Category Archives: Biblical Theology

Week 2 – God Calls Jeremiah (1:1-19)

The opening chapter of Jeremiah introduces us to the prophet and foreshadows the kind of ministry he will have. After setting the historical stage (1:1-3), God calls Jeremiah to be his prophet to the nations (1:4-16). By putting his words in Jeremiah’s mouth God appoints him “over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). Fulfilling this ministry will cause Jeremiah great suffering, but God promises to protect him (1:17-19). Jeremiah 1:1-19 shows us Jeremiah’s commission to speak God’s words of judgment and restoration for both Judah and the nations.

Just as God promised to deliver Jeremiah by being with him, so too God has delivered us by taking on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. As great as it was for Jeremiah to have the Word of the Lord come to him, we have the far greater blessing of having the Word who became flesh dwelling in us.

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

Week 2 -God Calls Jeremiah (Handout)

The Church: A People for God’s own Possession

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at my home church, Christ’s Covenant Church. We are beginning a series on the church, and the elders asked me to kick things off by doing a biblical theology of the church. The goal was to help our congregation understand our story as a people – the people of God.

Before you listen, though, let me provide two caveats. First, I only had about 38 minutes, so I had to be extremely selective in how I traced this theme through the biblical story. Second, I did not have the time to discuss the well-known issue of the relationship between Israel and the church.

The main thrust I tried to communicate is that God’s purpose from the beginning was to create a people who would reflect his glory by living joyfully and obediently under his sovereign rule. But all throughout the OT the people of God fail repeatedly. God promises to raise up a Serpent-crusher who will defeat the serpent, deal with the sins of his people, and institute a new covenant to create an obedient people. That promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who obeys where God’s people have failed, dies for their sins, and crushes the serpent by rising from the dead. He inaugurates the new covenant and pours out his Spirit to create the new covenant people of God.

Want to hear more? You can either listen online or download the audio here.

A Selective and Necessarily Brief (Yet Hopefully Helpful) Biblical Theology of Marriage

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at a pastors retreat for Heather Hills Baptist Church. They asked me to walk through a biblical theology of marriage as the foundation for their reflection and discussion on issues related to marriage and our culture.  My wife Kate and I greatly enjoyed our time with these faithful pastors and their wives!

My goal was to trace the thread of marriage from Genesis to Revelation. The central point that I tried to demonstrate is that God created marriage to display/reflect his relationship with his people. Thus marriage is not an analogy but rather a microcosm of the greater reality.

Below you will find a link for the handout I used, as well as the audio.

 

A Selective and Necessarily Brief Biblical Theology of Marriage (Heather Hills Study Retreat 08-21-2014) [BLANK]

Noteworthy Book: What is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton

Given that this blog is “a forum for all things pertaining to biblical theology” it is only fitting that this week’s Noteworthy Book is What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James Hamilton. He is an associate professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and in my estimation one of the sharpest young biblical theologians in the evangelical world today. And in the interest of full disclosure, Jim is a friend.

In this short book, Hamilton defines biblical theology as:

the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding or earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses. (p. 16)

Thus, when studying the Bible

our aim is to trace out the contours of the network of assumptions reflected in the writings of the biblical authors. If we can see what the biblical authors assumed about story, symbol, and church, we will glimpse the world as they saw it. To catch a glimpse of the world as they saw it is to see the real world. (p. 19)

These three (story, symbol, church) form the basic structure of the rest of the book. Each of these sections contains several short chapters covering key subjects such as the plot of the Bible, imagery, typology, patterns, and the church’s setting in the story.

The greatest strengths of this book are its size and readability. Hamilton writes for those who are new to the area of biblical theology, making this an ideal book to give anyone in the church who wants to read and understand the Bible. Students in Bible colleges and seminaries will also find this book useful as an entry point into the field of biblical theology, though they will need other texts to orient them to the range of approaches to biblical theology as an academic discipline.

Those who want to see Jim’s attempt at writing a whole-Bible biblical theology are encouraged to see his excellent book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. He maintains an excellent blog, and you can listen to his sermons here.

 

Noteworthy Book – From Heaven He Came and Sought Her (eds. David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson)

Of the so-called five points of Calvinism (often represented with the acronym TULIP), the most frequently rejected one is “limited atonement.” More accurately referred to as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” the idea is that:

In the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishment of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. The death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone. (p. 33)

The classic defense and explanation of this doctrine is the tome by the great Puritan John Owen entitled The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, originally written in 1648. In a 1959 reprint of this classic, J.I. Packer wrote a lengthy introduction that came to be a classic in its own right.

Despite the value of these two pieces, a robust explanation and defense of definite atonement was still needed. That has now been remedied with the release of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Edited by David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, this book is now the go-to resource for definite atonement. Over 20 different scholars and pastors contributed to the volume, including Henri Blocher, Sinclair Ferguson, Alec Motyer, John Piper, Tom Schreiner, and Carl Trueman. They even let me contribute a chapter (“For the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of His People: Definite Atonement in the Synoptics and Johannine Literature”).

Crossway has built a nice website for the book here that includes a list of contributors, a brief summary of each chapter, and endorsements from folks such as Lig Duncan, Doug Wilson, D.A. Carson, Michael Horton, David Wells, and John Frame. There is even a Twitter feed (@defatonement) and Facebook page dedicated to the book.

To whet your appetite, here is an introductory video:

May God use this book to deepen people’s love for the one who loved them and gave his life for them (Gal 2:20)!

Why Teach the Storyline of Scripture?

In anticipation of a one-week biblical theology course that I am teaching with Jim Hamilton at Northland International University in January, we were asked why it is important to study the storyline of Scripture. You can see our responses below:

Jim and I are excited to be working together in this class, and would love for you to join us. The course applies to the degrees for Master of Arts, Master of Ministry, and Doctor of Ministry. The great thing is that Northland will scholarship the cost of tuition for any first time student. You can find more information on the course here.

Sabbatical Update

As you may know, I was on sabbatical during the Spring Semester of the last academic year. Since I have now finished that sabbatical (and the summer as well) and resumed by teaching responsibilities at Grace College and Theological Seminary. So here is a brief summary of what, by the grace of God, I spent my time working on:

  1. I finished the draft of my Philippians commentary. I have been working for almost four years (off and on) on this commentary in the Mentor Commentary Series by Christian Focus. It is now in the hands of the publisher, so Lord willing it will come out in 2014.
  2. I began working on a commentary on Galatians. Having written my dissertation on Galatians, I am excited to now be working on a commentary on Galatians. It will be part of a new series published by Broadman & Holman entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Look for more details on this series down the road; the lineup of contributors is stacked! At this point I am still in the early stages of writing, but it is not due for another few years.
  3. I began co-writing a book on inaugurated eschatology in the life of the church. My friend Ben Gladd and I are under contract with Baker to write a book that explains how inaugurated eschatology applies to the different aspects of life in the church such as preaching, missions, prayer, worship, etc. The goal is to finish the manuscript early in 2014 with a likely publication date sometime in 2015.
  4. I wrote an essay entitled “Allegory, Typology, or Something Else: Revisiting Galatians 4:21-5:1.” Although I am not at liberty to discuss where this will be published, this essay is my attempt to explain how Paul is using Scripture in this challenging passage. I will be presenting a version of this essay in November at the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore.
  5. I wrote the introductory notes for Philippians in the forthcoming NIV Proclamation Bible. I will give more details when this is published later this month, but in the meantime you can find more information here.

I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to step away from the classroom to focus on these writing projects. May God use them to display the beauty of Christ and advance his kingdom in this world.

Noteworthy Book: Understanding Biblical Theology by Klink & Lockett

As the name of this website indicates, I have a significant interest in biblical theology. In particular, I am interested in the academic discipline of biblical theology and the various ways that it is understood and practiced. Despite its prominence, biblical theology is understood and practiced in a variety of different ways, some of which are contradictory or at least in tension with each other.

Into this fog of confusion step Edward W. Klink III and Darian R. Lockett with their recent book Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. In the introductory chapter they identify five “problems” that must be addressed in biblical theology:

  1. Old Testament connection to the New Testament: suggested ways include propheyc and fulfillment, christological readings, thematic connections, salvation history, and canonical context.
  2. Historical diversity versus theological diversity: does on see more continuity or discontinuity and how does that shape our understanding of the Bible?
  3. Scope and sources of biblical theology: is biblical theology limited to the original author and audience or include the contemporary audience? Does the canon serve as a boundary or should information from other sources be consulted and included (and if so to what degree)?
  4. Subject matter of biblical theology: about what or whom does the Bible speak? are there any limits? If so, what?
  5. Biblical theology as a churchly or academic discipline: if biblical theology merely descriptive or is it in any way prescriptive?

Based on their assessment of work done in the area of biblical theology, Klink and Lockett suggest a spectrum balanced on one end by history and on the other end theology. Along this spectrum they identify five difference “types” of biblical theology:

  1. Biblical theology as historical description: BT is a completely descriptive project and uses biblical history as its sole mediating concept. Thus the focus is on the biblical authors with no interest in meaning or significance for today [Example: James Barr]
  2. Biblical theology as history of redemption: While similar to the previous category, the difference is that the controlling category is redemptive history. The Bible reveals a progressive chronological unfolding of redemption. Use is made of major themes and overarching structural ideas developed along this redemptive historical timeline. The goal of such an approach is to benefit the church. This approach is strongly exegetically rooted with an eye to the whole testimony of Scripture. [Example: D.A. Carson]
  3. Biblical theology as worldview story: The primary category for this approach is narrative as both a literary and philosophical perspective. The emphasis falls on the overall storyline of Scripture with an attempt to balance literary, historical, and theological concerns. [Example: N.T. Wright]
  4. Biblical theology as canonical approach: Canon is viewed as both a historical and theological category. The emphasis is on the historical meaning of the text combined with the contemporary meaning of Scripture. [Example: Brevard Childs]
  5. Biblical theology as theological construction: This approach is rooted in the theological confession of the church and is often connected with the so-called “theological intepretation of Scripture” movement. It often attempts to position itself outside of the compartmentalized academic disciplines of biblical studies, systematic theology, etc. [Example: Francis Watson]

The authors make it clear that these are not mutually exclusive categories, and that many practice different forms of biblical theology. But these categories are devised to give some semblance of order to the often confusing expression biblical theology. There are two chapters devoted to each type of biblical theology. The first provides a detailed explanation and description, while the second provides identifies a practitioner of that approach and surveys their work. The concluding chapter provides a summary, including a very helpful chart that encapsulates how each type of biblical theology understands the five “problems” identified in the introduction.

Klink and Lockett are to be commended for their fine work. This is not to say their categories are perfect (they themselves admit they are not), nor will all embrace these distinctions. But they have significantly furthered the conversation, and those of us who teach biblical theology are indebted for this helpful introduction to the discipline and the various ways it is approached.

Expository Preaching Part 2 – Content

In my first post I defined expository preaching as preaching in which the content, intent, and structure of the passage determines the content, intent, and structure of the message. Today I want to focus on the “content” portion of that definition.

In contrast to topical preaching (which chooses a topic or subject and then collects various texts that deal with that topic), expository preaching chooses one passage of Scripture as the foundation of the message. The length of the passage can vary significantly, from a single verse to an entire book of the Bible. But the defining characteristic in view here is that the content of the passage determines what the preacher preaches. If the passage deals with the deity of Christ, the preacher preaches on the deity of Christ. If it deals with caring for widows, he preaches on caring for widows. You get the picture.

But expository preaching is more than merely making sure that some of the topics present in the passage are present in your message. Good expository preaching seeks to determine the central thrust of the passage and make that the central thrust of the message. Different preachers refer to this with different terms such as the big idea, the proposition, or the burden of the sermon. In determining the central thrust of the passage, you are making the claim that everything in the passage in some way relates to it. In the same way, everything in the message should in some way relate to the central thrust of the passage.

Determining the central thrust of the passage enables the preacher to know what to emphasize in his message. In a passage of any significant length, any number of elements might catch the preacher’s eye and lead him down a rabbit trail. But the central thrust helps to rein in the preacher and prevent him from simply selecting the elements of a passage that are most interesting to him. It also provides a helpful filter for determining what stays in the sermon and what is left on the cutting room floor.

In the next installment in this series, I’ll discuss the “intent” portion of my definition.

Expository Preaching Part 1 – Introduction

Today I am beginning a new series of posts on expository preaching. My goal in writing this series is to clarify and articulate my understanding of this important ministry of the church. While I think there are other forms of preaching that are valuable and have a place within the life of the church, it is my conviction that expository preaching should be the foundation of the pulpit ministry of a healthy, gospel-centered, Christ-focused church.

What is Expository Preaching?

Although sometimes referred to as exegetical preaching, I prefer the term expository for the simple reason that it more clearly communicates that the goal of such preaching is to expose–that is, bring into clear view–at least three things: (1) the meaning of the text; (2) the majesty and beauty of the God who spoke the text; (3) the response called for by the text.

So how should we define expository preaching? My preaching professor in seminary Mike Bullmore defined it as preaching in which the content and intent of the passage shapes the content and intent of the message. As I have continued to reflect on and attempt to practice expository preaching, I have built on that foundation and expanded it to define it as follows: expository preaching is preaching in which the content, intent, and structure of the passage determines the content, intent, and structure of the message. The remainder of the series will further unpack this definition; what I want to focus on in the remainder of this post is why I believe expository preaching (as defined this way) is the best way approach to preaching.

Why Expository Preaching Should Be the Preferred Method of Preaching

There are at least three reasons why expository preaching should be the “default” method of preaching in the church.

1. Expository Preaching self-consciously submits to the authority of the text and the author(s) of Scripture. If we truly believe that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17), then we will want to submit ourselves to its authority. When the preacher sits down to prepare an expository message, he is acknowledging that God’s Word and not his own thoughts have ultimate authority. As Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Expository preaching forces the preacher to first determine what the author said before considering what the preacher will say.

2. Expository Preaching is best positioned to hear the authoritative voice of God through preaching. What God’s people need to hear most is the voice of God himself through the preacher. God brings life through his Word: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:10-11). When the preacher aligns his own words with God’s words he can be confident that God will accomplish his purposes.

3. Expository Preaching is best positioned to build a biblical worldview in the preacher and the congregation. As a general rule the most significant effect that good preaching has is not so much rooted in particular sermons, but the cumulative effect that faithful preaching has over an extended period of time. Expository preaching reveals the way that the biblical authors thought, felt, and believed. It exposes how they viewed the world so that we can then adopt that same frame of reference for evaluating all of reality.

In the next installment, I will begin unpacking the definition of expository preaching.