Monday, October 14, 2013

Gentle Reformation Interview on Warnings and Exhortations

Last week I sat for a podcast interview with Austin Brown and Barry York of Gentle Reformation.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
Col 1:21-23
We are quite comfortable with the above verse, until, of course, we come to that little word “if.”  It jumps out at us like a bugbear, startling us, even disturbing us.  Why say that, Paul?  Why toss in an “if.”  It sounds like you’re positing a condition to salvation?  Isn’t our salvation secure?
Even more forceful passages could be gathered from the apostolic letters, exhortations warning us of the dire consequences of committing apostasy.  The book of Hebrews certainly comes to mind.
So what are we to do with such statements?  Brush them under the rug?  Explain them away?  Perhaps we should just flip the page quickly?
In today’s interview with Dr. Ardel Caneday, co-author of the insightful book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance, we’ll explore the biblical relationship between promise and warning, assurance and perseverance.

For myself, I am convinced that Dr. Caneday and Dr. Schreiner have provided the church with an invaluable resource, helping us understand how these two thorny and often polarizing concepts harmonize with one another.  If after listening to the interview, you’re interested in learning more, you can find the book online at Amazon.  Just click the picture below.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We Write to be Assured that We are not Alone

Recently I had an occasion to give serious reflection upon my achievements with regard to research and writing. As I did so, a few things became apparent. The track record reflects my diverse interests--OT, NT, biblical theology, systematic theology, linguistics, philosophy, church history, history, culture, etc. Patterns and themes show themselves. Dominating my work, however, is Scripture's use of Scripture. This has definitely captured my attention with a focus upon the Bible's storyline which figures out in Christ Jesus. (I trust that my imagery is not lost on anyone who reads this.)
As I considered my research and writing program with an eye toward immediate and longer-range projections, I was constrained to give careful thought to why I engage in research and writing. Indeed, the ultimate objective and goal is to glorify God. But why research and write, when plenty of my peers in the academic sphere are quite content to confine their influence to the classroom and not beyond it?
I wondered. If it is true that “we read to know we are not alone” (Shadowlands), perhaps we write to be assured that we are not alone. By this, I mean, we write to perfect our thoughts as our own to influence others to join with us in our understanding. Writing for others draws others to share our thoughts and ideas with us, and if done well, to think God's thoughts after him.
Long ago I learned a great benefit and value of writing for others, whether for presentation or publication or both. Writing disciplines speech. The discipline of writing constrains me to acquire a large vocabulary, the benefit of which is that this lexicon goes with me to the classroom to adorn my speech with variation and with precision which I would otherwise not possess, which would diminish the quality and effectiveness of my teaching. Thus, we become much better communicators in our speech, if we become disciplined writers. We become better teachers in the classroom, if we submit our written thoughts and ideas to the chastening and criticism of others, especially that of editors.
Hence, I write in order that I might become a more effective classroom instructor, a better communicator of all that the Lord gives me to teach. An added privilege to writing for publication is that the classroom of my influence expands exponentially beyond our college campus, even around the world.
After a quarter of a century of instructing students in classrooms, one of my great desires is that my classroom teaching might someday come to measure up to my writing. I fear, however, that time will expire for me before parity is attained.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Emmanuel, God with Us, in The Gospel of John

Everyone who has heard the Christmas story knows that one of the titles given to the child, Jesus, is Ἐμμανουήλ, Emmanuel, which according to The Gospel of Matthew means “God with us” (1:23), in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. The apostle John's version of “God with us,” however, is not as well known perhaps because John does not point it out as Matthew does but also because our English translations tend to obscure John's “God with us.”

Two passages in the apostle John's writings present “God with us.” Both passages present God as “dwelling among us” in a tent or tabernacle. The first is the familiar verse of John 1:14—“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we looked upon his glory, glory as of the one of a kind with the Father, full of grace and truth.” Familiar English translations translate the aorist verb, ἐσκήνωσεν, as “dwelt,” a legitimate translation. However, because John could have used a variety of other Greek words for “dwell,” it seems apparent that John means something more than simply “lived among us.” Because he uses a verb (σκηνόω) that has the same root derivation as the noun “tent,” John is making a strong allusion to both the “tent of meeting” (Ex. 33:7-11) and the “tabernacle” where the Lord revealed his presence among the Israelites of old.

So, what is John 1:14 telling us when he says, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacle among us”? The apostle means that the Lord no longer reveals himself in a tabernacle constructed in the wilderness or the temple built in Jerusalem but in flesh, in the man Christ Jesus. Thus, Jesus announces his riddle, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Likewise, Jesus declares to the woman of Samaria, “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such as these who will worship him” (John 4:21-23).

Certainly, much more could be said, but brevity calls for a short note on John’s use of the same imagery in Revelation 21:3. Here John uses both the noun, “tent” or “tabernacle” (ἡ σκηνὴ), and the verb, “will pitch a tent” or “will take up residence” (σκηνώσει). The loud voice from God’s throne announces, “Look! God’s tabernacle is with humans, and he makes his tabernacle with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God” (21:3). Thus, in Christ Jesus, God fulfills his promise of long ago, not just through the prophet Isaiah, but also when he said through Moses, “I will set my sanctuary in their midst forever, and my place of lodging will be among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ex. 37:26-27).

Emmanuel (Ἐμμανουήλ), God with us, is what John means when he tells us, Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν—“And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.”

(This is a piece that I wrote as part of a package for the promotion of studying Koiné Greek at our college. I’ve not completely abandoned this blog. I’ve just become excessively occupied with off-line writing, editing, etc.)