When the New Testament authors penned their letters, they made statements. Some of these were imperatives, commanding their audience to action or abstinence on some level. Some were wishes or desires they hoped their congregations would achieve. And some were questions, rhetorical or otherwise, to spur them to higher thinking.
Propositions are this very thing: they are a statement(s) [defintion b is what I have in mind] made to establish a coherent thought or argument. In Biblical hermeneutics, we need to further refine that definition for the purpose of breaking down the argument and getting back to the author’s original intent for his audience. Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers a concise yet true statement of what constitutes a proposition in chapter 6 of his book, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles.
What is a proposition? A proposition is a statement or an assertion about something…In order to be a proposition a statement must have a subject and a predicate. The subject or predicate can be implied.
Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, p. 99
At its simplest form, then, a proposition must have at least a subject and verb. The one solution that remains is identifying such propositions. The most natural way for this, is to split a sentence whenever you encounter a new verb. Sometimes however, it’s better to split elsewhere, particularly when you have several phrases strung together. Let’s look at a couple examples.
Jesus died on the cross, is a single proposition. There is a subject, Jesus, and a verb, died. It seems simple enough. But things get a little more complex as you attempt to diagram longer sentences and passages. 1Peter 1:3-5 will suffice to demonstrate the complexity of such longer passages.
(1Peter 1:3-5) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
As you can see, the sentence is quite long. The only real verb in the sentence is caused to be born again. There are also several prepositional phrases in succession. So in this case, it may be wise to split the passage after each prepositional phrase. Below, is how I would split the passage. The passage will be further refined as we continue the tutorial.
Some would choose to split the passage after every prepositional phrase, genitive phrase, participle phrase, etc. The best rule is to split the passage that will yield the best exegetical explanation. Not every phrase is exegetically significant, but some can be. I believe in this case, the prepositional phrases will yield some interesting discoveries. At this point, if you need to refresh your memories of the types of phrases and clauses, please do so. The post is here. As we continue, things will become a bit more complicated. Our next tutorial will continue with splitting propositions into its finer parts.
2Peter 1:19-21 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
One of the comforting components of genuine Christianity is the assurance of a clear conscience before God. A clear conscience means we can freely approach our Father and ask Him for that which we need or desire (Mt 7:7-11, Heb 4:16, 1John 5:15).
Sadly, many pastors have lost the art of properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel. When the two are conflated, tender consciences become disturbed, causing a lack of assurance to the point of even fearing to come to the Father and pray. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve struggled. I’ve feared. I’ve floundered. We need to be constantly reminded to look outside of ourselves and look to the sure, prophetic word to find rest for our weary souls and peace for our bruised consciences. And God has not left us helpless. He has graciously given this to us. Let us now explore this word in 2Peter 1:19-21.
setting up the text
2Peter tackles the issue of those false teachers who had denying the Master who bought them (2:1). In light of this, Peter exhorts his audience to live in the power that has given them the Holy Spirit and enabled them to live godly lives, despite the corruption that surrounds them. The authenticity of Peter’s authorship has been debated since the time of the early Church. Many scholars, including J.H. Elliott (Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary) puts the writing of the letter late or early 2nd century (AD 100 or later). Elliot states,
The advanced Hellenistic spirit of the letter, the Christian divisions it describes, the delay of the parousia it must explain and the doubts it must dispel, its retrospective appeal to the legacy of an apostle no longer alive, the misuse of prophetic and Pauline writings it must correct, along with its relatively late attestation are all features which indicate that 2 Peter is, with great likelihood, the latest composition of the NT, written sometime in the first quarter of the 2d century
Elliott, J. H. (1992). Peter, Second Epistle of, vol 5, p.287 In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.
Many other scholars date the letter early, just before Peter’s execution in the mid AD 60’s. This stems from the fact that there is no mention of 1Enoch, as in Jude, and those who the author is writing against were not Gnostic in their beliefs, as was the late first to second century heresy prevailed and surely would have been addressed, as C.D. Osburn, writing for Erdman’s demonstrates.
2 Peter knows the Pauline letters, which date from the mid-1st century but were collected somewhat later. The Apocalypse of Peter, dating from the first half of the 2nd century, knows 2 Peter. The lack of reference to 1 Enoch indicates a 1st-century date. Also, the absence of “early Catholic” stress on institutional officeholders may suggest an earlier date. The opponents are certainly not 2nd-century Gnostics. 2 Pet. 3:4 may reflect that the first generation of Christians, that of the apostles, are dead. The scoffers’ objection in 3:4 is plausible in the period 75–90, marked by great disillusionment regarding the Parousia. There is certainly no basis for viewing 2 Peter as the latest composition in the NT.
Osburn, C. D. (2000). Peter, Second Letter of, pg. 1040 In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
Both the Anchor Yale & Eerdman’s articles may be downloaded at the below links
The immediate context begins the section at verse 16 where Peter assures his audience of his and the other apostles eye-witness of Christ’s glory. More than likely, this is referring to the Jesus’ transfiguration. Lenski & Weidner from the 19th century hold this view, as well as Giese, author of 2Peter and Jude in the Concordia Commentary series.
A main clause and its succeeding compound clause anchor this passage, which is steeped in talk of God’s word. Examining the structure, we see that Peter first makes the assertion of personal possession of this word: we have the word. It is a simple yet factual statement that he can anchor his audience’s hope with. His statement is then followed by the second main compound clause connected with the causal γαρ (for). This grounds the preceding clause and gives the reason his audience should pay close attention to this Word. Let’s discuss each of these clauses to understand why we can derive our assurance solely based on God’s sure, prophetic, word.
We have the word
The astute Bible student will no doubt pick up that λόγος (logos) is used here to describe this word to which Peter is referring. Normally this word simply means a saying or discourse about something. However, with the adjective προφητικός (prophetic) it becomes, as BDAG states, “an inspired interpretation of the divine will” (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.), p.891 Logos Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press). In other words, it is not the prophet himself from which this oracle comes, as Peter will point out in the next clause.
Having this prophetic word comes with an exhortation. The relative pronoun (to which) is a dative of reference, pointing back to the prophetic word which is described as βέβαιος (more fully confirmed). It means something that is reliable and trustworthy; or as TDNT puts it, that which is steadfast. Peter’s exhortation is to pay attention to this word. God’s revelation to us is described as a shining lamp, flooding in reminiscence of Psalm 119:105. We are not to allow this light to be extinguished but rather to keep it at the forefront until the Day that Christ reveals Himself by our physical deaths or He returns to bring us into His everlasting presence.
Why are we to pay such close attention? The connecting clause tells us that it is simply for the fact that we are to understand that this word did not originate with man. The phrase someone’s own interpretation is a Genitive of Source, simply meaning that prophecy in and of itself cannot lie in man but must come from somewhere outside himself. The second clause grounds the reasoning behind Peter’s statement.
No prophecy was ever produced by the will of men…but men spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This second clause is headed by the explanatory γάρ (for). It further explains and solidifies Peter’s previous statement about the word. This section is comprised of two coordinating clauses, a negative statement and a positive statement.
A negative statement about prophecy – The statement itself is a denial of what is known as the dative of manner (of the will of man). That is, it is a denial that prophecy, as a means, could be produced or come about (γίνομαι) by man’s will or nature.
A positive statement about prophecy – the preceding clause’s coordinate part is contrasted with ἀλλά (but) which is to say on the contrary (Louw-Nida Semantic Domain Lexicon). It is the denial of the first clause, no prophecy originating by man’s will, and the upholding of this second clause which makes this a true negative/positive statement. Peter now emphatically affirms that the Scriptures about, of, and pointing to the Savior come directly from the agent of the Holy Spirit. It is He that spoke of the Son’s atoning work and resurrection. It is because of this that we are to pay close attention to this word, regard it as a lamp in a dark place, and know that this word has not originated with man himself.
We can be certain that when God speaks, He accomplishes all His will (Isa 55:11). Most importantly, this includes the prophecies and the words regarding Jesus and His completed work on the cross. We too often look inward for a feeling, emotion, or other subjective assurance. Yet Peter plainly tells us that the more fully confirmed prophetic word is all that we need to live a life of godliness in Christ Jesus (2Peter 1:3-4). Christian, it is time to look outward to the prophetic word of God for your assurance. Looking inward will not do! It will bring you sorrow upon sorrow as you see your own sinfulness swallowing you whole. Let us cease from such insolence and begin to look Extra Nos.
As believers in Christ, we are all in a marathon. This marathon is much different from its earthly counterpart. There is a prize—and a punishment for not finishing or not entering at all. It’s grueling to think that we are in one race or another, taking one side or another without being aware. But the Bible affirms that the race we run will either be within the Gate Broad or the Gate Narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).
Fortunate for us, God’s grace is as broad as it is deep. He has provided not only a way to finish this race but also Someone who already has. Our devotional focuses on Hebrews 12:1-2. Below is an English diagram along with some of my own thoughts. A full-sized diagram can be downloaded with the provided link on the bottom of the picture.
Diagram colors: Red = main subject/clause Purple = participial/participial clause-phrase Green = subordinating/coordinate conjunction
The chapter starts with the familiar “Therefore…” which looks back at the preceding Hebrews 11, affectionately called the Hall of Faith. Chapter 11 lays out the men and women whose faith is praised, going as far as to highlight the fact that even though they tasted earthly death their faith gave them the sight to see since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect (11:40).
The main clause, Let us run the race, and the prevailing idea, is sandwiched between two participle phrases. I believe these two phrases are complimentary to the main verb as both are circumstantial and give the means as to how we are to run the race (i.e., the Christian life). Circumstantial participles, though not the main verb, can shed light on a text as Greek scholar, Herbert Smyth points out.
The circumstantial participle is added, without the article, to a noun or pronoun to set forth some circumstance under which an action, generally the main action, takes place…Such participles usually have the force of subordinate clauses added to the main verb by conjunctions denoting time, condition, cause, etc; but may often be rendered by adverbial phrases or even by a separate finite verb, which brings out distinctly the idea latent in the participle(Smyth, H. W. (1920). A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York; Cincinnati; Chicago; Boston; Atlanta: American Book Company, pg. 456-457 – Logos Edition).
The first participial clause, let us lay aside every weight and sin, precedes the main verb. According to Steve Runge, Research Associate in the Department of Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, this clause is a literary device known as a Topical Frame. It serves to “front” a specific action, in this case, the running of the race. (Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament-Logos Edition). The author then proceeds to tell us why we are to perform this action. It is because of those who had gone before them. The attributive participle since we are surrounded refers specifically to the heroes of chapter 11. It gives the audience a sense of hope that they are not the only ones to “give up” something of temporal value.
The second participle phrase is looking unto Jesus. It is connected to the main subject and verb let us run and describes the manner in which this is to occur. BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature), gives two possible definitions for this word: the first is to direct ones attention to without distraction. The second is to develop a more precise knowledge about something or someone. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pg. 158 Logos Edition). The first definition seems to fit the context much better. But the question remains of how one is to look to Jesus? I believe the answer is found in our first participle clause: we look, fix, gaze our attention upon Jesus by laying aside every weight and sin which so easily clings to us. Since the participle looking is subordinate to the main verb and is connected to the participial phrase lay aside every weight and sin by the coordinating conjunction καὶ (and), I believe the author of Hebrews is admonishing his audience from apostatizing by laying that temptation aside to gaze upon the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19).
The author now turns to the focus of the Christian life, Jesus, whom he calls the founder and perfecter of the Christian faith. Interestingly, the author points out two parallels between our own race and that of the Savior.
First, just as Jesus has endured the cross, we are to run our race with endurance. The word ὑπομένω (hupōmenō) is used in both cases and indicates maintaining a belief or course of action in the face of opposition (BDAG). The recipients of this epistle were in danger of turning back from the faith because of opposition from the Jewish community. They must now run with endurance in the same way the Founder of their faith had to hupōmenō His own course which led to death on the cross!
A second seemingly parallel is the idea that both Jesus’ course and our course is laid out for us to see. Again, the author uses the same Greek word for both, πρόκειμαι (prokemai). He uses the word in chapter 6 to describe our future hope, as well. And interestingly, the word is also used in Jude to refer to the example of the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. All of this appears to indicate that whatever course is marked out for the author’s audience, it will take not only endurance, but a dependence on the One who finished the race against all opposition that was before Him.
The Christian life is indeed a marathon. It is not something to be entered into lightly, as Jesus Himself has told us, “Consider the cost.” (Luke 14:28) The race is full of dangers, oppositions, temptations, fleshly enemies, and the powers of Hell itself opposes all who would enter into the narrow gate. The only way to finish the race is by fixing our gaze upon the One who has already won, laying aside and cutting off anything and everything that would hinder us from reaching the finish line. Our Savior has given us gifts to complete our race.
First, and chiefly, He has given us Himself as the sacrifice which is pleasing to the Father. Without His merits and atonement, we would not even be able to enter into the race and we would be left on our own to walk in this realm, unaided and uncared for.
Second, He has given us the gifts of baptism and His body & blood. These visible, physical elements are His way to aid us in our endurance. We feast on His body and blood to revive our weary sin-stained souls so that we may continue to run (John 6:55-56). And in our baptism, we are daily reminded that our old Adam must be drowned and our new life must rise from the flood waters and live moment by moment unto Christ (Romans 6:1-6).
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, be encouraged that your race, your problems, your trials, are not so peculiar that there has never been one to endure what you endure. Know that Christ has already won Life for you by perfectly submitting to the Father. Be encouraged that His gifts are sufficiently and abundantly provided to you so that you too, when crossing the finish line will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
I don’t think any dialogue about the study of Scripture can be had without introducing some form of analyzing the text. Most times, this type of discussion centers around diagramming.
I used to blow such discussion off with a, “Pffft—who needs to diagram to accurately understand the text?” I quickly changed my mind when I began to actually take the time to do it. It has become an invaluable tool for me. Below are my three main reasons why one should bother with this strenuous exercise.
It Causes Meditation
One of the key elements of carefully studying any passage of Scripture is the ability to carefully read it. And because any sentence diagram you attempt must place every word according to its function in a particular place, you are forced to slow down and consider every part of speech. You will begin to see how every clause, phrase, noun and verb fulfills their individual role within the sentence. You will unknowingly, and probably often, make an exegetical decision, unaware. Sentences can be complicated and diagraming helps sort out the syntactical puzzle.
This type of reading slows you down as you consider the sentence as a whole. There have been many times diagramming a text has caused me to stop and ponder the truth of God’s word simply by allowing the text to be displayed in a grammatical way.
It Conveys a Graphical Representation
I’m a visual learner. When I see pictures it helps me grasp the concept that is being presented. Diagrams are a “theological” pictograph in their own way. Diagrams are the very God-breathed words represented by lines, shelves, connectors, and other shapes that convey the main thoughts and their subordinate thoughts in picture. Without diagramming, it would be tough to grasp the main points of some passages. The first thirteen verses in the book of Ephesians, for example, is a single sentence in the original language. Imagine trying to wade through that to find Paul’s main point!
Being able to physically see a picture of the laid-out sentence speaks volumes to visual learners. Each slot holds words according to certain functions. The top horizontal line with the vertical slash protruding through the base, for example, shows where the the main subject and verb are placed.
This may seem a bit obtuse at first, but in many Biblical passages you may find the main verb separated from the main subject by several phrases and clauses. 1Peter 1:10 is a prime example:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully…
At first glance, it may appear that prophet is the main subject and prophesied is the main verb. In actuality, there are two relative clauses and a prepositional phrase in between the main subject prophets and the main compound verb search and inquired, as illustrated below:
Concerning this salvation, theprophetswho prophesied about the grace that was to be yourssearched and inquired carefully…
In the John 3:16 pic above, the phrase whoever believes in Him is placed on a stilt in the subject slot. With but a glance, I can see that this relative clause is acting as the subject of the entire clause itself, hence the stilts are used to graphically represent this.
Diagraming is a useful graphical tool that aids in the overall exegetical process. If you’re a visual learner, it is definitely worth your time to learn this new skill, if you haven’t already begun.
It unCovers the Structure
The dictionary defines structure as the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex. Diagrams definitely accomplish this job! The elements of the sentence are placed according to their function: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and all the other parts are arranged on their lines and shelves, displayed in a particular format as to expose the structure of the sentence. It is helpful to sometimes think of this structure in a block-like format, as per the example below.
We see the main clause God loved the world at the head, followed by two supporting clauses, one that shows the result of God’s love and the other that demonstrates the purpose of God’s love, both which are connected by subordinating conjunctions. Of course, not all diagrams will be so easily structured but the idea is that, as a whole, diagrams will show the grammatical structures of a sentence. Understanding first how it all fits together lays the foundation for later exegesis and the proper interpretation of a the passage.
Hopefully this post has encouraged you to at least consider diagramming. If you’re wondering where to start, this section will give you some starting points. I would like to suggest a structured format that will take you step-by-step through the diagramming process. I think the best way to begin is to start with the very basics.
The website I have referred you to is Grammar Revolution. It is an excellent site that offers a complete English grammar course, as well as a book with exercises and answer keys. And when you are ready to practice your diagramming, there is a wonderful web app called Let’s Diagram that allows you to type or paste any sentence and drag the words to their corresponding shapes and shelves. Watch the video below to see how the app works.
(note: the video is NOT a diagramming tutorial. See the links in the list above to learn diagram).
The following is from the lectionary reading, Year B, of the Lutheran Lectionary.
A Psalm. 1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
No attribution is given to this psalm and many commentators point out the language of praise which parallels several passages in Isaiah. The occasion of the writing is said to have been the return of the exiles from Babylonian captivity (Leupold, 691-92) although Leupold freely admits that the historical events are not directly alluded to within the psalm. According to Leupold, several verses within the Psalm allude to or are cited from Isaiah. They can be seen in the chart below.
Indeed these verses do parallel the Isaiah passages in language and idea. The Psalm itself is broken into three refrains of three verses each and can be divided as such: verses 1-3, verses 4-6, verses 7-9. The main theme is the praise of Yahweh/Elohim. The centrality for this praise is seen because He has made known His salvation. This salvation is manifested in two ways:
He has made salvation known to all the nations. As God’s covenant people, Israel had the privilege of receiving His Law. When they were faithful to the covenant, God protected them in miraculous ways. The nations surrounding Israel were witnesses of these miracles. Time and time again, God acted on behalf of His people. The Psalmists draws from these times to proclaim how the nations have seen God’s salvation.
He has made salvation known through His faithfulness. Israel had a long history of apostasy. The book of Judges records their darkest times of a continual cycle of apostatizing and return to the Yahweh. Eventually, both the Northern and Southern kingdoms are ejected from their inheritance and led captive to other nations. But as God is faithful, He brought His covenant people back into the land, causing a great rejoicing and praise.
Below, are some of my own observations of the Psalm with important parts marked in bold.
The Psalm concludes with the final praise of God’s judgment upon the nations. He will judge (1) with righteousness – God will show no partiality with His judgment. Political, economical, and social status will all be judged according to His own standards rather than man’s standards. No one will have “an edge” in this judgement. All will stand on equal ground. (2) with equity – This goes hand-in-hand with God’s righteous judgment. His judgment will be fair. The poor & rich, king & pauper, man & woman will receive just judgment/penalty for their actions.
This judgment will be either frightful or as the Psalmist declares, something to rejoice in.
Salvation has been made known to the nations through Jesus Christ and all the world has seen it (John 12:32). This is a great cause of rejoicing, knowing that God is faithful to His people on account of the atoning work of Jesus. He is our King and our Lord. We are to praise Him unceasingly as He continues to show His steadfast love and faithfulness to His sheep.
Judgment is coming. It is for those who refuse the offer of the gracious King and insist in either their own brand of righteousness or their own autonomous rule. This judgment will be fair and impartial and no man, woman, or child will elude the judgement with Him whom we must give an account (Hebrew 4:13).
Salvation is found in no other Person but Jesus. On the final Day it will be a cause of rejoicing for many and a time of wailing for others. Will you rejoice in Christ and praise Him for His judgment? or will you curse Him as you are cast into the Lake of Fire for the rejection of His free offer of life and salvation?.
It’s Sunday morning. You got up early, read your Bible, drank your coffee, and went to church to hear from your favorite apostle. Only—you didn’t hear from any apostles.
Yup, you read that correctly. Many churches boast of having apostles in the pulpit and many self-proclaimed apostles tote bragging rights in order to launch their “ministries.” Most people never question whether or not these men and women are true apostles. They blindly follow them and do their every bidding out of fear that if they do not, they are “touching God’s anointed.”
With the apostolic daze-craze in church culture it is especially important now more than ever to examine Scripture and understand exactly what a true apostle is. Believe it or not, the Bible does give the qualifications of an apostle. There are three main qualifications we see in Scripture: (1) the apostle was sent by someone specific, (2) the apostle was vested with a certain authority, and (3) the apostle was sent with a specific message.Using Mark 3:13-14as our jumping off passage we will take a look at each of these qualifications in more detail and attempt to rebut some common arguments that try to circumvent the Bible on this teaching.
the apostle was sent by someone specific
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And He appointed twelve (whom he named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…
It is important to notice the pronouns in these verses. The ‘he’ and ‘him’ in verse 13 are referring to Jesus. But let us note two specific things about this verse:
Jesus chose those He desired to be apostles
Jesus Himself designated them as apostles
Many of today’s self-proclaimed apostles would rebut this by saying that Jesus has also sent them to be apostles. But in the book of Acts we find something different. Those who were designated apostles had to have two special qualifications in order to claim the title apostle: (1) they had to be with Jesus at the start of His ministry or, (2) they had to have witnessed His resurrection. One of these qualifications had to be met before apostleship could be considered.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “ ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
Mk 3:14-15 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.
Lk 10 20: Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven
Most of us think about power when we think about apostles. And it is for good reason. Jesus gave His apostles the power to cast out demons and perform miracles in His Name. This was to be for a specific reason as well as a sign of something greater than themselves, as we will examine in our final point of this post.
But this power was not like the kind of power that you may thinking about. It was not a super power or something you see in a comic book. This kind of power did not originate from themselves. The word we are thinking of is better thought of as a vested power, or a delegated power. This was much like an envoy sent by a king with specific authorities to accomplish specific tasks. For example, during the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jews had no power of their own to enact punishment. They had to get that permission, or power, from Pontus Pilate. In fact, our verse, Mark 3:14-15 translates the word as authority, which is a better suited word. The Greek word is exousia and conveys a broad range of meaning in the New Testament, which all have to do semantically with some form of delegation. Consider the word below:
The larger blue ring represents the way the word is translated the most throughout Scripture. The word is authority, the same as in Mark 3:14. But note that it is also translated as a charge, jurisdiction, and even domain. Why is this important for our topic?
Many of today’s fake apostles focus solely on the power of their apostleship. But Jesus told His true apostles not to rejoice in the power given to them, but to rejoice in the fact that their names had been written in Heaven (Luke 10:20).
The apostle was sent with a specific message
33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimonyto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
We come at last to the anchoring text of apostleship. The apostles were sent with a specific message and that message was their witness of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The phrase to the resurrection is something we should give attention to. In Greek, it is known as a Genitive phrase. And more specifically, it is called a Genitive of Content. What does all this jargon mean? Greek scholar, Dan Wallace gives us some insight.
The genitive substantive specifies the contents of the word to which it is related. This word may be either a noun, adjective or verb. This is fairly common in the NT, though only with certain kinds of words. There are two kinds of genitive of content: one related to a noun or adjective (nominal gen. of content), the other to a verb (verbal gen. of content). A genitive of content is a lexico-syntactic category in that the verb or head noun will be a term indicating quantity…A genitive of content is a lexico-syntactic category in that the verb or head noun will be a term indicating quantity. The nominal genitive of content is distinct from the genitive of material in that content indicates the item contained while material indicates the material made out of…For the nominal use, the genitive term bears the brunt of the semantic weight. It is the important word rather than the head noun. Typically this construction is used in figurative language as a rhetorical device.
Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (pp. 92-93)
In other words, the apostles’ message of the resurrection (the content) was more important than the miracles themselves. The miracles simply showed that their message truly was from the Living Lord. This is why we see large droves of people turning to God in a single day. It was the sign and the working of God through those signs to coordinate the message and the miracle.
Again, many who believe that apostles are still commissioned today will point out that the apostles of their churched do indeed witness to Jesus’ resurrection. However, the true apostles’ testimony about the resurrection was accompanied by miracles. The first was that of tongues. But then we have the miracles of healing the lame, blind, even those who were near death. Many no doubt claim miracles in their ministries, as well. But this passage speaks about miracles that could be attested to; real miracles that took place instantaneously, not over time like many you encounter today.
The office of apostle has been done away with in our modern context. This is due to the fact that chiefly, there are none alive today that was present with Jesus during His ministry or none that have physically witnessed His resurrection.
Secondarily, no one has been commissioned by God Himself to be an apostle. One may attempt to argue that they have been commissioned by God’s calling and testified by the laying on of hands and therefore are apostles by that standard. But Scripture never gives this method of designating apostles, only elders and pastors.
Tertiary, one cannot claim apostleship simply because he/she attests to Christ’s resurrection. All believers are called, especially in times of persecution, to give an answer for the hope that lies within [us] (1Peter 3:15) and if that standard were to be used, we could indeed call all believers apostles.
It is important that we be discerning about those who designate themselves as apostles. Certainly, many mean no harm and take the moniker simply to show forth their calling by God into a preaching ministry. But beware of those who flaunt the title. Most are simply after fame, prestige, and wealth. Let us use Scripture as our plumb-line and guide for all of life, even something seemingly as minute as a title.
We felt the urgency to write to you and detail some things that we as a congregation and holy assembly of God’s people feel the need to bring to your attention. We know life has been different since the whole COVID thing. We understand “regular” services have been a thing of the past for well over a year, now. And we certainly get that you are constantly under pressure from within and without the congregation, juggling life’s responsibilities and pastoral duties.
But truthfully, we’ve been feeling a little malnourished as of late. To be honest, it’s been going on for sometime, even well before the lockdowns started. We are simply asking you to fulfill the oath which you swore to our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd, to shepherd us until that Day when we will all be with Him. Here are three things we would like to see you begin to include in our time of worship together:
preach the Word
Please let us clarify what exactly we mean when we say, “Preach the Word.” Many pastors feel they can reach their congregations a little easier if they ignore Scripture and talk about relevant issues of today. This always leads to ignoring large parts of the Bible in favor of a more Ted Talk style of sermons. But isn’t Scripture the very God-breathed words given to us? Doesn’t Scripture contain all the answers to the “relevant” issues they are so craving? Yes! It is the very foundation upon which the true Christian lives his life. We are seeing our services turned into an entertainment venue that looks oddly like a rock concert or a Times Square ball drop. We are supposed to be different, holy, set apart; it is our calling. Much of the service seems to be spent in pep talks rather than actual preaching. In short, we would like the Word to be front and center! Here is our plan for making it happen:
Be expository. Topical sermons are useful and sometimes necessary. But this should not come at the sacrifice of a verse-by-verse sermon. Exegete the passage and tell us what it means. Explain some of the harder things in it so that we understand. Don’t treat us as if we are dumb because we may not have the same theological training that you received. Be gentle with our lack of understanding and give us the Word. Give it to us until we are full.
Be Law/Gospel oriented. It is extremely important that you learn to divide the Scripture properly into its two distinct sections of Law & Gospel. When you confuse and commingle the two, we become confused, especially in our own minds. Many pastors will say something like, “If you believe that Christ has died for your sins and trust in His perfect work, you have the assurance of Eternal life. BUT…”
When conditional emphasis is placed upon a text that already states a simplistic truth, it is confusing to our souls. Is faith all that is required for salvation? If so, why is there a “but” thrown in there? Many of us are keenly aware of our sin and it terrifies us that God, at any moment could bring down His hand of wrath upon us. Please take extra care to properly give us the Law when the Law is needed. But when the Gospel is clear and present within the passage, preach it without any other conditions.
Incorporate the liturgy
The assembling of the local Body of Christ is the place where we are supposed to be nourished each and every week. It is a place we are to be participants in worship. Unfortunately, it usually consists of a couple of congregational songs, special music, and a sermon by the pastor. We rarely, if ever, truly participate in the service alongside you. The early church participated in the services through the reading of the Scriptures, recitation of pivotal creeds and the giving and receiving of blessings. They were catechized, a fancy way of saying they were taught the elemental doctrines of Scripture through recitation and repetition. In fact, did you know that catechesis in the early Church lasted for three years! This was to ensure that the catechumen would be prepared for the coming persecutions. This is certainly a far cry from the way we receive church members today. We would love for you to begin to teach us our catechisms and creeds.
It is also in this liturgy where we may receive the sacraments, Christ’s gifts to us for the forgiveness of sins through baptism and the Eucharist. These means of grace strengthen us from week to week and do two things for us: (1) they are reminders that we need forgiveness of sins daily, and (2) they are real, physical elements that show us Christ’s compassion on His Church and impart to our consciences the assurance of forgiveness of sin. It may sound strange in your ears and there has been debate over the efficacy of these sacraments since the time of the Reformation. Many have taken these to be mere symbols or figurative language to represent something. But those in the early Church certainly took them as literal.
Teach us to study
There is nothing quite like the joy of reading a passage of Scripture and seeing something there we had never noticed! We know this is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in us, guiding us into all truth. And while we understand the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we still would like to understand how we can gain knowledge through study. The only way this can be achieved is for you to begin teaching us the method of feeding ourselves. We certainly do not expect seminary-level classes. We only want to understand the methods of objective Bible study known as Observation, Interpretation and Application.
We know this is asking more work of you, but what is more important than investing in the eternal aspects of the congregation? We desire to understand God’s word better. We want to follow along with you as you preach. This is not only a way for us to be prepared but also a way that we may hold you accountable for what you are teaching. Our souls are more valuable than anything else and we do not wish to be led astray by slick-sounding arguments or doctrine.
Do not take this letter as berating you. It is actually written out of humility and necessity. As the people of God, we desire to follow Him in every holy way, with every ounce of strength, and in all purity until the time as He sees fit to come for us or call us individually into His presence.
Thank you kindly for taking the time to read and consider our petition.
Struggling with assurance of salvation seems to be a common thing. Like the Israelites in the book of Judges, we sin, experience God’s chastising hand, repent, return to God, and sin once again.
It is a depressing cycle. It is the constant battle of the spirit and the flesh. Through your Christian walk, you have certainly come to realize that truly the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). These emotions are powerful and run deep within our souls. If we let them, they will paralyze us in fear and keep us from serving our God.
What can we do then, to get us through these difficult moments? We turn to the Word of God! Here are three things that we can remeber during these weak moments:
Firstly, remember that God knows our weaknesses
Psalm 103:14 declares, For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. This is a beautiful Psalm about the goodness and care of God over His people. It begins with the Psalmist praising God for His goodness and benefits, which include:
forgiveness of sin (verse 3)
redemption (verse 4)
earthly gifts (verse 5)
He then moves to the theme of God’s compassion. Verses 6-9 tells us that though God could deal with us according to our sin, He is merciful and instead chooses to show us love and compassion. By the time we reach verses 13 and 14, we get a clear understanding of how David views God: God, like an earthly father, shows compassion on us because of our frailty. He knows and understands our weaknesses. Let this thought be a comfort when you are in doubt because of your sin.
Secondly, remember your baptism
Modern Evangelicalism has duped many into believing that baptism is nothing more than a mere symbol or act of obedience. Scripture proclaims our baptism as so much more. It depicts baptism as our entrance into Christ’s death. In Romans 6, Paul demonstrates that just as we were buried with Christ through baptism, we also will be raised to live a life of righteousness to the glory of God the Father.
Baptism is our “anchor” into Christ’s atoning work. Peter tells us that baptismsaves as an appeal to God for a good conscience. We must daily drown the old Adam in our baptism and allow the new Adam to come forth. It is a daily thing. We will fail. We will give in to our flesh. We will sin. But we have the promise of our baptism, that through Christ’s work and resurrection, we are forgiven and washed (Eph 5:26, Titus 3:5, 1Pe 3:21).
For more info on the efficacy of baptism, download the PDF article, New Life Through Baptism from the Lutheran Study Bible.
Of the many verses that capture the reason behind the Son’s incarnation into our world, this verse says it the best. It is simplistic yet profound. Lutheran scholar R.H. Lenski said of John 3:16, “The “must,” the compulsion, lies in the wonder of God’s love and purpose. By telling Nicodemus this in such lucid, simple language Jesus sums up the entire gospel in one lovely sentence, so rich in content that, if a man had only these words and nothing of the rest of the Bible, he could by truly apprehending them be saved”. (Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, p.258, Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.)
It is indeed one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. It matters not whether you “feel” saved or if you’ve sinned greatly, or you think there is no returning because this time you really blew it. Stop using subjectivity to ascertain your standing before God! Your surety lies in the objective work of Christ alone. It is the promise of forgiveness through His death and resurrection and His word does not change, regardless of your feelings.
Take comfort in this and understand that your assurance rests with Him, not your feelings.
My soul hath naught a reason for despairing/in times of doubt mine eyes will look above/for Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/secures me fast with mercy and with love
The Law revealing, self-merit dare not stand/its accusations doth my conscience sting/But Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/Thy perfect work, my guilty conscience pleads
Salvation wrought, my weary soul rejoices/The Law, with all its power o’er me hath lost/This Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/His love, His blood, hath nailed it to the cross
In desert drought or valley lows descending/even death as its last breath shall groan/My Jesus, bless-ed Consolation/with joy and laude I’ll worship at Thy throne
I was honored to join my brother, Danny, on the Messed Up Church podcast yesterday. We discussed the ever popular Psalm 46:10–Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The verse is misused by being toted as a verse of a quiet, meditative peace during the midst of life’s chaotic moments. But as you will see, it goes way beyond this interpretation. We will seek to put this verse back in the proper context of its authorial intent.
Below is the PDF that was mentioned in the video and the video of the podcast itself.
I listen to Christian radio sometimes while I’m driving. I’m not too big a fan of Contemporary Christian Music but I do enjoy some of the worship and praise songs that my local station plays on occasion. Most times, I hear self-absorbed, self-centered music with a few God and Jesus lyrics thrown in for good measure.
Our culture seems to be on an ever-spiraling decline of selfishness and it is no wonder the church has followed suit. With a large majority of churches now catering sermons about improving your life in general, it didn’t take too long for Christian music to pick up the mantle. I’m certainly not accusing all Christian artists of being plagued with the self-help mentality but by and large, a good number of songs reflect the current trend of that culture.
Just on the way home today I heard a song with the lyrics (I’m paraphrasing) that talked about trusting God because what else do you have to lose? You were made for something more.
There is nothing maniacal at all with the concept. But I still have a problem with it. A HUGE problem! The main problem is that the gospel seems to have been reduced to a Savior that died for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for your life. The majority of songs that I hear reflect this same thing. It is no surprise that many Christians have bought into this lie. I am sorry to inform you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, but Jesus did not die to fulfill God’s wonderful plan for your life. Jesus did not die to heal your broken heart because your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you. Jesus did not die to give you a second shot at fulfilling your dreams. Jesus did not die to give you better self-esteem. Jesus did not die so that you could pursue a dream of becoming the next American idol. Scripture gives us many reasons why Jesus did die. Here are a few of them:
Jesus died to present His people as holy and blameless unto the Father (Jude 24-25)
I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus died for the glory of God! So the next time you’re sharing the gospel with someone please, please, please, do not tell them that Jesus died so that He could fulfill God’s wonderful plan for their life. Just tell them that Christ died to save sinners.