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Christ’s Sufferings In Type: Christology, S. Lewis Johnson

April 29, 2013 2 comments

S. Lewis Johnson’s Systematic Theology series, Christology section, again brings great lessons regarding biblical typology, with “Christ: His Sufferings in Type” (this audio message; transcript here).

As noted from previous S. Lewis Johnson typology lessons (also reference these posts, typology in reference to Joseph and David), a type is not some special technical term reserved only for the “types” explicitly called types in the New Testament.  Rather, a type is just another word for “illustration” or “example,” one that has specific characteristics, including historicity and pattern, with spiritual correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events within historical revelation – that is, within the Bible.  Typology is a form of prophecy: prophecy conveyed through history.  A type prefigures. A prophecy foretells.  The word type is not a technical term.  that Greek word is a word that does not have any special significance.  It means simply, example. 

Yet the idea of a special classification of only explicitly-named types is not unique to our day (reference this post), for S. Lewis Johnson responded to such a notion in this, the early 1970s Systematic Theology lesson, noting the following:

1)     The New Testament never says that Joseph is a type of Christ.  But there is not a clearer OT example of Jesus Christ than Joseph.  The NT does explicitly call Adam a type of Christ, in Romans 5.   Yet Adam is a type in only one particular point (a representative man), and is actually more to be contrasted with Christ in every other aspect.

2)    Jesus describes Himself as the reality of several Old Testament types, none of which are explicitly called types in the New Testament: as for instance the Temple, Jacob’s ladder, the manna in the wilderness, the brazen serpent, the smitten rock, the pillar of fire.

Also from this lesson: why is typology valid? God controls all of history, and so we observe that Old Testament events were designed by God to express aspects of the ministry of our Lord Jesus.

Now to some actual types of Christ’s sufferings:

In Typical Persons:

  1. Joseph: a man of dreams, dungeons and diadems.  Parallels to Christ in His suffering:
  • the object of the desire and heart of his father’s love.
  • Received a commission from his father to his brethren.
  • Rejected by his brethren, into captivity.
  • lived a life of humiliation (prison)
  • exalted to be a ruler in Egypt (Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father.)
  • acquired a bride in his exaltation; Jesus is acquiring a bride (the church).
  • used to bring about the restoration of his brethren.  Jesus at His second coming shall be used to bring about the restoration of Israel.

2. Moses.  New Testament reference typology: Stephen’s speech in Acts 7.  Moses was rejected by his people, same as Jesus is now rejected by His people Israel.

3. David.

  • Rejected, hunted by Saul, and persecuted. Lived in rejection, and gathered a group of troubled, depressed people to himself. Likewise Christ is now gathering a peculiar people to Himself.
  • Anointed king, then slew Goliath; then rejection. Christ at the cross slew Goliath; then was rejected.
  • David later came into his kingdom, as Christ will at His Second Coming.

In Typical Events:

  • Coats of skins in Eden, Genesis 3.
  • The Passover.  Exodus 12
  • The Smitten Rock — Exodus 17.  The rod that had turned the water of Egypt into blood.

In Typical Institutions:

  • The Tabernacle
  • The brazen altar, the mercy seat
  • The Priesthood:  ordination of the priests.
  • The Offerings: the day of atonement; the offerings in Leviticus 1-4; the offering for the cleansing of a leper
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Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy: Practical Christian Living AND Doctrinal Worldview Instruction

April 24, 2013 6 comments

For today, a follow-up to the Jerry Bridges conference post, concerning what is taught in the local church:  the balance between sanctification / practical Christian living, and discipleship & instruction in the Christian worldview.  As noted in the previous post, Bridges emphasizes holiness and sanctification — which is fine so far as it goes, provided we keep a balance that includes strong doctrinal teaching.

As an example:  in the Saturday night message Jerry Bridges favorably presented the story of a pastor who had been asked when he was going to do a sermon about homosexuality.  The preacher’s response was that he had no plans to do so, since he didn’t have any homosexuals in his audience, at his local church, and so homosexuality wasn’t a relevant topic for that congregation.

Yet as I’ve learned in the last few years — from listening to the preaching of John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson, Dan Phillips and others — a local church should also be instructing the people regarding biblical and real-life issues and a proper Christian worldview. A disciple is simply a student, so true disciples are learning not just orthopraxy, how to walk and grow in their personal sanctification, but orthodoxy.   After all, none of the individuals attending that local church may be homosexual, but in our increasingly anti-Christian society it is increasingly likely that the people in the local church may have at least some contact with others who are either homosexual or who advocate homosexuality.  Ironically, the morning brunch Q&A at that same conference included several questions from people about this very topic, including how to respond to others who favorably discuss homosexuality.

The discipleship part of a local church involves equipping the saints to understand the issues, to really understand the biblical response to said issue and not be led astray by the clever arguments put forth in the secular media.  This is also why John MacArthur occasionally delivers very good messages regarding the Christian and voting in political elections, and why preachers do, at least some of the time, teach concerning the issues of the day.

Even in S. Lewis Johnson’s day 20+ years ago, when the homosexual agenda in society was not nearly so advanced as today, he addressed the topic in this message, noting the purpose of such a message:

The reason I want to do this is because many of us, I’m sure, are not acquainted with some of the sophisticated arguments that have been advanced, by some thinking people even, to support the idea that homosexuality is a legitimate style of life.  We’ll talk more about the details of it, but it is possible to defend this in way that would be confusing for the general evangelical, and difficult to counter so far as many of us are concerned, because we haven’t even bothered to discover the reasons why homosexuality is presented as something like a third sex by the homosexual populous.

As I am now listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series (1994), I especially see how a preacher can directly teach about current social issues and our worldview, in an actual expository verse-by-verse Bible book series.  Now in 1 Corinthians 6, it is interesting to hear SLJ address social issues still with us: our litigious society of lawsuit-happy people; homosexuality; and the 1990s ecumenism of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement – and all in one message expositing 1 Corinthians 6:1-11.

The Corinthian Church: Over-Realized Eschatology

April 19, 2013 4 comments

Continuing through S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series  come some quite interesting observations from 1 Corinthians 4: the Corinthians’ eschatology.  I had read through Paul’s comments to the Corinthians at this point — where Paul sarcastically refers to them as already being kings, and wishing that they really were kings so that “we might reign with you” – but hadn’t really thought about the eschatological views implied in this section.

I don’t think the modern-day term “futurist premillennialism”  had yet been coined when Dr. Johnson delivered this message in 1994 (his last sermon book series), but here he gives an instructive overview concerning “futurist eschatology” and the then-new idea of “realized eschatology”:

 In theology, there is what is called futurist eschatology in which we look toward the future.  To see what the Bible has to say about the future we read Daniel.  We read the Book of Revelation.  We read the prophetic portions of the gospels and those prophetic portions of some of the epistles of the New Testament, the second epistles like 2nd Thessalonians and 2nd Peter, those epistles that seem to major on eschatology.  And we look into the future.  And our imagination sometimes takes over, and we seek to set dates for the things that lie ahead of us.  … one point that’s been made constantly: we do not seek to set dates.  But futurist eschatology is eschatology that centers on the coming of our Lord.

Now, theology today has invented a new term called ‘realized eschatology’, or ‘inaugurated eschatology’.  It’s very common, very popular with more liberal professing Christian professors, teachers, and preachers, because it’s an attempt, in one sense, to fight the emphasis on the future and the talk about the coming of the Lord, which to some people is a mistake — it’s not a mistake to me.  I think that’s something we ought to talk about.  We ought to have as a sense of imminence in our — imminency in our thinking about the coming of the Lord because the apostles did.  But there is a way in which we can overdo that.

And so in order to combat that, those who have held to this view have sought to stress those passages of Scripture that stress what we have already — what has already happened to us as a result of our Lord’s work on Calvary’s cross.

Fred Zaspel’s The Theology of Fulfillment is a good resource as well, concerning what we have now, along with an important caveat from Zaspel:  So in all of this “realized eschatology” we should not lose sight of the future. What we have today is the glorious realization of the OT hopes. But what lies ahead is more glorious still.  A significant hermeneutical guide arises out of all this also. That a promised blessing is realized here and now does not, ipso facto, rule out its fuller realization later. For example, there is nothing here that rules out the premillennialist’s hope of the future manifestation of the kingdom—nothing at all. That the age to come is present and coming is a matter of simple Biblical statement. And if there is already a realization of these blessings within history we should not be surprised to learn of a still fuller manifestation of them.

Colossians 1:13-14 is a good example of what we have now in “realized eschatology,” which  emphasizes our position (now) in Christ. From SLJ again:

Your position is in Christ, and you’re in the kingdom because you’re under His authority.  And that is, of course, a truth.  The balance between the emphasis on the future and the promises made to the Nation Israel and the promises made to the church in relation to Israel are very important, in the word of God; but it’s also important to realize the things that have taken place because the blood has been shed; atonement has been accomplished.

Moving past the idea of realized eschatology, we find the Corinthians – in their arrogance and puffed-up state – thinking that they have actually arrived, that they now have everything of the Christian experience: an overrealized eschatology.  S. Lewis Johnson’s comment here indicates that the term “overrealized eschatology” already existed by this time (1994) but did not originate with him:

 So evidently the Corinthians had what some of the interpreters have called an over-realized eschatology.  They not only looked to the future and looked to the present, but the present is so significant for them that they have already begun to reign.  They’re in the millennial kingdom right now, is the idea the apostle is underlining here. …

They should have been looking to the coming our Lord Jesus Christ and the entering into the kingdom of God upon the earth.  But already these individuals are in the kingdom.  Already they are full.  And so the idea of the kingdom was a place — was a kingdom in which men would have the things that they lacked.  They would have all the food, all the pleasure, all the luxuries, and they are in that kingdom before we are.  This is really an overrealized eschatology.  They thought they were in the kingdom already.

This lesson is certainly applicable to believers today, to keep the proper focus, that we have not yet arrived, that we do not yet already have everything of the Christian experience. As we look at what the New Testament says, including this passage in 1 Corinthians 4, we also affirm that this life is not the kingdom:

 what Paul regards as the present life is anything but a kingdom, in the sense in which they understand it.  He says:  “God has displayed us last, the last of the apostles, as men condemned to death for we have been made a spectacle to the world both to angels and to men.” The only glorious line — the only glorious thing that one can say about this is that we are following in the same train of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that would be glorious.

Jerry Bridges Conference (April 2013): Sanctification and ‘True Heavenly Mindedness’

April 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Author Jerry Bridges was the guest speaker at a church in the Memphis, TN area, for a conference this last weekend (April 12-14, 2013).  I haven’t read that much from Bridges, usually preferring the style and depth of Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and of course my favorite preacher SLJ, but have appreciated his conference messages at this church over the last several years. All his conference messages at this church – 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 – are available at: www . gracemessenger.com/index.php?id=777.  The conference theme this time was “True Heavenly Mindedness,” from Colossians 3, with emphasis on practical Christian living / sanctification.

From a then-free offer on Amazon Kindle, I’ve read some of Jerry Bridges’ recent book, The Transforming Power of the Gospel: an easy reading style similar to his other books and his talks, in which he mentions his early experience with two extreme forms of sanctification: moral rules to follow, followed by the Deeper Life Keswick movement (“Let Go, Let God”). In 1960 he came to understand true sanctification, that which is active, not passive.  We cannot ‘just let Jesus live His life through me.’ No, we are responsible. At the same time, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to both do His own work and enable us through His power to do the work we must do. Later chapters include  definitions of sin and repentance, and what spiritual transformation is.

A proper understanding of sanctification includes study of Colossians 3, and the conference messages deal with that chapter as well as Ephesians 4.  Another resource on this very topic, Jesse Johnson’s recent Cripplegate post critiquing another variation of the “Let Go, Let God” idea,  likewise notes the importance of Colossians 3, the part that another writer (Tullian Tchividjian) had completely skipped over:  I was asking myself, “ok, so what is he going to do with Col 3:17-4:6? I mean there is more to Colossians than the first half. What’s going to happen when he gets to the places where Paul tells us to be sanctified by actually fighting sin?” And wouldn’t you know it: other than explaining why those passages are powerless to sanctify you, he doesn’t deal with them. You really do need to look at his Scripture index to believe me: he deals with almost every single verse in Colossians, except the ones that have imperatives in them.  Jerry Bridges approaches the imperative passages in Colossians head-on, in several messages about “true heavenly mindedness” and practical Christian living.

I have only one point of difference from Jerry Bridges: his emphasis on sanctification and Christian living tends to neglect the proper balance between practical Christian living, and instruction in doctrinal/worldview issues.  Then again, this is the difference between a theologian or scholar, and a layperson Christian author who excels in what he does: well-written books for the mainstream Christian audience, especially about holiness and sanctification.

The Book of Hebrews and Futurist Eschatology

April 10, 2013 6 comments

Dr. Michael Vlach recently observed that there is “more futuristic eschatology in Hebrews than many realize.”  He mentioned particular references from his own study: Hebrews 2:8, 9:28, 12:26-27, and especially Hebrews 13:14.

Those are good verses for study, and here I also recall the Second Coming references in the verses cited in Hebrews 1.  In this previous post I noted several from S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, including Psalm 2, Psalm 89, and Deuteronomy 32, all of which in context refer to our Lord’s Second Coming.  The Greek translation of Hebrews 1:6 (and in some English versions – NKJV, NASB, HCSB, a few others) is also interesting:  “when He again brings His firstborn into the world” followed by a quotation from an OT text which is in the context of Christ’s ruling and reigning (Second Coming activities); see this previous post.

I remember when, in my daily genre readings, the Hebrews 9:28 verse suddenly jumped out at me. The local amillennial preterist church put considerable emphasis on the immediately preceding verses:  he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment – while ignoring the very next verse:

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Since the pastor at the same church picks one verse out of context (Hebrews 1:2) to justify the presupposition that all New Testament references to the last days are really talking about the Church Age (beginning in the first century), it really isn’t that surprising that the same attitude would emphasize the past work verses in Hebrews (such as Hebrews 9:26-27) while neglecting the next verse, one of several great references to our blessed hope of Christ’s appearing (see also Titus 2:13).  I have previously blogged about a Preterist distortion of another of the futurist texts, Hebrews 12:26-27: twisted reasoning that actually thinks the “great shaking” spoken of by Haggai the prophet, and referenced in Hebrews, happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  The time compression forced on the scriptures (see Alva McClain’s quote in this previous post), trying to “fit” all future eschatological events into what happened in the 1st century, is indeed deceitful handling of God’s word.

Since even the book of Hebrews includes futurist eschatology, it is not surprising to find that non-premillennial, non-futurist teachers have indeed given their own Preterist interpretations of the very texts which are futurist. Yet I still find it ironic that Hebrews, a book that does have so many references to events of the Second Coming, is made of such great emphasis among the very people who take a strong supersessionist (no future for Israel), Preterist, amillennial view of God’s word (the NCT community, referenced in this TMS audio lecture series).

As others have shared as well, it does happen (for me as well) that we sometimes experience such mishandling and misinterpretation of passages from God’s word, that whenever we read those passages, the wrong view is also remembered.  Yet we must go forward, focusing on right doctrine and teaching, recalling to mind the great positives in scripture as it actually is presented, as we continue looking forward to our blessed hope of Christ’s soon return.

Angelology: S. Lewis Johnson’s ‘Systematic Theology’ Series

April 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “Systematic Theology” series, I’ve completed the first year of the course, material originally covered in weeknight lessons during one fall and spring class year.  The last several messages in that section looked at Angelology.  The following are some interesting points brought out in those lessons.

Demon Possession in the Old Testament. From this lesson (message 26 in the Believers Chapel list): while the New Testament has many examples of actual demon possession, the Old Testament is generally silent, though with a few hints and references.  1 Kings 18:28 describes Baal worshippers slashing themselves, something believed to be demonic activity.  Another hint comes in David’s behavior before Achish in 1 Samuel 21:13-15, acting like a madman.  Interestingly, both David and Achish were familiar with such behavior, as in Achish’s comment to his men, “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow.”

As to why we see in the gospel accounts such a great outbreak of demonic activity:  One of the reasons  for Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil.  The spirit world was especially disturbed at His arrival.

Demonic Possession in Modern Times: Here we note that some restraint exists over the demons’ activity, outwardly, in Christian lands: reference 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the restraint of sin today.  Some demonic possession and demonic activity does occur, among occultic and spiritualistic peoples; but as we all realize, in Christian lands, Satan sees it better to disguise himself as an angel of light.  Thus, demonic activity exists, but of a different kind.  As SLJ notes in lesson 28 (this transcript) :

 you must not for one moment think that the dangerous man to Christianity is the man who attacks it. … The man who is dangerous is the man who claims to be a Christian and who stands in the Christian pulpit and claims even to believe the Bible but who does not really believe it and who does not really proclaim the truths that are contained within it and particularly the essential doctrines that concern the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Guardian Angels?  (lesson 27 / Transcript message 51) Scripture does teach that the angels minister to the saints, collectively, and come to our aid as needed.  I’ve read a few other Bible teachers who completely disregard the idea of an individual guardian angel assigned to each person. One objection I’ve heard is that, after all, we humans are mortal, and if we each have a guardian angel assigned to us, what does that angel do before and after our lifetime?  As I think about it, that objection doesn’t necessarily negate the idea, since it could be a “one to many” relationship, one guardian angel with many individuals throughout the course of history.  S. Lewis Johnson here sticks to the known (scriptures), noting the incident in Acts 12, especially verse 15 – “and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” (singular reference). So, whether the idea is true or not, the early church at least believed in the idea of a guardian angel.

The Restraint of Satan.  From lesson 28 (transcript PDF here): This last message in the Angelology course also deals with eschatology, Satan’s future.  From this message especially come several good quotes and observations.

1) The type of restraint of Satan, quite different from when our Lord was in the tomb:

how different the restraint of Satan is from the restraint of our Lord Jesus. You’ll remember that they set a seal upon the sepulchre. But He tore the bars away on the third day and came forth from the grave.  Satan is in the abyss with a seal upon it for a thousand years, and he would still be there, were it not for the fact that he really is to be released, in the future, in order that he might have a little season of further rebellion.

2)  The Divine Irony in Revelation 20:1-3:

“And ‘an’ angel laid hold of Satan and bound him and put him in the bottomless pit.” Now, doesn’t that strike you as strange?  Well, it should, you know why? Because Satan was ‘big fellow, master too much’ who bossed the angels in ages past, remember. He was the anointed cherub that covereth. He was the chief of the angelic host. And this is the irony of God: that an angel, just one little angel, is enough now to lay hold of the dragon and bind him in the bottomless pit. I think there’s a great deal of drama and divine irony in that little word ‘an.’

3) Regarding Our Human Sinful Nature, the reason behind why Satan “must” be released after 1000 years:

The world can never be unified except once. (I could say twice if we said, under Jesus Christ.) But only once, for you see, the one thing that we all have in common, in which we are completely united, is the one thing that prevents us from ever being united; and that is our sin. That’s why Marx could never get along with his friends. That’s why Lenin could never get along with his friends. There can be no unity in the human race, except finally in the unity of all directed against the Lamb of God.