Exegetical thoughts on Luke ch.24, part 1
At the recent PT Summer Wives Conference I gave three talks on Luke’s final chapter, ch.24, and to be honest I found the prep a real wrestle. Preachers know that feeling mid-way through the prep for something like this: “I don’t think I’m going to have anything useful to say. Shall I just pick something that promises to yield easier fruit instead?”.
However some things did come to strike me quite forcefully, and I share them here, over the next three days.
First up is vs.1-12.
Luke seems to have narrated this in a way that stresses two things:
1) The disciples were simply not expecting the resurrection (vs.1-3, 11), even though they had heard Jesus predict it (v.6), and even though some of them had themselves experienced his miraculous healing power personally. The latter point is presumably why Luke goes out of his way to name the women in v.10, since some of the same women are also mentioned as having been healed in 8.1-3.
That gives huge comfort to Christians who find our message of a risen Christ met with incredulity.
2) This is really the same point, but now put positively: belief in Christ resurrected is given through divine revelation that first of all humbles, and then gives insight into and remembrance of Christ’s words (vs.4-8). (This theme will also continue into the next section: vs.16 and 31-32.)
I began to think that this explains why Luke ends the section with Peter as a partial exception to the disciples’ lack of expectation of the resurrection (v.12). The last time Luke showed us Peter, he was in a position rather like that of the women at the tomb: humbled, forced to remember Jesus’ words, and confronted with the truth of those words (22.60-62). If that’s right, then Luke is showing that human reception of the news of the resurrection requires our humbling - and those who have been humbled by God are more likely to be open to believing it. On reflection, I have found that to be largely true of ministry as I have experienced it.
The working wife
I was at the recent PT Summer Wives conference, invited along as a speaker. We had a panel question time on wide-ranging issues of ministry, and the perennial question arose of whether or not a pastor’s wife ought to do paid work out of the home. There are of course strongly argued views both ways on this, so we wanted to pick our way through it carefully.
One helpful way in which the question was framed was this: aren’t we in our constituency in danger of promoting a 1950s cultural model of the housewife (main job: cook and clean, and make sure house and kids are spick and span and dinner is ready for hubbie’s return home), and pretending it’s biblical?
A good question. There is no doubt that danger is real, and we may well at times have fallen into it. As is often pointed out, the wife of noble character in Prov 31 is rather more like a home-based businesswoman than a 1950s housewife, and the ‘busyness at home’ which older women are teach to younger women (Titus 2.5) is very likely to be much more akin to that, than akin to a post-Industrial-Revolution cultural model of house-wifery. That itself doesn’t answer the question about pastors’ wives going out of the home to earn money, but it certainly shows that easy answers won’t do.
I wonder if it is especially in marriage-roles and family relationships that we are likely to slip unawares into largely cultural rather than biblical patterns without noticing, precisely because such things seem so ‘natural’ to us. It is really only those who believe that Scripture is the living voice of God who can gain a true perspective on themselves and their culture from outside, which is a great mercy and a great challenge.
Which brings me to the paucity of public praying. We’re preaching through Ephesians at the moment. Compare the glorious end of chapter 3 and what Paul prays for the Ephesians to what passes as public prayer in most of our churches. Ouch. Subject. Content. Depth. Profundity. We’re found wanting in every area.
Lord, teach me to pray [publicly].
Describing prayers? Just stop it.
I heard someone praying on the radio the other day in a corporate worship service. Only he wasn’t really praying. He was describing praying. And this passed for the petitions of the people. The prayer went something like this.
“We pray God would bring peace in the world. We pray God would heal Aunt Lucy. We pray God would provide funds for the new organ.” That kind of thing. Even when such prayers contain better sentiments that are more focused on Scripture (as I think prayer should), this is still not really a public prayer. To describe to a congregation what one might pray for, rather than praying to the living God himself, is more than a missed opportunity. It is madness. We have access to the Father by the Son, with the Spirit himself helping us. Why would we not want to address him? I can’t understand it.
And this isn’t just the liberals on the radio. I’ve heard evangelicals do it too.
Please don’t. It’s not actually praying, hadn’t you noticed?
New director of the PT Cornhill Training Course
The Trustees of The Proclamation Trust are delighted to announce the appointment of Nigel Styles as the new Director of the PT Cornhill Training Course. Nigel is currently senior minister of Emmanuel Church in Bramcote, Nottingham, a church established 9 years ago. He is also Director of Training for the Midlands Gospel Partnership. Nigel is married to Lizzie and they have six children.
Nigel will officially take up his post from Summer 2016, but in the meantime he will gradually increase his involvement with the Proclamation Trust. Until next summer, the Associate Director of PT Cornhill, Tim Ward, will be Acting Director.
The Cornhill Training Course is part of the ministry of The Proclamation Trust and has been training men and women for word ministry in the local church, and in particular preaching, for almost 25 years. It has established a strong reputation as a robust and thorough preparation for church ministry and we are delighted that the appointment of Nigel will continue this focus and approach.
Nigel will work closely with the other PT directors: Adrian Reynolds (Director of Ministry), Carrie Sandom (Director of Women’s Ministry) and Neil Watkinson (International Director). Please join us in praying for the continued ministry of the PT Cornhill Training Course and the wider ministry of The Proclamation Trust. Please also pray for Nigel and Lizzie and their family, as well as the church family at Emmanuel, as Nigel transitions to this new stage of life and ministry.
Preaching with spiritual power
Ralph Cunnington has written a very important book examining the relationship between word and Spirit in Calvin, assessing – as he goes – John Woodhouse and Stuart Olyott who might be both described, perhaps, as representing two extremes. I loved this book when I first read it and remember it got me thinking very deeply and, again, feeling my prayerlessness when it came to preaching. I’ve just received a copy as it is now published, and a quick scan reminded me why I liked it so much. It is a book of historical theology and – therefore – there are footnotes. But overall, an exciting read for every preacher and well worth some of your time over the summer.
“Preachers do not need to enter the pulpit anxious about whether God will accompany his word. He will, and preachers must be confident of that.”
Of course, there are a wealth of caveats, what-ifs and whys and wherefores behind that statement, but it remains a confidence for every preacher and – as Ralph points out – a spur to prayer, not a reason for lacking in it. Well worth eight of your English pounds.
Dick Lucas sermon jam
Given we’ve been talking about Dick, it’s surely worth reposting this sermon jam from the guys at St Peter’s Dundee. “Nobody too far orf.” I love it.
Dick Lucas on the need of the moment
At his last trustees’ meeting, Dick gave us one of his typical assessments of where we are as a church in the UK. Drawing on JB Philips, Dick told us that there is a great danger in the church in the UK being like an old house which has been disconnected from the mains. It will soon fall down, and what we need to be about is reconnecting those who minister to the ring main. Here’s his ABCD:
A – authority. The word of God is the power of God to create life and if we allow any kind of tradition (and there are many) to take over, then the word of God is soon robbed of its power.
B – boldness. Satan hates free speech and the bold proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Anything which hinders this – inside and outside the church – comes from the pit.
C – conviction. Pastors and preachers need to tremble at the word of God which comes from the mouth of God. Our conviction needs to extend to all the Scriptures – look how our singing is one dimensional for example, compared to the psalter.
D – delight. Dick quoted Lloyd-Jones who, when travelling around, noted that many churches are so depressing! We need to be preachers who delight in Christ himself and his in his word. That must be evident in our preaching.
Dick Lucas steps down as PT trustee
Dick has been involved with PT since its inception – as many of you know. There are ways in which PT is Dick and vice versa, but we’ve been wary of making that connection too strongly (as happens in other ministries) for Dick’s own sake and for ours too. PT is bigger than Dick, he would be the first to say. But his preaching instructions formed the basis for much of what we have always done and continue to do. I heard anecdotally about a church historian the other day saying something like (sorry, no verbatim quote): Dick has done more in his quiet, unassuming way for the cause of preaching Christ in the UK church than any other UK leader.
When pressed, this historian said that Dick has never had another issue he’s been pushing. He’s never pursued another agenda; he’s remained focused on prayerful and faithful preaching as the fuel which builds the church under God. We’re not all Dick. And, he would say, a good thing too. We each have our own experiences and cultures to bring with us. And yet, the lessons hold true wherever you come from and whatever your background. However you assess it, many of us have many reasons to thank God for this humble servant.
Dick is 90 this year. Amazingly, he is still preaching, still sharp. But the time has come for him to step down as a PT trustee and I, for one, am enormously grateful for his wisdom and counsel. Once a week he stops by to sit on my sofa and chew the cud and, in characteristically humble mode, he listens patiently whilst I pontificate.
Join me in thanking God for this remarkable and continuing ministry.
Far above rubies – a short review by Mrs R
We are constantly being asked the question “can we have it all?” In Christian circles women are struggling with this too and ministers’ wives will certainly be wondering where they fit into the world’s view.
This book, Far above rubies, tells the story of a woman who could be described as having it all – looks, status, talent, career, connections but she gives up ‘wordly’ success to devote herself to support her husband, Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones, and their 2 daughters. We are told how her parents and grandparents were such an important influence to her in the way they kept family and ministry life maintained, and both these and the accounts of her own family life give plenty of food for thought for ministers’ wives. She was willing to give her husband up to the Lord but they always made time for each other. Despite the fact she didn’t become a Christian until after being married and serving with her husband in his first church she became the doctor’s best and severest critic but always gave that feedback in a way that built him up.
There are moving accounts written by her 2 daughters which will bring tears to the eyes. The family were very close and the long lasting effects of motherly love are very evident as they are passed on through the generations. The strong message that comes through is that it is possible to love your husband, children and serve the wider church but that comes at a cost. Bethan willingly and cheerfully gave up herself, her own career and needs to devote herself to serving others. Instead of that being a strait jacket she comes across as wonderfully liberated and free to live life to the full. In case you’re thinking- oh no not another superwoman I could never be like- we are also told of her anxiety and very real fears for herself and her family at different stages in their lives. This is a normal woman but one who placed her life in the hands of an amazing God and without her, Martyn Lloyd Jones would not have been able to do the things he did.