Archive for ‘Hermeneutics’


Eden and Gethsemane

I love learning of connections like this.  And I’m always finding new ones!

From Mark J. Jones, Knowing Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2015), 96 –

Adam was led away from the garden in captivity and under the sentence of death.  Here Jesus, like Adam, was taken from Gethsemane as a captive headed for death.  The great German Reformed preacher F.W. Krummacher (1796-1868), in his profound work The Suffering Saviour, noted:

The voice which resounded through the Garden of Eden cried, ‘Adam, where are you?’  But Adam hid himself trembling, behind the trees of the garden.  The same voice, and with a similar intention, is heard in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The second Adam, however, does not withdraw from it, but proceeds to meet the High and Lofty One, who summons him before him, resolutely exclaiming, ‘Here am I!’

It’s details like these that have to make you wonder if the Bible might have a Divine Author.


Pastors at Trump’s Inauguration

A sad example of bad hermeneutics and the dangers of civil religion:

On Inauguration Day, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist in Dallas, delivered the sermon at the private prayer service prior to the swearing-in ceremony. He titled the sermon, “When God Chooses a Leader,” taking the message from Nehemiah 1:11.

“When I think of you,” Jeffress said to Trump, “I am reminded of another great leader God chose thousands of years ago in Israel. The nation had been in bondage for decades, the infrastructure of the country was in shambles, and God raised up a powerful leader to restore the nation. And the man God chose was neither a politician nor a priest. Instead, God chose a builder whose name was Nehemiah.”

He noted the first step God instructed Nehemiah to take in rebuilding the nation was building a wall around Jerusalem to protect is citizens. “You see, God is not against building walls,” Jeffress shared. Jeffress recalled sitting with Trump on a jet, eating Wendy’s cheeseburgers, and talking about the challenges facing the USA. Jeffress was an early supporter of Trump.

He told the incoming President and Vice President to look to God for strength and guidance: “…the challenges facing our nation are so great that it will take more than natural ability to meet them. We need God’s supernatural power.

“The good news is that the same God who empowered Nehemiah nearly 2,500 years ago is available to every one of us today who is willing to humble himself and ask for His help.”

Hmmm…  I thought the Good News is that God sent his Son to live the perfect life we should but never could, and die the death we deserve in our place so that all those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Christ alone could have his righteousness given to them by grace so they could be part of God’s eternal kingdom.  I thought SBC pastors knew that…


Addendum (from an email to someone asking for clarification):

I think it’s great for people to pray to God and ask for his help!  But it’s sad when a pastor will let the Christian message be understood as simply that – God is there to give you a boost with your plans.  If you read the whole text of that “sermon” it makes no mention of Jesus, sin, the cross….  It’s just really confusing to apply Nehemiah and the OT nation of Israel to Trump and the United States of America.  The book of Nehemiah has more to say today about the Church – the NT people of God – maintaining its distinctiveness from the world (i.e. staying true to the Gospel!) than it does about border security for the U.S.  I just want the Church to be the Church in the midst of it all and keep the gospel clear and call people to repentance and entrance into the eternal kingdom of God and not get sidetracked to the Right OR to the Left.



The Utility of the Law

The utility of the law may be shown by this, that it obliges all whom it proves guilty of transgression to betake themselves to grace for deliverance… For it rather commands than assists; it discovers disease, but does not heal it; nay, the malady that is not healed is rather aggravated by it, so that the cure of grace is more earnestly and anxiously sought for.

–Augustine, “On the Grace of Christ,” in Basic Writings of Saint Augustine, vol. 1, part 2 (eBook: Kessinger Publishing, 2006), 589.


Luther’s Primary Question

From J.I. Packer’s introduction to J.I. Packer & Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 26-27:

In recent years, great strides in biblical theology and contemporary canonical exegesis have brought new precision to our grasp of the Bible’s overall story of how God’s plan to bless Israel, and through Israel the world, came to its climax in and through Christ. But I do not see how it can be denied that each New Testament book, whatever other job it may be doing, has in view, one way or another, Luther’s primary question: how may a weak, perverse, and guilty sinner find a gracious God? Nor can it be denied that real Christianity only really starts when that discovery is made. And to the extent that modern developments, by filling our horizon with the great metanarrative, distract us from pursuing Luther’s question in personal terms, they hinder as well as help in our appreciation of the gospel.


Bible Reading

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy (The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent)! I’m not sure why I hadn’t read them before (although I was introduced to this thinking several years ago by reading Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth and before that Chuck Colson’s How Now Shall We Live?). Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Here’s one more juicy quote (of dozens) that should encourage Christians to read their Bibles everyday, even if it doesn’t seem like anything epic comes out of it (p. 334):

We should read the Bible for various reasons. It should be read for facts, and it should also be read devotionally. But reading the Bible every day of one’s life does something else – it gives one a different mentality. In the modern world we are surrounded by the mentality of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, but as we read the Bible it gives us a different mentality. Do not minimize the fact that in reading the Bible we are living in a mentality which is the right one, opposed to the great wall of this other mentality which is forced upon us on every side – in education, in literature, in the arts, and in the mass media.


Law and Gospel

Thesis I.
The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.

Thesis II.
Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.

Thesis III.
Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.

Thesis IV.
The true knowledge of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is not only a glorious light, affording the correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, but without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book.

From C.F.W. Walther’s classic The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, trans. W.H.T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia).



Carl Trueman writes in the forward to his book Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 2000) of his desire to qualify his “promotion of biblical theological teaching and preaching by emphasizing the need for the preacher to confront and engage his hearers. ‘Hey, I bet you never saw Jesus in this text before,’ is not an adequate application of the Bible; and yet too many so-called redemptive historical preachers and teachers in the Vos (or perhaps, to be charitable and not to impute the sins of the followers to the founder) pseudo-Vos tradition, consider their job to be done when they produced a nice, neat, dry-as-dust lecture on a passage which does just that and no more” (p. 9). Woops! Preaching cannot be less than showing how every passage of Scripture is about Jesus, but it is more. I want to grow in this aspect of preaching in my next phase of ministry at Immanuel when I get back.


What Is Gospel-Centered Ministry?

I went back a re-watched this talk today that rocked my world the first time I heard it sitting in the chapel at TEDS for the inaugural Gospel Coalition Conference. It still rocks my world and has significantly impacted the way I understand ministry.

Go here and watch it!


Where Do You Put the Accent?

But now I want to make an attempt to state the most serious problem that I have with your thinking. I am thinking of the up-front emphasis on covenant faithfulness or obedience. Like you I do not think anyone is saved without obedience to Christ issuing from his faith. But the drumbeat of the new covenant is not covenant obedience. The accent is rather on the forgiveness of sins. In His inauguration of the new covenant in the giving of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus does not say anything about obedience but rather: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.” In the new covenant, the heart of things consists in “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7).

The obedience which flows from this state and experience of forgiveness through Christ’s atonement is not a kind of generalized or vague “lawkeeping” but a being “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God is Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:34). Thus the covenant drumbeat of “forgiveness” carries right on through into a life of forgiveness and kindness.

Our obedience is charged with the power to forgive and bless and serve others because we have been captured by God’s own pardon and acceptance of us by free grace… You cannot have the kind of family tenderness you seek if covenant obedience is the primary focus. Here I think you are putting the accent in the wrong place and in doing so have really undermined your fine emphasis on the covenant concept as a family relationship.

– Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader, p.168-169.

HT: Drew Hunter


I like commentaries like these

“It is the responsibility of the exegete to try to make coherent sense of the text as it stands, before charging the author with blatant contradiction or clumsy editing. The following verse-by-verse comments will make that attempt.” R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 180.