Moody Bible Literacy (1 Peter 1:13–17)

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The Bible is moody, in a perfect way, and you need to know what sets off the mood swing. Sentences have moods. In the original language 1 Peter 1:3–12 is a single elephantine sentence. Some sentences really should run on. Clarity, brevity, and simplicity are virtues, but sometimes the subject is too grand to distill. Sometimes the matter really is that complex, deep, and wondrous. When we enter into salvation in all it’s fullness, I believe such run-on sentences of praise will be commonplace.

This whopping sentence is in the indicative mood. It indicates. It simply states the facts. But this is no stoic, “just the facts, ma’am.” This is good news. This is the gospel.

Following this hefty sentence are three lightweight ones in vv. 13–17. These sentences are in the imperative mood. They command. But the mood of this mood is still joyful.

When the Bible changes moods, you shouldn’t. For this to happen, it is essential that you see how the imperative and the indicative relate. A “therefore” lies between them. One mood produces the other, and it should always be the indicative first. The imperatives follow the indicative.

This is always the case for God’s people. Covenant, promise, and redemption came before Sinai. When God gave the law he prefaced it saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Here you have the same two kinds of sentences and the same “therefore” is implicitly understood to lie between them.

As the commands of God are planted in the soil of God’s grace, they are a tree of life. Try to plant them somewhere else, and you’ll only get poison apples.

Sinner, if your life has been nothing but one long stuttering incomplete imperative sentence, hear this gospel exclamation. What you cannot do, Christ did. He kept the law and bore the wrath of God for sinners so that all who trust in Him might have their sins removed and His righteousness imputed to them. If the Spirit takes that sentence deep into your soul and causes you to be born again, then you’ll find that your mood has changed, a mood that loves all the moods of the Scriptures.

The Exegetical Systematician: Scripture Isn’t Deficient, We Are

“It is here that the doctrine of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit enters. And this doctrine is to the effect that, if faith in the Word of God is to be induced, there must be the interposition of another supernatural factor, a supernatural factor not for the purpose of supplying any deficiency that inheres in the Scripture as the Word of God, but a supernatural factor directed to our need. Its whole purpose is to remedy that which our depravity has rendered impossible, namely, the appropriate response to the Word of God. In this respect the internal testimony is co-ordinate and consonant with the Scripture itself. The Scripture is pre-eminently redemptive revelation; it is remedial of sin. The internal testimony is but another provision of God’s redempdve, and therefore supernatural, grace, directed to the correction of that which sin has effected.” —John Murray, “Fatih”

Teaching the Enemy How to Shoot

*This article was originally appeared on the Christ-Centered Churches blog.

The church is laughing at the salvoes of the enemy while poisoning herself with an addictive narcotic. The bad guys are outgunned but the American church is so hopped up on laudanum she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Indeed, our opium delusion has got us teaching them how to shoot—at us. “No, that’s not the way you take out the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. You’ve got to shoot here.”

The greatest threat to the doctrine of the Word of God comes from those who own it. How many Southern Baptist Churches, who confess the authority of the Word of God, are so drunk on success-by-numbers that they’re blasting away at their own foundational documents? We survived the bullets of the moderates and liberals only to become our own greatest threat. We own the doctrines of Scripture on paper and then use that paper for target practice. We’ve demonstrated for our enemies that the way to destroy the authority of Scripture isn’t by aiming at it directly, but by setting your sights on the sufficiency of Scripture.

We say the Scriptures are sufficient, but drummers fall from the ceiling on Easter, chain saws are given away on Father’s Day, and our songs ape the world more than they eco the Word. Do we really believe the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? If so, why do we try to dress it up so much? If the gospel is power, why are our amps cranked up so loud as to obscure it? In the church band, the Scriptures are an un-amplified acoustic guitar, while our programs and production are plugged in hot and loud. Thus, the Scriptures are not the authority that drives the activity of the church, but the “vision” of the leaders who determine the next big stunt. We look not for faithful expositors of the text, but analyzers of culture who can tell us when to ride the next wave of cool.

We say the Scriptures are sufficient, but how many of our churches have a group of ladies studying Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling? Therein she writes,

“This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.”

The experiential, the personal, and the direct are preferred to God’s holy, inspired, infallible, mediated Word concerning Christ. Many baptists excel Joel Osteen in their knack to dress up charismatic heresies in less gaudy and more acceptable garb. Extra-biblical “prophecies” usurp the Scriptures as the real authority of the church because the Bible by itself just isn’t impressive enough. We’re children who pass on God’s well refined ancient vintage for a cheap juice box with the picture of the latest superhero emblazoned on the front.

We own the Word of God on paper but are so delusional no one notices how absent it is. Our cool videos transform church into a self-inflicted reeducation camp. We’ve indoctrinated ourselves with bad doctrine while thinking we’re holding to orthodoxy. The walls still hold against secular humanists, but we’ve destroyed the foundation from the inside.

The Bible is the authoritative revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is all we need because all is in Christ. The Scriptures are sufficient because Jesus is sufficient. If the Word isn’t sufficient, this means we have another authority source. If the Word isn’t sufficient, this means Jesus isn’t sufficient. When we undermine the sufficiency of the Word, the authority of the Word comes down with it. When we undermine the sufficiency of the Word, the gospel comes down with it. Once the foundation has fallen, how long will the walls hold?

Certainly, the Church herself will not fall. God will build her and purify her by His Word. But good things may be lost if we do not fight the good fight. The church will endure, but ours may become apostate. Even so, I am confident of greater things. I am hopeful God is raising up many pastors to lay down the world’s cools guns and to take up once again the sword of the Word. We may be laughed at when we bring God’s Sword to the world’s gunfight, but that’s far more noble than our current hysteria.

The Exegetical Systematician: God Needs No Notary

“It will readily be seen how necessary this principle is. If Scripture is the Word of God it must bear the marks of its divinity. This is parallel to the argument respecting God as Creator drawn from the visible creation. The invisible things of God omnipotence, divinity, eternity—are clearly seen (kathoratai), being understood (noumena) by the things that are made (Rom. 1:20). Just as the heavens declare the glory of God and bear wimess to their Creator, so the Scripture as God’s handiwork must bear the imprint of its divine authorship. In other words, only the evidence of God’s hand could measure up to the requirements necessary to authenticate his handiwork. This is just saying that the evidence upon which faith in divinity rests must itself have the quality of divinity.” —John Murray, “Faith”

A Call for Slavery (Colossians 3:22–4:1)

While some are repulsed by the command for a wife to submit to her husband, many ignore the command for slaves to obey their masters. They’d rather act like it’s not there, like dust quickly brushed under the rug as the guests approach. We wear the Bible’s slavery passages like a stain we got on our white shirt on the way to a job interview. We sit awkwardly trying to hide it.

The embarrassment goes as deep as our translations. It is as though a coverup is afoot made easy by a prior historical fumble. The Latin servus was used to translate the Greek doulos. The Latin then crossed over into the early English translations as “servant.”

Many modern English translations now used a mixture of slave, bondservant, and servant. When it comes to passages where cause for offense might be most intense, translators often waffle and default to servant or bondservant. Doulos, means slave. Every time. No exceptions. Murray J. Harris writes:

“In New Testament Greek there are at least six terms that are often translated or could be translated by the English word ‘servant.’ But only one New Testament word—doulos—has the distinctive meaning of ‘slave’, and this word occurs 124 times in the New Testament.”

The ESV translates this same word as “slave” in 3:11 and there is absolutely no reason to do otherwise in 3:22. At the close of chapter 3 Paul is speaking precisely to those just addressed as slaves and the free lords they serve.

The term slave should cause us to blush at our national heritage, but not at our Biblical heritage. Put shame where it belongs, on sinful men, not the Holy Word of God. Do not ever be embarrassed at the Scriptures. We shouldn’t blush to take any portion of God’s Word on our lips. If there is any right to embarrassment, the Word of God should blush to be on our lips. We are the stain. God’s Word is pure.

There is a radical difference between a slave and a servant. Most notably, servants are hired, whereas slaves are owned. Some argue for a translation of “servant” because ancient slavery was different from modern slavery and they fear an anachronistic reading of our ideas back into the text. Yes, it was different, but why is it any better to read our modern idea of servanthood back into the text? Modern slavery is a good deal closer to ancient slavery than modern servanthood is. Use the right words so that the right questions are asked. Making it easy doesn’t make it clear. Rather than making our translations soft, we need to do the hard work of teaching the sheep to be good readers of God’s good Word.

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

Mail Call and No Letter? (Colossians 1:1–2)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

—Colossians 1:1–2 (ESV)

Paul writes this letter, but he writes as an apostle of Christ Jesus. We say Colossians is one of the Pauline Epistles, but we mustn’t say that louder than we say it is the Word of God.

Whom is the risen Christ addressing through His apostle in this letter? The saints and faithful brothers at Colossae. Ahh, of course. Apostolic letters are for saints, long dead ones. Mail call has come and you’re left without a letter. All the cool kids got a Valentine, but none for you. Figures.

Saints is a term we’re afraid of for two reasons: 1. the heretical teaching of the Roman Catholic church and 2. fear of any accusation of arrogance should we use it as the Bible does. But we are Protestants. We exclaim sola scriptura! We shouldn’t retreat from Biblical terms. We should reclaim and defend them.

It is not humility, but pride which keeps saints from our lips. Failure to use the term saint means we’re finding our identity in who we were out of Christ more than who we are in Christ. The saints are those who are set apart in Christ. If you are in Christ, you are a saint. Sainthood is not a result of personal holiness; personal holiness is a result of sainthood.

But alas, this is a letter for ancient saints, those who resided in Colossae. We’ve got the same name, but the address is different. The New King James Version has a subtle but meaningful variance in translation from the ESV quoted above. “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse (1:2a).” The NKJV unnecessarily adds “who are,” but has “in Colossae” instead of “at Colossae.” The same English preposition is used in both instances, just as it it in the Greek text. The more important locator is in Christ. If a tornado hits a city, and you are in that city and in a storm shelter, being in the storm shelter is the more important of places. What Paul writes has far less to do with Colossae than Christ. A sinner might stand in Colossae in 61 AD and this letter have nothing to do with them, but everything to do with you standing on another continent in the twenty first century because you are in Christ.

This letter was meant to be cyclical, passed along to other churches (Colossians 4:16). Paul wasn’t an apostle of certain churches, but of the Church. The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). If you are in Christ, you are saints, and this letter is meant for you. Any insight you might gain into Colossae and the church there, serves then not to distance you from this letter, but to better understand what Christ wants to say to you through His apostle.