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What does it mean to believe in Jesus?

Since I require my Advanced Homiletics students to preach either John 3:1-13 or John 3:14-21 as their third sermon, I’ve heard 7 messages on both passages within the last 2 weeks.

The frequent occurrence of the verb πιστεύω in John 3:1-21 has caused the issue of what it means to believe in Jesus to resurface in my thinking. The key phrases are
• Everyone who believes in him [the Son of Man] (John 13:5)
• Everyone who believes in him [the Son] (John 3:16)
• The one who believes in him [the Son] (John 3:18a)
• The one who does not believe has been condemned (John 3:18b)
• Because he has not believed on the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18c)

Theologically, I know that for faith to be saving faith it must bear the fruit of obedience to Christ (James 2:22-26). There is no Lordless salvation (Matt. 7:21). But “believe on Jesus” seems so cognitive, so cerebral, so non-heartish … it almost seems to lend itself to a religion of the head apart from the heart.

A common answer to my …

A Reader's Hebrew Bible: WLC-BHS Differences Clarification

I recently received a question about the Qere readings in 1 Sam 18:14, 22 that appear in BHS but do not appear in the Westminister Leningrad Codex (WLC) and therefore do not appear in A Reader's Hebrew Bible (RHB). The questioner wondered why the black dot that normally marks WLC-BHS differences in RHB did not appear there.

A fair question, and here, I hope, is a fair answer. According to the WLC 4.10 morphology, there are 56 instances where BHS adds a Qere that is not present in L. The Qere readings in 1 Sam. 18:14 and 22 are two such instances. Although I have not checked all 56 instances in BHS, the few I did check showed that BHS was following a note in the masorah in adding the Qere reading.

On page xvi of RHB's introduction, we said that RHB will mark with a supra-linear solid black dot all known instances where the editors of WLC read the text of L differently than the editors of BHS. Additions of Qere readings to L do not constitute a different reading of L's text …

Giving Thanks for God's Holiness (Psa. 97:12), Part 1

Jonathan Edward's The Religious Affections, John Piper's lecture on Preaching as Worship (TrinJ 16) and my study of holiness in the OT converged in a sermon this morning on Psalm 97.

I've been listening to The Religious Affections in spare moments for nearly a year. At times it is brilliant. At others monotonously stuporific. His thesis is that true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections. His biblical-theological support for his thesis is unassailable. (Pdf copy of Religious Affections here.)

Edwards defines the affections as "the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclinations and the will." He clarifies this by noting that the inclinations and the will are actually the same thing, just viewed from two different perspectives. It is called "inclination" when viewed from the angle of desire; it is called "will" when viewed from the angle of decision and action.

Edwards asserts, rightly I believe, that "there never was a…

John Piper: Preaching as Worship

I found this address by John Piper this morning. It resonates with me and challenges me.

"Let me point to three biblical reasons for believing that preaching is meant to be and to kindle God-exalting worship.

First, I believe it because the Word of God says that everything is to be done in a worshipful, God-centered way: "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31); "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col 3:17). If everything is to be radically oriented on magnifying the glory of God and exalting the name of Jesus, how much more preaching. Whatever preaching deals with-and it is to deal with everything-it must be done with a view to begetting and sustaining worship-the valuing and cherishing and displaying of the glory of God.

Second, I believe that preaching is meant to exalt the centrality of God because the Word says that God himself exalts his own centrality in all that he …

Rudolph Otto’s The Idea of the Holy: Overrated

Rudolph Otto was a German Protestant theologian and historian of religion. In 1923 the first English translation of his German work The Idea of the Holy appeared. It has become, as Victor P. Hamilton’s says, “one of the books most frequently referred to in this area [holiness].” I was reading Hamilton's Handbook on the Pentateuch today, and he referenced Otto. In fact, Otto was the only author he referenced in his discussion of holiness in Genesis 1-2 (short paragraph).

Frankly, I’m weary of references to this book in contexts where the biblical meaning of holiness is discussed. Scholars regularly pay lip service to it as though it constitutes a signal contribution to our knowledge of God's holiness. Admittedly, Hamilton notes that “Otto does not address … the fact that God’s holiness gives the basis to his moral demands.” But the fact that his is the only work referenced by Hamilton suggests he is significant and worth reading. Today I looked up on the book on Google books a…

Defining Holiness: Where to start?

I find it a very common practice by theologians to insist upon beginning with God when defining holiness. With the resurgence of trinitarian theology, the focus has been on beginning with God’s trinitarian nature and relationships as the matrix for holiness. Some have gone so far as to assert that if one’s definition of holiness does not work within the Trinity before creation it is incorrect.

Logically, it makes sense to begin with God. Clearly, God is holy (Exod. 15:11). He is incomparable in holiness (Isa. 40:25). What interests me is that God does not start our understanding of holiness where theologians think He should. (Who knows where He started Adam’s?!) If we take the canonical order of the Torah as His chosen starting point for preserving His revelation for our understanding, then God starts teaching us about holiness with non-personal items: a day, some dirt, and an assembly.

A holy day
In Gen. 2:3 God makes the seventh day holy because in it He rested from all his labors. Sev…

Surprised by covetousness

On Tuesday, I was reading Romans 7 as part of my Scripture reading during my personal worship time. Verse 7 stuck out since we are teaching our son, Allan, the ten commandments.

Romans 7:7 Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ὁ νόμος ἁμαρτία; μὴ γένοιτο· ἀλλὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔγνων εἰ μὴ διὰ νόμου· τήν τε γὰρ ἐπιθυμίαν οὐκ ᾔδειν εἰ μὴ ὁ νόμος ἔλεγεν· οὐκ ἐπιθυμήσεις.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." (NASB)

I was surprised to see that the noun “coveting” = ἐπιθυμία; the verb is a form of ἐπιθυμέω. The standard words for desire, strong desire, frequently translated "lust" by the KJV! Is that what coveting is--desire?

So I checked the LXX. It uses ἐπιθυμέω in Exod. 20 and Deut. 5. Then I checked BDAG, Louw-Nida, and Friberg. None of them list “covet” as a sense of ἐπιθυμέω! Then I went to the Hebrew: חמד …

Holiness through the OT looking glass

In He Gave Us Stories Richard L. Pratt calls the OT text a three-fold looking glass: a translucent window that opens upon events in the ancient world, a stained-glass window that presents a highly selective, ideologically focused drama, and a silvered mirror which shows us ourselves in others' garb. Pratt’s metaphor deserves the biblical theologian’s regular meditation. Most of us easily forget Scripture’s stained-glass nature and think only of it as a transparent pane, however circumscribed, for viewing God’s Kingdom plan unfolding step by step, phase by phase.

Such forgetfulness leads to serious exegetical error. First, we think that because the text does not say the ancients knew something, therefore they did not know it. This is a conclusion unreasonable and unsustainable.

The NT off-handedly attributes knowledge to OT characters of which there is not the slightest hint in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Jude tells us that Enoch prophesied Yahweh’s coming in judgment with m…

Survey of Holiness in the OT

I just finished, last night, a journey through every OT text that has any of the cognate Hebrew terms for holiness. There are 823 instances of the following cognates: the verb q-d-sh, the noun qodesh, and the adjectives qadosh and qadesh. I’ve been on the journey off and on for about a month.

Three things prompted my study. First, my SS class asked for a study on holiness and its related topics. Second, Dad and I have been discussing the nature of God’s holiness for a couple months. Third, in his book Portraits of God, Allan Coppedge asserts, “A survey of the data indicates that the meaning of holiness has six major components. They [are] the concepts of separation, brilliance, righteousness, love, power and goodness” (p. 51).

My previous studies of the concept of holiness had lead me to conclude that holiness at its essence is separateness. When applied to human persons, it is separation unto God from the common and ordinary as well as the sinful and defiling. When applied to God … wel…

RHB: 1st Printing Sold; 2nd Printing Has Arrived

I just learned from Zondervan that the first printing of A Reader's Hebrew Bible has completely sold out (hence the "out of stock" notice on Amazon.com).

The good news is that the second printing has arrived and will soon be shipping to suppliers. The second printing includes a significant number of corrections, including the unfortunate tsere-segel problem in Genesis. For a complete list of errata, including the corrections included in the second edition as well as those to be fixed in future printings, click here.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but God ... 1 Sam. 16:7

“Why do you have a class that addresses trivial external matters like modesty, gender-distinct clothing, or 1 Cor. 11:2-16? Don’t you know that ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart?’” ~student

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 is often used to silence substantive discussion about externals in the life of a Christian and ranks among the most misunderstood and misused texts in Scripture.

The context of this verse is Samuel's mission to anoint a replacement for King Saul. When Samuel observed the excellent physical characteristics of Jesse's first son, Eliab, he assumed wrongly that he was God's choice.

God corrects Samuel's impression by informing him that whereas Samuel can see only the outside, God can see the inside and H…

What the Bible Teaches about the Destiny of the Wicked

The destiny of the wicked in eternity is commonly referred to as Hell. The English word “hell” is used in the New Testament to translate three different Greek words: gehenna γεέννα (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6), hades ᾅδης (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Lk. 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14), and Tartarus ταρταρόω (2 Peter 2:4). Other terms denoting the place where the wicked are punished include “the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:42, 50), “eternal fire” (Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 1:7), “the lake of fire” (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15), “the outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and “the blackness of darkness” or “utter darkness” (Jude 1:13).

Hades is described in Luke 16:23ff as a place of (1) self-awareness, (2) torment/agony in flames, (3) memory and remorse, (4) perception of Paradise, and (5) separation from God and the righteous by a great chasm. It is the temporary holding place for the wicked dead until the Great Whit…

What Should I Think When I Hear of Sin in the Church?

1. I should mourn (1 Cor. 5:1-2). I mourn because of the shame that is brought upon God’s holy name. I mourn because of the stumbling block such sin is in the path of unbelievers. I mourn because of the damage to the body of Christ. I mourn for the families affected by the sin—families are never exempted from such suffering. I mourn because of the destruction that such sin produces in the lives of those deceived by it.

2. I should reject the temptation to gossip. Prior to the the enactment of church discipline, if another person is not part of the problem or part of the solution, I am gossiping if I share information with them that they do not have. I say, “prior to the enactment of church discipline,” because one of the purposes for church discipline is that believers would “hear and fear” (1 Tim. 5:20). What about people who already have that information? Eph. 5:12 says, “It is a shame even to talk of those things which are done of them in secret.” That means I do not discuss the …

A Reader's Hebrew Bible: Errata Reports

I just received word from Stephen Salisbury at Westminster that he received his copies of A Reader's Hebrew Bible today. I'm delighted to hear that it is shipping earlier than expected.

I would encourage users to do two things: (1) read the introduction carefully, and (2) read the review of the volume I posted on January 23, 2008 here. The Genesis errata list promised there is now finished and available here.

I also welcome reports of errata. Please report them as comments on this post or to readershebrew@gmail.com. If errata is posted as comments to this post other users will be able to see what has already been reported.

Happy reading!

Update: 6/19/2008
Known issues:
1. Esther 1, footnotes 6-21 do not match the footnotes in the text. Beginning with ftnt 22, the footnotes are back in sync. Really odd database issue.
2. Deut. 5:21 the verb that should be the second word in the verse accidentally wrapped up to the previous line and appears in v. 16.
Update: 7/10/2008
A full errata list …

Thinking Like Jesus = Missional Living (John 4:34)

John 4:34λέγειαὐτοῖςὁἸησοῦς· ἐμὸνβρῶμάἐστινἵναποιήσωτὸθέληματοῦπέμψαντόςμεκαὶτελειώσωαὐτοῦτὸἔργον. “My food is that I might do the will of the One who sent me and that I might finish his work.”

This passage arrested me yesterday.

Food is what sustains and empowers life. Life, as we know it, revolves around food. Work schedules created by the reasonable inevitably make temporal room for food. Food is important!

Jesus’ life revolved around food as well: His food was doing the will of the One who sent him. Jesus had a clear perception of His sent-ness. Do you?

Scripture teaches that God brought each of us into this world for a purpose. Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works which he prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). It’s the “prepared ahead of time” part of that verse that tells me that God has pre-planned a set of jobs He wants us to do. We, too, have been “sent” into this world on a mission. (And, no, that doesn’t impl…

A Reader's Hebrew Bible: A Review by its Typesetter

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It is unusual for the typesetter of a volume to review it. It is perhaps even more unusual for a volume’s typesetter to also be one of its principal editors. Both are true in my case. Although I obviously have a vested interest in A Reader’s Hebrew Bible, as the review below will demonstrate, I believe I am uniquely positioned to review the volume in a way that time constraints would forbid to most users.

Binding, Gilding, Thickness, and Paper
On Dec. 20, 2007, I excitedly opened the overnighted package containing the advanced author’s copy of A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (RHB). I was quite pleased with the Italian Duo-tone cover. The look and feel were pleasing, even elegant. The silver edging of the pages gives it a Biblesque look.

I had been unsure about how thick the volume would be, especially since I would eventually like to see it combined with A Reader’s Greek New Testament (RGNT). I was pleased that the volume was only 1 5/8 inches thick. When I placed my RGNT on top of it, the combi…

Wisdom in Ecclesiastes

The noun "wisdom" (chokmah), adjective "wise" (chakam), and verb "to be wise" (ch-k-m) occur a total of 58 times in Ecclesiastes.

My best understanding of Ecclesiastes' core message is Permanent meaningand satisfaction are not found in any of life's components, but only in life's Creator. ~Jim Berg

Solomon (Qoheleth) drives this wisdom-nail firmly into place (cf. Ecc. 12:11) by consistently juxtaposing the positive and negative sides of any topic he addresses. His treatment of wisdom is no exception.

What follows is my best attempt to summarize Ecclesiastes' explicit teaching on wisdom.

Wisdom comes from God, and He gives it to those who please Him (2:26). Wisdom is attainable to those who set their hearts to know it (1:13, 16-17), but one cannot know all the wisdom there is to know (7:23; 8:16-17). There is more profit in wisdom than in folly just as light is better than darkness (2:12-13), for wisdom enables the wise to see where he is goin…

A Newly Discovered Well of Delight (Ephesians 3:18-19a)

On a Thursday in October, I finished teaching through Ephesians for the sixth time in six years. Having one student in Prison Epistles this year permitted me to employ Socrates’ teaching method extensively. It bears good fruit.

This year I dug deeper into Ephesians 3:17-18 and discovered a well of truth that has been delighting my soul. I hope it will yours as well. First the context.

Eph. 3:14’s “For this cause” is the closing parenthesis of the parenthetical statement Paul began in 3:2. The opening parenthesis is the “For this cause” in 3:1. The “cause” that motivated Paul to bow in prayer is found in 2:21-22. God is building us into a temple in which He will dwell by His Spirit.

Scenic Exegetical Detour: In Eph. 2:22 the word translated habitation (KJV) or dwelling (NASB) occurs 18x throughout the OT, but it is most frequently used (10x) in statements about Heaven as the habitation or dwelling place of God. Perhaps Paul had Solomon’s use of this term (1 Kings 8:39, 43, 49; cf. Psa. …