Ezra is a book in my bloodstream. I’ve preached through it three times; taught it at Cornhill pretty much every year since I’ve been here; lectured it here and overseas and I’m midway through writing our Teaching Ezra book. And yet, I still think that getting to the bottom of chapter 10 (when foreign wives are put away) one of the hardest parts of the Old Testament – especially in how we make it into New Covenant teaching. I’ve just finished teaching this year’s course at Cornhill and am reminded that ending with this uncertainty is always unsatisfactory. Of course, that sense might be mitigated if we bundled Ezra and Nehemiah together (as I recommend the students). But our timetable, at present at least, does not allow for that. I set the students two key questions. First, is Ezra’s response the correct one? Second, what is the New Covenant parallel, if there is one. These are two separate but not entirely unconnected questions. For what it’s worth, I think the first question is easier to answer. Ezra is presented as the pre-eminent man of the law (e.g. Ezra 7.10). The whole second section leans heavily in this direction. He describes the remedy as “honouring the Lord, the God of your ancestors and doing his will” (Ezra 10.10). The people recognise this is good. “You are right! We must do as you say” (Ezra 10.12) having previously encouraged Ezra “Let it be done according to the Law” (Ezra 10.3). DA Carson is somewhat more ambiguous than I could be: “Strictly speaking the text itself does not adjudicate between these two interpretations [Ezra is right, or wrong in his actions], though the first of the two is slightly more natural within the stance of the book.” I want to go further. It seems to me that the text’s thrust and tone positively encourages us to think optimistically about Ezra’s actions. But given that to be the case, we are still left with the perplexing question of New Covenant application. Here are one or two ideas:
- First, the big thing going on is the supremacy of relationship with the covenant God. Nothing must be allowed to trump this. This point needs to be made, though that does not necessarily rule anything in or out in terms of our preaching application.
- Second, we must recognise that a New Testament believer’s relationship to law is not the same as an Old Testament believer.
- Third, there is a seriousness about sin and a ruthlessness about remedy that is reflected in the New Covenant – see, for example, Matthew 5.30.
- Fourth, it is possible to make a case I believe, for saying that these so-called “marriages” are not marriages at all. It is not that they are unethical, they are illegal. Is it possible to say that a legal parallel would be ‘marriage’ to, say, a sister? If someone told you that they were married to their sister, you would reply, ‘No, you’re not.’ The “wife” must be put away.
For the past few years, a small army of volunteers have hosted EMA guests for the two or three nights of the conference. There a number of people for whom the cost of accommodation in London would hinder their attendance and these generous offers of somewhere to stay make all the difference. This year's EMA runs from 22-24th June. So, if you live in London and are able to help, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org . And if you’re ministering in a London church, could you ask folk in the church whether they might be able to accommodate anybody? Thank you in advance for your generosity and help. PS: We are also looking for hosts for the Cornhill Summer School which is the week after EMA (29th June- 3rd July) ; if you are able to help then, let us know about that too!
Day rate £50
3 days £110
Student day rate £25
Student 3 days £60
Monday 22nd June 2015 –
Wednesday 24th June 2015
EMA 2015: Identity Crisis - Preaching to a confused world. Speakers will include Christopher Ash, Tim Keller, Mike Raiter, Andrew Reid, Vaughan Roberts, Bruce Ware and John Wyatt. We're confused about identity. We're confused about gender and sexuality. We're confused about race. We're confused about the beginning and end of life. The 2015 EMA will focus on a biblical theology of humanity: if we can be clear about the Bible's teaching on humanity, then we can be joyfully confident in our own identity in Christ and equipped to preach to a confused world.
For those who are really looking ahead, the dates for EMA 2016 are 21st to 23rd June.
Spring Senior Ministers 2015
Monday 27th April 2015 –
Thursday 30th April 2015
With Peter Adam. Based at Hothorpe Hall, Leicestershire. Our spring conferences are all about being and staying fresh: fresh in our walk with Christ; fresh in our thinking; fresh in our preaching. We've planned the 2015 spring ministers' conferences to help us work out how our godly desire for freshness can be a practical reality in every area of Christian life and ministry. We will be joined by Peter Adam (ex-principal of Ridley College, Melbourne) and other experienced preachers to learn together how we can serve our churches, our friends, our families and our Saviour. fresh. This week is focused on those with 5+ years experience; the conference the following week is for those with less than 5 years experience. Single rooms are now fully booked, but you are welcome to indicate in the 'room share' box if you would like a single room if one becomes available.
Sorry, this conference is not open for online booking. To see if there are spaces, please call the office (0207 407 0561) or email email@example.com.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
We're gradually adding material from our archive. EMA 1993 featured Dick Lucas, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, David Petersen and John Lennox for a mix of inspiring teaching, challenging exhortation and encouraging reports of gospel work. (Click the title, left, for the talks)