Archive for December, 2009

Foreword:  It is also recommended here that articles linked below are read to get a fuller picture of what David Instone-Brewer and John Piper wrote in order to give additional light to what Andreas Kostenberger is responding to. It is my hope that this article by Kostenberger answers some, if not all, questions we have on the topic. – EmmausTrekker

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by Andreas Köstenberger – October 22nd, 2007.

Thank you very much for your comments on my previous post on the CT article by David Instone-Brewer and the response by John Piper. In light of the many excellent questions and comments, I decided to follow up with another post responding to comments made both on Justin Taylor’s blog and on this one. I certainly don’t expect to convert everyone to my view, but hopefully my comments will clarify some of the things I left unaddressed in my previous post. Again, please remember that much of this is addressed more fully in Chapter 11 of God, Marriage & Family. Also, my first post here at Biblical Foundations addressed the topic of divorce and remarriage. Since I don’t know all your full names, my responses below are to the various questions you raised. You know who you are, and will have no problem finding where I addressed your particular question. Please understand that I will not be able to continue this dialogue indefinitely, though your questions and comments are always welcome, and will be incorporated in the second edition of God, Marriage & Family if and when it is published.

Before addressing your questions, let me draw your attention to two extensive notes in God, Marriage & Family that address Instone-Brewer’s inclusion of neglect as legitimate grounds for divorce. On p. 412, n. 76, I wrote, “To this some have added other extreme circumstances (such as persistent spousal abuse) when confronted through the process laid out in Matthew 18:15–17, though great caution would need to be exercised in this regard in order not to undermine the high scriptural view of marriage. … Others, such as Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, passim, postulate the permissibility of divorce more broadly for material and emotional neglect. Instone-Brewer maintains that Jesus’ silence on this point in Matthew 19 should be construed as tacit agreement with universal Jewish practice in this regard on the basis of Exodus 21:10–11 … and contends that Paul alludes to the same passage in 1 Corinthians 8:3.”

At this point I refer to an earlier critique of Instone-Brewer’s view in God, Marriage & Family, which is found on p. 355, n. 25, where I wrote, “Cf. Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, 99–110, who also documents the influence of this passage on Jewish divorce laws, which stipulated the permissibility of divorce for both material … and emotional neglect. … Instone-Brewer proceeds to argue that Jesus’ silence on divorce on the basis of Exodus 21:10–11 should be construed as his agreement with the Jewish consensus view at this point … and that Paul’s allusion to this passage in 1 Corinthians 7 should be taken to imply that Paul, too, allowed for divorce because of marital neglect. … We find Instone-Brewer’s arguments from silence precarious, however. In Jesus’ case, one would have expected him to add marital neglect to porneia as a second exception for divorce if he had approved of neglect as a legitimate ground for divorce. In Paul’s case, it is one thing to say that he alluded to Exodus 21:10–11 but quite another to say that this implies that he approved of divorce for marital neglect. Especially in light of the major ramifications of such a view (namely, that this would render divorce for marital neglect biblically legitimate today), it seems reasonable to require more explicit biblical warrant than the double argument from silence provided by Instone-Brewer.”

I think what these quotations show is that Instone-Brewer’s position as argued in his recent Christianity Today essay is only a popularization of the view he has argued for years in his scholarly work and that his position has already been addressed in scholarly treatments such as in God, Marriage & Family. Now to your questions.

Q: It seems you are distinguishing between abandonment and neglect. The former is a legitimate ground for divorce, the latter is not. What is the difference?

A: You are right, I am making this distinction, and you are also right that I believe the former is a legitimate ground for divorce while the latter is not. First of all, let me say that I used the term “abandonment” in my previous post only because this is the term Instone-Brewer used in his essay, and so I accommodated myself to his usage. The more conventional term in the literature, I believe, is that of “desertion by an unbeliever” or something similar. This scenario, of course, is dealt with by Paul in 1 Cor 7:15–16. Some, in fact, believe that Paul himself, upon coming to faith, was deserted by his wife, which is possible though hardly verifiable. What this “desertion by an unbeliever” (or “abandonment,” for short) involves is one marital partner’s coming to faith in Christ and the other spouse’s rejection of her partner’s Christian faith and their reneging on their marriage. In such cases, Paul says, the Christian spouse “is not bound” (1 Cor 7:15), which most interpret not only as establishing a legitimate grounds of divorce but also permission to remarry, in part on the strength of the parallel in 1 Cor 7:39, where a synonym is used in the Greek, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” In other words, verse 39 makes explicit (in the case of the death of a spouse) where is left implicit in verse 15: those left without a spouse (whether through the spouse’s death or desertion) are not only not “bound” (i.e. can divorce legitimately) but also free to remarry. As Instone-Brewer notes in his essay, this comports entirely with the standard Jewish formula for divorce, “You are free to marry anyone you wish.” So much for “abandonment” or, perhaps better and less ambiguous, “desertion by an unbelieving spouse.” Notice, then, that this scenario is very clearly defined and considerably more narrow than a broad “abandonment” category which may include abuse and neglect as it does in Instone-Brewer’s essay. Certainly, some cases of neglect and/or abuse may fall in the category of abandonment, but not necessarily in the sense in which Paul defines it in 1 Cor 7:15. As one of you said very well (so well that I simply reproduce your comments, rather than trying to improve on them), “I understand ‘abandonment’ to be referring to the case mentioned in 1 Cor 7, where one person comes to faith, but the spouse doesn’t and leaves them because of it. ‘Neglect’ would be more like a person not taking good enough care of the spouse (or not honoring, etc.). So abandonment would—they took off, am I stuck in this marriage or free to remarry? Neglect would be, we’re still married but I don’t get good enough [or any] love/food/sex/emotional support/whatever, can I divorce her and marry someone better?” (Incidentally, I also agree with your comment [slightly edited] that “in Instone-Brewer’s paper … he argues that Jesus only meant to slap down ‘any cause’ divorce, but then Instone-Brewer argues that divorce for a nebulous concept of neglect is legitimate—which is really close to ‘any cause’ divorce!)

Q: Would it not be better to understand the term “not bound” in 1 Cor 7:15 as referring to people’s right to live in peace rather than making this statement grounds for divorce and subsequent remarriage?

A: The entire chapter (1 Corinthians 7) deals with various instances of legitimate and illegitimate divorce. I believe the background is that some, for whatever reason, taught it was more spiritual to refrain from sex and/or marriage (incidentally, hardly a very common view today). If so, the implication was that single people shouldn’t marry and married people shouldn’t have sex or divorce their spouse altogether. Against this background Paul’s teaching makes perfect sense. He says, sure, being single is good, if anyone has that gift (see my interchange with Debbie Maken here, here, and here at this point), and even there, those who are unmarried but don’t have the gift should get married, because it is better to marry than to burn with passion (vv. 8–9). If you’re married, Paul says, don’t refrain from sex other than for a short time by mutual consent for the purpose of prayer (v. 5). Certainly don’t divorce your spouse, or if you do (disobeying Paul’s directive), certainly don’t remarry (vv. 10–11). To those who are married to an unbeliever, Paul says, continue in the marriage if the unbelieving spouse is willing to do so, but if not, you are “not bound” (vv. 12–16). In this context, it seems that Paul is not merely talking about living in peace but specifically about legitimate vs. illegitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage, a subject to which, as mentioned, he returns in verses 39–40.

Q: Exodus 21 says neglect is grounds of divorce for a slave, so certainly free women should have the same right.

A: The underlying problem is that Exodus 21 is not addressed in the NT by either Jesus or Paul, as far as I can see. So should we just assume it still applies because it is mentioned in the OT? That’s what Instone-Brewer does, largely on the strength of first-century Jewish rabbinical teachings. For most of us, this is not good enough; we need an explicit NT reference here. This, of course, entails important large theological questions regarding the relationship between the OT and the NT and hermeneutical issues bound up with this.

Q: What about cases of spousal abuse, then? What about cases where a husband beats his wife, or stops having sex with her, or fails to provide for her? What are the pastoral implications of these scenarios?

A: First of all, please see my comments in the introduction (i.e. the quotes from God, Marriage & Family) above. As a biblical scholar, my primary aim is to determine what Scripture actually teaches. I realize that there are many, many pastoral implications that must be dealt with no matter what one’s position is. I would ask us to remember that every case is different and must be dealt with on its own terms. I would also caution us against falling into the same kind of casuistry for which the Pharisees are known. We should not try to legislate what to do in every conceivable circumstance but apply known biblical principles to a given specific situation with which we are confronted. That said, certainly, cases of persistent spousal abuse may require at least temporary separation and a variety of means of seeking to stop the abuse and help restore the marriage if possible. Beyond this, I will leave dealing with this area and the numerous facets it raises to my esteemed colleagues in biblical counseling.

Q: If you allow for abandonment, why not see all the Exodus requirements as specifications of abandonment?

A: Please see my clarification on the distinction between abandonment and neglect above. I know what you mean, and I briefly toyed with the idea of subsuming neglect under abandonment, but in the end I believe that the scenario presented by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 (per my discussion above) is considerably more narrow and specific than a broad “neglect” and “abuse” category. What he had in mind, I am convinced, was a case whether one partner became a Christian and the other rejected him and left the marriage because of his spouse’s Christian faith. This is very different from a vague generic notion of “abandonment” or a variety of other types of neglect or abuse.

Q/Comment: One of the strengths of Instone-Brewer’s article is that he addresses spousal abuse, which is the most pastorally sensitive issue.

A: I agree, and address it he does, but without adequate NT support, in my opinion, and with the effect, as Piper says, of “tragically widening the grounds of legitimate divorce.” Beyond this, see my response to the previous question.

Q: Aren’t the things contemplated in Exodus 21 tantamount to abandonment? If someone lacks adequate food and clothing, and gets no sex from her husband, I’d argue she’s been abandoned.

A: First of all, let’s remember that it’s not what you or I or anyone argues but what Scripture says. We must not substitute clever reasoning for the plain teaching of Scripture. It’s not a matter how skillful a debater we are in trying to make a point but a matter of seeking to discern God’s revelation with a prepared to obey it no matter what it is and whether or not it agrees what we would like Scripture to say. It seems to me that there are some who really want Scripture to say that divorce for neglect and/or abuse is legitimate and others who really want to believe that Scripture does not allow for divorce under any circumstances. (I’m not judging anyone’s motives here, some of you have said so yourself in your comments.) I think it’s very healthy and important to acknowledge that as one’s presupposition in coming to the text of Scripture, but then we must allow the Word to come back at us on its own terms, no matter how painful that may be. That said, I believe reasoned exegetical and theological argument can be helpful in working toward a proper understanding of Scripture’s teaching on a given subject, or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now (and longer treatments as well).

We know that neglected children should be taken from parents.

I’m not sure if this parallel holds, just as I don’t believe Scripture says wives are to obey their husbands exactly in the same way children ought to obey their parents.

So do you think that Exodus 21:10–11 is irrelevant, misinterpreted by Instone-Brewer, or superseded by Jesus? If the latter, is that supersession also an argument from silence, or does it build on the exception clauses?

A: That’s a very perceptive question (or series of questions). Please read my introductory comments (quotes from God, Marriage & Family) above, which indicate the reasons for my hesitation in this regard, in part because of Jesus’ silence on the subject in places such as Matthew 19. Am I therefore employing an argument from silence, too? It depends on how to define “argument from silence,” I suppose. The way I see it, an argument from silence is saying something applies even though it is not stated in Scripture while what I’m saying is something doesn’t apply because it isn’t stated. To me, that’s just common sense, or at least proper hermeneutical caution.

Q: How do you account for the lack of exception clause in Mark and Luke? Does that not lend support to the “betrothal view”?

A: Ultimately, I don’t know why the exception clause is not in Mark and Luke. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you he does (he’s lying). I believe we’re left here with reasonable inferences. In God, Marriage & Family, on p. 242, I quote Instone-Brewer at length, who notes that there are times when it is reasonable to infer from scriptural silence on an issue that people commonly agreed on this issue. If this is true in the present case, Mark and Luke may have felt they did not need to state an exception that was commonly agreed upon, namely, that adultery constituted a legitimate ground for divorce, and Matthew included this only as a side comment, as it were. Having said that, I believe that even having the exception clause—not once, but twice in Matthew—only in one Gospel requires us to obey what it says, and we should be careful not to try to explain it away or “harmonize” it with Mark and Luke just because these Gospels do not include it.

Q: In your view, would a repentant adulterer put his or her non-adulterous spouse under biblical obligation to receive him or her back? Or would the non-adulterous spouse still have “grounds” for divorce even if the adulterous spouse repented and sought (with God’s help) to take every step necessary to be restored in the marriage?

A: Like I said above, every case is different, so it’s difficult to address this scenario in general terms. Certainly, Jesus’ statement to Peter comes to mind that Christians must always be prepared to forgive. If the adulterous spouse is repentant and willing to continue in the marriage, the victim, as a Christian, should, with God’s help, try to forgive and be willing to continue in the marriage, but there are a lot of factors that may enter into a given situation that are hard to deal with in general terms.

To recap, then, in my view Instone-Brewer is too permissive, while Piper is too restrictive. It is not my desire to start any new schools, along the lines of the “school of Hillel” or the “school of Shammai,” the “school of Instone-Brewer” or the “school of Piper”! Hopefully our discussions help us all clarify our thinking on this important issue. I genuinely value this dialogue with many of you in the spirit of “as iron sharpens iron.”

Thank you for your patience, those of you who read thus far, and for your excellent comments and questions. Unfortunately, my time’s up and I must return to other pressing matters. Please feel free to respond to my comments above, but know that I may not be able to reciprocate any time soon!



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Another question was emailed to me a few weeks ago primarily on the issue of divorce and remarriage among Christians. He had a 2-part question; the first dealt with salvation, and the second about remarriage.


First question: “Is salvation lost if a separated guy marry [sic] again? Even it is already annulled? Is the salvation of the partner whom he married also lost?”

My reply:  Well, firstly, the Bible teaches that salvation is of the Lord and nothing can be contributed by man to have it (Titus 3:4-7). The means to receive it is by faith – which is also a gift (Eph 2:8-9). Thus, salvation is believing in the Lord who is proclaimed through the Gospel (Romans 1:16).

Sin does not disqualify us, for if it does, then no one is saved for everything that we do is marred by sin.  Only the finished work of Jesus Christ through His sinless life, sacrificial and substitutionary death, and resurrection has made anything that we do (as saved people) holy and acceptable to God (see Hebrews 10:8-18).

Having the truth of our salvation, its basis, its merits and its security in Christ Jesus briefly established above, remarriage of a separated person does not disqualify him from such a wonderful salvation. However, there are other consequences, particularly the conveyance of a conflicting message concerning the Gospel and Christians divorcing and re-marrying even when their original spouses are still alive. This I find dishonorable, and based on the original question, disqualifies men from Christian ministry (eldership and deaconship). But more importantly, righteousness is the fruit of true faith in Jesus Christ, and every believer through the mediation of the Spirit and the Word heeds the call to love the Lord God above all else. And loving the Lord manifests in humility and submission to His will.


Second question: (originally in Pilipino) Can a person whose marriage is annulled re-marry?

My reply: (This is a shortened version of my lengthy reply). Referring to the texts in Matthew, particularly chapter 19:3-10, we take note of the original questions of the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any reason?”

I highlighted two words in the question so that we can ground our answer correctly.  The use of the word “lawful” refers to the requirements of the Law of Moses. Wanting to find fault, this question was directed at the Lord.  In His response, noted the following:

  • That God’s will has been declared even before Moses that when two people – man and woman – are joined together, they become one (Genesis 2:24)
  • That divorce was not of God’s but of Moses’ command because of “the hardness of their hearts” – meaning they would not obey the Lord concerning matters on marriage.
  • That divorce can only be meted out only if one of the spouses are sexually immoral.

Therefore, it is not lawful to divorce for “any” reason.  The only reason allowed for divorce is adultery of one of the spouses.  However, we must remember that under the Law, adultery (the only ground for divorce) is punishable by death.

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” – Leviticus 20:10

The death of the adulterous spouse now frees the other spouse to remarry because it is only through the death of one spouse can marriage be dissolved. An allegorical view concerning the believer’s union with Christ ‘s death and resurrection was discussed by Paul in the first few verses of Romans 7. In it, the allegoryof marriage and its dissolution through death is used allowing for a remarriage.

Having said this, whether marriage is annulled (Philippine law does not allow divorce) or divorce as granted by the laws of any human government, remember that the Law of God is above these laws and no re-marriage can be allowed unless one of the spouses die.

I would also like to share with you what Albert Barnes Commentary said about this section of Scripture:

And I say unto you. Emphasis should be laid here on the word I. This was the opinion of Jesus—this he proclaimed to be the law of his kingdom—this the command of God ever afterwards. Indulgence had been given by the laws of Moses; but that indulgence was to cease, and the marriage relation to be brought back to its original intention. Only one offence was to make divorce lawful. This is the law of God. And by the same law, all marriages which take place after divorce, where adultery is not the cause of divorce, are adulterous. Legislatures have no right to say that men may put away their wives for any other cause; and where they do, and where there is marriage afterwards, by the law of God such marriages are adulterous.

 Barnes’ emphasis is on the authority of Jesus Christ.

One famous Philippine TV/radio personality who has already gone to be with the Lord is Helen Vela. When she became a born again Christian, she relates in her beautiful testimony of heeding the call of God to be separated from the man whom she cannot be married because that was not her true husband. Her original husband separated from her long before and lived in adultery with another woman. If  only that taped testimony is still available, it would be an encouraging word for Christians who are in the same situation.

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Foreword:  This is the last installment on the series  from Modern Reformation, Nov./Dec. Vol. 5 No. 6 1996 issue. To see the complete list and full articles, go to ‘Categories’ from the sidebar and choose the section on The Life of A Justified Sinner. – EmmausTrekker


By Dr. Michael S. Horton

Everyone knows St. Augustine , that fourth-century giant, as the doctor of grace. To a large extent, the Reformation was simply a recovery of and improvement on Augustine’s system. Few quills have graced the subject of guilt and grace like the Bishop of Hippo’s. And yet, Augustine’s own conversion was not so much due to the guilt of his sins, as to their power. You see, Augustine had been a member of a heretical sect known for its immorality. The immediate point of contact for him was the indomitable tyranny of sin. Theologians have distinguished three aspects of sin: its guilt, its power, and its presence. The moment we place our confidence in Christ’s saving work, we are instantly justified, liberated from the condemnation which the guilt of our sins deserves. Further, because of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, we are not only given the faith to believe, resulting in our justification; we are also given the gift of repentance, resulting in a life of sanctification or growth in Christian maturity. And yet, we know the struggle of Romans 7 all too well. Though we are justified and are being sanctified, we are engaged in a war and will know no peace until we are finally delivered from the presence of sin altogether in the New Jerusalem.

Know The Enemy
The unholy trinity most often identified in Scripture is well-known to most of us: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

First, the world. Now, be careful with this one, because it is not the world per se that’s the problem, but the world as it has come to be shaped by the warped hands and minds of sinful human beings. As God created it, the world was a good place–“very good,” God said. The Creator placed Adam in the garden as the worldly custodian, to insure that all creation served and praised its glorious Maker. But we know the story: Adam and Eve failed God in this task and the entire creation was placed under a curse to bondage and decay. The second law of thermodynamics was one physical aspect of this curse. And yet, God did not leave it this way. In the very day on which God pronounced judgment, He also promised redemption (Gen. 3:15). From Eden , history unfolds in successive stages of redemptive acts pointing to the ultimate act of redemption in Christ’s self-sacrifice.

But we very often forget that the world itself was included in this promise of redemption. It wasn’t just for Christians that the “new creation” or the “new age” dawned. In Romans chapter eight, St. Paul informs us, “The whole creation is on tiptoe” waiting to see our redemption. “The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited–yet it has been given hope.” That’s right, even creation itself has been given the promise of redemption. “And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” ( Rom. 8:20-21, Phillips).

Therefore, the world has now become the theater of war. Just as Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait made that state the theater of conflict, so too Satan has invaded this world through the disobedience of our first parents. The world is our enemy, therefore, not in the sense that we are hostile to its culture, its music, its science, its art, its civic and social life–for we were created to participate in these activities. Rather, it is the world as dominated by alien forces hostile to the reign of Christ which presents some of our most urgent challenges.

This is why the Apostle warned, “Do not be conformed to this world’s pattern of thinking, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). Hence, we “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Every method, belief, outlook, agenda, must become a POW of Jesus Christ. Our beliefs and attitudes must pass His inspection. Some years ago, the National Council of Churches, often railed against by evangelicals as liberal, made the remark that, “The world sets the church’s agenda.” But today, it is often evangelicals themselves who are taking in uncritically the popular trends and fashionable thoughts which make it difficult sometimes to discern where Christianity ends and pop culture begins.

If the conflict with the world is a war without, the conflict with the flesh is the war within. St. Paul makes it the subject of his seventh chapter of Romans. “We know,” he says, “that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” At this point, Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles, does not experience the “victorious Christian life” so many Christians are promised these days. He feels like a POW in the battle with sin. One minute, in Romans six, we find him fighting and overthrowing attacking forces in hand-to-hand combat. The next, in Romans seven, he is a prisoner. This is the nature of the Christian life. This is the course of sanctification. What many Christians today regard as a “carnal Christian” is really either an unbeliever or, like the rest of us–a struggling saint. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!” (vv. 21-24).

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not, as is often suggested, that the former lives a “victorious life,” or that he “lives above all known sin.” Rather, it is that the Christian is at war within, while the non-Christian is not even aware of any conflict. The Christian houses two hostile forces. He is at once “justified and sinful,” pro-God and anti-God. And this war with oneself will never be resolved until we reach the Promised Land. As Alexander Whyte, the Presbyterian pastor of the previous century informed his congregation, “You will never leave Romans seven while I am your minister!”

The third enemy, archenemy, in this war, is the devil himself. Unlike the mystery religions surrounding the Jewish and early Christian cultures, biblical faith located evil in personal beings rather than impersonal forces. A revived collection of mystery religions, the New Age movement seeks to discover and manage these evil forces, but Christians know where evil comes from. It is the result of personal, active, willful rebellion by creatures brought into being as good creations by a good God.

In Revelation twelve, we read about a “war in heaven.” After our Lord ascends, war breaks out and Michael defeats Satan. The dragon is therefore expelled from heaven and is no longer given access to the court where his prosecution against Christians can be heard. And yet, “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Thus, the theater of war moves from heaven to earth itself. Here, Satan prowls like a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He deceives unbelievers with false teaching; he entices Christians with false promises, and though he knows his time is short, his hatred for Christ and His redeemed hosts drives him to assault. Though he cannot win the war, he is happy to win battles, making common cause with the world and the flesh.

Know The Weapons
“Put on the full armor of God,” Paul’s command in Ephesians chapter six, is well-known to many of us. First up is the “belt of truth.” Before anything else, we have to know what we believe and why we believe it if we are to withstand the world, the flesh, and the devil. Another metaphor might be that of roots reaching deep into the soil of Scripture. We must read Scripture not only for devotional purposes, but to understand in a profounder way the meaning of our faith. We ought to read great Christian classics instead of light and fluffy popular books. There is a war for our mind and truth is the place to start. As a belt, it holds our pants up in battle.

Second, the “breastplate of righteousness” is listed. According to the Cambridge Biblical Commentary, “Most likely, this refers not to the believer’s moral character, but describes God’s rescue operation in Christ, bringing the assurance that the Christian is right with God.” In other words, our protection in battle is the confidence that we are justified–that is, already declared righteous. Whenever Satan comes to tempt us, we hold up the cross. Whenever the flesh threatens to bring us back under the dominion of Adam, we remind ourselves of our union with the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Whenever the world tells us about self-esteem or self-confidence, or takes a short-cut around dealing with the real problem of guilt, we respond with this doctrine of justification.

Third, there are the “ready feet.” Once armed with truth and the knowledge of our justification in Christ, we are now ready to zealously act. This is of great importance. St. Paul refers in Romans to his legalistic friends as those who “have tremendous zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” This zealous ignorance was especially disastrous, he says, because what they failed to understand was essential to the gospel: “For not knowing about the righteousness of God which is by faith, they set out to establish their own righteousness.” Zeal must be led and directed by the truth and justification which have already been discussed. That being said, many of us are so content with the belt and the breastplate that we forget our shoes. Zeal without knowledge is misguided energy, but knowledge without zeal is a profound waste of good news.

Fourth, we have the “helmet of salvation.” What is important to note in all of this is that every weapon with which we have been provided is outside of us. In other words, whether it’s truth, or salvation, the weapons with which we fight the world, the flesh, and the devil are not inner resources. So much of the emphasis I see these days on “spiritual warfare” calls believers into themselves through spiritual exercises like “spiritual breathing” or other forms of subjective, mystical navel-gazing. But this is just what Satan’s strategy has been. In every pagan folk culture, mysticism dominates. Techniques are provided for dealing with the forces within. Sin becomes a matter not of personal rebellion as much as demonic conflict (such as Jimmy Swaggart’s insistence that he was fine now after Oral Roberts cast the demons off of the evangelist’s back), and the war becomes a “good force” vs. “bad force” nonsense. This is folk religion rather than Christian warfare and it certainly has nothing to do with Ephesians six.

One should also notice that the helmet of salvation is given at the beginning of the war, not the end. Salvation is never a carrot God dangles in front of us to keep us going, but is a declaration already made at the beginning of it all. What commander would send his forces into battle without a helmet, merely promising them one as a reward for their success? God gives us the “helmet of salvation” right from the start, not if we win, but so that we will win.

Know The Captain
Each of these weapons mentioned in Ephesians six is first listed in the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 11. Of the Messiah it is promised, “Truth will be the sash around His waste.” “Righteousness will be His armor . . . His own arm worked salvation. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, He put on garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak.” Further, He is even the shield and the helmet: “He is my shield behind whom I take refuge” (Ps. 144:1-2); “He will wear the helmet of salvation upon His head” (Is. 59:17). And He is the sword, known to John’s Gospel as “the Word of God.”

In all of our battles with the enemy, we reach for nothing that Christ has not already won for us. Even when we win a personal battle, it is because Christ has already fought and successfully won over His trials and temptations. In Christ, the war is already won, so the battles are real but the outcome is already known.

I hear someone saying, “Wait a second, even when you guys do talk about sanctification and the pursuit of godliness, you end up talking more about justification and ‘alien righteousness’ than practical steps of holiness.” That’s correct, and any method that does not do that is not Pauline, evangelical, or Reformational in any sense. Let me give an example of how genuinely practical this approach is even for godliness. In Shakespeare’s “MacBeth,” the witches’ prophecy that “no man born of a woman will conquer you” inspires MacBeth to fight even the dreaded MacDuff. In the heat of battle, MacBeth taunts his enemy with the prophecy and confidently wields his sword because of it. But then MacDuff informs the usurper that he was not, technically speaking, born of a woman, having been torn from his mother in her death. Just as soon as the news reaches MacBeth’s ears, the strength leaves him and he is immediately taken in battle.

Many Christians live defeated lives, not because they are failing to follow certain steps or are not living up to the “victorious Christian life” (whatever that is), but because they do not have the confidence that no one, not even Satan, can “lay any charge to God’s elect” (Rom. 8:32). In the heat of battle, the strength we have to keep on going is knowing that our Commander has already determined the outcome of the war by His victory. His ascension into heaven and the devil’s expulsion from the same guarantees that our skirmishes, serious as they certainly are, will nonetheless not bring us ultimate defeat. Knowing that already makes all the difference.

Having said all of that, I wonder if we really want to be rid of our sins. In Romans six, Paul cheers us on: “Do not let sin reign, therefore, in your mortal body.” In Romans seven, he is more sober, reflecting on his own personal struggle to “practice what he preached” in the previous chapter. In the eighth chapter, he goes on to encourage us that even though we lose battles here and there, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v. 1).

As believers, we live between those three poles–energetic zeal, struggle/failure, gospel. But I wonder if we take the first two poles as seriously as we really ought. Knowing that our salvation is sealed in the courts of eternity, do we eventually ignore the challenges of Romans six because of the failures of seven and the unconditional “no condemnation” in eight? I guess what I’m saying is: What do we have to lose? If we’re afraid of losing a battle, of being disappointed with a failure out on the field, we need only remember that our success or failure on the battlefield does not determine the outcome of the war. We can fight with confidence.

John Owen once said of Christ, “When He comes to war, he finds no quiet landing place. He can set His foot on no ground but that which He must fight for.” We will not grow without a fight, without sharing in His sufferings. Unlike justification, our sanctification is a lifelong struggle–so much for “let go and let God.” Small victories are prized; battles lost are soon forgotten, extracting lessons for the next. None of our enemies–the world, the flesh, or the devil, will simply move aside and put up a white flag. And yet, in our fighting we fail to hide our unrestrained anticipation prefigured in the arrival of Israel in the Promised Land: “Then the land had rest from war.”

Dr. Michael Horton is the chairman of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and is associate professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California . Dr. Horton is a graduate of Biola University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.A.R.) and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (Ph.D.). Some of the books he has written or edited include Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, Beyond Culture Wars, Power Religion, In the Face of God, and We Believe.


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By Jay Rogers, from The Apologetics Group

The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the church fathers beginning in the second century, far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the church fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).

According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.

So it was that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:8-15).

Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. John’s vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, the church fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then John returned to his home immediately after that.

So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23, 24).

Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the church father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th. Since Jesus was conceived six months after John, various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various church fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th as the date of Christmas.

If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.

Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.

We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.

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by Andy Naselli

D. A. Carson preached on “The Purpose of the Parables” from Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 in chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 29, 2009. Here are some notes:

Why did Jesus tell stories and use parables? Three answers are common.

  1. Jesus told stories because he used them as illustrations. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense of Matthew 13:11–12.
  2. Jesus told stories because he favored the enigmatic, thought-provoking, and open-ended rather than truths, propositions, and narrow-minded, modernist, foundationalist stuff like that. But it doesn’t take much reading of the Gospels to realize how many different genres Jesus actually preached in. For example, he preached using wisdom literature, apocalyptic, laments, exposition of OT texts, extended discourses, proverbs, beatitudes, one-liners, non-narratival extended metaphors, dialogue, and provocative questions. Further, Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.
  3. Jesus used parables in order to hide things from the non-elect, to mask the truth. Yes, there is an element of that, but Matthew 13:34–35 suggests that Jesus is trying to disclose something to them.

So why did Jesus use parables? The text suggests two reasons.

  1. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message blinds, deafens, and hardens (Matthew 13:11–15). Matthew 13:14–15 quotes Isaiah 6:9–10 because Isaiah’s commission points forward and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus himself. There are some audiences to whom you preach where the preaching of the word guarantees that they will not hear. Cf. John 8:45: “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Sometimes the truth itself elicits unbelief because people are so corrupt that the truth is repulsive. Cf. Acts 5:41. When people insult you, don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry. Don’t get even. Rejoice! You’re in! You’re in this long line, this trajectory, that culminates in Jesus himself. There are some people who will not believe, and if you speak the truth, you will cause them not to believe.
  2. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, his message reveals things hidden in Scripture (Matthew 13:34–35). Matthew 13:35 quotes Psalm 78:2. The Jews of Jesus’ day did not have a category for a crucified Messiah, but those categories are in the OT. Jesus refers to “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11). A “mystery” in the NT does not refer to a “Whodunit?” It occurs 27 or 28 times in the NT and almost always is bound up with things hidden in the past in Scripture but now disclosed in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “They’re there, but I’m going to reveal to you what has been hidden. The pieces are already there.” Hence, Matthew 13:16–17, 52.

Three Pastoral Reflections

  1. We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp of how God has put the Bible together. The Bible is not a collection of arbitrary proof-texts. The more you dig into it, the more you unpack its simplicity and profundity.
  2. We should gain gratitude and humility for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and his gospel. We are just as perverse as others. We should never tire of being overwhelmed by the sheer privilege of grace in our lives.
  3. We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment.

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I have transcribed the introduction below from the White Horse Inn broadcast on December 6, 2009 regarding the subject – EmmausTrekker


What is Discipleship? by Michael Horton

Once we sit down and really become a disciple, a listener, a learner, once we really do, first of all, receive from Jesus the truth, the doctrine that He wants to teach us, then that is our Christian formation – the Gospel as it is explored and explained shapes us into Christian followers of Jesus.

 A young Christian entrepreneur becomes enamored on the superbly crafted cuckoo clock he picked up one day in a quaint village driving from Geneva to Zurich. A year later he returns with an idea. If he can figure out how the clock he bought was made, he could develop a prototype and put it out on the assembly line in China for mass distribution around the world. It can be made more quickly, efficiently, therefore cheaply once the secrets of its construction are put down on paper. Locating the craftsman who made this clock, the American opens his laptop, ready for notes and begins asking details about its construction. Soon however, the craftsman runs out of answers, so the entrepreneur looks over his shoulders as he sets to work. “How do you make that squiggle?” he asks. “I don’t know,” the craftsman replied, “I’ve just done it for years. I grew up making these clocks with my father. This is his shop. It’s just in my blood I guess.” Eventually the American did try to copy the clock, squiggles and all, but it wasn’t the same. You can’t just make a great piece of culture by formulas that can be ‘routinized’ and duplicated on the assembly line.

Christian discipleship is a lot like craftsmanship. It can’t be reproduced with formulas, principles and steps. Disciples don’t come off an assembly line. There’s no get-spiritual-quick scheme. It takes time, energy, effort, patience and skill. It takes life in a community. It means belonging to a group that passes along habits, many of which can’t be even stated explicitly in so many words. The habits of a craftsman are simply different from those of an entrepreneur or industrial manager.

For a lot of reasons that has been wisely explored by many people today, we are increasingly becoming a society and a church that has lost its habits of Christian formation. Some say, “Well, if we just get the doctrine right, everything else will follow.” Others shout back, “No, deeds not creeds!” But neither answer really gets to the point that growing up into Christ can’t be reduced either to intellectualism or activism. There is no doctrinal proposition or spiritual program that will conform us to the image of Christ. The Gospel must transform us over a lifetime of very ordinary and sometimes even plodding habits that we cannot always even articulate. And that’s why the disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, observed His actions as well as His teachings.

In this process, it is often hard to distinguish between doctrinal instruction and practical living. They were just there with Jesus as He was explaining who He was and showing them by His deeds that He was the Messiah. Reading the Gospels, we look over their shoulders and say, “Ah, that’s what the kingdom is!”

Yesterday I heard an interview with NPR and she was asked at a “Read-to-Grow” rally why she loves reading books even over the summer break. With enthusiasm the girl talked about the many other worlds she had visited in her books. “What would you tell someone who says it’s boring and they just can’t get into reading?” the interviewer asked. The little girl said, “Well you just got it start. The more you read, the more you want to keep on doing it. Then it becomes a habit and it’s what you want to do whenever you can.”

What if parents and pastors took that approach more often? Our children as well as new converts to the faith need time to mature, and they need pastors not programs. They need to belong to a community of disciples – older believers – fellow saints from various walks of life and ethnic backgrounds who simultaneously show and tell what it means to trust in Christ and love and serve their neighbors. There’s no manual for this. Not even the Bible is really a manual of discipleship. Rather, it’s the unique story that inducts us into the life of Christ. It’s the story that gives rise to the doctrines, the rituals of baptism and the Supper, habits of praise and prayer, fellowship and witness that had authorized it as our canon. There is no quick and easy path, no shortcut to success. It takes a lot of work. Although we’re not working for our salvation, we are working it out as God works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.

Marriage involves a lot of work and involves time and patience. No program for how to raise a family will actually raise our children and form us to be better parents. It takes time, patience, a lot work and wisdom from a lot of people. To do it well, we often have to change our priorities in daily routines. And we can’t do it alone; we need others. Even more do we need the constant, ordinary, sometimes all-too-familiar habits of family worship, the Lord’s Day, fellowship and personal bible reading and prayer especially when the burdens and distractions of our temporal callings threaten to become idols rather than gifts. Even personal private disciples will be of no spiritual benefit in shaping our Christian discipleship apart from the ordinary means of grace in the church and the distinct type of piety that arises out of it.

Perhaps instead of the Christian life, we should speak of the Christian lifetime. Even at the end of our days, we will not be a finished piece of divine craftsmanship but one day we will be as exquisitely refined as Jesus Christ, living out these days from the established fact of Christ-saving work in the past, and our liberation from the guilt and tyranny of sin in the present, we strain toward the price as Paul described it. Only with the Gospel in our hearts can we say with Paul’s confidence, “The sufferings of this present life are not worth being compared with the joy that will be revealed in us.”

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Outline of G. K. Beale and Sidney Greidanus — See Below *


The Basic Presuppositions of the Redemptive Historical Christocentric Interpretation of the Old Testament

A.  The assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.

B.  That Christ is viewed as representing the true Israel of the Old Testament and true Israel, the church, in the New Testament (Isa. 49:3-6; Lk. 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23).  Christ and the church fulfill what is prophesied of Israel in the OT.

C.  That history is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the latter parts (Matt. 11:13-14; Eccl. 3:1-11; Isa. 46:9-11; Rev. 1:4, 8, 17; 4:8; 21:6; 22:13; Eph. 1:11).

D.  That the age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ (Mk. 1:15; Acts 2:17; Gal. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 18).

E.  As a consequence of (C) and (D), the fifth presupposition affirms that the latter parts of biblical history function as the broader context to interpret earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors, and one deduction from this premise is that Christ as the center of history is the key to interpreting the earlier portions of the Old Testament and its promises.  Be sure to make note of both continuity and contrast (2 Cor. 1:10-21; Matt. 5:17; 13:11, 16-17; Lk. 24:25-27, 32, 44-45; John 5:39; 20:9; Rom. 10:4).


The Basic Approach of the Redemptive Historical Christocentric Interpretation of the Old Testament

1.  Understand the passage in its own historical-grammatical (immediate) context (grammatico-historical method of interpretation).

This original, historical meaning provides the only objective point of control against deriving from the text all kinds of subjective and arbitrary messages.  Once the plain meaning has been abandoned, control over interpretation is gone and Scripture may mean anything that the interpreter may see in it.

Once you have the basic meaning of the passage in its own context, you basically have a glass partially filled with a description of God’s divine revelation of his nature or a painting only partially completed.  A Christocentric method of interpretation fills this description/meaning full with Christ as the most complete revelation of God’s progressive revelation of Himself (ie. the attributes of God, the law of God, teachings, prophecies, visions, etc.).

How do we view the whole counsel of God in light of Jesus Christ?  Only after we have heard a passage the way Israel heard it can we move on to understand this message in the broad contexts of the whole canon and the whole of redemptive history.

A.  Literary Interpretation:

1.  How does it mean? 

What is the genre? (narrative, wisdom, psalm, prophecy?)

What is the sub-genre? (law, parable, proverb, lament?)

What are the figures of speech? (metaphor, simile, hyperbole, irony?)

2.  What did it mean in the context of this particular book?  How does the passage function in the context of the book? (study the grammatical questions of the text).

B.  Historical Interpretation:

1.  What was the author’s intended meaning for his original hearers? (author, original hearers, approximate period, social and geographical setting, purpose of writing — who wrote this text? to whom? when? where? and why?)

2.  What need of the hearers did the author seek to address?

C.  Theocentric Interpretation:

What does this passage reveal about God and his will?  (God’s acts, providence, covenant, law, grace, faithfulness, etc.)

This question gives the passage a God-centered focus.

2.  Understand the passage in the contexts of canon and redemptive history.

We cannot understand an Old Testament text in isolation, but must always understand the text in the contexts of the whole Bible and redemptive history.

A.  Literary or Canonical Interpretation:

What does this passage mean (not just in the context of the book, but) in the context of the whole Bible?  Each passage (whether promise, prophecy, type, law, etc.) is developed or filled up with meaning until it finds its fullest meaning in Jesus Christ.  Because of progression in God’s redemptive history and revelation, one will discover both continuity and discontinuity in Old Testament promises, themes, and laws.

B.  Redemptive-Historical or Historical Interpretation:

 NOT, “what was the human author’s intended meaning for his original hearers?,” BUT rather, “How does the redemptive historical context from creation to new creation inform the contemporary significance of this text?”  The context of redemptive history will reveal continuity as well as discontinuity.

 C.  Christocentric or Theocentric Interpretation:

 NOT, “what does this passage reveal about God and His will?,” BUT rather, “what does this passage mean in the light of Jesus Christ?  And what does this passage reveal about Jesus Christ?”

Some scholars speak of this as the “sensus plenior,” or fuller sense, or the “theological literal sense” which means nothing other than the meaning of the scripture read as a whole and in the analogia fidei (rule of faith).  Others refer to the “canonical interpretation” or better yet the “redemptive-historical interpretation.”  Whatever we call it the important point is that a passage understood in the contexts of the whole Bible and redemptive history may reveal more meaning than its author intended originally.


The 6 Ways of the New Testament Authors Read the Old Testament

 A.  The Way of Redemptive-Historical Progression:

 Redemptive history, or kingdom history, is the bedrock which supports all the other ways that lead to Christ in the New Testament.

 1.  Pivotal Points in Redemptive History

 Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation

 a.  Creation — God’s acts of turning chaos into his structured kingdom (Gen. 1-2).

 b.  Redemption in the Old Testament times — God’s acts, after the fall into sin, of redeeming his people Israel to be a light to the nations (Gen. 3-Mal. 4).

 c.  Redemption through Jesus Christ — God’s acts in Jesus to redeem all nations and restore his fallen creation into his kingdom (Matt. 1-Rev. 20); and,

 d.  New Creation — God’s final victory over evil and the establishment of his perfect kingdom on earth (Rev. 21-22).

When we survey the entire Old Testament, we find ourselves involved in a great history of movement from promise toward fulfillment.  It flows like a large brook — here rushing swiftly, there apparently coming to rest in a quiet backwater, and yet moving forward as a whole toward a distant goal which lies beyond itself.  That goal is Jesus Messiah and ultimately the rule of God over a restored and transformed creation.

 2.  Characteristics of Redemptive History

In order to confront men with the crucial questions of Christ, our preaching must center in the history of redemption.  We do not confront men with Christ by preaching theological ideas, nor by ethical exhortations, but by rehearsing the saving events witnessed in Scripture.

 Because redemptive history is a unified history, sound interpretation requires that every part of this history be interpreted in the context of its beginning and end or goal.  The way of redemptive-historical progression sees every Old Testament text and its addresses in the context of God’s dynamic history, which progresses steadily and reaches its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ultimately in the new creation.  The whole Old Testament throbs with a strong eschatological beat.

 CREATION > God’s redemptive acts in Israel > God’s redemptive acts in CHRIST > God’s redemptive acts in church and world history > NEW CREATION

B.  The Way of Promise-Fulfillment

a.  Take into account that God usually fills up his promises progressively — in installments, as it were.  Prophecy, in the sense that it reveals some part of God’s redemptive purposes, is capable of being filled, of achieving fullness, so that when it is filled full it is fulfilled.

b.  In interpreting the text, move from the promise of the Old Testament to the fulfillment in Christ and back again to the Old Testament text.

[eg. Isa. 61:1-4 in exile; Return of remnant 583 B.C.; Jesus Coming Dawn of Jubilee Lk 4:21 (but not day of vengeance yet); Day of Judgment and full Jubilee]

[eg. Isa. 7:11-17, Immanuel promise; Young woman in 732 B.C.; Jesus; Holy Spirit at Pentecost; God with us in New Creation]

 C.  The Way of Typology

Def.:  a type is an event, a series of circumstances, or an aspect of the life of an individual or of a nation, which finds a parallel and a deeper (final, climatic, eschatological, Christocentric) realization in the incarnate life of our Lord, in his provision for the needs of men, or in his judgments and future reign.

Typology is rooted in the historical character of Old Testament revelation and the consistency of God’s nature and actions.  God repeats his actions of blessing and of judgment.  But God does not merely repeat his deeds of the past; he will do greater things, climatically greater (eschatological movement).

God’s mighty acts (magnalia dei) in history point forward to his final salvation/judgment and his relations with his people look forward to the restoration and renewal of the New Covenant.  When God acts in history we progressively learn more truth about God’s character and nature.  That truth, which was taught in that previous act in history, carries through to the revelation in Christ where it finds is final, complete and heightened fulfillment.  In Christ we see the truth of God’s character and nature in its fullest revelation. 

Edmund Clowney says, “Typology is grounded in God’s design.  It flows from the continuity and difference of God’s saving work.  There is continuity, for it is God who begins His work of salvation long before He gives His Son.  Yet there is discontinuity, too.”

Characteristics of a Type:  A genuine type is historical, theocentric, exhibits a significant analogy with its antitype, and is marked with escalation.

Rules for Using Typology:

a.  Always precede typological interpretation with literary-historical interpretation (literary includes grammatical).  We must know the author’s message for Israel before we look for ways to focus the message on Jesus Christ and apply it to the church.

b.  Look for a type not in the details but in the central message of the text concerning God’s activity to redeem his people.  In short, don’t wander off the typological trail in to the morass of incidental parallels and farfetched analogies.

c.  Determine the symbolic meaning of the person, institution, or event in Old Testament times.  If it has no symbolic meaning in the Old Testament times, it cannot be a type.  Geerhardus Vos says, “A type can never be a type independently of its being first a symbol.  The gateway to the house of typology is at the farther end of the house of symbolism . . . .  Only after having discovered what a thing symbolizes, can we legitmately proceed to put the question what it typifies, for the latter can never be aught else than the former lifted to a higher plane.  The bond that holds the type and antitype together must be a bond of vital continuity in the progress of redemption  . . . . We must ask where do these religious principles and realities, which the event, person, thing (ie. type) served to teach and communicate, reappear in the subsequent history of redemption, lifted to their consummate stage?

Clowney further adds, “An Old Testament event, a ceremony, or a prophetic, priestly, or royal action may . . . symbolize, pointing to a revealed truth at a particular point in the history of redemption . . . . We may be sure that this truth will be carried forward to Jesus Christ . . . .  We may therefore connect the event, ceremony, or action directly with that truth as it comes to full expression in Christ . . . . the line of typology. 

d.  Note the points of contrast between the Old Testament type and the New Testament antitype.  The difference is as important as the resemblance, for the difference reveals not only the imperfect nature of Old Testament types but also the escalation entailed in the unfolding of redemptive history:  one “greater than Jonah is here.”  The contrast is between law/covenant of works and gospel/covenant of grace (John 1:17).

e.  In moving from the Old Testament symbol/type to Christ, carry forward the meaning of the symbol even as its meaning escalates.  Do not switch to a different sense.

f.  Do not simply draw a typological line to Christ but proclaim Christ.  John Stott writes, “The main objective in preaching is to expound Scripture so faithfully and relevantly that Jesus Christ is perceived in all his adequacy to meet human need . . . . The preacher’s purpose is more than to unveil Christ; it is to unveil him that people are drawn to come to him and receive him.”  Beginning with the Old Testament type, Christian preachers can proclaim the person and work of Christ so that people will commit themselves to this Savior and Lord, put all their trust for salvation in him alone, and seek to obey him in every area of life.

 D.  The Way of Analogy

There is a unity of redemptive history that adheres in Christ; the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church in accomplished only in Christ.  Jesus Christ is the key connection within this analogous relationship.  For through Christ, Israel and the church have become the same kind of people of God:  recipients of the same covenant of grace, sharing the same faith, living in the same hope, seeking to demonstrate the same love.

To look for analogies between the Old Testament and the New Testament, you should ask:

a.  What God is and does for Israel and what God in Christ is and does for the church?

b.  What is the similarity between what God teaches his people Israel and what Christ teaches his church?

c.  What are God’s demands in the Old Testament and Christ’s demands in the New Testament?

Although there will be differences because of the progression in the history of redemption and revelation, analogy concentrates on locating the continuity, the parallels, between what God is and does for Israel, or demands of Israel, and what God in Christ is and does for the church, teaches the church, or demands of the church.

 E.  The Way of Longitudinal Themes

Clowney writes, “The Bible records revelation given in the course of history.  This revelation was not given at one time, nor in the form of a theological dictionary.  It was given progressively, for the process of revelation accompanies the process of redemption.  Since redemption does not proceed uniformly but in the epochs determined by God’s acts, so revelation has an epochal structure, manifested and marked in the canonical Scriptures.”

Clowney suggests:  Ask what truth about God and his saving work is disclosed in this passage?  How is this particular truth carried forward in the history of revelation?  How does it find fulfillment in Christ?

Major Old Testament themes which function as highways leading to the person, work, and teaching of Christ are the kingdom of God (reign and realm), the providence, covenant, the presence of God, the love of God, the grace of God, justice, redemption, law, sin and guilt offerings, God’s concern for “the poor,” mediator, the Day of the Lord, etc.

F.  The Way of Contrast

The way of contrast clearly centers in Christ, for he is primarily responsible for any change between the messages of the Old Testament and those of the New.  The person, the work, and the teaching of Jesus Christ are the main reasons for the contrasts we observe.

Look primarily for the contrast between law and gospel, or the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.  Progression will also necessarily mean that when something finds its fulfillment in Christ then that previous shadow or type will now become obsolete.

G.  The Way of New Testament References

The New Testament authors frequently use Old Testament passages to support their messages.  Many of these references (both explicit and implied) can be found in the appendix of the Greek New Testament, a good concordance, cross-reference Bible, or the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.



*Beale, G. K. “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?  An Examination of the Presuppositions of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ Exegetical Method.”  In The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?  Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New.  Ed. G. K. Beale.  Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1994, 387-404.

Clowney, Edmund P.  Preaching and Biblical Theology.  Nutley, N.J.:  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1975.

Clowney, Edmund P.  “Preaching Christ From All the Scriptures.”  In The Preacher and Preaching.  Ed. S. Logan, Jr. Phillipsburg, NJ:  Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986, 163-91.

Clowney, Edmund P.  Preaching Christ in All of Scripture.  Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2003.

Foulkes, Francis, “The Acts of God:  A Study of the Basis of Typology in the Old Testament.” In The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?  Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New.  Ed. G. K. Beale.  Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1994, 342-371.

*Greidanus, Sidney.  Preaching Christ from the Old Testament:  A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1999.



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