‘We must take Revelation literally!’ they say. ‘Except when I don’t do so!’

I have written several papers on how the church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries reported that they experienced the gift of prophecy. Only in the early 3rd century did Origen observe that “since [the time of Christ and the apostles] these signs have diminished, although there are still traces of His presence in a few who have had their souls purified by the Gospel, and their actions regulated by its influence.” [Origen Against Celsus 7.8 (ANF 4.614)]. For him, prophecy was a supernatural message directly from God, not preaching or exhortation in general. The dispensationalist and Reformed Christians typically state that the gift of prophecy by definition must have ended with the death of the last apostle or the close of the NT canon, that is, around the year AD 100. This despite the many, widespread reports of Christian prophecy in the 2nd century. I was looking at Revelation 11, and it hit me that a dispensationalist must have serious difficulty with the description of the two end-time witnesses. They interpret this passage as eschatological, and yet it says that people prophesy centuries after the close of the canon! And also perform miracles, which according to some, are not possible after AD 100. I quote the passage at length, so show how clear is the language of “prophet”, “prophesy”: 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying… 10 and those… Read More

Read More

Share

Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 24

​We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 9:27-38; Acts 14; Psalm 22:12-31, Genesis 49. The healing of the 2 blind men in Matt. 9 provides crucial insight into how faith operates. Note first something in the blind men’s approach to Jesus. Faith is not a sense of confidence – at least not in oneself in any way. They cried for mercy. A cry for mercy is a cry that denotes no sense of deserving or right. They did not say to themselves “I’m believing for healing!” Their faith wasn’t a worked up sort of thing, it was exercised in helplessness, not confidence. It looks to the benefactor to act only according to the benefactor’s own largess. And it is this recognition for mercy which is so essential to our right understanding of saving faith. Jesus owes us nothing. We deserve only wrath. But recognizing He has both the power and the prerogative to show mercy, we appeal to Him only on that basis. And He is ever faithful to respond in kind. What a great Savior He is! Secondly, we see that some believed because they saw Jesus’ works. These, as blind, could only hear of His works. And yet, for them, that was enough. They believed having only heard. And so according to even that faith, a very slight, but still relying faith – they were healed. Note that v. 27 says they were following Him. They could only hear, and yet they followed. Oh that just hearing would always be enough for me. John 20:29 3rd, notice that it is not great faith that is needed. It is faith in a great Christ… Read More

Read More

Share

Lessons from the Earliest Christians for Our Secular Age

In Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian ‘Third Way’ Changed the World, Gerald Sittser—professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington—shows how the early church emerged in the Roman world with a distinctive identity in Christ. The phrase “new race” or “third race” comes from a second-century letter written to a Roman official named Diognetus. Christians became the “Third Way” after “First Way” Rome and “Second Way” Judaism. Christ’s followers blended into Roman society seamlessly when it came to language, clothing, food, and commerce. But when life involved worship, sexuality, family life, caring for the poor, and proclaiming the gospel, they “functioned as if they were a nation within a nation, culturally assimilated yet distinct at the same time.”   The Roman way was an all-encompassing civil religion, tolerant, pluralistic, and syncretistic. As Sittser observes, “Rome’s religion was Rome itself.” It absorbed new religions into its pantheon, while maintaining absolute subservience to Rome and strict allegiance to the divine status of the emperor. Rome “had the most trouble with the religions that demanded exclusive commitment to one God and to one way of life. Most religions of this kind, especially Christianity, were considered by definition anti-Roman.”  Sittser recounts a conversation he had with a Kenyan pastor in Nairobi. The pastor asked why Christians in America refer to themselves as “American Christians,” suspecting more to the identification than a person who happened to be an American. The title “American Christian” seemed “heretical to him because it tempted Americans to confuse the two identities, and thus to import American culture (e.g., wealth) to other parts of the world, always ‘in the name of Christ.’” The conversation highlights an explicit connection between first-century Rome and post-Christendom America. Indeed, Sittser’s description of ancient Rome fits America today. I believe the scholar-historian is the best… Read More

Read More

Share

Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 23

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 9:14-26; Acts 13:26-52; Psalm 22:1-11, Genesis 48. The Disciples of John came to Jesus with a curious question about fasting. Fasting in Jesus day had taken on some aspects we see even today. Throughout the Old Testament fasting was always tied to some aspect of mourning. It expressed grief over war, famine, loss and especially in repentance after a spiritual decline. But it wasn’t long before fasting became somewhat superstitious – a means to somehow bend the arm of God to do something for us that He was reluctant to do. And it became a symbol of one’s personal piety.  Jesus in his answer to them, bids them to remember that fasting, like so many other things is tied instead to certain seasons. Seasons like I mentioned above. And thus, it would not be proper for Jesus’ disciples to be fasting right at this moment, for He, the Bridegroom was with them. It wasn’t the season for fasting but for rejoicing. Their days of mourning would come in time. But not now.  And this bids us all to remember that even in nature, God has built in the idea of seasons. As the Writer in Ecclesiates reminds us: Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 (ESV) — For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a… Read More

Read More

Share

Finding the Sources of Historic Quotes, Biblical or Otherwise

I have written regularly about avoiding bogus quotes on the internet, but there’s a related challenge: discovering the actual origins of phrases and quotes you’re researching. Especially when you’re dealing with material in the English language before the 1960s, you are likely to encounter intriguing-sounding quotes that may have much older sources. The most likely source is the Bible. In contemporary America, our Bible literacy has plummeted, even among many regular churchgoers. For those who don’t attend church or grow up in devout homes, the ignorance of the Bible can be near-total. I was reminded of this problem recently when I read a scholarly article (identifying it is unnecessary to make my point) where the epigraph referred to Catholic converts potentially “reverting to the vomit.” The author discussed the quote at length, but she seemed unaware that this was referring to Proverbs 26:11. Instead of being a neologism that told us something interesting about the rhetoric and culture of early modern Catholicism, that phrase was widely known to Christians and Jews for millennia. Seemingly no one involved in the publication of this article picked up on the source of the reference. This omission speaks to a lost world of biblical literacy that is not easy to recapture. Exacerbating the situation is that we no longer even have a standard English translation of the Bible, a role that the King James Version played from at least the mid-1600s to the mid-1900s. Scholars must be more inquisitive about the source of quotes than the author above was, or else they can end up in embarrassing situations where a key quote is read out of context. The problem is, how do you know when to look into the origins of a quote? Obviously you can’t do it for every phrase, or you’d get… Read More

Read More

Share

David Murray on Teaching Hosea

Hosea tells a heartbreaking—and for many, a perplexing—story about a prophet told to marry a prostitute. This book is filled with cycle after cycle of promises of judgment. But according to David Murray, professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Hosea gives teachers the opportunity to present people with vivid pictures of God as a faithful husband intent on loving his unfaithful wife, a parent whose heart is twisted up inside him over the effect of his child’s sin, and so much more. In context of all of God’s uncomfortable promises to judge his people in heartbreaking ways, Murray points out God’s repeated promises throughout the book to live, to save, to redeem, and to restore his people to himself after they’ve wandered away from him. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Mentioned in this episode Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.  David Murray: As long as people think of God as a fallacy, as a holier than thou, detached, looking down on, just condemning, criticizing and judging, there’s no pull, there’s no attraction, there’s no desire. But if we can show people the God of Hosea, the God of Gomer actually, then I think we begin to break down barriers and begin to give people hope that this God could be my God. Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible,” I’m Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible is a production of the gospel coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not for profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. My guest today on Help Me Teach the Bible is one of my favorite Bible teachers,… Read More

Read More

Share

Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 22

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 9:1-13; Acts 13:1-25; Psalm 21, Genesis 46-47. And if you hadn’t noticed – you’ve already completed reading 5% of the entire Scripture with today’s portion.  As I write this today, I am reminded of a repeated motif in Scripture which gets repeatedly overlooked. As in the 10 plagues which will come when God is ready to liberate Israel from Egyptian bondage, so here: God’s people are most often KEPT in the World’s trials, not utterly exempted from them.  If our faith is always bound up with God keeping us from trial, temptation and trouble, we will find ourselves doubting God at every turn – every time something grievous or overwhelming enters our lives. But He has not promised to keep us from all these things, but to keep us in them!  So all of Egypt and Canaan were suffering under this famine. And God’s chosen race was not exempted from it. Instead, what they were to find out, is that God had made provision for them – well ahead. And that, by redeeming for their good the very sin they had committed in selling Joseph into slavery. That doesn’t mitigate their sin. Because God can and does bring good out of evil is no justification for evil. But it does show how in His faithfulness to His people and His promises, even in our failures – He has made provision for us.  We may well witness the collapse of Western Culture as we know it. I don’t know. We may well see our political system undo itself or face ecological, biological or economic disaster. Individually and as a people there may be hard and dark days ahead that we never imagined. Individually you or I may suffer all forms of physical maladies, weaknesses, doubts, fear,… Read More

Read More

Share

Matthew’s Gospel as Discipleship Curriculum

Editors’ note:  Take part in TGC’s Read the Bible initiative, where we’re encouraging Christians and churches to read together through God’s Word in a year (PDF reading plan). Subscribe to our daily newsletter and podcast (Apple | RSS | Stitcher), and join our Facebook group (only for those doing the reading plan). You can also listen to the daily Bible readings on Crossway’s podcast. The four Gospels have been caricatured as everything from a disconnected patchwork of history to an esoteric smorgasbord of fables. So when a serious work of scholarship committed to academic integrity appears, one that evidences a depth of familiarity beyond the barricades of inchoate speculation, it’s always a welcome addition to already overstocked bookshelves. What Patrick Schreiner—assistant professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon—does so well is step back and set the scope of reading the Gospels in ways that conform to what philosopher Mortimer Adler coined as “the reading of reading.” One of the keys to reading the Gospels well is to read them within the literary framework of narrative. The Gospels tell a story that’s coherent and connected to earlier theological understandings revealed in the Old Testament. This characteristic is particularly evident when reading Matthew’s Gospel. Schreiner’s Matthew, Disciple and Scribe: The First Gospel and Its Portrait of Jesus teaches Matthew’s readers how to read the gospel-narrative in its context in light of the beginning of divine revelation and the eschatological end. The result is a self-conscious understanding of Jesus through the lens of Old Testament narratives.  “The method Matthew employs to communicate this conviction is ‘gospel-narration’ through the use of shadow stories” (38). Shadow stories are, for Schreiner, short-hand for how one ought to read Matthew. Shadow stories “connect large swaths of narrative rather than just points or… Read More

Read More

Share

Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 21

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 8:23-34; Acts 12; Psalm 20, Genesis 44-45.  The Genesis account of Joseph being reunited with his brothers is powerful and moving. I cannot read it without thinking how we as the human race sold out Jesus, and how He is so full of forgiveness and grace that He falls upon our necks and weeps when we are brought back together. What a picture of salvation.  ​But I would call your attention to this morning is that easily passed-over verse quoting part of Pharaoh’s charge to Joseph regarding his family: “​Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours​.”​ (45:20)​ This simple word from Pharaoh as king, ought to echo in our ears as spoken by our King. Indeed, it is, in the Sermon on the Mount. If we know we are on our way to inherit the Kingdom of God, how much ought our minds to be at ease regarding the goods we have here. That is not a jab against good stewardship over what God has provided for us in the meantime, but it is a reshaping of the “big picture”. It is a reminder that any and all of what we have in this present life cannot hold a candle to awaits us. To truly set our own hearts free by hearing Jesus to not lay up “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:20-21) Heavenly Father, grant me such a heart and mind. Make “the best of all the land” so… Read More

Read More

Share

Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition

One of my most vivid memories growing up in church was the annual summer Sunday our congregation would gather with a local African American church for a joint worship service, followed by a potluck lunch (“dinner on the grounds,” we called it). We handled it like a home-and-home football series—each church played host in alternating years. The visiting preacher delivered the sermon; the visiting choir handled the music. I certainly remember the incredible food and the robust singing. But what stands out in my mind was the preaching. When the black church’s pastor preached, I would sit with my family on the second row (Baptists typically eschew the front row), mesmerized by his handling of God’s Word and the passionate pathos that was part and parcel of his delivery. He and our pastor were close friends, and I remember our pastor saying many times, “I’m glad I don’t have to follow my dear brother into the pulpit.” Indeed, there was a unique power in his style. It was clear to me that this church’s pastor knew God, and he knew his people. Thus it’s with great interest that we should welcome the appearance of a new book, Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody), a multi-author work edited by Eric C. Redmond, associate professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In this interview, we discuss the book as well as the unique style that marks expository preaching in the African American tradition. Tell us about the new book and what inspired it. Say It! intends to both explain and also exalt the relationship between the African American preaching tradition and biblical exposition. For some readers, the book’s significance will be that several African American preachers promote exposition as a powerful means of communicating the… Read More

Read More

Share

1 Corinthians 13 – The More Excellent Way

Reid A Ferguson 1 Corinthians / 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 8:28–30; Ephesians 4:10–16 It was a great joy for me while away, to be able to tune in to the continuing study in 1 Corinthians on the web. It was fun to hear the different speakers, each with their own gifts opening Chapter 12 with so much continuity. It’s not like we all get together and compare notes ahead. We really trust that as each studies the Word and works through the text, we’ll end up with a shared core of doctrinal truth. That has proved to be the case. In addition, each brings their own flavor or nuance, and that proves to be a practical demonstration of the very passages before us. This is the nature of how spiritual gifts work in the Body of Christ as a whole. It is not an issue of everyone being in lockstep. It is unity without uniformity. This is a precious thing. This is the way of God in all creation. I’m not a scientist nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve been told the entire universe is comprised of the very same atomic and sub-atomic particles each with their properties, but arranged in endless combinations. This was the model when I was in school, before the discovery of even smaller particles like photons, bosons, neutrinos, gluons, and up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm quarks. In studying God’s Word in a team effort like we’ve been doing here, we are all working with and keeping to the same essentials, but arranging them with varying emphases and shades as the truth is refracted through each one. So I want to thank Ed, Daniel and Jim especially for managing Chapter 12 as they did together. They set the stage for this… Read More

Read More

Share

Be Faithful to Christ at the Funeral of a Lost Person

As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be balanced; we must not dare compromise the message, but we must also be respectful and compassionate to those we are sent to. In this excerpt, Mark shares how he sought to be faithful to Christ while sharing at the funeral of a lost person. This excerpt was taken from the full sermon, “Transformation For Proclamation (Part 4)“.

Read More

Share
1 2 3 106