Serving Undiluted Wine
I am working slowly through 2 Corinthians in my Quiet Times in the mornings, and was this morning reading chapter 2, verses 14-17. The scholars struggle with the transition from the end of verse 16 to verse 17, and I can see why. At the end of verse 16, in response to the awesome responsibility of being a minister of the gospel, Paul exclaims, "who is equal to such a task?" ("Who is sufficient for these things?"). Who indeed, if our words are an aroma among those who are being saved, to move them on from life to life, and an aroma among the perishing, to hasten them on their way to perdition? What an extraordinary burden and responsibility! What eternal consequences hang on our preaching!
New staff appointment at PT Cornhill
I am very pleased to announce that Dr Jonathan Griffiths will be joining the PT Cornhill teaching staff in September 2012, in time for the next Cornhill year. After studying theology in Oxford, Jonathan did a Ph.D. in Cambridge in New Testament. Jonathan is Canadian and is married to Gemma. They have two children, Teddy and Arabella. Jonathan and Gemma belonged at Spicer Street chapel in St.Albans. For the past three years Jonathan has been assistant minister at Christ Church, Westbourne. We look forward to welcoming them to a period of service with the Proclamation Trust.
How to convey information without showing off
I preached 2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1 this last Sunday. There's a curious sentence: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" Who is this Belial? Some study work required. First of all, in Greek it is Beliar, not Belial. And a good commentary is going to help you.
The term Βελι?ρ (for this form, see Textual Note b.) is found only here in the NT. Paul’s usual word for the devil is (?) Σαταν?ς (10 uses; e.g., 2:11; 11:14; 12:7), but 4:4 (? θε?ς το? α??νος το?του) shows that his usage is not rigid. Βελι?ρ or the variant spelling Βελι?λ represents the Hebrew term belîya‘al, which means “worthlessness” or “destruction.” It is probably never a proper name for Satan in the OT, although it personified the forces of evil and chaos, so that the expression benê belîya‘al (“sons of worthlessness” = “wicked men”) is used of the homosexuals at Gibeah (Judg. 19:22; 20:13) and the wicked men who seduced people to worship other gods (Deut. 13:14; EVV, 13:13). In the Qumran texts belîya‘al is the angel of enmity whose domain is darkness and who counsels evil and superintends angels of destruction, “the lot of Belial,” who fight against the sons of light, “the lot of God.” “In the Pseudepigrapha (esp. in the Martyrdom of Isa. and XII P. [Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs]), Beliar is primarily the tempter who lures man into sin by his spirits and rules over sinful man.” Although Beliar is sometimes identified with the Antichrist in the Pseudepigrapha,44 there is no reason to assume that the antithesis in 6:15 is between Christ and Antichrist. Rather, as the embodiment of righteousness Christ is set over against Beliar as the embodiment of iniquity; Christ, the ruler in the kingdom of light, is contrasted with Satan, the ruler of the domain of darkness (cf. the two preceding antitheses, and Col. 1:12–13). As in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (e.g., Testament of Levi18:12), Βελι?ρ is here the name of the devil, the enemy of God. (Harris, M. J. (2005). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians : A commentary on the Greek text (502–503). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press.)
Belial, by the way, is simply an old-fashioned Jewish name for Satan.
Some useful links for Bible translation help
According to the Times last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking at the 400th anniversary of the KJV, warned "against making Bible texts more accessible." He is quoted:
What is a good translation? Not one that just allows me to say, when I pick it up, 'Now I understand'….[but] rather one letting me say 'Now I understand' one that prompts the response, 'Now the work begins.'
As is often the case, I've absolutely no idea what he's talking about! My generous side says the quote is taken out of context and if I'd heard it all I would have understood…..
But I am concerned that a translation is understood….and accurate. It's that balance that makes choosing a translation less than straightforward. For those thinking about changing from the NIV and wondering what to do, here are some useful, independent links. I've posted some of them before, but one or two people have asked for them again.
- There is a very helpful article in the new edition of Themelios reviewing the new NIV
- There is also a good article in this month's Briefing
- The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (!) does very detailed analyses of Bible translations which are careful and conservative. Read their evaluation of the ESV here, the HCSB here and the updated NIV here, with a summary of six translations here.
Carl Trueman on preaching and the Trinity
Carl gave us three sessions on the Trinity last week at our autumn ministers conference. Session 1 was some historical background – 500 years of history in 45 minutes, a useful recap. You can watch it here. Session 3 were Carl's practical applications of the doctrine of the Trinity and preaching. You can watch it here. But best of all was the link between the Trinity and preaching, session 2 (below). It's an exceptional defence of the priority of preaching without becoming either too mystical or, on the other hand, too cavalier about preaching.
Autumn Ministers music
Some of the delegates asked what we sang at the autumn ministers conference and whether we could post a list and links. So here goes:
- Great is thy faithfulness
- I will glory in my Redeemer
- My heart is filled with thankfulness
- O great God of highest heaven
- Let us sing the King Messiah (we sung this to the tune Regent Square)
- See what a morning
- Who has held the oceans in his hand
- By faith we see the hand of God
- There is a higher throne
- We trust in thee our shield and our defender
- All people that on earth do dwell
- Before the throne of God above
- Your glorious cause O Lord
- Yes finished the Messiah dies. There's no online link for the music for this. You need to find a book called The Bridge for John Kelly's excellent hymn tune.
Vaughan Roberts at Autumn Ministers Conference
This is 25 minutes well spent. Vaughan introduced our recent autumn ministers conference with a brief look at Luke 6 and challenges for all those in ministry about keeping going. Turn off the phone, shut the door, open your Bible and listen carefully.
What is the mission of the church?
Kevin deYoung and Greg Gilbert's new book is an important one, I think. I enjoyed reading it pre pub and now it's out. Even if you don't agree with it all, it's a model of gracious argument. Nonetheless, I do think it has some critical observations to make about mission. It's certainly caused quite a stir. The Gospel Coalition website carries two useful articles, a critical review by Ed Stetzer and a thorough response from the authors. Elsewhere, and more briefly, Trevin Wax asked the authors five critical questions (here). You can read their answers here. For my money, I enjoyed most the analysis by Michael Horton over at the White Horse Inn.
There's a danger with such books of course that we only ever read the reviews. That's not good. Buy the book and read it for yourself. That's what we've got the Cornhill students to do. Next week is their reading week and this is one of the volumes the guys will be reading and then discussing when they return.
Just so you know what I’m worth
As a preacher, my worth is not derived from:
- the time I start in the office
- the time I finish in the office
- how early I get up to pray
- how good a preacher I am
- whether I can write a good set of Bible study questions
- the number of unbelievers in my contact book
- how regular I am at every church gathering and side meeting
- the number of books on my shelves
- the number of readers of my blog
- how many facebook friends I have
No, as preacher, as a Christian.
My worth is entirely and solely and eternally derived by being in Christ, joined in wonderful and mystical union to the eternal Son of God who died for me and rose for my justification. That is my worth. But it is not without effect and implication as a preacher. Being in Christ, I will:
- work hard and use my time wisely
- get up early to spend time with my glorious King
- strive to proclaim him clearly as I should
- write Bible study questions that will help others know him better
- seek to meet unbelievers to tell them about him
- try to be with God's people at every opportunity
- buy and read books that will build my faith and help me understand the Bible better
- in my ministry, encourage others to serve him well, perhaps through writing a blog
- keep in contact with other ministers, say through facebook
It's not so much WHAT I do, do you see? It's WHY I do it. It's my heart that always needs searching and changing.
No impressions in the pulpit OR what we can learn from Jimmy Saville
Preachers should not do impressions. Impressions rarely work as this rather hilarious Jimmy Saville clip from straight-laced Peter Donaldson doing the six o'clock news bulletin on Radio 4 shows. And yet, very often, we do end up preaching just like our heroes. A generation of free church pastors tried to be Lloyd-Jones just as a generation of Anglicans tried to be Stott. And those two generations have found, in general, that it doesn't work! These days the heroes to emulate are more diverse (thanks to the internet) but probably more listened to and accessible (thanks to the internet). That's not to say we can't learn from greats. But we should not seek to replicate them. The issue is, at its root, theological. Preaching is God's ordained means of making his presence known through the faithful exposition of Scripture by a man – that's you. That means your personality, your nature, your person are a key part of God's preaching plan. That is not to make much of you (you after all, a jar of clay), but to make much of him and display his power. When you or I try to be someone else we're cutting against the grain of the theology of preaching.
So, no impressions in the pulpit. Go listen to Peter Donaldson once more. Laugh. And then repeat to yourself. "No more impressions in the pulpit."