When Should We Read Commentaries?

Ask five different pastors this question, and you will get five completely different answers. Paul Levy, for instance, reads a couple commentaries all the way through before starting a sermon series. After that, he uses them only when he’s stuck. Others (and this seems to me to be the majority position) advocate that one should only use commentaries at the very end of the process of writing a sermon or Bible study. Oftentimes, the justification for this position is that one must make allowance for the work of the Holy Spirit, and we should not merely parrot what other people say. Some even advocate that no commentaries should be read until after the sermon is written. My experience is a little different.

I find that after I have gone through the text in the original languages very carefully, I still don’t have very many thoughts of my own. I am not much of an original thinker. I really only form my ideas of what the text says in conversation with others who have delved far more deeply into the text than I have.

As with any theological book, one eats the meat and spits out the bones. The same is true for commentaries. By all means, work through the text carefully on your own (and do it first, not least so that you can understand what the commentaries are saying). However, why limit yourself to your own ideas? Why not allow the historical stream of churchly interpretation to feed into your understanding of the text? I usually find that my final position on a text has a very eclectic set of nuggets gleaned from many different sources. I am often surprised at how it works. A commentary from which I got no help for weeks at a time sometimes justifies its very existence in one week where it nails the text and none of the others did. It can be breathtaking at times. Then there are those commentaries that very often have solid insights on almost every page (though these are rare).

To answer the objection about the Holy Spirit is easy. Firstly, the Holy Spirit comes through prayer. I seriously doubt that reading more commentaries constitutes an obstacle that the Holy Spirit cannot overcome. Furthermore, why couldn’t the Holy Spirit be operating through those commentaries to give you what you need? Can the Holy Spirit use the words of dead white European and American males (and a few of them alive still)? There are some excellent female interpreters of Scripture as well, who have written good commentaries (Joyce Baldwin and Karen Jobes spring immediately to mind)

The saddest thing of all in my mind is when a pastor thinks he is so much smarter than church history that he doesn’t need to read what anyone else thought on a passage of Scripture. Really? So you’re smarter than Calvin, are you? Smarter than Augustine? You have the Holy Spirit and they did not? We are not enslaved to any one interpreter. We are not required to believe everything that any non-inspired theologian wrote. Reading them does not mean that we are limited to them. But iron sharpens iron, as the biblical proverb has it. Why allow ourselves to be dulled by refusing to engage in the great centuries-old conversation about the meaning of the text? Limiting ourselves unnecessarily can result in very dull sermons, where so many nuggets in the text are simply by-passed so that the pastor can get up on his hobby-horse.

Make no mistake: there are dangers no matter what position you take on the reading of commentaries. The dangers of reading lots of commentaries are pride, an overdose of explanation, a presentation of too many alternative interpretations (which can easily bewilder a congregation), merely parroting in the sermon what others say, and confusion in one’s own mind about the meaning of the text. The dangers of reading too few commentaries, however, outweigh the dangers of reading too many, in my opinion. For here are the dangers of reading too few: ingrown, idiosyncratic interpretation; missing too many details of the text; application that has no root in the meaning of the text; stream of consciousness preaching; pride and over-reliance on one’s own interpretive skills (which would fall foul of Proverbs’ dictum to lean not on your own understanding); a despising of church history; a denigration of the Holy Spirit’s work in other ages of the church; chronological snobbery. It seems to me that the dangers of reading too many are more easily avoidable than the dangers of reading too few, since they are more obvious. If a sermon is the result of one mind interacting with many minds about the text, is there not a multitude of counselors? Isn’t that safer? I advocate, therefore, and practice an earlier reading of the commentaries in the process of sermon-writing and Bible study preparation. I advocate reading the commentaries (and as many as time and money allow) right after the careful reading of the text in the original languages.

Should We Read Expository Commentaries?

This question is a matter of debate over at Ref21, with Rick Phillips taking the pro side, and Paul Levy taking the con side. I have to say, having read many expository commentaries, that I whole-heartedly agree with Rick. Paul raises some important points, however, which deserve careful consideration.

The first point he raises is that “it is remarkable how many of these sermons are very similar and how they even sometimes cite each other.” It is true that I have seen expository commentaries cite each other. However, the very same point could be raised against more technical exegetical works. Indeed, I have seen many times a certain helpful quotation from someone like Westcott quoted in about ten more recent commentaries, none of them expository. Commenting on Scripture is an inherently accumulative discipline. That is, one accumulates insights from the best of church history. There is bound to be repetition. But there will also be nuggets that are gained in the twelfth or even twentieth commentary that were not present in the first or second. Furthermore, if some of the sermons are similar, then shouldn’t that be an encouragement to the preacher that if his sermon winds up looking a bit like those, that he is in good company, and is not spouting off heresy? While we certainly wish to discourage plagiarism, originality is not always a virtue!

Secondly, he is not convinced that all sermons should be turned into books. This appears to be a more general point that he fleshes out in his points about the difference between preaching and reading, and the fact that not all sermons are great. I agree that not all sermons should be turned into books. Of course, when one considers how many Reformed and Presbyterian preachers there are out there (to take but a small segment of the Christian Church), the vast majority of preached sermons never make it to print. There are well over a thousand sermons preached every single Sabbath day just in the Reformed and Presbyterian community. I would be shocked if more than five of them wind up getting published. That being said, his implied caution to hot-shot preachers who think they’re pretty good is well-taken: don’t automatically assume you are the exception! Every preacher is tempted by the thought that their words are pure gold, and that everyone should hang on their every utterance.

The point about the difference between preaching and reading is a valid one. I am not necessarily in favor of always editing sermons for publication by taking out the specific applications to a particular congregation (unless, of course, specific names are mentioned). One of the problems that preachers typically have is making applications specific enough. I know that I have this problem. It is all too easy to make an application hang out in the realms of generality without ever giving a concrete example, or bringing it home to people in a sharp way. If the sermons are written already with a view to publication, do they have this problem, or do they get edited with this problem in view? Of course, there is also a corresponding danger: if preachers are making their sermons ready for publication before they are even preached, they can often sound like lectures, in the sense that there is not enough repetition and glue holding the message together in a unity. The repetition and glue is not so necessary in a print form. Still, these points do not mean that the difficulties are insurmountable.

Lastly, he wants preachers to read the great books and the classics. A hearty amen from me on that. I don’t, however, see why reading the classics and the greats has to exclude reading expository commentaries in preparation for preaching on that passage. A pastor should read widely, and in many fields. To see how preachers have handled the passage in the past can sometimes even be a life-saver on particularly difficult passages, where the exegetical works might give no help at all.

Quote of the Week

This week, we hear from Meredith Kline, on a subject that is not one of the normal controversial subjects surrounding Kline’s work, but which nonetheless might very well prove to be controversial. I have not seen anyone address this question before now (which doesn’t mean that no one has, just that I haven’t read it). The quotation is from God, Heaven, and Har Magedon, p. 16:

It is by the Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived, the Glory-Spirit, the Power of the Most High, coming upon Mary and overshadowing her (Luke 1:35). The Father begets the Son through the Spirit. In this process the Spirit is the second person and the Son the third. And as in the spiration of the Spirit so in the begetting of the Son the economic relations of the divine persons are to be seen as analogues of their eternal immanent relations. The fathering of the incarnate Son by the endoxate (this is a term Kline coined to refer to the manifestation of the Spirit’s glory in visible form, LK) Spirit warrants inclusion of the Spirit along with the Father as a subject in the eternal divine begetting, the generating process of which the Son is the object. It is a desideratum, therefore, that a reference to the Holy Spirit corresponding to the filioque phrase in the creedal account of the spiration of the Spirit find a place in our confessional formulation of the eternal filiation of the Son.

What say you? Yes or no? The part that appeals to me about this formulation is that the eternal filiation of the Son has usually left out the Holy Spirit’s role in most theologians’ way of putting things. Kline puts the Holy Spirit back in where He belongs. The question I have revolves around the analogue: is it proper to reason back from the Incarnation to the eternal relations? And can that principle be extended to how the Holy Spirit is involved in the eternal filiation vis-a-vis the Holy Spirit’s participation in the Incarnation?

The Silencing of Naysayers

Hugh McCann linked to an interesting article on what is happening in Kentucky over the gay marriage decision. It apparently didn’t take long for some in the LGBT community deliberately to target Christians for what they believe. The ACLU’s response to the excellent argumentation in favor of Kim Davis’s position is that no one should be held to a different standard, now that gay marriage is the law of the land. Let’s test that response on a different law.

If abortion becoming legal is the law of the land, then should all naysayers against abortion be silenced? Are we requiring people to agree with laws nowadays? There are hundreds, if not thousands of laws that I would disagree with (if I even knew what half of them were: the federal law-code is ridiculously verbose) in this nation. No one has ever tried to silence completely the naysayers against abortion. That was because it was recognized that this is still a matter of free speech.

We need to remember an important distinction in the matter of law: if there is a ruling on the books that homosexuals may get married, then that means that the state cannot prosecute homosexuals who get a marriage license. That ruling cannot be made into a bludgeon to silence all dissent. If agreement with the ruling is the interpretation that the court goes with in the Kentucky case, then the court will make a fundamental error regarding what the law of the land is supposed to do.

Let’s take another example, one less controversial. If I disagree with a speed limit in a particular place, am I required verbally to agree that the speed limit in that zone should be what it is? In the case of a speed limit, the answer is no. I don’t have to agree that this is a good speed limit. But if I speed, then I make myself liable to the law. In the case of SSM, of course, there may quite conceivably come soon a time when we Christians are going to have to disobey laws of the land, because they contradict what God has commanded in His Word.

The ACLU might come back with this argument: “Ah, but Kim Davis is a government employee, and therefore she is required to uphold the law of the land.” To this, the response is quite simple, and two-fold: 1. Although it is now legal in the US to get a marriage license, that is not the same thing as saying that everyone is required to agree with it. 2. Government employees are not required to agree with the law regarding abortion in order to hold a public office. Why should they be required to agree with the SSM ruling in order to hold office? By their argument, the four justices who wrote dissents cannot be allowed to keep their office. If one reads the article, it becomes clear that the lawsuit had nothing to do with a gay couple being unable to get a licence in Kentucky. There were many other options available to them. The application for a marriage license was only sent Kim Davis’s way AFTER they learned of her stance on gay marriage. This is deliberate targeting. The ACLU argument is very weak indeed.

The New Edition of the Reformation Study Bible

At GA this year, I met Lisa Stolz, senior account manager of church outreach at Ligonier Ministries. We had a great conversation, at the end of which she offered to send me a copy of the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible for review on the blog. I said I would be delighted. Here are my thoughts on the new edition.

What’s new: how does this edition differ from the first edition? In several important ways. 1. It is now based on the ESV, not the NKJV. 2. It has maps and illustrations peppered throughout the text, and not just at the back (no doubt Ligonier saw how effectively the ESV Study Bible had made use of this concept). 3. They have definitely improved the binding of the Bible. Even the leather-look edition that I received looks extremely sturdy (quite thick material), and is Smyth-sewn. 4. They have included not just theological articles throughout the text, but also some longer articles at the end, and most importantly (to my mind, anyway), 4. They have included the ecumenical creeds, the Three Forms and Unity, and the Westminster Standards (I understand the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible includes these as well).

How does this study Bible compare to the ESV Study Bible (which, along with Joel Beeke’s Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, are the only competitors, to my mind, for the best study Bible for Reformed Christians)? Well, the ESV Study Bible is addressed to a broader audience. The ESV Study Bible has a few more maps and illustrations than the Reformation Study Bible does. However, the ESV Study Bible does not include the creeds and confessions. They are both bound well. Size-wise, the Reformation Study Bible is slightly smaller, though both are significant tomes. I like the printing of the ESV Study Bible slightly better. The notes are slightly more fulsome in the ESV Study Bible, though the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible has significantly increased its comments. You will see more breadth in the ESV Study Bible, more depth in the Reformation Study Bible. They would actually complement each other rather well. I would recommend either to any new Christian, and I would recommend both to any who can afford to have both. I do not have a copy of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, and so I can make no comparison to that study Bible, although I am sure that it is excellent work.

Tim Keller’s Book on Preaching

I was very pleasantly surprised to read Tim Keller’s book on preaching. I was afraid I would encounter a low view of preaching, an antinomian spirit, a denigration of exposition, and an exaltation of things that have no business being in the worship service. I encountered none of these things in this book. Although the book is not perfect, the good definitely outweighs the bad, and by a fair margin.

The good things: 1. He has a very helpful way of connecting the first use of the law to the third (though he does not use these terms). A general movement in the sermon that he recommends goes something like this: the law is what you are supposed to do, but you can’t do it. Jesus has done it, so if you are united to Him by faith, here is how you can do it, by growing in your faith.

2. In general, he uses excellent sources, and usually the best, to bolster his points. You see names like Ferguson, Lloyd-Jones, Clowney, Carson, Spurgeon, Old, Perkins, Dabney, Calvin, Edwards, and Packer.

3. In an age when preaching is falling on hard times, Keller is definitely going counter-cultural here. In fact, his thoughts on culture are very helpful at places. He has a balance between acknowledging what can be a point of contact, while using that same point of contact to confront the culture at various points, including both unconsciously held narratives as well as explicit idolatries.

4. He advocates a mostly responsible redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture (see my one caveat below) that sees Jesus in the Old Testament.

5. The gospel is for Christians and unbelievers. He has a robust view of the possible hearers, and a helpful taxonomy of various spiritual places that hearers could be.

6. There are many insights that are eminently quotable. Here are a few: “[Secular people]…won’t even consider real Christianity unless they see it is not identical to moralism” (p. 62). “We need not only the Bible’s prescription to our problems but also its diagnosis of them” (p. 97). “[I]magine that the Bible is not the product of any one human culture or set of authors but is a revelation from God himself. If that were the case, then it would have to offend every person’s cultural sensibilities somewhere. No matter who you are, you inhabit an imperfect culture that shapes your beliefs, and the Bible-if it were authoritative revelation from God-would then have to be outrageous to you at some place. Since that is the case, it is no argument against the Bible to say, ‘It offends me at this point.’ That is precisely what you should expect” (pp. 113-114). It should be pointed out that Keller is not advocating a low view of Scriptural authority here. Rather, he assumes a high view.

There are many other good things about this book. I have not been exhaustive, but only representative.

There are a few caveats that I feel are necessary to point out. First, although Keller does have what seems to me a responsible redemptive-historical hermeneutic that sees Christ in the Old Testament, he also tries to use a bit of the Christotelic hermeneutic, compliments of Tremper Longman (pp. 86-87). I used to think that a second Christotelic re-reading was fully compatible with Luke 24 and John 5. I no longer think that is true. Yes, the New Testament does help us understand the Old Testament. The question is whether the NT sheds light on what is actually there in the OT, or whether the NT changes the meaning of the OT. It is not entirely clear to me which of these positions Keller would ultimately assume, although the majority of his argumentation favors the former, more orthodox position.

Secondly, Keller references Krister Stendahl’s article “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” which was a seminal article in the formation of the New Perspective on Paul. While it is possible that there is some good in that article, it would have been nice to see Keller offer a caveat, so that people would not think that Keller is endorsing the NPP. He does the same with N.T. Wright in at least one place.

Thirdly, there are a few false dichotomies he uses that I do not think are terribly useful. On pages 157ff., he advocates (rightly) that the human being is a whole being, body and soul, mind and heart, and that we should not separate these things. The heart can think, biblically speaking. It is not just emotions (p. 158). He advocates preaching to the heart (again, how could one disagree?). The quibble I have has to do with how Keller sees truth, propositions, and the mind. It seems to me that Keller does not really see the truth by itself as carrying the weight of conviction that Scripture says it carries. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free. Jesus did not say “the truth dynamically spoken.” Keller agrees with Edwards that there is no opposition between mind and heart (p. 161). Well and good, except that he also advocates an essential element of making the truth “gripping and real to the heart” (p. 160). He is not excluding rational argument and doctrine (p. 162 makes this plain). Is there room in Keller’s theology for God using a dry-as-dust-but-orthodox sermon to transform someone’s life permanently? Another example of what I am asking is on page 169, where Keller (ironically) uses a proposition to denigrate propositions. He argues that the imagination is more affected by images than by propositions. Perhaps, if one has a low and narrow view of propositions. But why must propositions be dull and unimaginative? Why can’t propositions use imagery, metaphor, word-pictures? He brings in the example of Genesis 4:7, and the imagery of sin being like an animal crouching at the door. He argues that this imagery conveys more information “than a mere proposition could do.” But if you look at his own statement, it is a proposition. Furthermore, so is Genesis 4:7! It is a proposition that sin is like an animal crouching at the door. It seems to me that Keller simply has a narrow view of what propositions can do, as if they can only be premises or conclusions in a formal logical argument. Related to this is something that is simply false on page 287, footnote 4, where Keller agrees with Smith in critiquing what he calls “an approach to ministry that is too rationalistic and focused on information transfer and the transmission of right doctrine and beliefs. His response is that we change not by changing what we think as much as by changing what we worship-what we love and fill our imaginations with.” This is a false dichotomy. It is difficult to square this kind of thinking with Romans 12:1-2, where we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Is doctrine really this boring?

Fourthly, I do not share his view of the inadvisability of preaching through entire books to a mobile city church. Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia has just as mobile a congregation as Redeemer does, and yet they preach straight through book after book of the Bible. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Tenth very much, to put it mildly.

I am not sure what I think of his three tiers of communication related to the gospel (the introduction, pp. 1-7). Initially when I read it, I thought that it makes sense on one level. However, what Keller did not make clear is what impact this would have on his view of, say, women in ministry. Keller is in favor of the dictum that a woman can do anything in worship that a non-ordained man can do. But if this is true, and a non-ordained man can preach, then may a woman do so? This certainly would seem to fall foul of 1 Timothy 2.

Although I have had to explain at somewhat greater length my quibbles with Keller’s book, I do not want the readers to get the impression that the quibbles outweigh the good things. Quibbles always take longer to explain. Furthermore, my list of good things is only representative, whereas the quibbles are pretty much exhaustive. This is still an excellent book on preaching, and I would recommend it to anyone who is committed (as everyone should be with any theologian, including this blogger!) to eating the meat and spitting out the bones.

Quote of the Week

Some of my readers might be wondering whether I dropped off the face of the earth. Our family was sick for a month and a half. It was the single worst respiratory disease I have ever had, and my poor wife Sarah was in constant pain during all that time. We believe there is a mold issue in our house. Fortunately, we also believe that it can be fixed relatively quickly. Our church has been marvelous about fixing the manse quickly and efficiently, and we feel very loved.

The quote of the week (month?) comes from Joseph Caryl, his commentary on Job, volume 3, p. 445, commenting on Job 10:3:

Many are troubled at small defects in the outward man: Few are troubled at the greatest deformities of their inner man; they call for no repairs, for no fresh colours to be laid on there; many buy artificiall beauty to supply the defects of naturall, who never had a thought of buying (without money) spirituall beauty to supply the defects of supernaturall. The crookednesse and distortions, the blacknesse and uncomelinesse of the soul are most deplorable, yet are they little deplored; we are called every day to mend and cure them, we are told where and how we may have all set right, and made fair again, and yet the most stirre not, or not to purpose. God will not know any body at the last day, unlesse his souls be mended by grace, and some do so mend their bodies by art, that God will not know their souls at that day. Depart from me, I know you not (will be all their entertainment) ye have mended your bodies till ye have mar’d your souls (spelling and punctuation original).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many more Puritan quotes so directly applicable to modern culture.

Happy Chained America, or “Celebrating Independence”?

Chain

Our country was founded to be a religiously free country. This was one of the primary goals, if not the primary goal, of the pilgrims in coming over from England. Later on, even the founding fathers who were not Christian still believed in religious freedom. For instance, Thomas Jefferson, hardly a Christian himself, did not believe that civic freedoms depended on one’s religious beliefs. He believed in a complete freedom of religion. Take a good look at the bill that Jefferson helped write and sponsor for the Virginia legislature. Are not the evils mentioned in it precisely those that we see today, and have every right to fear in the future?

Here are the words of the first amendment to our constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In today’s world of a “living and breathing Constitution,” this has become a complete wax nose. It means whatever the cultural majority decides it means.

Up until the SCOTUS ruling, there has been mostly freedom of religion (although that has eroded somewhat). There will no longer be a true freedom of religion, unless cooler heads prevail. Folks, if someone wants to be able to say “I hate homosexual people,” he ought to have the freedom to voice his opinion (this is something I would not say, by the way). I date the chaining of America to June 26, 2015. We are no longer a free country. People might very well respond by saying that they are just pursuing their rights, which have been denied them for a long time. This is an utter lie. Judging from the religious persecution that has already started against conservative Christians who refuse to engage in something that they cannot by their own conscience do, churches will most certainly be targeted.

If Satan’s minions were willing to listen, they might realize that they are using the wrong strategy, if they desire to eliminate the church’s influence from America. Up until now, Satan has been making the American church fat and lazy by giving them multitudinous opportunities to be comfortable. Churches fall away from Christ in droves when this happens. It has been happening. Now, however, all that dross is about to be purged away. The church is going to become lean, purer, and much more effective. It will start to look more and more like the house churches in China. There will be many positive things that will come out of this situation. In other words, I am not whining. Obviously, God knows that the church in America needs this in order to be purged. But my point is this: the left should not try to kid themselves or lie to the American public about their true goals. Welcome to the Chained States of America. Big brother is watching.

A Textual Variant That Makes a Difference

In Revelation 11:17, the Textus Receptus has added the phrase “and who is coming” to the end of the first clause of thanksgiving. No doubt, the scribes were used to seeing “who is, and who was, and who is coming.” The best manuscripts do not have the phrase “and who is coming.” The omission of the phrase is a fascinating glimpse into the theology of the text. The reason why the original did not have the phrase is because, from the perspective of the twenty-four elders, Christ had already come! If, as seems likely, the seventh trumpet is a description of the very end of the current world, then we are getting a glimpse at what post-consummation worship looks like. It is rather important, then, that the phrase “and is coming” is NOT present in the text. It is gloriously absent!

What Are You Willing to Give Up?

Today’s Supreme Court ruling federally legalizes same-sex “marriage.” It seems obvious to me that we need to prepare our people for persecution, while simultaneously preparing them to speak lovingly, yet truthfully, to the LGBT community. This will not be an easy road. What are we willing to give up? For this decision constitutes America’s attempt to re-define God’s own creation ordinance. This will have massive ramifications that we can only barely glimpse at the moment.

The somewhat provocative title of this post should not be seen as a call to emotional hysteria. All too often, the conversation is characterized by shrill voices on both sides of the debate, thus creating a climate where no one can listen. Evangelicals are rank with fear. Why? And what kind of fear is it? I think we fear to lose the comfortable liberty we have had for such a long time. We fear to lose what is in our bank account. We fear social ostracism. In other words, we fear man, not God. On the other side, we see the LGBT community using emotionally charged words to shout down the opposition. The words “bigot,” “hate-speech,” and “homophobic” are thrown at anyone who does not agree with their agenda. There is no communication going on, only a lot of shouting. The importance of books like Rosaria Butterfield’s masterpiece can hardly be underestimated at a time like this, because no one could possibly accuse such an ex-Lesbian of hate-speech, and yet she also speaks the truth. More books like this need to be written. The most thorough treatment of the exegetical issues is undoubtedly Gagnon’s book. For a smaller, more accessible book (although Gagnon is not too difficult to read), there is now Kevin Deyoung’s book. Butterfield’s book, though, is the most important of the three.

The accelerated pace of the sea-change going on now in America requires some comment. I am constantly hearing of people who think that “such and such thing cannot possibly happen in America.” I am not sure that anything is off the table anymore. The changes are easily fast enough now to make us dizzy. I am preaching this Sunday on Revelation 11. A more timely text could hardly be imagined. The two witnesses I take to be the church defined as a legally valid testimony on Old Testament Deuteronomic terms. The persecution rises against them until the church appears dead. The world rejoices. God will then vindicate those witnesses by raising them from the dead. I know that every era of church history has had people saying that the end is upon us. As a good Amillenial, I believe that they are all correct. The end-times are upon us. As Hebrews 1 says, we are in the last days now (“in these last days God has spoken to us in (or by) His Son”). The American church is about to be seriously pruned. We are about to look a lot more like the house churches in China. Anyone got some nice spacious basements?

What are we willing to give up? We are going to have to be willing to give up forever the idea of being “relevant,” at least in the way that many people mean the term. We cannot adopt the world’s way of doing things. Our way of being truly relevant is to speak the truth to people who do not want to hear what we have to say. We need to be willing to give up prestige, money, land, freedom, and life itself. They will be gone in a very short period of time. Our families will be torn apart. The government will take away everything we value. Welcome to the brave new world.

For the latter half of the twentieth century, Satan has been using the carrot to lure people away from the true church, and away from the means of grace. Satan is changing tools. He will now use the stick. Probably very few of us would have recognized ahead of time that the homosexual marriage issue would be the issue by which this change would take place.

As I was talking with one of my elders this morning about these things, it struck me forcefully that we need to pray for our dispensational Pre-millenial brothers. What is going to happen will knock their theology for a loop. They believe that they are going to escape the tribulation by means of the Rapture. Revelation 11 says otherwise. Even if verse 12 is talking about a Rapture, it clearly does NOT occur until after the death and resurrection experience of verses 7-11. At that time, those brothers will be wondering if God is incorrect in what He said, and what else God might be wrong about. They might very well forget to ask the question about whether they understand the text correctly or not. We need to pray for them that their faith will hold firm.

Do not fear what is about to happen. Above all, do not get hysterical, as if God’s grip on the world has somehow slipped. Instead, rejoice that the end is near. Count it pure joy when you experience trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith will produce perseverance. Know that the poor, dead-looking church over which the world will gloat will one day rise up again, in spite of the world. The world will then gape in dread and awe of the church as God resurrects it. SCOTUS may think itself the supreme court of the land. Boy, are they in for a shock!

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