Subscribe in a reader

Friday, February 29, 2008

9 Marks March/April eJournal

The new 9Marks eJournal is out.

Here are some of the subjects tackled & articles written:

On Christian Cooperation:

Together for What?
By Mark Dever

A Senior Saint on Unity
By Iain Murray

On Christian Separation:

When, Why, & Where to Draw Boundaries
By Wayne Grudem

Potential and Pitfalls of Together for the Gospel
By David Doran

Greg Gilbert offers a 3-part review of Rob Bell's Nooma Series

Check out the other articles and reviews at 9Marks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I thought the following comments from Gordon Fee to be a helpful reminder as a pastor prepares to preach:
This paragraph has had an interesting history of application in the church, depending on where the emphasis has been placed. Some emphasize what Paul did not do, that is, preach with excellence of word and wisdom, and glory in a more rough-hewn presentation (which, interestingly enough, is often accompanied by a kind of bombast that seems intent on persuasion of a rhetorical kind, despite its protests to the contrary). Others wish to emphasize the "positive," the "proofs" of the Spirit's power, which they see as in contrast to mere preaching. On the other hand, the polished oratory sometimes heard in American pulpits, where the sermon itself seems to be the goal of what is said, makes one wonder whether the text has been heard at all. Paul's own point needs a fresh hearing. What he is rejecting is not preaching, not even persuasive preaching; rather, it is the real danger in all preaching--self-reliance. The danger always lies in letting the form and content get in the way of what should be the single concern: the gospel proclaimed through human weakness but accompanied by the powerful work of the Spirit so that lives are changed through a divine-human encounter. That is hard to teach in a course in homiletics, but it still stands as the true need in genuinely Christian preaching (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1987), 96-97).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Baptist Faith & Message Article XIV. Cooperation

Here are my notes on my ongoing series addressing Southern Baptist Beliefs by examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Article XIV. Cooperation

Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18.


Without being overly technical the assumption of Baptists when it concerns the chain of authority looks something like this:

God-->Christ-->Spirit & Bible-->Local Church

Therefore on any occasion where Baptists cooperate, whether it is with other Southern Baptists or Christians from other denominations, it is understood that no real authority exists where one church can speak authoritatively over another local church. The cooperation is voluntary and may be dissolved at any time. Thus we find the following statement in article xiv, “Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches.”

Churches may have to submit to certain principles and practices in order to participate in an association or convention, but the submission comes not from an organizational dictate, but because the local church willingly entered into an agreement or contract with the organization and can dissolve the relationship at any time.

How We Cooperate

Southern Baptists have concluded that there are many reasons why we should band together in networks and associations. The heartbeat of the why the Southern Baptist Convention exists is due to our common desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Southern Baptists desire to see a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue worship God through the Spirit confessing Jesus is Lord.

Southern Baptists have rightly concluded that the Great Commission can be fulfilled more effectively if we come together as local churches and pool our resources for this great effort. The Cooperative Program, our chief funding mechanism in Southern Baptist life, reflects our common desire to reach the nations as the majority of money sent to the Convention is earmarked for International and National mission efforts.

Southern Baptists traditionally have cooperated on three levels: local, state, and national.

On the national level the focus of cooperation is focused on Missions and Pastor Education (six seminaries). Around 94% of Cooperative Program monies sent to the SBC goes into these two ministries. The remaining money is used by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Archives and Guidestone Financial Resources.

On the State level, Cooperative money is put into Nursing homes, Orphan Ministries, state colleges, Baptist Papers, and a plethora of other ministries such as conferences, scholarships, and state missions.

The local association focuses on projects and ministries in the community, and other ministries deemed important by the local churches. Often, the local association is a resource center for the local churches that have needs that go unfulfilled.

Dissatisfaction & New Networks

While it seems that Baptists have traditionally worked primarily with other Baptists, it appears that a new wave of Baptists have arisen that are more willing to work with Christians of various denominational stripes. New networks are being created where 2nd and 3rd tier issues of theology are no longer barriers to fruitful cooperation. So we have networks being created where the participating churches agree on gospel level issues, and the real driving force behind the cooperation are the common goals and methodologies used for reaching our communities.

Baptists are asking questions like the following:

Do I want my offering money to fund a Baptist Paper where the readership is dwindling or do I want it to go to support a church planter?

Do I want my money to fund an evangelism conference where my theology will be degraded and many stories will be told or would I rather use that same money to participate in conferences which I believe will help my local church better fulfill our Scriptural mandate?

Do I want to give money that will be channeled through two to three agencies in order for it to be put to use for the glory of God, where also overhead costs will depreciate the gift or do I want to be as directly involved as possible so that not only those who receive the gift are blessed, but we are also because of our direct participation?

Associational Effectiveness

The third sentence in the article on cooperation states, “They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner.” The most important aspect of this statement is the last stanza which emphasizes the importance on using networks and associations which are most effective in fulfilling Biblical mandates.

Year after year, we hear reports of our declining influence as Baptists to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of our churches are filled with aging members and there is a glaring absence of younger generations who will be necessary if many of these local churches are going to be in existence in the next 20 years.

As each local church is directly under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and as such accountable to him, we need to use the sum of our talents and resources to maximize our effectiveness for his Kingdom. And if current networks are not effective, or if we find ourselves going in different directions, then we might need to reconsider our allegiance with them.

Missions, Education, & Benevolence

We believe as the statement says, “Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom.”

Southern Baptists join together to send out Christians to serve around the world through the International Mission Board and we send Christians out nationally through the North American Mission Board. In addition to our mission efforts Southern Baptists fund many educational institutions such as our six seminaries and other colleges such as Anderson University, North Greenville College and Charleston Southern here in South Carolina.

Furthermore, Southern Baptists routinely contribute to benevolent ministries. World Hunger and Disaster Relief assistance are two ways we yearly help in these areas.

Here again though, we need to make the commitment to yearly think through the different causes we fund and measure their effectiveness. We may find that instead of supporting World Hunger we may want to divert some of our benevolent funds to Blood, Water, Missions to see clean water wells provided for communities without clean water.

As a part of our mission endeavors we may want to contribute to the renewed movement of church planting because we have learned that newly planted churches are often more effective in reaching younger people than older established traditional ones are, and while we may not change certain aspects of our local church, we still want to see the younger generation reached with the gospel.

Beyond Denominations

The last statement made on cooperation involves Baptist cooperation with other denominations. It reads, “Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”

This statement can be said for cooperative efforts with other Southern Baptists churches as well. There is no Biblical mandate that says we must cooperate with every church that identifies itself as Southern Baptist. In fact, there are many Southern Baptists churches that I probably would not want to be associated with because of particular attitudes and perspectives on what it means to be a Christian.

There can no doubt that the more local churches can cooperate the better the image we can put forth to the world on what it means in part to follow Jesus Christ. Unnecessary division and divisiveness between Christians takes away from God’s glory in the church.

On the other hand, we should not pretend that there are no real differences between Christians. Local churches should not compromise themselves on gospel level issues just to bring about a sense of togetherness. In the end, if we do not have unanimity on the gospel then we do not have true fellowship anyway.


I see both a decline and incline in participation in cooperating networks.

I see a decline especially in Baptist circles of churches choosing to participate in the traditional avenues. Already there are many Southern Baptist churches unsatisfied with the take of State Conventions Cooperative Program dollars, and are choosing to bypass the State Conventions and send their funds directly to the Executive Committee of which Highview BC is a prominent example.

Active participation in many local associations is abysmal. I know on many occasions, I am the only one present at meetings who does not have gray hair. This cannot be a good sign for traditional local associations.

New affinity groups are springing up where denominational affiliation is not so much as important as the goals and methodologies of the local churches.

Many are rejecting the traditional means of cooperation because of the feeling that too much money is being wasted, or not directed to the most needed areas of ministry. For example many are tired that so much money is being spent on ourselves here in America when we have so much already.

I see an incline in participation between churches across denominational lines.

I see an incline in membership to new networks due mainly to the great church planting movement that has begun here. Many younger pastors get burned out spending years trying to reform dying or stagnant churches that are unwilling to change anything and are unwilling to do anything about the stagnant condition of the church. So they move on and take the hard road of raising funds and working part time jobs to make ends meet in order to start healthy churches where discipline and order can be properly maintained.

This is already happening in Southern Baptist life where fewer and fewer Southern Baptists attend any Convention or Associational meetings but can be seen gathering at non-Baptist conferences and fellowshipping and meeting with diverse Christians in order to be more fruitful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Baptist Faith & Message Article XIII: Stewardship

Here are my notes from a lesson on the stewardship article.

XIII. Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.


As our language changes over the past decades and centuries, new words are introduced into our society and older words fallout of common use. Stewardship is a word that I have personally rarely heard used outside of the church atmosphere. I cannot think outside a conversation about God when I have heard someone use it.

The word “stewardship” comes from the word steward. And a steward is someone who is put into a position of oversight to direct the affairs of a master or an organization. A more common word that overlaps with steward and for the most part has put the word “steward” out of use is the word manager.

Take for example a manager of a local McDonalds. It is the responsibility of this manager to produce foods and an atmosphere that represents the dream of the owner of this company. The responsibility of leading all the employees of the local McDonalds also falls upon this manger/steward as he or she leads and directs the staff to create the McDonalds experience.

To the degree this manger/steward successfully creates the experience of McDonalds, happy meals, McRibbs, Big Macs, and apple pies, and McFlurries, he or she will please the owner and customer, and will be rewarded.


Now travel back with me to Genesis 1-3. You have the Creator/Designer who creates the heavens and the earth. He populates the heavens with stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies. He populates the earth with vegetation, animals, and mankind.

And we learn specifically that human beings are uniquely made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God, as I have repeatedly reminded us, does not mean so much that if we saw God with our eyes, he would have an appearance similar to man. Instead, it means that mankind has been endowed with similar capabilities as God. Like God, we can create. Like God, we can love. Like God, we have a will. We have an awareness of the reality of God and that we are his creation.

Genesis tells us that one of the privileges of being made uniquely in his image is the responsibility of stewardship over the creation as a whole. God says concerning mankind, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Gen 1:26). Then in vv 27-28, God makes man and woman and commands them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over every living thing on the earth.

So in essence, God makes us stewards of the creation. He commands us to fill the earth, to subdue the earth, and have dominion over the earth.

Subdue & Have Dominion Over the Earth?

But what does it mean to subdue and have dominion over the earth? Well we cannot spend too much time here tonight, but we can submit a couple of answers to this question.

1. Having dominion over the earth does not mean we have the right to treat it with carelessness. God did leave instructions to Adam and Eve concerning the creation. For example, Adam and Eve and their descendants were not permitted to kill and eat animals until after the flood. Therefore, having dominion over the animals must include caring for and ensuring their prosperity. Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But [even] the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” The recent videos that have surfaced of the barbaric treatment of cattle is sickening. This is precisely what God did not want when he said have dominion over the earth and everything in it. Although we are permitted to eat meat, we should not dishonor animals in this way.

2. Subduing the earth entails a respect for the land as a part of God’s good and beautiful creation. As evidence of this, God commanded the children of Israel to refrain from sowing crops every seventh year so that the land may receive a rest (Exo 23; Lev 25). Amazingly, God even leaves instruction to the Israelites concerning what kinds of trees could be used for seigeworks in war (Deut. 20).

As our world becomes more industrialized and becomes more technologically advanced, we must be prepared to think long and hard how we can be obedient to this creational ordinance.

A Stewardship of All Things

What Genesis reveals to us is: our entire lives should be given entirely in stewardship to God. No matter what we create, we have used the materials and substances he has created. No matter where we travel, the land, water, and air is his. So stewardship is not just a matter pertaining to money. Stewardship is much larger than money. Stewardship unto our Creator encompasses all of our faculties, senses, talents, monies, thoughts, and actions. This is what the BF&M affirms in the first sentence of the article on stewardship, “God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him.”

A proper understanding of our relationship to God includes the knowledge that all we do should be done to give glory unto God as the article states, “They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others.”

Bringing glory to God in simple terms means that we fulfill the goals we were created to fulfill. When Adam named the creatures of the earth, he was glorifying God because God instructed him to have dominion over the animals, and naming them partially fulfilled this command.

In a broader sense, the way we all can fulfill the command to steward ourselves in order to bring glory to God is by expressing in our own lives the characteristics God displays such as justice, mercy, grace, and love. As Micah the prophet reminds us, “He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?

Stewardship in View of the Cross

Since the creation and the fall, the focus of stewardship has shifted somewhat. Stewardship in the Garden consisted of maintaining harmony between God, man, animal, and the earth. Stewardship after man’s rebellion against God consists of man joining God’s work to restore the creation through an invitation by God’s Spirit.

The focal point of our stewardship now is centered on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who alone has made it possible for the creation to be restored, who has made it possible for man to be forgiven by our Holy Creator, who has made it possible that harmony will be restored between God and every part of his creation. We are reminded of this truth in the BF&M article says, “Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel.”

The priority of our stewardship today always has an eye towards the cross and the one who died as our substitute on it to absorb the wrath of God. As Paul stated, so we also state, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).”

So at the heart of our stewardship is the message of Christ crucified. Fundamental to the Christian is his or her concern that this good news concerning Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed. Jesus has come that we all may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). This good news concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ grants us to live in hope, joy, and peace because we know what lies beyond the first death.

Our Disposition in Stewardship

Equally important to our obedience living under the Lordship of Christ is the state of our heart when we serve. King Jesus does not delight when his servants serve begrudgingly. King Jesus does not delight when we do the right things with a sour heart and attitude. 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, “ Each one [must do] just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The condition of the heart counts maybe even more than the action because partial obedience is disobedience.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The conclusion we should draw from this teaching is this: If our obedience is heartless and we receive little or no joy in living for Jesus, then it reveals that Jesus is probably not the treasure of our lives. And let me tell you from my heart, there is nothing more discouraging than living in a community of people who confess that Jesus is their Lord, but have no joy in singing to him and have no passion to see his work accomplished.

Where are the disciples of Christ who are desperate to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness first? There is a generation of young people who have experienced God’s love and grace, and who are not going to waste much of their time on tired, apathetic, and lazy Christianity and the local churches which are filled with these kinds of people.

I hope you count yourselves among this movement regardless of your age. I hope you count yourselves among those who desire to become disciples who like the statement says, “…contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.”


May we continually be the kinds of people who pray that God would continually break our hearts for his creation and all the hurting people who live in it.

May we continually ask God to work within us to prevent each of us from becoming numb to the needs of our community and world.

May we continually ask God to do the work necessary that we pursue our joy from fulfilling his designs in our lives.

May we continually ask God’s Spirit to well up within us that we would abandon and forsake the empty and dry religion that we have been practicing for so long, and awaken our hearts and drive toward the gospel ministry and making much of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Genesis 49:29-50:26

Here my notes from my sermon on Genesis 49:29-50:26


Joseph, through God’s providence, rose to second in command in all of Egypt. He was able to secure Egypt’s future. He was able to increase Pharaoh’s control over the residents of Egypt. More importantly, Joseph was able to secure salvation for his family in the face of a great and severe famine.

Joseph’s family also came together. The brothers who had desired to get rid of their brother now have been reconciled to Joseph, as he has no desire to avenge their crime. His tears over his brothers express from his heart his desire to be one with them again.

Last week we saw, with the family reunited, Jacob pronounced his departing words to his sons.

Not surprisingly, Jacob gave the fullest blessings to Joseph and Judah. And to the sons who caused him the most grief, namely Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, Jacob gave less than desirous words. But these final words had more meaning than just to the sons themselves. Jacob’s words had prophetic significance for the descendants and tribes which would come forth from the sons.

As a preview of where we are going tonight, first we will read the remaining contents of Genesis. Then I will point out important observations from this section. Finally we will consider Genesis as a whole, hitting the highlights, and I will close by pointing out some observations to consider as one moves into the book of Exodus.

Read Genesis 49:29-50:26

Earlier Jacob made his son, Joseph, swear that he would take his body back to Canaan to be buried. And just after he gives his blessings to his sons, he implores them to take him back to Canaan for burial.

Jacob wanted to be gathered to his family. Quite literally, in those days when one was buried in the same tomb, eventually when the flesh completely deteriorated, ones bones would be put with the remaining bones of past family members.

Leah, the forgotten wife of Jacob

In this section of Genesis 49:28-33 what catches my attention is the wife whom Jacob was buried with in the family tomb. Throughout the Genesis narrative Jacob’s love is Rachel. This is the woman whom Jacob worked 14 years to marry. His marriage to Leah was consummated through treachery as Jacob did not realize he had married Leah until after his sexual consummation had already taken place. And although Zilpah and Bilhah were technically not on the same level in Jacob’s eyes as Leah and Rachel, it could be argued that they too were his wives in reality.

Jacob is buried with Leah. The irony here should not escape us. When we recall the struggle Leah and Rachel endured being married to the same man, two things jump out at us. Rachel had Jacob’s love, but she had a great struggle having children. Leah was particularly fertile, as she bore six children to Jacob, but she never had Jacob’s love.

Perhaps in death Leah received some of the honor she should have received in life. Earlier in Genesis, God made the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. He made Eve from Adam’s rib and declared, “therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 3:24).”

Leah never really experienced the holding fast part of the command. Although Jacob never divorced her, he only held to her loosely. Leah was a victim of the wills of two men. She was abused by her father, Laban, as he orchestrated and commanded Leah to deceive Jacob. Jacob, after becoming the husband of Leah still chose to marry her sister.

God’s design in marriage is for one man and one woman coming together in covenant of marriage for a lifetime. Although Jacob did not love Leah at all and although he did not want her as a wife, Leah was his true wife.

In life, Leah was far from the side of Jacob, but God saw that they were united forever in death in a way they had not been in life. Additionally in a way not known before her death, God chose the line of Judah, her son, as the line through which Jesus Christ was born.

God’s Promises Continue to be Fulfilled

As we have stated many times through this studies that a dominant theme running through the book is promises. Many of these promises find fulfillment in Genesis, others find fulfillment in both the OT and NT. The issue of promises and fulfillment is God’s credibility. God promises many things to this family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What we find throughout Genesis and the rest of Scripture is God’s fulfilling of those promises.

In Genesis 49:33 we are told of the death of Jacob after he blesses his children and instructs them about his wish for burial in Canaan. When he dies, Joseph is there by his side and he begins to weep over his father. This event is another example of God’s faithfulness concerning his words.

When Jacob learned that Joseph was alive and the family began its journey to Egypt, God came to him in visions at night and promised to Jacob that his beloved son Joseph would close his eyes (Gen 46:4). This specifically addresses Jacob’s death and Joseph’s presence there. This fulfillment and the host of other kept promises of God give us confidence and assurity in God’s words and his ability to keep them.

This is why I believe that Jesus will come back again like he promised. This is why I believe in promises like Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).” This is why I believe in the promise found in Lamentations 3:22-23 which says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

The Regal Burial of Jacob

From the beginning, God promised to bless Jacob. Throughout the narrative of Jacob, God has been faithful to the patriarch in his life. Now in death, God continues to bless him. Jacob in essence gets a burial reserved only for Kings and Pharaohs.

Not only does Pharaoh permit Joseph to return to Canaan to bury his father, but servants of Pharaoh went with Joseph, and elders of the land of Egypt journeyed to Canaan for the funeral. Pharaoh provided chariots and horsemen for the journey. The picture is one of complete solidarity.

Although Jacob was worried that he would go down to Sheol in disappointment and pain, he was reunited with his long lost son. He even was part of the lives of his grandchildren. He endured through a great famine in the comfort of Egypt’s wealth. And when he died he was gathered to his people in the land of promise with royalty and regalia.

Final Reconciliation & the Sovereignty of God

After the death of their father, the 10 brothers responsible for selling Joseph into slavery begin to fear that Joseph would take revenge out on them now that their father is dead. I suppose the same thought would have crossed my own mind as well if I had been one of the brothers. The human race has proved since the time of Adam and Eve how inept we are at forgiveness and putting things behind us. Joseph has already proved himself to be a very calculating person with his success running Egypt and his series of tests to confirm the honesty of his brothers.

But what we see repeatedly through this narrative is the integrity and godliness of Joseph. We cannot be sure whether Jacob really wrote this letter or whether it was just from the brothers, but I lean towards the latter.

Nevertheless, Joseph continues to demonstrate what forgiveness, reconciliation, and trusting in God truly looks like. Joseph responds first by weeping. Then he reassures them that he has no desire to take vengeance because vengeance belongs to God. He continues to pledge his love and support for his brothers and their entire families. And finally, Joseph continues to look at the good God did through their sin. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they were today (Gen 50:20).”

The book ends with the death of Joseph, but the focus turns back to the promise of Jacob’s sons inheriting the land of Canaan. In other words, the book ends with Joseph urging his people to remember God’s promise of the land precisely because God is faithful.

The Israelites, as they will be known as in the future, will have a land of their own. They will not live in Egypt forever. And naturally, Joseph also requests that his body be buried in Canaan when his family returns to the land of promise.

Questions & Comments

Now that we have spent nearly a year of sermons going verse by verse through the book of Genesis,

1. What have you learned about Genesis?
2. What have you learned about God?
3. How does Genesis speak directly to your life?
4. What questions remain unanswered for you concerning Genesis?
5. How does Genesis detail the beginning of God’s redemption?
6. How is Genesis important for our understanding of sin, marriage, our purpose in life?

Do any of you want to share some comments about anything related to this series?

Looking forward

We look forward by recalling the promises God gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and what will become Israel.

Gene 15:13 (NASU) [God] said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.

Their sojourn in Egypt leads to the fulfillment of their enslavement in a land that is not their own.

To Abraham

Gene 22:18 (NASU) "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

To Isaac

Gene 26:4 (NASU) "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;

To Jacob

Gene 28:14 (NASU) "Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

These promises will span the entire scope of the entire Old and New Testaments. These promises find fulfillment in Jesus’ life death and resurrection by which men from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people can become a descendant of Abraham and participate in God’s blessing and redemption of the earth.

Genesis/Exodus Typology

a. Joseph’s dreams caused his to go down to Egypt.
b. In Egypt, Jacob’s descendants will have to struggle with a King (Pharaoh).
c. An infant is born from Jacob’s descendants, whom the King tried to kill.
d. This infant (Moses) is used by God to deliver his people.

NT Gospel Fulfillment

a. Joseph (husband of Mary) has a dream which causes him to go to Egypt.
b. Joseph’s immediate struggle is with a King (Herod). But his people are in a more penultimate struggle with slavery to sin.
c. The King (Herod) tries to kill the infant.
d. This infant (Jesus) is used by God to deliver his people.

The Baptist Faith & Message Article XII: Education

Here are my notes from a lesson on the BF&M's article on Education.

XII. Education

Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ's people.

In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.

Deuteronomy 4:1,5,9,14; 6:1-10; 31:12-13; Nehemiah 8:1-8; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:7ff.; 119:11; Proverbs 3:13ff.; 4:1-10; 8:1-7,11; 15:14; Ecclesiastes 7:19; Matthew 5:2; 7:24ff.; 28:19-20; Luke 2:40; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 2:3,8-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Hebrews 5:12-6:3; James 1:5; 3:17.


When it comes to the issue of education, usually education of any kind, people get somewhat divisive. There are some who despise education for one reason: they do not have much. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those with much education who despise those people who have little or none. I despise both of the former positions.

Education, undeniably, is a pursuit that every Christian should affirm because Holy Scripture commands us. The danger is not education itself, but how we educate, what sources we use, the goals we identify and pursue, and the manner in which we pursue education.

There are extremes both on the side of liberalism and conservatism. For example, there is a type of liberal education which will teach of the need to abandon the Bible as a source of authority in our lives. It will conclude that the Bible is merely a religious book much like those of other peoples. It will conclude that the Bible is filled with mythical elements that should be rejected as historical and factual.

On the other hand, there is a type of conservative education which will encourage all teaching outside what the Bible proclaims to be unnecessary or worse unprofitable and worldly.

We should avoid both these extremes. Instead we should affirm all types of education which glorify God and bless others.

Holy Scripture

We should affirm Holy Scripture as God’s unshakable words. It should be our primary source for understanding in every topic it addresses. It alone do we recognize as being infallible, uniquely authoritative, and inerrant. We recognize that there is no substitute for the Bible.

As we are educated through divine revelation we will learn that we are created in God’s image. We have similar capabilities as our Creator, not in the sense that we can perform all that God can perform, but we have been made in such a way to function like him.


God has given us both a mind and a conscience to be engaged to glorify him and bless others. And one of the ways we are like God in his image is our ability and desire to be creative like our Creative God. Now we acknowledge that we cannot create as God creates as he makes the physical universe “ex nihilo,” out of nothing. But we can use the physical properties God has made available to us.

Our ability to create, in a fallen world, can be used for good or evil. It can used to glorify God, but it can used to profane his name. For example if we learn how to cut wood, lay cement, install windows, lay brick, electrically wire a structure, then we can build a house. This type of education is used by institutions like Habitat for Humanity to house the economically challenged. It is used by those who have built all the houses we live in and are grateful.

Now the Bible does not educate one how to build a physical house. So if one was going to learn this trade which surely every one of us is thankful for, one would pursue it through means outside the Bible.

Again education of many types is a good thing so long as we use the education to glorify God and for blessing.

This truth is what the statement in part affirms when it says the following:

1. “Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence.”

2. “In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage.”

Furthermore, we also affirm that when the Holy Spirit illumines and indwells an individual one is encouraged to pursue all avenues of education in order to build upon God’s Kingdom, to be used for the advance of the gospel, and better the lives of families and neighbors.

Christians should not be opposed to many of the advances we have made concerning education. I rarely hear of anyone who wants to return to the days of 19th century technologies. The question for Christians is not education itself but how the education and tools of education are used.

Christians should fully embrace the advance of education in diverse fields in part because the progress can better enable us to fulfill Christ’s commands.

Two examples of how education outside the Bible has better enabled us to fulfill God’s commands are:

“Make disciples of all nations”
1. Improvements in transportation—It used to take weeks and perhaps months of time in boats and on the backs of animals for missionaries of the gospel to get to certain people groups. Now through the educational advancements in transportation we can get to most places on the earth in one or two days.

“love your neighbor” 2. Improvements in agriculture—In order for past civilizations to endure through poor weather, famine, flood, etc…one needed dreams and dream interpreters (Joseph and Egypt) and traditions besides God’s good providence. Now in addition to God’s providence through educational advancements we can predict in advance severe weather. So if an early frost comes, we can take precautions to preserve young plants. We use irrigation when the rains are infrequent. We have insecticides that protect crops from bugs that would devour our food.

So can America help impoverished peoples and nations who are not beneficiaries of all the blessings we have received? Answer: Yes we can! And we do!

This is what our statement affirms when it says, “Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. "

Christian Education

To this point we have emphasized the importance of education in general. We have emphasized that we should embrace all forms of education that seeks to glorify God.

We also need to also stress the importance of a spiritual education. This education comes from two sources; it comes from the Holy Spirit and the Bible. If we are ever going to grow in Christlikeness and develop the inner desire to glorify God, then we must be educated by God through his word. We affirm that apart from Christian education one can never fully glorify God through his or her actions. All pursuits should be offered in faith for the purpose of glorifying God. So we say without qualification that if we only could have book to study, it would be the Bible.

An important part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is the command by Jesus, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The primary way we try to fulfill this command today is through systematic pulpit preaching and systematic Bible study.

The quickest way we can walk away from God is to believe that we can follow Jesus by ourselves. We decide we do not need the church. We decide we do not need spiritual leadership in our life. We decide we do not need any spiritual accountability in our life. Every believer needs to be present and active in ongoing spiritual education.

My fear when it comes to Christian education today is that many Christians in America only receive Christian education on Sunday mornings or in Sunday School. They do not get it through any other ministry in the local church because they do not attend any other ministry. Furthermore many never pick up their Bibles and read during the week.

And we wonder why we have so many problems in the church.

Meanwhile, we have so many Christians who fill their minds with hours and hours of systematic shows on TV which are not bad in and of themselves, but taken in to the great neglect of Christian education will greatly pervert their walk with God and the maturity.

Christians in times past took the lead in education

Christians in many generations took the lead in the progress of education. We saw advances in music, medicine, agriculture and many other fields down through the centuries. For example, many of the first colleges created in the US (Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth) were established by Christians. I believe if my memory is correct, Dartmouth was even instituted to help educate Native Americans.

Over the past two generations, we are having to reclaim this pursuit for the advance of education in part because Christians have abandoned many academic areas. Christians have retreated back into the walls of their church buildings espousing a backwards fundamentalism that says “we do not need anything but the Bible.”

Yes, we need the Bible because it is the special written revelation of God. It is the testimony of God’s work as he redeems the world. Yes, the Bible is indispensable. But we also need to embrace the advances that have been made in all fields of education that glorify God and embrace the creative spirit in which God designed us.

Academic Freedom and Academic Responsibility

The final paragraph states, “In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.”

The main point of this last paragraph is this: Researchers need to be given degrees of freedom in their fields of study. However the freedom needs to be tempered and guided by the word of God.

For example, let us think about the stem cell debate going on in our country. Should we embrace stem cell research? Should there be freedom given to those who conduct studies, which have led and might continue to lead to medical treatments?

The answer is yes and no.

Should we embrace adult stem cell research and technologies which do not destroy human embryos, which have already led to medical breakthroughs? Yes we should. We should be for medical treatments which alleviate sickness and death.

However, should we embrace embryonic stem cell research which destroys human life in the process? No we should not because although we desire freedom in research, we also espouse academic responsibility and the word of God is our guide. Therefore, since it teaches us to respect human life in all its phases, we should not embrace this type of research.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Some Thoughts on the KJV and What It Means to Be a Man

This pastor manages to be both humorous and tragic with this four and a half minute segment of his sermon. But what is truly tragic is that he is not intentionally trying to be humorous. And what he thinks is tragic is...well you just need to watch the video.

The answer to this problem is some lessons on translation theory and proper exegesis training.

He managed to get one amen, and I agree with the statement he made to get the amen, but the text he used to describe what it means to be a man has absolutely nothing to do with what it means to be a man. Furthermore, he never talks about the text within its context. This will be a classic.

(HT: Steve McCoy)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Genesis 47:29-49:27

Here are my notes from a message on Genesis 47:29-49:27


Through extraordinary events God enables Joseph who is sold into slavery by his own brothers, who ends up as an imprisoned slave in Egypt, to rise to second in command over Egypt, the mightiest nation on the Earth at that time.

Joseph's meteoric rise in power in Egypt was not however God’s reward to Joseph for his integrity and faithfulness. His rise in power was important for several reasons:

1. Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams ensured the salvation of Egypt through 7 years of great famine.

2. It placed Joseph in a position where he could ensure that his family would be delivered through the famine.

3. It led to the reconciliation of his family.

4. It led to the family of Jacob migrating to the best lands in Egypt where the family would begin to multiply, thus fulfilling God’s promise that from Abraham would become a nation.

5. It further leads to the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham’s descendants would live in servitude in a foreign land for 400 years.

6. It leads to God’s mighty display of power over the gods of Egypt as he brings mighty Egypt to its knees.

7. Ultimately it is a small part of the overall plan to use one family to bless all the nations though Jesus Christ.

The family has been reunited, as Pharaoh invited the family of Jacob to dwell in Egypt during the famine.

We left off last week with Joseph accumulating for Pharaoh almost the entire wealth of all of Egypt, money, herds, lands, and a 1/5 of every harvest.

As we pick back up the narrative this evening, the focal point will be back on Jacob as he is about die. The important custom of a father blessing his offspring will be the focus.

Read Genesis 47:29-48:22

Joseph’s Oath & the Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh

Before Jacob begins to bless his children, he first enlists Joseph to take an oath to return his body to Canaan to be buried with his father and grandfather.

This must have been a soft reminder to Joseph that as significant as he had become within Egypt, Egypt was only a small episode in the plan of God for the descendants of Abraham. They ultimately belonged in Canaan. Victor Hamilton remarks, “Egypt is to Jacob and his family what the ark was to Noah—a temporary shelter from disaster on the outside.”

At a later time, when it was apparent that Jacob’s final days were upon him, Joseph came to him bringing his two sons with him. Jacob begins his blessing by speaking about the blessing God has been to him:

1. Fruitful —Genesis 47:27

2. Multiplication

3. Company of Peoples

4. Possession of Canaan

This was another reminder that their destiny although the first three were taking place was not in Egypt.

Next, Jacob does something completely unexpected. He makes Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim his own. Although the reasons for Jacob’s actions here are not explained, perhaps his mention of Rachel gives us a clue. Rachel was by all accounts the one wife Jacob loved but she only was able to give Jacob two sons because she died at childbirth with Benjamin. Perhaps this is Jacob’s way of bringing in more descendants of Rachel into the family.

Additionally, V. Hamilton says, “by making Joseph’s sons Jacob’s, Jacob is elevating Joseph to the level of himself. That is, both men are now ancestral fathers of the tribes of Israel that will come from them.”

But the surprises do not end here. After Jacob is made aware of the two visitors at Joseph’s side, he sets out to bless them, but not in the traditional way. Joseph brings his children to Jacob and places them according to age. He places Manasseh the firstborn under his left hand facing Jacob’s right hand. He places Ephraim the younger under his own right hand opposite from Jacob’s left hand.

However in a surprise move, Jacob crosses his hands and puts the favored right hand upon Ephraim the younger. By his God and the angel that has watched over him, Jacob blesses the boys in two ways:

1. Their names were carried on in the same way as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s.

2. Their descendants would be numerous in the earth.

Joseph objects to Jacob’s reversal, but it stands just as his own stood even though he had deceived his father, Isaac.

Manasseh will become a people, but Ephraim will become a multitude of nations.

The Bible does not theologize why the second born so often took preeminence over the firstborn. From Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, and Zerah, now to Manasseh we have multiple examples of God passing over the firstborn and instead using younger sons.

Perhaps, this is a reminder to us that God’s ways are remarkably different than our own (Isa 55:8-9). God will not be confined to human standards and traditions. It foreshadows the foolishness of the gospel (1 Cor 1:23-25). Perhaps from Jacob’s perspective it could have been as simple that since he was the second born, he placed favor on the younger as he once was.

Read Genesis 49:1-27

The Blessing of the Twelve

Reuben (3-4)

Being the firstborn of Jacob, Reuben was destined for preeminence, however his sexual affair with Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant and his father’s concubine derailed Reuben destiny. So his blessing is not one at all.

Simeon & Levi (5-7)

Simeon and Levi are addressed together because their fates are linked when both men slaughtered the people of Shechem because one Shechemite raped their sister, Dinah. Because of their uncontrollable anger, Jacob distances himself from these sons and he does not give them a blessing.

Judah (8-12)

Along with Joseph, and not surprisingly, Judah receives a prominent blessing:

v11—binds his foal/donkey to a vine (who does that?) This shows how prosperous is. He washes his clothes in wine—wine is plentiful

v9—Judah is compared to a lion, a fierce animal—Judah will be strong

v8—Judah will rule over other peoples and even over his brothers

Zebulun (13)

Issachar (14-15)

Dan (16-17)

Plea for deliverance (18)

Because of its location, this tribe would be at the forefront of war.

Asher (20)
Because of Asher’s location, it prospered in the area of food.

Naphtali (21)

Joseph (22-26)
He has survived many attacks—v23-24
Upheld by God—v24
Abundantly blessed by God—vv25-26

Benjamin (27)
The tribe of Benjamin was known for its great military prowess.

Prophetic Blessings

These blessing have a prophetic element to them. That is, what Jacob predicts in the blessings or lack of blessings proves true for the future descendants of these brothers.

For example in 7b Jacob says of Simeon and Levi, “I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” Simeon future is subsumed in Judah and Levi gains no land as they become the tribe of priests.

Furthermore, Reuben who should have received the lion’s share of the blessing, ends up in obscurity, and Judah, who takes the lead to provide for the family takes the lion’s share and rules over the tribes in later years through King David who is from Judah.

Far in advance of knowing where each tribe would be located, Jacob makes predictions about Gad and Zebulun that prove true in the future

Any foreshadowing of Jesus in the Text?

Although many major commentaries do not note, the blessing of Judah surely contains imagery of Messianic truths.

Judah is referred to as a lion—In the book of Revelation, in chapter 5 a great angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll so that in essence God’s will can be accomplished. John thinks there is no one in all heaven or earth able to open it and begins to weep. However, he is encouraged and that the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David is worthy to open the book.

Jacob prophetically asks of the Judean Lion, “Who dares rouse him?” As powerful as Judah was in her heyday of David and Solomon’s reigns, this question ultimately fits Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings. This fits with Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Genesis 49:10 says of Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” This reference points first to David’s rise as King over Israel and later to his descendants who reigned on the thrown over God’s people. God’s promise to David and his descendants was given in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 where God says:

2Sam 7:11 (NASU) even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you.

12 "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.

13 "He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

However, the ultimate fulfillment of Jacob’s words in Genesis 49 to Judah point to the Messiah. The reason why the scepter will never depart from Judah is because the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ is Lord forevermore.

Lastly, Jacob says of Judah, “and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Generically speaking, Judah was powerful and peoples listened to her as a tribe like Judah’s brothers listened to him. The tribes even submitted to David, but not perfectly. In Jesus, this proclamation reaches its climax as his rule will include “the peoples.”


Genesis, a book in many respects about blessing, comes near to its close with the “family of God’s unique blessing” and its Patriarch announcing his blessings to his 12 (14 if you count Manasseh & Ephraim) children. Not only do these blessings contain prophetic details about the future tribes of Israel, but they also point to climactic figure in Scripture, Jesus Christ. They point us to the primary purpose of the patriarchal blessings, namely to bring redemption for his creation.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Are We Any Better?

John Piper on the Desiring God Blog draws together the similar atrocities of Al Qaida's recent bombings using unsuspecting women who had down syndrome with the epidemic rates of aborted babies who are diagnosed with down syndrome before birth in the US and England.

Franchising the Local Church

Over on Christianitytoday's Out of Ur blog a recent post has been added highlighting the trend to franchise local churches by using satellite campuses. One of two things usually occurs during this methodology.

First, the new plant or existing church seeking to become a part of a franchised network signs contracts obligating themselves to feed in the preaching from the lead pastor of whatever network they are joining. They do not use any local pastor for preaching. However the local church does have its own pastors who provide for various pastoral care ministries. They can have their own music, but when it comes to the preaching, they listen to a pastor from another location.

The second option is a little bit different. In this model, the new plant or existing church seeking to join the network contractually obligates itself under the rule of the pastors of the mother church. So it virtually becomes one church, several locations.

I find the trend troubling for several reasons.

1. It seems to say that only a few gifted individuals are qualified to preach.
2. It does not encourage younger men who are called to preach to have much of an opportunity if the pulpit can only be used by the lead pastor of the mother church.
3. Every church should have access to the ones who instructionally lead the local church, and this process negates this possibility.
4. The second form of this model seems Episcopal rather than congregational.
5. It discourages the development process whereby elders who can preach are trained and nurtured.

HT: Karisblog

Dr. Mohler Interview

Pastor Les Puryear has posted a recent interview he conducted with Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here are the 7 questions he asked to Mohler:

1. The past two presidents of the SBC have had certain emphases that distinguished their presidencies. Dr. Welch emphasized evangelism and Dr. Page has been emphasizing unity and praying for revival. What will be the main emphasis of your presidency?

2. In recent years there has been a resurgence of Reformed Theology in the SBC, mainly among young pastors. As a Reformed theologian, what do you think your election as the president of the SBC, if you are elected, will say about the impact of Reformed theology in the SBC?

3. In the SBC, 83% of our churches have an average attendance of less than 200 in Sunday morning worship, therefore the SBC is overwhelmingly a convention of small churches. What is your view of the role of the small church in the SBC?

4. Although we're a convention of small churches, it seems that the majority of SBC board and agency nominations seem to go to representatives of much larger churches. What do you propose to do to get more small church representation on our boards and agencies?

5. You were a member of the BFM2K committee that fashioned our confession of faith. Recently some have called for the BFM2K to be amended to address the issues of "tongues" and "alien immersion." What's your position on amending the confession of faith to address these or any other issues of theology?

6. What is your position on SBC boards and agencies developing doctrinal policy which goes beyond the agreed upon confession of faith?

7. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like to say to the people of the SBC and to small church leaders as well?