Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Darrell L. Bock / Mitch Glaser (editors)
Kregel Academic / Grand Rapids / 2012

If one wants to know the issues and overall importance of Isaiah 53, this is the book for you. It grew out of a conference by Chosen People Ministries and “written to help readers to utilize the truth of this magnificent chapter in bringing the Good News to those who do not yet know Jesus” (page 21). It was written “to pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders who regularly preach and teach the Word of God” (page 28). To accomplish its task it deals with this great chapter in three parts: Interpretation, Biblical Theology, and Practical Theology.

Part 1: Interpretation.

This title is somewhat deceptive, in that it deals more with the history of interpretation than actual interpretation. It is divided into two chapters; the first is Christian Interpretation of Isaiah 53 (Richard Averbeck). He clearly declares his conservative approach believing against many scholars in one Isaiah as the author who went through a number of stages in life and prophetic activity. He upholds the older view that there are three historical types of interpretations of the servant passage: (1) the single servant view; (2) remnant within Israel; and (3) the nation as a whole view. He argues for the single servant view but centers upon the idea of suffering, sacrifice, and atonement by the servant. The heart of the debate, as well as the heart of this chapter, has centered upon the vicarious, sacrificial substitution in Isaiah 53. It spends considerable time on the idea of the guilt offering, and upholds that the suffering servant brings redemption and restoration to the Jews and the world.

The second chapter deals with Jewish Interpretations of Isaiah 53 (Michael Brown). He identifies his purpose is “to summarize the main lines of traditional Jewish interpretation...with special reference to the objections to Jesus that arise from the text, offering concise responses...” (page 62). He confesses that the predominant view in Jewish thinking is that of corporate Israel. He looks at this interpretation with excerpts from the main Jewish commentators (Raski, Ibn Ezra, and Radak). His remarks in answer to this view center around linguistic objections, it is in conflict with the messianic rabbinic literature, contextually the servant as a person and cannot be dismissed. He spends some time showing that Gentile nations are speaking throughout the passage cannot be sustained. He notes the inconsistency of the main Jewish interpretation and upholds the chapter speaking of the suffering servant making atonement for sin.

Part 2: Biblical Theology.

This part is clearly the heart of the book and is divided into 6 chapters. Walter Kaiser writes on The Identity and Mission of the Servant of the Lord. Overall he does a good job showing that the servant is Jesus. However, I do not think he handles the plural references well; it seems to be somewhat weak. It is also a difficult chapter to follow and challenging to grasp. Michael Wilkins takes on Isaiah 53 and the Message of Salvation in the Gospels, but centers more on Matthew. It focuses on two questions: Did Jesus see Himself as the servant of Isaiah 53? What is our perspective of Jesus in light of Isaiah 53? He answers that Jesus understood his mission as the Servant was fulfilled in his obedience, which the church (or disciples) did not fully understand until after the resurrection. Isaiah 53 in Acts 8 by Darrell Bock is one of the shortest chapters, but one of the most powerful. He deals with the conflict between the Hebrew texts (Masoretic / LXX) and the interpretive problems. It deals why the use of Isaiah is important. He deals with the problems very fairly. Craig Evans deals with Isaiah 53 in the Letters of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and John. He deals with the contribution of the theologies of these men. David Allen deals with Subtitutionary Atonement and Cultic Terminology in Isaiah 53. It is the key mission of the suffering servant. The result of the work of the suffering servant is reinforced by Robert B. Chisholm Jr in the chapter of Forgiveness and Salvation in Isaiah 53.  

These chapters are very important. However there are things that must be pointed out. First, much of the book is technically intense, which limits the use by laymen. Second, knowledge of Hebrew is helpful and needed in some cases. Third, there is much repetition and rehashing of points, a result of the nature of different writers.  While not necessarily a drawback, these do complicate things for an average reader without some training.

Part 3: Practical Theology

John Feinberg deals with Postmodern Themes from Isaiah 53. He shows that Isaiah is relevant even in the postmodern age. Glaser talks about Using Isaiah 53 in Jewish Evangelism. He notes the merits of using this passage with Jewish people and its foundational use for their coming to an understanding of the work of Jesus as the suffering servant. Donald Sunukjian gives us helpful steps to the Preaching Isaiah 53.

The book conclusion is written by Bock giving a summation, and some helpful charts. This is followed by two Appendixes; one is an Expositional Sermon, the other Dramatic-Narrative Sermon both by Sunukjian.

Overall, this work is unique, thorough, comprehensive, and an apologetic resource. It is an indispensable resource for the evangelical view of Isaiah. Its value outweighs the weaknesses. A welcome addition to any Pastor’s library.

I received this book free from Kregel Publications for the purpose of reviewing it. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why Pay the Pastor?

1 Corinthians 9:1-14

There is an old joke that the church prays "Lord, you keep the Pastor humble, we will keep him poor." Recently I have seen the issue raised in social media. I would like to remind people what Paul said about paying the Pastor. Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, he gives six reasons to pay the Pastor.

1. Because of His Position and Service (9:1-4)
2. Because it is the natural order (9:5)
3. It's God's Law (9:8-10)
4. It is Just (9:11-12)
5. It is common religious practice (9:13)
6. The Lord directed it so (9:14).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Read Jeremiah 1

Jeremiah is one of the most neglected Old Testament Major Prophets. Most believers rarely read it and most preachers rarely preach from it. Viewed by some as a weird guy, he was called and wrote one of the largest books in the Old Testament.  As we begin our brief studies there are two things that should be clear to us: First, it was written under stress, being faced with a community is in crisis. Second, into this situation is a man called of God to be his vice of judgment to his own. Not a popular place to be. However, to some degree all believers find themselves in such circumstances in the age of secularism.

As you read Jeremiah 1 we are confronted with the man and his call from God. There are 4 aspects to the call of Jeremiah:
  1. Hearing God (1:1-8). We begin by noticing that the interchange is one-to-one. “The word of the Lord came to me saying...” (1:4). The call of God is intensely personal. Each call is unique. Like many of us when we hear the call of God, we make excuses. It makes us realize our inabilities. How to handle our view of inability? Petersen notes three things about this:[1] First, It is not wrong to admit your own inadequacy. Second, be honest with God. Third, do not fear the will of God.  God often calls the weak (cf. 1:26-31). God tells Jeremiah that He knew, sanctified, and ordained him for his office.
  2. Touch of God (1:9-10). God assures him of his call and his empowerment for service (1:9-10). The touch of God was a common element in the call of God in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 32:25; Isa. 6:1-7; Daniel 8:18). The touch of God is the transfer of power of enablement. Whom God calls, God enables. The touch was an act of purposeful and deliberateness of empowerment. The touch makes the difference between success and failure. “Human inadequacy and inexperience provide the occasion for divine enablement” notes Thompson.[2] Whom God calls he enables (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7). The prophets believe in God’s word to accomplish to do what He says He will do (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11).
  3. Seeing the Vision (1:11-16).  God gives Jeremiah the visions of the almond rod and boiling pot. Vision gives clarity to the mission. First, is the almond rod. This first vision’s meaning is prompted by a play on words. The Hebrew word for almond tree is shaque which triggers the word shoque (watching), which is seen as confirmation of God’s faithfulness to His Word. Jensen points out:
The connection of the vision and the application may be seen in the fact that the almond tree, blossoming around January, was the first tree to awaken from the long winter’s night, its blossoms appearing before the leaves. The symbol of awakeness befitted God’s Word, for though His people had settled into a dark, cold sleep of spiritual dearth, His Word was ever awake, watched over by Him, bringing about it daily unalterable fulfillment of sovereign design.[3]
I am watching over My word to perform it” (1:12). This is a note of assurance even in the midst of crisis. Second, the boiling pot (or cauldron used for cooking or washing) gives the message of the prophet. The Hebrew text signifies winds were kicking up causing the fire to overheat the pot and it was boiling over. The boiling pot indicates the political crisis of the time that was among the nations. A great evil from the north was to overflow against Jerusalem. This refers to the Babylonians that would come against the nation (cf. Jer. 25:9, 39).[4] This invasion is judgment upon the nation for they had forsaken God in two ways: (1) Worshipped false Gods for they have “offered sacrifices to other gods.” (2) Idolatry for they “worshiped the works of their own hands” (1:16).  These display their unfaithfulness, which God had warned would bring judgment (Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 28:15-68). Jeremiah’s main message was that of judgment. 
  1. Doing it (1:17-19). Jeremiah was to just do it. He was to give the message to the people. It is clear to accomplish this task that Jeremiah has to gird his loins (1:17, cf. 1 Peter 1:13). He is to speak God’s word. When one does the will of God and speaks for God some of the strongest opposition comes not from without, but from within. One must not fear his audience (cf. Gen. 15:1; Acts 27:24). God promises to protect him against his own people (1:18-19). One must preach the Word no matter what (2 Tim. 4:2).

What was special about Jeremiah? Nothing! God uses ordinary people to preach His word resulting in extraordinary accomplishments. Jeremiah is to trust in Him and obey His will in spite of his fears, inexperience, and inadequacies.

[1]  William J. Petersen, JEREMIAH: THE PROPHET WHO WOULDN’T QUIT, [Victor Books,
[2]  J.A. Thompson, NICOT: JEREMIAH, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1980], 148.
[3]  Irving L. Jensen, JEREMIAH: PROPHET OF JUDGMENT, [Moody Press, Chicago, 1966], 20-21.
[4]  While some think it refers to a Scythian invasion, the strong evidence is the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians. See R.K. Harrison, INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1969], 803-808 for a study of the views. 

Monday, March 9, 2015


Preaching is not only necessary, but it is primary for the Pastor. G. Campbell Morgan wrote: “The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching.”[1] That is more true today than ever. In the last couple of decades there has been a movement away from strong expository preaching to more, what I would refer to as watered down devotional preaching, centering upon what people want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. Sin has been censored from the pulpit, salvation is degraded to self liberation; and the message of the Word into psychological babble.

Merrill Unger pointed out some years ago that there are four things that produce the state we find ourselves in today in regard to preaching:[2] 
·        The prevailing lack of a Bible centered emphasis in the pulpit.
·        The movement to ecumenicity.
·        The worldliness of the church compromises our preaching and produces powerlessness.
·        Secularism of our educational and institutional system.

How can we prevent these things from happening in our ministry? The only one who can change and counter this trend is the Pastor. The only method that will counter this is the preaching of the Word. It starts with you as a Pastor. May I suggest three things to renew your excitement about preaching? It starts not in the pulpit, but in your person.

First, prepare yourself, not your sermon.  There must be a preparation of the messenger, before he can prepare the message. This order is never to be reversed. This takes determination and time. Each day must have a time to prepare yourself to speak for God, by meeting with God. This is so easily lost in the hustle and bustle of demands of the day. In the day of social media, it may mean turning off Facebook and facing the Book and its author. Preparing yourself means reading the Word, not for a sermon, but personal stimulation and devotion. Lloyd-Jones warns us that “One of the most fatal habits a preacher can ever fall into is to read his Bible simply in order to find text for sermons. This is a real danger; it must be recognized and fought and resisted with all your might.”[3] While devotional books are good, devotional time with God and His Word is better. It means praying. Prayer is vital, yet we fail in this point more than anywhere else in our relationship with God. Without prayer the result is our sermons are characterized by intellectualism rather than spirituality.

 In meeting with God we should:
  • Clear our minds, or in the words of Douglas White, “We must think ourselves empty.”[4]
  • Read ourselves full.
  • Pray ourselves clean.

Second, remember the duty of preaching. As you begin, stop and think of what you are doing. What you are opening is the Word of God, not just some book.
·        It is the Divine Source of Truth (John 17:17).
·        It is the Divine Authority (2 Timothy 3:16). It is God’s breathed out Word; inspired, inerrant, and all authority.
·        Your Divine Mandate (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching is the Divine method of bringing salvation and edification to your people.
You have a sacred duty to God to preach His Word. Thus, we must be students of the Word. If you are empty, your sermons will be empty. Be filled with the Word and fully preach it.

Third, remember to be dependent in your preaching. You do not preach alone, or should not. You must recognize your dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Unger warns us that, “To enjoy the full, untrammeled teaching ministry of the Spirit he must also be yielded to God’s will, adjusted to God’s purpose, and under the full control of the Spirit’s wisdom and power.”[5] The power in your preaching comes not from your ability (as great as it may be), but your availability to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers your words, convicts your people, and saves their souls.

We are channels for the springs of living water, not the reservoirs of knowledge. People need to drink of the springs of living water, not swim in the deep reservoir of your knowledge.

[1]  Quoted by John MacArthur, PREACHING, [Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2005], 4.
[2]  Merrill f. Unger, PRINCIPLES OF EXPOSITORY PREACHING, [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1973], 12-16.
[3]  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, PREACHING & PREACHERS, [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1972], 172.
[4]  Douglas M. White, THE EXCELLENCE OF EXPOSITION, [Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune NJ, 1977], 97.
[5]  Unger, 58. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Books of Preaching

Every preacher should read one book a year on preaching. It will help keep him sharp and mindful of his task and obligation as a preacher. Here are my favorites:

  1. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, PREACHING & PREACHERS, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1972. The best I have ever read, and I learn from it every time I read it. It speaks to the heart of the preacher.
  2. C.H. Spurgeon, LECTURES TO MY STUDENTS, AP&A, Grand Rapids, 1972. Dated, but timeless in much of its content.
  3. Merrill F. Unger, PRINCIPLES OF EXPOSITORY PREACHING, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1955. Not a ordinary how to preach book, deals more on principles of being an expositor than how to put a sermon together.
  4. Haddon W. Roberson, BIBLICAL PREACHING; THE DEVELOMENT AND DELIVERY OF EXPOSITORY MESSAGES, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1980. One of the best of how to put a sermon together and thinking on what each step should entail.
  5. Douglas M. White, THE EXCELLENCE OF EXPOSITOION: PRACTICAL PROCEDURE IN EXPOSITORY PREACHING, Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune NJ, 1977. Helpful in the overall aspects of expository preaching, brief in parts, but an over all good presentation. You will see some humor in his outlines of sermons, but mainly centers upon importance of expository preaching. 
What is your favorite?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ages or world?

Hebrews 1:2

The Son is the agent of creation—“through whom also he made the world” (1:2). The idea of agent is clearly indicated by the prepositional phrase: “through whom.” There is some debate, however, as to the meaning of the Greek word aionas, translated world in all the major translations. This is not the normal Greek word for world (kosmos). The word used here primarily means a period of time, an area, duration, or age. It is clear that time is an element of the word. Sasse notes it is “a long but limited stretch of time...signifies the time of duration of the world, i.e. limited by creation and conclusion.”[1] However, he also points out that the word “can pass over into that of the ‘world’ itself, so that aiwn approximates closely to kosmos” (Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6; 3:19).[2] Many identify the word strictly as synonymous with the material universe, i.e. the physical world.[3] I believe such a narrow view is a mistake, and that it should be translated “through whom he made the ages.” I hold this view based on the following:

(1) Making it synonymous fails to take into account the full meaning of the Greek word by dismissing or doing away with the time element of the word. The common meaning is age. While it is said that its meaning here and in Hebrews 11:3 cannot be restricted to “ages,”[4] neither can the restricted view of the material universe be upheld.
(2) This does not dismiss the material universe, but suggests the plan or course of ages through which the material universe must past. Just as the physical material world must follow its set course in the universe, so it must follow the set course of the ages or dispensations in the plan and purpose of God.
 (3) The text is plural in the Greek it is not limited to the material world. The singular would have been used if it were speaking simple of the material world.
(4) Both the ages and world were created at the same time (Gen. 1). Time is clearly an element of creation, seen clearly by the dividing of evening and morning. Also it is indicate by the word days in Genesis 1. Time is a clear element of creation.

I agree with Newell, aionasrefer(s) to those processes in each age by which God is bringing to pass His great purpose.[5] God has ordered and arranged the ages through Christ. 

[1] H. Sasses, aiwn,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids], 1:202.
[2] Ibid, 204. 
[3] Hughes, HEBREWS, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids], 39-49; Ellingworth, NIGTC; HEBREWS, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids],96
[4] F.F. Bruce, NINTC; HEBREWS, [Eerdmans, Grand Rapids], 4.
[5]  William R. Newell, HEBREWS: VERSE BY VERSE, [Moody Press, Chicago, 1947], 10.