John Calvin’s emphasis was upon certainty. He abhorred the way in which Romanism kept people wondering whether or not they were saved. In his Defense of the Reformed faith, p. 256; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (1958), he wrote:
Thus nothing is left but constant disquietude, and slow torture, and perplexing doubts, which will wear out the soul not less effectively than open murder.
In speaking of Roman confession, he also said,
The Apostles did not discharge their office of binding and loosing by hearing Confessions, but by preaching the gospel . . . And the reason why they strongly urge Confession is, because they wish to make the world obsequious to them, and to hold it in subjection . . . yet to color Confession, and hold it forth as a thing necessary to salvation, is neither expedient nor lawful. Conscience cannot be squeezed by the chains of such laws, without being strangled. (Ibid., p. 257, 258).
He was concerned about poor, wretched people, deluded by the traditions of men, who were enslaved to a system purporting to be Christian, but in reality, anything but.
There is salvation neither in works of penitence, nor in any other ceremony or human action. Salvation—with the assurance it brings—is in Christ alone. It is because by His death and resurrection He satisfied God once for all, that those who believe can have assurance of salvation. In what are you trusting—that which brings certainty or that which brings confusion and terror?
In creation, we have the Spirit breathing His energy, releasing the power of God in the act of creation. We have the same thing in the act of redemption, and we see it again in the divine act of giving to us the record in the Scriptures themselves. The doctrine of inspiration is entirely related to the work of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Now, I don’t want to bring cold coals to Newcastle by giving you information with which you are already familiar, so let me just briefly give some background on this verse. You know that the Greek word translated here as “Helper” is parakletos. In its technical form, it has a legal dimension; it refers to one who would be an advocate. In its wider context, it speaks of comfort, of protection, of counsel, and of guidance. Jesus also spoke of the Spirit as the Helper in John 14 and introduced Him as “the Spirit of truth” (14:17; 16:13).
I think it best for me to simply say a number of things concerning the identity of this Helper with little embellishment.
First, we need to notice that the Holy Spirit is a unique person and not simply a power or an influence. He is spoken of as “He,” not as “it.” This is a matter of import because if you listen carefully to people speaking, even within your own congregations you may hear the Holy Spirit referenced in terms of the neuter. You may even catch yourself doing it. If you do, I hope you will bite your tongue immediately. We have to understand that the Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, is personal. As a person, He may be grieved (Eph. 4:30), He may be quenched in terms of the exercise of His will (1 Thess. 5:19), and He may be resisted (Acts 7:51).
Second, the Holy Spirit is one both with the Father and with the Son. In theological terms, we say that He is both co-equal and co-eternal. When we read the whole Upper Room Discourse, we discover that it was both the Father and the Son who would send the Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7), and the Spirit came and acted, as it were, for both of Them. So the activity of the Spirit is never given to us in Scripture in isolation from the person and work of Christ or in isolation from the eternal will of the Father. Any endeavor to think of the Spirit in terms that are entirely mystical and divorced from Scripture will take us down all kinds of side streets and eventually to dead ends.
Third, the Holy Spirit was the agent of creation. In the account of creation at the very beginning of the Bible, we are told: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). The Hebrew word translated as “Spirit” here is ruach, which also can mean “breath.” The ruach elohim, “the Breath of the Almighty,” is the agent in creation. It is not the immateriality of the Spirit that is in view here, but rather His power and energy; the picture is of God’s energy breathing out creation, as it were, speaking the worlds into existence, putting the stars into space. Thus, when we read Isaiah 40:26 and the question is asked, “Who created these?” we have the answer in Genesis 1:2—the Spirit is the irresistible power by which God accomplishes His purpose.
Tangentially, one of the questions of Old Testament scholarship concerns the extent to which we are able to discover the distinct personhood of God the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament. In other words, can we understand the nature of His hypostasis in the Old Testament alone? When we read Genesis 1, it is not difficult to see that we have in the second verse, certainly in light of all that has subsequently been revealed, a clear and distinct reference to the third person of the Trinity.
In his book The Holy Spirit, Sinclair B. Ferguson notes that if we recognize the divine Spirit in Genesis 1:2, that provides what some refer to as the missing link in Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Ferguson observes that this is a clear antecedent reference to the Spirit of God who is at work in Genesis 1:1-2.
This issue reminds us, incidentally, that it is helpful to read our Bibles backward. As we read from the back to the front, we discover the truth of the classic interpretive principle attributed to Augustine: “The New [Testament] is in the Old [Testament] concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.” In other words, we discover the implications of those teachings and events that come earlier in the Scriptures.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit is the agent not only of creation, but also of God’s new creation in Christ. He is the author of the new birth. We see this in John 3, in the classic encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, where Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). This truth, of course, is worked out in the rest of the Scriptures.
Fifth, the Spirit is the author of the Scriptures. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God. …” The Greek word behind this phrase is theopneustos, which means “God-breathed.” In creation, we have the Spirit breathing His energy, releasing the power of God in the act of creation. We have the same thing in the act of redemption, and we see it again in the divine act of giving to us the record in the Scriptures themselves. The doctrine of inspiration is entirely related to the work of God the Holy Spirit. Peter affirms this view, writing, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The men who wrote the biblical books were not inventing things. Neither were they automatons. “They were real people in real historical times with real DNA writing according to their historical settings and their personalities. But the authorship of Scripture was dual. It was, for instance, both Jeremiah and God, because Jeremiah was picked up and carried along. Indeed, in Jeremiah’s case, God said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (1:9). He did so without violating Jeremiah’s distinct personality, and he then wrote the very Word of God. This is why we study the Bible—because this is a book that exists as a result of the out-breathing of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning the identity of the Helper, we could go on ad infinitum, but we must be selective rather than exhaustive. His identity is as “another Helper.” The word translated as “another” here is allos, not heteros. Jesus promised a Helper of the same kind rather than of a different kind. The Spirit is the parakletos, the one who comes alongside. Jesus said He would “be with you forever … he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). In other words, His ministry is both permanent and personal.
This excerpt is adapted from Alistair Begg’s contribution to Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God. This article used with permission.
The Messiah Concept
1. What does the word Messiah mean? Messiah means “Anointed One” (Heb. messiah) (Gk. Christos) and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.”
2.The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings ( 1 Sam 10:1 ; 2 Sam 2:4 ; 1 Kings 1:34 ), and sometimes prophets ( 1 Kings 19:16b ) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. “Anointed One” almost never refers to the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible.
3. The messianic concept also has a wider dimension than the royal, priestly, and/or prophetic person. Included in this wider view are the characteristics, tasks, goals, means, and consequences of the messianic person.
4. Remember that words and concepts are separate entities. “Word-bound” approaches to what really are concept studies can lead us astray.
5. The image of the Messiah and the idea of messianism comprise a broad concept that far outreaches the few instances where the term “anointed” is used. It is the concept that we are seeking to define, not merely one particular word. This can only be achieved by reading not only the Bible but extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Targumim, etc. (see Craig Evans handout on Introduction to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies).
6. Before 70 CE, we can hardly find any occurrence of the absolute term “the Messiah”; instead the word in Greek or Hebrew occurs with a genitive or possessive pronoun like “Messiah of Israel,” “Messiah of the Lord,” “Messiah of Aaron,” “Messiah of the Lord,” etc; no single meaning is ever assumed.
7. Other names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include “Son of David,” “ Son of God,” “ Son of Man,” “ Prophet,” “Elect One,” “Servant,” “ Prince,” “ Branch,” “Root,” “Scepter,” “Star,” “Chosen One,” and “ Coming One.” (See section on messianic titles).
The Messianic Task: Traditional Jewish Views
1. A personal Messiah is irrelevant; many Jewish people don’t see the need for a Messiah to fix the problems of the world.
2. The Messiah is not divine-he is an earthy figure “anointed” to carry out a specific task.
3. The Messiah will enable the Jewish people to dwell securely in the land of Israel (Is.11:11-12; 43:5-6; Jer.23: 5-8; Mic.5:4-6), and usher in a period of worldwide peace.
4. The Messiah is supposed to put an end to all oppression, suffering and disease (Is.2:1-22; 25:8; 65:25; Mic.4:1-4) and create a pathway for universal worship to the God of Israel (Zeph.3:9; Zech.9:16; 14:9).
5. The Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9; 40:5; 52:8).
The Maimonides view of Messiah: Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher whose writings are considered to be foundational to Jewish thought and study. Here are some of his messianic expectations:
1. The Messiah will be a king who arises from the house of David
2. He helps Israel follow Torah
3. He builds the Temple in its place
4. He gathers the dispersed of Israel
The Messiah in Rabbinical Literature
1. Messiah Ben Yossef and Messiah Ben David: The prophecy of Zech. 12:10 is applied to Messiah ben Yossef in that he is killed and that it will be followed by a time of great calamities and tests for Israel. Shortly after these tribulations upon Israel, Messiah ben David will come and avenge the death of Messiah ben Yossef, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace.
2.What is interesting is that R. Saadiah Gaon elaborated on the role of Messiah ben Yossef by starting that this sequence of events is contingent. In other words, Messiah ben Yossef will not have to appear before Messiah be David if the spiritual condition of Israel is up to par.
3.This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel] are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a
Messianic Fulfillment Depends on Moral Regeneration
1. The advent of Messiah will not be heralded by the actions of a pagan or Christian king.
2. Israel’s salvation depends on Israel itself.
3.The Messiah will be a sage who will only come when Israel fully accepts God’s sole rule.
4.The coming of the Messiah is not dependent on historical action but on moral regeneration. How about reading John 3:3-8?
The Davidic Messiah
The capitalized term “Messiah” is often confined to a precisely delineated concept, viz., the anointed king of the Davidic dynasty who would establish in the world the definite kingdom intended by God for Israel. Such a notion of the Messiah is the product of a long development traceable in three stages:
First Stage: Before Eighth Century BC
1. God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17:6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15)
2. Gen 49:9-12: alludes implicitly to the reign of David; this prophecy says the Messiah will have to come before the Tribe of Judah loses its identity.
3. The Davidic Covenant: David is promised that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15; Ps. 89:28-37). In 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come.
4. The Royal Psalms:Psalm 2;72;110 are considered part of this first stage of messianism.
Second Stage: Eighth Century BC to the Babylonian Exile
1. Messianic Expectation centers on the re-establishment of the throne of David and deliverance of Israel from its foreign oppressors.
2. This expectation resulted from disappointment at the destruction of Jerusalem and suspension of Davidic dynasty.
3. Isaiah: speaks of the time when God that would revive the Davidic dynasty and ensure its permanence. God would raise up a successor of David who would be unlike any past Davidic king (Is.7:14-17; 9:6-7;11:1-10), but he is not spoken of as “The Messiah.”
4. Micah 5:1-6 speaks of the new David coming from Bethlehem; Jer.23:5-6 uses messianic titles such as “branch” or “shoot” to describe this figure.
5. Amos likewise proclaimed that a figure would emerge from the Davidic lineage who would fulfill God’s covenant promises to the nations (9:11-15).Ezekiel spoke of a new David who would be a shepherd as well as a “prince” and a “king” to Israel (Ezek: 34:23-24; 37:24-25). This king’s function would help restore the Davidic dynasty after the exile.
Third Stage: From the Exile to NT Times
The Psalms of Solomon (a Pharisaic composition written about 50 B.C.) describes the Davidic messianic expectation: The “Son of David” will:
1. Violently cast out foreign nations occupying Jerusalem (Pss.Sol:15,24-25,33)
2. Judge all the nations of the earth (Pss.17:4;31;38-39, 47) and cause the nations to “serve him under his yoke” (Pss.Sol.17:32)
3. Reign over Israel in wisdom (Pss. Sol.17:23,28,31,35,41,18:8), which involves removing all the foreigners from the land (Pss. Sol.17:31) and purging the land of unrighteous Israelites (Pss. Sol. 17:29, 33, 41) in order to eliminate all oppression (Pss. Sol.17:46) and gather to himself a holy people (Pss. Sol.17:28, 36;18:9).
Jesus as The Davidic King
1. Jesus is of the “seed of David,” who was sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; Rev. 22:16). Jesus is both the son of David and the one greater than David (Psalm 110:1-4).
Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We see the following:
Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).
Remember, the New Testament authors unanimously declare Jesus as the one who is from the “seed of David,” sent by God to restore God’s kingship over mankind (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3,4; 2 Tim:2:8; Rev. 22:16). As seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-17, the immediate prophecy is partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. However, the word “forever” shows there are future descendants to come. God promised David that his “seed” would establish the kingdom. There were two ways for this prophecy to come to pass. Either God could continually raise up a new heir or he could have someone come who would never die. Does this sound like the need for a resurrection?
2. In following the pattern of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus (as the Davidic King) will return to this present earth and after the complete removal of all man’s kingdoms (cf. Dan 2:35;44;7:13-14; Zech 9:10;14:1-4;9-11;Matt24;27-31;25:31-33; Rev:11:15;19:11-16;20:1-6).
3. Remember Prophetic Telescoping: Telescoped prophecy bridges the first and second appearances of Yeshua. In the second coming, “the obedience of the nations will be his,” and “His everlasting dominion will not pass away, his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed”; Gen 49:10-12: Dan 2:37-44;7:13-14; Psalm 2: Isa.9-6-7;11:1-10.
Messianic Expectations (cont): Priestly Messiah: The priest (Heb. cohanim) was anointed in his role as a mediator between God and the Jewish people because of his ability make to make atonement (Lev.4:26;31,35;5:6,10; 14:31).
1. There are implicit passages in the Hebrew Bible that discuss a priestly aspect of the Messiah (Hag:1:12-14; 2:2-4; 20-23; Zech:3:6-10;4:2-5,11-14).
2. In the Qumran community which predated the time of Yeshua was convinced there were possibly two Messiahs, one priestly and one royal (1QS 9.11; CD 12.22-23; 13. 20-22; 14. 18-19; 19.34-20.1; CD-B 1.10-11; 2.1; 1Q Sa 2. 17-22).
3. Forgiving sins was a prerogative of God alone (Exod. 34: 6-7; Neh.9:17; Dan. 9:9;) and it was something that was done only in the Temple.
4. The Messiah’s priestly work is seen in Psalm 110:1-4.
5. As with Melchizedek, Jesus was without the ancestral, genealogical credentials necessary for the Aaronic priesthood ( Hebrews 7:3 Hebrews 7:13 Hebrews 7:16 ), he was also before Aaron and the transitory, imperfect law and Levitical priesthood ( Hebrews 7:11-12 Hebrews 7:17-18 ; 8:7 ). Melchizedek, Aaron, and his descendants all died, preventing them from continuing in office ( 7:23 ). Jesus has been exalted to a permanent priesthood by his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand of God in the heaven ( 8:1 ).
The Suffering/Atoning Messiah
1. There are several texts that speak to the possibility of a suffering Messiah (Zech 13:7; Dan 9:26; Tg.Isa.53; T.Benj.3:8; 4Q521frgs.9, 24; 4Q285 5.4; 4 Ezra7:29-30;2 Bar.30:1).
2. There are also several expressions of the belief that the death of the righteous will benefit, or even save, God’s people (1 Macc: 6:26-28 17:20-22; T Moses 9-10).
The Prophetic Messiah
1. The characteristics of the prophet (Heb. nabi) of Deuteronomy 18:15-19: (1) He would be an Israelite; (2) he would be like Moses; and (3) he would be authorized to declare the word of God with authority.
2. Emphasis on listening to the Prophet: See Mathew 17:5
3. Jesus says “I say to you,” thirteen times in this one sermon (Matt. 18,20,22,28,32,34,39,44;6:2,5,16,25,29). He even challenged his hearers to base their own lives on his words (Matt. 7:24,26). Yeshua cites not one single rabbi or religious authority. Scholars have found no precedent in the Tanakh, nor have scholars found any precedent in the rest of ancient Jewish literature.
4. Miracles have a distinctive purpose: to glorify the Creator and to provide evidence for people to believe by accrediting the message of God through the prophet of God. Miracles confirmed the prophetic claim: Moses (Ex. 4:1-5; 8-9); Elijah (1 Kings 18:38–39).
5. Miracles confirmed the Messianic claim of Jesus (Matt 12: 38-39; John 3: 1-2; Acts 2: 22).
6. Matt. 11:4-6: Jesus’s evidential claim can be seen in the following syllogism:
1. If one does certain kinds of actions, then one is the Messiah.
2. I am doing those kinds of actions.
3. Therefore, I am the Messiah.
Michael Bird’s excellent book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, has some insight about this issue as well. Bird says:
“It is historically naive to depict first-century Palestine as ravaged with continual uprisings and to posit some Roman occupying forces as having to put down one messianic pretender after another. Alternatively, it is equally reductionistic to suppose that many of the tumultuous events of the first century were untouched by messianism. The death of Herod the Great led to several uprisings; although things cooled for a while, in the period 4 BCE to 66 CE, there were many socioreligious movements at the time of the procurators that show expectation and hope for God’s miraculous interventions and gradually a spirit of zealotry beginning to emerge. I doubt that we have to wait as long as Simon ben Kosiba in 135 CE to find another messianic leader after the death of Jesus. The following lists indicate messianic expectations that are explicitly titular or implicitly messianic.”-Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, pgs 47-49.
Bird goes onto list the expectations using the title “Messiah.” Notice that Bird knows in order to understand messianism, we need to read the Bible but also read extra-biblical Jewish literature including the Apocrypha, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, The Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Targumim, etc, (see Craig A Evans: “Introduction” to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature).
“Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (CD 12.23–13.1; 14.19; 19.10–11; 20.1; 1QS 9.11)
“Messiah of Israel” (1QSa 2.12, 14, 20)
“Messiah of righteousness” (4Q252 frg. 1 5.3–4)
“Heaven and earth will obey his Messiah” (4Q521 2.1)
“Their king shall be the Lord’s Messiah” (Pss. Sol. 17.32; cf. 18.7)
“May God cleanse Israel for the day of mercy and blessing for the appointed day when his Messiah will reign” (Pss. Sol. 18.5)
“Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah” (1 En. 48.10)
“authority of the Messiah” (1 En. 52.4)
“For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him” (4 Ezra 7.28) “
“This is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David” (4 Ezra 12.32) “The Messiah will begin to be revealed” (2 Bar. 29.3) “when the time of the appearance of the Messiah has been fulfilled” (2 Bar. 30.1) “the kingship of the house of David, thy righteous Messiah” (Shemoneh ‘Esreh 14)
Son of Man: (Dan. 7:13–14; 1 En. 46.1–5; 48.2; 62.1–15; 63.11; 69.27–29; 71.14–17; 4 Ezra 13.1–13, 25–26; Justin Martyr, Dial. 31–32)
Man/Ruler: (Philo, Rewards 95; Num. 24:7, 17 LXX) Rod (CD 7.19–20; Justin Martyr, Dial. 100, 126) Prince (Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; Dan. 9:25–26; CD 7.20; 1QSb 5.20; 1QM 3.16; 5.1; 4Q285 frgs. 4–6; Jub. 31.18; Sib. Or. 3.49–50)
Branch of David: (4Q161 frgs. 8–10.15, 22; 4Q252 5.3; 4Q285 frg. 5.3–4; T. Jud 24.4–6) Scepter (1QSb 5.27–28; 4Q161 frgs. 2–4 2.9–13; frgs. 5–6 3.17; frgs. 8–10, 22–26; 4Q252 5.2)
Son of God :(4Q246 1.9; 2.1; Mark 15:39)
Elect/Chosen One (1 En. 39.6; 40.5; 45.3; 48.6; 49.2, 4; 51.3, 5; 52.6, 9; 53.6; 55.4; 61.5, 8, 10; 62.1; Apoc. Abr. 31.1)
King (Mark 15.32 and par.; Sib. Or. 3.286–87, 652) Snow-white cow/horned ram (1 En. 90.9–12, 37–38) Star (T. Levi 18.3; T. Jud. 24.1; Sib. Or. 5.158–60)
Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 22:14; 1 John 2:1; 1 En. 38.2; 53.6)
Historical figures referred to as “Messiah”:
Jesus of Nazareth
Simon ben Kosiba
Implicitly messianic historical figures not referred to as “Messiah”:
Judas the Galilean Simon the servant of Herod
Athronges Menahem Simon bar Giora-
Figures who claimed royal prerogatives between 4 B.C.E and 68-70 C.E but are not called “the” or “a” Messiah:
1. In Galilee 4 B.C.E.: Judas, son of bandit leader Ezekias (War 2.56;Ant.17.271-72)
2. In Perea 4 B.C.E.: Simon the Herodian slave (War 2.57-59;Ant 17.273-77)
3. In Judea 4 B.C.E.: Athronges, the shepherd (War 2.60-65;Ant 17.278-84)
4. Menahem: grandson of Judas the Galilean (War 2.433-34, 444)
5. Simon, son of Gioras (bar Giora) War 2.521, 625-54;4.503-10, 529;7.26-36, 154)
1. Berger, D. The Rebbe, The Messiah, And The Scandal Of Orthodox Indifference. Portland, Oregon: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 2001, 171-173.
2. Bird, M.F.,Are You The One To Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.
3. Brown, R.E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1994, 155-161.
4. Evans, C.A. and P. W. Flint. Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1997.
5. Elwell, W. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996.
6. Schochet, J.I. Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition. New York: S.I.E. 1992, 93-101.
7. Zannoni, A. Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.1994, 113-114.
This is the text of the commencement address preached by President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. at the May 19, 2017 commencement ceremony at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
“These graduates go out to build upon what others have already built. We will all build on the foundation someone else has laid. Even as the Lord grants opportunity to sow seed, we will spend much of our lives and ministries watering. The Christian ministry is not a career. It is a calling that originates in the sovereign majesty of God and is concluded only by the coming of the kingdom of the Lord, and of his Christ.”
In many churches across modern evangelicalism, good doctrine has taken a back seat to good works. The emphasis has shifted away from believing the right thing to doing the right thing, with a particular focus on community works and social justice.
Often that shift is the result of legitimate critique—that professing Christians frequently fail to apply and live out their good doctrine. Today, many church leaders argue that doctrine simply does not answer the multitude of practical problems we face in this fallen world. In that sense, the emphasis on prioritizing good works over good doctrine is an overcorrection against the threat of cold orthodoxy and dead faith.
Others simply treat doctrinal disputes as long-argued issues we must ignore or circumvent to accomplish the work God has for His people. That was essentially the point Rick Warren made in a 2005 interview with the Pew Forum. He argued that we find our common ground in what we do rather than what we believe.
You’re never going to get Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are the purposes of the church. And I find great uniformity in the fact that I see this happening all the time. Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that’s wide spread. We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops, we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They’re all there together and you know what? I’d never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church should be doing in the world.
Warren’s ecumenical enthusiasm for the practical work of the church is so strong it has blinded him to who constitutes the true church in the first place. And that is the danger of emphasizing, as Warren puts it, deeds, not creeds.
In spite of what Warren and others like him seem to believe, Scripture does draw a direct relationship between what we believe and how we live. In John MacArthur’s sermon “Sound Doctrine Backed by Sound Living,” he lays out the clear biblical connection between doctrine and deeds. Moreover, he emphasizes the two in that particular order—doctrine then deeds—because good deeds are the byproduct of good doctrine, never the cause.
John also warns about the critical flipside of that truth—wrong doctrine always produces wrong conduct because “error is a communicable disease.” Good or bad, doctrine lies at the root of all behavior.
Centering on Titus 2:1 (“speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine”), John shows the biblical pattern of sound living following on the heels of sound doctrine. He also reinforces the importance of this issue because all of us are under the gaze of this fallen world. With regard to Titus 2:8 (“that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us”) John reminds us:
Look, [unbelievers] are examining us and we want to so live that those opponents of the faith will blush in sheer embarrassment because there is no just criticism. Don’t you think that the opponents of Christianity love it when Christians scandalize the faith? Don’t they love to pick up the magazines and the newspapers and read about the fornication and the adultery and the fiscal irresponsibility and the thievery and all of the conning that goes on in the fakeries of Christianity and all of the sin and iniquity in leadership? Sure they do.
And I’ll tell you something else, the people in your little world . . . would love to see you fail significantly so they can justify their unbelief. They don’t want to see God transform your life and then rebuke them. But that’s exactly what you want to do, you want to make them red faced, you want to make them blush when they criticize because they can’t find anything to criticize. You see, the issue here is evangelism.
You live out your Christian life in your own personal mission field, and your witness is always on the line. For that reason, “Sound Doctrine Backed by Sound Living” is a timely reminder for all Christians on how to practice what we preach.
Click here to listen to “Sound Doctrine Backed by Sound Living.”
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170519
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God’s Word is alive in a truer sense than we are. As Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6–8, “For, ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever’” (1 Peter 1:24–25).
In the world around us, the things we call “living” are really dying. What we call “the land of the living” is probably better named “the land of the dying,” because wherever you look, death is doing its work of decay and destruction. In the final analysis, death is the monarch of this world.
Against this background of decay and death, the Word of God stands as eternal truth. The corruption of this world can’t penetrate God’s Word, deteriorate its reality, or decay its truth. Scripture’s life-giving power is readily apparent in many self-authenticating ways.
- God’s Word is perennially fresh. In every generation, to every person who picks it up, the Bible is living and fresh. I have reread some parts of the Bible many, many times. In some cases I am just beginning to understand what they say. I once read the book of Colossians every day for 90 days and, after all of that, the book of Colossians still holds untapped mysteries that I haven’t yet explored. Every time I read the book of Colossians, I gain new excitement and fresh insights.
- God’s Word is never obsolete. Most libraries have backrooms where you can find all of the old obsolete textbooks. In recent years, scientific discoveries make dozens and even hundreds of books obsolete each day. But the timeless truths of the Bible never become obsolete. They are as up to date as the next generation of men and women that needs its message so desperately. “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
- God’s Word is powerful. The Bible is a discerner of hearts. Scripture has a living insight into our lives that is alarmingly precise. The Holy Spirit ministers through God’s Word exposing our faults, needs, weaknesses—and sins. No wonder Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit . . . able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
- God’s Word produces growth. As 1 Peter 1:23 points out, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” The great mystery of any living thing is its power to reproduce. And reproduce, says Peter, is exactly what the Word of God does. The only way to be a “son of God” is to be born by the Word of God. When the Word of God is truly heard, and sincerely received into a heart that has been prepared by God, that Word, quickened by the Holy Spirit, becomes a spiritual seed that is imperishable or incorruptible. That seed is the germ of a new creation and it springs into life by making the hearer who believes that Word, a son of God.
Jesus illustrated that concept in His parable of the sower (Luke 8:4–15). The farmer goes out to sow and some seed lands on the road, some seed lands on rocky soil, some seed lands where weeds spring up, and some seed lands on the fertile ground that produces bountiful growth. In explaining the parable to His disciples, Jesus said, “The seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11–12).
The one source of belief and salvation is God’s Word! Naturally, its sabotage and removal is Satan’s highest priority because of its life-producing power. Hence Jesus’ words in Luke 8:15: “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” That’s a vivid description of Scripture and the ongoing results of its life-giving power.
Jesus understood that God’s Word cooperates powerfully with His Spirit: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). The Word of God, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, is the critical life-giving agent. The Spirit of God, using the Word of God, produces life!
Trying to survive without any scriptural intake is a futile exercise. When it comes to a healthy spiritual diet, God’s Word is the fundamental and essential source of true eternal health.
(Adapted from Why Believe the Bible.)
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170517
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You
You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).