Sail On By

We may know from the following whether we are the Lord’s anointed or not. The world loves its own. If then it hates Christ in us, it is an infallible sign that we are good soldiers of the Lord, and not servants of the world. The way to heaven is to sail by hell. If you will embrace Christ in his robes, you must not scorn him in his rags; if you will sit at his table in the kingdom, you must first abide with him in his temptations; if you will drink from his cup of glory, you must not forsake his cup of ignominy. Can the chief cornerstone be rejected, and the other more base stones in God’s building be set by? You are one of God’s living stones, and therefore be content to be hewn and snagged, so that you might be made more suitable to be joined to your fellows, suffering the snatches of Satan and the wounds of the world.

John Boys (1571-1625), Exposition of Psalm 2, as quoted in Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament VII, Psalms 1-72

What’s tough to distinguish:

  • If you are being loved because you are of the world,
  • if you are being loved by some because Christ-in-you is compelling them away from the world and toward the loving embrace of God,
  • if you are being hated because of Christ-in-you,
  • or if you are being hated because you are a jerk.

But what I love about Boys’ commentary on Psalm 2 is the recognition that if we are identified with the Messiah, we will share in his experiences. We will sail on by hell on the way to our eternal home. We will be regarded as he was, we will experience temptation as he did, and we may be counted as infamous. But that is just how we are made fit for his building, shaped as a living stone, made fit to be joined to him and alongside those who make up the household of faith.

The Preparatory Function of Public Lament in the Psalter

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Ellen T. Charry commenting on lament, its place in worship, and its incorporation into the Psalter:

Pedagogically speaking, the laments are warranted for public worship because everyone eventually experiences personal defeat of some kind and comes face-to-face with the searing question of theodicy. The theological pedagogy of these poems both prepares and shapes the community to confront the questions of theodicy and empire openly in order to sustain Israel’s fundamental conviction that the God of Israel is the one and only God of the universe. That is, public worship is not an end in itself. Its design on the hearts and minds of the worshipers is to carry them faithfully through thick and thin…The poets know how difficult faithfulness can be, and their poems meet people where they are.

Psalms 1-50, p. xxv-xxvi

The Psalter contains lament, and more besides. Most look to Psalms to aid them in praise. But lament, too, has formative value. Even if one has not suffered, suffering will come. It is part of the human experience. If Christian fellowships incorporated lament as part of their discourse, perhaps more believers would be better prepared when the challenges and hardships of life arrive. They would know they are not the first to suffer, they will not be the last, and that like those who walked before them, they can offer their complaints in prayer to God and look, in hope, for divine help.

J. I. Packer on the Exegetical Task

In God Has Spoken, J. I. Packer wrote:

Because the Bible is a human book, God having chosen to convey his teaching to us in the form of the inspired instruction of his human penmen, the way into his mind is necessarily via their minds. So the basic discipline in biblical interpretation must always be exegetical analysis–that is, the attempt to determine as exactly as possible just what the writer meant by the words he wrote, and how he would explain the sense of his statements could we cross-question him about them. Exegesis involves, on the one hand, setting each passage against its external background (historical, cultural, geographical, linguistic, literary), and, on the other hand, determining from its intrinsic characteristics its aim, scope, standpoint, presuppositions, and range and limit of interest. The first part of this task may call for a good deal of technical learning, but this does not mean that exegesis is work for scholars only; the decisive part of the task is the second part, for which the first is, at most, only ground-clearing, and in this the professional scholar does not stand on any higher footing than any diligent student of the text in any language. The supreme requirement for understanding a biblical book–or, indeed, any other human document–is sympathy with its subject-matter, and a mind and heart that can spontaneously enter the author’s outlook. But the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of Isaiah, or Paul, or John, and see with his eyes and feel with his heart is the gift, not of academic training, but of the Holy Spirit through the new birth.

p. 121-122

Packer explains that biblical interpretation involves three moves: exegesis, synthesis, and application. First, you reach back, then you consider the meaning of a given verse, passage, or book in light of the Bible as a whole, and lastly you work out the meaning of the text practically in the life of the individual and for the church.

I’m with Packer, in that I think that words have meaning, and that authorial intent should be discerned and honored when deriving an interpretation of any text. But I think he makes one more claim that we should pay careful attention to: the role of the Holy Spirit in the task of biblical interpretation.

When we read the Bible, we should pray, asking God’s help to discern the meaning. And while we should hold our deepest convictions firmly, we should also offer them humbly. If we have discerned what is truth, this is a gift, as Packer says. While we may read by ourselves, we should never read alone. Rather, we should ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, and read alongside brothers and sisters who share in the same Spirit, discerning both individually and corporately how best to live in response to God’s Word as it is revealed in and through the Scriptures.

Review: The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Hardcover, Black Bonded Leather, and Brown Leathersoft Copies of the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible was first published in 1908. Zondervan is now issuing new editions in multiple translations. Check it out here. I received a copy of this Bible (Hardcover Edition) for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. I have a few thoughts.

About This Bible

The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible has been around a while. I’ve had a copy for years. My mom sent a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible with me when I went off to college, and briefly showed me how to use the reference system to trace themes and topics through the sacred text.

Not until now have I learned how the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible came to be. It was put together by Dr. Frank Charles Thompson, who began his ministry among Methodist people in the 1800s. He received his PhD from Boston University, was a scholar of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and took notes in the margins of his King James Version of the Bible. Congregants saw these notes, inquired as to their purpose, and encouraged Dr. Thompson to make these notes widely available. Thompson eventually partnered with a gentleman named B. B. Kirkbridge, who acquired the rights to sell and distribute the Bible–which was first sold door to door. Zondervan released an NIV version in 1983.

Translations and Tools

The latest issue from Zondervan has been printed in a few translations: the King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB).

There are several ways to use the Thompson Chain-Reference, most famously using its topical system. More than 7,000 topical listings are found in the alphabetical index at the rear of the Bible and more than 4,000 of these topics are arranged into “chains,” threads which one can follow through the Scriptures. As a disciple of John Wesley, Thompson surely understood what it means to “search” the Scriptures, and highlighted pathways others could tread.

Find a sample here. You will be able to see the topic numbers, themes, and references in the margins.

The Thompson Chain-Reference also includes book introductions and outlines for each book. You can study chapters, passages, or verses, and follow the references listed in the margins to deepen your understanding and broaden the context of your study. This Bible also includes character studies that you can trace, a list of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament, maps that correspond to different portions of the biblical narrative, aids to memorization and recommendations for taking notes in your Bible, and a concordance.

This Bible also has a built in ribbon that can be used as a bookmark.

How I’ll Use This Bible

I take on writing projects occasionally that prefer use of the NASB translation, so this Bible will come in handy. I can use the Thompson Chain-Reference system to further my understanding of a given text. I’ll use for ease of reference and to further my study, to help me make connections across the whole of Scripture.

I’m always on the look out for editions of the Bible that could serve as one-stop tools for comprehensive Bible study. This is one of those tools. I generally recommend that a person own a good Bible translation, a good one-volume commentary, a good Bible dictionary, and an accurate Bible atlas. This Bible could serve all those purposes.

A nice new issue from Zondervan.

What Does it Say?

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Rob Walker, in The Art of Noticing newsletter issue No. 70 (“Play Attention”), recorded this anecdote from podcaster Stephen Dubner:

[Dubner] described how his father used to play a game with him called Powers of Observation. One day when Dubner was 7 or 8 years old, they went to a diner, where they took a seat and his father said:

“All right, Stevie, I want you to just sit and look around you and really take everything in. Just pay attention. Really see what you’re looking at, and listen. … I’m gonna give you five minutes. Just take it all in.”

After five minutes, he told Dubner to close his eyes, and started asking questions: “What did the lady sitting right behind us order?” And so on.

“He’d grill me on these facts, large and small,” Dubner says. “And when we first started this game, I was terrible. I had zero powers of observation! But within a few times of playing it, I figured it out. And I got persuaded that, whether it’s the mind, or the brain, or the memory, or my observational senses — they really are like a muscle. I’ve been trying, ever since that day, to flex that muscle. So maybe I’ve been practicing my own form of mindfulness all this time.”

When I was a seminarian, I took a class with Professor Howard Hendricks called “Bible Study Methods.”

After laying groundwork and establishing how we’d approach the Bible, we were assigned one verse: Acts 1:8.

…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 1:8, NASB

What were we supposed to do with these thirty eight words? Record twenty five observations.

When we turned in our twenty five observations?

We were told, “Thank you very much. For your next assignment, I would like twenty five more observations.”

Before asking what something means, or how something works, or what to do next, ask, “What is it? What does it say? What is going on?”

Make some observations. Then work with the facts.

Kingdom Big. Kingdom Small.

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The central message of Jesus was the kingdom of God. Following Jesus’ temptation, what happened? Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.'”

Mark 1:14-15 adds, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”

In Luke 4:43, Jesus says, ““I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.””

But what is the kingdom? Where is it? How do we enter it? Respond to it? Live in light of its reality?

Is the kingdom big? How big?

Is it small? How small?

We can seek the kingdom. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

How do we enter it? Regeneration is the theological term. We’re born into it. Jesus says in John 3:3, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” The Holy Spirit is involved here.

The kingdom of God can be present but missed. In Luke 17:20-21, “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” Other translations render this “the kingdom of God is within you.”

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples, he taught them about the kingdom. Acts 1:3 says, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

Whatever the kingdom of God is, it is distinct from the kingdoms of this world. In John 18:36 Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” The kingdom of Jesus has its origin in God’s realm, the heavens.

The kingdom of God is not only a matter of outward observances, but an inward quality. In Romans 14:17-18, Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus tells us to pray for the kingdom to come.

In Luke 12:32, Jesus says, ““Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” That’s a tremendous claim.

Jesus compared the kingdom to a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price, leaven, a mustard seed, a sprouting seed, a net, a king offering a feast on a wedding day, a king settling accounts, a man going on a journey who entrusts talents to his servants, a group of young virgins, and a generous landowner.

Some big things. Some small things.

Things plainly visible. Things hidden.

It’s a broad metaphor.

But it tells us a lot. It invites us to pay attention. To seek. But also to stand confident. The kingdom is a gift. Something that is received. Something the Father gives and the Spirit initiates us into by the new birth. It pleases God to give us the kingdom.

The Apostle Paul: A Convert?

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Larry Hurtado writes:

In general usage, a “conversion” marks a change from one religion to another, or a shift from an irreligious to religious profession/stance.  At the time of Paul’s experience (a scant couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion), the Jesus-movement wasn’t what we know and think of as a self-standing “religion.”  It was more a rather exclusive new sect or movement within the larger Jewish tradition.  (And it must be emphasized that Paul’s “persecution” of Jesus-followers was not directed at “Christians” but solely at fellow Jews whom he must have regarded as having seriously problematic in their beliefs and practices.)

More significantly, Paul refers to that experience that prompted his shift in direction as a “revelation” (apokalypsis) and a “calling” (kaleo) as in Galatians 1:11-17.  On the other hand, Paul can refer to those Gentiles who accepted his gospel message as having “converted” or “turned” (epistrepho) to God and having turned away from their ancestral gods (“idols”), as in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.  So, in Paul’s thinking Gentiles/pagans “convert” from their polytheistic practice to worship and serve “a true and living God.”  But Jews such as he instead come to right understanding of what their ancestral deity requires of them.