these currently-popular books (and now a film) on trips to Heaven. Rather, these accounts are a direct contradiction of the point that the LORD is making in Isaiah 8:19, And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? "Necromancer" is a term that refers to someone who seeks communication with the deceased; the authors or subjects of books like Heaven is for Real claim to have been dead or to have entered a deathlike state. Piper notes:

God’s beef with necromancy is that it belittles the sufficiency of his communication. Why would you inquire of the dead to find out what you want to know instead of inquiring of me? And if they say: Well, I have inquired of you and you didn’t tell me what I want to know. He would say: Well, that is your problem. I have told you what you need to know. You don’t need to know about such and such if I haven’t told you. And, in fact, if you go trying to inquire about such and such that I haven’t told you, you are dishonoring me. So that is the nature of the argument. And, therefore, I think the prohibition of séances and necromancy applies to this kind of thing and people ought to stop writing those books.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blood Moon?!? (It should cause neither panic nor complacency.)

With the occurrence of a series of "blood moons"-beginning earlier this week-some professing Christians have taken to setting dates regarding the second coming of Christ. John Hagee, for example, has taken to Harold Camping-style date-setting. Hagee's book on the blood moon phenomena has reached best-seller lists, prompting Dr. Albert Mohler-on The Briefing podcast yesterday-to discuss blood moons in general and Hagee's book in particular.

Certainly, according to the direct teaching of Jesus (Acts 1:7), Christians should refrain from foolish speculations about times or seasons in which Christ might return. But we must also remember that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev 16:15), so we must be ever vigilant. It concerns me that, in reacting against Hagee and others, to read what some of my friends have written online, you would think that Jesus could come back at any time except during this blood moon season.

I appreciate the wisdom with which my pastor-Dr. Jim Burdette at New Georgia Baptist Church-approached the blood moon situation. During the announcement time of the morning service this past Lord's Day, Dr. Burdette explained what "blood moons" are. (This was appropriate pastorally, as virtually all members of the congregation would hear about them at some point through the news, friends, etc., and not necessarily know what to think.) Then the pastor did NOT pull out end-time charts or put the congregation into a panic, but he DID give a brief statement to the effect that these kinds of situations should remind us to be ever watchful and expectant for the Lord's return.

Maranatha!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kosmosdale Baptist Church: Ecclesia semper reformanda est

In the 16th and 17th centuries, as they worked to enact changes that they had realized were crucial within the Church, the early Protestants came to understand that reformation is NOT a program that could be achieved simply through a right doctrinal statement and changing a handful of wrong practices. Rather, they came to understand the principle seen in the title of this post: Ecclesia semper reformanda est, "the Church is [to be] always reforming." The Church, just as the individual members of which She is comprised, must constantly be looking into the Scriptures and reforming according to Scripture (James 1:25). Like Her members, the Church must put off unscriptural practices and put on what Scripture teaches we should do for the purpose of greater conformity to the image of our Redeemer. Individual Christians experience progressive sanctification; in a similar way, the Church grows progressively toward Christlikeness as individual congregations (local instances of the single, global body of Christ) seek continued reformation.

My former congregation, Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY-though small and (in some ways) unsophisticated-has often been, by God's grace, a model of semper reformanda in both faith and practice through the years. When I first became a member of Kosmosdale about eight years ago, the church was in the process of learning about the Second London Baptist Confession: a Reformed confession of faith. Years before I became a member, Kosmosdale was involved in the Boyce Project, handing out copies of J.P Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology at the then-liberal campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shortly after I joined, the church government structure was changed, with elders and deacons better reflecting the scriptural model.

I moved back to the Empire State of the South last year in order to be closer to extended family, but last week I visited Louisville again for the Together for the Gospel Conference. I was excited to visit my brothers and sisters in Christ at Kosmosdale. I was happy to see that they are continuing in scriptural reformation, as evidenced by the fact that they now take the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day. (At some point in the past, I believe, Kosmosdale had observed the Lord's Supper only quarterly; when I was a member there, they took the Supper on the first Sunday of each month.)

The Lord's Supper is an essential element of corporate worship. We should no more neglect observance of this ordinance during our weekly gathered worship than we would neglect the preaching or reading the Word, the offering of prayers, or the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The transition to weekly Lord's Supper observance at Kosmosdale apparently took place with little controversy, as the congregation had been discipled for years in honoring the authority of Scripture, even when doing so seems inconvenient. Mitch Chase, pastor at Kosmosdale, exercises wisdom in presenting the Lord's Supper, not simply reading off the standard passages on the ordinance each week (1 Cor 11:23-26, etc.) so that it becomes rote, but instead introducing the Supper by drawing the congregation's attention to connections between the text for the sermon and the New Covenant realities secured by Christ's sacrifice.

No congregation is perfect, nor will any congregation attain perfection until we are all gathered together in that one glorious visible Church before the throne of the Lamb. Kosmosdale is no exception to this rule. I do rejoice, however, to see my former congregation committed to the principle of semper reformanda, and I hope to see an increasing number of congregations become more fully committed to this mindset as well.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

King David: Example, Type, and Covenant Head

Why Study the Life of King David (and Other Biblical Kings)?

IMAGINE you have a friend who, once every week, gathers with a small group of people to study ancient rulers. The group studies Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Amenhotep I, etc. You may think that such a meeting is somewhat interesting. But if it became apparent that such a meeting was-to some extent-becoming the focus of your friend's life, something that your friend is really passionate about (and especially if your friend is not employed as an historian, or planning on seeking such employment), then you may become concerned, and understandably so. Why would someone invest so much energy and gain such passion from studying long-dead monarchs? Aren't there better things to do with one's time?

Dear reader, if you are a Christian, and if one or more of the church services that you attend every week takes its text from the Samuel/Kings or Chronicles section of the Old Testament, then-in the eyes of the non-religious world-you are in much the same position as your hypothetical "friend" mentioned above. Why would you go week after week and hear sermons about Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, etc.?

We must be clear-in our own thinking first, but then in communicating to others-that when we study the historical narratives of the Bible, we are doing so based upon more than just mere intellectual curiosity. Rather, the history of Israel's kings teaches lessons that are crucial for understanding God's work in the world, which is ultimately centered on Jesus Christ.

Of  course, not all kings of Israel were the same. Soon after monarchy was established in Israel, the nation split into the northern and southern kingdoms. The northern kings were wicked, and to study them is to study rulers of a nation under God's judgment. God sent prophets-most notably Elijah and Elisha-to confront the wickedness headed by the northern rulers. The record of their ministries demonstrates that the word of the LORD-confirmed by signs and wonders-is active in the darkest of times.

The southern kings were mixed: some were characterized by wickedness and others were characterized by doing what was right in the LORD's sight. These kings of Judah were evaluated in comparison or contrast to King David. For example: 1 Kings 15:3 records of Abijam that "his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father David." 1 Kings 15:11 records that "Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father." In order to understand what the LORD means us to learn from the other kings of Judah, we must first and foremost learn why the Spirit-inspired authors of the Old Testament so often focus our attention on King David.

King David is important, physically speaking, because he is an ancestor of the Man Christ Jesus. But there are many ancestors of Jesus, as recorded in the genealogies, about whom the Bible gives us little information. In the biblical literature, the Spirit-inspired authors focus upon David in particular as an example for us, a type of Christ, and a covenant head.

King David as an Example for Us

Despite his serious sins regarding Uriah and Bathsheba-sins that led to disunity and war within the kingdom of Israel, and thus (humanly speaking) threatened to undermine God's plan of redemption-God graciously evaluates King David as one who regularly did right in his sight (1 Kings 15:5), a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). Judging from the way in which the kings of Judah were evaluated [mentioned above], the monarchs over God's people were meant to take David's devotion to God as an example. We, too, as Christians today, are meant to see David as an example. David's faith is commended in Hebrews 11:32 (though in passing). Some specific ways in which we should view David as an example include:
  • David's heart of praise, as reflected in his psalms, provides the chief biblical example for how we should worship God in song.
  • When Saul distrusted David's loyalty, was jealous of David, and tried to have him killed, David called out to God and received protection from Him, thereby becoming an example for how we should approach God in prayer.
  • Even after he was anointed to replace Saul as king, David honored Saul, providing a clear biblical example for how we should exercise submission to those in authority over us.
As an example, David is true, yet far from perfect. This means that while we can follow his example, we can only follow it up to a point. We need a better, perfect example: an example that is found in Christ (1 Peter 2:21-22).

King David as a Type of Christ

Though not less than an example for us to follow, David is more than just an example. David is the chief personal type of Christ.

When used in evangelical biblical studies, "type" refers to a historical reality of salvific import, which is usually repeated and theologically explored in the biblical narrative, and which finds its fulfillment (or "antitype") in Christ: His perfect life, the new covenant realities brought about by the shedding of His blood, and the new creation of which His resurrection is the firstfruits.

In A History of the Work of Redemption, Jonathan Edwards-the preeminent theologian ever to live on American soil-notes three sorts of "types" found in Scripture:
  • Institutions (like the priesthood and sacrificial system, as explored in Hebrews);
  • Events (like the redemption of Israel from Egypt, see Matt 2:15; Hos 11:1);
  • Persons (like Joseph or David).
Edwards notes that, as far as Old Testament historical persons are concerned, King David in particular is presented as a type of Christ. The Old Testament explicitly pictures David as a type of anointed king on whom God's favor rests: a type which finds its antitype in the coming Messiah. This is seen, for example, in Ezekiel 34:23-24:
23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. (ESV)

This messianic prophecy was written long after David had died. Yet in speaking of the Messiah through the prophet Ezekiel, the LORD names Him "David." This is an example of calling the antitype by the name of the type in order that, by considering the type, we may learn something about the character of the antitype. Like David, the Messiah is a servant, shepherd, and sovereign.

The function of David as a type of Christ is more clearly seen as we consider the development of the monarchy in Old Testament history. When the good news was first proclaimed in Genesis 3:15, there was no king explicitly mentioned, but God did say that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, and so the people understood that the Promised One would be a victor in battle, which was one of the primary roles for a king in the Ancient Near East  (cf. 1 Sam 8:20b).

Though the promise of a victor was in place, humanity as a whole was not characterized by humble trust in this promise. Instead, they lived out the unfaithfulness of Adam, going from bad to worse, until the world was destroyed by the Flood. God re-established His favor with humanity through the Noahic Covenant. Then, in His covenant with Abraham, through the blessed line of Shem, God focused His gracious activity within one human family. But not all of Abraham's children were in line to receive God's covenant promises: think of Ishmael or Keturah's children. Isaac received God's covenant promises, and of his children only Jacob-not Esau-stood in the covenant line. Jacob's children-the children of Israel-all received God's covenant blessing, and their descendants eventually came under the Mosaic Covenant. But a special blessing had come upon Judah, a blessing that included the idea of a monarchy, as seen in Genesis 49:10,

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (ESV)

"Scepter," "ruler's staff," and one receiving "tribute" and "obedience," all present the picture of a king.

This idea of a king was picked up again in the Mosaic law. Long before national Israel had a human king, the LORD had already given instructions for how a king should act, as seen in Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you,(F)‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (ESV)

Notice the reason Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave for why the Israelites would ask for a king: in order to be like the surrounding nations. In Samuel's day, the Israelites did ask for a king. They asked for a king for three reasons. The first two were: 1) Samuel had grown old; 2) Samuel's sons did not follow in his ways. It was understandable that the people would think to their future leadership and that they would not want Samuel's sons as leaders. Leading up to the people requesting a king-in the period recorded in the Book of Judges-there had been a continued cycle of people straying from the LORD, being oppressed, crying out to the LORD and being saved, then (despite His blessings) they strayed again. By the final section in the Book of Judges, starting in the chapter after Samson died, there was a sharper downward spiral. In this section the phrase, "There was no king in Israel," is repeated four times, and the book ends in Judges 21:25 with the statement, "In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes." This leads readers to see the need for a godly king. The dire historical situation recorded in the Book of Judges may have, in part, prompted the Israelites in Samuel's day to ask for a king. In itself, asking for a king did not necessarily have to be a bad thing, if the people had asked with the right heart, humbly asking God to establish a king over them for their good and His glory. Instead, the final reason that the Israelites asked Samuel for a king (the reason nearest to their hearts), was: 3) so that they could be like the surrounding nations (i.e., the Gentiles). This is the very motivation for choosing a king that Moses had predicted centuries before.

This wicked motivation for choosing a king led the people to make other mistakes. Wanting a king to be a conqueror, fighting their battles for them, the Israelites chose a man based on his outward appearance-on the fact that he was physically intimidating-rather than considering his heart. Failing to remember Jacob's inspired words concerning Judah's descendants, the Israelites chose a man from the tribe of Benjamin. King Saul was a false start to Israel's monarchy. He was a man who God providentially allowed to take the throne, primarily for the purpose of demonstrating the people's inadequacy at choosing a king for themselves (so that they might be like the Gentiles), apart from God's favorable counsel.

David, then, chosen by God, became the prototypical king. Once Samuel anointed David as king, Scripture records two early episodes in which God particularly manifested His anointing on David's life. First is the account in which Saul was persecuted by an evil spirit, and David was able to dispel it (the point of the account is not the harp music, but the harp player). Second is David's encounter with Goliath, the monstrous individual speaking blasphemies, who David defeats by crushing his head with a [sling-propelled] stone. In these episodes (and others) David acted as a type, finding his antitype in Jesus Christ, who cast out demons and will crush the head of Satan.

David as a Covenant Head

Before David's time, the relationship of Israel to God via the Mosaic Covenant was already in a highly doubtful state (at best). As mentioned above, the people had repeatedly fallen away from faithfulness to the LORD during the period recorded in the Book of Judges. (This is not to mention the fickleness of Israel even in Moses' day.) God would have been more than just to bring the full force of the Law's curses against Israel long before David was born. In order for God to relate to Israel through means of a covenant (as He intended to do), a new kind of covenant relationship would have to be established.

Without supplanting the Mosaic Covenant, which was still in effect, God established another covenant relationship, as recorded in 2 Samuel 7. This covenant was not made with the nation of Israel as a whole-as the Mosaic Covenant had been-but with Israel's anointed king (David and then his heirs), as a covenant representative of the nation.

As elucidated in later Old Testament passages, the Davidic Covenant contained both conditional and unconditional aspects. For example, we read in Psalm 132:11-12:

11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back"One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. 12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne." (ESV, emphases added)

In verse 11, we see the unconditional features of the Davidic Covenant: the LORD "will not turn back" from His promises to David; God said "I will" establish one of David's physical descendants on his throne. In verse 12, which begins with an "if," we see the conditional features of the Davidic Covenant: in order for one of David's sons to be established on his throne, that son must keep God's covenant and testimonies (language associated with the Mosaic Covenant and Law); in other words, righteousness was required for one of David's sons to ascend to the throne.

God absolutely intended to keep His promise to David. The stipulation added to this promise was necessary due to God's holy character. Yet none of David's descendants was able to fulfill the condition that God had established. They, like everyone after Adam's transgressed God's command in the garden of Eden, were sinners, falling short of God's glory (Rom 3:23).

This seemingly impossible contradiction was finally resolved in Christ. Jesus was born in David's line. (His lineage from David can be traced in a couple of different ways, as demonstrated by the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.) Jesus fulfilled the Law [and the Prophets] (Matt 5:17). He always did what pleased His heavenly Father (John 8:29). "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth" (1 Peter 2:22; Isa 53:9). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, as Peter made clear in his Pentecost sermon:
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that (F)God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:29-36 ESV)

Jesus met the qualifications of the Davidic Covenant, and He received the promises of the Davidic Covenant, as demonstrated in His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. Jesus was installed as the ultimate Davidic king and seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Now He graciously shares His throne with all who are united to Him by faith, as we read in passages such as Ephesians 2:6, "God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," and Revelation 3:21, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

Conclusion: More Than a History Lesson, More Than an Example

When thinking Christianly, we cannot view biblical accounts simply through the lens of historical curiosity. There are important spiritual lessons that we are meant to learn from the the biblical narratives. David and the other kings of Israel provide examples of faithfulness or unfaithfulness that we should either follow or knowledgeably avoid. Ultimately, however, when we study Scripture, we do so for the purpose of knowing Christ better. David is an historical figure, but we study him as more than just an artifact of ancient times. David is-in many different ways-an example for us to follow, but we study him as more than just an example. David is a type of Christ and a covenant head. Through studying King David in light of these spiritual realities, we look through the son of Jesse to see the true Son of David: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Dissed by Dr. Mohler? (A Plea for Southern Baptists to Consider Congregationalism)

Each day that I happen to be at home, I listen to a podcast from Dr. Albert Mohler: either The Briefing or Ask Anything Weekend Edition. Having listened to every episode of Ask Anything Weekend Edition, I noticed that the third question on the March 15, 2014 episode was identical to the third question from exactly a month previous (2/15/14). The question was: which theologians and pastors have had the greatest impact on your life and ministry? Dr. Mohler's response to this question was either a re-played audio file from the earlier episode, or it was so similar that I was able to pause the podcast and accurately say what his response would be before he said it.

I was surprised at this repeat because Dr. Mohler ends every podcast asking for people to call in with their questions, seemingly wanting to address new questions each week. A week before the repeated question appeared online, I actually did call in with a question, which I thought he might address.

Here was my question:

When reading about what makes a Baptist a Baptist, one of the characteristics or distinctives regularly mentioned is the principle of congregationalism. Do you believe that congregationalism is properly biblical and baptistic? If so, how was this principle lost in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy? What are some trends within Southern Baptist life today that may undermine the congregational principle?
About a month has passed, and now (with a repeated question in the mix), I'm pretty sure that mine isn't  going to appear on the podcast. I don't believe that my question was dismissed due to "congregationalism" being a specialized term: other questions have used specialized theological language ("covenant theology," for example), and Dr. Mohler hasn't expressed any reluctance about defining terms in his answers.

Ruling out the possibility that my question was dismissed due to "congregationalism" being a specialized term, there are a number of reasons why Dr. Mohler (or his staff) may not have allowed my question on his show. Here's a few I've considered:

1. The recording might have been garbled.
2. I may have read the question in an overly monotone voice, unfit for the podcast. (I have heard other callers evidently reading their questions, and I tried to use appropriate inflection, but mine might have been worse than others.)
3. Dr. Mohler (or someone on his staff) may have realized who I was and he may dislike me for things that I've written. As per the usual question format I only identified myself as "Andrew from Dallas, Georgia," so it seems unlikely that I would be particularly known, but someone may know me from my blog or Facebook. If it is the case that the question was rejected due to personal dislike (and I certainly do not expect everyone in the world to like me), then the feeling is certainly NOT mutual.
4. Dr. Mohler (or someone on his staff) may have realized that I'm friends with Timmy Brister, and he may have refused to let my question air on that basis. This would, of course, be an entirely reasonable reason for rejection.

[... that last possible reason was a joke.]

5. Dr. Mohler (or someone on his staff) may have not wanted to give the question consideration due to the controversial nature of ecclesiological questions within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Even if possible reason #5 was NOT the reason that my question did not air, I do think that the question-though possibly controversial-is important, and it should be addressed by those who have been placed in Southern Baptist leadership. All too often, when it comes to matters of how we act as churches, Southern Baptists have made decisions not on the basis of what is biblical, but rather on the basis of what seems to work. Many Baptist churches are now undermining the New Testament principle of congregationalism-a principle previously championed by Baptists-by growing networks of churches under a single pastor. (Even if, on paper, these various "campuses" of a single "church" are led by a pastoral staff, there is usually one charismatic bishop overseeing all the big decisions.)

Because I believe that congregationalism needs to be re-considered in Baptist life, it is my intention (Lord willing) to submit a formal resolution on this issue to be considered at the Southern Baptist annual meeting.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Textual Criticism Placed on the Front-Burner: Dr. Jim Hamilton on John 7:53-8:11

Textual critical issues in biblical studies issues are difficult because they involve tracing ancient manuscript evidence. Textual critical issues in biblical studies can also be scary, because (wrongly understood) they can lead Christians to doubt the accuracy of Scripture. I am thankful that Dr. Jim Hamilton has recently displayed appropriate holy boldness in tackling the difficult, potentially scary issue of whether John 7:53-8:11 should be included in our translations as part of the biblical text or whether it should be placed as a footnote. Dr. Hamilton concludes-based on the manuscript evidence, the flow of the thought-development in John's Gospel as a whole, the difference of language in this section, and the plot structure of John 7-8-that John 7:53-8:11 should be relegated to a footnote.

Dr. Hamilton shows that he is not alone in his conclusion: the ESV and other current translations bracket or otherwise indicate the dubious nature of the text, and Bruce Metzger notes, “No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it."

Dr. Hamilton comments:
[A]t some point a scribe copied this passage into a manuscript of John’s Gospel, and then that got perpetuated. The fact that we have enough evidence to determine this to be the case should increase our confidence in the text of the New Testament. That there is a consensus on this point should make us more confident in the Scriptures not less.
[Read Dr. Hamilton's blog-post on this issue HERE.]

It is important to note that the places where scribal commentary has been placed within the biblical text over time are, in God's providence: 1) few; 2) easily identifiable; 3) NOT in contradiction to other portions of Scripture; 4) NOT crucial for any doctrine (the doctrines they represent are clearly taught elsewhere, in places that are demonstrably original).

Whether  John 7:53-8:11 (and the few similar passages) should be allowed in the text of biblical translations is important on an exegetical level because, if Dr. Hamilton is correct, then John 7:53-8:11 interrupts the intended flow of the Spirit-breathed text. In penning Scripture, the Spirit-led prophet/apostle is constructing an argument or painting a picture. The argument or picture becomes diluted (to mix metaphors) if extraneous material (even otherwise good extraneous material) is included.

Whether  John 7:53-8:11 (and the few similar passages) should be allowed in the text of biblical translations is important on a confessional level because, as The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy properly notes in Article 10a:
We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. [emphasis added]
Whether  John 7:53-8:11 (and the few similar passages) should be allowed in the text of biblical translations is important on a practical level because if Christians rely on a legitimately questionable text in order to establish a doctrine, non-Christians can look at us and with good cause say, 'Well, that wasn't even originally in Scripture.' (I've actually had this happen to me before.) We must be ready and able to establish our beliefs on the sure foundation of God's Word.

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