Posts Tagged ‘Biblical Studies’

During a debate with Dr Bart Ehrman, the agnostic chair of religious studies at UNC Chapel Hill, Daniel Wallace announced that a first century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel has been recovered. If this is true, it’s kind of a big deal.  Many people believe that the Bible is a collection of basically unreliable texts that have been so changed over the years that we cannot even be sure that they bare any resemblance to the original documents.  Beginning in the 1800’s, critical scholarship began to cast official doubt upon the reliability of the Bible, giving this thought credence.  What was surprising to me to find out was that while this movement gave significantly later dates to the New Testament documents than traditionally given, scholarship has slowly turned this back.  One example of this is John’s Gospel.  Liberal critical scholars in the early 1900’s said that John’s Gospel could have been written as late as 100 years after Jesus’  death.  This idea was shattered in the 1930’s when p-52 was discovered.  This piece of ancient papyrus contained the oldest known piece of any of the Gospels.  And it was from John’s Gospel!  The piece dated to around 125 A.D.  Which meant that the document had to be in circulation a long while before this document was transcribed in or around Egypt.  Today, liberal critical Biblical scholars generally date the synoptic Gospels around the 80’s and 90’s A.D.  If this fragment is genuine, it could cause these scholars to reexamine many of their assumptions about a late date for the writing down of the details of Jesus’ life.  It really is amazing when you look to find out that the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels continue to withstand criticism.  If there’s anything we can be sure of, it’s Jesus.  That’s true in every sense possible.

 “To inspire all people through the power of the Gospel to become living members of the Body of Christ…”

The Revelation to John

Dec 8:              Who is this Jesus?                     (Rev 1.9-20)


“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts:  the knowledge of God and of our selves.  But while joined by man bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.” –Calvin, Institutes Book 1.1.1.


Our topic today is “Who is this Jesus,” and if we are to take the quote seriously from John Calvin that I have just read, and I hope that we do, then we see that the answer to this questions hinges upon knowing two things:  Jesus and Self.  We cannot know Jesus unless we know self and we cannot know self unless we know Jesus.  The selection of the verses for today exhibit both in profound ways.  Let us turn then to knowledge of self.


“I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the Kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus…”  In Roman Catholic, and unfortunately some Protestant churches, it is common to refer to John as “Saint.”  Aside from the fact that Scripture clearly defines the household of confessing believers as saints (Eph 3.18), the appellation “Saint” assigned only to certain Christians has unfortunate pastoral consequences.  For one, what are the adjectives most commonly associated with a saint? Righteous, perfect, holy, innocent, sinless etc.  In other words, NOTHING LIKE YOU.  But the grace of this particular scripture is that John seeks not to differentiate himself from us with exalted titles, but he seeks to identify with us by calling us “Brother.”  John can call us “brother” because he is made from the same stuff we are.  He has the same shortcomings, the same weaknesses, the same vulnerabilities and the same fears.  He has the same need for salvation.  So he begins this section of Revelation with “I, John, your brother.” (more…)

“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.  For Christ our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5.7)

The mention of “leaven” in v. 6 naturally suggests imagery from Paul’s own history as a law-abiding Jew, namely the two religious rituals of Passover.  he begins with a direct allusion to the ceremonial removal of all leaven from their homes (Exod. 12:15), which in turn prompts an alusion to the most important event of all, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb (Exod 12.6).

Thus he shifts from the “small” leaven and “whole” batch (of dough) in the proverb to “old” leaven and “new” batch (of dough) from teh Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The imagery is expressed as an imperative, similar to that which had long been a part of his Jewish experience.  “Get rid of that old leaven”.  In this context, of course, this refers to the removal of the incestuous man in v. 5; but as v. 8 indicates, the very use of such imagery has the possibility of broader application.  The purpose of this removal of “leaven” reflects the process of starting over with a new batch of unleavened dough, and is applied directly to the corporate life of the community: “that you may be a new batch,” that is, that they might be a people without the leaven of sin in their midst.

In so applying the imagery, however, Paul expresses himself in a way that is foreign to his own theology; so he immediately qualifies it with “even as you really are.”  As always in Paul, the imperative, even thought it must be obeyed, cannot be turned into a piece of legal material, obedience to which gives favor with God.  Right at the point where the imperative sounds as if it comes first (“Get rid of the odl so that you may be new”), he reminds them that what they must become is what they are already by the Grace of God.  “Become what you are” is the basic nature of Paul’s parenesis.  he is simply too steeped in the religious heritage of the OT to allow a divorce of ethics from the gift of God’s favor.  But he has been too badly burnded by his former pharisaism to allow that ethics leads to that gift of favor.  Thie indicative always comes first: “You are a new loag (God’s people) by sheer grace adn mercy.”  But without the imperative the former has failed to be the power of God unto salvation.  Hence, “Now become what you are, God’s ‘new loaf’ in Corinth”.  The application to our own lives and church is of course universal.

-Fee, G. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT pg 216-217)

There is a depth of thought and a precision of language exhibited here by the great Genevan reformer that is unequivocally absent in today’s Christian thinkers. Read this once, then again, then again until the full weight of what is being said sinks in.

God had, indeed, promised a new covenant at the coming of Christ; but had, at the same time, showed, that it would not be different from the first, but that, on the contrary, its design was, to give a perpetual sanction to the covenant, which he had made from the beginning, with his own people.

“I will write my law, (says he,) in their hearts,
and I will remember their iniquities no more,”
(Jeremiah 31:33, 34.)

By these words he is so far from departing from the former covenant, that, on the contrary, he declares, that it will be confirmed and ratified, when it shall be succeeded by the new. This is also the meaning of Christ’s words, when he says, that he came to fulfill the law: for he actually fulfilled it, by quickening, with his Spirit, the dead letter, and then exhibiting, in reality, what had hitherto appeared only in figures.

With respect to doctrine, we must not imagine that the coming of Christ has freed us from the authority of the law: for it is the eternal rule of a devout and holy life, and must, therefore, be as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform. With respect to ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of shadows: for, when we see their full effect, we acknowledge that they are not vain or useless. Let us therefore learn to maintain inviolable this sacred tie between the law and the Gospel, which many improperly attempt to break. For it contributes not a little to confirm the authority of the Gospel, when we learn, that it is nothing else than a fulfillment of the law; so that both, with one consent, declare God to be their Author.

Calvin, The Harmony of the Gospels, commenting on Matt 5.17

read the rest here

This is a must read for those of you who want to dive deeper into understanding God’s covenants throughout the Scriptures and their role in salvation history. This is also a fine article for gaining a grasp on Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament. Take the time to read it all!

As covenant revelation has progressed throughout the ages it has reached its consummation in the new covenant, and the new covenant is not wholly diverse in principle and character from the covenants which have preceded it and prepared for it, but it is itself the complete realization and embodiment of that sovereign grace which was the constitutive principle of all the covenants. And when we remember that covenant is not only bestowment of grace, not only oath-bound promise, but also relationship with God in that which is the crown and goal of the whole process of religion, namely, union and communion with God, we discover again that the new covenant brings this relationship also to the highest level of achievement. At the centre of covenant revelation as its constant refrain is the assurance “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people”. The new covenant does not differ from the earlier covenants because it inaugurates this peculiar intimacy. It differs simply because it brings to the ripest and richest fruition the relationship epitomized in that promise. In this respect also the new covenant is an everlasting covenant — there is no further expansion or enrichment. The mediator of the new covenant is none other than God’s own Son, the effulgence of the Father’s glory and the express image of His substance, the heir of all things. He is its surety also. And because there can be no higher mediator or surety than the Lord of glory, since there can be no sacrifice more transcendent in its efficacy and finality than the sacrifice of Him who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot unto God, this covenant cannot give place to another. Grace and truth, promise and fulfilment, have in this covenant received their pleroma, and it is in terms of the new covenant that it will be said, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them” (Rev. xxi. 3).

read the rest here

I. God wishes us to study Christ

Again and again He opens out His ‘unsearchable riches,’ and gives us another and another view of the ‘unspeakable gift.’ Study His person; study His work—the wisdom, and the power, and the love of God are there! Study all His fullness, and, as you study it, drink it in! Study the cross; study the resurrection; study the present majesty of the ascended and interceding Christ; study His coming glory as Judge, and King, and Bridegroom. There is none like Him—neither shall ever be. He is the chief among ten thousand; the only perfect One; the all-perfect One; the representative of the invisible Godhead; the doer of the Father’s will; the accomplisher of the Father’s purpose—both of vengeance and of grace.

 II. Christ wishes us to study himself
‘Look unto me,’ He says in this book. Jesus showed to His servant John the things concerning Himself, that the Church in all ages might see and know these things. He unveils Himself in His glory, and says, Look on me! Here Christ is all and in all; and He would gladly teach us here what that all is, and what that in all implies.

 III. Christ uses ‘human’ messengers.

He is head over all things to the Church, and He makes use of all things as His servants, saying to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. Though invisible now and in the heaves, He uses human agencies still. He speaks through men; He teaches through men; He comforts through men; He warns through men. ‘We beg you, in Christ’s stead be you reconciled to God,’ are words which show us how He stands towards us.

IV. God uses ‘angelic’ messengers.

In the government both of the church and of the world He makes use of angels. They are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. Jesus comes Himself to John; yet the Revelation comes to John by an angel. How the angel communicated with John we know not. Who he was, whether Michael or Gabriel, we know not. But it is an angelic messenger that is made use of here. This whole book is full of angelic agencies and ministries. God lifts a little of the veil, and shows us angels at work in conducting the affairs of earth. This is the book of ANGELS—for the word occurs in it seventy-six times. They minister to man; they execute God’s judgments; they do His will here; excelling in strength, and able to counteract the power of Satan and his angels.

V. God annexes a ‘special blessedness’ to the study of this book.

Few believe this; fewer act upon it. The Apocalypse is too many like the Sibyl’s books, or the Iliad of Homer. The so-called philosophy of the age is undermining the prophetic word, reducing it to a mere collection of figures, or symbolic representation of principles or abstract truths. Prophecy as the direct prediction by God of what is to come to pass on earth is set aside, and the prophetic books are studies merely in reference to their poetry or their lofty ideas. Blessedness in studying them is seldom thought of, even by many Christians. Yet the word of God here stands true. Prophecy is a sure word, and it is as blessed as it is sure. Woe to him who slights it! Blessed are all those who meditate on it, seek to know it, and take it for guidance and counsel in the evil day!


Bonar’s entire commentary on Revelation can be found here

ACT’S OF THE APOSTLES 28: 23-30 (11.16.08)

During our parish retreat last year, while Iain and I were away at the consecration of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of S.C., you came up with the mission statement for our parish.  It reads: “To inspire all people, through the power of the Gospel, to become living members of the Body of Christ.”  It is a powerful statement for many reasons, reasons that we have gone over before and reasons that we will go over again.  But today, I might like to draw your attention to one aspect of the mission statement, that being that when you fashioned it, you did so in such a way as to state that you believe the Gospel accomplishes something and is used in a specific way to do so.

You and I are of course, not the first to believe that our “product” is meant to achieve something.  In fact, much of corporate America goes to great expense and trouble to state clearly what they think their products can and cannot achieve and what is the proper way to use said products.  Listen to the following:

On a plastic plate:  this item does not rust

On the package of a Batman costume:  Cape does not enable user to fly

On a hair color kit:  do not use as an ice cream topping

On a bottle of milk:  After opening, keep upright

On a chainsaw:  Do not try and stop the saw with your hands

On an can of insecticide:  Kills all kinds of insects…Warning:  this product is harmful to bees

As foolish as some of them sound, the above companies have gone to great lengths to state what their product accomplishes and how it is mean to be used.  At Trinity, we have done the same thing.  At Trinity, we believe the number one thing we have to offer the world, the one thing that no one else in the world can offer except the church, is the Gospel.  We believe the Gospel is meant to be proclaimed, principally in words (though deeds bear witness to it) and that it accomplishes something quite specific.  Namely we believe that the Gospel has the power to cause men and women, dead in their sins, to come alive to God and become living members of the Body of Christ.  More recently, we have even attempted to state what we believe a “living member” of the Body of Christ looks like.  We believe when God has transformed someone’s heart through the Gospel, that they will “live, grow, serve, and give.”  That is, they will come alive to God in worship,  grow in the knowledge and love of him, serve the church and the community, and give of themselves towards the work of the Kingdom.  As a church, it is important that we not only consider how this happens, but that we also consider what keeps it from happening.  For the answer to this question, we turn Acts ch. 28 for our final sermon in this series. (more…)