I thought of this a few weeks ago when visiting at another church. At the time when the sermon was meant to be preached, the pastor gave a fine lecture on the Bible a good, redemptive historical exposition of an Old Testament passage. The congregation waited politely for the abracadabra-hey-presto! moment when, like a bunny from a magician’s top hat, Jesus is pulled as if by magic from the chosen Old Testament passage. And, hey presto, there he was, right on cue, where he’d never been seen before! — though there were no gasps of amazement, as the congregation had, I presumed, seen the trick performed a thousand times before with other texts. The old `I bet you never saw Jesus there before’ gets a bit predictable and tiresome when its the only application, I guess. This was truly a lecture and no sermon.
Noticed today that two sermons I preached at the RP Seminary chapel are now available online at Reformed Voice.
Find them here.
They are on Psalm 142 and Psalm 84.
I have about 5 blog posts on the Institutes I just need to format and post. Hope to have those up this week.
This sermon was preached at Community Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)
Probably the best thing about the internet for me has been the availability of previously unknown teachers being made known and their influence on the development of my theology. This goes for men from John Calvin (who I first discovered back in 1998 online, not in my PC(USA) church growing up) to the gentleman I have noted above in the title of this post. S. Lewis Johnson was Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and was a strident defender of 5-point Calvinism and Reformed thought in general. Exepting his Dispensationalism he is a dynamite speaker and thorough exegete.
Read More Here: The SLJ Institute
I highly recommend starting your listening with S. Lewis Johnson’s lectures against “Modified Calvinism” better known as Amyraldism.
…And I want to tell you, brethren, when you go to a little country town to start a church
you let people know you are against something. You let them know you haven’t come as a sob voiced sissy to be another pulpit ornament two times on Sunday, that you are not a soft pedaling, fence straddling cream puff pie preacher, that you are a man of God with fire in your belly and you are going to preach the Word with power. The pulpit, brethren, is a throne and kings sit upon the throne. And every time you get into your pulpit—it may be a small, little pulpit in a small little church—but, thank God, you are a king and you are going to preach the King’s Word, hallelujah! And it does something. It shakes the place. It’s the Bible. That’s what Luther had. He just had a Bible, but he gave the pope spiritual rickets and the pope has been suffering from them ever since. Yes. You have got the Bible, the Word and the Spirit…
…Thank God we can call in the Lord. It’s a great thing to be able to call in the Lord when you are having a rough time, bring the Lord in. He will handle the apostates all right, yes, the great champion of the cross, Emmanuel, victor. He is able to deal with all apostates. So you have a preview. Then you have in this great passage, this epistle, the program of fundamentalists. And I want to tell you that evangelism is not the first in the program. I want you to get that. Oh, there is evangelism in the program and don’t misunderstand me.
I am an evangelist. I am preaching evangelistic campaigns all the time and I believe in soul winning with all my heart and soul and a preacher that doesn’t win souls get rid of him. He’s no use. That’s right. If I was in a shop selling books and I never sold one you wouldn’t keep me. They’d say, “Get him out. He’s no good. He can’t sell.” And a preacher that doesn’t win souls, he is no use. You have to win souls for the Lord. And I
want to tell you God will give you souls for your hire. He will give you souls for your hire.
But you ever remember this, young man, that you bring forth your fruit in season and every period in the Church is not a revival period. Every season is not a revival season. It’s easy, you know, to be on fire for God and praise the Lord when revival is on and people are getting saved. But old Habakkuk said, “When there is no oxen in the stall, when there is no food in the larder, when there is no harvest in the field, I will rejoice in
the God of my salvation.”12 And until you learn that you will never be a true man or woman of God. To put your rejoicing… You remember they came home and they told the Lord about the great mission that they
had, the campaign they had and the devils were subject to them and the Lord said, “Don’t rejoice because you have been successful. Rejoice because you are saved, your name is written heaven.” Oh, you will have a hard time at time. The sun will not shine. There will be dark nights you will have to go through with the Lord…
…It hasn’t come toour country, but we have a fundamentalism that has deteriorated here in the United States of America where the Church is trying to win an ear for the gospel with things that are polluted. And I want to say that to you today. Young man, there is only one way to build a church. It is with that book. That is all I have got. I have no gimmicks. I have nothing. But let me tell you I have a book and that book will build a church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And you are not called. Young man, let me say this to you. You are not called to be, first of all, an organizer and, secondly, to be a manager and, thirdly, to be a promoter. You are called to be a preacher. That is what you are called to be, a preacher. And you go and preach it. And you say, “Well, if I don’t have…” Listen. You don’t need anything. You get on fire in the pulpit and people will come out to see you burn. They will say, “There is a fire up the road. Come on out.”…
From “Fundamentalism vs. Apostasy” by Rev. Dr. Ian K. Paisley
Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:15-21 are the subject of our next inquiry into the “Science” of Hermeneutics. It has been posited in the comments section of the answer to Part 1 that this should be used as a proof text for those who support Women’s Ordination and to not to leads to “General Assembly-like” pronouncements like women not being able to teach adult men but being able to teach male children.
There are several questions that come up when thinking here and must be understood when looking at these two passages. 1) How should we look at Old Testament passages cited by New Testament authors (inspired by the same Spirit?) 2) How much can we read into a text before we obscure and obfuscate its meaning? 3) Can a text have separate contexts?
However first we need to define the major word of this pericope. PROPHECY. John Calvin in his commentary on Acts 2 says, “…this word prophesy doth signify nothing else save only the rare and excellent gift of understanding, as if Joel should say, Under the kingdom of Christ there shall not be a few prophets only, unto whom God may reveal his secrets; but all men shall be endued with spiritual wisdom, even to the prophetical excellency.” John Chrysostom in his Homily V on Acts 2 also gives the same definition as John Calvin saying,” but for the grace, he fetches the prophet as witness. “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.” [“And your sons,” etc.] To some the grace was imparted through dreams, to others it was openly poured forth.” This Prophecy of which both Calvin and Chrysostom speak has nothing to do with teaching or preaching, as some have surmised, but has to do with the revelation of the Will of God. In this case Peter is speaking to the Jews who are wondering why Cretans and Arabs are speaking in tongues they do not understand. They are speaking not only in a tongue the Jews cannot understand but of a way that cannot be understand because the Holy Spirit has not been imparted to them. John Piper in a sermon on Acts 2 says this:
In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is the presence of God in the world to reveal himself by some action or word. Therefore when Joel says that God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, he means that God will draw near to men and women and make himself known and felt in a powerful way. There is a great difference between perceiving a lake at a distance and being immersed in the lake. So there is a great difference between experiencing God as a distant object of knowledge and being immersed in his presence. The picture of a worldwide pouring compels us to think of being soaked and saturated and swept along by the Spirit of God. Joel wanted his readers to anticipate an unmistakable flood-tide of God’s presence.
The context of Peter’s commentary and quotation of Joel 2 belies nothing that would tell us Peter here is speaking about teaching and preaching in the Church. Peter is speaking to the Jews during the event of Pentecost when Jesus’ words to the Apostles were fulfilled. To make the argument that Peter here is is quoting Joel to give the office of teacher to both men and women is stretching the meaning of the text. As we see from the several commentators we cannot give a meaning to a text that it itself cannot and does not give. This on its own not only breaks Scripture’s internal hermeneutic but it violates the rules of literary analysis, tools that even wacko conservatives use to help determine the meaning of the text. Also as Reformed Christians who hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith as the best summary of the Doctrine of the Christian life we must (unless you are like our dispensational friends that believe that we can still receive prophecy after the death of the last Apostle) say that Prophecy has ceased. Richard Gaffin, Professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in his book Perspectives on Pentecost in summary says, “The apostolic witness, prophecy and tongues were bound up with the foundation of the church following the ascension of Christ, and therefore, since the foundation has been laid, have no purpose for today.” For a Reformed believer if Prophecy has ceased then what Joel and Peter speak of in this passage cannot have bearing on us because we do not live in the Apostolic age. The Westminster Confession says:
The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 1, section 1:
Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.
Even moreso Paul in 1st Timothy 5:17 says, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Now who is to be preaching and teaching? Elders. What are the qualifications for Elders according to Paul (who like Peter and Joel is inspired by the Holy Spirit)? Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 that the office of Overseer, or Elder is restricted to “…the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
Now where do Elders receive their call to head the Church? For that let us take a look at Acts 20:17-38. In this passage Paul is writing to the Elders at the church in Ephesus. He is giving them a sort of pep talk and exhorting them to keep strong in the faith that has been delivered to them and to be vigilant like a shepherd tending to their flocks. Now what does this description sound like to you? Sounds like the daily work of a Pastor does it not? Also worth remembering is the location of Timothy when Paul writes to him. Where is he? Ephesus. So if Paul believes that only qualified men (not all men) can be Elders, and Elders are the Shepherds of the Church, and Elders are to be the ones preaching and teaching what does that say about Joel and Peter and there speaking of Prophesy? Well we can be sure that it does not mean that Peter in Acts 2 and Joel in his book chapter 2 cannot be, if taken with the whole counsel of Scripture, to mean that the act of “Prophesy” which both men and women are called can be conflated to therefore mean that both men and women are called to and can preach and be Teaching Elders in the Church of Christ.
The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.
Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.
Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.