Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Gospel of John & the Synoptic Gospels.

John is different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke which three are known as the synoptic gospels. The differences indicate that John may have wanted to supplement the other Gospels, which enforces the idea that it was written last among the Gospels's. He is writing 30 to 40 years later than the Synoptics. The differences between John’s Gospel and the Synoptics are:

  • Major material of the Synoptics is omitted from John such as the temptation, transfiguration, and the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, 93 percent of the material in John does not appear in the other Gospels.[1] 

  • Included in John is material not found in the Synoptics. This includes most of the first 4 chapters, the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11), and the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17).

  • John centers on the trips to Jerusalem, because it is the place where Jesus must be accepted or rejected. The Synoptic Gospels center upon the Galilean ministry of Christ.  John’s emphasis centers around and within Jerusalem.

  • John centers more on the personal ministry of Jesus,[2] whereas the Synoptics’ emphasis is on Jesus’ public ministry to crowds. Some unique features of John are interviews of individuals, rather than widely distributed public aspect of the ministry: Nicodemus (3:1-15); the woman of Samaria (4:1-26); Cana’s nobleman (4:43-53); the paralytic in Jerusalem (5:1-15); the blind man (9:1-38); and Mary and Martha (11:17-40). We also find attention to the personal ministry to his disciples: Andrew (1:40; 6:8), Peter (1:42; 6:68; 13:6-9; 18:11; 21:15-22), Philip (1:42-44), Nathanael (1:47-51; 21:2), Thomas (11:16; 14:5; 20:26-29), even Judas Iscariot (12:4-8; 13:26-30). John centers up personal contact, rather than the crowds and public ministry.

  • John’s emphasis is on the Deity of Christ. The emphasis is found in the “I Am” statements. In this epistle, Jesus clearly declares His deity in the “I am He” statements (4:26; 8:24; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8). This is in addition to the “I Am” statements (6:35, 41, 48, 51; 6:35, 41, 48, 51; 10:7-9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5. Direct teaching on the deity of Christ, such as the Logos in the prologue; affirmation of Jesus’ preexistence (John 1:1-8); the fact of incarnation (John 1:14); climax of Thomas’ confession (John 20:28). John’s Gospel, unlike the Synoptics, declares Christ’s Deity from the beginning. The Synoptics deal more with the humanity and office of Jesus as King. In the Synoptics Jesus’ deity is veiled until after Calvary.

  • While the Synoptics emphasize the Kingdom, John’s emphasis is on Eternal life. John refers to life (36 times), and kingdom only 5 times. Whereas in the Synoptics the word life is referred to a total of 16 times, but kingdom is referred to 120 times.

It can be debated if John used the Synoptic Gospels. There is no reason to believe that he did not know the Synoptics and their authors.  “Clearly he did not make extensive use of them in composing his own narrative.[3]  


[1]  Blum, Edwin A, BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY: JOHN (1983), 269.
[2]  Merrill C. Tenney, “John:” THE EXPOSITOR’S BIBLE COMMENTARTY, Vol. 9 (1981), 16-17.
[3]  Kostenberger, Andreas J., BECNT:JOHN, 17.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Preaching Ecclesiastes

I received my copy of Bibliotheca Sacra this week. In it, John Johnson has a very good study on “The Special relevance of Ecclesiastes for Contemporary Culture.” In part of the article he relates why we should preach from this book. They are:

  • Its form suggests it was written to be preached.
  • It is the Word of God.
  • It is great literature.
  • It is necessary for Pastoral work.
  • It speaks to the times.
  • It is a realistic appraisal of life.

He goes on to give clues to preaching the book. A worthwhile read.

[John E. Johnson, “The Special relevance of Ecclesiastes for Contemporary Culture,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, Vol. 169 Number 674, April-June 2012.]

Thursday, March 22, 2012


We are to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). If we are to preach the Word and be an expositor of the Word, then there are some important principles we must understand. Expository preaching does not just happen. It must be supported by four things:

  1. Theology. Understanding (as much as we can), God is fundamental. If we do not understand who God is and how He works, then we will miss the mark in our preaching. We must understand the importance of God and how He reveals Himself if we are to show our people God in our preaching. We must understand that the Word we preach is in God’s plan of His self revelation.
  2. Hermeneutics. This is the art and science of understanding the interpretation or explanation of the text. This is not unique to the Scriptures. All documents must be interpreted. However, in interpreting a document one must not go beyond its meaning, or distort the meaning. Thus, it is vital that we understand and interpret the text that we are preaching. Hermeneutics aims at understanding what was spoken, whom it was spoken to, and why it was spoken.
  3. Exegesis. Hermeneutics stands or falls on exegesis. Exegesis is the discovery of the meaning of the phrase or text to the original readers. The purpose is to understand the meaning to those living at the time it was written or spoken. It is letting the original author or speaker speak to you in his setting. Mickelsen says a good exegete is “not a spectator who merely tries to report flawlessly what actually happened. He is a participant who enters into what happened or was originally thought so that he can help his contemporary generation enter into the experience and thought of the original writer and readers or hearers.” [Interpreting the Bible, 57].
  4. Application. Most preachers are good on application, but not necessarily on exegesis. That can cause a problem. Because most who do not use in full or part the other pillars, can easily misapply the Bible. Application is applying the timeless word to present needs. An example of this may be applying the words “thou shalt not kill” to war, neglecting the fact that God used war throughout history to further his plan. If you do not get the other pillars right, then your application will not be right. Thus, application is misapplied because of the neglect of some of the pillars that exposition stands upon.
This means true expository preaching is work, but it is well worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paul and Team Ministry

A feature that is not often brought out is that Paul used team evangelism in his ministry. We are told in Acts that Paul and his companions were called to evangelize (Acts 13:2; 16:10). His European team consisted of himself, Silas, Timothy, and occasionally Luke. They lived and worked closely with one another. Paul seldom ministered alone. Team evangelism had several advantages: (1) Protection in travel. (2) Multiple gifts being used in a cooperative effort. (3) Mutual accountable. (4) Being a miniature model of the church as a body. (5) Mutual fellowship and support. (6) And increased efficiency and results. Team advantages still exist.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Paul exhorts us to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). Preaching “is the supreme work of the Christian ministry” said G. Campbell Morgan. One of the sad things today is that preaching the Word is missing in a large segment of our pulpits. Our pulpits are infiltrated with entertainment, psychology, and relativism, instead of anointed Holy Spirit preaching of the Word of God. When we do hear the Word, it is watered down with worldliness and humanism. Many times the preaching of the word is secondary to the church meeting. I was at a large church where the service was an over an hour long. In that hour we had a lot of singing, a drama skit, and a 15 minute sermon which made reference to the Bible twice. Many went out entertained, but few were edified. That is the state of affairs in many churches today.

I agree with Douglas White who says “preaching is primary…expository preaching is paramount” (The Excellence of Exposition, p. 16). What is expository preaching? Haddon Robinson I believe gives the best definition: “Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.” (Biblical Preaching, 20).

Two ingredients are necessary for expository preaching:

  1. It must be Bible centered. This does not mean it is preaching about the Bible, nor using the Bible as a textual anthology or illustration. It means that the preaching deals with Bible truth. Its aim is to explain the truth from a biblical text and context, to make plain to the hearer the meaning and to apply that meaning to their needs. It is always textual in source. The point of the message must be the natural result of truth that is drawn from the passage. Thus, the preacher must spend time with the text comprehending the meaning and application that the text offers to his people. His job is to bring out of the Scripture what is in it, and not put into the text what is not there.
  2. Its aim is Biblical instruction and application. The aim of preaching is edification. However, preaching is NOT just teaching. Teaching is centered in the intellect; preaching aims at the heart and will by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Teaching is didactic in order to impart knowledge. Preaching is truth aimed at the will, calling for a reaction to the truth heard by the listener. The expository preacher must struggle to apply the Bible to his hearers. He wants them to see, feel, and act upon the truth of the passage or text. He wants to edify, not simply educate. When the truth of the passage is taught and applied to accomplish a reaction from the hearer, true expository preaching has taken place.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


An exposition of Acts 15:22-29

After James’ recommendations, the resolution involved a decision by the Apostles and the church to choose some “men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22). These two men were from the leadership at Jerusalem. It is felt by many that Judas was the brother of Joseph Barsabbas (1:23). Silas being a Hellenist would give him better insight into the Greek environment and situation. We do know that Silas became a companion of Paul. Whatever the case, these two were chosen to authenticate the decision made at Jerusalem.

With these men there was a letter recorded by Luke which had the following features:

·         The senders: “The apostles and the brethren who are elders…” (Acts 15:23). There can be no question this came from the leadership and congregation in Jerusalem.

·         A regional address: “to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles.” It was addressed regionally because the problem was not strictly a local problem. Bock suggests it was widely distributed to inform as well as prevent the spread of this problem.[1] We also know that it had a much wider circulation because Paul circulated it in the cities that he visited (cf. Acts 16:4). We also know that Silas traveled with Paul on the second journey probably to authenticate the letter (cf. Acts 15:40-41). The intent was to reach all the churches that may have had this problem.

·         The reason for the letter: “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15; 24-26). This is one sentence in the Greek text. In this we see two things: First, they identified and acknowledged the problem caused by their own number. Who were these that came from Jerusalem? The phrase indicates that they were Jewish Christians, likely Pharisees who still thought that the gospel needed to be supplemented by the Law, especially by circumcision. It is also clear that while they may have claimed authority from the apostles, however, this was not the case. A disclaimer is found in the phrase: “to whom we gave no instruction.” Thus, any claim of authority from James or any apostle was a misrepresentation to say the least. The result was that they had disturbed and unsettled their souls of the Gentile believers. This was clearly a reference to the teaching of circumcision. Second, they made a unified decision. The apostles and leadership were of “one mind.”  They are sending the decision with Paul and Barnabas and two other men whose integrity is beyond question. The feelings of the apostles and the church for Barnabas and Paul are indicated by a statement of love (beloved), and respect by the phrase, “men who risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

·         Identity of their representatives: “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things [by word of mouth]” (Acts 15:27). By stating the names of the representatives in the letter, it gives these men authority to authenticate the letter and the events that took place at the council. By giving their names, Barnabas and Paul could not be accused of substituting others in their place. This also indicates the importance of the document. It clearly reinforces the decision made as a approval by the Twelve and the Jerusalem church of the ministry of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles apart from the Law.

·         Their report: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:28-29). The words “it seemed good” should not be taken as opinion, but it is language of a formal decree.[2] This decree is significant in that: (1) this decree is divinely sanctioned. Note it is not just the formal decree of men, but of God the Holy Spirit. (2) That “no greater burden” be placed upon the Gentiles; meaning circumcision and the Law. The Greek is stronger than the English translation, it is a present infinitive, thus indicating now and in the future there will be no greater burden placed upon you. The evangelism of the Gentiles and the message of grace would be without hindrance. (3) What are conveyed to them are the essentials. These are not mere suggestions. The Greek word is epanagkes meaning necessary things and carries the idea of compulsion. The Greek word is found in the N.T. only here. It is necessary not only in sensibility to the Jews, but to the worship of God; to prevent offending Him. It is the avoidance of idolatry and immorality, especially in reference to pagan ritual and religious practices. They are to abstain (apechesthai) from things sacrificed to idols, blood, strangled meats, and fornication. We see the fourfold repeated use of the word “from,” a genitive of separation. The prohibitions speak of sanctification, not salvation. (4) These will have a unifying benefit. “The idea seems to be that keeping the prohibitions would be spiritually and relationally beneficial. By keeping the prohibitions, Gentile believers would be in harmony with the Holy Spirit, the Jerusalem church and other Jewish believers.”[3] They would not offend God or the Jews if they keep these prohibitions, thus keeping the door of evangelism open to the unbelieving Jews. (5) They have an encouraging benefit among the Gentile churches. (6) It had the effect of establishing Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles.

[1]  Bock, ACTS, 511.
[2]  Witherington, ACTS, 469.
[3]  Sevelle,  “A Reexamination of the Prohibitions in Acts 15,” BIB-SAC, October-December 2004.  467.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Last Oracle of Malachi

Malachi 3:13-4:3

What good is it to serve God? The unsaved seem better off. What cynicism is at the forefront of the people and their attitude! They do not consider their service to God important. In fact they say to serve the Lord is vain (3:14). They may decide to abandoned good for evil. When that happens the difference between good and evil blurs. Moral absolutes are minimized, and evil becomes acceptable.  After all, it seems to work for the world. They seem to escape the judgment of God. The problem of evil and evil doers has caused concerns among the people of God for generations. Cynicism of God turns to complacency toward serving God. They see service and worship of God as worthless.

But God does not abandon his people: “I will spare them” (3:17). The Lord knows those who fear Him. The motivation to serve God is His faithfulness and their future hope. This hope is both positive and negative. God will remember. He keeps the accounts and holds man accountable.  That day is evitable. That day will bring two results: First, God will act on behalf of his people. Second, he will destroy the works of evil.  It will be a day in which divine sovereignty and human accountability will meet face to face. Because of this the prophet warns them not to become either cynical or complacent, but to spring forth in action, tread down the wicked, and serve the living God. As believers, “God will not remember our sins (Isa. 43:25), he will remember our righteous acts …as well as our tears (Psa. 56:8).”[1]

[1]  E. Ray Clendenen, NAC: HAGGAI, MALACHI, 445.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pet Peeves about Books

I have two main pet peeves about publishers of books.

  1. Those authors and publishers who do not put indexes in their books. In this day of computers there is no excuse for not having an index.
  2. Those authors and publishers that put footnotes in the back of their book or chapter, instead of the bottom of the page. Especially true of more academic or bible study books. It is a pain to look up a footnote in the back of a book. To me it interrupts the flow of study because of having to flip back and forth.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thoughts on the Fifth Oracle of Malachi

Malachi 3:6-12

There are two objections and responses in this oracle: (1) You have turned aside from My statues and have not kept them. Return to me…. They say, “How shall we return?” (2) You are robbing Me…. They say “How have we robbed Thee?”  Both of these condemnations point to one root of the problem: Selfishness!

Selfishness reveals our attitude toward our property. Selfishness denotes that we think of our property in the terms of ownership, not stewardship. Ownership reveals a selfish heart and fortification mentality. The truth is we own nothing, we only borrow it. Selflessness recognizes that all we have is held as a sacred trust from God. We are stewards of it, not owners.

Selfishness holds back. It reveals a lack of faith. It says to God that we really do not believe Him.  Small giving and small blessings go hand in hand. If we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. Selfishness will never receive the benefit of generosity from God, and others.   

Our selfishness holds things back from God. In reality, it robs God of fellowship, not our money. Selfishness robs God of our time, talent, and heart. It robs Him of our blessing, and us of His liberty to bless us.

Friday, March 2, 2012

State of the Church

A recent study by the Barna Group found that almost 60% of Christian young people, 15-29 have left involvement in a church. David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group says, "Christianity has become so hip so watered-down, so about entertainment--and they are looking for something of more substance." In short the Seeker-Friendly Movement which was designed to attract this group, has driven them away. When will the Church stop dancing with the world and get back to proclaiming the Gospel?

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Grace is the manifestation of unmerited favor toward us. It is God's love in action, which reaches down to us to save us. Two vital characteristics of grace: Grace is free. Grace is unconditional. Grace cannot be acheived, it can only be received.
Scripture reveals at least 4 types of Grace:
* Saving Grace (Eph. 2:8-9)
* Sustaining Grace (Rom. 5:1-2, 2 Cor. 12:9)
* Sanctifying Grace (Titus 2:11-13)
* Satisfying Grace (2 Thess. 2:16-17)
God's grace is always available at the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16).