Category Archives: Biblical Theology

“Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The most recent issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters contains an article I wrote entitled “Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture.” Here is the abstract:

Within the discussion of Paul’s use of Scripture, scholars have frequently wondered how his predominantly Gentile congregations would have recognized his often subtle allusions to and echoes of the Old Testament, let alone their broader context. One solution has been to suggest that the carrier of the letter played a role in further explaining its contents. In order to assess the validity of this possibility, this article begins by exploring the role of letter carriers in the ancient world. A survey of the Pauline epistles indicates that his letter carriers performed a similar range of tasks; they were more than merely couriers. They were similar to Greco-Roman envoys, sent as a manifestation of Paul’s παρουσία and authorized to act on his behalf. As a result of this survey, two implications emerge for the study of Paul’s use of Scripture and the audience’s competency to recognize it: (1) Paul’s use of envoys suggests they were authorized to explain the contents of the letter further, including his use of Scripture. (2) Given the letter’s role to mediate the very presence of Paul himself, it is reasonable to conclude that his envoys engaged in teaching, a central component of his own ministry. Thus, there are solid grounds for suggesting that Paul’s letter carriers played a role in helping the audience to recognize Old Testament allusions and echoes, as well as their original context.

If you are interested in the study of the how the NT authors use the OT, this article is for you.

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Noteworthy Book – Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

CoverAs some of you know, I have been working on a Philippians commentary for the past several years. What a privilege it has been to live inside this rich letter and see my joy in Christ and his gospel deepen as a result. Philippians has much to say to us as believers today, so I have written this commentary to help pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and all Christians understand and apply it to their lives.

I am excited to announce that it has finally been released in the United Kingdom (the publisher, Christian Focus, is located in Scotland) and will soon be available here in the United States and internationally. You can order it through Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

Here are the endorsements:

Matt Harmon explains Paul’s letter clause by clause, traces Paul’s argument, reads Paul’s argument in light of the rest of the Bible, and applies the letter to people today. He reminds me of two of his professors when he was working on his PhD at Wheaton: Doug Moo and Greg Beale.

Andy Naselli, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis

 

Historically aware, exegetically astute, and theologically sensitive, Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is full of insight and ideas for those who want to understand this beautiful epistle. He is not simply up to date on recent scholarship, but digs deeply and appropriately into evangelical commentaries of the past too, to enliven and enhance his own exposition. His suggestions for preaching and applying Philippians are crisp, clear, and eminently useable. A new go-to resource for pastors and students!

Dr Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society and Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible.

 

Our Lord calls his own to love God with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). This blend is seldom seen in commentaries, which tend to favor either the academic or the devotional. Authors write as believing pastors, or as detached scholars – which would seem to sunder what God has explicitly joined. Matt Harmon represents this happy marriage in his commentary on Philippians. Harmon has no less a keen eye for the particulars of the Greek text and academic illumination than he does for the splendorous and transforming truths that text communicates. It is clear that Matt has put the text under a microscope; it is just as clear that he is thrilled with the Savior and Gospel it reveals. This will now be my “go-to” book for teaching or preaching Philippians, joining Martin and Silva and Lightfoot and the others. I can’t commend Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians highly enough to pastors and students in all areas of church ministry and life. It is deep-rooted, solid, and broadly accessible. God grant that it receives the visibility and use it merits, to His glory and His church’s edification!

Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church

 

Matthew Harmon has given us a fresh and faithful reading of Philippians that will be a powerful help to all who preach and teach the word.

James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is a model of good commentary writing: clear prose, adequate interaction with the array of scholarly perspectives, and helpful application. I commend his work to students, teachers, and preachers who seek better to understand this important letter of Paul.

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College

 

Matthew Harmon is a gifted and trustworthy guide for helping us to understand and apply this Pauline epistle of joy. This commentary strikes me as just the right combination of what most of us need: clear prose, sufficient background and lexical information (without overwhelming the read in technicalities), insightful theological analysis, and practical pastoral application. Pastors and laypeople alike can benefit from this finely crafted work.

Justin Taylor, managing editor, The ESV Study Bible

 

This commentary is a study in clarity and balance. It is simple in expression, yet profound in insight. It is thorough in scope, yet selective enough not to overwhelm. It is informed by recent scholarship, yet avoids fruitless complexities. It draws on knowledge of ancient languages, yet makes its case in plain English. It is classic in its focus on God, Christ, and redemption, yet current in showing how a gospel from long ago is just as true and powerful today. In a word, this is a fine resource for serious students of Philippians in both church and college settings.

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is an outstanding work. We find careful exegesis and a clear explanation of the the text. The commentary is theologically rich, in terms of both biblical and systematic theology, and so there is more than a running commentary. Harmon also applies the text to readers in practical ways. Scholars, students, pastors, and teachers will profit significantly from this work.

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

 

 

 

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A Biblical Theology of Servant – Audio

One of the things I most enjoy in teaching is tracing a biblical-theological theme from Genesis to Revelation. So when Brian McCrorie, the pastor of Heather Hills Baptist Church, invited me to come to his church’s leadership retreat and teach on a biblical theology of servanthood, I eagerly accepted.

So in the 75 minutes I was given, I attempted to show that because we failed to serve God in the way we were created to, God raised up servants to point forward to the ultimate servant Jesus Christ. Throughout redemptive history God gives the title “servant” to key figures such as Adam, Moses, Joshua, David, and the Isaianic servant, each of whom anticipates some aspect of Jesus’ identity.

Want to hear more? You can listen below and follow along with the handout:

A Selective and Necessarily Brief Biblical Theology of Servant (Heather Hills Study Retreat 01-09-2015) [BLANK]

 

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Noteworthy Book – Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery by G.K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd

The relationship between the Old and New Testaments is notoriously complex, and there are a variety of different ways of approaching the issue. I believe that one of the most fruitful is studying how the New Testament authors quote from, allude to, or echo Old Testament texts. Yet even when one does this, the way that NT authors interact with OT texts can often seem strange. At times they seem to assert that certain events fulfill what was promised in the OT, yet when one reads the OT text(s) in question it can sometimes be hard to see it.

Enter the new book by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd: Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery.

They use the concept of “mystery” as their entry point for exploring the relationship between the OT and NT. They define mystery as:

the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the “latter days.”

Their starting point is how the term is used in Daniel, since that sets the foundation for how it is used in the NT. From there Beale and Gladd look at specific occurrences of the term mystery in Early Judaism, Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation. They also include chapters on the concept of mystery in the NT where the specific word does not occur, as well as the difference between mystery within Christianity and the pagan mystery religions.

Also of note is an appendix by Beale entitled, “The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of Biblical Authors.” It tackles the thorny issue of cases where the NT authors appear to draw meaning from an OT text that goes beyond the conscious intention of the OT human author.

As a Ph.D student at Wheaton College, I had the privilege of learning from Dr. Beale, as well as become good friends with Ben (who was studying under Beale). I can think of no two men better qualified to trace the theme of mystery and tease out the implications for our understanding of the Old and New Testaments.

You can find an early review of the book here. It promises to be a significant contribution to our understanding of biblical theology and how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other.

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Week 11 – God Destroys Jerusalem (Jer 52:1-34)

As we come to the final chapter of Jeremiah, we find a simple (albeit extended) narrative description of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, as well as the exile of a remnant to Babylon. The chapter is nearly identical to sections of 2 Kings 24-25, and this material may have been added by Baruch to the end of the book as a way of confirming the truthfulness of Jeremiah’s prophetic words.

But the chapter ends with a note that Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king, was given a seat at the king’s table and a daily allowance. By ending the book this way, Jeremiah leaves us on a note of hope that the Davidic line remains alive; God’s promises will be fulfilled. We see this come to fruition in Jesus Christ, who according to Matthew 1:11 was a descendant of Jehoiachin (also known as Jechoniah).

Because I was in San Diego for the ETS conference this past week, I asked my former student and good friend John Sloat (you can follow him on Twitter @John_Sloat). So the voice you hear is his, but there is no handout. Enjoy!

 

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Week 9 – God Judges Judah Part 2 (Jer 40:1-45:5)

This week we worked through the the second part of a section (34:1-45:5) that details God’s judgment on Judah. Jeremiah 40 picks up the story in the days after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. Although Jeremiah is given his freedom, he is quickly caught in the middle of the drama that unfolded. Gedaliah, the Judean governor appointed by the Babylonians, is murdered by Ishmael, a Judean rebel. Eventually Ishmael is forced to flee to Ammon, but the remaining Judeans fear retribution from Babylon for the death of Gedaliah. Despite YHWH’s warning through Jeremiah not to do so, the remnant heads for Egypt. Despite the judgment they survived in Judah, the people persist in their rebellion.

Along the way we see God’s remarkable promise to be with his people to save them (Jer 42:11), which anticipates God being with us in the person of Jesus to save us from our sins (cp. Matt 1:21-23). We also see that we must allow God’s Word to interpret our circumstances rather than allow our circumstances to trump God’s Word

Want to heear more? You can listen to the audio and follow along with the handout below:

Week 9 -God Judges Judah Part 2 (Handout)

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Week 8 – God Judges Judah Part 1 (Jer 34:1-39:18)

After the oasis of comfort and restoration in chs. 31-33, warnings of judgment retake center stage in Jeremiah 34-39.  True, there was a brief season of repentance, though it did not last very long (34:1-22). Against this backdrop the faithfulness of the Rechabites stands as living example of how Judah should have obeyed YHWH (35:1-19). King Jehoiakim, by contrast, displays utter disdain for the word of YHWH through Jeremiah (36:1-32). This disdain for YHWH’s word eventually led to Jeremiah being imprisoned during the final days of Judah (37:1-39:18)

Along the way we find lessons on true repentance, the nature of covenants, God’s blessing of faithfulness, the dangers of dismissing YHWH’s word. But we also see in Jeremiah’s sufferings an anticipation of Jesus’ own suffering for the truth.

Want to hear more? You can listen to the audio and follow along with the handout below:

Week 8 -God Judges Judah Part 1 (Handout)

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The Responsibilities of Church Membership (Acts 2:42-47)

One of the defining characteristics of our culture is a fear of commitment. We love to keep our options open, not get ourselves locked into something that is difficult to get ourselves out of. According to a study released in 2013, by the age of 30 years old, 75% of women in the U.S. have lived with a partner without being married.[1] About 40% of those relationship ended up in marriage within three years, while nearly a third were still together living together without being married.

This lack of commitment has infected the church as well. Some churches have done away with the notion of membership altogether. Other churches still have it, but do almost nothing with it. As a result, it is common for churches to have a large number of regular attenders who are not members.

Despite its growing unpopularity, I still believe that church membership is a biblical idea. In essence, it is a formal expression of our love and commitment to Christ and his church. So what then are the responsibilities of being a member of a local church?

That is the question I sought to answer in my recent sermon at Christ’s Covenant Church. Taking Acts 2:42-47 as my text, I summarized our responsibilities as (1) be involved and (2) be invested.

If you have ever wondered what your responsibilities are as a faithful member of a local church are, I encourage you to listen and learn.

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-04/unmarried-couples-living-together-is-new-u-s-norm.html

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Week 6 – Jeremiah’s Confrontations (Jer 21:1-29:32)

Whereas a central focus of Jeremiah 11:1-20:18 is Jeremiah’s roller coaster ride of frustration and desperation, in this week’s installment we see a series of confrontations Jeremiah has with Judah’s kings (21:1-23:8), false prophets (23:9-40), the people (24:1-25:38), and false belief (26:1-29:32).

In the midst of condemning the wicked shepherds (i.e., the kings) of Judah, Yahweh makes a stunning promise: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.'” (Jer 23:5-6). God had promised David that he would raise up one of his descendants to rule over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-16). YHWH reaffirms that promise here in Jer 23:5-6. That promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who as a descendant of David (Rom 1:3) “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Want to hear more? You can listen to the audio and follow along with the handout:

Week 6 -Jeremiah’s Confrontations (Handout)

 

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Promising New Commentary Series Announced: Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation

This past Friday Broadman and Holman (B&H) publicly announced a new commentary series entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation.  According to the preface series (emphasis mine):

The present set of volumes constitutes an ambitious project, seeking to explore the theology of the Bible in considerable depth, spanning both Testaments. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, though all affirm the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. United in their high view of Scripture, and in their belief in the underlying unity of Scripture, which is ultimately grounded in the unity of God himself, each author explores the contribution of a given book or group of books to the theology of Scripture as a whole. While conceived as stand-alone volumes, each volume thus also makes a contribution to the larger whole. All volumes provide a discussion of introductory matters, including the historical setting and the literary structure of a given book of Scripture. Also included is an exegetical treatment of all the relevant passages in succinct commentary-style format. The biblical theology approach of the series will also inform and play a role in the commentary proper. The commentator permits a discussion between the commentary proper and the biblical theology that it reflects by a series of cross-references.

The major contribution of each volume, however, is a thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole. This format allows each contributor to ground Biblical Theology, as is proper, in an appropriate appraisal of the relevant historical and literary features of a particular book in Scripture while at the same time focusing on its major theological contribution to the entire Christian canon in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture. Within this overall format, there will be room for each individual contributor to explore the major themes of his or her particular corpus in the way he or she sees most appropriate for the material under consideration.

This format, in itself, would already be a valuable contribution to Biblical Theology. But there are other series that try to accomplish a survey of the Bible’s theology as well. What distinguishes the present series is its orientation toward Christian proclamation. This is the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series! As a result, the ultimate purpose of this set of volumes is not exclusively, or even primarily, academic. Rather, we seek to relate Biblical Theology to our own lives and to the life of the church. Our desire is to equip those in Christian ministry who are called by God to preach and teach the precious truths of Scripture to their congregations, both in North America and in a global context.

The first volume is by Tom Schreiner on Hebrews, which will release in February 2015. Here is the full list of contributors, including yours truly:

Old Testament contributors:

Desmond Alexander Genesis

Mark Rooker                           Exodus

Paul Wegner                            Leviticus

Richard Averbeck                   Numbers

Ken Mathews                          Deuteronomy

David Firth                              Joshua

Iain Duguid                             Judges, Ruth

Robert Fyall                            1-2 Samuel

Bob Bergen                             1-2 Kings

Gary V. Smith                         1-2 Chronicles

Andrew Hill                             Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

Barry Webb                             Job

James Hamilton                       Psalms

Allen Ross                               Proverbs

Ernest Lucas                            Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs

Jack Collins                             Isaiah

Stephen Dempster                   Jeremiah, Lamentations

Paul Williamson                      Ezekiel

Joe Sprinkle                             Daniel

Anthony Petterson                   Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah

Ray Clendenen                        Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

New Testament contributors:

Charles Quarles                       Matthew

Peter Bolt                                 Mark

Michael Wilkins                      Luke

Ardel Caneday                         John

Alan Thompson                       Acts

David G. Peterson                   Romans

Peter Davids                            1 Corinthians

Jason Meyer                            2 Corinthians

Matt Harmon                           Galatians

Greg Beale                               Ephesians

Doug Moo                                Philippians

Joel White                                Colossians, Philemon

Terry Wilder                            1-2 Thessalonians

Andreas Köstenberger             1-2 Timothy, Titus

Thomas Schreiner                    Hebrews

David Chapman                       James

Rick Melick                             1-2 Peter, Jude

Michael Martin                        1-3 John

Eckhard Schnabel                    Revelation

The

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