Posts Tagged ‘Expository Thoughts’

Interpreting the Old Testament

March 3, 2011 Comments off

As S. Lewis Johnson often said, Bible study really can be fun. My recent readings (daily Bible readings, plus blogs and articles), and sermon lessons have suggested many different ideas for further study. We always can learn more from God’s word and gain greater insights, no matter how much we think we already “know.”

One continuing topic of interest for me has been the proper use of the Old Testament versus the New. Along that line, I have observed different views  such as with using typology as related to Christ’s cross and crown, as well as general understanding of the literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

Recently I listened to an S. Lewis Johnson miscellaneous message, concerning George Ladd and the spiritualization of the OT texts. Since then, I’ve enjoyed reading some of Expository Thoughts’ recent articles on the topic, and learned that Michael Vlach has recently started a blog.

From Matt Weymeyer’s comments here, comes an excellent point concerning Luke 24 (the Emmaus road):

According to Jesus, the primary problem with the two men was foolishness and a slowness of heart which prevented them from believing what was plainly revealed about Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:25). The point is this: Many people today are saying that the Old Testament cannot be properly understood apart from the light of the New Testament, but Luke 24 suggests the exact opposite. Because Jesus rebuked these two disciples for not believing all that the prophets had written about Him (Luke 24:25; cf. John 5:39-47), He must have expected them to be able to read, understand, and believe what the Old Testament taught about Himself apart from the light of New Testament revelation (since the NT had not yet been written). If the Old Testament cannot be understood apart from the New, these disciples could have legitimately responded to Jesus’ rebuke by saying: “How can you say that we are foolish and slow to believe the Old Testament since we are not even able to understand it apart from light which has not yet been provided?” This is not to deny that Christ is the pinnacle of redemptive history, but rather to say that Old Testament revelation could be understood by its original audience.

Second, the christologizer erroneously claims that because Jesus taught the two men from “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27), then every passage in the Old Testament can be understood to refer to Him in some kind of direct (although subtle) way. A seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13) simply would not have permitted that type of exposition. More importantly, Luke 24 states that Jesus explained Old Testament passages which contained “things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). This does not mean that every Old Testament passage contains things concerning Christ, but rather that He explained those passages which actually do. Likewise, when Jesus said that “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44), this does not mean that everything in the Old Testament is about Him. Instead, it simply means that all those things which are written about Him will be fulfilled.

Michael Vlach’s blog features an overview article that lists the seven approaches to NT use of the Old Testament. Of these seven, I am most familiar with approaches 1 (Single Meaning Approach), 2 (Sensus Plenoir), and 4 (Spiritualization/Reinterpretation of the OT) — beyond this, I find it harder to note the specific differences (in actual examples).

As with the Luke 24 instance above, scripture itself informs us of the proper way to understand the Old Testament — on its own, on the same level-ground as the New Testament and not dependent on the NT to further explain it.  Jesus expected the disciples to understand the truth about His death, burial and resurrection, from the only scriptures that they had, and charged them with dullness of heart for not understanding it.

To say that we must have the New Testament in order to properly interpret the Old Testament is a serious charge against God’s immutability and God’s character.  For that would mean that all of those people living in the Old Testament age could not have really trusted that God was telling them the truth — for whatever they thought they believed, God later changed it.  By that same reasoning, how could we, living in the NT age, really be sure that God is now telling us the truth and that He will not change and give new, contradictory revelation in some future age after we have died?

The “Mark Dever attitude”: Confusing Revealed Biblical Doctrine with Food and Drink

July 20, 2010 Comments off

Recently the local preacher, in a message supposed to be an exposition of 3 John, expressed a Mark Dever kind of attitude (and see further discussion at this post also) in his inability to distinguish between true lesser matters such as eating and drinking, and the oft-classified “second-order” and “third-order” biblical doctrines.  Specifically, he lumped one’s view of eschatology into the same category as the disputable matters of eating meat sacrificed to idols and one’s view of food and drink, as something that people should not divide over or even break fellowship over — and he even laid the charge that those who would divide over something so unimportant are really the divisive ones.

Not surprisingly, he did not put forth as an example the difference between Calvinist and Arminian doctrine — something of which Christians do have different understandings, and do separate over.  Believers also separate over ideas concerning spiritual gifts — cessationists and continuists.  They also divide over modes of baptism and the Lord’s Supper — all matters which the Bible reveals far less information about than it does concerning Christ’s Second Coming.  Regarding creation, another supposedly “less important” doctrine, the Grace to You and Pyromaniacs blogs have done an excellent job of pointing out the importance of that doctrine and overall biblical inerrancy and authority.

God has given us a vast amount of revelation and teaching concerning the Second Coming — far more than the New Testament has to say concerning these other doctrines over which, as we all know, Christians have “divided” into differing fellowships.  See, for instance, S. Lewis Johnson’s statement concerning the number of times baptism and the Lord’s Supper are mentioned in scripture, as compared to mentions of the Second Coming.  Eschatology is not something obscure or hidden from us and thus to be equated with food and drink.  Eschatology is not a minor thing that begins in Revelation or even Daniel — it begins in Genesis (with the Abrahamic covenant).

To quote Matt Weymeyer again:

many Christians are self-proclaimed, sometimes even proud, agnostics when it comes to their view of the end times, and unfortunately, many of them seem to be content to remain in the dark when it comes to what God has revealed about the future… God has revealed too much about this issue for us to be content with being agnostic.

I’ll also add here my agreement with Expository Thoughts’ latest blog:   “I told my students to believe that the text was written by God – if you can’t understand something written in the text, it’s your fault, not the author’s.”

The person who classifies eschatology as something on the level of food and drink (and charges those who think differently with sin and divisiveness) only reveals his own lack of understanding, his own neglect of the study of scripture, and arrogance in presuming to stand over God’s word and decide which doctrines are and are not important.  As Caleb Kolstad pointed out in reference to this similar attitude from Mark Dever:

“I also don’t think he takes into account the point that not everyone agrees on what second-level matters are and what third-level matters are.  For Pastor Dever’s church family, eschatology is a “Third-order issue” …  Fine, but if another pastor or local assembly decides this is a second-level matter for their particular church body don’t call it “sin” brother.”

And now to what the Bible does have to say regarding the specific doctrine of eschatology.  The same apostle Paul who emphasized getting along and doing no harm to the less mature brother regarding meat sacrificed to idols, also went to great lengths to warn the Gentiles against arrogance regarding the natural branches (Romans 11:18-20) and to teach the truth concerning the status of Israel now and in the future (Romans 9 through 11) — and throughout his teaching in Acts and the epistles continually affirmed the future hope for his people Israel.  The same apostle John who spoke out against Diotrephes in 3 John, also delivered the clear premillennial teaching, a Revelation from God, in his final contribution to the New Testament canon — a teaching so well understood in the early church that it was affirmed by John’s successors in the second century, and Justin Martyr in the late 2nd century would also affirm that all who were right-minded (true believers) also held to this truth, the future thousand year millennial reign of Christ.

In closing, I turn to much more edifying words, the great wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon.  From sermon #123, “Particular Election” — on the matter of making one’s calling and election sure:

do what the Scripture tells you—“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” … study well the Scriptures and get knowledge. For a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm your faith. Try to understand God’s Word. Get a sensible, spiritual idea of it.  Get, if you can, a system of divinity out of God’s Bible. Put the doctrines together. Get real, theological knowledge, founded upon the infallible Word. … And when you have done this, “Add to your knowledge temperance.” Take heed to your body—be temperate there. Take heed to your soul—be temperate there. Be not drunken with pride. Be not lifted up with self-confidence. Be temperate. Be not harsh towards your friends, nor bitter to your enemies. Get temperance of lip, temperance of life, temperance of heart, temperance of thought… Get temperance and then add to it by God’s Holy Spirit patience. Ask Him to give you that patience which endures affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur in your sicknesses.  That you may not curse God in your losses, nor be depressed in your afflictions. Pray, without ceasing, until the Holy Spirit has nerved you with patience to endure unto the end.  And when you have that, get godliness.