The Exegetical Systematician: Are You an Evangelical?

“An evangelical is committed to certain well-defined positions regarding the Christian Faith. He is a trinitarian and believes there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…

The evangelical also believes that the Scriptures fo the Old and New Testaments are the infallible Word of God written, inerrantly inspired of the Holy Spirit, the only infallible rule of faith and life…

The evangelical believes that the eternal Son of God became man by being supernaturally begotten by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary and was born of her without human fatherhood. The Son of God came into this world by this means in order to save men from sin and for this reason he shed his blood upon the accursed tree as a substitutionary sacrifice. He rose from the dead on the third day in that body that had been crucified and laid in the tomb of Joseph. After forty days he ascended up to heaven and was highly exalted, reigns from heaven as head over all things until he will have subdued all enemies, and will return again personally, visibly, and gloriously to judge living and dead.

The evangelical believes that all men are lost and dead in sin, that there is salvation in none other name but that of Jesus, and that apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ Jesus men are irretrievably lost. He believes in heaven and hell as places of eternal bliss and eternal woe respectively and that these are the two final abodes of mankind. Evangelism, therefore, for the evangelical, is the proclamation of the gospel of Christ to lost men in order that they may be saved. He must proclaim this gospel with the urgency which the gravity of the issues of life and death demands. Evangelism is supported by the fact that Christ is offered freely to all without distinction and that God commands men that they should all everywhere repent.

This summary does not cover the whole field of evangelical belief. But it indicates what the identity of an evangelical is. If a professed Christian does not entertain the type of belief which the foregoing summary represents, then he is not an evangelical.” —John Murray, Co-operation in Evangelism

The Exegetical Systematician: The Fuel of Piety

There are true Christians who are so much given to what is called the ‘experimental’ in religion that they feed to a very large extent upon their own experience. This type of piety can become nauseating. When analyzed it is seen to be dishonoring to Christ and detrimental to true religion. It is true that piety produces experience, and the deeper the piety the deeper and richer will be the experience. But the point is to be stressed is that piety does not feed on experience. Piety feeds on Christ, on his truth, on the mysteries of God’s revelation, and on the promises which are all yea and amen in Christ. —John Murray, Some Necessary Emphases in Preaching

The Exegetical Systematician: Incompatible Power Adapters

“Oftentimes as an accompaniment of this [Arminian] conception of the message and of the response to the message there has been fostered a certain type of high-pressure appeal and of emotional excitement that is scarcely compatible with the sobriety and dignity that ought to characterize the preaching of the gospel, and scarcely consistent with the deliberateness and intelligence appropriate to the exercise of faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord.” —John Murray, The Message of Evangelism

The Exegetical Systematician: So Close

“The fact is that the Lord Jesus came not only into the closest relation to sinful humanity that it was possible for him to come without becoming himself sinful, but he also came into the closest relation to sin that it was possible for him to come without thereby becoming himself sinful.” —John Murray, The Death of Christ

The Exegetical Systematician: The New Validated the Old

The events of New Testament realization, as noted, afford validity and meaning to the Old Testament. They not only validate and explain; they are the ground and warrant for the revelatory and redemptive events of the Old Testament period. This can be seen in the first redemptive promise (Gen. 3:15). We have a particularly striking illus(ration in Matt. 2:15: ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son’. In Hosea 11:1 (cf. Numb. 24:8) this refers to the emancipation of Israel from Egypt. But in Matthew 2:15 it is applied to Christ and it is easy to allege that this is an exaniple of unwarranted application of Old Testament passages to New Testament events particularly characteristic of Matthew. But it is Matthew, as other New Testament writers, who has the perspective of organic relationship and dependence. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt found its validation, basis, and reason in what was fulfilled in Christ. So the calling of Christ out of Egypt has the primacy as archetype, though not historical priority. In other words, the type is derived from the archetype or antitype. Hence not only the propriety but necessity of finding in Hosea 11:1 the archetype that gave warrant to the redemption of Israel from Egypt.

In this perspective, therefore, we must view both Testaments. The unity is one of organic interdependence and derivation. The Old Testament has no meaning except as it is related to the realities that give character to and create the New Testament era as the fulness of time, the consummation of the ages. —John Murray, The Unity of the Old and New Testaments

The Exegetical Systematician: It’s Been the Last Days for a While Now

There are certain texts that are familiar or at least ought to be. They teach us the place in history occupied by the New Testament or, more precisely, the new covenant economy (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 9:26; 1 Cor. 10:11). The New Testament era is ‘the fulness of the time’, ‘the consummation of the ages’, ‘the end of the ages’, the consummating era of this world’s history. Correlative with this characterization is ‘the last days’ (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2; 1 John 2:18). These began with the coming of Christ: So the world period is the last days.

This implies ages of this world’s history that were not the last days; they were prior, preparatory, anticipatory. The last days are characterized by two comings, notable, unprecedented, indeed astounding—the coming into the world of the Son of God and the Spirit of God. In order to accentuate the marvel of these comings we must say that God came into the world, first in the person of the Son and then in the person of the Holy Spirit. They came by radically different modes and for different functions. But both are spoken of as comings and they are both epochal events. These comings not only introduce and characterize the last days; they create or constitute it. —John Murray, The Unity of the Old and New Testaments

The Exegetical Systematician: John Murray

I don’t believe the Bible is a book of heroes. The Bible does have heroes in it, but that is not what it is about. It is a book about the Hero. Nonetheless, I do believe in having heroes, and I believe it is Biblical to have them.

Heroes are not perfect, and thus they point us to Christ in three ways. Their faults (weaknesses and sins) point us to the Savior that they, and we, all need. With this foundation we learn two further truths concerning their strengths. First, they are a result of God’s gifting and working in them such that He gets all the glory. Second, their strengths also point us to Jesus by whom they are graded – Jesus is the ultimate curve breaker. All heroes are judged in relation to Him.

Every year I single out one hero to study in particular. This year I will study the life and works of John Murray.

John Murray was a Scottish theologian. Before ministry he fought in World War I serving with the Black Watch Regiment and lost an eye to shrapnel. After studying at the University of Glasgow he attended Princeton and then began teaching there, but soon left following J. Gresham Machen to teach systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1930. He remained there until 1966. He then married Valerie Knowlton and retired to Scotland; ultimately retiring from this world on May 8, 1975.

He is best known for his work Redemption Accomplished and Applied and his commentary on the book of Romans. Of that commentary John Piper has said, “Murray was a systematic theologian at Westminster but like Charles Hodge, he wrote an absolutely amazing commentary on Romans. In one sense, I don’t think any commentary has surpassed Murray in theological depth and precision on the book of Romans. The sentences are complex and carefully crafted and they are penetrating in the depth and scope of their theological richness.” At a lecture at Westminster, Piper added, “So in my early days, Romans was the key, watershed document to turn my world upside down. And you know who it was who guided me through Romans? John Murray. That is the most beautifully written commentary on the planet. People who write commentaries are not generally good writers. They patch things together… I read a sentence, and I just want to go back and memorize it because his eloquence is phenomenal. The work that must have gone in to the way he says what he says about the glories of Romans 5 or Romans 8 are amazing, so I thank God for John Murray.”