Monday, October 29, 2007

ROMANS 7 [this is boring and really just for john paulling, tom schreiner, and doug moo]

Many argue for a pre-regenerate reading of Paul in Rom 7. This is, of course, in contrast to the historical Reformed way it has been read – that Paul is describing Christian sentiments. First of all, 7 comes before 8 in most Bibles. Thus, the supposed war of 7 should always be read in view of the victory through the Spirit in 8. However, there are some lovely constructions in the Greek that show that the way this text has normally been read is appropriate.

Paul’s line of argument, his grammar, and his use of conjunctions throughout Rom 7 prove that Rom 7.14-20 is a singular thought. This first chart shows that Paul uses almost the exact syntactical structure in vs.14-16 as he does in vs.18-20. This highlights 7.17. Why is this important?

The pre-regenerate readings of Rom 7 say that the present tense verbs are “historical” presents and that Paul's use of "I" is not a personal testimony, but a rhetorical device. These are viable options. But look at 7.17. If this structure sandwich confirms that the meat here is 7.17, then how we understand it could help us on how this passage should be read.

Several points must be made about 7.17. The first two words are a phrase that is used for emphatic time indication [also in 3.21, 6.22, 7.6, 15.23, and 15.25]. This fact alone should be enough to warrant veracity to the historic interpretation. However, there is further evidence. The third word is a negative adverb of time. Then, if stacking three present time words together wasn’t enough, Paul uses two present tense verbs beside one another as if to say, “I myself alone am [not] doing….”

The second chart is not as swaying, but is still icing on the credible cake [I need better word pictures]. It is also a grammatical structure that centers in on the present tense regenerate Paul and his struggles. If you don’t like all this, Doug Moo has better support for both positions in his NICNT Romans commentary on pages 442-452.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ROM 8 and EPH 1

When Presbyterians get excited, they start talking about the covenant. When Wesleyans get excited, they start talking about sanctification. When Catholics get excited they start talking about saints and sacraments. When Pentecostals get excited, they start talking about speaking in tongues [or they just speak in tongues]. When RC Sproul gets excited, he starts talking about justification by faith. When John Piper gets excited, he starts talking about the glory of God. And so on ad infinitum. The point is that when we're stirred over God's mercy in saving us, we all tend to use certain language. So, here's what comes to the Apostle Paul's mind....


Your friends and mine, Al Mohler and NT Wright, have good commentary on the modern view of God and evil. Excellent reads.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

eschatological HALLELUJAH

The book of Psalms is really five books [1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150]. There are only 9 psalms in the whole Psalter than begin and end with the unique Hebrew word “Hallelujah” [106, 113, 117, 135, 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150; often called “Hallel Psalms”]. All of these psalms are in book 5 of the Psalter, except Psalm 106; it is the last psalm in book 4, awaiting the unhindered praise of book 5.

Furthermore, the last 5 psalms in book 5 are all Hallel Psalms. It seems to me that this joyous and triumphant praise is saved for last because of the sense of finality that it carries. Derek Kidner says that “the psalms are a miniature of our story as a whole, which will end in unbroken blessing and delight.” But further still, the revelation of Jesus to John on Patmos appears to give insight here.

Nowhere in the NT do we find the word “Hallelujah” until we arrive at Rev 19. The great Babylon of Rev 18 has fallen. The table at the marriage supper of the Lamb is set for its guests. Also, the choir of voices that echo this distinct praise includes: a great multitude in 19.1 and 19.6; the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures in 19.4; and the bond-servants of God in 19.5. Some even see Rev 19.1-6 as the last of 5 doxological scenes in John’s apocalypse [4.5-11, 5.11-14, 7.9-17, 15.2-8, and 19.1-6]. Even if this is stretching it, there is no doubt that the Biblical shape of Hallelujah directly entails eschatological hope and consummative jubilee.

Monday, October 22, 2007


This makes me want to preach harder, sing lower, and wear bigger collars.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth [2 tim 2.15].

In the intro of Athanasius’ De Incarnatione, C. S. Lewis compares books of devotion and books of doctrine:
Now the layman or amateur needs to be instructed as well as to be exhorted. In this age his need for knowledge is particularly pressing... For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.
So Ezra set his mind to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel [ezra 7.10].
The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals [Samuel Davies, 1723-1761].
When you come bring the cloak which I let at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments [2 tim 4.13].

Spurgeon preached on the this text in 1863:
How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Late in 2005, my friend Steve and his core group had about 90 on their church plant's launch Sunday. Now, 20 months later, they have at least 2500 people every week and are the third fastest growing church in America. They are a multi-site church in Charlotte, NC called Elevation.

Steve is a solid brother. He loves our Lord. He is always intense. You might not agree with him on every jot and tittle of theology. You may think he's a heretic because he has preached in a way-too-tight Def Leopard shirt and pastors First Baptist Trendy. But.... I know this man and he is just as saved by grace as any man in Christ.

What Elevation did this past week is undebatably unique and distractingly beautiful. For their new series kick-off, they passed out money to everyone who was there. That's right. Some got $5, some $10, some $20, and one person randomly got $1000 in each service. They didn't take up an offering and instead gave money away for their people to bless others. They're calling it the Bless Back Project.


William Cowper thought he was not among the elect. This is apparent in his poetry, his depression, and even in some of his hymns. G. K. Chesterton saw it. In Orthodoxy, he claimed that Cowper was “damned by John Calvin.” Cowper was friends with John Newton [pastor and hymnist who wrote “Amazing Grace”] and lived with him for 12 years. Newton would write to William to encourage him in his fearful despair.

July 30, 1767 [excerpts]:

I can only advise you to resist to the utmost every dark and discouraging suggestion.

Though sin has abounded in us, grace has superabounded in him; though our enemies are many and mighty, Jesus is above them all; though He may hide himself from us at times, He has given us a warrant to trust him, even while we walk in darkness, He has promised to return, and gather us with everlasting mercies.

So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find that saying and doing are two different things.

We please ourselves with agreeable prospects and proposals; but determination is with the Lord. We may rejoice that it is, He sees all things in their dependences and connexions, which we see not, and therefore he often thwarts our wishes for our good.

Let us strive and pray for a habitual resignation to his will; for He does all things well. It is never ill with us but when our hearts doubt or forget this plainest of truths.

Monday, October 8, 2007

ROMANS 8.29-30

Romans 1-11 is a unit. Romans 1-8 is a unit. Romans 5-8 is a unit. The phrase “Christ Jesus our Lord” begins this section [5.1] and closes it [8.39]. This phrase also serves as a marker that ends shorter sections in 5-8 [5.11, 5.21, 6.23, 7.25, 8.39]. More climatically however, Paul ends chapters 5-8 in a very unique way.

He gets to such a point in his argument that he begins to talk about the future love of God in a past tense way because he is so zealously sure of it. He says that all those that God foreknew, He predestined; all He predestined, He called; all He called, He justified; and all He justified, He glorified [8.29-30]. The glorification of the believer [being made like Christ and being with Christ] is a future event, but Paul uses a past tense verb to describe it! He is overtaken with free grace and can in no way state it any clearer. Because of this he then asks seven rhetorical questions to highlight the unbreakable truths of 8.29-30. As Judith M. Gundry-Volf says...

Paul portrays salvation as a series of divine initiatives snowballing toward fullness. He links these initiatives so tightly that each is born of the former and bears a promise of the one which follows. Glorification is thus the finishing touch on the indivisible divine work of salvation which originated in God’s foreknowledge and predestination of Christians and has come to historical expression in their calling and justification. These verses truly do form a “chain” of interconnected divine salvific works and so imply a continuity in Christian’s salvation.

So, the Apostle states the positive realities of salvation in 8.29-30, seven rhetorical questions that are wrought by his close-to-speechlessness in 8.31-35, and then closes by a negative affirmation of what he knows can’t happen to those who are in Christ [8.38-39]: Death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things future, height, depth, nor anything ever created can separate us from God’s love in Jesus.

pope john paul on EVANGELiZATiON

The “how to” of evangelization looms large in Christianity and rightly so. It is not unusual to see methods slaughter the Gospel on the altar of relevance. Whether it be a denominational program, a seeker-based approach, or an emerging watered-down gospel, everyone has a slant on how. So, I figured you’d like to know Pope John Paul’s take.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

fastest growing churches in America

Personal and pointless facts about the 100 fastest growing churches in America, especially from the view a Bible-belt South Carolinian:

1. A father and son combo make the cut and each have their own church.

2. Husbands and wives pastor some of these congregations together. I must have missed that somewhere in the pastoral

3. The fastest growing church in America is a Latino-based congregation.

4. It is simply
intriguing to see which denominations are on this list and which are not. This is not a slam or a compliment, merely noteworthy.

5. With each congregation it lists the number of campuses they have and the only church with 10 or more campuses is in South Carolina. Congrats?!

6. There are a whole lot of HUGE ones in the south.

7. My friend Steve planted the third fastest growing church in the country! He also played on stage with Green Day in high school.

8. Jesus will build His church [Matt 16.18] and all growth of the church will come from Him being the God-ordained head [Col 2.19] and not necessarily really cool lights or cute talks on how to live better tomorrow. This is not sarcastic or
pessimistic, but hopeful and realistic. Lord, please make these churches Gospel-saturated. I dare you to pick just 5 off the list and pray.


"Religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children." These are sweet words from best-selling atheist Christopher Hitchens. Read more. My other two favorite atheiests are my brother-in-law and Richard Dawkins.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living bible?

This is some Søren Kierkegaard with a good, swift kick to the academic crotch [at least it was to me]...

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the very minute we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming to close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without it? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.


I found this really helpful, beautiful, and thought-provoking on John 17.... and you should too.

Monday, October 1, 2007


If it is tangible or visible, it undefines itself. Who hopes for what he already sees? Hope, by nature, must be a conviction of future surety. It is a horizon of absolutes that is apprehended and daily known through faith. Yet one day, these things which are our food for today, will be no longer needed. Faith and hope will die. Our faith shall be sight and we will meet the sun on the horizon of hope. But in the now, this kind of hope births perseverance and does not waver in the face of temporal options. This is the precise type of hope that does not disappoint. Or as G.K. Chesterton notes, “Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism.”


This is from George Mueller's book "Answers to Prayer." He lived from 1805-1898 and fed thousands of children at an orphanage, some nights not knowing where food would come from the next morning.

1. I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever that may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

3. I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

4. Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.

6. Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge; and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving the most important issues, I have found this method always effective.