Jesus, God’s Chosen Servant

Matthew 12:14-21

6/22/2008

A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia (after whom the airport is named), who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.” LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation. This is an example of pure grace. In our passage we see Jesus being extraordinarily generous. He healed everyone who came to Him with an illness. And the passage quoted says that He will not snuff out a smoldering wick, nor will He break a bruised reed. The grace of God is shown in this passage through Jesus, the Chosen Servant.

First of all, notice that Jesus was still healing on the Sabbath. He knew in His heart (supernaturally!) that the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him. And so, He left that place before they could imprison Him. It was not His time, after all, to face death just yet.

Many people followed Him in order to receive healing, and He healed them all. Jesus does not turn away those who are seeking Him. However, Jesus does tell them people He heals not to tell other people about Him. Why does He tell them this? He told them this because He did not want to be a Messiah that the people wanted, but a Messiah that God wanted. What kind of Messiah was that, exactly? The quotation from Isaiah tells us what kind of Messiah that Jesus was to be.

This quotation from Isaiah tells us about Jesus’ whole ministry, not just this one aspect of healing people and exercising grace. We learn eight things about Jesus in this quotation from Isaiah 42, which was read as our call to worship. The first is that Jesus was the chosen servant of God. God had decreed that Jesus would be the person to come to earth, be human, and take our sin upon Himself, that we might not suffer the pains of God’s wrath. There is no other name by which we can be saved. The second thing is that the Father loves the Son and is well-pleased with the Son. This is important to know, because we cannot know the depth of God’s love for us until we know how much love there was from the Father to the Son, which was turned aside at the cross. The third thing we learn is that the Holy Spirit was on Jesus. We learned that also from earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, where we saw the Holy Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and remain on Jesus. This is important because we do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, unless it first dwelt in Christ. The fourth thing we learn is that the Gentiles will be blessed through Jesus. Not only will justice be proclaimed to the nations, but also the nations will put their hope in Jesus. This fulfills the promise given to Abraham, wherein the seed of Abraham was promised to be a blessing to all nations. That is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in whom all Gentiles can find salvation and hope for the future. This hope is for us. The fifth thing we learn is that Jesus is not contentious. He will not quarrel or cry out (in defiance). Instead, Jesus is meek. This does not prevent Jesus from saying some rather harsh things to the Pharisees. However, He does not revile anyone. Instead He exercises grace. This can be illustrated by the following story. Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had churches in London in the 19th century. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was reported to Spurgeon however, that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself. Spurgeon blasted Parker the next week from the pulpit. The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal. Parker said, “I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here instead.” The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates 3 times. Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.” Parker did exactly what Christ did in turning the other cheek, offering to serve where he had been attacked. The sixth thing we learn about Jesus is that He is gracious to those who do not deserve grace. Reeds were exceedingly common in Judea during this time. The easiest thing in the world is to replace a bruised reed. That is exactly what I do when my bagpipe reed gets too old to use. I just throw it out and buy a new one. Well, you didn’t even have to buy a reed in those days. You just went to the bank of your local river and cut one for yourself for free. Nothing easier. However, Jesus does not do that with people. It would be so easy for Jesus to cut off those who so desperately need Him, and are just about to crack entirely. The world would certainly not have kept such a reed. But Jesus does. He nursing that reed back to health. A similar thing is true of the smoldering wick. A smoldering candle wick is annoying and useless. It cannot give light as it should. The logical thing to do is to snuff it out and get a new wick. But again, Jesus does not do that with people. If there is the faintest sign of grace in that person, Jesus will fan it into a flame until the wick burns brightly once more. Here we see one of the most encouraging passages in the entire Bible. The bruised nature of the reed and the smoldering nature of the wick stands for people who have only the smallest amount of grace. You can barely see it, and you would be tempted to discount it altogether. But Jesus does not. No matter how small your faith, no matter how small the grace you have, Jesus will not turn you away, or disregard you. Instead, He gently takes you in His hand, and nurses you back to health and spiritual vitality. What a Savior we have! Not only has He given Himself for us, but He is so gentle with hurting, needy people. May we take a hint from our Master and exercise the same kind of gentleness and grace. We also ought to have the same attitude toward those who obviously do not deserve grace. The seventh thing we learn about Christ is that His justice will triumph in the end. There is no escaping the conclusion that Jesus is the final judge, and will exercise true judgment on the Final Day. All those who have not exercised such grace to others (because they are devoid of it themselves!) will be judged according to God’s perfect standard. Justice will win finally. It is a certainty. It has all the finality of Jesus’ resurrection. We can hope in that victory of Christ. The eighth and final thing we learn about Jesus is that He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Matthew has been keen on telling us this kind of thing all along. Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. By the way, this is the longest passage from the Old Testament that Matthew quotes in his entire Gospel. Matthew tells us before that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy about a virgin giving birth to a son. He tell us that Jesus fulfills the prophecy about the people living in darkness seeing a great light. He tells us that Jesus was sent to heal us from our diseases. Matthew’s quotations come most often from Isaiah, whose prophecies show us Jesus Christ more clearly than any other prophet of the Old Testament. In other words, when we read the Old Testament, we are supposed to see Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Indeed, Jesus is God’s chosen servant.

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I Wonder…

if Scott saw that I needed a bit of help on the question of faith and obedience in relation to Doug, and decided to post this. At any rate, he expresses magnificently better than I could what I have been trying to say to Doug. I really cannot do better.   

Brief ‘διακονον’ Word Study

Posted by Bob Mattes

In the battleground over women deacons, Romans 16:1 seems to be the hill on which partial and full egalitarians primarily wish to battle. In this verse and the following, Paul writes (all citations from the ESV):

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

There’s a lot we could say about the context of these verses, but the current controversy is over a single word in verse 1. Translated as “servant” in the ESV, the underlying Greek word is ‘διακονον’. My intent in this post is to look briefly at this word and its related forms with an eye to their use throughout both the New Testament and the LXX.

First the technical details of the overview. The Greek text used is the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, 27th Edition with McReynolds English Interlinear, the common text used for New Testament work. For the English translation, I used the English Standard Version New Testament Reverse Interlinear. The ESV is fast becoming the standard text used in Reformed and Evangelical churches, so it makes a good and contemporary choice for this study. For the LXX, I used the Septuaginta: Morphologically Tagged Edition by Alfred Rahlfs.

Some years ago, such a study would have taken many hours over several days or more. Today, computer-based tools like Logos Bible Software 3 can do the grunt work in seconds on a fast machine, freeing the student to spend their time doing the brain and grammar work. Unfortunately, Logos only runs under Windows, so even though I’m a Linux guy, I have to run Windows XP under a virtual machine by VMWare. This works very well, but I’d really like to dump Windows all together. Oh, well. On to the word study!

First, in Romans 16:1, διακονον is an accusative, singular, feminine noun. The accusative noun form only occurs four times in the NT: Rom 15:8:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

Romans 16:1 which we’ve already seen; 2 Cor 3:6:

[God] who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

and 1 Tim 3:8:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

Note that Διακόνους in 1 Tim 3:8 is accusative, masculine and plural. This makes perfect sense considered with 1 Tim 3:12 since both refer to the same class of male church office holders. Those that say that 1 Tim 3:8 can be separated from 3:12, or that 1 Tim 3:8 doesn’t specify gender, miss or ignore the underlying grammatical construct. It’s male all the way.

Overall, διακόνους in all its forms occurs 29 times in the New Testament. It is only translated as “deacon” three times: Phil 1:1:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

as well as 1 Tim 3:8 and 3:12 which we’ve already seen. The word in Phil 1:1 is dative, plural, and masculine as one would expect in order to be consistent with 1 Tim 3:8 and 12. No female “deaconesses” to be found. Out of the other 26 occurrences (with immediate context provided), 18 are translated as “servant”:

Matt 20:26 – would be great among you must be your servant,
Matt 23:11 – The greatest among you shall be your servant.
Mark 9:35 – he must be last of all and servant of all.
Mark 10:43 – would be great among you must be your servant,
John 2:5 – His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
John 2:9 – (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),
John 12:26 – there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me,
Rom 13:4 – for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you
Rom 13:4 – For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out *
Rom 15:8 – servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness,
Rom 16:1 – Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,
1 Cor 3:5 – What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants
2 Cor 6:4 – servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:
2 Cor 11:15 – So it is no surprise if his servants, also,
2 Cor 11:15 – also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
2 Cor 11:23 – Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one— *
Gal 2:17 – is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! *
1 Tim 4:6 – you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being

Clearly, none of these refer to a church office, especially when seen in context with each other. Jesus and Paul are consistent that we are all to be servants.

Seven occurrences are translated as “minister,” in particular of Christ and the New Covenant:

2 Cor 3:6 – has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant,
Eph 3:7 – a minister according to the gift of God’s grace,
Eph 6:21 – minister in the Lord will tell you everything.
Col 1:7 – He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf
Col 1:23 – and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Col 1:25 – of which I became a minister according to the stewardship
Col 4:7 – faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

and once as “attendants”:

Matt 22:13 – Then the king said to the attendants,

Returning for a moment to Romans 16:1 and looking at 13 relatively common English and Latin translations that I have lying around, 11 translate Romans 16:1 as “servant.” The other 2 are RSV-based (RSV & NRSV), which shouldn’t surprise anyone given that translation’s liberal bias (but that’s a whole other story).

In the LXX, διάκονος occurs just six times: Esther 1:10; 2:2; 6:3; 6:5; Proverbs 10:4; and 4 Maccabees 9:17 in the Apocrypha. It always refers to servants or attendants.

That’s a brief overview of the use of διακονον and its forms in the New Testament and LXX. I believe that there are several points to take away from this brief survey: 1) whenever Paul refers to ‘διακονον’ as church officers, it’s always with the plural, masculine form of the word; 2) only 3 out of 29 occurrences of the word form are translated as “deacon” in the ESV, all referring to male office holders; and 3) both the NT and the LXX are consistent in the way they use the word.

It’s no secret that I started this overview opposed to the idea of female deacons. Even so, I let the Greek grammar speak for itself. In the end, this deeper look at the underlying Greek has entrenched me even further against the idea. There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that the Scriptures are clear the only men may serve as deacons, and that this is indeed a Scripture authority issue. As I’ve already shown, the PCA Book of Church Order follows Scripture accurately on the issue.

In honor of Mary Kathryn, I’ll stop here. :-)

Posted by Bob Mattes

Great Post

Some really great arguments as to why the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith were right in saying that the entirety of the moral law was given to Adam before the fall.

Scriptural Basis for the PCA BCO on Deacons

Posted by Bob Mattes

I posted on the 36th General Assembly proceedings on deaconesses here without duplicating Lanes or TE Aquila’s posts on the subject. My initial thoughts on the issue of female deacons/deaconesses can be found here on GreenBaggins. I wanted to comment in this post on an item in both Overture 9 and the Overtures Committee minority report.

The operant phrase in Philadelphia Presbytery’s Overture 9 reads:

Scriptural teaching bearing on women’s eligibility for election and ordination to the office of deacon and recommending, if necessary, changes to the BCO in keeping with any findings proceeding from the study of Scripture;

And in the minority report from the overtures committee concerning Overture 9:

Is the Book of Church Order more, or less, restrictive than the Scriptural teaching bearing on the role of women in the diaconal ministries?

I thought that I’d help answer these questions by showing the direct connection between the BCO and the applicable Scriptures. Perhaps that will help some folks who think that they need a study committee to look at a handful of verses that we can all read for ourselves.

First, there’s a direct connection between 1 Tim 3:12 (all citations ESV):

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. [my emphasis]

and Acts 6:3:

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. [my emphasis]

And BCO 7-2:

7-2. The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders
and deacons. Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders. The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching. Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders. The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only. [my emphasis]

BCO 9-3:

9-3. To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment. [my emphasis]

and BCO 24-1:

24-1. Every church shall elect persons to the offices of ruling elder and
deacon in the following manner: At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. [my emphasis]

Here you can see that Scripture commands deacons to be men only, and this guidance is followed exactly in the BCO. Nothing more or less.

Further, both the Scriptures and the BCO cover the issue of providing outside help to the diaconate. We find 1 Tim 5:3-16:

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows.

corresponding nicely to BCO 9-7:

9-7. It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and
appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

No disconnects, just unity of thought and approach between Scripture and the BCO. So what about Phoebe and Rom 16:1?

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,

The word for “servant” in that verse is ‘διακονον’ in the Greek. I cover this in some detail in this post, so will not duplicate all that here. Bottom line is that as far back as the Geneva Bible in 1560, Phoebe has been called a servant in accordance with good translating practice and the context of the verse. I will post a fairly comprehensive word study on the word ‘διάκονον’ and its close relatives in both the Greek New Testament as well as the LXX in the next few days. To get a sense for Paul’s usage in the meantime, look at Romans 15:8 and tell me if Christ is called a deacon:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

or 2 Cor 3:6 if we all are:

who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Or the well-known Matt 20:26 for Christ’s usage of the word:

It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

Are we all to become deacons? Of course not. I picked these particular uses of the word because they are very similar to the context in Romans 16:1. There’s no real case to be made here for female office holders.

Yet, some still disagree and think that Phoebe may have been a deaconess in the office-holding sense. Though I and other complementarians disagree with such a mistranslation, let’s assume for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that the details of this verse are unclear. Making Phoebe a deaconess here would make Paul inconsistent in his teaching on the role of women in the church. It certainly wouldn’t square with very clear verses like 1 Tim 3:12, 1 Tim 2:12, and 1 Cor 11:1-24 just to name a few. Roll Luke’s Acts 6:3 in as well. According to the analogy of faith, if one verse or passage isn’t clear, then we turn to others that are clear. Those standing on Rom 16:1 in hopes of finding deaconesses would do well to consider this basic Reformed principle and seek clarity from Scripture rather than the feminist culture.

None of this is rocket science. The majority report of the Overtures Committee cited these portions of the BCO. For those that want a Scriptural warrant, I have cited several clear Scriptural teachings in this and my previous post.

I’ll repeat here something that I posted on my blog earlier tonight. If we treat Scripture like a wax nose to accommodate the culture, we fall for the same lie that Eve swallowed in the garden: “Did God really say…” This deaconess thing is a Scripture authority issue, pure and simple. 1 Tim 3:12 by itself should be clear enough to settle this issue for those that hold to Scripture’s absolute authority. If we decide to try to conform Scripture to the world for whatever reason, we trade the gospel for a lie.

Posted by Bob Mattes

Moving On

Doug has answered my post here. I am not going to answer every point. If he wants to think that he has checkmated me on certain issues, he can think that way. He has never answered my exegesis, nor has he shown how my alternatives to obedience/disobedience description of faith are not to the point. He has claimed that they are not to the point, but that is not the same as proving it. Quite simply put, our response to God’s command to come to faith is God’s doing, and therefore of grace, and therefore cannot be put in the same category as obedience. Obedience and grace are antithetical when it comes to justification, because of the law/gospel hermeneutic (which of course, Doug and I disagree on). I think that Doug would agree with parts of that formulation, at least, and I am content to leave it there. If Doug wants to reply further on this issue, he can have the last word. I have played chess since I was 4 years old, and have some talents in it. At any rate, I can recognize checkmate when I see it, and this isn’t it.   

One more comment on the aliveness of faith in justification. No Reformed author of which I am aware advocates justification by a dead faith. Of course faith must be alive in order to be instrumental in justification. But that is not the point I am raising. The point I am raising is that the aliveness of faith is not part of the justification mechanism itself. It is a sine qua non, but not a part of the cause. David McCrory stated it well, I though in the first comment under Doug’s post, although I still would not use the term obedience in reference to justification.  

Regeneration happens simultaneously with justification, not before it. I have excellent antecedents in the Reformed faith for thinking so: John Calvin, Richard Gaffin, Sinclair Ferguson, and the entire WTS faculty. Calvin believes that union with Christ is the basic soteric category in which all other things are comprehended. Within that broad category, there are justification type benefits and sanctification type benefits that occur simultaneously with God’s gift of faith to the believer. On this basis, I reject utterly the view that justification depends on a prior infusion of grace in regeneration. The infusion and the imputation occur simultaneously, neither one dependent on the other, neither one separated from the other in any way, including time. The mechanism of justification differs radically from the mechanism of sanctification. This simultaneity is at the very least hinted at in WLC 77. I realize that some Reformed authors place regeneration before faith in time. I do not see any biblical passages that teach this. On the contrary, when regeneration happens, faith is present. Similarly, when faith is present, justification has also happened. Hence, faith lays hold passively (because the righteousness is extra nos, although ours by right of union) of Christ’s righteousness in justification, and actively (because it includes a real, actual righteousness in the believer) lays hold of Christ in sanctification by the power of the Spirit.  

On Romans 6, is Doug seriously suggesting that “dikaisunen” means “justification?” He needs to look up the word in BDAG. When he does, he will find out that the vast majority of the uses of the term simply mean “righteousness.” It is by extension that the term means righteousness judicially by divine declaration. The word by no means automatically implies justification. Justification is the meaning of the word when the context demands it. Since Romans 6 is clearly talking about sanctification, not justification, then the meaning of righteousness is determined accordingly. Hence the obedience of faith also has to do with sanctification in that passage, not with justification. I noticed that Doug only engaged about 1/5 of my arguments on the passage. Furthermore, just because one word has an interesting semantic range has nothing to do with whether another word has an interesting semantic range. Just because dessert has a wide semantic range does not mean that cookie also has a wide semantic range. There are limits to the analogy, including the fact that righteousness and obedience both have narrower semantic ranges than “dessert” has. The point is simply that the semantic range of one word does not determine the semantic range of another word.

Finally moving on to the next section of the Joint Statement. My previous response is here. I invite Doug primarily to respond to that. What does constitute a hermeneutical grid not derived from the Scriptures themselves? More importantly, who or what gets to determine what would fall into such a category? How does the analogy of faith enter into this discussion? This statement is so vague that anyone can interpret the phrase “non-Scriptural hermeneutical grid” to exclude just about anything they want to exclude. Is the Trinity a non-Scriptural hermeneutical grid? How about the Westminster Confession? This statement masks disagreement among the FV’ers on this very point: Wilson wants to uphold the Confessions, verbally at least. Jeff Meyers thinks that the standards are not sufficient for the 21st century. Norman Shepherd thinks that the PCA should just chuck the Westminster Standards entirely (as if the 3FU are any more conducive to his views than the WS are!). This is a fairly broad range of opinion on the churchly standards. In my opinion, such a statement allows any FV’er to say anything they want about the confessional standards of the church. Let me repeat myself from my earlier post on this subject: good and necessary consequence has the same authority as Scripture itself, according to WCF 1.6. Speaking in the abstract, then, whatever in the Westminster Standards is, in fact, good and necessary consequence does have the authority of Scripture itself. Whatever is not of good and necessary consequence does not. In the latter statement lies the qualification that one does not make in regard to Scripture itself. It is possible that the standards are wrong. But whatever is correct in the Standards by good and necessary consequence has the authority of Scripture, since it is simply a summary of Scripture. Many people are uncomfortable with saying this. They rightly point out that the words of men do not have the same authority as the Word of God. But that is not what we are saying here. What we are saying is that, to the extent that the Westminster Standards accurately summarize Scripture, it has the authority of Scripture, since it is good and necessary consequence to the extent that it is accurate. Such summaries can be amended to be even more accurate. And there might be errors in the WCF. It is fallible in the sense that it can err. But that is not the same as saying that it is in error. I believe it to be an accurate summary of Scripture. As we will see, the joint FV statement does not hold the WS in the same regard as this paragraph does.     

How to Avoid a Recession

Compare this as an analogy. You are sitting in your agrarian home with a stockpile of wheat. This is your food. You know that a famine is coming. What do you do? Do you say, “Well, let’s eat all our wheat now, because there won’t be any more later”? This is idiotic. What you do is tighten your belt, ration the wheat, eat less, and grit your teeth while plowing on (literally). 

Similarly, when the nation is facing a recession or worse, the government should not go on spending like there is no tomorrow. It has been far worse than this before. Our current economic woes are nothing compared to the Great Depression. The problems happened when government soared it to take control, slapped a wage-price freeze, and everything disappeared. More government control is a sure way to ensure that our economic woes last as long as possible, and are as bad as possible.

What the government should do is drastically cut spending (as in, all pork barrel spending, special projects, etc.), and then cut taxes. The government should cut spending by about 50%, and then cut taxes by about 30%. These are just round figures, of course. Everyone should be paid their wages, but all excess spending should be cut. Of course, in my opinion, that also means that government should get out of schooling, Social Security, and welfare. However, that doesn’t look very likely in the near future. What they can do is to halt excess spending in the short-term projects, thereby tightening their girths.

The problem here is that many people, seeing a recession coming, think that government should get bigger so as to solve all the problems of the people. Government becoming bigger is called tyranny. It will always result in more control and less accountability. Government does not have a good track record of solving economic problems by becoming larger. Every time that happens, the economy goes down the tubes. 

Whatever one thinks of R.J. Rushdoony (and I am no theonomist), he certainly got this one right: unbelievers hate freedom, because they do not want the responsibility that goes with it. They want the credit when things go right. However, they do not want the blame when things go wrong. So is it with government and with individuals. Freedom requires responsibility. It also requires constant vigilance, lest those freedoms gradually be eroded. I am not saying that our woes can all be solved by cutting taxes. The ultimate problem is human sin, to which the solution is the gospel. What I am saying is that there is a measure of wisdom that the government needs to exercise right now if the economy is not going to melt down completely.  

Rejoinder to Lee Irons

First, I thank Lee for addressing the issues exegetically and irenically. Hopefully my response will be in the same spirit. Part 1 of his response is here, and part 2 is here. I will deal with the arguments seriatim.

In part 1, Lee addresses my response to Strimple’s 3 exegetical arguments. My response to the first reply is relatively simple: Strimple does not argue that the feminine participle coupled only with διάκονος means an official office. This is clear from the Scripture texts that Strimple uses. In John 11:49, it is the high priest being talked about. In Acts 18:12, it is the proconsul. Why artificially limit the examples to offices, is my point? The feminine participle, coupled with “daughter of Abraham” does not indicate an official office, and yet the construction is precisely the same. Lee and Strimple are then artificially limiting the evidence under scrutiny. The fact is that the feminine participle plus noun does not equal an official office. The other examples of the verb “to be” plus deacon, on the other hand, are not parallel, since no participle is present in 1 Timothy 3:8, and the verb is an imperative in 1 Timothy 3:12. Furthermore, the construction in Philippians 1:1 is not the same because the participle does not directly apply to the elders and deacons, but simply to the saints. There is certainly no evidence of female elders and deacons in Philippi. In view of all the preceding argumentation, the construction of feminine participle plus noun will not bear the weight that Lee wishes to put on it. I have not over-simplified, in other words. Lee has actually misread Strimple’s argument.

With regard to the second argument about the conjunction καὶ, the answer is also relatively simple: the conjunction means that something different is being said (unless you are dealing with a hendiadys, which none are claiming here) about Phoebe in the word διάκονον. Since “sister” does not equal “servant” by anyone’s imagination, the construction could just as easily say that Phoebe is a sister, and also a servant as it could say that Phoebe is a sister, and also a deacon. The one is as equally probable as the other. Therefore, no exegetical weight can be given to it: it fits in either construction equally well.

Thirdly, with regard to the genitival construction, there is no such grammatical construction as “genitive of official recognition.” It could be a genitive of source, genitive of object, or genitive of source, and probably a few other options. Personally, I lean towards genitive of object: she is the servant of the church at Cenchrea, a church which is the object of Phoebe’s servanthood. So again, the genitive construction cannot possibly bear the weight of Lee’s and Strimple’s construction, since it can just as easily (and far more simply) be saying that Phoebe was a servant of a church. Furthermore, the additional meaning that διάκονον has is not opposed to the fact that she is a lay-member. In other words, “sister” does not equal “lay-member.” Therefore, the word “servant” does not have to be something in addition to lay-memberhood, but can be something additional to the fact that she is a believer. I deny that I am taking an atomistic approach to the words. I, like Lee, am looking at the grammatical construction of the text, and trying to reason out what weight can be put upon certain constructions. The charge is atomism is irrelevant in this case, because we are both talking about the feminine participle with the word “servant,” the function of the conjunction within its context, and the genitive of the church.

Moving on to Lee’s second post about the contextual concerns, there are two main issues: does the “amen” at the end of the chapter indicate that Paul is going on to a completely new idea? Is it the road-bump that Lee calls it? I don’t believe it is. Paul very often inserts a benediction in the middle of his work, and then comes back after the small digression to what he was talking about before. We can see this in Ephesians 4:6-7, and especially Romans 9:5-6, which even includes the word “Amen,” after which Paul goes right back to what he was talking about before. In Romans 16, therefore, the amen does not supply such a road bumpto there being a connection between the “service” of 15:31 and the “servant” of 16:1. I fully realize that the chapter starts the chapter of greetings. However, what I do claim is that Phoebe was first because of the similarity of service. That leads us to the second issue, which is the nature of Paul’s service to Jerusalem.

There is simply no evidence as to the exact nature of this particular service. Rather, it seems to be a general term for everything which he has done for Jerusalem, many of which things would be off-limits to other men, let alone women. Rather, the connection between the two usages lies in the simple idea of “service,” each doing what each person is supposed to do. Reading deaconal ministry into 15:31 is not acceptable hermeneutically. I fully grant the point that Phoebe might very well have been the courier for the letter. However, that is not proven, nor would she need to have an office to be a courier of a letter. The reason Paul would have needed to provide such references was simply so that the church would receive the letter as from Paul himself. Quite frankly, the commendation of Phoebe as a servant of the church is an even higher recommendation than an office would be, especially given the fact that the “ebed Adonai” was held in such honor in the Old Testament.

The point about the word “helper” or “patroness” does not matter much, in terms of the difference in the semantic domain. The word does not help the case for “deacon” because the patroness would be using her own money to help out Paul, rather than being a dispenser of other people’s money, in the case of a deacon. Lee’s argument seems to imply that there is an overlap of function between “patroness” and “deacon.” This is simply not the case. A patroness would by definition have money of her own to spend. A deacon could be dirt poor. There is no necessary overlap whatsoever. Supporting a missionary out of one’s own pocket does not in any way mean that one is a deacon. It simply does not follow. This interchange has certainly been stimulating to me, and has forced me to read the text ever more carefully. I hope Lee has been equally stimulated.         

The Difference Between Kline and Enns

Simply put, Kline uses Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) sources in order to further the interpretation of the Old Testament. The doctrine of Scripture itself, however, comes from Scripture alone, for Kline. In his book, The Structure of Biblical Authority, for instance, Kline has these things to say:

The formation of the canon, rather than being a matter of conciliar decision or a series of such decisions with respect to a preexisting literature, was a divine work by which the authoritative words of God were through the mystery of inspiration inscipturated in document after document, the canon being formed by the very appearance of these God-breathed scriptures…Along with the performance of this apologetic-critical function, orthodox scholarship has addressed itself to the more positive study of the canon. Efforts in this direction, however, have been largely concerned with the proper formulation of Scripture canonicity in the dogmatic categories of the Bible’s own objective self-authentication as word of God and the Holy Spirit’s internal testimony to the Word…It is necessary to insist constantly that the Scriptures, whether the Mosaic covenant documents, which constituted the nuclear Old Testament canon, or any other Scripture, are authoritative-uniquely, divinely authoritative-simply in virtue of their origin through divine revelation and inspiration. Certainly, then, their authority as such is not to be accounted for by looking beyond them elsewhere (pp. 23-25, 37).

The last quotation is the most important, because there Kline, in the context, explicitly deals with the place of ANE treaty documents in our understanding of Scripture. He says that ANE sources provide a “purely formal” cast of canonicity. In other words, Kline clearly distinguishes between the authority of Scripture, which is derived from Scripture itself (see all of page 37 for this crucial distinction), and the form of Scripture, which bears resemblance to the ANE treaty documents. Its authority as the word of God does not depend on ANE sources. This is the crucial contrast with Enns, who wants our very doctrine of Scripture itself (what Scripture as a whole is) to be defined in reference to ANE background documents.   

I Am An Uncle Again!

All my nieces and nephews are wonderful to me (including those on my wife’s side). All together, I have 46 nephews and nieces. Here is the latest one, the first-born of my twin-brother and his wife. It looks like they are going to go with Germanic names. Hans Friedrich is definitely Germanic! Interestingly, it is also the first and middle names of a German commentator, whose commentary on Hebrews I own. Well, okay, that is probably only interesting to me! ;-)  

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