The Pastor and Doctrine: Some Reflections Part 2

Part 2 of the Series The Pastor and Doctrine: Some Reflections 

By Dr. Jeremiah Mutie

You can read part 1 here

Doctrine is What is Believed, Taught, and Confessed by the Church

In Early Christianity, because of the tradition that had now emerged, three main but related usages of the term διδάσκειν, emerge. Again, Rengstorf summarizes; “To the first belong passages which use διδάσκειν after the model of לִמֵּד: to the second those which refer to διδάσκειν about Jesus: to the third those which speak of teaching as a function of the church.”[1] However, there is no sharp distinction between these usages in early Christianity.

Paul personalizes his use of διδάσκειν, speaking of it “only in reference to his own instruction of the communities at the time of their foundation (2 Th. 2:15; Col. 2:7; Eph. 4:21) and in the sense of an internal function of Christianity.” Of course, this is understandable because Paul is dealing with communities that were not accustomed to the teachings of Christ. Therefore, what he resorts to is to situate his διδάσκειν on the διδάσκειν of Jesus Christ. He, for example, calls the Gospel of Jesus Christ “my Gospel” (cf. Rom 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim 2:8). In so doing, Paul (and other NT writers), constructs a body of truth, which now begins to be passed on as doctrine. To teach anything contrary to this truth is to accord oneself the position of what Peter calls ψευδοδιδάσκαλος in 2 Pet 2:1. A term not used elsewhere outside the NT, Peter used it here to refer to false teachers, arguing that they are false teachers because “in every respect they are a perversion of the Christian διδάσκαλος, since they reject the claim of Jesus to dominion over their whole lives.”[2] To make this distinction as clear as possible, the New Testament can even talk about the “διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων [doctrines of demons]” (1 Tim 4:1), by which “it seems to be referring chiefly to distortions of the standards of Christian conduct.”[3] This distortion emerges from a misunderstanding of Christian doctrine.  Understood correctly, “Christian doctrine may be defined as the content of that saving knowledge, derived from the word of God.”[4] It is from this knowledge that Christians derive their proper conduct, in other words.

Indeed, this knowledge now becomes the tradition of the Church from her earliest times, and there is a sharp distinction between those who teach the doctrine of Christ and those who do not. The latter are identified with such identifying epithets as “antichrists” with some being referred to elsewhere as the firstborn of Satan. For example, Polycarp writes in his Letter to the Philippians in 7.1: “Πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθέναι, ἀντιχριστός ἐστιν· καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου ἐστίν· καὶ ὃς ἂν μεθοδεύῃ τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου πρὸς τὰς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας καὶ λέγῃ μήτε ἀνάστασιν μήτε κρίσιν, οὗτος πρωτότοκός ἐστι τοῦ σατανᾶ [For whoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; and whoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan].”[5] Therefore, as the early centuries of Christianity progresses, the term διδασκαλία [didaskalia] “now meant the ‘sum of teaching,’ and especially of that which had come down from the lips of the apostles.”[6] Doctrine, therefore, becomes “what is believed, taught and confessed” by the church. Later on (in the 18th century, particularly), doctrine (and its development) become areas of scholarly investigation.[7]

Is there a Difference Between Doctrine and Dogma?

Before looking at the final question of whether or not doctrine is divisive, as indicated above, a comment needs to be made about dogma. On the one hand, there are those who don’t see any difference between doctrine and dogma, treating them synonymously. For example, treating both terms as synonymous, D. K. McKim states that in the NT, “the Greek dogma refers to a decree, ordinance, decision, or command (Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; 17:7; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Heb. 11:23).”[8] He adds that “in late Greek philosophy legal usage was subsumed under dogma as the doctrinal propositions that expressed the official viewpoint of a particular teacher or philosophical school.”[9] The same sediment is seen in F. H. Klooster’s definition of dogmatics as “that branch of theology which attempts to express the beliefs and the doctrines (dogmas) of the Christian faith—to set forth ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27 RSV) in an organized or systematic theology.”[10] Understood this way, dogma/doctrine is no different from systematic theology.

On the other hand, there are those who see a difference between doctrine and dogma. For example, according to Hannah, while doctrine has been universally understood to mean “teaching,” dogma, on the other hand, “is a term that, unfortunately, has come to be perceived as a negative word—a word that speaks of imposed authority and oppression.”[11] This is because, as Hannah observes, since it means a “decree or formal public declaration,” dogma, then “implies those doctrines that have been defined by a particular group or community as essential by its universal consent to them and articulation of them in creedal form.”[12] Understood this way, therefore, dogma is seen as a negative term. Indeed, it can be argued that the entire project of the German liberal historian of doctrine, Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) in his 7-volume History of Dogma, was to demonstrate how the church “lost” the Gospel (the Kerygma) of Jesus Christ when it became “dogmatic.” He argues, for example, in the opening pages of the first volume, that although the church teaches dogmas as “truths revealed in Holy Scripture,” the truth, according to him, is that adherents of the Christian religion “had not these dogmas from the beginning, so far, at least, as they form a connected system, the business of the history of dogma is, in the first place, to ascertain the origin of Dogmas (of Dogma), and then secondly, to describe their development (their variations).”[13] For him, therefore, dogmas (and doctrines—for he sees no difference), are to be viewed as negative developments in the church, resulting in a significant departure from the pure Gospel of Jesus. Elsewhere, Harnack defines the Gospel as “the Fatherhood of God applied to the whole of life; to be an inner union with God’s will and God’s kingdom, and a joyous certainty of the possession of eternal blessings and protection from evil.”[14] As such, he sees the formulation of Christian doctrine/dogma as the greatest perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because, according to him, doctrines/dogmas were scientifically-formulated by the church using Greek thought, itself a negative development of the church.

Since this view has been adopted by a good number of people in various churches as well as within some ranks of the academia, a few more comments are in order. According to Harnack, although the Gospel “entered into the world not as a doctrine, but as a joyful message and as a power of the Spirit of God,”[15] this soon changed. Rather, the Gospel “stripped off these forms with amazing rapidity, and united and amalgamated itself with Greek science, the Roman Empire and ancient culture, developing, as a counterpoise to this, renunciation of the world and striving after supernatural life, after deification.”[16]  For Harnack, therefore, “Doctrinal development in early Christianity…meant change in the gospel, its misdirection, its impairment.”[17]  In other words, in its interaction with the “Greek soil,” the Gospel lost its original joyousness, only to be recovered later by Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.[18]  And, according to him, this was a gradual process. As Turner explains, for Harnack, “If Gnosticism represents an acute form of the invasion of Christianity by Hellenism, orthodoxy implied a more gradual process, a low-grade infection by the same germ.”[19] While a full exploration of the question of doctrinal development is beyond this brief treatment, one cannot avoid the conclusion that, a simple conflation of doctrine and dogma inevitably results in such negative assessments of both. This leads to the second of the two questions: is doctrine divisive as sometimes suggested?

  Is Doctrine Divisive?

The second question for consideration here is this: is doctrine divisive? It seems that the answer to the question is both yes and no. That is, if we understand doctrine to be the clear representation of the teachings of the Bible in a summarized manner, then these ought not divide believers who are orthodox in their beliefs. In fact, the opposite should be true: true doctrines of the Bible should unite all who hold onto the truth of the teaching of the Word of God. At this level, it seems that the only division that doctrine ought to create is between orthodox believers and both liberals and non-believers. Indeed, Jesus speaks concerning the possibility of this kind of division, when, for example, He declares in Matthew 10:3438 (NET):

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.

While the context here is that of Jesus’ teaching about the nearness of the Kingdom, it is clear that His teachings would result in divisions even within the most basic of all human relations’ unit: the family. This is based on how various members in the family respond to Jesus’ teachings. As Barnes notes, “we must be ashamed neither of the person, the character, the doctrines nor the requirements of Christ.”[20] Thus, depending on which side of the divide one is concerning the Person and message of Jesus, a legitimate division can and does result. In this case, therefore, doctrine can be said to be divisive. But the division is based on one’s response to the offer of salvation made by Jesus.

Finally, dogma can be legitimately divisive. While, again, the focus here is not a full exploration of doctrinal development, the reader will be well-served to note that, during the Middle Ages, “the Roman Catholic Church developed the view of the depositum fidei (‘deposit of faith’), in which the church was seen as having been entrusted with a certain treasury of truths whose ramifications could be rightfully developed by the church.”[21] While this concept in and of itself may not be problematic (one needs to remember the words of Jude in verse 3 where he writes: “I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”), the problem was to equate dogma with the inspired Word of God. McKim notes that “eventually, through the Council of Trent (1545–63) and the First Vatican Council (1870), the church’s dogmatic pronouncements came to be considered as infallible.”[22] As expected, since the Protestant Reformation, “Protestantism has rejected the association of dogma with infallible ecclesiastical pronouncements.”[23] In this case, dogma (or its conception thereof), has become legitimately divisive. Correctly, Protestantism has insisted that “all dogmas must be tested against the revelation of God in Holy Scripture.”[24] Thus, the tradition of Protestantism has been to subject dogma into a critical examination based on the Word of God. This has been especially so through the works of these three main Scottish historians of doctrine: William Cunningham, Robert Rainy, and James Orr.

 Conclusion

The purpose of this synopsis was to respond to the occasional remarks pertaining doctrine to the effect that pastors (or believers in general), should not focus on doctrine because it is divisive. It has been suggested that, properly understood, doctrine, which basically means a summary of the teachings of the Bible should unite rather than divide orthodox believers. But it distinguishes these believers from both liberal Christians and non-believers. Again, this is to be distinguished from dogma, which tends to carry with it ecclesiastical ramifications. As well, at this level, since different ecclesiastical bodies appropriate dogma differently, divisions are to be legitimately expected here. For example, an equation of dogmatic pronouncements in the Roman Catholic Church either by the Pope or the Magisterium with the infallible Word of God, is to be rejected by believers. All in all, it comes down to the ability of the pastor to define and explain doctrine through his weekly teaching and/or preaching of the Word.

 

Select Bibliography

Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament: The Gospels. Barnes’ Notes, edited by Robert Frew. London: Blackie & Son, 1884–85, Reprint 1983.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Liturature. Edited by Frederick W. Danker. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Bingham, D. Jeffrey. “Development and Diversity in Early Christianity.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 1 (2006): 45–66.

Hannah, John. Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001.

Harnack, Adolf. Lehrbuch Der Dogmengeschichte. 3 vols. Freiburg: Akademische Verlagsbuchhandlung von J. C. B. Mohr, 1886–1890.

Harnack, Adolf. History of Dogma. Translated by Neil Buchanan. Vol. 1, 7 vols., edited by Neil Buchanan, James Miller, E. B. Speirs, and William M’Gilchrist. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1894–1899.

Harnack, Adolf. Das Wesen Des Christentums Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1902.

Harnack, Adolf. What Is Christianity? . Translated by Thomas Bailey Sanders. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1978.

Klooster, F. H. “Dogmatics.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 350–51. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

McKim, D. K. “Dogma.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

Pelikan, Jeroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Rengstorf, Karl Heinrich. “Διδάσκω, Διδάσκαλος, Νομοδιδάσκαλος, Καλοδιδάσκαλος, Ψευδοδιδάσκαλος, Διδασκαλία, Ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, Διδαχὴ, Διδακτός, Διδακτικός.” In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, vol II Δ–Η, 135–65. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973.

Turner, H. E. W. The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study of the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church. London: A. R. Mowbray, 1954.

 

[1] Ibid., 144.

[2] Ibid., 160. See also Did. 11.10 where ψευδοπροφήτης

[3] Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, 2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Pol. Phil. 7.1.

[6] Rengstorf, 163.

[7] Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, 3.

[8] D. K. McKim, “Dogma,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 350.

[9] Ibid.

[10] F. H. Klooster, “Dogmatics,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 350.

[11] Hannah, Our Legacy, 21.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, trans. Neil Buchanan, vol. 1, 7 vols. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1894–1899), 1. Originally, these 7 volumes were published in German as Adolf Harnack, Lehrbuch Der Dogmengeschichte, 3 vols. (Freiburg: Akademische Verlagsbuchhandlung von J. C. B. Mohr, 1886–1890).

[14] Adolf Harnack, What Is Christianity? , trans. Thomas Bailey Sanders (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1978), 65. Originally, these lectures were published as Adolf Harnack, Das Wesen Des Christentums (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1902).

[15] Harnack, History of Dogma, 7. 272.

[16] Ibid.

[17] D. Jeffrey Bingham, “Development and Diversity in Early Christianity,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 1 (2006): 49.

[18] Harnack, History of Dogma, 7. 273.

[19] H. E. W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study of the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church (London: A. R. Mowbray, 1954), 19.

[20] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: The Gospels, Barnes’ Notes (London: Blackie & Son, 1884–85, Reprint 1983), 115.

[21] McKim, 350.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

The Pastor and Doctrine: Some Reflections by Dr. Jeremiah Mutie

The Pastor and Doctrine: Some Reflections, part 1

By Dr. Jeremiah Mutie

            Once in a while, one hears a casual remark—sometimes by pastors and other church leaders—to the effect that we should not concentrate on doctrine because it is divisive. Rather, the church should concentrate on other matters that are less divisive—like worship and Bible reading. While such reminders (and “assurances”) may be comforting to the general folk on the pews, attentive listeners cannot to ask themselves these two crucial questions: what is doctrine in the first place, and, as suggested, what is so divisive about it? I will briefly treat both of these questions in the hope of dissuading pastors and other church leaders from making such damaging remarks.

 What is Doctrine?

            Sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘Dogma,’ the term ‘doctrine’ refers basically to “teaching” or “instruction.” John D. Hannah, differentiating the term doctrine or dogma from general systematic theology, writes, for example; “while theology may refer to the notions of any individual thinker on the nature of God, doctrine and dogma have a corporate aspect.”[1] In other words, the terms refer to the teaching of the Bible as appropriated by the body of Christ. However, there are some subtle differences between doctrine and dogma, differences which are sometimes unrecognized. This will become clear as the terms’ meanings are further elucidated. Indeed, a conflation of the meanings of the terms ‘doctrine’ and ‘dogma’ may be responsible for the cavalier dismissal already indicated above.

Students of doctrine agree that the term generally connotes the idea of “instruction,” an idea already present in both the Old and the New Testament. For example, in 1 Tim 4:16, Paul instructs Timothy this way: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (NASB). The Greek word for “teaching” here is “τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ” [tē didaskalia].” According to BDAG, the term refers to both “the act of teaching, teaching, instruction,” a role that Timothy would be playing here as he functions as an overseer (cf. 1 Tim 4:13) as well as “that which is taught, teaching, instruction” (with an emphasis on the content of that which is taught.[2] It is from this term that we get the term Διδαχὴ [didaché], a term that means “teaching” and focuses on the content of that which is taught (cf. Matt 16:12; Acts 5:28; 13:12; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 14:26; 2 Jn 9f and Rev 2:24, among other texts).[3]

Concerning the development of the term, from its Homeric roots, the verb διδάσκειν [didaskein] “denotes ‘teaching’ or ‘instructing’ in the widest sense, whether the point at issue is the imparting of information (cf. Hom. II., 9.442f.: διδάσκημέναι τάδε πάντα…), the passing on of knowledge (cf. Hom. Od., 8, 488…).”[4] From this general understanding of the term, it progressed to a more specific use whereby, as opposed to just “an official reading of an agreement…the word can be used to express the demand that a ‘valid proof should be adduced’: διδαχθήτω (P. Tebt., 72, 453 [2nd cent. A.D.]).”[5] Additionally, a close association was established between the term διδάσκειν and the related term δεικνύναι, a term which emphasizes the accompanying of the theoretical instruction with the practical; “(‘to mediate a skill’), and it leads by way of ‘to instruct (on the basis of better knowledge)’ to ‘to demonstrate.’”[6] In fact, it seems like it is this emphasis on the practical application of doctrine that would eventually separate the religious meaning of the term “doctrine” from any other usage. As Jeroslav Pelikan notes, “When the Old Testament speaks about ‘instruction’ or the New Testament about ‘the doctrine,’ this includes teaching about both confession and conduct, both theology and ethics.”[7] He adds that “A separation of between them is fatal, a distinction unavoidable, just as in the New Testament itself, ‘faith’ and ‘works’ are distinguished without being separated.”[8] This will be revisited here below.

In the LXX, the Greek term διδάσκειν is one mainly used to translate the Hebrew term לָמַד [lâmad] and its cognates. As Rengstorf observes, “למד is normally the original for διδάσκειν in the Torah (only Dt.), the historical books and the Psalms (apart from ψ 17:34).”[9] While the terms are still being used in a general manner, it is to be observed that “the particular object of διδάσκειν, however, is the will of God in its declarations and demands.”[10] In other words, although the terminology is still being used of instruction in a general manner, the content of that instruction is now clarified: it is the will of God for man. Additionally, in a manner that differentiates the use meaning of the term as used in the LXX and opposed to its general usage, “the διδάσκειν of the LXX always lays claim to the whole man and not merely to certain parts of him. This is most apparent where it is applied to a will and a way contrary to those of God.”[11] Thus, this “idea of a total claim is not to be detected in secular Greek, where the aim is to develop talents and potentialities.”[12] This becomes even the case as one proceeds to the later parts of the Old Testament. In these parts, as it is absolutely used, “διδάσκειν, or the corresponding לַמֵּד denotes the manner in which, by exposition of the Law as the sum of the revealed will of God, instruction for the ordering of the relationship between the individual and God on the one side, and the neighbor on the other, according to the divine will.”[13] This seems to be the sense in which the term continues to be used in the New Testament with the specific nuances being provided by the texts ranging from the Gospels to the Epistles.

While it is impossible to analyze all the 95 occurrences of the term in the New Testament, a few comments are in order. First, a majority of the references refer to Jesus’ teaching of His disciples and other groups during His years of earthly ministry. A key observation to be made is that, while in His teaching, Jesus follows the pattern of a Jewish teacher, it is His emphasis on the internalization of the Law that clearly separates Him from them. After comparing the external form of the teaching of Jesus to that of the Rabbis, Rengstorf notes that “On the other hand, He [Christ] is distinguished from these groups by the fact that for Him the Law and the whole of Scripture cannot be so restricted in meaning as to be the only way to enter into and to remain in contact with God.”[14] Accordingly, “for Him the Law and Scripture are rather a confirmation of His own relationship to the Father.”[15] In essence, therefore, “the gap between Jesus and the Rabbis in respect to the subject of teaching is to be found, not in the matter itself, but in His own person, i.e., in the fact of His self-awareness as the Son.”[16] Thus, in addition to the Word of God, Jesus Himself becomes the content of the teaching in the Gospels.

 

Select Bibliography

 

Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament: The Gospels. Barnes’ Notes, edited by Robert Frew. London: Blackie & Son, 1884–85, Reprint 1983.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Liturature. Edited by Frederick W. Danker. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Bingham, D. Jeffrey. “Development and Diversity in Early Christianity.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 1 (2006): 45–66.

Hannah, John. Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001.

Harnack, Adolf. Lehrbuch Der Dogmengeschichte. 3 vols. Freiburg: Akademische Verlagsbuchhandlung von J. C. B. Mohr, 1886–1890.

Harnack, Adolf. History of Dogma. Translated by Neil Buchanan. Vol. 1, 7 vols., edited by Neil Buchanan, James Miller, E. B. Speirs, and William M’Gilchrist. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1894–1899.

Harnack, Adolf. Das Wesen Des Christentums Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1902.

Harnack, Adolf. What Is Christianity? . Translated by Thomas Bailey Sanders. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1978.

Klooster, F. H. “Dogmatics.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, 350–51. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

McKim, D. K. “Dogma.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.

Pelikan, Jeroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Rengstorf, Karl Heinrich. “Διδάσκω, Διδάσκαλος, Νομοδιδάσκαλος, Καλοδιδάσκαλος, Ψευδοδιδάσκαλος, Διδασκαλία, Ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, Διδαχὴ, Διδακτός, Διδακτικός.” In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, vol II Δ–Η, 135–65. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973.

Turner, H. E. W. The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study of the Relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Church. London: A. R. Mowbray, 1954.

[1] John Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001).

[2] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Liturature, ed. Frederick W. Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 240., s.v. διδασκαλία, ας, ἡ.

[3] Ibid., 241.

[4] Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “Διδάσκω, Διδάσκαλος, Νομοδιδάσκαλος, Καλοδιδάσκαλος, Ψευδοδιδάσκαλος, Διδασκαλία, Ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω, Διδαχὴ, Διδακτός, Διδακτικός,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), 135.

[5] Ibid., 136. It is interesting to note that the term διδάσκειν was used in Hellenistic Greek to refer to “the chorus instructor whose task was to train the chorus for great public performances” (ibid). In this case, the emphasis was on the performance or execution of the task.

[6] Ibid, n 9.

[7] Jeroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 2.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Rengstorf, 136.

[10] Ibid., 137.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Rengstorf, 137.

[14] Ibid., 140.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

What Happens After the Wedding?

By Jennifer Ewing.

In this second installment, Jennifer Ewing discusses what happens after the Wedding! You can read the first installment here!

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Fourth, the church will “be seated with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb.”[1] “‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” (Rev 19:9). Johnson first explains that “the word translated ‘invited’ [NIV] is keklēmenoi (‘called’), a form of the verb kaleō (‘call’), which is used in the NT of the call to salvation (e.g., Matt 9:13; Rom 8:30; 9:24; 1 Cor 1:9; 2 Thess 2:14). However, the word may also mean ‘invited,’ with no connotation of election (cf. Matt 22:3, 8; Luke 14:16; John 2:2).” [2] Johnson begins by equating this invitation to the marriage supper to election, but then he softens this calling to being a mere invitation. The first definition of the word is probably more accurate when it is seen in context with the last sentence in the verse. As Walvoord explains, “The importance of the announcement and invitation to the wedding supper, repeated in Revelation 22:17, is seen in the angel’s remarks, ‘These are the true words of God.’”[3] Rayburn observes that the announcement is “the prelude to the description of Christ’s triumphal procession from heaven to earth.”[4]

Those attending the feast (or wedding reception) are, of course, Christ, the bridegroom (John 3:29), the church, the bride, and the invited guests. Walvoord explains that “the bride is distinguished from those who are invited to the wedding supper…here the church, described as the bride, will be attended by angels and by saints who are distinct from the bride.” [5] Fruchtenbaum concurs and reveals that the saints are both “the Old Testament and Tribulation saints [which] make up the friends of the bridegroom…the result of the invitation is their resurrection and the wedding feast.”[6] The feast will take place on earth after the Second Coming and will mark the beginning of the Millennium (Messianic Kingdom).

 

Reign with Christ

Fifth, the church will “reign with Christ during the millennium.”[7] “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection…they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev 20:6). The Millennial Kingdom will be “a time when all humankind’s yearning for an ideal society characterized by peace, freedom, material prosperity, and the rule of righteousness will be realized.”[8] This time of peace and rule of righteousness will exist because “Christ and his saints will control the world.”[9] The church and the tribulation saints are promised to co-reign with Christ over the Gentile nations (Rev 20:6). Before his death, Jesus promised his disciples that they would reign over the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28). John praises Jesus as the one who “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:6).

Paul encourages Timothy that “if we endure [suffer], we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12). Christ, in his letters to the seven churches promises the overcomer that he will “sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21) and who “keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Rev 2:26). Johnson continues to make the connection between the suffering and reigning of Christ and that of the believer: “As Christ overcame through his suffering and death (John 16:33) and entered into the highest honor God could bestow, that of being seated at his ‘right hand’ of sovereignty (Mart 16:19; Acts 2:22ff.; Rev 22:1), so believers who suffer with Christ even to the point of death will share in the honor of Christ’s exalted position.” [10]

Living in the New Jerusalem, or, Living in the Palace with the Prince

Sixth, the church will “share the New Jerusalem with Christ throughout all eternity.”[11] While the saints will reign on earth, they will live in the New Jerusalem. Jesus first speaks of this dwelling place to his disciples in John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Tenney explains that “the imagery of a dwelling place (‘rooms’) is taken from the oriental house in which the sons and daughters have apartments under the same roof as their parents. The purpose of his departure was to make ready the place where he could welcome them permanently.”[12] This place is not just for the disciples; Hebrews lists the inhabitants of the city: “an innumerable company of angels,…the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven,…God the Judge of all,…the spirits of just men made perfect,…Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” (12:22–24).

John describes his first sighting of “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” in Revelation 21:1-2. He is invited by an angel to get a better look, “‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God ” (Rev 21:9–10). John then goes into a description of the splendor of the city: her light, her walls, gates, foundations, and measure. The light, gates and foundations each are associated with precious stones and the streets are gold (Rev 21:9-21). There will not be a temple in the city because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22). There will be no night “for the glory of God illuminated it,” likewise the gates will never be shut, and “only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” may enter (Rev 21:23–27). It will contain a river of life flowing form the throne of God and the fruit bearing, healing, tree of life” (Rev 22:1–2).

In Revelation 21:2, the New Jerusalem is described as “prepared as a bride [a simile] adorned for her husband” but several verses later in 21:9–10, it is referred to by the angel as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Walvoord does not think that “the city be identified specifically with the church.”[13] Fruchtenbaum makes a connection between the new wife and her new home: “the Bride is now the married wife. Then in the following verses (21:10–22:5) there is a graphic description of the glorious eternal abode of the Wife of Messiah in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.”[14] Johnson in his description of the Bride (bright and clean) links her to the city: “clean…reflects purity, loyalty and faithfulness, the character of the New Jerusalem [italics mine] 21:18, 21).”[15] So, while the bride/wife and the city are not the same, they are identified with each other as having the same characteristics.

Illustrate the Glory of Christ Throughout Eternity

Finally, the church will “illustrate the glory of Christ throughout all eternity.”[16] One pillar of dispensationalism, according to Ryrie, is that God’s purpose is to bring glory to Himself.[17] The creation and salvation of mankind is one way that God demonstrates His glory as seen in Isaiah 43:7, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”  The New Testament has several passages that connect the salvation of the church to the glory of God, and that its witness will go into eternity (Eph 1:3, 6, 12; 2:1–7; 3:10; 2 Cor 4:17–18; 1 Pet 5:10).

 

 

 

[1] Willimington, 717.

[2] Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein, J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn, 12:399-603 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 572.

[3] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures: New Testament ed. by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 925-991 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 975.

[4] Robert S. Rayburn,”Marriage Feast of the Lamb,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Walter A.Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 743.

[5] Walvoord, “Revelation,” 975. Walvoord makes a distinction between the various attendees of the feast saying that “God has a program designed for each group of saints which corresponds to their particular relationship to His overall program.”

[6] Fruchtenbaum, 370.

[7] Willimington, 717.

[8] Robert L. Clouse, “Millennium, Views of the,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 770.

[9] Ibid., 770.

[10] Johnson, 459-60.

[11] Willimington, 717.

[12] Merrill C. Tenney, “John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein, J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn, 9: 3-203 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 143.

[13] Walvoord, Church in Prophecy, 101.

[14] Fruchtenbaum, 590.

[15] Johnson, 571.

[16] Willimington, 717.

[17] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 48.

And They Lived Happily Ever After: The Fairy Tale Destiny of the Church

 

AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER:THE FAIRY TALE DESTINY OF THE CHURCH

by Jennifer Ewing

This is the first of a multi-part essay from the pen of our Librarian, Jennifer Ewing.

Introduction

Harold Willmington in the conclusion to his doctrine of the church, specifically, the destiny of the church, asserts that “everyone likes a story that has a happy ending. The story of the church has such a happy ending. The Bridegroom gets the Bride and together they live happily ever after!”[1] This sounds like the ending to a fairy tale, specifically to those animated Disney princess films. With the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis about the “true myth” it can be suggested that the Disney animated princess films actually contain elements of the church’s future as the bride of Christ. [2]

The Destiny of the Church

Willmington identifies seven events in the “glorious destiny of the church.” [3] This destiny is where ecclesiology and eschatology intersect. The destiny of the church includes the rapture, the distribution of rewards, the marriage and marriage supper, co-reigning, a new home, and being an eternal illustration of God’s glory. Each future event will be briefly described, followed by a discussion of the nature of fairy tale and truth, and conclude with a review of three princess tales which suggest some relation to this destiny.

The rapture can occur at any time; it is imminent. Walvoord explains that “there are no signs of the rapture of the church, as it is presented everywhere in Scripture as an imminent event

The Rapture, or, Carried Away by the Prince

First, the church is “to be caught up by the Bridegroom at the rapture.”[4] The Rapture of the Church, the blessed hope (Titus 2:13), is the event when Christ comes back for His church and takes her to His home in heaven. It is a promise that Christ made to his disciples the night before the crucifixion, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’” (John 14:1-3). I Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the sequence that will take place at the rapture. Christ descends from heaven and “‘with a shout’ He will issue a command for the resurrection and the translation to occur.”[5] The dead will be resurrected and the living translated meeting Christ in the air to be with Him forever. It is from this passage that the word rapture (Latin rapio “caught up”) is coined: “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds” (1 Thess 4:17).

Paul describes another mystery unique to the church: that both the living and the dead in Christ will receive new glorified, incorruptible, immortal bodies (1 Cor 15:50–58). Paul, while offering comfort to the Corinthians for loved ones who have just died, describes them as sleeping. Fruchtenbaum explains that “this term, when used as a synonym for death, is used of believers only and never unbelievers. …So is death…a temporary suspension of physical activity until one awakens in the resurrection.”[6] For those who are living, Paul says that “we shall all be changed;” a necessary teaching because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and so those living at the time of the rapture also need incorruptible and immortal bodies.[7]

The rapture can occur at any time; it is imminent. Walvoord explains that “there are no signs of the rapture of the church, as it is presented everywhere in Scripture as an imminent event;” developing world events and increasing apostasy in the church that have their fulfillment after the rapture indicate that its time is near.[8] In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, Paul describes the events that will occur after the rapture of the church as proof that the rapture has not already happened, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him…For that day [the Day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (NASB). The church is told to look forward to His Coming at anytime.

Bema Seat Judgment

Second, the church will “be examined and rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ.”[9] After the rapture, the church will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom 14:10–12; 1 Cor 3:13; 2 Cor 5:10) for the “distribution of rewards for faithful service to the church.”[10] Of the two words that can be used for judgment seat, critērion or bēma, the second refers to the place where the rewards are given out at the Grecian games, leading Pentecost to conclude that bēma is the correct term for this judgment since “associated with this word are the ideas of prominence, dignity, authority, honor, and reward rather than the idea of justice and judgment.”[11] It is a judgment of the believer’s works which will be tested by fire to see if they are good (gold, silver jewels) and indestructible: “the work of God, which man only appropriates and uses”[12] or worthless (wood, hay, stubble) and destructible: “the work of man which man has produced by his own effort.”[13]

Pentecost identifies five areas of rewards or crowns (victor’s wreaths): “(1) the incorruptible crown for mastery over the old man (1 Cor.9:25); (2) a crown of rejoicing for the soul winners (1Thess. 2:19); (3) a crown of life for those enduring trials (Jas. 1:12); (4) a crown of righteousness for loving His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8); and (5) a crown of glory for being willing to feeding the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:4).”[14] Walvoord affirms that “it will be a glorious day for the saints when the Lord rewards his own. Their recognition will not be transitory like the successes of this life, but will continue forever.”[15] Fruchtenbaum has an alternate view based upon Luke 19:11-27. He believes that the rewards are for determining the level of authority the believer will have in the Messianic Kingdom but that in eternity “all believers will be equal.”[16] Whichever interpretation is correct, while on earth Christ expects His Church to do the good works that God appointed for her (Eph 2:10; cf. Rev 19: 8).

This washing of water by the Word, does not refer to baptism, but to “the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and their application to the hearts and lives of believers.”[21] The transformation will be complete when Christ comes back for His church (1 John 3:2)

Wedded to the Lamb, or Marrying the Prince

Third, the church will “be united with Christ at the marriage service of the Lamb.”[17] “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7). Fruchtenbaum states that the only way to understand the marriage of the Lamb is to consider the Jewish marriage system which has four steps: (1) the father arranges the marriage and pays the bride price (Eph 5:25–27); (2) after a period of time, the bride is fetched (1 Thess 4:13–18) but only the father knows when (Matt 24:36) and the groom must have a place prepared for her (John 14:1–3); (3) a small wedding ceremony occurs (Rev 19:6–8; only those is heaven will be in attendance); and finally (4) the marriage feast which will last many days and has many more people invited to it than the actual ceremony (Matt 22:1–14; 25:1–13).[18] Only step one has been completed; church is called the bride of Christ and the bride price was Christ’s death and resurrection. Step two is the rapture. Steps three and four are the wedding in heaven and the marriage feast on earth at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

In the third step of the Jewish marriage ceremony before the wedding, the bride undergoes a ritual cleansing.[19] Walvoord relates this to “the present work of Christ…to the sanctification of the church and her purification in preparation for the future marriage.”[20] Paul describes this in Ephesians: “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (5:27). This washing of water by the Word, does not refer to baptism, but to “the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and their application to the hearts and lives of believers.”[21] The transformation will be complete when Christ comes back for His church (1 John 3:2). A further description of this perfection is seen in the wedding gown of the bride. “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19: 8). This verse is typically used to place the marriage after the bema seat judgment because she is clothed in “the righteous acts of the saints.” Its description of “fine linen, clean and bright” also shows that she is now “holy…perfectly conformed to the righteous standards of God.”[22] Johnson explains the significance of the cloth and its two-fold quality: “Linen was an expensive cloth used to make the garments worn by priests and royalty. It has two qualities: brightness and cleanness (cf. 16:6). Bright (lampros) is the color of radiant whiteness that depicts glorification (TDNT, 4:27; cf. Matt 13:43). Clean (katharos) reflects purity, loyalty and faithfulness, the character of the New Jerusalem 21:18, 21).”[23] The formalities of the traditional Jewish wedding are almost complete, the last step is the marriage feast.

 

 

[1] Harold L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible (Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981), 717.

[2] I selected the Disney films because their version of the story has essentially overwritten all other versions, even though they were based upon them.

[3] Willimington, 717.

[4] Willimington, 717.

[5] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 144.

[6] Fruchtenbaum, 144.

[7] Ibid., 145–148.

[8] Walvoord, John F., The Church in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970), 49-50.

[9] Willimington, 717.

[10] Walvoord, Church in Prophecy, 145. This faithful service is connected to stewardship (146–47).

[11] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958), 220.

[12] Ibid., 224.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 225.

[15] Walvoord, Church in Prophecy, 152.

[16] Fruchtenbaum, 160.

[17] Willimington, 717.

[18] Fruchtenbaum, 160–162.

[19] Ibid., 160.

[20] Walvoord, Church in Prophecy, 143.

[21] Walvoord, Church in Prophecy, 143.

[22] Ibid., 143.

[23] Johnson, 571. It is interesting to note that the wearing of a white wedding dress only became popular in Western culture after the wedding of Queen Victoria of England in 1840. So much so that Godey’s Lady’s Book wrote in 1849 that “Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one” (156).

Librarian Jennifer Ewing Publishes in Christian Academia Magazine

Jennifer Ewing, Library Director for Southern California Seminary

 

5 Ways Faculty Can Improve the Quality of Student Research

Jennifer’s article is featured in Christian Academia Magazine. You can read it here 5 Ways Faculty Can Improve the Quality of Student Research

Students experience many barriers to producing quality research. Library anxiety is one. They mistakenly believe that they should be able to navigate a library by the time they reach college, and they feel shame that they cannot. Alex Nunes suggests that this current generation of students has an additional level of complexity for library instruction: because they have great confidence in their own (untaught) research abilities, they tend to dismiss the value of libraries. Thus, they are not prepared to produce quality student research.

 

Never Stop Preaching the Old Testament!

Nineveh Destroyed

by Prof. Cory M. Marsh, Th.M. (Ph.D candidate)

Preaching from the Old Testament is not too popular these days. Some well-known, influential pastors have even discouraged the practice.[1] To call such efforts tragic would be an understatement—especially when one considers the theological richness of the narrative, prophetic, and wisdom literature of the First Testament (aka, Old Testament). Moreover, bearing in mind the apostle Paul’s own reverence for “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), how dishonoring it must be to God, His holy Word, and even the office of the pastorate that a man leading a multitude of souls (Heb 13:17) would ever counsel other Christians against preaching and teaching the First Testament. Such irresponsibility underscores a notable problem in American evangelicalism: too many Christians are ignorant of the left side of their Bibles though it comprises 75% of the book they carry to church on Sunday mornings. Therefore, in what follows, I offer a mere three-point apologetic for the relevance of the Old Testament (OT) and its rightful place in Christian ministry.

The OT is “God-breathed.” “All Scripture,” Paul wrote, “is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16a). [2] For Christians so familiar with the New Testament doctrine of inspiration, it may sound strange to hear that what Paul had in mind when he wrote his famous “inspiration” passage was what Christians today call the “Old Testament.” By conservative estimates, Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy in the mid-to-late A.D. 60s. By this time, only a portion of the New Testament (NT) was written, and it would take several centuries before the Church officially recognized the closed canon of Scripture. As such, Paul, a Jewish rabbi, had written his “God-breathed” passage to his protégé Timothy, a Jew by birth (Acts 16:1), and made clear that the entirety of the OT was the product of God’s very breath.[3] It is also the OT that Paul had in mind one verse earlier when he explained that these ἱερὰ γράμματα, (sacred writings) are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v.15).[4] For modern day Christians, it may seem unbelievable that a person can legitimately come to saving faith in Christ solely through the OT, but that was precisely Paul’s point. Moreover, because the OT is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, equipped every good work” (v.17) every Christian pastor has a duty to include it in their teaching and preaching. Indeed, Paul would again have the OT in mind when he commanded Timothy to “preach the Word!” (4:2). Thus, a pastor who willfully neglects to preach or teach the OT to his church, or encourages its dismissal in any way, is willfully neglecting a clear commandment of God.

The OT contains the origin of the world, humans, and the gospel. While other religious books merely assume the existence of earth and human beings, it is OT that records the actual origin of the created cosmos. This, of course, includes the creation of all living things. In the book of “Genesis” (from a Greek word meaning “origin,” “source” or “beginning”), the formation of the world, heaven, animals, and human beings are laid out in detailed order (Gen 1–2). Further, it is in Genesis where we read of the origin of diverse languages, nations, and cultures (Gen 10). It is also in this first OT book where the birth of human sin is disclosed and where readers are first introduced to the coming Messiah, often referred to by scholars as the protoevangelium or “first gospel” (Gen 3:15). It is indeed the OT—not the NT—where we learn of the first Jew, Abraham, the very father of the nation Israel, and the unconditional covenant God made with him that guarantees blessings to the entire world (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1–21; cf. Gal 3:7–9). Thus, without a knowledge of the OT, Christians are left in the dark regarding their own origin, identity (both biological and spiritual), and promised inheritance as well as the reason for their need of redemption. Therefore, any Christian leader who willfully neglects the OT is willfully committing a severe derelict of pastoral duty.

Jesus appealed only to the OT, never the NT. Though this final point should seem obvious enough (since the NT was written after Jesus’ earthly ministry) it nonetheless warrants serious reflection. This is especially so in light of influential leaders who charge their audience to “tone down” preaching or “unhitch” themselves from the OT. It is important to recall that Jesus was a first century Jew living in Israel immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. During His 40-day harassment from Satan, it was portions of the OT that Jesus quoted as a weapon in His defense (Matt 4:1-11). When asked what one must do to obtain eternal life, Jesus’ response was to appeal directly to the OT (Mark 10:19). As He was being interrogated concerning the greatest of all God’s commands, Jesus’s only response was to quote from and synthesize the OT (Matt 22:34-40). While teaching on the thorny issue of divorce, Jesus appealed directly to the OT and confirmed the truth of both the creation account as well as the institution of marriage (Matt 19:4-6). Indeed, it was the OT to which Jesus appealed when proving that He was the promised Messiah as well as the very embodiment of Scripture’s redemptive theme (Luke 4:16-21; 24:25-27; John 5:39). When a Christian pastor or author today decides to dismiss the Old Testament as God’s authoritative—and always relevant—Word, he should know he is in direct conflict with the preaching method of Jesus Himself.

These three points are but a mere sampling of reasons why Christians should never stop reading, learning, and preaching the First or Old Testament. Besides these three, more reasons can easily be given.[5] Though certainly there are vital distinctions a pastor must make concerning primary and secondary audiences in the OT (e.g., Israel or Gentiles) and applications drawn need to be carefully exegeted and justified by the text, the OT is forever relevant—serving as the foundation of God’s revelatory witness to the world. Perhaps this is the very reason the NT witness is clear as crystal that church leaders are to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, emphasis added).[6] To suggest this charge did not include what’s on the left side of the Bible seems ludicrous. For that reason, and contrary to instructing ministers of Jesus’ church to refrain from preaching and teaching the Old Testament, a faithful pastor who is bound by conscience and trust in the entirety of God’s authoritative Word should unequivocally declare: “Never stop preaching the Old Testament!”

____________________________________________________________________

[1] For example, Andy Stanley’s recent best seller Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed from the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018) promotes “unhitching” the OT from Christianity; and, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s senior pastor Brian Brodersen  highly suggested not preaching from the Old Testament on Sunday mornings. The audio clip of Broderson’s comments can be found http://bereanresearch.org/calvary-chapels-brian-brodersen-instructs-pastors-tone-youth/. Note: the current blog is not an endorsement for this online ministry.

[2] While many English Bibles have translated the word θεόπνευστος (theópneustos) as “inspired by God,” the Greek word is technically a compound stemming two separate words: the noun “God,” and the verb “breathe.” As a result, the original word (used only this one time in the Bible), literally means “God-breathed,” a word far more profound than what comes to mind when Americans think of “inspiration.”

[3]  That Paul also had in mind whatever NT Scriptures were completed by the time he wrote to Timothy is of course entirely plausible. Cf. George W. Knight, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans, 1992), 448.

[4] Thus, Knight, Ibid.,443: “ἱερὰ γράμματα (holy scriptures) is not used elsewhere in the NT and is probably used here because of Timothy’s Jewish background, since the phrase was used among Greek-speaking Jews to designate the OT.”

[5] For example, the faithfulness of God is proved trough the historical accounts and prophecy outlined in the OT. Moreover, the wisdom of God is detailed par excellence throughout the “Wisdom Books” of the OT. Most assuredly, when a pastor cuts out the Proverbs and Psalms from their teaching (the latter of which contains virtually every Christian doctrine in germinal form), they do their flocks a most serious harm by neglecting thousands of years of Christian devotions, hymns, and theology.

[6] It is noteworthy that Paul here uses the verb ὑποστέλλω (hypostéllō) meaning “to shrink from fear” to describe what a preacher should not do. That Paul was not fearful to declare all of God’s Word to gentiles—indeed, preaching that included the OT—is a lesson for modern day pastors who are more fearful of losing congregants than remaining true to their commission to preach from God’s whole written counsel. In his comments, Brodersen erroneously limits “the whole counsel of God” strictly to the New Testament, and Stanley remarkably limits the value of the OT to mere pragmatics. For a stern and rightly critical review of the latter’s recent book, See David Mappes, “Stanley’s ‘Stanley’s ‘Irresistible’ Is a Dangerous Disappointment,” Regular Baptist Ministries, February 2019, https://www.garbc.org/commentary/stanleys-irresistible-is-a-dangerous-disappointment/.