Posts Tagged ‘sermon series’

Jesus’ Words: My Father and Your Father, My God and Your God

March 12, 2013 2 comments

Nearing the end of S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, comes this interesting point regarding Jesus’ words after His resurrection, as recorded in John 20:17:

I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

This is one of many places in the word of God, where we see the amazing precision of the words spoken.  After all, why did Jesus say “my … and your …” instead of the overall term “our … and our…”?  In the precise language used, we see the distinction in kind between us as adopted children, and Christ the eternal Son.

S. Lewis Johnson explains it well, describing in precise doctrinal terminology the difference between our relationship to God as our Father, versus the relationship that the Son has to the Father within the Triune Godhead:

There is a sense in which His God is our God and His Father is our Father, but there is a further sense which we do not share with Him in the paternal relationship with the eternal God.  He can say that God is His Father by eternal generation.  We cannot say that.  We can say that God is our Father by temporal regeneration.  But He can say it by eternal generation.  He doesn’t need any regeneration.  His relationship is an eternal relationship of Son.  The Father is eternal; the Son is the eternal Son.  We are now sons by temporal regeneration.  So our relationship is different from His, and yet we call Him Father.

S. Lewis Johnson’s Systematic Theology Series

July 17, 2012 8 comments

A little at a time, I’m listening to the first messages in S. Lewis Johnson’s long, well-known Systematic Theology series: the only such audio series of such length and depth that I know of, with 126 messages covering many topics of systematic theology.  This series comes from SLJ’s early years at Believers Chapel, beginning in 1968 and ending sometime in 1972.  For these lectures SLJ mentioned two Systematic Theology textbooks for the students, ones from Louis Berkhof and Lewis Sperry Chafer, but the content so far stands on its own, without direct reference to topics only found in the textbooks and not explained by him.

The first two messages (what I’ve listened to so far) include an introduction to Systematic Theology and an overall “classical apologetics” approach to the question of the existence of God.  Having never taken any “theology” classes or read such books, the Systematic Theology introduction was interesting, with overview of the types of theology:

  • Exegetical theology: background of OT and NT, study of Greek and Hebrew
  • Historical theology: history of the doctrines of the church; start with the doctrine of Christ and what the Church has believed about it throughout the centuries
  • Systematic theology
  • Practical theology:  how to conduct a wedding ceremony, funeral service, other practical outworkings

The limitations of Systematic Theology are also well noted:

  • the finiteness of the human mind
  • the blindness of sin
  • the silences of scripture  (ref. Deuteronomy 29:29)
  • the imperfect state of science: God’s revelation in nature
  • the incompleteness of our knowledge of scripture
  • inadequacy of human language
  • illumination of the Spirit  (the Spirit has not revealed everything to us, and not all at once)

The second message takes more of a classical apologetics approach, though without specific mention of the terms, again as part of an introduction to Systematic Theology and discussion of the existence of God.  From the discussion here, as well as from googling through the S. Lewis Johnson transcripts, I observe that SLJ was probably only familiar with classical apologetics, since his only references to the topic appear to be referring to that type, along with references to earlier apologists including J. Gresham Machen and no mention of Van Til (at least as far as the transcript search indicates) or later presuppositional apologists.  At any rate, from my early Christian years of reading C.S. Lewis, I was familiar with the general (non-biblical) arguments for the existence of God (though I don’t recall that C. S. Lewis named the theological terms, but rather focused on the concepts themselves).  S. Lewis Johnson named and defined the precise terms here: the cosmological, teleological, moral and ontological arguments.

As shown in the full listing of the Systematic Theology series, later messages cover many topics including Theology Proper, prayer, angelology, anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, and Pneumatology.  I look forward to going through these topics in future sessions.

Michael Vlach Conference Series: Our Fantastic Future

June 4, 2012 4 comments

Here’s a good recent lecture series, from Michael Vlach at the Parker Bible Church (Parker, CO) 2012 Men’s ConferenceOur Fantastic Future.  This conference series was held in April, and the four parts are available for listening to online or downloading in MP3 format.

From the first message, an introduction to eschatology:

The Old Testament predicted several things

  1. The seed of the woman who will conquer the serpent, and the future reversal of the curse: Genesis 3
  2. Abraham and the nation Israel to bring blessing to all the earth: Genesis 12
  3. Scattering and restoration of Israel: Deuteronomy 30:1-10
  4. The Suffering Servant AND the Reigning Messiah.  Isaiah 52-53; Zech. 14; 2 Samuel 7; Isaiah 9, 11, other passages regarding the reigning Messiah.
  5. Day of the Lord judgment upon the world: Isaiah 13, Zeph 1, Isaiah 24, Joel 2-3
  6. Tribulation and Rescue of Israel:  Jeremiah 30-33, Zech 12-14, Daniel 7, Daniel 9
  7. Coming Earthly Kingdom: Isaiah 11, 9, Zech 14 and others
  8. Inclusion of Gentiles alongside Israel as God’s people:   Gen. 12:3, Isaiah 19:24-25, Isaiah 61
  9. Coming Career and Defeat of AntiChrist:  Daniel 7 and 9.

Since Messiah’s coming has two phases to it, a First Coming and a Second Coming, we should expect that certain expectations of the Old Testament would be fulfilled with Jesus’ First Coming while others await His Second Coming.

Why We Should Study Eschatology

  1. So much of scripture deals with the topic. Christ thought it important
  2. Fulfilled prophecy is strong evidence for the truthfulness and supernatural nature of the Bible.  Great testimony to the inspiration of scripture
  3. Major sections of the NT discuss events still to come after the First Coming of Jesus:  Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, 1 Thess. 4-5, 2 Thess. 1-2, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 4-22.
  4. Christianity offers a comprehensive view of reality, a world-view, including what will take place in the future.  The Christian world view has four major aspects:
    • Creation
    • The Fall, Sin — the human problem
    • The Answer:  the God-man, His solution for mankind
    • Restoration of all things:  we know where things are headed.  Acts 3:21, Colossians 1:15-20.
  5. Studying Prophecy can wake us up and make us alert to what God is doing in the world. God IS working in our history including our own time.

Tips For Approaching Bible Prophecy

  1. Be consistent by interpreting prophetic passages as you would other parts of scripture; the hermeneutical approach.
  2. Avoid an approach that interprets most of the Bible literally and contextually, and then spiritualizes or allegorizes the prophetic sections.
  3. When scripture does use symbols in the context of prophecy, remember that there is a literal meaning behind the symbols.  Literal interpretation takes into account symbols and figures of speech.
  4. Understand that God’s purposes for the future include both spiritual AND physical elements.  Romans 8 — this creation being restored.
  5. God has plans for both individuals AND nations.
  6. Understand that the Two Comings of Christ means that certain OT prophecies were fulfilled at His first coming while other things await the Second Coming.
  7. Be familiar with the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  The New Testament includes at least 250 quotations from the Old Testament, references which supply more of the background.  Beyond the direct quotations, the New Testament also includes many more allusions to the Old Testament.

Dan Phillips Sermon Series: Thinking Biblically

May 8, 2012 2 comments

Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips is now also the pastor at Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, and I’ve had a chance to listen to some of his preaching, including his introductory message to a new series, “Thinking Biblically”: understanding the Bible and systematizing theology.

The audio encryption rate is only 16 bits, thus the voice loses a little quality and sounds a bit metallic, but the words and message are clear enough.  After reading his online material for a few years, and his two recently published books, I agree with a friend who noted that his voice doesn’t quite sound like what I expected, and his preaching lacks the sarcastic humor seen online. (No doubt the sarcasm comes from the context of dealing with sometimes difficult people online, a different setting than a local Sunday morning sermon.)  I have noted some style similarity, though, as in his use of the word “evidently” both in audio and writing.

His speaking style is easy to follow, casual like his writings.  The content is a good example of what all preachers who claim to uphold “sola Scriptura” should preach: actually looking in detail at what the Bible says and what it means.  The first message, an introduction to the series, considers three basic questions, and answers them — with scriptural support, in a message that covered a lot of ground in a survey-style approach.

  1. Is it possible to define the faith?  (reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Hebrews 1:1-2)
  2. Is it desirable?  Should we put together what the Bible says? (reference Psalm 19, Psalm 119:1)
  3. Is it Necessary? (Matthew 28:18, John 8:31-32)

On this last point Dan noted the meaning of the word disciple:  a pupil, a student.  The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is not what people often think, that this means to go out and evangelize and save everyone.  The wording instead is “make disciples”: enroll students in the school of Christ. A good analogy here, regarding the error of just preaching the basic salvation message and “get everyone saved,” would be if a church were to decide to promote and focus on marriage, and to do so by having a bunch of wedding ceremonies.  “The wedding is only the beginning.”

Throughout the listening, I could not help but notice the very obvious contrast between Dan Phillips and the poor preaching seen recently at a certain local church:  actually doing what you say you believe, by actually teaching the content of the word of God and explaining why it’s important to study.  It’s all too easy to just skim the surface superficially, and make a whole sermon filled with general statements about how important and how valuable God’s word is, and how we uphold “sola scriptura,” and recount the story of Martin Luther upholding the faith, etc.  Such a message only becomes hypocrisy, though, when the one preaching it rejects the truth of Genesis 1 and errs at numerous other specific points of scripture, with a superficial and loose interpretive approach of “what it really means.”  Unfortunately, it fools a lot of people who only listen to those great words rather than the detail.  Yet how much more satisfying is this positive, Bible teaching message, of actually delving into the word of God and noting what the Bible says about itself and about everything else, and to our biblical worldview.

List of S. Lewis Johnson Sermon Series, by Date

September 15, 2011 4 comments

For those interested, and as a follow-up from discussion on the S. Lewis Johnson Appreciation Society (Facebook group), here is a list of all S. Lewis Johnson series with known approximate dates.  The dates listed come from the time references Johnson provided while doing his lessons.

Note: the full list is also maintained here at this facebook page, in the S. Lewis Johnson Appreciation Society group.

Old Testament Series New Testament Series
Genesis: 1978-1980 Matthew: 1975-1978
From Egypt to Canaan:
John: 1982-1983
Typology in Leviticus: 1978 Acts: 1984-1985
Lessons from the Life of
David: 1990-1992
Romans: 1980-1981
Isaiah: 1968-1969 1 Corinthians: 1993-1995
Daniel: 1979 2 Corinthians: 1987
Hosea: 1984 Galatians:  1980s?
Joel: 1978 Ephesians: 1981
Amos: 1986 Colossians: 1986
Jonah: early 1970s, Vietnam
war era
1 Timothy: 1976
Micah: 1982 Titus: 1971
Habakkuk: 1976-1977 Hebrews: 1992-1993
Haggai: 1977 2 Peter: 1975-1976
Zechariah: 1967 1 John:  1988
Malachi: 1977 2 John:  1988
Elijah the Prophet:
3 John:  1988
Gideon, and Samson, topical
series: 1978
Jude: 1991
Revelation: 1989-1990

Other (non-book) Series:

  • God’s Plan of the Ages: before 1965
  • Systematic Theology: 1968-1972
  • The Local Church: 1968
  • The Christian Faith: 1968
  • The Suffering Savior: 1974
  • Eschatology Series: 1976
  • The Theology of the Reformers: 1977
  • Christology – General: 1978
  • Paul and the Ministry: 1981
  • Great Lion of God – The Life of Paul: 1983
  • Messianic Prophecies in Isaiah: 1984
  • The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History: 1984
  • The Divine Purpose: 1985-1986
  • Eight Most Important Christian Truths: 1986
  • New Testament Revelation of the Messiah: 1987
  • The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy: 1992
  • Inconsistencies in Modified Calvinism: early 1990s
  • New Time Religion: early 1990s
  • The John Bunyan Conferences: 1996-2001
  • Evangelical Feminism and the Bible: 1992
  • Upper Room Discourse:  1979
  • Leading Figures in the Drama at Golgotha:  1967
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Early Church History (Pre-Reformation): A Believers Chapel Series

April 14, 2011 1 comment

I recently listened to the first half of Dan Duncan’s (Believers Chapel Dallas) Church History series:  15 messages for the pre-Reformation period.  He started this series in 2009, and is still teaching the second part, forward from the Reformation.  (At this writing, 14 more messages are available, up through Calvin part 4.)

Over the years I’ve picked up different aspects of Church history, from evening classes at local churches, as well as assorted articles on different topics, but this is the first church-class series I’ve seen that goes into fairly good depth especially concerning pre-1500, and that presents history from the evangelical, Calvinist premillennial viewpoint.  The lessons generally center on topics, such as the canon of scripture, martyrs, the heretics, bishops and popes (beginning of that system), and pastors and teachers (highlighted four men from the 4th and 5th centuries).  Additional sessions discuss Arius, Athanasius, and Augustine (three sessions).  Unlike most church history series, this one included two messages for the “Dark Ages.”  While I tend to disagree with his broad brush labeling of the full thousand year period as the “Dark Ages,” Dan Duncan did point out that it wasn’t all dark, and brought out several highlights from the period, including Anselm (11th century), a German monk from the 9th century, and Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), as well as a brief history and proper perspective of the Crusades.

What standard Augustinian Reformed churches won’t address, this series points out:  the replacement theology inherent in the Crusades (the Holy Land is now for us Christians who have replaced the Jews), specifics of what Augustine taught both good and bad, and that Catholicism formed from Augustine’s ideas.  Other past series I’ve experienced would teach a great deal concerning the Jerusalem war of A.D. 70 and the subsequent Bar-Kokhba revolt ( A.D. 130), but omit many of the early church history characters, only briefly discuss Augustine, and primarily teach the Reformation.  This series really doesn’t say a lot about the destruction of Jerusalem (a topic well known in many church history series but really not part of that history), except in passing comments about the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles in the Roman Empire.  Typical Reformed church history series will not mention Augustine’s connection to amillennialism and Catholicism — or if they do, uphold Augustine as on a par with inspired scripture.  In this series Dan Duncan devotes a full message to Augustine’s later years, the formation of his amillennialism, and a (brief) discussion of Augustine’s exegetical errors with reference to Revelation 20.

Even this series is a general overview, of course, and books always provide more details than can realistically be taught within a weekly church class.  Even two lessons to cover the whole Medieval period omits much —  though I expect the series will cover a little more, since one of the later messages (in the Reformation section) is titled “Forerunners.”  The lesson on the martyrs only discussed the majors among “the ten” persecutions, omitting the particular incident I personally appreciate: the martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicitas and a few others in Carthage in 202. Yet Duncan does teach about the Montanists (early Pentecostals) and Tertullian’s joining them, pointing out both their good and weak points; Perpetua and Felicitas were “almost certainly” Montanists as well.  Through this series I also learned about the modalists (original version of today’s oneness Pentecostals, who deny the trinity and say that God changed modes, from Father to Son to Spirit), and reviewed other important early theological battles concerning Christ’s human and divine natures as well as Arianism and Pelagianism. I also appreciated the additional information concerning Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux, men I had a little familiarity with.

Unlearning and Relearning Some Things About the Lord’s Prayer

January 27, 2011 Comments off

S. Lewis Johnson in his Matthew series (1975) has some interesting points concerning the well-known “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-15), including corrections to popular notions and uses of this text.

First, this prayer really should not be called “The Lord’s Prayer” — seeing as how our Lord himself never prayed it.  SLJ observes that John 17 would be a more appropriate passage to call the “Lord’s Prayer.”  The prayer in Matthew 6 could be called the “Disciple’s Prayer,” but as Johnson concedes, popular tradition will never leave and so we must refer to this as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Next, this prayer was never intended to be prayed as such, but rather was intended as a model for prayer.  Note verse 9:  “Pray then like this” (ESV), or “After this manner therefore pray ye” (KJV).  It certainly was never intended to be recited, week after week in endless repetition as is done at so many mainline churches.  S. Lewis Johnson experienced that at his church growing up — and the same was done at the church I attended as a child (during the same time period when he preached these messages).

Also, this prayer is a Messianic prayer — a prayer that anticipates our Lord’s return to establish His kingdom upon the earth.  But as SLJ noted, in the church age this has become confused, and “kingdom” has become a church word.  In S. Lewis Johnson’s words:

Now of course, when we think of the statement, Thy kingdom come, now it is usually colored by the fact that the term, kingdom, has become a church word.  And, often, it is identified with the church.  The church and the kingdom are confused in our thinking as a result of this common misconception.  But when this petition was first given by Jesus Christ, and he said, “Thy kingdom come,” he understood that word kingdom – as did those who heard him offer this model prayer – in the Old Testament sense of the Messianic kingdom that had been promised through many, many centuries of prophetic teaching.  They looked forward to the time when the Messiah would come and establish an earthly kingdom.  The length of that kingdom is not given in the Old Testament; it is given in the New.  But they spoke of the grandeurs of the time when God would reign upon the earth.

Now words in the New Testament are often interpreted in the light of the sense that they had in the developing revelation of God – that is, in the sense in which they had in the Old Testament.  So when we read here, Thy kingdom come, we are to understand that this is a petition for the coming of our Lord’s rule and reign over the earth.  Now I dare say that in most of our congregations in which this Lord’s Prayer is repeated Sunday after Sunday all over this land (just to mention the United States), that petition is not understood.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven:   Here we ask regarding God’s preceptive will, which is now done in heaven.  God’s preceptive will, the things that please God, is not now being done on earth; His decretive will is what is now done on earth.  In the future millennial kingdom, God’s preceptive will is what will be done, as evidenced in several of the Psalms that describe that age.

Forgive us our debts:  this speaks of “paternal forgiveness” rather than judicial and eternal forgiveness — the forgiveness of a father toward his children, to restore them into communion and fellowship.  The union is there, but forgiveness is needed to restore the relationship.


I realize that a great deal can be said on the other hand, but in my opinion, from the study of the Scriptures, there is such a thing as the paternal forgiveness, the forgiveness that a father renders to a child.  It is to be distinguished from the judicial and eternal forgiveness that we receive when we believe in the Lord Jesus.  When we see Christ as the one who has died for our sins, and when we have put our trust in him and receive the forgiveness of sins, that forgiveness of sins covers the past, the present and the future.  But, it has to do with the guilt of that sin; it has to do with that which destroyed the relationship that existed, and it makes it possible for the relationship to be restored – the relationship of union with God.

But within the family of God, just as within our own families – our own children – our own children may do things that displease us.  Now, this does not destroy the relationship, but it certainly destroys the communion.  It destroys the fellowship, and that, I think, is what is taught in the word of God, that when Christians disobey the Father, it destroys the fellowship.  It does not destroy the relationship.  It destroys the communion; it does not destroy the union.

What I continue to appreciate from S. Lewis Johnson is the depth of teaching — teaching that looks past the obvious surface level and draws out distinctions to help our understanding.  Many people get tripped up concerning God’s will, for instance, and fail to see the difference between God’s decretive will and preceptive wills.  Study of Samson (Judges 14-16) is a good case in point, as I noted previously concerning that topic.

The different types of forgiveness, judicial/eternal versus paternal, also help for understanding this model “Lord’s prayer.”  As with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, this prayer is for believers in this age, those awaiting God’s kingdom  — and so the prayer starts out with our addressing God as “our Father.”  The phrase “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” is thus in the context of a family, with a father and children, as well as how we as believers forgive each other — brought out more clearly in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18: 23-35.  I also can relate this to 1 John 1:9 and other passages  which talk about believers in fellowship with God.

Understanding these distinctions keeps us from error and confusion.  Knowing about the two wills of God, decretive versus preceptive, we can answer those who might suggest that Samson was obediently doing God’s will when he married a non-Israelite, or that David was just as much in God’s love and will when he sinned against Bathsheba as when he fought Goliath.

The distinction between judicial forgiveness and paternal forgiveness helps to avoid another misunderstanding:  that the Lord’s Prayer is one in which we continually lower ourselves to worse and worse points of despised wretched sinners worthy of God’s eternal wrath.  That is certainly the message needed for unbelievers, but not for those in God’s family (and not from this text at any rate) — but it distorts the Lord’s prayer while missing what the prayer does say about the love of God and our relationship to Him as His children.