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 New Georgia Baptist Church.

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.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

David vs. Goliath Plotline

[This morning I had the privilege of teaching Sunday school at New Georgia Baptist Church. The text was 1 Samuel 17. Here is the outline for the text, which I distributed to the class.]

Exposition (vv 1-25)
¨    The Philistines arrive (vv 1-3)
¨    Introduction of Goliath (vv 4-10)
¨    Saul and the Israelites are in fear (v 11)
¨    David is re-introduced (vv 12-25)

Rising Action (vv 26-40)
¨    David, offended by Goliath, asks about him and is rebuffed by his brother, Eliab (vv 26-30)
¨    David is brought before Saul (v 31)
¨    David volunteers to fight Goliath (v 32)
¨    Saul seeks to dissuade David (v 33)
¨    David gives his resume`: the story of the lion then the bear (vv 34-37)
¨    Saul attempts to place his armor on David (vv 38-39)
¨    David arms himself for battle (v 40)

Climax (vv 41-51)
¨    David and Goliath meet for battle (v 41)
¨    Goliath disdains and ridicules David (vv 42-44)
¨    David rebukes Goliath in the name of the LORD (vv 45-47)
¨    The combatants meet, and David kills Goliath (vv 48-51)

Falling Action (vv 52-54): The Israelites route the Philistines.

Resolution (vv 55-58): Saul takes notice of David.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Salvation by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone

[As part of an application for a local Christian school, I was required to respond to the prompt-"Comment on the assertion 'Lost sinners are saved by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone'"- in no more than two paragraphs. What follows is my response.]

People are rightly considered “lost sinners” in need of salvation because, due to the fall of Adam–our federal head according to God’s original creation–we have inherited a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His Law, and we are under condemnation. As soon as people become capable of moral action, we become actual transgressors. (Gen 3:4-7; Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3) Due to our radically corrupt nature, we can in no way contribute to our own salvation, but we are entirely dependent upon grace alone: God’s contra-merited favor. Due to our sins, we deserve nothing from God except His anger and judgment. But, though justice would consign every sinner to Hell, God has chosen to extend love and mercy.

Sinners receive God’s mercy as we are justified–counted right in God’s sight–through faith alone. Saving faith is a gift from God, which consists of knowing the gospel, assenting to the truth of the gospel, and trusting in the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what the Lord Jesus Christ did on our behalf. He lived the perfect life that Adam and all others failed to live. He died upon the Cross as an act of penal substitutionary atonement, He was buried, and He rose from the grave on the third day, conquering sin, death, and Hell. Jesus is the only divinely appointed mediator between God and Man (1 Tim 2:5) and has been established as the federal head of the new creation that God is bringing about by His grace. For these reasons and others, salvation is in Christ alone.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Behind in His Reading"

[I'm posting this just because I read it today, and I think it's funny.]

Junior bit the meter man,
Junior kicked the cook.
Junior's antisocial now
(according to the book). 
Junior smashed the clock and lamp,
Junior hacked the tree.
(Destructive trends are treated
in Chapters 2 and 3.) 
Junior threw his milk at Mom,
Junior screamed for more.
(Notes on self-assertiveness
are found in Chapter 4.) 
Junior tossed his shoes and socks
out into the rain.
(Negation, that, and normal:
disregard the stain.) 
Junior got in Grandpop's room,
tore up his fishing line.
That's to gain attention.
(See page 89.) 
Grandpop seized a slipper and
yanked Junior 'cross his knee.
(Grandpop hasn't read a book
since 1923.)

[The above poem, author unknown, appears in James Dobson's The New Strong-Willed Child (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), 139-140.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Horrific Beyond Belief: Aborted Babies Burned to Heat Hospitals

They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35 NASB)

I owe several of my Facebook friends an apology. When you posted status updates about aborted babies burned to produce electricity in order to power hospitals, I rolled my eyes. I assumed that you had fallen for another Facebook urban legend and that you had erred in not checking your sources. The story was too outrageous to be true.

But I was wrong.

As The Telegraph reported yesterday,

"The remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as 'clinical waste' by hospitals in Britain with some used in 'waste to energy' plants."

There has, apparently, been significant public outcry in Britain over this practice. But, as Dr. Albert Mohler reminded listeners this morning on The Briefing webcast, there is a fundamental inconsistency in a worldview that would allow killing babies to be considered acceptable but certain methods of cremating their remains to be considered unacceptable.

This should remind Christians that we cannot take our cues on right and wrong from this utterly-confused world. Sinners can justify the most terrible sins- even murder- not allowing their consciences to kick in until way too late. We must call out sin for what it is and call all people to Christ, the only Savior from sin, death, and Hell.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Individualism: Improper and Proper

[Bearing some relation to my last post...]

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you....

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

The narrow application of Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 is rather straightforward. Jesus gives very specific information on how His followers are to engage in certain devotional practices and His followers are to faithfully obey His teaching in these areas. But we must also explore how this passage applies more broadly in our current cultural context.

In some academic circles it has become popular to speak against the “individualism” of Western culture. Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, for example, decry, “The individualism and self-centeredness so characteristic of our social environment.”[1] Some of the criticism against an over-individualistic reading of Scripture has certainly been helpful; for example, in Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach demonstrate that the idea of “corporate moral responsibility” is “pervasive in Scripture,” and that it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel, yet the idea of “corporate moral responsibility” is neglected in “our individualistic age.”[2] Also, it should be noted that most every church could benefit from a careful study of the many “one another” passages in the New Testament (John 13:34-35; 1 Cor 1:10; Gal 5:13; 1 Thess 4:18; Rom 15:14; etc.), or other passages that speak of life together in the body of the church– passages that would certainly confront selfish ‘hyper-individualism.’

But the campaign against “individualism” can be carried too far. In Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, Jesus speaks of individuals before God. In the secret acts of devotion outlined in this passage, followers of Jesus are specifically limited in the ways in which they can interact with others. In fasting, the Christian may go into a public setting, but he may not put his act of spiritual devotion on display– he must keep his fasting hidden. In prayer, the Christian is to become utterly secluded away from others. In giving charity, the Christian is to remain anonymous. Only the Christian and the “Father, who sees in secret” are to regularly know the details of the Christian’s devotional practices.

The secret aspect of the Christian’s devotional life, along with Jesus’ talk of reward before the Father, serves as a reminder that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10 NASB). In speaking out against the selfish ‘hyper-individualism’ in our culture, Christians must remember that the culture will not be changed by any social agenda or church program, but only as individuals repent, come under the teaching of Christ (trusting in Him for who He is and what He has done), and begin to seek the reward of God rather than the praise of men.

[1] Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 213.
[2] Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 245-248.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Public Worship > Private Worship? Two Concerns

Recently, a friend of mine published the following quote on Facebook:

Public worship is to be preferred before private. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by His people.

This was followed by his own expansion of the quote:

Public worship is to be preferred before the spiritual disciplines. So it is by the Lord, so it should be by His people.

While I appreciate what my friend was trying to do in posting these quotes (i.e., stir up the people of God to consider the importance of public worship), I do have two concerns about these quotes:

1. These quotes set public worship against private worship (and the spiritual disciplines). I understand that these quotes are likely given in response to people who would minimize the importance of public worship, while ostensibly asserting that private worship is sufficient. But the remedy for a mindset that denigrates public worship must confront the attitude that would set public and private worship at odds. I have personally spoken to people who have said that they don't need to go to church because they can worship God just as well at home. But invariably, when further probing questions are asked, it comes to light that those who regularly neglect public worship don't have much in the way of private worship going on in their lives either. On the other hand, those who neglect private worship are invariably hamstrung in their service to the church. Sure, they may show up at church meetings, they may have their co-members fooled into thinking that they're doing fine (if their particular congregation fosters a low-accountability environment), but if any spiritual examination comes into play then it quickly becomes evident that the "one another" commands of the New Testament (and the exercise of the spiritual gifts within the church, which are dependent upon the individual members of the church obeying the commands concerning life in the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:16, 25; Eph 5:18; 1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30) are not obeyed by those who regularly neglect private worship. Public worship and private worship are mutually interdependent. This is illustrated in the words of Christ to the churches in Revelation 2-3, as Jesus speaks to the churches as a whole, then concludes each letter with a word to the individual: "Let he who has an ear [a singular phrase] hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

2. Christ promises rewards for private worship. In Matthew 6, those who properly exercise private "acts of righteousness"- unknown to others, but only to God- are promised rewards from the Father. To my knowledge (and I am certainly open to correction on this, if someone else can provide scriptural examples), Christ makes no such promises of rewards in regard to public worship.