Entries Tagged as 'Theology'

Heroes of the Faith Part 3: Jonathan, Friends are Friends Forever

FriendsThe story of Jonathan and David from 1 Samuel 18-20 is often preached as if Michael W. Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever” would be the theme song of the movie. Preachers mine out principles for “How to be a good friend.” This kind of message resonates with many because people are looking for friendship (just look at websites like friendfinder.com). But, is this type of application accurate to the text? Are these sections of 1 Samuel 18-20 meant to teach us about friendship?

I would argue yes. The story of Jonathan and David does teach us true friendship. Yet, most who preach this story miss that one little word “true” friendship. Friendship is not some poem on a greeting card or sappy sentimentality. Friendship is not just someone you hang out with because of common interests. True friendship is deeper than that. True friendship is about covenant commitment. What the story of Jonathan and David teaches us is that true friendship means the cost of discipleship in siding with God’s man! True friendship is about the gospel.

1. True friendship is about covenant commitment.

Jonathan demonstrates true friendship by siding with the anointed one of God. Saul has faltered as king because of his disobedience toward God. As a result, Samuel tells him that the kingdom has been “torn” away from him. In Saul’s place, Samuel anoints a little teenage shepherd to be king. Then, the Philistine champion (“hero”) Goliath challenges the Israelites, but the brave soldiers cower in fear as the Giant taunts them and their God. Only the anointed king will face down the Giant. He does, and he takes his head. David and Jonathan meet for the first time right after this match. Jonathan and his father Saul see before them a young man standing like Perseus in “Clash of the Titans” holding the enemy’s severed head in his hand while blood drips to the floor (Gen. 3:15). Jonathan sees the man who has delivered Israel and replaced him as heir to the throne covered in the blood of his enemy. Instead of jealousy, fear, or anger, the Bible says that at seeing the anointed one of God “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1). So, Jonathan makes a covenant with David, and he takes off his robe, armor, and sword and he gives them to David. Modern critical scholars try to speak of possible homoerotic overtones to this friendship, but that says more about our modern mindset than it does about the biblical situation. They are merely reading back their biases into the text. The giving of the robe is Jonathan’s handing of the kingdom over to David. The robe symbolized kingly authority. That’s why when Saul grabs Samuel’s robe after hearing that he will not be Israel’s king, and Samuel’s robe tears, Samuel says “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today…” (1 Sam. 15:28). When Jonathan hands over the robe it is an act of faith where Jonathan humbly follows the anointed one of God. This would be like Michelle Obama joining John McCain’s campaign, though it is greater than that because Jonathan has just given away his inheritance! He sides with God’s anointed king against his dad.

2. True Friendship is a picture of the Gospel.

Jonathan makes a covenant with David where he makes David promise, “you shall not only show me the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth” (1 Sam. 20:14-15). David makes this covenant with Jonathan even though Jonathan’s dad (family) is trying to kill him. There are at least four episodes leading up to this covenant where Saul tries to kill David or have him killed, and yet David promises to show kindness to Jonathan’s family! Again, we see an act of faith for Jonathan who knows that God will cut off the enemies of the anointed one. It looks foolish for Jonathan to believe this when powerful king Saul with an army at his disposal is seeking the life of a “flea.” He sides with the flea because he knows the power of God is on his life. There is a similar scene when a thief is dying on a cross beside another “criminal” who is gasping for breath. This thief looks at the criminal next to him and says, “Jesus, will you remember me when you enter your kingdom?” How in the world can he expect this executed criminal to bring him into a kingdom? This is an act of faith. And Jesus says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jonathan recognizes the anointed one, even when it seems that the promises are not coming true, and that faith is rewarded. After the death of Jonathan, Jonathan’s lame son, Mephibosheth, is brought into the family of David to eat at his table! When David does this it is not the Godfather’s “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This is grace! This is covenant love. This is the reconciliation of an enemy who becomes a friend, a brother. This is the gospel! This is the picture of the Lord’s Table where those who were once enemies have become friends and the family of God.

3. True Friendship means the cost of discipleship.

This is exactly what the proverbs say about friendship. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Saul wants to kill David, and David knows it, but Jonathan does not think that Saul has anything against David. So, David and Jonathan make a deal that Jonathan will find out if the king is angry or not, and then he will let David know. Jonathan goes in to see his dad. What is Jonathan thinking here? Does it ever cross his mind that “all I have to do is tell David that Dad is not mad at him, have him come back to the house, then my dad will kill him, and I will be king over Israel”? All Jonathan has to do is side with his family, and he will have a great reward! But, Jonathan does not do that. He finds out his dad is really angry with David, and as a result his dad does to Jonathan exactly what he tried to do to David, he throws a spear at him and tries to kill his son. Jonathan’s friendship with David does not just cost him his inheritance. Jonathan’s friendship with David costs him his family (which is exactly what Jesus said about discipleship, cf. Matt. 10), and it nearly costs him his life! But isn’t that exactly what the Bible says about friendship and discipleship? It will cost you. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Jonathan is a true friend because he sacrifices himself and his own comfort for David his friend.

Isn’t that what the Bible says about true friendship? John 15: 13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 “These things I command you, that you love one another. 18 ” If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

What Jesus says about his friendship with the disciples and the cost of discipleship is what happens to Jonathan. Because he sides with God’s anointed, the world (i.e. Saul) does to him exactly what it did to David. Jonathan keeps his loyal friendship with David, even when his life and livelihood are on the line. That is the call of discipleship for the friend of God’s anointed, Jesus Christ. We are called to follow him and love him, even when opposition comes from this age! We are called to befriend, love, and bear up his body.

Jonathan shows a great act of friendship by laying his life on the line for David. But the greatest act of friendship was the One who did lay his life down for his friends in order to reconcile those who were enemies of God! That’s why Solomon, David’s son, tells us about this One, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Jon Akin

HEROES OF THE FAITH PART 2: IS SAMSON A JIHADIST SUICIDE BOMBER?

Samson I remember having a conversation with my brothers and a friend of theirs in which the subject of Samson's salvation came up. Their friend exclaimed, "I don't even know if that guy was regenerate!" Of course Samson broke his Nazarite vow on several occasions, made multiple rendezvous with pagan women, cohabited with one, and committed suicide in some vain attempt to take vengeance on the Philistines for "one of his two eyes" that they had put out. Not to mention this guy's temper was out of control! Samson was the Israelite equivalent of William Wallace crossed with Hugh Hefner. So the question comes, "Is he saved? Or is he an Israelite Jihadist suicide bomber?"

 Hebrews 11 says that Samson is a hero of the faith. He was a champion in Israel who pointed us forward to the Champion Jesus Christ! In Samson's day God gave Israel over to the Philistines because of their compromise with the surrounding culture! In the midst of all of this national chaos and strife God focuses His Story on a barren couple, Manoah and his wife. The Angel of the Lord announces a miracle birth to them and says the child will begin to deliver Israel. Samson is born, grows, and it is clear that God is with him. He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. This doesn't mean that he is ready for a TV preaching ministry. Anointing from the Holy Spirit means war! He is a warrior who accomplishes mighty things: rips a lion to shreds with his bare hands, kills 30 Philistines, etc. Yet, all of these mighty things are tainted by his compromise with the enemy culture and its women.

 In spite of the failures in Samson's life he does point us forward to the Great Deliverer. God would deliver his people through 1 man! There was another man whose miraculous birth was foretold by an Angel. There was another man anointed by the Spirit who took on the enemies of God. There was another man betrayed by his own people and given over to pagan oppressors because His countrymen were so at ease with the foreign culture. There was another man whose close companion betrayed him with a kiss for silver. There was another man who was arrested, not blinded, but blindfolded, and made sport of. There was another man who was humiliated by his enemies. There was another man who looked forsaken by God and defeated by His enemies. There was another man whose death crushed the head of His enemies (and ours!)! This man did not suffer for his own sins as Samson did, but for the sins of the world. This man's name is Jesus of Nazareth. He gained a greater victory in His death than he did in his life. Jesus' prayer was the same as Samson's, "Remember me!" God heard that prayer and pulled his Son out of death, crushing the enemies and freeing his oppressed people from bondage to sin. Samson's deliverance pales in comparison to Jesus' deliverance of His people.

 The question comes, "Was Samson a suicide bomber?" No! Did he die deliberately? Yes. He died in the same way a soldier sacrifices himself to gain a victory. This determination points forward to a greater sacrifice, where Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, determined to go and suffocate to death on a cross to free His people! He said, "No one takes my life from me. I lay it down!" That is warfare. That is a Jihad. This Jihadist does not take the life of innocents. This Jihadist stood in the place of the guilty as the only innocent and drowned so they could be acquitted!

 My brothers' friend stood in amazement with a smile on his face when I told him that Samson was a type of the warrior-savior, Jesus Christ. I stood their in amazement too. I was amazed that sinners like Jon, Paul, Eric, and Samson can hear the words "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I was amazed that someone went to war for us. He was no Hugh Hefner Braveheart with face-paint on. His face was covered in blood! 

Jon Akin 

 

HEROES OF THE FAITH: PART 1, NOAH

Evan AlmightyOur church began a series on heroes of the faith, examining different persons in the Bible commended as heroes in Hebrews 11. I have so enjoyed the opportunity to look at the heroes of the faith and how they point us to THE HERO of the faith, the "author and finisher" of our faith, Jesus Christ! The first hero we preached on was Noah.

The story of Noah has been popularized again and again and again. From Bill Cosby's comic routine to the newly released "Evan Almighty," the Noah story is everywhere, including YouTube. An agnostic girl who calls herself "Hellbound Alleee," posted an entire video talking about Noah's Ark. She explains how ridiculous it is that Christian parents are so concerned with TV content and ratings systems. They buy vchips to censor what their children watch. Then, they decorate their kid's room in Noah's Ark themes and let them play with Noah's Ark toys. She says, "Don't these people have a clue? Noah's ark is not a cutesy children's story about having a bunch of sweet cuddly pets in a big boat. Noah's ark is a horror story. There are dead bodies floating in the water. God is wiping out the human race in judgment. Parents might as well put "Saw II" posters on their kid's walls…"

One of the problems that I have with what this agnostic has to say is that she understands the story better than some Christians do! Now, she hates the story and will not submit to what the Spirit of Christ is teaching her, but there were dead corpses in the water. Noah's ark is a horror story. It is a story of judgment. Unfortunately the world has seen a taste of this kind of devastation in recent years with the Tsunami in 2004 and the Katrina in 2005. We have seen firsthand the carnage of a flood, but imagine it on a global level.

The story of Noah's ark is a story of God's judgment against human sin. God created the world and it was good, but the fall of Adam brought on the realities of sin and death. Human sin increased to the point that God decided to release his hand of judgment in a global flood. One man finds favor in God's eyes, Noah. Too often we see the Noah story in black and white. Noah is the guy in the white robe with the halo around his head, and those who do not heed his sermon are the wicked villains dressed in black with twisted mustaches. That helps us not to be as upset about this story as Hellbound Alleee is. It helps us pass by the fact that a lot of people that many would have felt were basically "good" people drowned, gasping for air as the waters covered them and their families.

Our notions of the biblical characters shield us from the sting of God's Word too often. We think to ourselves "those wicked idiots didn't get in the boat. I would have got in the boat for sure." Yet, these were real people, living real lives, working hard to provide for their families, and all of a sudden it is all swept away! Jesus says that is exactly what judgment was like, like the days of Noah. People were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They were living life and all of a sudden "boom" the judgment of God fell! Jesus says in Matthew 24 that is exactly the way judgment will be again. People will be living life, doing what they normally do, totally unfazed by the warning of disaster. People will be falling in love, getting married, having children, climbing the corporate ladder, and then BAM! We say, "These people are fools" for not heeding the warning of Noah. Yet, these people had some very good reasons for not getting in the boat, the same way it seems very reasonable to people today not to avoid the judgment to come. After all, we hear the doomsday messages of movies like "The Day After Tomorrow" and Al Gore's documentary on Global Warming, but we don't switch out the Styrofoam coffee cups in Sunday School. We don't trade in our SUV for a Prius. That's exactly what is happening here. It seems reasonable to many not to fear global judgment. In the same way we don't lose sleep at night wondering if the Ozone is deteriorating, most people don't wake up in sweat fearing impending judgment…  We don't live as if the "Ark" is our only hope of rescue! Jesus says these people were just living life, and then like a thief in the night that you don't expect judgment fell. The same is going to be true again! Noah heard the warning and he changed everything.

Noah is righteous, but he is still a sinner (seen clearly by the end of his life in Gen. 9). The writer to the Hebrews tells what was different about Noah, faith! Because of Noah's faith God is going to save one family through the ark and bring a new creation out of judgment. God gives this warning to Noah. Noah is faced with a choice to take God at his word or doubt because this is something he has never seen before. He aligns his life with the coming judgment. Also, Noah preaches (2 Pet. 2:5)! There is a global judgment coming and he is the only one with the message of salvation, so he must share it. We are given the same task. There is a global judgment coming that is going to wipe away every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the planet. We know it is coming and it is our job to share that warning with others in love hoping they believe and are rescued.

The flood comes. From the flood, to the destruction of Pharaoh's army, to the fish who vomits Jonah, to Jesus' statements that his cross is a baptism, water is pictured as judgment throughout the Bible. 1 Peter 3 tells the church that Baptism is the anti-type of the flood. It pictures the fact that in Christ we have been drowned in the wrath of God and raised to walk in newness of life. That is the message of Noah's ark. Judgment will come, but there is an "Ark" that drowned under the wrath of God outside the gates of Jerusalem gasping hour after hour after hour for one last breath. Three days later the Ark of our Salvation stood up and walked away from death because the message of Noah is that "God is not willing that any should perish" (2 Pet. 3).

Hellbound Alleee is right! The Noah story is a story about judgment. It is horrific. But, it is about a lot more than that! We should weep at this story. We should never contemplate the wrath of God against sinners without tears. But even as it causes sorrow, Noah's story should bring rejoicing on the other side! What Hellbound Alleee misses about this "horror" story is exactly what she needs! It's the side of the Noah story that is captured by the Ark of our Salvation when he said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!" Let's say a prayer tonight for Alleee that she will one day seek refuge from the coming flood in the Ark that's already drowned in it!

 And as for my little girl playing with Noah's ark toys I'm all for it, because my prayer everyday for her is that Noah's ark will point her to the reality of judgment and the hope of rescue. As she plays with the boat, the animals, and the guy with the long white beard I'm going to tell her exactly what this story is telling her, John 3:16!

Jon Akin  

On the Atonement: Some Recommendations

Although I am an historian by trade, I enjoy reading theology. Of the classic "systematic theology" categories, the doctrine of salvation, and more specifically Christ's atonement, is the area in which I am most interested. My interest is both academic and experimental (or, for all of your whipper-snappers, "experiential"). I want to make some brief recommendations for those who are interested in studying the atonement, whether academically or devotionally (or even better, both!).

J. I. Packer, "What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution," available here 

J. I. Packer, "Penal Substitution Revisited," available at Reformation21

John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity, 1986/2006)

Charles Hill and Frank James, eds., The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Perspectives (InterVarsity, 2004)

Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmans, 1965)

Leon Morris, The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance (InterVarsity, 1984)

James Beilby and Paul Eddy, eds., The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (InterVarsity, 2006)

Also, like many of you, I look forward to the forthcoming US printing of Steve Jeffrey, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (InterVarsity, 2007)

Finally, our friends at Southern Seminary have dedicated the most recent issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology to the topic "The Atonement in Focus." You can read more here [HT: Jim Hamilton].

A Theology for the Church

A Theology of the ChurchThis month B&H Academic is officially releasing the long-awaited systematic theology textbook A Theology for the Church. The book is edited by Southeastern Seminary president Danny Akin and includes contributions from some of the brightest theologians in the Southern Baptist Convention. The following information is from B&H's website:

A Theology for the Church, an immense 992-page work edited by Daniel Akin, with contributions from leading Baptist thinkers Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Timothy George, and many others, addresses four major issues in regard to eight Christian doctrines.

What does the Bible say? Each Christian doctrine is rooted in the Bible’s own teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.

What has the Church believed? Christians have interpreted these doctrines in somewhat different ways through the centuries.

How do the doctrines fit together? Each Christian doctrine must cohere with the other doctrines.

How does each doctrine impact the church today? Each Christian doctrine must be meaningful for today’s church. It’s sure to become a widely-used resource in systematic theology study.

Those of us at SBC Witness highly recommend this valuable new reference work for pastors, seminarians, collegians, and other thoughtful Southern Baptists.

Does Theology Matter?

BibleIt seems that in our current evangelical culture the "does it work?" question or even the "is it cool?" question comes before the "is it right or true?" question. Obviously questions of practicality and theology are essential. The problem is the order. Many rush into the practical or the hip. If the practical starts working or the hip gains a following, then we take a breath and search for the Bible verse, Old Testament Narrative, Proverb, etc. that legitimizes our practice. In an age where sermons are more about "how to's," corvettes, and "come on the journey with me" the question begs to be asked, "Is this the kind of preaching that turned the world upside-down?" When so many are dragged away by pragmatism and pop-cultural fads that are baptized as evangelical, but lead ultimately to liberalism or worse, the question begs to be asked, "Does theology really matter?" The answer must be "Yes!"  Dr. Danny Akin answered that question for his students with a "yes," when he wrote the following:  

 "Theology Really Does Matter"

Theology was once called "the Queen of the Sciences."  Given the way it is treated by many Christians and churches in our day, it perhaps should be identified now as the "court jester."  If it is not ignored all together, it is viewed as ivory tower and esoteric.  Those who love and do theology are not in touch with real people and the real problems and needs of everyday life.  Theology is like bad medicine.  Take as little as you can possibly get away with.

The Church has suffered greatly as a result of this atheological mindset.  As I look across the landscape of the Southern Baptist Convention, it appears that we are at an all time low in our ability to explain what we believe and why we believe.  The sad but tragic fact is we do not love God very well with our minds.

George Barna made the point when he reported that "only 4% of adults [in America] have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision making."  That observation, though sobering, was not shocking.  However, it was his next statement that really got my attention: "Only 9% of born again Christians have [a basic, biblical worldview]." (Barna Update, December 2003). 

The Church has been seduced by the sirens of modernity, and we have jettisoned a word-based ministry that is expository and theological in nature.  We have, in our attempt to be popular and relevant, become foolish and irrelevant.
Skiing across the surface needs of a fallen, sinful humanity we have turned the 'church' into a pop-psychology side-show and a feel-good pit stop.  We have neglected teaching the whole counsel of God's Word and the wonderful theology embedded in that Word.  Too many of our people know neither the content of Scripture nor the doctrines of Scripture.  In too many pulpits, if the Bible is used at all, it is usually as a proof-text out of context with no real connection to what the biblical author is saying. 

The words of the prophet Amos were never more piercing, "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it."  Ours is a day when people are more familiar with the story lines of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings than they are the grand redemptive story-line and themes of Scripture.  Too many Christians handle the Bible in a way that is irresponsible, dishonest with the text, and therefore devoid of solid theological substance.

Some fear that the SBC is in danger of being submerged into Calvinist theology.  I am far more convinced the real danger is being swallowed whole by shallow and sloppy theology.  If we will teach our people solid biblical theology rooted in biblical exposition, extreme agendas from any direction will be easily recognized and quickly rejected.

As we study and teach the Bible, we must engage, with a balanced and responsible method, the discipline of theology.  Drawing on classic categories we should ask of every text a series of important and necessary questions:

1. What does this text say about the Bible (and the doctrine of Revelation)?
2. What does this text say about God (also Creation, angelology)?
3. What does this text say about humanity (and sin, our falleness)?
4. What does this text say about Jesus Christ (His person and work)?
5. What does this text say about the Holy Spirit?
6. What does this text say about Salvation?
7. What does this text say about the Church?
8. What does this text say about Last Things?

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe has sounded a much needed warning in this area.  Considering these sobering words:

  "I don't think the average church member realizes the extent
   of the theological erosion that's taken place on the American
  exegetical scene since World War II, but the changes I've witnessed in 
  Christian broadcasting and publishing make it very real to me.  Radio
  programs that once majored in practical Bible teaching are now
  given over to man-centered interviews ('talk' radio is a popular
  thing) and man-centered music that sounds so much like what the
  world presents, you wonder if your radio is tuned to a Christian
  station.  In so much of today's ministry 'feeling good' has
   replaced being good, and 'happiness' has replaced holiness."
      -(Warren Wiersbe, Be Myself, 301.)

We need, we must have a steady diet of exegetical and systematic theology if we are to be cured of the spiritual anemia that afflicts too many of our churches.  It is my prayer that Southeastern will be out front in dispensing this much needed medicine.

 Danny Akin

Unity or Doctrine? A Critique of the NBCC’s Goal

Here is an interesting question: What is more important as Baptists: unity or doctrine?

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood have organized a conference entitled the "New Baptist Covenant Celebration." It will meet in Atlanta in January 2008.

The purpose of the celebration is to, "have a major demonstration of harmony and a common commitment to personify and to accomplish the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his sermon to His hometown of Nazareth," stated Carter.

The conference lists 28 Baptist organizations and 5 media outlets which do not respectively include the Southern Baptist Convention or the Baptist Press (an SBC entity).

There will be, however, some the 16 million Southern Baptists in attendance, despite being left off of the website's participant list. Again, part of the stated goal is to demonstrate harmony.

This begs two questions:

1) What are the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his "hometown homily?"

You may recall that Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath (as became His custom) and picked up the scroll of the book of Isaiah and read a passage of Scripture that pointed to Himself. It said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

Was Jesus just speaking to the financially poor? Was Jesus just speaking to those who are physically blind and physically oppressed? No. He was and is also speaking to those who are spiritually poor, those dead in their sins. He also speaks to those who are spiritually oppressed, living under the tremendous weight of the power of sin. He also speaks to those who are blind to the Gospel and are waiting to sing the refrain of the old hymn, “was blind but now I see” when their spiritual eyes are opened to the life-saving power of Jesus Christ.

However, this message, the message of a life-changing and life-saving Jesus-power, was not popular then, is not popular now and will not be popular in the future. The real meaning of Jesus’ message to his countrymen was rejected then and it is rejected now and will be rejected until He comes back to judge the living and the dead.

After doubting who Jesus said he was simply because he was speaking to his homeboys, Jesus spoke a word of condemnation to them and compared himself to the prophets Elijah and Elisha while comparing the Nazarenes to a famine-starved land and unhealed lepers. After this comparison, the Gospel of Luke records:

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” (Luke 4:28-30, ESV)

They cared not to hear Jesus speak the Words of Truth and drove Him out of their city while trying to erase His name from this earth. Many have tried to do the same to the message and the man of Jesus from that day onward but Jesus continues to “pass through their midst” as His message lives on and will forever live on throughout eternity.

This leads us to a second important question:

2) What is more important? Being united or being doctrinally sound?

I am not proposing that the supporters of the NBCC are not doctrinally sound. They have their own rational hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture that is beyond the scope of this short essay to delve into. Is it better for Baptists to unify themselves, despite doctrinal differences (some being major) just because we all prefer dunking to skimming?

No doubt the minds behind the NBCC are more concerned with people’s temporal needs (which are important) then their eternal need.

Republican presidential candidate and former SBC pastor, Mick Huckabee, was scheduled to attend and speak at the January gathering but has recently withdrew his name and time from the event because of the "unprecedented personal attack” on current President and Christ-follower (member of the United Methodist Church) George W. Bush by former President Carter. Carter recently stated that the Bush administration's foreign policy was "the worst in history."

It seems that former President Carter would rather hub-bub with Credo-Baptists while simultaneously attacking anoother Christ-followers’ job performance.

Carter further stated, “the overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.” That statement smells of old-time politics and un-buried hatchets.

Baptists, even Southern Baptists, eventually have to answer the question: What is more important? Unity or Doctrine? Fortunately, Southern Baptists have been answering this question in the latter for years now and will continue to answer this in the future despite the cries of “unity” from other hermeneutically-challenged organizations.

But most importantly, the life-changing power of Jesus will continue to be preached throughout SBC churches because eternal salvation and unity with Christ through spiritual reconciliation is mankind's ultimate need, rather then financial salvation and unity with itself through temporal relationships.

New Year’s Resolution: Knockdown the Scarecrow

scarecrowOne of my favorite lines in cinematic history is in the "Wizard of Oz." Dorothy cannot make up her mind when the yellowbrick road comes to a fork. Should she go left or right? The Scarecrow tells her to go both ways. Dorothy: Can't you make up your mind? Scarecrow: That's the problem. I can't. I haven't got a brain. Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain? Scarecrow: I don't know. But, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking. Dorothy: I guess you're right. I see scarecrow theology in that way. You can do an awful lot of talking without ever having to use your brain. The blogosphere can serve some real good if it leads to actual theological argumentation and precision. So let's all use our brains and knockdown the scarecrow once and for all in 2007.

This is good advice for all of us whether we are bloggers, theologians, students, professors, or preachers. Weak argumentation and cheap slogans are found on the net, in the classroom, and in the pulpit. Let's all make a New Year's resolution: No More Scarecrow Theology.

 What is "straw man" argumentation? A straw man argument is basically a logical fallacy where a person misrepresents his opponent's position. The person sets up a man made of straw (i.e. a position that is easy to refute), and then makes it appear that this is his opponent's position.  This can be done in several ways. A person can misrepresent an opponent's position, knock it down, and then assert that his opponent's real position has been defeated. A very common way to do this is to quote an opponent out of context. Another way is to refute someone who does not defend the position well and make it seem that everyone who holds that position has been refuted. That can also be done by picking the weakest argument of an opponent to refute, rather than dealing with his or her strongest argument.

 One common example of a straw man is in eschatological argumentation. Some pre-millennialists will paint the picture that "all Amillennialists are liberals." Certainly scholars like J. I. Packer, John Stott, and many others would take exception to such an statement. It might be true that a liberal presupposition lends itself to adopting an amillennial view, since liberals are opposed to a lot of things, but it does not follow that an amillenial viewpoint naturally leads to liberalism. This is just one example among many, and examples of straw man theology are too numerous to cite. If we are honest, all of us have done it at one time or another. Why? We wanted to feel like we "won" the argument without actually having to engage our opponent's actual position or strongest arguments. We wanted some slaps on the back, high fives, and cheap amens from those in our camp or our congregation. We wanted to persuade someone of our position by sloganeering. Usually we only persuade those who are scarecrow theologians anyways. We do not really convince those who think through issues clearly. But we did it. Let's just admit it and resolve to knock down the scarecrow once and for all.

 There are a LOT of words spent on theological argumentation, blogging, preaching, and teaching. This can be found on the internet, in the classroom, and in the pulpit. All of these words might convince other scarecrow theologians, and they might bring some amens from fellow supporters, but will all those words actually lead to a well-rounded and sound theology? Will all those words be for the glory of Christ and the good of the church? Only if we get rid of the scarecrow in 2007 can all this be for the glory of Christ.

Jon Akin

Reading the Bible Christocentrically Part 4: King Joash, The Terminator, and King Jesus

 ArnoldThe inter-connectedness of the Bible is breathtaking. In recent days I was able to preach through the story of Joash. Joash points quite vividly to the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. The parallels and plays in this story to the story of Christ are amazing. In 2 Chronicles 22:10, wicked Queen Athaliah "destroyed ALL the royal heirs of the house of David," but Joash is hidden away in the Temple. This is a dark time in the history of Judah. Again, all of the promises to David about a Son who will sit on an eternal throne over an eternal kingdom lie dead in Jerusalem tombs!

The evil queen, the seed of the serpent, has played a part in the cosmic war raging throughout the centuries. Genesis 3:15, right after the fall, tells us that the "seed of the woman" will crush the head of the serpent, but the serpent will bruise the heel of the head crusher. This enmity and warfare rages on across the world stage. John pulls back the curtain on this war in Revelation 12:4 where he writes, "the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born." This refers back to Gen. 3:15 and Matthew 2 where Herod tried to destroy Messiah as soon as he was born, but it also engulfs every attempt that the dragon/serpent made to destroy the Messiah before he came.

Holywood has shown a similar storyline in the first two "Terminator" movies. In Terminator 1, the machines send a cyborg terminator back in time to destroy the man who will be their undoing. On this attempt they try to kill his mother before she has him. In Terminator 2 they send another cyborg back through time to kill the man while he is a boy and weak.

 We see a similar play in the biblical storyline. As soon as the promise of a deliverer is made, Eve gives birth, and yet Satan moves Cain to kill Abel. The promise is dead, but God raises up Seth. Pharaoh is killing the male Hebrews when they are born, but God delivers Moses. Later in Israel's history, Hamaan will attempt genocide against the Jews, and then Herod will try to kill Jesus when he is a baby. All of these are attempts by the serpent to kill the line before the Messiah King comes! Athaliah participates in this by wiping out the sons of David. The promises lie dead in the tombs of Jerusalem! Yet, one is saved, King Joash.

 Joash is rescued and hid away for 6 years. Joash is not the first child and will not be the last child hidden away from an evil ruler. Moses was hid from Pharaoh, and Jesus will be hid from Herod. All three will have similar ministries, Exodus! In the seventh year, Jehoiada the priest orchestrates a coup to set Joash on the throne. They bring Joash out of the temple, which shows that he is the true Son of God/King. They crown him and proclaim him as king. Athaliah hears the shouts and songs of the people as they bring Joash to the throne. Then the Bible says that she looks and sees the king "standing" by his pillar (2 Chr. 23:13). This is similar to the heavenly vision of Revelation 5. John sees the lamb, as though slain, but standing! Yahweh has brought life out of death. Yahweh has brought victory out of defeat. And what is the crowning and victory of Joash accompanied by? Singing and praising (cf. Rev. 5:6 & 13)!

 Evil Athaliah and her followers are put to death (cf. Gen. 3:15, serpent's seed is being crushed). This may seem harsh to some, but these verses should be cross-referenced in your study Bibles with John 3:16. God loves the world so much that he will kill the enemies who try to keep the Son from coming. Joash defeats the enemies and he sets worship right again in Judah. The land is quiet.

 After this, Joash sets himself to rebuilding the temple. Why? Kings are temple-builders (cf. Solomon, Zech. 6:12-15, etc.). Solomon built the original temple. Joash re-builds the temple, and Jesus will build the final temple.

 King Joash is a Moses who leads his people out of bondage to an evil tyrant in order to build a dwelling place for God. His life points to the Greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. Not only does Herod try to kill him at birth, but Jesus is killed on a Cross. The hope for an eternal kingdom once again lies dead in a tomb in Jerusalem. Yet, on the third day, King Jesus does what the sinner King Joash cannot, he walks out of the grave. He crushed the head of the serphet forever. He ascended into heaven, and he sent gifts in order to build his temple (cf. Eph. 4:7-16). They thought they could tear this temple down, but Jesus raised it up in three days, and he is building it now through his Spirit on the foundation of apostles and prophets. This is a greater Exodus and a greater Temple, presided over by a faithful King-Priest!

 Jon Akin 

Reading the Bible Christocentrically: Part 3

2 CHRONICLES 17-20: JEHOSHAPHATarmageddon

JEHOSHAPHAT

 Jehoshaphat takes over for his father Asa in a time of turmoil. He strengthens his position in Judah, placing troops in the fortified cities (built by Asa). Yahweh is "with" Jehoshaphat because he walks in the former ways of His father David, who did not seek the Baals. This is a fulfillment of the promises to David (Obedient Son = Blessing, prosperity, etc.). He has riches and honor in great abundance. Jehoshaphat commits himself to God's Word by sending out princes and Levites city by city to teach the Word of God. As a result, the fear of the Lord falls on all the surrounding kingdoms, so they don't make war with Jehoshaphat. They fear the power of Yahweh and His Word. The Philistines and the Arabians bring tribute gifts to Jehoshaphat. We see here "Peace in the Middle East," as Arabs are bringing gifts to the King of Israel. Just imagine if Bin Laden were to bring camels as gifts to the Prime Minister of Israel.

      Jehoshaphat's great, great grandfather saw this happen during his reign. The nations heard of Solomon's wisdom, they knew that God was WITH him, so they were afraid (i.e. the God of the Exodus), and they came bringing treasures and gifts. They wanted to learn from Solomon's wisdom. The nations were recognizing that God had blessed Israel and her king. They wanted to be connected with that blessing. The Queen of Sheba wanted to learn the ways of the Lord. Not only that, the nations realized that Solomon and Israel were so powerful and exalted that they wanted to be on Solomon's good side, so they brought him gifts.
     
      The prophets prophesy that what happened in Solomon's reign (and partly in Jehoshaphat's reign) will happen again in an even greater way in the future. The Prophets tell us that a day is coming when all the nations will stream to Israel. All the nations will bring their gold and their wealth to Israel and ask to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isa. 2:3). The nations' kings will also recognize the power of Israel's King and will bring gifts to Him, indeed "all nations shall serve him" (Psa. 72:10-11)! Zechariah 8:23 "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is WITH you.'" Isaiah 60:1-6 tells of a great light that will rise over Israel, the glory of Yahweh will appear over them, and the nations will come to the light, and they will bring gifts of "gold and frankincense." Matthew 2 shows a fulfillment of this prophecy, where Magi bring these gifts to the king who has a star over him! But, this story even points forward still to the eschatological fulfillment. Revelation 21:22-26, "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it." What is happening in the reign of Jehoshaphat is only a glimpse, a snapshot, of what will happen when David's greatest Son rules. The nations recognize the light of Yahweh and His Word that are with Judah, and they fear and bring gifts.

      We see this prophecy coming true even now. Jesus came teaching the Word of God city by city. He sent out His disciples two-by-two to teach God's Word. Then, he sent them (us) out through the Great Commission. They don't just go out, but they "draw in" the nations to the New Jerusalem, Christ. The nations are being gathered through the teaching of God's Word, and they are submitting to an Israelite King. They are saying, "Teach us your wisdom. Teach us to walk in your ways, for we have heard that God is WITH YOU."
 
 Foolishly, Jehoshaphat unequally yokes himself and forms a marriage alliance with Ahab. Ahab also entices Jehoshaphat into battle. Jehoshaphat knows enough to ask of the Lord before going into battle, even when 400 other prophets are saying Yahweh will give victory. Jehoshaphat rightly says "isn't there a prophet of Yahweh to ask?" Ahab says that there is still 1 man, but he doesn't like this prophet b/c he always prophesies against Ahab. Ultimately, Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh, prophesies Ahab's death in the battle. What is striking is that Jehoshaphat requests a Word from Yahweh, and he ignores it. Though Ahab dies in the battle, Jehoshaphat narrowly escapes. On the way home from the battle against Syria, Jehu the prophet confronts and rebukes Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate Yahweh?… Wrath is upon you." Jehoshaphat repents and sets up a justice system in Judah based on God's Word.
     
      In Chapter 20, Moab and Ammon come up against Judah, seeking to drive them out of the land. Jehoshaphat is afraid, but he seeks the Lord (unlike Asa his father) and proclaims a fast. All the cities come to "seek" the Lord for help. Azariah's prophecy to Asa from chapter 15 is coming true. When Judah seeks Yahweh, He will be found by them. All the people from young to old stand in the temple, and Jehoshaphat prays to Yahweh. He addresses him as God of all the nations who has power no one can stand against. He is also the God of Israel who drove out Canaanites and gave them land as promised to Abraham. His people live there and built a sanctuary for Yahweh. If disaster comes, the people are to stand before Yahweh at the temple and cry out to him, and he will "hear and save." Jehoshaphat turns the attention of his prayer to their enemies. He says that God told Israel not to touch these peoples when coming into the Land of Promise. Yet, these people want to throw Israel out of the land. Jehoshaphat's imprecatory prayer is that God will judge these peoples and not hesitate. This prayer points back to Solomon's dedicatory prayer of the temple. When God's people are besieged by enemies, they will pray towards the temple, and God will deliver them (cf. Jonah 2). Again, we see Jehoshaphat's relation to the Word of God. He is taking God at his Word.

 A Prophet tells the people that the battle is God's, and He will fight for Judah. They can just stand and see God's salvation. The people with Jehoshaphat bow their faces to the ground and worship Yahweh. The next morning when the people start singing praises to Yahweh, he destroys their enemies. Judah gets to the place and all they see is dead bodies, so they plunder them for 3 days.
     
      There is a mention in the Prophet Joel about the "Valley of Jehoshaphat." Lots of ink is spilt from commentators' pens discussing WHERE this valley is, as if it were a geographical issue. I believe that the Holy Spirit, through Joel, is pointing back to this event in the reign of Jehoshaphat, and He uses it to point to final judgment on those nations that oppose God! Joel writes in 3:12-13, "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge (the name Jehoshaphat literally means, "Ya judges") all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow — For their wickedness is great." The cry of God's people, throughout history, is, "how long will you allow your enemies to prosper and your people to suffer?" God answers constantly that it will not be this way forever. The wicked shall not prosper forever. Jehoshaphat's victory here over the Moabites and the Ammonites foreshadows that Day of the Lord. The people of Jehoshaphat's day praise Yahweh for the victory, and He gives them rest. Again, the surrounding nations are afraid, b/c they see that Yahweh fights for His people.

      Though Jehoshaphat was a good king overall, committed to God's Word, he was not a perfect king. He unequally yoked himself with the Northern Kingdom. He did not fully obey the Word. His failures, with all of the other kings of Judah, foreshadow the need for a perfect Warrior-King. This King was the Word made flesh. This King sent out his disciples to teach God's word, city-by-city. This King is seeing the nations being gathered in. Gentile pagans are bowing to this King. This King appeared in human history, and the nations did stand against him. As Luke tells us in Acts 2 and Acts 4, the kings of the earth and the rulers took their stand and were gathered together against Yahweh and his Messiah. Indeed Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and even Israel gathered together against Jesus. Gentile armies came to destroy the anointed of God, and the cry came again, "How long Oh Lord? How long will the enemies of God prevail?" The answer came back, "Three days!" As the nations gathered against the Messiah, their own plans to destroy him ended up being their own downfall! As Joel prophesied about that day of the Lord there were signs in the heavens, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the defeat of the enemies of God, and the exaltation of Israel over her enemies. When the dust settled, one man sat at the right hand of God with all his enemies being put under his feet. The cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. King Jesus has destroyed his enemies and his followers are receiving the spoils. This King will one day appear in the Eastern sky at the sound of the trumpet, with all of His enemies assembled in the valley of Jehoshaphat. A sharp two-edged sword will come out of His mouth to "strike the nations." He will rule over the nations with a rod of iron, and the nations will stream to the New Jerusalem, bringing Him their honor and glory, saying, "teach us to walk in the ways of the Lord!"