Ministry and Marriage (1)
Here we are at the ministers conference and we have had two very good, thorough and challenging sessions on ministry and marriage with John and Ann Benton. For starters here are ten questions for men to ask themselves how difficult they are. Score 0 if you never do this; 1 if you rarely do it; 2 if you sometimes or often do it and 3 if you always do it.
- Assume that at the drop of a hat, she is willing to accommodate anybody or do anything
- Accept an away preaching engagement on her birthday or your anniversary
- Opt out of family life except at mealtimes
- Omit to communicate stuff from leaders' meetings which affects her
- Use what time you have off for personal pursuits
- Make jokes or tell stories at your wife's expense in a sermon
- Use headship as an excuse for selfishness
- Say yes to any request even if it overrides family plans
- Expect and use sex for your own consolation only
- Ignore or belittle her behind-the-scenes work
Be honest! Under 10, well done. Over 20, you are in trouble.
Jackman: On preaching long passages in Isaiah
David Jackman: don't just preach long passages to get through a long book. You will tend to be reductionist and preach framework. Pause on a verse or two. Mine the riches. Secure it in its setting, of course. But don't lose the detail.
Notes from start of David Jackman's third session:
There was a time when eschatology was thought of as the last chapter of a systematic theology and the home territory of a few crankies. One of the good results of the bible overviews we have is that eschatology is the DNA of the Bible. But what do our congregations have in mind when we speak to them of heaven? What, in other words, does heaven look like? Living for heaven is very difficult to do when we don't know what we mean by it.
We need to understand the future well if we are to know how to live in the waiting time. Isaiah 60-62 is very concerned with this issue. Isaiah 60-62 is the central section of this last chunk of Isaiah (56-66). [BTW, David says Isaiah 60-62 would make a great little preaching series on living now in the light of what is to come – much needed material.]
In chapter 60 there is a new beginning starting (and ending) with the motif of light (Isaiah 60.1, 20, 21). This is a poem of 10 stanzas which revolves around verse 12. Those who refuse to be part of the new kingdom will be utterly laid waste.
In chapter 61 a new speaker is introduced whose task is to proclaim good news and vengeance. Then verse 5-9 are about the city of God and the speaker who began chapter 61 speaks again from 61.10-62.7.
Chapter 62 then ends with a glorious ending.
This suggests that the unit is in five sections:
- picture of new Zion (60)
- The conqueror (61.1-4)
- Zion again ((61.5-6)
- The conqueror again (61.10-62.7)
- Zion (62.8-12)
Now we're getting into the detail. We'll post the audio and video soon; all good stuff!
Isaiah (2): preaching chiasms
David is just explaining, in response to a question, that understanding some of the chiasms (a particular structure of Hebrew literature) is about preaching preparation, not preaching! Use the chiasm to find what God is saying and understand the passage. "It is a great tool for finding the big idea and keeping it central." It is not a great tool for preaching! By and large our congregations don't think that way, so don't preach that way!
Developing application in Isaiah
People have been asking me on this conference [Autumn Ministers Conference] about application in Isaiah now that Christ has come.
- Make applications about God first. The Bible is God's book, not ours and any lessons about God are always true of an unchanging God. Start here.
- There is a dotted line between the Old Testament covenant community and the New Testament covenant community. The line is dotted because the covenant is there; but there is discontinuity too because there is a quality change when the Spirit comes and indwells the believer. It is life in the Spirit (clearly outlined in the New Testament) which governs life under the better way of Jesus.
Puritan wisdom for today’s Church
I’ve just been sent “Pilgrims, Warriors and Servants: Puritan wisdom for today’s Church” which is the transcripts of the St Antholin lectures from 1991 to 2000 edited by Lee Gatiss. I’ve not had time to read it yet but it looks to be a feast of fascinating historical nuggets with all sorts of points of contact with issues in the contemporary church. Lee Gatiss is a prolific, talented and immensely capable scholar and has put together these lectures including J.I. Packer on Richard Baxter, Gavin McGrath on the pastoral theology of John Owen, Peter Jensen on Puritan attitudes to combat with Satan, J.I. Packer on William Perkins, Peter Adam on the Puritan dilemma of serving within or without a church “halfly Reformed”, and others. I’m much looking forward to reading it.
Commentaries on Isaiah
When I first started out preaching and teaching Isaiah, there were very few good commentaries on Isaiah. In the last fifteen years or so there have been some excellent new additions:
- Alec Motyer's long commentary is very detailed and requires hard work but is thorough and rewarding.
- Alec's shorter Tyndale commentary is much more accessible and also very helpful.
- Since I started work on Isaiah, I have come across John Oswalt's two volume commentary on Isaiah (NICOT). It's good and accessible given its depth.
- Not surprisingly, he has also produced a more condensed version in the NIV Application Commentary series. His volume is an excellent contribution to this series.
- For groups and study guide Barry Webb's BST commentary is also very worthwhile.
[Editor's note – we would also include, of course, David's new volume Teaching Isaiah.]
Rural Ministry Seminar
Evangelicalism in England is strongest in the cities and suburbs, and we often struggle to make headway in rural ministry – so we are glad to spread the word about a Rural Ministry Seminar in Sussex. David Hall and Dick Farr are speaking, and are both men with substantial experience in rural churches and with wisdom to pass on.
They’ll be talking about understanding and ministering in a rural context, and leaving lots of time for questions and conversations. They’ll also deal with some of the unusual challenges of this kind of ministry (multiple churches and so on) and would like to know what issues people would like to see discussed.
The seminar is mainly for ministers of rural churches (any denomination), though if there is space, others will be welcome.
If that’s you, do take a look at the details below:
10am – 4pmTuesday 1st March 2011
Venue: Warbleton area, between Hailsham and Heathfield in the lovely Sussex Countryside (Warbleton Church Rooms, Church Hill, Warbleton, East Sussex, TN21 9BD – subject to numbers).
Cost: £5 including coffee, biscuits, soft drinks etc. & materials. Please pay on the door. Please bring a packed lunch or head to a nearby pub.
Booking: Email firstname.lastname@example.org Booking is essential. Places may be limited. Please note that this is not a PT event – we can’t take your booking.
Speakers / facilitators:
Rev'd David Hall is the Vicar of Danehill with Chelwood Gate nr Haywards Heath in East Sussex where he has ministered for over seven years. During this time the churches have seen significant growth, including in the music ministry and amongst children, young people and families. David is also a training incumbent supervising a curate. David's first degree was in Business Studies with Marketing Honours. After graduation, he joined the graduate training scheme of a top-ten public relations consultancy, before moving into a management role advising major companies on everything from consumer PR to crisis management. He has met with and learned from Christians all over the world from Africa to North America and firmly believes that small rural churches can have the ministries of large ones!
Rev'd Dick Farr was the senior minister of 3 growing evangelical churches in rural East Anglia for 19 years (Henham and Elsenham with Ugley in the Diocese of Chelmsford on the north Essex Hertfordshire border from 1990 – 2009) working with an ordained and lay team. He is currently the Associate Vicar at St John's, Tunbridge Wells.
Autumn Ministers Conference: Isaiah (1)
Blogging from our Autumn Ministers Conference with David Jackman on Isaiah. Tonight it's a birds eye view of Isaiah which has already whetted my appetite for going back to Isaiah again:
- "The holiness of God is not just his purity but his overwhelming and absolute otherness from the entirety of the creation he has made. Of course, it includes his righteousness, but it is certainly not limited to this facet."
- "The Holy One of Israel" is Isaiah's favourite title for YHWH. Used 26 times in Isaiah, it only then appears 6 times in the rest of the Old Testament."
- "What the prophets do is to say 'Look out, I've seen what's coming. Act now or this will happen.' If the people listen and the prophetic word is heeded and does not come true, the prophetic word has not failed – rather it has been fulfilled. This is why gospel preaching is always prophetic – turn from the coming wrath, we say!"
- The key idea outlined in chapter 1 is that God laments that righteousness no longer resides in the city (Isaiah 1.21) but he wants to restore it (Isaiah 1.26). Therefore there is a difficult refining and restorative work that needs to be done, painful though it will be.
- The restoration of Zion will not be a gradual process but will require a significant intervention in history, both in judgement, a new exile, return and ultimately the coming of the Servant
- God's people will be redeemed by justice and righteousness. There will be no peace with God except through righteousness. You cannot have peace with God except on this basis.
- Three sections to Isaiah; classically, Isaiah 1-39, Isaiah 40-56 and Isaiah 56-66 (the latter section is the one we will be focusing on over these three days)
- Just had Louis Berkhof's classic three peaks illustration. I still like this one and use it all the time with Philip Project students. "When you start out your walk you see three hills and they all look similar, but as you get close you realise that there are some considerable distances between them."
- The three significant points are: fulfilment in Zion primarily (not exclusively) mentioned in 1-39; the fulfilment in Christ primarily focused in 40-55; final fulfilment primarily addressed in 56-66. Therefore 1-39 primarily prophesies to people in Jerusalem; 40-55 primarily prophesies to those awaiting Christ; 56-66 are especially relevant for the church today.These latter chapters speak to our time with future fulfilment.
- In each case the focus is on a messianic figure though he is called something different in each section. In 1-39 it is Immanuel; in 40-55 it is the suffering servant. In 56-66 it is the anointed and conquering warrior.
- A quick look at the description of Immanuel in Isaiah 9.6 – each of the couplets, says David, has a human element and a divine element – a great Christmas Carol service message!
- Waiting is a key theme of Isaiah. For us, waiting is a very negative experience. For Isaiah, it is a positive experience. Waiting time is when we believe the promises of God and obey his commands as we wait for the final fulfilment of all he has said he will done.56-66 shows how we are to live in the light of the not yet – the waiting time.
A great start! Looking forward to more about the waiting time tomorrow!
NIV update. Defining issue?
I first heard great preaching from the RSV. It was the first time I had sat through a rigorous, applied message (40 minutes too) and I was mesmerised. The preacher – a little unknown called Richard Cooper, from a little unknown church close to University, Woodhouse Eaves Evangelical Baptist Church – had a formative influence on my preaching.
But the RSV was not the evangelical's favourite. Strange this, because it was a good translation and, of course, became the basis for the ESV. Nevertheless, it made one well-trailed change from previous versions. It translated Isaiah 7.14 as "young woman" instead of "virgin." Technically, of course, that is correct. It could be either; and arguably (as the translators argued anyhow), it is only by reading back from the New Testament that you would assume the word should be translated "virgin." Nevertheless, it became the defining issue of the translation (along with the reduction of propitiation to pitiation, perhaps). Interestingly, the ESV revision reversed the change.
Strange how a translation should largely stand or fall on that one issue.
The updated NIV has been causing a bit of a stir in eLand because it has changed the way that Romans 1.17 is translated:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”(original NIV)
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (updated NIV)
Notice the difference? This is part of the 5% only that has been changed and will have Lutheran historians shaking, for, of course, it was this realisation that the righteousness came from God, rather than just his righteousness being revealed that kick started the Reformation. And there is no doubt that this is a politically sensitive issue because those who want to read Romans a slightly different way (be it Federal Vision or New Perspective on Paul) need the "from" to be taken out. Is this the new NIV's defining issue?
I don't think so.
First, the ESV translates the phrase dikaiosyne theou this way anyway. Plus ça change.
Second, the phrase "righteousness of God" is probably a more accurate translation. It is, after all, genitive. "righteousness from God" (original NIV) is an interpretation rather than a translation. And the wording is still left open for a traditional interpretation. In fact, arguably (and this is probably the reason it was changed) it lays open a more thorough understanding.
Moo, in his huge Romans commentary explains that the phrase can be understood three ways:
- An attribute of God. This is, of course, the way it is often understood by NPP guys.
- A status given by God. This is Luther's favourite.
- An activity of God.
Moo argues that the context, OT usage and Romans thrust take you down both line 2 and line 3. "Righteousness from God" excludes a simple understanding of line 3.
"This more comprehensive interpretation of "righteousness of God" in 1.17 has several advantages. First, it is built on the most frequent meaning of the phrase in the OT, so that Paul's readers in Rome would have an immediate starting point for their understanding of Paul's language. Second, it does justice to the nuances of both divine activity and human receptivity that occur in the text. Third, it enables us to relate the phrase to Paul's broader use of "righteousness" where he frequently highlights the end result of the process of justification in the believers status of righteousness." (Moo, p75).
Defining issue? No. Quite interesting though. And important to get right because the NIV update will replace the NIV.