Archive for August, 2010

The “Miscellaneous” Sermons: One-time, Non-Series messages

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

It still amazes and delights me to see, over and over, that a good expository preacher always delivers a good message, at a consistent high level.  I noted this some time ago, in reference to Phil Johnson’s sermon on Psalm 2 — a message he delivered when he was “busy” and only had a half-day to prepare a message, so turned to a Psalm, something easier to prepare — and then delivered a great verse-by-verse expository message.

Recently I completed S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series, and before starting the next longer series (Isaiah) I am taking a break to listen to some of his “miscellaneous” messages, one-time sermons he gave — in this case a sampling from the Old Testament, including Psalm 40, Isaiah 9, Psalm 84, Psalm 100, and Genesis 49.  Since these are one-time, separate messages from various times in his ministry, I really didn’t expect as much as I do when coming to a full in-depth series.  But I was pleasantly surprised after listening to the Psalm 40 message, and again I am impressed with his depth of teaching — a lighter content than, say, the Divine Purpose series, but a good message nonetheless.  The weak preacher (who casually remarks that he hadn’t even heard the term “hermeneutics” until he was 50 — and considering the consistent lack of depth, I believe it) can never attain to the level even of a good preacher’s one-time, non-series message through one of the Psalms.  It does relate to each person’s talents and fruit; one who lacks a basic foundation for teaching and preaching, will consistently remain at that level; and the preacher who is solidly grounded in his biblical understanding will always deliver a good sermon with the “meat” that growing believers thrive on.

SLJ probably delivered the Psalm 40 message in the early to mid-1980s.  He sounds younger than in the “Lessons from the Life of David” series (by which time he was 75 years old, in 1991), and he mentions a particular preacher, Vance Havner, as one who is still alive and preaching though now in his 80s.  (An Internet reference noted that Havner was born in 1901 and died in 1986.)

Among the main points of this message:  Psalm 40 is a Messianic psalm, and we look at David as a type of Christ — though not a perfect type, as the type can never be completely like the real thing.  C.S. Lewis thought that the reference in verse 12 to “mine iniquities have taken hold upon me” meant that these were sins imputed to the Lord Jesus on the cross.  Yet, S. Lewis Johnson points out,

never does any writer of the New Testament, never does any gospel writer, never does any apostle, never does our Lord himself, sanction the application of any passage of the Old Testament to him, to Christ, in which that writer confesses and deplores his own sinfulness.  So this would be absolutely unique.  It would be a situation in which the Old Testament writer speaks of the sinfulness of himself and that passage would be referred to the Lord Jesus, and it would be the only illustration of that….

David is a typical figure; he is the king of Israel.  And in this he represents the Lord Jesus who is the king, not only of Israel but also of all who shall reign with him in the kingdom that is to come.  Being a typical figure, he does not illustrate our Lord perfectly.  No type ever perfectly represents the anti-type.  So David illustrates him in his life, in his office as king, in his life, and in his words but he does not illustrate our Lord in his whole life, nor in all his words.

This Psalm does not state the specific event associated with David’s deliverance, and that too provides us benefit, that we can apply the lesson in a general way.  David may have been delivered from a fight with a bear, but that deliverance really doesn’t relate to us in our 21st century city life.  The psalm talks about the “new song” that the Lord has given us, and so Johnson exhorts us to look beyond past deliverances — to look past the initial salvation experience and seek fresh experience in the Lord’s blessings to us.  As SLJ put it:  But after you’ve been a Christian for a little while you ought to have some new songs of deliverance, some new experiences of the grace of God, the result of fresh experiences with Him.


Various Scripture Thoughts: Bible Reading, J.C. Ryle

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

From my recent Bible readings in a modified Horner Bible Reading plan:

Reading through Matthew 14 and 15, I especially note the spiritual condition of the disciples at this time.  In the same chapter — verses 14:2 and again in 14:26 — we see examples where both King Herod and the disciples were naturally fearful and superstitious concerning supernatural events.  Matthew 15:15-16 further emphasizes the point that the disciples too were “without understanding.”

James 1:27true religion … to keep oneself unstained from the world. A good supplement to this is J.C. Ryle’s Practical Religion, chapter on “The World” and biblical separation.  James 1:27 is one of the verses he cites in this chapter.   A brief excerpt:

When I speak of “the world” in this paper, I mean those people who think only, or chiefly, of this world’s things, and neglect the world to come–the people who are always thinking more of earth than of heaven, more of time than of eternity, more of body than the soul, more of pleasing man than of pleasing God. It is of them and their ways, habits, customs, opinions, practices, tastes, aims, spirit, and tone, that I am speaking when I speak of “the world.” This is the world from which Paul tells us to “Come out and be separate.”

1 John 3:17 and Matthew 25:31-46 are a good pairing for the same day’s reading, for the general reference of how we treat others, including the sins of omission.  This also reminds me of J.C. Ryle’s words, again from Practical Religion (“Riches and Poverty“):

But isn’t this exactly in keeping with the history of the judgment, in the 25th chapter Matthew? Nothing is said there of the sins of commission of which the lost are guilty. How does the charge read? – “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” [Matthew 25:42-43]

The charge against them is simply that they didn’t do certain things. On this their sentence is based. And I draw the conclusion again, that, unless we are careful, sins of omission may ruin our souls. Truly it was a solemn saying of a godly man, on his deathbed: “Lord, forgive me all my sins, but especially my sins of omission” [Usher].

Jude 5 (List 3)  also nicely complements the reading of Numbers 13 (List 2), for a vivid reminder of the specifics that Jude here refers to.

From recent readings, some historical references:
From 2 Kings 23:31 and 24:18 I noticed that Kings Jehoahaz and Zedekiah, sons of Josiah, were both born to the same mother.  2 Kings 23:36 indicates that Josiah had at least one other wife, the mother of Jehoiakim.

From the early chapters in 1 Chronicles (yes, generally more tedious and boring chapters to get through), come a few interesting things related to several Old Testament Bible characters.  These chapters include the reference to Jabez (made famous in a book several years ago), and also reference to Bathsheba’s family.  1 Chronicles 6:4-8 explains that the line of Zadok, so prominently featured in the time of David and afterwards, came from Aaron’s son Eleazar.  Verses 33-34 explain what 1 Samuel doesn’t (1 Samuel 1:1 says his parents were Ephraimites), that Samuel was a Levite, of the Kohathite division.

Amos 3:14 is apparently another prophecy concerning the destruction of Bethel, what Josiah later did (2 Kings 23:15).  The first prophecy had come long before, in 1 Kings 13:2, but Amos is writing at a mid-point, in the time of King Uzziah, still many years before Josiah.

Future Israel: The Seed of Abraham

August 24, 2010 5 comments

I’m now reading through Barry Horner’s Future Israel, which includes many examples of the wrongs brought about by supersessionist eschatology.  I previously noted that often the people who are already prejudiced against Jews, upon conversion to Christianity, will choose a theology that suits their own ideas, and thus replacement theology is a natural fit for such individuals.  Yet I also see his main point, that we can judge a particular eschatology, discern whether it’s right or wrong, based on the type of fruit it yields.  Does the Augustinian Church replacement view produce Christians with the same fervency, passion and love that Paul expresses in Romans 11, that he almost wishes he were cursed and cut off, for the salvation of his people Israel?  Only a right biblical understanding of Israel’s place in God’s Divine Purpose can understand that kind of compassion for Jews.

In chapter three of Horner’s book he gives a point-by-point refutation of the points in an “Open Letter to Evangelicals” (p. 66 and following) by anti-Zionists, for a good contrast between the two belief systems.  Here he addresses the common mistake of confusing the unconditional Abrahamic covenant with the conditional Mosaic covenant.  (See my previous blogs about the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, from S. Lewis Johnson’s Divine Purpose series, for further information.)  The following is a good explanation concerning the different aspects of the Abrahamic covenant:

From Future Israel (page 72):

(From the Open Letter):  The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham were made effective through Christ, Abraham’s True Seed (Gal. 3:16).  … Since Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the Abrahamic Covenant, all who bless Him and His people will be blessed of God, and all who curse him and his people will be cursed of God. (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:7-8)  These promises do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel.  The people of God, whether the church of Israel in the wilderness in the Old Testament or the Israel of God among the Gentile Galatians in the New Testament (Gal. 6:16), are one body who through Jesus will receive the promise of the heavenly city, the everlasting Zion…

Horner responds by pointing out, first, that Jesus Christ is never said to be the “mediator of the Abrahamic covenant.”  But even if we grant that idea, that does not do away with the additional use of seed (in the Abrahamic covenant) in its national meaning:

Furthermore, the seed of Abraham has application to Christ according to Galatians 3:16, but this in no way invalidates the “seed” of Genesis 12:1-3 being the nation of Israel anymore than does “seed” in Genesis 13:15; 17:7.  The exegetical reason is that God says to Abraham, “your descendants (seed)” shall be as the innumerable stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5).  These references are to the nation of Israel, not exclusively to Christ as an individual.  Paul’s employment of midrash (a distinctive Jewish, applicatory interpretation) incorporates Christ as the root of promised blessing without at all denying the obvious promise of national blessing, the plurality of “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).  Plainly the terms of the curse/blessing in Genesis 12:2-3 principally refer to the national seed here, notwithstanding the textual manipulation which betrays a difficulty that the obvious sense presents.  To be sure, Christ is the ground of covenant blessing, but this does not nullify national blessing as is plainly indicated.

What’s Next: Commuting with John Bunyan and “Pilgrim’s Progress”

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

In the last year of commuting time (which isn’t that long of a commute), I’ve enjoyed listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Acts” and “The Divine Purpose” series.  Next, I plan to listen to a Librivox recording of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

I first read Pilgrim’s Progress in the late ’90s, when a church in the area had this book as their Sunday evening study topic. At that time I never purchased a print copy, but downloaded and printed off the online text from Gutenberg’s website of public domain books. Since then I’ve located a good free audio recording of it, from Librivox’s catalog of recordings — also available from  I’ve listened to a few parts of it, but never all the way through.  Another good media source, based on Pilgrim’s Progress, is the 2008 movie, a very good adaptation especially considering the usual quality of  low-budget Christian movies.  Steve Camp has also done a great song, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” with references to some of the characters and events in the book — click this link for a good YouTube presentation.

In the last year of reading Spurgeon sermons, I’ve again become aware of the great treasure to be found in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,”  which Spurgeon often referenced in his sermon illustrations – a fact also mentioned by more recent great preachers including S. Lewis Johnson, and Phil Johnson.

It’s been a while since I’ve actually read the book, and so now I’m looking forward to these commutes: a good time to listen to sermons as well as good quality books.

Update:  The following link lists several online resources for Pilgrim’s Progress commentaries and study-guides:

Horner Bible Reading System: Further Enhancements

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Update:  New Facebook discussion group for the Horner Bible Reading plan and variations on it.

My current Bible reading, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, consists of eight lists, some of which have two chapters at a time:

List 1:  Gospels, 1 or 2 chapters per day, 71 days
List 2:  Pentateuch, 1 or 2 chapters per day, 115 days
List 3:  Epistles (Romans thru Jude), 2 chapters per day, 60 days
List 4:  Job and Proverbs, 1 chapter per day, 73 days
List 5: Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon — 2 chapters per day, 85 days
List 6: Old Testament History, 2 chapters per day, 124 days
List 7:  Prophets, 2 chapters per day, 125 days
List 8:  Acts + Revelation, 1 chapter per day, 50 days

This list has brought about some good reading sets, such as the time recently when List 7 included Joel 1 and 2, followed by Acts 2 in the next list.  But then I started looking at the “lowest common multiple” factor, and realized that two of the list combinations will repeat and re-align within less than a year.  Lists 7 and 8 match up every 250 days, or every other time through the prophets list.  Lists 3 and 8 match up every 300 days — every 5th time through the epistles.  Not that many different combinations after all, at least for those three sets of readings.  A useful tool for calculating the lowest common multiples:  the Microsoft Excel LCM function, a quick way to experiment with different list lengths and find out how often the lists will re-align with each other.

After considering greater changes to Lists 3 and 8, but preferring the overall setup, I opted for a fairly minor change that will increase the “lowest common multiple” factor from 250-300 days, to several years of different reading combinations:  shift the length of lists 3 and 8 a few days, by moving 2 Peter and Jude from the general epistles list to the Acts+Revelation list (in-between Acts and Revelation in the sequence). After this change, list 3 is 58 days, and List 3 is 54 days.  It’s an arbitrary shift, though I did consider the content of the different books in coming up with this change:  2 Peter does relate to Acts (the apostle Peter), and also relates a great deal to eschatology and the Second Coming.  Jude — which comes just before Revelation in the canon for a reason, as Mark Hitchcock has put it — has similar content to 2 Peter 2, and warns about future apostasy and false teachers.  Since I only recently read 2 Peter and Jude (in list 3), I’ll implement this change in a few months on a subsequent reading through the epistles.

Exegeting through Revelation 20 with S. Lewis Johnson

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m now finishing the MP3 files for S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Divine Purpose” series, a 37-part series he taught in 1985 and 1986.  The last several messages (messages 31 through 36) are a subset that exegete the content of Revelation 19 through 21.  Here are some of the highlights:

It is said that the test of orthodoxy is our view concerning Christ’s First Coming.  But the test of spirituality is our view concerning the Second Coming.  From S. Lewis Johnson, in message 31 of the series:

… the test of orthodoxy is a person’s belief concerning the First Coming of the Lord Jesus.  Was the Son of God incarnate?  Did He go to the cross?  Did He offer an atoning sacrifice?  Was He buried?  Was He raised from the dead, in bodily form, on the 3rd day?  Those great events do have a great deal to do with our orthodoxy.  But the test of spirituality is our views concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

Now, the apostles, whether they would have agreed with that precise statement or not, would have agreed with the sense of it, because in 1 John chapter 3 in verse 3, the Apostle John writes concerning the appearance of our Lord, he says, “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”  So the thought of the Second Coming, the belief in the Second Coming, is a purifying hope.  So we don’t apologize for speaking about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

In Revelation 20:4, the words “came to life” (in reference to the saints who came to life for the thousand years) are the same Greek words and grammar as used in Revelation 2:8, where these words are spoken of Jesus “who died and came to life.”  If amillennialists want to maintain that Revelation 20:4 doesn’t really mean physical resurrection (but only spiritual rebirth), here is one problem (among many others).  If these saints are not physically resurrected, then how can it be said that Christ was physically resurrected?  These are the same words used by the same author — the apostle John — in the same book of Revelation — yet we are supposed to throw out the normal meaning and usage of words, to fit a preconceived scheme (amillennialism) first thought up several hundred years after Christ?

Revelation 20:6 is an interpretive beatitude:  Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. A common feature in apocalyptic literature — such as Daniel and Revelation — is that a vision (often symbolic) is given, followed by the interpretation.  Here is one such case of this pattern:  the vision in Revelation 20:4-5, and the interpretation in Revelation 20:6.  Yet in both the vision and its interpretation, the phrase “a thousand years” is found.  Anybody think the apostle John is trying to make a point, that it really means a thousand years?

From message 35 in the series, concerning Revelation 20:7-10, the “fifth last thing” (the final rebellion):   the words “Gog and Magog” are well-known from Ezekiel 38-39, and often a look back is helpful in understanding the many Old Testament allusions John provides in Revelation.  However, in this case we find that the term “Gog and Magog” is used in a different way.

In the Ezekiel passage, Gog is a person/ruler, and Magog is a land.  In Revelation 20, Gog and Magog are used as a reference to “the nations in the four corners of the earth.”  In Jewish literature, the expression “Gog and Magog” is used to refer to the forces of evil — just as we use certain expressions, such as “Waterloo,” to refer to something other than the actual word Waterloo itself.  This usage from the Jewish literature, which the apostle John was familiar with, certainly fits within the context of Revelation 20:7-10.

S. Lewis Johnson also speculates — on something the text itself doesn’t state — as to a possible reason for how Satan is able to deceive the nations.  We do know from other passages that during the kingdom Israel will have the preeminence and special favor, so a likely reason for the uprising at the end of the thousand years could well be their jealousy of Israel.  Psalm 66:3 and Psalm 110:2 are additional Old Testament texts that may suggest that men feign obedience during the kingdom.

We also can learn, from Revelation 20:7-10, that our God is a non-frustratable deity.  Even Satan’s rebellion, and all of our sins and man’s sins, bring glory to God and accomplish His purposes.

The Seven Last Things: Revelation 19 – 21

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson, in the last set of messages in the Divine Purpose series, mentions the seven last things associated with our Lord’s return, as described by John in Revelation:

1.  Christ Returns — Revelation 19:11-16
2.  Final Conflict with the Beast and the False Prophet — Revelation 19:17-21
3.  The Binding of Satan — Revelation 20:1-3
4.  The Kingdom of the Messiah — Revelation 20:4-6
5.  The Last Conflict — Revelation 20:7-10
6.  Great White Throne Judgment — Revelation 20:11-15
7.  New Heavens and New Earth — Revelation 21