Dave Jenkins – Divine Love, Divine Discipline: Hebrews 12:4-11
Brandon Braun – In Your Face: False Followers
Dr. R. C. Sproul – The Divided Kingdom
Dr. R. C. Sproul – Elijah
God has spoken in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (2 Tim. 3:16). This is part of the basic Christian confession. Another part is that the God who has spoken speaks to us every time we read the Word, hear it read, or hear it preached (1 Thess. 2:13). Do you have that …View full post
I’m always a little skeptical when I hear people talk about reading Scripture “devotionally” rather than, say, “academically” (or vice versa). Who says we have to choose? I wonder. But while my false dichotomy radar isn’t always bad, I have to remember people are wired differently. Humanity is not a sea of sameness. We aren’t …View full post
God has spoken in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (2 Tim. 3:16). This is part of the basic Christian confession. Another part is that the God who has spoken speaks to us every time we read the Word, hear it read, or hear it preached (1 Thess. 2:13). Do you have that conviction? Sadly, I’ve found that many Christians either do not know this or have so rejected extremes in the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches of their past that it’s as though God were silent to them.
Did God speak in times of old? Absolutely (Heb. 1:1–2). Does God still speak? We should be able to say the same: “Absolutely!” But how is this the case? The answer is the Holy Spirit. As one Reformed standard states, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means …” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 155). As the Apostle Paul described it, “The sword of the Spirit … is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). It’s not the bare Word read, the act of preaching itself, or especially the preacher, but the Holy Spirit who takes the Word written and causes it to be the Word living to our souls. Psalm 19 rejoices in this when it says “The law” is “the law of the Lord,” “the testimony” is “the testimony of the Lord,” “the precepts” are “the precepts of the Lord,” “the commandment” is “the commandment of the Lord,” and “the rules” are “the rules of the Lord.”
Consider three points on how the Word works by the power of the Spirit when we read and hear it.
1. To Effect My Recognition of Sin
How does the Word work in my life? The Holy Spirit powerfully uses the Word to effect my recognition of sin. He causes the Word to enlighten, convince, and humble me.
In Psalm 19, we have the prayer of a believer, David, who meditates upon the effectiveness of the Word: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (v. 8). The Word of God enlightens, that is, opens our eyes to the reality of who we are, what is within us, and what we have done (Ps. 19:12–13). “But don’t we already know we are sinners and have already trusted in Jesus?” This is a common objection. But think of a farmer. Does a farmer only remove the rocks from his field, break up the ground, prepare the soil once, and then go on merely to plant and harvest every year? No. He must constantly do this. In the same way, we need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes constantly to our sins as we read and hear the Word.
I’m always a little skeptical when I hear people talk about reading Scripture “devotionally” rather than, say, “academically” (or vice versa). Who says we have to choose? I wonder.
But while my false dichotomy radar isn’t always bad, I have to remember people are wired differently. Humanity is not a sea of sameness. We aren’t clones. In fact, as Christians we are “stewards,” Peter says, of God’s “varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).
It shouldn’t surprise me, then, when Christians gravitate toward Scripture with slightly different aims. For some, it’s easy to approach the Bible with a more “devotional” posture. For others of a more academic bent, though, a studious approach may come more naturally.
Almost two decades ago, Richard Longenecker wrote an article for Themelios (the entire archives can be accessed for free at TGC) titled “On Reading a New Testament Letter—Devotionally, Homiletically, Academically.” In it he outlines three common ways of reading Scripture, pinpointing strengths and dangers particular to each. (Longenecker limits his focus to New Testament letters, but I think his basic rubric applies to the whole of Scripture.)
Longenecker isn’t opposed to any one of the three readings—just to there being only one. “My thesis,” he explains, “is that each of these ways of reading [is] legitimate in its own right, but that all three must be ultimately brought together for a proper understanding.”
The chief focus of devotional reading, Longenecker suggests, is “spiritual direction and edification.” And for most of us, this is where it all began.
What enables devotional reading is the clarity and power of God’s Word. Consider the myriad groups who disseminate Bibles with the simple conviction that the combination of the Word and the Spirit will bring persons into saving union with Christ. “And the results of their wide distribution,” Longenecker observes, “have repeatedly vindicated their confidence.”
Among other things, devotional readings remind us that the Holy Spirit isn’t shackled to human scholarship. Illumination and regeneration are miracles he accomplishes—often through study aides, yes, but not always. Woe to us if we ever denigrate a devotional approach to God’s clear and mighty Word.
Devotional readings aren’t immune to pitfalls, however. It’s possible, Longenecker observes, to “impose one’s own concerns, issues, and ideas onto the text” and so read it as only reflecting some personal situation or confirming some previously held position. Moreover, even when we understand we often hesitate to put into practice what we’ve read, for “such a response would require a reorientation of life such as we are not prepared to make.” We manage to grasp, in other words, but we fail to do (cf. Matt. 7:24-27; John 13:17; James 1:22).
Six months. That’s how long it took to get from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act to the decision of a Colorado judge ordering a Christian baker to make a cake for a same-sex ceremony. Just six months.
Back in June, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Windsor case, ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, was unconstitutional. Six months later, judge Robert N. Spencer, an administrative law judge in Colorado, ruled that Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver must serve same-sex couples by making wedding cakes, or face fines.
Last Friday, Judge Spencer ruled that Phillips must “cease and desist from discriminating” against same-sex couples in his cake business. The case emerged after Phillips refused to make a cake to celebrate the civil union of David Mullins and Charlie Craig. Colorado has a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages, but it recognizes legal civil unions for same-sex couples. The two men had married in Massachusetts, but planned a reception in Colorado.
Phillips told the couple that it was the same-sex marriage that he could not celebrate by making the cake. According to Judge Spencer’s decision, Phillips told the court that making same-sex wedding cakes would be “displeasing God and acting contrary to the teachings of the Bible.” He told the men: “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
Mullins and Craig went to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took their case to court. ACLU attorney Amanda Goad told the court that Phillips’s faith, “whatever it may have to say about marriage for same-sex couples or the expressive power of a wedding cake, does not give the respondents a license to discriminate.”
Phillips told the court that making a wedding cake was an artistic endeavor that was expressive in nature, communicating approval and celebration of the same-sex union. He also told the court that he has been a Christian for thirty-five years and that making the cake would violate his Christian convictions and responsibility, requiring him to encourage what he believes to be sin.
Here is a recap of what made it on Intelmin this past week. Wow it is cold outside!
On Thursday, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the death of Nelson Mandela at age 95. One of the most significant and vital figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela became known not only as the father of his nation, but as the father of an entire people.
All this goes back to 1918 when Mandela, then known by the name Rolihlaha, was born into the royal line of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa. Later, his name was changed to Nelson when he was baptized by Methodists. When he died he was known by Africans merely as Madiba, representing his traditional clan. By then, he had become one of the most respected figures on the world stage.
Nelson Mandela came to adulthood as the minority white government of South Africa was instituting apartheid, the radical system of total racial segregation and discrimination that forced the native African majority in the nation into a state of humiliating oppression. Apartheid required the social, economic, and political separation of whites and blacks in South Africa, and it was enforced with brutality and murderous force.
Apartheid was a multidimensional structure of repression, humiliation, and prejudice. Americans would be hard-pressed to imagine how such a system could exist until they realize that a similar system of racial apartheid had existed throughout most of the 20th century in the United States, especially in the South.
Under apartheid, many of the African tribes were put onto tribal lands and territories where they had no access to modernity, to modern goods, or to the modern economy. Black South Africans were denied access to the political process, blocked by an entire system of laws that treated them as second-class citizens in the nation of their birth.
Apartheid flies in the face of the Christian understanding of the equality of every single human being. Our true human equality is not based in a political promise, it is biblically and theologically grounded—unquestionably grounded in the fact that the Bible clearly reveals that every single human being is equally made in God’s image. We are separate and distinct from other creatures precisely because we alone as a species—as human beings, as Homo sapiens—we alone bear God’s image. And we bear God’s image equally, male and female, regardless of any racial or ethnic consideration; and for that matter—as in these days we must argue over and over again—regardless of any other kind of consideration, including age or process of development.
Much ink has already been spilled on Paul’s instructions to Timothy, however, I felt the urge to take a look at the specific words and phrases used by Paul, if anything to get a sense of just how strong this exhortation is and more importantly, to reiterate why consistent, purposeful, sound bible study is the function and responsibility of every believer. Apologetics which is providing a defense of why and what you believe as well as theology, the study of God to include all of the facets of theology that are to inform and impact all aspects of life, are not solely the purview of academics or those occupying the pulpit. While Timothy was certainly functioning in the role of a church leader, the command to study God’s Word has been given as a command to all believers. With that in mind, in this article we will focus on what Paul is saying to us to include at least a cursory look at scripture’s overarching command for all of God’s people to actively read, study, and apply the truths of Scripture to their lives and the world around them.
The Apostle Paul begins 2 Timothy 2:15 with the command “be diligent”. It must be noted that some translations use the word study. The Greek word that is translated as “be diligent” or “study” is spoudazō which means “to hasten, make haste or to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” Spoudazō is a verb and its use by Paul connotes the concept of a need for action, the necessity on the part of the individual to actively engage in an effort that requires a large degree of focus and effort that will involve the entirety of the person who is actively pursuing that which is the subject of this diligent level of study.
The second aspect of this passage is the phrase “to present” or “to show”. This phrase consists of the Greek word paristēmi which means “to present (show) by argument, to prove, with the added element of the quality which the person or thing exhibits.” As with the idea of being diligent or studying, paristēmi is a verb that connotes a sense of action on the part of the individual. It is not a passive concept whereby someone might have to venture a guess as to what you are doing. Conversely, this verb demonstrates the idea of actively presenting something to someone else again with the added element of a necessary quality to the nature of what you are presenting.
This of course begs the question as to what we are to be presenting given the verb paristēmi demands by definition the individual actively is doing something. While most would submit that what is to be provided is an argument for what we believe and why and while that statement certainly is factual, Paul actually states we are to first diligently present ourselves approved to God, with the natural progression of being a workman who does not need to be ashamed which also naturally flows into the process of rightly dividing the word of truth. So what does this idea of presenting ourselves as “approved to God” mean? The Greek word Paul uses that is translated as approved is dokimos, a word that means accepted, pleasing, or acceptable. In its use in the New Testament in such a context as 2 Timothy 2:15, dokimo describes an individual who is mature in the faith, a person of integrity. This idea of maturity springing forth from a devotion to Scripture hearkens back to passages such as Psalm 19:7-8 which declares “The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (CJB) What Psalm 19:7-8 demonstrates is essential for understanding what it means to be approved to God as noted in 2 Timothy 2:15. One who is approved by God is one who loves the law of God, His Torah, the entirety of God’s word. It is this attitude of devotion, the daily washing of yourself in the Word of God, the writing of God’s Word on the tablet of your heart that allows for the restoration of the inner person. What this means is what makes a person mature in the faith is devotion to the commands of God outlined in His word. Maturity is demonstrated and being approved to God as a workman is found in the life of the person who loves God’s word. It is this love and devotion to God’s Word that moves the believer from a place of being pĕthiy (simple) to being wise.
Now that we have established what diligence means, how to present ourselves to God and what it means to be approved to God, it is time to investigate what being a workman means. Paul uses the Greek word ergatēs, a noun that means a laborer. Here we have the continued theme of an activity that involves work, a daily task on the part of the believer. This is the same noun Jesus uses in Matthew 9:37 when He declared “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” In order to understand what Paul is getting at in this discussion of being a laborer, we have to back up a verse to 2 Timothy 2:14 which states “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” What Paul is doing is providing the reader with a comparison between a disapproved worker and an approved worker. The disapproved worker is one who strives after or speaks with words that have no profit which in effect is damaging to the hearer. Philip Towner, in his commentary on 2 Timothy, provides some salient commentary on what this is all about noting:
“The translation quarreling about words (or striving about words) expresses one side of a single Greek word that can also mean fighting with words. The one term sums up their activity as a whole, content and method. Their fight with words and disputable doctrines caused strife and division. The outcome of their efforts was negative in two respects. First, because of the spurious nature of the words and their improper motives, their arguments produced nothing of value. Second, the greater danger was that poorly grounded believers might be influenced by personality or cleverness of words to accept some novel view that could ruin their faith. Their quarrels about doctrine and word fighting did nothing to build up the church or the individual. In contrast stands God’s approved workman. What makes this worker different from the false teacher? First, this one’s life and work must be oriented toward God. The opponents looked to people for approval, but God’s servants must seek it from God. This orienting of oneself toward God involves an active (do your best, or make the effort) and conscious (present yourself) decision. Avoiding the ways of the false teachers and remaining true to the gospel in teaching and life from the test that faced Timothy. God’s approval would rest upon the one who passed this test.”
As we can see, the disapproved workman only desires a demonstration of their own intellectual persuasiveness, focusing most often more on methodology or the cleverness of their articulation of words, often forgetting that true wisdom comes solely from God and His Word. The approved workman is diligent to commit themselves as a laborer to be constantly diligent to focus on God and what He says in His Word, using any talents of writing, discussing, or other gifts to the glory of God rather than for personal recognition.
This approved workman is described by Paul as one who does not need to be ashamed. The word translated ashamed is used only once in the New Testament and that is in 2 Timothy 2:15. It simply means having no cause to be ashamed. Those who have their complete focus on knowing God and making Him know will have no reason to be ashamed. There will be no lack of desire to share the message of the gospel. This mature, approved, diligent workman will not hide their light under a bushel. They will have great confidence to do that which Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, namely “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV) They will have great confidence that due to their diligent study of God’s word, they will be able to wield this sword of truth against the enemy and additionally, they will be able to share the hope that is within them to those who so desperately need deliverance from the darkness and bondage of sin. Ultimately, it will be their complete passion and joy to study God’s Word and to share with a great degree of God given wisdom elements of the faith. Since apologetics is really the application of God’s truth to all of life, this passion for Truth will inculcate every fiber of their being and every aspect of their life.
Paul concludes this passage with the phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth.” This idea of rightly dividing comes from the Greek word orthotomeō which means to teach the truth directly and correctly. How is one able to teach the truth of God’s word directly and correctly? It is only by being a diligent, prepared, unashamed workman devoted to a life focused on God and His Word. Any other approach will result in flailing around with the Word of God which always results in an incorrect approach to matters of theology. This is not like a broken clock where somebody can get it right at least twice a day. Sharing the truth of God’s Word is serious business and requires the utmost care and discipline. This is especially true for those called by God to be in a position of authority or called to shepherd the people of God. The Apostle James in his epistle notes “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) So as you can see, this is serious business. New Testament scholar Ralph Earle rightly notes “The context suggests that Paul is warning against taking the devious paths of deceiving interpretations in teaching the Scriptures.”
Paul further notes that it is we are to rightly divide, namely the word (logos) of truth (alētheia). The logos as we have noted is the Word of God. Alētheia refers to “the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians.” What this definition refers to is the difference between the truth of God’s Word and the machinations of humanity. Towner again provides excellent commentary, noting in regards to the right handling of truth, “Our correct handling of the biblical text includes first understanding the original message in its original context, which requires knowledge of the biblical languages and the historical-cultural-social setting that the author addressed (or depending on those who do have such knowledge). But the task is not finished until the original message has been brought across the centuries and applied freshly in our own situations.” For those who immediately might react to such a statement with “Well I do not have a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek so that must mean I am off the hook”, let me advise you that many tools are available to the laymen for studying the original languages and the historical, social, and cultural background. For the purposes of this study, I utilized www.blueletterbible.org, a site which provides the user with the meanings and usage of the original languages. Additionally, there are many quality study Bibles on the market that provide excellent background information to every book of the Bible. In our day and age, it is only an attitude of laziness that suggests one cannot access tools to be a diligent workman, rightly dividing the word of truth.
What does this all mean? Hopefully this study of 2 Timothy 2:15 has provided you with a better idea of what Paul was trying to get across not just to Timothy, but to every believer since. It is our duty as believers to be diligent, to present ourselves approved to God, to be a workman, a laborer for truth, to be a people who are able to wield the sword of truth in an accurate manner. This is the calling of every believer and not just a select few academics, professors, or pastors. May the Word of God become your passion and may you have that desire to grow in maturity in the things of God.
 Philip Towner, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 1-2 Timothy & Titus (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994), 181-182.
 Ralph Earle. “Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 402.
 Towner, 182.
The middle years of 5 to 12 are years of transition. One aspect of this transition is preparing for war. Parent, you are the active combatant as you protect your 5 year old. But when he turns 12 he must be ready to fight spiritual battles without always having your oversight. We are often shocked at seeing young children carrying weapons and being in the middle of gun battles in other parts of the world. But this uncomfortable picture is much more fitting for our children than we care to admit. Developing character in your children is preparing them for a war that is real and even more deadly than the ones we cringe at seeing on the nightly news. No, your 12 year old may not running in the streets carrying an AK-47. But he is a target nonetheless. His enemy wants more than his physical life; he wants his soul.
The weapons that you are to teach your children to use are spiritual in nature. If your children are unskilled in using spiritual weapons they will be easy prey for a vicious enemy. As your children gradually spend more time away from you they will have an increasing need to be skilled combatants in the war that really matters. For example we know that one strategy that the enemy will use to attack your kids is obscene, foolish speech. The enemy knows that if he can lure children into immoral, obscene speech his battle is already on the way to being won.
So what spiritual weapon is the right one to fight immoral, obscene speech? The answer may surprise you – gratitude! This is what Paul says in Ephesians 5:3-4 about combating immoral speech:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality,or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather Thanksgiving.
Sexual immorality arises from being discontent with the restrictions God has placed on human sexual conduct. One can either resent these restrictions or rejoice in God’s wise provision. Being resentful or regretful that we cannot do what we want sexually, leaves little room for gratitude. Obscene, coarse joking does not flow from a thankful heart, but from a lusting heart.
So when you teach your children to be grateful for God’s gracious provision each day, you are also training them to use the sophisticated spiritual weapon of gratitude. A heart that is thankful is much less likely to succumb to the call of lust. Being thankful for food, for a difficult little brother, for God’s care even when life is hard provides training to actively combat sexual immorality and profane speech.
I think it is always wrong to lie (to state what one knows is not true). But my friend John Frame and a number of other theologians make exceptions in extreme cases, such as in war and to save life. The debate includes the classic moral dilemma that arises in the case where Nazi soldiers come to your door, asking whether you are hiding Jews.
Recently Wayne Grudem argued in favor of never lying in the festschift to John Frame; and Frame responded briefly in the same festschrift. This exchange builds on earlier work by John Murray and John Frame. Taken together, these writings lay out the arguments on both sides. Neither side has succeeded in presenting an argument that would convince everyone on the other side. Frame indicates that he has “gone back and forth several times”3 on the issue, which illustrates the difficulty. Is there anything more to be said?
The arguments in favor of lying in exceptional cases include three prongs, which focus respectively on normative, existential, and situational aspects of the issue. I myself think that together these prongs have plausibility. Like Wayne Grudem, I want to stress that I respect John Frame and others who allow exceptions. And yet they have not convinced me. Why not?
I. Scriptural Instruction
The normative prong in favor of exceptions includes positive instances of deceit in Scripture, and the negative observation that nowhere does Scripture directly and clearly prohibit all lying whatsoever. Cases of lying naturally fall under the Ninth Commandment, which says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod 20:16). At its heart the Ninth Commandment focuses on false testimony in court, which is clearly a situation where telling only the truth is mandated. But what about the many other situations in which we find ourselves? Ephesians 4:25 says, “Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” This commandment is much broader in scope, but still focuses on fellow Christians, who are “members one of another.” Other verses are more general: “You destroy those who
speak lies” (Ps 5:6); “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov 12:22). Grudem lists many other verses that condemn lying, but his opponents may argue that these verses address the same situations covered by the Ninth Commandment and Eph 4:25. That is, they concern saying things that help rather than hurt our neighbors.
The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.
The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”
Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test—no fear—He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)
In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?
The reality is that God does mark iniquity, and He manifests His wrath against it. Before the Apostle Paul unfolds the riches of the Gospel in his epistle to the Romans, he sets the stage for the need of that Gospel: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men … ” (Rom. 1:18).
This text affirms a real revelation of real wrath from a real God against real ungodliness and unrighteousness of real men. No appeal to some invented idea of the unconditional love of God can soften these realities.