Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Called to Bear Witness for the Truth

Photo credit: Metro Praise International Church
The apostle Paul says that the church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). What he meant to say is that the church is the instituted organism called and equipped to uphold and proclaim the truth in this world of lies, illusions, and delusions.

As Christ's church we preach the truth. As members of the His church we testify to the truth, defend it, support those who proclaim it and seek to live it out in our daily lives.

But what is this truth we’re called to proclaim and guard? What kind of teachings should be our forte? It should be the apostolic teaching which centers on the gospel, the good news of salvation in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

After testifying that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, Paul goes on to say, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).

In this verse, we have what scholars call an early Christian creed that contains the gospel in a nutshell. It’s not the whole apostolic doctrine but a good summary of what they proclaimed. This summary is about Jesus Christ and it contains six truths about Him. (By the way, Paul emphasizes the person and work of Christ a lot in 1 and 2 Timothy. It's probably because it was the doctrine under great attack in the church of Ephesus).

Notice in 1 Timothy 3:16 that what is about to be said is “the mystery of godliness” which is great and is commonly confessed. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness” as the other version says. In other words, it's a common creed of the early believers. Every point of this creed is indeed true!

It is called “the mystery of godliness” not because it is something that is puzzling that no one knows or understands it. Rather, it really means something that was once hidden and has now been revealed. The question is not “What is this mystery?” but “Who is this mystery?” Verse 16 tells us that it is Jesus Christ, the true revelation of godliness – and He has been revealed to us in the pages of the Scripture.

Paul tackles six things here that are at the center of the Christian faith. Briefly let's take a look at these truths.

First, Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh. Many cults and world religions challenge the basic tenets of Christianity, including the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But what a remarkable fact that Jesus Christ is the living, eternal God in human flesh. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us!

Second, Jesus Christ was vindicated in the Spirit. It means His resurrection. The ultimate vindication of Jesus took place when He was raised from the dead by the Spirit of God (Rom.1:4). It could also mean that Jesus was vindicated in His spirit. In other words, although He was fully man, He was sinless and perfect (Heb.4:15).

Third, Jesus was seen by angels. Throughout His earthly ministry, angels ministered to Him. They announced His birth. They ministered to Him during His temptation in the wilderness and they strengthened Him in Gethsemane. They also observed him during His death and resurrection. After He was put in a tomb, the angels rolled way the stone at the door of His tomb and they announced His resurrection and ascension. Angels were involved in His earthly ministry from beginning to end. This statement could even have in mind the worship given to the ascended Christ by angels in heaven.

Fourth, Jesus was proclaimed among the nations. After His resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He commanded them to proclaim the message of His salvation to every tribe, nation and tongue. This is taking place. The gospel is being preached all over the world. This is our calling as the church and we fulfill our identity as “pillar and foundation of truth” as we do our share in making disciples from every nation, calling everyone to bow down before King Jesus, and teaching those who would heed the call to obey all the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fifth, Jesus was believed on in the world. At the first public preaching of the gospel of Christ after the pouring out of the Spirit to the first disciples, 3,000 people believed and were saved. In the days that followed, thousands more believed. The gospel was spreading and God has ordained that everyone who believed in Jesus Christ will be saved. We proclaim faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only means by which man can be saved. Not by good works or faith plus good works. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is our message.

Sixth, Jesus was taken up in glory. This refers to the bodily ascension of the risen Christ. It shows that God was satisfied with His atoning work. Hebrews 1:3 says, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Now He is at the right hand of the Father, with all authority in heaven and earth. And that authority He shares with the church by His Spirit.

This is the gospel in a nutshell. God in Jesus Christ became man. He died for our sins, triumphed over death, was honored by angels and feared by demons, and ascended into glory. This message has been preached all over the world and many have believed and been saved and empowered to live in holy obedience and service to Jesus Christ.

As believers in this day and age, you and I are proofs that Jesus is believed on in the world. That is why we ought to take the church seriously, to be strong in our proclamation of Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

God's church is the chosen instrument to proclaim the saving truth of Christ. This is our identity. So let us consider seriously that as Christians, as people called and redeemed by God through faith in Christ, you and I are members of that institution that is the pillar and foundation of the truth. That’s our identity in Christ. And we ought to live accordingly by the power of the Spirit who is in us to bear witness for this truth.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Is there Meaning in Life?

One puzzling statement in the whole Bible is the refrain, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Or in some translations, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." Of course, we can’t take this statement absolutely. Otherwise, everything we say, including the previous statements and the ones that follow, will be nonsense.

The one who uttered these words on vanity identifies himself as ‘the Preacher’ or ‘Qoheleth.’ He also calls himself ‘the son of David’ (Ecc. 1:1). In the book of Ecclesiastes, where this refrain occurs some 35 times, the Preacher observes everything one can observe and experience in this world.

The Preacher talks about all kinds of things under the sun. From sunrise to sunset, birth to death, summer to fall, winter to spring, in war and in peace, sickness and health, poverty and riches, foolishness and wisdom, failure and success, pain and pleasure, in everything, the Preacher’s observation is that, on their own, these things mean nothing. They are like cycle that repeats itself… "a chasing after the wind." All of life is meaningless, useless, hollow, vain on its own.

However, at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher concludes that all these things are meaningful and beautiful only when they are viewed through the eyes of the One who created them, that is, God.

God has His own reason and purpose for everything, including war and suffering, poverty and prosperity, even the birth or death of a loved one. Only through the perspective of God, through the lens of His Word, is life worthwhile!

We may not know God’s purpose for our life of pain or failure now. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no good reason for the things that happen to us or around us. There is! But they are known only to God.

Is God unfair then? May it never be! God may choose to keep it from us. But there are things that He reveals to us as human beings that we should do in order that our lives may be meaningful.

This is the Preacher’s conclusion of the whole matter. He says, “…Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14).

Fearing God in a good sense is the beginning of wisdom. “The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them” (Ps. 25:14). Keeping God’s commandments is the result of fearing Him. The fear of the Lord leads to obedience to His will. Without the fear of the Lord, life is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Many people have lived and died in this world. But none has ever surpassed the influence of One man, both His preceding and succeeding generations. He exemplified the life of loving reverence and obedience to God. He is the man Christ Jesus. He is not just an ordinary man. He is also God.

Jesus is the Christ, the God-man who lived perfectly and gave true meaning of life. His obedience even unto death has given life - eternal life, which is knowledge of God and of His Son, to many. He gives joy and meaning to those who turn away from their sin and put their trust in Him.

Life doesn’t have to be hollow and meaningless. But apart from Christ Jesus, who is the only way to God, the truth that sets us free, and the source of eternal life, life itself will be meaningless and in vain. May Christ, who is our life, lead us to fear and obey God, by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Friday, November 9, 2018

The "Parousia" of the Lord as the Manifestation of His End-time Presence

Photo courtesy of Taavi Lehtimaki
In studying 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (the so called "rapture" passage), I was helped by G. K. Beale's insight on how the resurrection of believers and the "parousia" of Christ are going to take place at the last day (see the parallel passage in 1 Cor. 15:51-52).

Beale says that the Lord Jesus "'will come' and first resurrect the believing dead and then raise up Christians still living. Even living Christians will experience a 'resurrection' in the sense that their old bodies will be transformed and renewed in the same manner as those bodies lying in the grave. All those resurrected 'will be with the Lord forever' (4:17)" (Beale, "1-2 Thessalonians," p. 136). These are the encouraging words that Paul wants his readers to "comfort one another" with (v. 18).

In this post, however, I want to focus on the coming of Christ. Beale admits that "[t]here is some question about whether or not Jesus literally 'will come down from heaven' (4:16)." He then adds that the "description of a descent from heaven here has been referred to in 4:15 as 'the coming of the Lord'" (ibid., p. 138).

Beale also explains that the word for "parousia" in verse 15 ordinarily means either "presence" or "coming." He then argues that the former meaning appears best in this context. "Comparing other descriptions of Christ's coming," he continues, "it is apparent that 'motion' from heaven down to earth may not be the precise way in which Christ manifests his end-time presence. Revelation 6:14 refers to the end of the present cosmos in terms of 'a scroll that has been split and each of the two halves then rolled up'...If John were living today, he might use the analogy of a stage curtain with pictures on it, which is drawn from both sides to reveal the actors behind it. In short, the present physical reality will in some way disappear and the formerly hidden heavenly dimension, where Christ and God dwell, will be revealed (see further Rev. 11:19; 19:11; 21:1-3)" (ibid.).

He further argues that "Paul is using the same imagery in 4:15-17. What has been traditionally understood as the second coming of Christ is best conceived as a revelation of his formerly hidden, heavenly 'presence.' The old-world reality will be ripped away, and the dimension of the new, eternal reality will appear along with Christ's 'presence.' The references to 'parousia' in 2:19, 3:13 and 5:23 also carry the same connotation" (ibid.).

This description of the "parousia" of Christ is more exegetically plausible for me than the "rapture" theory. The hidden and heavenly "presence" of Christ that Beale is talking about is always here with us. I tend to believe that in the "parousia" of the Lord, we shall simply see Him with our newly opened eyes as He's always been with us in the spiritual sense. For at His "parousia" we will no longer operate by faith but by sight.

Parallel to this, I was thinking of the experience of Elisha's servant in 2 Kings 6:15-23. Elisha understood (maybe he even saw) the unseen dimension around him while his servant did not. So when he prayed that the Lord would open the eyes of his servant that he might see the real but hidden presence of God, and the Lord answered Elisha's prayer, the servant saw "the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire" (v. 17) surrounding Elisha.

I think the coming of Christ will be similar to this. Once we have trained our spiritual eyes to the heavenly, though right now hidden, reality of Christ's presence around us, we shall not be moved or terrified when things around us are getting worse or become frightening. We need the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ always to be spiritually alert and awake. That way we will not be caught unaware and unprepared of the appearing (another word for the return) of the Lord.

The unfolding of the new creation, however, does not necessarily rule out the literal coming of the Lord Jesus to the earth. This is in keeping with the promise spoken by the two men dressed in white to the disciples regarding the return of the Lord in Acts 1:11. Acts 1:9 says that Christ was taken out of sight from the disciples by a cloud as He was being lifted up. The two men then appeared before the disciples who were gazing into heaven and said, "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Beale was not contradicting this idea. He is simply saying that the "parousia" in 1 Thessalonians 4 context is better interpreted as "presence" rather than "coming." Either way, Christ's return is a great comfort for us because in His return we shall see Him and all the believers who went ahead of us in death. The saints who died will not be forgotten. They, too, will be gathered with us in the presence of the Lord and together we shall be with Him always and forever (1 Thess. 4:17).

Thursday, November 8, 2018

God and His Saints Shall Triumph Over Sin, Satan, and Death

As I prepare for another overview lecture on the book of Revelation I came to chapter 20 again. Although there are issues that need to be sorted out in this chapter, it is such an edifying and encouraging study as the chapter tells us about the triumph of God and His people over their enemies.

The first heartening truth that comforts me a lot in this chapter is the coming to life and the reign of the saints who have died. These saints are described as "those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God" and because "[t]hey had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands" (Rev. 20:4).

These saints are alive and are reigning with Christ in the heavenly realm (as the thrones in verse 4 indicate that they are in the heavenly realm having been beheaded).

Revelation 20 also portrays the binding and restraining of Satan. This binding of Satan is "to keep him from deceiving the nations" (v. 3) in order that the preaching of the gospel could progress to the nations throughout the world for a thousand years (v. 3) which period corresponds with the reigning of the souls of the beheaded saints with Christ (v. 4).

The chapter also talks about the release of Satan towards the end "for a little while" or "for a short time" (v. 3) in order to gather the unbelieving nations for the battle ('τὸν πόλεμον,' v. 8; see also Rev. 16:14; 19:19) against the people of God (v. 9).

Their huge gathering could be intimidating but their threat to the church will only be followed by the fire coming down from heaven devouring them (v. 9), casting the devil into the lake of fire and brimstone "where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown" (v. 10).

For the saints of the first century who were suffering under the fury of the devil and the beast and their earthly minions, this vision was comforting. They saw that their faithfulness even to the point of death was not pointless but was real victory over sin and death, and the devil himself.

Like their Lord Jesus, they conquer their enemy by dying. Their death ushered them into the glorious presence of Christ and they came out victorious through their death, just like their Lord and Master who conquered death by dying and coming back to life.

Thus, when it seems that evil is gaining the upper hand in our time, when wickedness seems to prosper, when saints seem to be defeated and the church oppressed by the enemies of the Lord, the message of Revelation 20 in particular gives hope to the suffering and oppressed church of Jesus Christ.

In times of apparent defeat, setback, and weakness, may God remind us of this biblical truth that in dying for Christ and for the sake of the gospel, we shall be victorious.

We need to remember that because of Christ’s decisive victory over sin and death, and over the devil, and in light of His glorious appearing, the church of Jesus Christ shall prevail in conquering and discipling the nations with the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God (Matt. 24:14).

In spite of the seemingly insurmountable oppositions, by the power of the Spirit of Christ, the Church shall advance and go forth with the gospel of salvation that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).

Notwithstanding the cost – suffering, sacrifice, self-denial, even death – and the infirmities that afflict the bride of Christ in this world, and in spite of the harm that many false teachers and apostate churches are inflicting upon the cause of the gospel, the Church of our Lord Jesus shall fulfill her mission.

That mission is to call the nations to bow down and to submit to the authority of her Lord, Redeemer, and King (Matt. 28:18-20), who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (Rev. 5:5), the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

The message of Revelation in general and Revelation 20 in particular is that God and the Lamb shall triumph over the seemingly formidable and ruthless enemies of His people.

One commentator aptly summarized the message of Revelation 20 saying, “At history’s end the deceivers (dragon, beast, false prophets) will dupe the world’s kings and nations, gathering them to wage the war against Jesus and his people…Persecution is bad now, but it will get worse then, just before the end."

He then adds this encouraging message, "Yet even when Satan is unleashed to work his worst, it only will be for ‘a short time,’ and the outcome of the conflict is certain to be the defeat and destruction of dragon, beast false prophet, and all who worship and obey them. John has seen history’s ugly end: now he will see eternity’s beautiful beginning” (Dennis E. Johnson, “Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation,” 299-300).

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Wish List of New Testament Commentaries for the Reformed Institute of Ministry

The following is a list of books we want to have at the Reformed Institute of Ministry (RIM) and, Lord willing, for the Heidelberg Theological Seminary (HTS) center in Davao City.


The New Testament commentaries included in this wish list were chosen mainly due to their generally conservative evangelical and Reformed perspective. The list includes introductory and advanced levels commentaries. Some of the commentaries require knowledge of the original language (Greek). Most are easily understandable and helpful for homiletical (preaching) and catechetical (teaching) purposes.

Lord willing, we will be able to strengthen our New Testament commentary collection at the RIM library as we acquire these commentaries in the near future. The Old Testament commentaries wish list has been published in this blog several years ago.


Matthew


1. R. T. France — The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2007).

2. D. A. Carson — “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1984).

3. Leon Morris — The Gospel According to Matthew (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 1992). 


4. Herman N. Ridderbos Matthew (Bible Student's Commentary, 1987).

5. Daniel M. Doriani — Matthew: 2 Volume Set (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2008). 

6. Douglas Sean O'Donnell — Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth (Preaching the Word, 2013). 

Mark 

1. R.T. France — The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2002). 

2. William L. Lane — The Gospel According to Mark (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1974). 

3. James R. Edwards — The Gospel According to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2002). 

4. C.E.B. Cranfield — The Gospel According to Mark (The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary, 1959). 


5. Sinclair B. Ferguson Let's Study Mark (Let's Study Series, 1999).

6. R. Kent Hughes — Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, 2 Volumes in 1 (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

Luke 

1. Darrell L. Bock — Luke 1:1-9:50; Luke 9:51-24:53 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1994, 1996). 

2. Leon Morris — Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1988). 

3. William Hendriksen — Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (New Testament Commentary, 1978). 

4. Philip Graham Ryken — Luke: 2 Volume Set (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2009). 

5. R. Kent Hughes — Luke:That You May Know the Truth, 2 Volumes in 1 (Preaching the Word, 2014). 

John 

1. D.A. Carson — The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 1990). 

2. Leon Morris — The Gospel According to John (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1995). 

3. Herman Ridderbos — The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary (1997).

4. Andreas J. Kostenberger — John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2004). 

5. R. Kent Hughes — John: That You May Believe, ESV Edition (Preaching the Word, 2014). 

6. Richard D. Phillips — John: 2 Volume Set (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2014). 

Acts 

1. Darrell L. Bock — Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2007). 

2. F.F. Bruce — The Book of the Acts (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1988). 

3. Derek W. H. Thomas — Acts (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2011). 

4. R. Kent Hughes — Acts: The Church Afire (Preaching the Word, 1996).

5. Dennis E. Johnson — Let's Study Acts (Let's Study Series, 2003).


6. John R. W. Stott The Spirit, the Church, and the World (1990).

Romans 

1. Douglas Moo — The Epistle to the Romans (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1996). 

2. John Murray. — The Epistle to the Romans (1960). 

3. Leon Morris — The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 1988). 

4. Thomas Schreiner — Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1998). 

5. C.E.B. Cranfield - Romans 1-8; Romans 9-16 (International Critical Commentaries, 2004).

6. R. Kent Hughes — Romans: Righteousness from Heaven, ESV Edition (Preaching the Word, 2013). 

7. John R.W. Stott — Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today, 1995). 

1 Corinthians 

1. Anthony C. Thiselton — The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2000). 

2. Paul Barnett — 1 Corinthians (Focus on the Bible, 2004). 

3. Charles Hodge. — 1 & 2 Corinthians (Geneva Commentaries, 1857). 

4. Leon Morris — 1 Corinthians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1985). 

5. Richard L. Pratt Jr — 1 & 2 Corinthians (Holman New Testament Commentary, 2000). 

6. Stephen T. Um — 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

2 Corinthians 

1. Paul Barnett — The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1997). 

2. Charles Hodge — 1 & 2 Corinthians (Geneva Commentaries, 1857). 

3. Murray J. Harris — The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2005). 

4. Colin Kruse — 2 Corinthians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1987). 

5. R. Kent Hughes — 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness (Preaching the Word, 2006). 

Galatians 

1. Philip Graham Ryken — Galatians (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2005). 

2. F.F. Bruce — The Epistle to the Galatians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1982). 

3. Timothy George — Galatians (New American Commentary, 1994). 

4. Leon Morris — Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom (2003). 

5. Terry L. Johnson — Galatians: A Mentor Expository Commentary (2012). 


6. John R.W. Stott The Message of Galatians (The Bible Speaks Today, 1968).

Ephesians 

1. Peter T. O’Brien — The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 1999). 

2. Harold Hoehner — Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (2002). 

3. Sinclair B. Ferguson — Let's Study Ephesians (Let's Study Series, 2005). 

4. Frank Thielman - Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2010). 

5. Bryan Chapell — Ephesians (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2009). 

6. R. Kent Hughes — Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, ESV edition (Preaching the Word, 2013). 

Philippians 

1. Peter T. O’Brien — The Epistle to the Philippians 
(New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991). 

2. Moises Silva — Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2005). 

3. Frank Thielman — Philippians (NIV Application Commentary, 1995). 

4. Dennis E. Johnson — Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2013). 


5. D. A. Carson Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Believers (1996).

6. R. Kent Hughes — Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and The Supremacy of Christ (Preaching the Word, 2013). 

Colossians 

1. Peter T. O’Brien — Colossians-Philemon (Word Biblical Commentary, 1987). 

2. Douglas J. Moo — The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2008). 

3. F.F. Bruce — The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1984). 

4. Murray J. Harris — Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, 1991). 


5. R. Kent Hughes — Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and The Supremacy of Christ (Preaching the Word, 2013).

1 & 2 Thessalonians 

1. Gene L. Green — The Letters to the Thessalonians (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2002). 

2. F.F. Bruce — 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary, 1982). 

3. G.K. Beale — 1-2 Thessalonians (IVP New Testament Commentary, 2003). 

4. Leon Morris — The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1991). 

5. Richard D. Phillips — 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2015).

6. James H. Grant Jr. — 1 - 2 Thessalonians: The Hope of Salvation (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

Pastoral Epistles 

1. George W. Knight, III — The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1999). 

2. Philip H. Towner — The Letters to Timothy And Titus (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2006). 

3. Philip Graham Ryken — 1 Timothy (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2007). 

4. John Calvin — 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Crossway Classic Commentaries, 1998). 

5. R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell — 1 - 2 Timothy and Titus: Guard the Deposit (Preaching the Word, 2012). 


Philemon


1. Peter T. O’Brien — Colossians-Philemon (Word Biblical Commentary, 1987). 


2. Douglas J. Moo — The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2008). 


3. R. Kent Hughes — Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and The Supremacy of Christ (Preaching the Word, 2013).

4. Benjamin L. Merkle, Alistair I. Wilson, et al. Ephesians - Philemon (ESV Expository Commentary, 2018).

Hebrews 

1. William L. Lane — Hebrews 1-8; Hebrews 9-13 (Word Biblical Commentary, 1991). 

2. Philip E. Hughes — A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1977). 

3. R. T. France — “Hebrews” in The Expositors Bible Commentary, Revised Edition (2006). 

4. Richard D. Phillips — Hebrews (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2006). 

5. R. Kent Hughes — Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, 2 Volumes in 1 (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

James 

1. Douglas Moo — The Letter of James (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2000). 

2. Peter H. Davids — The Epistle of James (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1982). 

3. Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell — James (Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2008). 

4. R. Kent Hughes — James: Faith that Works (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

5. Gordon Keddie — The Practical Christian: Message of James (Welwyn Commentary, 2004). 

6. Daniel M. Doriani - James (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2007). 

1 Peter 

1. Edmund Clowney — The Message of 1 Peter (The Bible Speaks Today, 1988). 

2. Karen Jobes — 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2005). 

3. Peter Davids — The First Epistle of Peter (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1990). 

4. Daniel M. Doriani - 1 Peter (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2014). 

5. Wayne Grudem — 1 Peter (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1988). 

2 Peter and Jude 

1. Gene L. Green — Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2008). 

2. Peter H. Davids — The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2006). 

3. Douglas J. Moo — 2 Peter, Jude (NIV Application Commentary, 1997). 

4. Thomas Schreiner — 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary, 2003). 

5. David R. Helm — 1 - 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ's Suffering (Preaching the Word, 2015). 

The Epistles of John 

1. Colin Kruse — The Letters of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2000). 

2. Robert W. Yarbrough — 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2008). 

3. Gary M. Burge — Letters of John (NIV Application Commentary, 1996). 

4. Terry L. Johnson — 1, 2, 3 John: A Mentor Expository Commentary (2016). 

5. Douglas Sean O'Donnell — 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2017). 


6. John R. W. Stott  The Epistles of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1964).


Revelation 

1. G.K. Beale — The Book of Revelation (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1999). 

2. Stephen S. Smalley — The Revelation to John (2005). 

3. William Hendriksen — More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (2015). 

4. Dennis E. Johnson — The Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation (2001). 

5. Joel R. Beeke — Revelation (Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament, 2016). 

6. Richard D. Phillips — Revelation (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2017). 


7. Vern S. Poythress The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation (2000).

8. Richard Bauckham — The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (1993).

9. Richard Bauckham The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology, 1993).

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Work of Reformation Must Continue

One of the passages one could preach on the theme of reform or reformation is the narrative on King Josiah's reforms in Judah (2 Kings 22-23). I have done it a few times.


At a young age of eight, Josiah became king of Judah. And in spite of more than five decades of evil and wickedness that prevailed over Judah brought about by Josiah's father and grandfather, he did not continue in the wickedness of his father and grandfather but "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David."

Josiah started his reforms early in his life. But one event that made him even more zealous in bringing about the needed reform in the lives of God's people was the discovery or the recovery of the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord. When that book, also called the Book of the Covenant, was read before King Josiah it brought him deep conviction leading him to respond in humility and obedience to the Word of the Lord.


God softened the heart of Josiah to obey the words written in the Book of the Law and to further the reforms all over Judah and Israel. He summoned all the people to obey God's covenant and commanded his officials to destroy every vistage of idolatry and everything in the land that does not conform to the Word of God.


Josiah's obedience to the covenant was genuine in spite of the impending judgment upon them. Dutch Reformed author S. G. De Graaf has written beautifully about this saying, "Josiah knew that the judgment upon Judah was sure to come, but he wanted to press ahead with the reformation of Judah anyway. In this he showed a diligence unmatched by any king before or after him. He did not declare that there's no point in reformation since it could not save Judah anyway. He wanted to go ahead with the reformation solely for the sake of the honor and righteousness of the Lord. The Lord has a right to be served, even if our service does not bring about our salvation" ("Promise and Deliverance," vol 2, 390, quoted in Dale Ralph Davis, "2 Kings: The Power and the Fury," 322-323).


The Prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Babylonian army coming to Jerusalem to destroy it. Jeremiah lived to see the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem. God's instrument of judgment upon His wayward people, the Babylonian army, was coming in spite of Josiah's reforms and in spite of the people's promise to obey the covenant.


God did not relent in sending judgment upon His people in spite of King Josiah's reforms. That's because the heart of many people was not changed. The landscape of Judah might have gone through significant change but the people's heart remained hard, unconvicted, and unrepentant of their sin.


According to Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr, while Joasianic reforms "were most successful outwardly, there is little evidence that any significant inward change took place among the people. The populace had come to treat the temple and God himself as a good luck charm; this led to the deceptive sloganeering that announced: 'The temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh' (Jer. 7:3-4 author's translation)" ("A History of Israel," 393).


Again this tells us that while God uses His Word to bring about reformation and revival among His people that affect society, it may be the case that some, both among His people in particular and many in the world in general, will not be impressed by God's sovereign work of revival or judgment and will not amend their ways.


This serves as a warning for us who think that we are good and part of the people of God yet remain disobedient or unrepentant.


But to us who have been shown the greatness of our sin and misery and have tasted the goodness and grace of God in Christ and are united with Him by faith, we cannot remain in our sin. On the contrary, we will naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives learning to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor the way we love ourselves.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Martin Luther on the Christian Life

Martin Luther's short treatise on Christian freedom, "The Freedom of a Christian," is probably one of the best and clearest treatises on the Christian life that I have read. In an easy to understand and persuasive prose, Luther sets forth the whole of the Christian life in two seemingly contradictory propositions: first, he says that a Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none; and second, he points out that a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

Luther draws from Pauline letters to show that these two theses are actually like two sides of a coin. In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all.” Luther also quotes Paul's words in his letter to the Romans saying, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another” (Rom. 13:8).

From these two passages and his understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ, Luther argues that the foundational truth of the Christian life is that in Christ's death and resurrection we are justified and freed to serve God and others. We have been set free from the bondage and slavery of the law, sin, and Satan and we are now chained in freedom to obedience toward Christ. Freedom for the Christian is escape from the bondage of sin and submission to the yoke of Christ. It is only in submission and service to Christ where one is found truly free.

Luther then emphasizes the one thing needed for the believers to live by faith and continue in this freedom. He says, "One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ, as Christ says, John 11:25, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall live'; and John 8:36, 'So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed'; and Matt. 4:4, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

Luther continues, "Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul. If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing since it is the Word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing. This is why the prophet in the entire Psalm 119 and in many other places yearns and sighs for the Word of God and uses so many names to describe it.

"On the other hand, there is no more terrible disaster with which the wrath of God can afflict men than a famine of the hearing of his Word, as he says in Amos 8:11. Likewise, there is no greater mercy than when he sends forth his Word, as we read in Psalm 107:20: 'He sent forth his word, and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.' Nor was Christ sent into the world for any other ministry except that of the Word. Moreover, the entire spiritual estate - all the apostles, bishops, and priests - has been called and instituted only for the ministry of the Word.

"You may ask, 'What then is the Word of God, and how shall it be used, since there are so many words of God.' I answer: The Apostle explains this in Romans 1. The Word is the gospel of God concerning his Son, who was made flesh, suffered, rose from the dead, and was glorified through the Spirit who sanctifies. To preach Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it, provided it believes the preaching."

"Faith alone," Luther adds, "is the saving and efficacious use of the Word of God, according to Rom. 10:9: 'If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' Furthermore, 'Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified' (Rom. 10:4). Again, in Rom. 1:17, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' The Word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith."

He then concludes, "Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need faith" ("The Freedom of a Christian," from "Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings," ed. John Dillenberger, 54-55).

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