Archives for September 2006

on Horowitz in Moscow

My daughter’s music teacher sent home a video recording of an amazing concert in Moscow, April 20, 1986, when Vladimir Horowitz was 81 years old. We took the time to watch and listen this evening. Horowitz was an incredible musician, marvelously skilled. Reviews I have read say some of the performances at this concert were his best ever. The pieces he played were these:

  1. Sonata for keyboard in E major, K. 380 (L. 23) “Cortège” Composed by Domenico Scarlatti
  2. Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330 (K. 300h) Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  3. Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32 No 05, Prelude in G major Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov
  4. Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32 No 12, Prelude in G sharp minor Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov
  5. Etude for piano in C sharp minor, Op. 2/1 Composed by Alexander Scriabin
  6. Etude for piano in D sharp minor, Op. 8/12 Composed by Alexander Scriabin
  7. Soirées de Vienne, valse caprice for piano No. 6 (I; after Schubert D. 969 & 779) S. 427/6 (LW A131/6) Composed by Franz Liszt
  8. Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104 (Pace non trovo; II) for piano (Années II/5), S. 161/5 (LW A55/5) Composed by Franz Liszt
  9. Mazurka for piano No. 21 in C sharp minor, Op. 30/4, CT. 71 Composed by Fryderyk Chopin
  10. Mazurka for piano No. 7 in F minor, Op. 7/3, CT. 58 Composed by Fryderyk Chopin
  11. Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) for piano, Op. 15 Traumerei Composed by Robert Schumann
  12. Characteristic pieces (8), for piano, Op 36 No 6, Etincelles: Allegro scherzando Composed by Moritz Moszkowski
  13. Polka W.R., for piano in A flat major, TN ii/18 Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov

The thing that struck me as I listened to this performance is that to enjoy this kind of music you must be patient. Each piece takes time to develop and to say what it is going to say. As the concert began, I found myself longing for a commentator to break in after a few minutes to tell me what is going on. I expect this is because we live in such a fast paced ‘sound bite’ culture. We can’t sit still long. The music can’t hold us, and we won’t be held.

By the time the concert reached the mid-point of the first half, that sensation of impatience disappeared. The music unveiled itself at its own pace and seemed over all too quickly by the end. The entire video, including some interview footage with Horowitz, lasted an hour and 51 minutes.

on Wednesday evening’s message: Relations among Disciples

Our midweek service was devoted to Matthew 18. Immediately when you announce this text, the mind of the well trained disciple goes to the process of discipline outlined in vv. 15-17. This is what Matthew 18 is about in the mind of many. In fact, we often refer to these three verses simply by announcing the chapter, “Matthew 18”.

Tonight we wanted to get at the context for a full understanding of God’s directions for us here. The sermon apparently occurs in a house in Caperaum (see Mk 9.33-34), possibly Peter’s house. The child used for an object lesson might be Peter’s child. The sermon follows hard on the heals of a dispute on the way down from Mt. Hermon, the mount of Transfiguration, to Capernaum. The Lord asks (in Mk), “what were you discussing on the way?” Silence ensues. At last, someone asks (Mt 18.1), “Lord who is the greatest in the kingdom?”

The Lord proceeds to adjust the disciples thinking concerning greatness in the kingdom. First, the kingdom is entered by turning around from self-centered pride to humble admission of personal inability. The issue of greatness in the kingdom is settled the same way, by humility. Having said that, the Lord rachets the discussion up a notch, to teach what it means when we as disciples argue and struggle with one another.

The Lord points out that anyone who receives a disciple (one such child) receives me, but anyone who becomes a stumbling block for a disciple (causes to sin), it would be better that he should be drowned ahead of such an event. He points out that the world is under a curse for such temptations, so the disciple should be extreme in cutting off those necessary things that might lead him to sin. He needs to be radical in avoiding sin. The Lord then proceeds to highlight the value of any individual disciple by telling the parable of the lost sheep — this is the value of the disciple in God’s eyes.

It is in this context that the steps of discipline are offered, not as a new law to be exactingly followed in every case of sin, but in particular in the matter of offenses between disciples, one should follow wise proceedures in seeking to bring about reconciliation. The process may involve the whole church, but it most certainly should be pursued. The Lord takes such matters seriously: the judgements of the church are bound in heaven, the affirming presence of Christ occurs in every such gathering.

The passage concludes with the parable of the unforgiving steward, who, though forgiven much, refuses to forgive. The Lord offers this as a warning to those of us who will jostle and struggle in the kingdom to be seen and heard. We would do well not to trample our brethren under our feet in our efforts for preeminence.

‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 2.5).

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on books

Today’s mail brought my latest purchase, The King James Bible Translators by Olga S. Opfell. I have long had this book on my want list at ABE Books, a local Victoria BC operation. Over the last few years I have received notifications of this book being available somewhere for $45-50 US. Too rich for my taste. Last week, I was notified of a copy showing up at Zubal Books in Cleveland, OH for only $9 USD. I swallowed hard on the shipping charge $12 USD, but given the overall price, thought I would live with it. Total: $21 USD, about $23.50 Cdn.

The book is hardcover, in very good condition. A former owners name is inside the cover, but no other apparent markings.

My first glances make this one look promising. A fairly lengthy bibliography and a pretty good index in the back (this is a huge failing in many books, what is so hard about this, especially for newly published books?) The book has chapters on the various companies of translators, some chapters on attendant circumstances to the translation, i.e., “The Printing”, “The Reception”, “Some happenings and contemporaries” and a closing one on “The Influence”. It also has four good Appendices: A list of translators, Bancroft’s Rules to Be Observed in the Translation of the Bible, the Epistle Dedicatory, and The Preface to the King James Version.

All in all, I am quite pleased with this addition to my son’s inheritance! (There won’t be much money boys, so you’ll have to be glad for the books!)

Some purchases don’t look so good on first glance, and even worse after reading them. (Does the name Piper ring any bells???) Solomon said, “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Eccl 12.12. I have found this to be true in my life.

But books are necessary for the preacher. They contain the stimulus and stuff of sermons, the wisdom of counsel, and food for the soul. One of my professors advised me to stay away from the popular preachers books. You read them once, then set them on the shelf and never consult them again. He was right. I wish I had followed his advice more carefully. This particular purchase looks to be in the other category: reference books. It appears to be carefully researched and provides links to other resources as well as valuable reference material in itself. This kind of book is most helpful.

Time will tell, of course. You will find out what I think of this book if I start blogging about its contents. I have been reading a book by Marvin Olasky lately. I should be putting up a couple of pieces from that one shortly. It, too, is a worthy book, a brief history of charity work in America well researched and full of information. (He uses endnotes, though, a plague from the pit!) The book is called The Tragedy of American Compassion. I don’t own it, I got it out of the local library, will wonders never cease. (We live in a very liberal town.) It’s worth owning, but probably will not be added to my library unless I find a good deal used somewhere.

Books and more books… the stuff of a preacher’s life.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the ministry of the Holy Spirit

Kent Brandenburg, a pastor friend and frequent commentator on this blog, poses an interesting question in his latest post at WHAT IS TRUTH. The question is, how can two people, faithful believers in Jesus Christ, led by the Spirit of God, arrive at opposite conclusions on any given issue? The question is an important one. We are confronted with a wide array of Bible teachers, and a vast storehouse of Bible teaching, more widely available than at any time in history. Sifting through all this teaching is impossible, but it is possible to observe a truly “Christian world view” that is generally consistent across denominational lines within “evangelicalism”. [See Note 1 below]

Most conservative observers would agree that there is moral, spiritual, and theological deterioration at various points in the ‘evangelical’ spectrum. In spite of this deterioration, a Christian world view remains consistent across a wide variety of differing and sometimes antagonistic ‘party’ lines. If we move from the broad view down to the individual, we find that few individuals have complete unanimity of faith and practice. Even if you select some individuals from within the same ‘evangelica’ group, while there will be much agreement, you still find stubborn individuality making distinctions of some kind. Yet if you were to interview any decided disciple you would find the self-perception that he is faithfully following the leading of the Holy Spirit, consistent with the Word of God in every respect, and this even though he differs, sometimes quite strongly, with his brother.

How can such a situation arise that men who are disciples of Christ, seeking to follow the Spirit, arrive at different conclusions regarding matters of faith and practice?

It is one thing for differences to exist where there is disingenuity at work. Some differences certainly are the result of wolves in sheeps’ clothing – the wolf professes sheep-hood, but holds the truth insincerely. Given the history of the church, it is foolhardy to deny that such situations exist, and it surely must exist in every church group.

But we cannot explain ALL different perceptions of the leadership of the Holy Spirit to false profession (wolf-hood). If we did, everyone else would be a wolf, and I would be the only sheep. Right???

Neither can we explain the differences with the notion that the Holy Spirit leads different men different ways for His own purposes. Titus 1.2 says God ‘cannot lie’. 2 Tim 2.13 says God ‘cannot deny himself’. Heb 6.18 says that ‘it is impossible for God to lie’. Our understanding of the nature of truth would be stood on its head if we were to assume the Holy Spirit is some kind of divine relativist, leading one man to one ‘truth’ and another man to another ‘truth’. Such a spirit wouldn’t be very Holy, and such a god would not be very dependable.

My friend Kent answers the question with this: the problem is not the Holy Spirit and not disingenuity, but rather disobedience. He says:

These verses say that even His disciples will not receive some of His truth. They’re either taught wrong and are not using discernment, they refuse to listen when told, or they won’t start practicing or proclaiming what they now do know. Many of these sadly are pastors who have a loyalty to a non-Scriptural institution or a group of friends above God and His Word. Instead of submitting to Scripture, they stick with private interpretation…

First, I have to say that in general I agree that this is the case in many circumstances of differences over the leading of the Spirit. Many people stubbornly cling to ‘private interpretations’ as Kent says. I have described this before as ‘doctrinal bonding’. There is a thing that psychologists (I know, I know) call ‘bonding’. It is supposed to be very important in parent/child relationships, and it probably is. But bonding occurs with ideas as well. It occurs in theological minds when they give birth to a new thought. Occasionally the new thought will be the brainchild of the one who thought it. They bring this thought into the world, they nurture it, they develop it, they wrap it in swaddling clothes, they make it one of the unique aspects of their teaching and doctrine. In short, they are in love with the thought processes of their own minds. (We are ALL susceptible to this.) The new thought can also be presented to us by a much loved teacher. It is not our thought, we did not bring it to birth, but it is the ‘thought-child’ of our mentor, and since we love him, we love his ‘thought-children’ also. We warmly and uncritically accept all and everything that our theological hero teaches, replicating his errors in our own thinking by bonding to them.

In short, we are prone to disobedient thinking. We cling to notions that we love. The disciples themselves were prone to this as well. They asked the Lord, on the day of ascension: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1.6]. They still had not shaken the notion of an earthly kingdom in their own time.

Where we are disobedient, the Holy Spirit is not leading us. May the Lord grant us discernment to see our areas of disobedience.

But now, having set all this up (are you still reading this?), I want to go a bit further. Is disobedience the only explanation for differences between apparently Holy Spirit led individuals?

The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide them when he left them behind. Here are his words on the subject:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [John 16:13]

A couple of questions regarding this promise need to be answered. First, WHO will the Holy Spirit guide? Is the promise applicable to all disciples at all times or is it only applicable to the apostles? Second, WHAT is all truth? Does the Lord promise to guide his followers in every detail of truth, in every detail of Christian living, in every detail of daily living, or is his promise limited to some specific body of truth?

As to the first question, the Lord is AT LEAST promising to lead the apostles into all truth. The question, then, is whether this promise applies to other disciples besides the apostles. The notes of the NET Bible say:

“Since in the context of the Farewell Discourse Jesus is preparing the twelve to carry on his ministry after his departure, it is probably best to take these statements as specifically related only to the twelve. Some of this the Holy Spirit does directly for all believers today; other parts of this statement are fulfilled through the apostles (e.g., in giving the Book of Revelation the Spirit speaks through the apostles to the church today of things to come).” [NET Bible notes, Jn 16.13]

There is a sense in which the ongoing ministry of the Spirit of God is to lead every disciple, but in this passage, the primary sense is that the Lord promised to lead the apostles into ‘all the truth’ by means of the Spirit.

As to the second question, I think we can demonstrate from Scripture that the Holy Spirit did not lead even the apostles, let alone all the believers, to know all the truth about every detail of Christian living or every detail of daily living in the same sense that the Spirit led them to ‘all the truth’ about divine revelation. When Peter erred in Antioch, he was apparently not being led by the Holy Spirit, ‘because he was to be blamed’ [Gal 2.11]. Was Peter’s disobedience a failure to be led by the Spirit? In one sense, yes, but was the Lord’s promise intended to protect him from such failure? I don’t think so.

Wiersbe has an interesting comment on Jn 16.13 here:

“When you compare John 14:26 with 16:13, you see the wonderful way that God arranged for the writing of the New Testament Scriptures. The Spirit would remind them of what Jesus had taught them; this gives us the four Gospels. The Spirit would also ‘guide’ them into all truth; and this would result in the epistles. ‘He will show you things to come’ refers to the prophetic Scriptures, especially the Book of Revelation.” [See Note 2 below]

The promise of leading into all the truth was fulfilled in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. God led these men perfectly in their activity of ‘inscripturation’ (to use a Minnick word). God led them into ‘all the truth’ [article present in the Gk].

From this operation of the Holy Spirit, the same spirit continues to lead the disciples who follow the apostles, but he does so in this way:

“There is a sense in which all truth was committed to the apostles in their lifetime. They, in turn, committed it to writing, and we have it today in our NT. This, added to the OT, completed God’s written revelation to man. But it is, of course, true in all ages that the Spirit guides God’s people into all the truth. He does it through the Scriptures.” [See Note 3 below]

Thus, the promise of Holy Spirit leadership is not a direct promise to direct our thoughts. We may find ourselves sincerely in disagreement with a Spirit-led brother, and neither of us be really in disobedience to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. The Holy Spirit has not promised to “possess” us so that we will arrive at some sort of position of spiritual infallibility. We can be as sincere as we can be in attempting to follow the Lord, but we can fail to completely discern his will and leadership through a variety of causes, including disobedience, but not excluding just plain dullness and stupidity.

We should not expect Spirit-led disciples to arrive at complete unanimity since this is not what the Lord promised. The leadership the Lord promised is that of the apostles, into ‘all the truth’ (i.e., the written revelation of the Old and New Testaments). We need to put our trust in those documents, seek to know what they mean in their context and in application to our lives today, and not be exceedingly disturbed when our brothers don’t quite see everything as perfectly as we do.

None of us sees everything completely clearly. We all see through a glass darkly.

And we shouldn’t be afraid of differences between brethren. Some of those differences are important enough to limit fellowship, and some are not. They should be expected (and corrected if possible), but they should not cause us to doubt the perfection of the Holy Spirit’s leading. The differences are not to be laid at the Holy Spirit’s feet. He didn’t cause them.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

[Note 1: I am using the term “evangelicalism” in its old sense, a sense which describes essentially non-liberal Protestantism … and Baptists (a little sop to my Baptist friends who don’t think they are Protestants).]

[Note 2: Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Jn 16:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.]

[Note 3: MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (electronic ed.) (Jn 16:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]

The 9.24.06 Sermons

This week sees us progressing through a series of events leading up to the Transfiguration with a few events following. There is a real progression in what the Lord is teaching the Twelve also, which is interesting to watch unfold and has much application to our own development as disciples. There is a lot of repetition in the events that we covered this week. Several commentators notice a cycle in Mark which I think is relevant here:

1. First cycle:

  • Mk 6.31-44, Feeding of the multitude [5,000]
  • Mk 6.45-56, Crossing of the sea and landing
  • Mk 7.1-23, Conflict with the Pharisees
  • Mk 7.24-30, Conversation about bread [syro-phoenician woman and crumbs]
  • Mk 7.31-36, Healing [deaf man]
  • Mk 7.37, Confession of faith [he has done all things well]

2. Second cycle:

  • Mk 8.1-9, Feeding of the multitude [4,000]
  • Mk 8.10, Crossing of the sea and landing
  • Mk 8.11-13, Conflict with the Pharisees
  • Mk 8.14-21, Conversation about bread [beware leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees]
  • Mk 8.22-26, Healing [blind man (two stages)]
  • Mk 8.27-30, Confession of faith [thou art the Christ]

Why are there two feedings of crowds? The Lord is teaching the disciples the same lesson: faith and trust in him.

The first message picked up on the theme from Wednesday night with some alteration, but still generally the same basic theme. The title was ‘Messiah Under Attack‘ covering these passages: Mk 6.53-8.13; Mt 14.34-16.4, with a subtitle this time: ‘training the twelve in the midst of crisis‘. The proposition: The essential spiritual quality to sustain ministry under pressure is absolute faith and dependence on God. In this message we moved from the first conflict with the Pharisees (and scribes from Jerusalem) and the second conflict with the Pharisees (and Sadducees from Jerusalem – first mention of Sadducee opposition, which means the chief priests are getting involved and are closing ranks with the Pharisees, normally their opponents). Most of these events occur outside of Galilee, partly in response to the interest of Herod and partly in response to the growing Pharisaic opposition. The Lord isn’t afraid, but he is in control of events and will be heading for Jerusalem in short order. His interest at this point is developing the faith of his disciples in the midst of increasing opposition.

The second message was entitled ‘Slow to Understand‘ from these passages: Mk 8.14-9.13; Mt 16.5-17.13; Lk 9.18-36. As the faith of the disciples is growing, wavering, taking shape, I preached on the theme of spiritual growth. The proposition was: The process of spiritual growth is often slow and painstaking, but if you keep looking to Christ, the process leads to full revelation. Picking up on the cycle of events noted above, we moved from the second conflict with the Pharisees to the confession of faith and subsequent rebuke of Peter for his rash argument about the Lord’s new teaching of crucifixion, to the Transfiguration. The message covered these points:

I. The miracle of spiritual growth occurs in stages
(In this point, I noted that the two stage healing of the blind man was a parable for spiritual growth – the disciples had been blind spiritually, but were now seeing truth “as trees walking”, and would see clearly if they looked to the Lord in faith and obedience.)

II. The maturity of spiritual growth is not always entire
(In this point, Peter’s Great Confession and then the Lord’s rebuke were highlighted.)

III. The heights of spiritual growth are not easily discerned
(In this point, the disciples are confused after having seen the glory of Christ at the Transfiguration, they don’t quite get it all and are puzzling over the meaning of the Lord’s statement about resurrection.)

The point of this message is to encourage believers who struggle with their own spiritual failures. At times we seem to have insight and maturity, accompanied with all too apparent weakness and immaturity. If we keep looking to Christ, we will see clearly in the end.

The third message dealt with “The King of kings and Taxes” as we trace the Lord’s steps down Mt. Hermon from the Transfiguration to Capernaum and the payment of the voluntary temple-tax. Our passages were: Mk 9.2-32; Mt 17.1-27; Lk 9.28-45, although we primarily stayed in Mt 17. In these passages, we proceed from the glorious to the mundane. (What could be less glorious and more mundane than paying taxes?) The proposition then: Without divine condescension, there could be no redemption. The subject was the nature of Christ: at once the glorious divine God-man and the obedient, devout Israelite, paying his temple taxes. Our object in the message was to highlight once again the glory of God becoming man for our sake.

All in all, we had a great day in the Lord this Sunday.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on rebelution

Tom Pryde highlights this site in a recent blog: Rebelution

In their ‘about‘ page, the writers of this blog describe the concept of what they are trying to do. I like some of what they have to say. This particular quote is interesting:

This change has really taken place over the last 100 years. To give you a brief historical overview, prior to the beginning of the twentieth century there were only two categories of age: childhood and adulthood. But the reforms of the early 1900s, outlawing child labor and mandating education through high school, created an unnatural and new category of age that we know today as “adolescence.” Even though young people still had all the desires and capabilities of adults, the opportunities and responsibilities of adulthood were delayed for four years or longer.

These opportunities and responsibilities have been replaced with relative idleness, and really, indulgence. Instead of serving as the launching pad of life, the teen years are seen as a vacation from responsibility. It’s crippling our generation. We call it the “myth of adolescence.”

Aside from wondering if these young men would advocate the abolishing of child labour laws and mandatory high school (probably not), I think they are saying something good here. Young people need to be serious about life and Christianity and quit goofing off.

However… while I note that Tom expresses some misgivings about their name, “Rebelution”, he also says this:

In short, the Rebelution is a kindred spirit with NeoFundamentalism, just a generation apart. Rather than discourage it, I want to encourage and promote any Christian young person that strives for a godly rebellion against mediocrity and worldliness, against the low expectations of a worldly culture – even against a worldly christian culture. This is one way rebellion can be a very good thing!

Ahh… Tom…

That line makes me sort of nervous about NeoFundamentalism, although I am sure you knew that I am nervous about it anyway. If you go to the Rebelution site, one click will take you here, to a page about “The Rebelution Tour”, a conference put on by the young authors of Rebelution and their father, the pastor of Household of Faith Community Church.

From there you can go to the statement of faith pages for this church. [Three pages, I have linked to the first one.] This is where I start getting even more uneasy. Here, for example, is their doctrine of inspiration:

THE SCRIPTURES – We accept the Bible, consisting of the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, as the written Word of God. The Bible is the only essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all that it teaches.

Is it just me, or is that a waffly kind of definition of ‘infallibility’ that you can drive a truck through, pummelling ‘verbal plenary’ and ‘inerrant’ to death? I think so, but I could be wrong. Notice how they give lip service to inerrancy with ‘free of error in all that it teaches.’ Isn’t that a code word for allowing error in a place the Bible isn’t actually teaching something, like say, in the area of science?

Next is an excerpt from their doctrine of the Spirit:


Though the Holy Spirit may be resisted, grieved, and quenched by our sin and unbelief, by God’s grace He readily fills all who thirst with God’s love, joy, peace, wisdom and power. In this way He also imparts to His people supernatural gifts for the edification of the Body and witness to the world. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the Bible are still available for us today. They are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be desired and used within the guidelines of Scripture.

So… charismatics? Notice this one:

Elders, Deacons & Ministry Gifts in the Local Church
The ascended Christ has given gift ministries to His Church (including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) for the equipping of Christ’s body for works of service. Thankfully, these gifts continue to function. However, the closed canon of Scripture now fulfills the place of authority originally held by its authors.

There are apostles today?? And then on the Lord’s supper:

The Lord’s Supper: As with water baptism, the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken of only by those who are genuine followers of Christ. This ordinance symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body and the New Covenant sealed by the shedding of His blood on behalf of His people. It is to be observed repeatedly throughout the Christian life as a sign of participation in the atoning benefits of Christ’s death. As the believer partakes of the Lord’s Supper with an attitude of faith and self-examination, he remembers and proclaims the death of Christ, receives spiritual nourishment for his soul, and signifies his unity with other members of Christ’s body. A common misunderstanding has been that this ordinance can only be effectively served in formal services by officers of the church. In the Bible we find believers often “breaking bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46). We therefore encourage all our members to rejoice in the priesthood of all believers by serving and partaking of the Lord’s Supper with one another whenever and whereever desired.

Do you feel comfortable with unordained individuals going from house to house officiating at communion? I don’t. And then this on ‘consummation’:

THE CONSUMATION – The Consummation of all things includes the visible, personal and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of those alive in Christ into glorified bodies, the judgment of the just and the unjust, and the fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth. In the Consummation, Satan with his hosts and all those outside of Christ will be finally separated from the benevolent presence of God to justly endure eternal punishment in hell, but the righteous, in glorified bodies, shall live and reign with Him forever in heaven. Married to Christ as His Bride, the Church will live in the holy presence of God, giving Him unending glory by praising and enjoying Him forever.

So… Amillennialists?

And Tom, the phrase in your blog that makes me uncomfortable is “kindred spirit”. I don’t know. I just don’t feel too kindred with them, except that I think they are orthodox enough to be brothers in Christ. But they are in serious error as well. “Kindred spirit”? I don’t know.

I just know that I couldn’t give that kind of endorsement myself.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on Peter Masters and new evangelical interpretation

My friend Chris Anderson pointed me to a couple of sermons by Peter Masters that are available on Sermon Audio. I recommend both of them to you: A New Evangelical Downgrade (1) and A New Evangelical Downgrade (2). Peter Masters is the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, the church formerly pastored by such luminaries as John Gill, John Ripon, C. H. Spurgeon and others. When pastor Masters took the church, it had dwindled down to a mere 30 members or so and was in what appeared to be its last death throes. Masters leadership rebuilt the church to a thriving preaching and publishing center. You can access many more Peter Masters messages at the Met Tab website. I have listened to a couple of them and appreciates pastor Masters’ evangelical fervor.

I want to focus on the second of the two messages I mentioned above. Its thesis is the damage the New Evangelical movement has done to biblical interpretation. Masters says what the new evangelicals have done is “to wreck the proper approach to Holy Scripture”. He goes on, “one of the things that the new evangelical teachers have done is to take Bible believing evangelicals ninety percent of the way back to the old German rationalism of the last century.” The new evangelical approach “encourages a most shallow anti-spiritual view of scripture. Spiritual exegesis, of the kind the Reformers held to … is scorned and spurned, and the traditional rules rejected. In fact you can say that if Charles Haddon Spurgeon had been trained in a New Evangelical seminary, and he had taken seriously the method of exegesis and interpretation which is taught, he could never have preached hardly any of his sermons.” The result of this approach, Masters says, are commentaries that are “dry as dust”, they are a bit of history, a bit of anthropology, a bit of sociology, but no message, “except here and there a very simple observation”. He says, “The Bible has its own rules for interpretation” – NEs have neglected them so long that they don’t even know what they are.

Having set that foundation, he proceeds to list these charges against the new evangelical hermeneutic:

1. The NE hermeneutic says the Bible must be treated like any other book when studied – they believe it is God’s word, but they treat it like it is merely an historical document. (He charges NE scholars with using this approach in order to get the respect of liberal scholars, by ‘playing their tune’.)

2. The NE hermeneutic has redefined the grammatical-historical rule of interpretation – the meaning of this rule is that in Bible interpretation, you give “the first crack” to the plain sense, the plain grammatical sense of the passage (unlike the fanciful interpretations of the Catholics prior to and after the Reformation) and secondly, you must observe the historical context [without being bound by it]. Here Masters charges the NE approach with robbing Scripture of its full meaning – limiting interpretation to a woodenly historical context so that you cannot discern all the Spirit has to say for every age. He quotes Walter Kaiser, “The sole task of the interpreter is to discover the meaning intended by the original human author to be understood by his immediate hearers.” Masters points out that Isaiah and Jeremiah didn’t themselves understand everything they wrote, so how can we arrive at real understanding if we insist on a woodenly historical approach? Masters says the g-h approach is only the first step. The writers of the Bible often said things “far greater than they understood.” Essentially, the charge here is that by limiting the writers of the Bible (especially OT prophets) to their historical context, you de-emphasize the role of God in inspiration such that the writings of the prophets become historical manuscripts with very limited broad application to believers of all ages. You may claim to believe in verbal plenary inspiration, but it will not profit you much in the ancient records of Israel.

He cites references in Acts to the preaching of the apostles who preach Christ from the Old Testament. The whole church was founded on this preaching. For example:

Acts 26:22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Masters asks, where do you find explicit references to the suffering of Christ, his resurrection, etc. in the Old Testament? Yet Paul says it is there. Obviously he is seeing more than the current grammatical-historical interpreter is seeing. The key to seeing this is in letting the New Testament interpret the Old. (See also Jn 5.46-47, Rm 10.5-6).

3. The NE hermeneutic says that the text of Holy Scripture only has one sense – single sense. The Reformers taught this to avoid the confusing array of Catholic interpretations of Scripture. The NE has taken this to an extreme which Masters calls ‘simple sense’, not ‘single sense’. There is no message or application in the commentaries of the New Evangelical, it has masses of data, but not much meaning. The proper view, according to Masters, is that the passage has one primary meaning, but may contain senses of meaning that apply to areas of truth that the simple sense doesn’t teach. He says you must scrutinize the text to get the ‘whole meaning’ that is there, the nuances of word order, meaning, implication, etc. “The meaning of Scripture is deep and profound.”

4. The NE hermeneutic says you must never interpret any passage by something revealed later. Here he is arguing somewhat against the idea of the progress of revelation, saying that NEs teach that you can’t read into an early passage the later developed meaning. So you can’t interpret Moses in light of the Psalms or the prophets, because the original author didn’t know anything about them. Masters calls that “the de-spiritualizing of the Bible.” Is the Bible offered by the Holy Spirit or not? Does it have, ultimately, one author or not? “You always look at Scripture as though God said it. The new evangelicals have taken that away in their semi-liberal method of interpretation.”

5. The NE hermeneutic says you must never bring any presuppositions to the text, otherwise you’ll never understand what the text is saying. Masters concedes that we do need to be careful about presuppositions, you can use the Scriptures in such a way as to ‘prove anything’. But we cannot and should not entirely divorce ourselves from presuppositions. The New Testament, for example, gives us a grid by which we are to interpret the Old Testament.

Now, I hope that I have accurately portrayed pastor Masters’ point of view on these matters. You can listen to the message itself to see if I have done a good job or not.

A few comments…

In listening to Peter Masters, I think it is safe to say he is a Covenant Theologian. In one message I listened to he said something like this [I’m paraphrasing from fallible memory]: “The Jewish Church in the Lord’s day had gotten something wrong about the Messiah, they expected him to be an earthly king, they didn’t understand the kingdom of heaven.” First, there is only one church, not two. There is no Jewish church or Old Testament church, there is only the church of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the Jews were not mistaken about an earthly kingdom, they were primarily mistaken about timing, as well as confused in thinking that they were actually in the kingdom by birthright instead of faith.

So I would say that Masters’ covenant theology leads him astray somewhat in his hermeneutics. He will speak about “the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures” and then overly spiritualize the meaning of Scriptural events. (“Overly” expresses, of course, my own opinion.)

Having said that, I think that in the main, Masters’ charges against the new evangelical methods has a good deal of weight. There is in even conservative commentaries too much weight given to form criticism, for example. I find that there is too much emphasis on chiastic analysis in the Old Testament (although there certainly is some chiastic structure, especially in poetical sections). There can be a tendency to demythologize or humanize the supernatural. The approach is not quite the same as the liberals, but too much credence is given to their methods.

I will only give one example, since I have gone on long enough. In Numbers 26.57-59, some genealogical data is given including the family tree of Moses and Aaron. To make a long story short, if you take the plain sense of the text, Moses’ mother, the daughter of Levi, would have been a minimum of 256 years old at Moses’ birth. ALL the commmentators I have on this try to explain this away. Most say there are missing members of the genealogy whom we do not know at one point or another in the genealogy. Given what we know about Hebrew genealogies, this is a possibility, but the language of the text seems to me to make that somewhat problematic in this particular case. My question is this, why don’t we take this novel approach, what the Bible says is so? What is so hard to accept about a 256 year old mother in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Yes, the age of long-lived folks is generally over. Yes, the Bible doesn’t highlight this amazing story specifically. But… could God have done it? Absolutely. Yet no evangelical commentator wants to make such a suggestion. That would be much to unscholarly, after all.


Evaluating Peter Masters’ point of view, then, I suggest that he has a good point to make concerning the new evangelical approach. I am afraid we are much too infected with that approach as fundamentalists also. I would not, however, go as far as Masters does in the ‘spiritual’ meaning of the Bible either. He goes too far with this approach in my opinion, though he is certainly a man of God who can be listened to with profit. But the warnings and charges he makes are well worth heeding and should temper somewhat our zeal for knowing all there is to know about the historical context of the text. God gave us the Scriptures, and they are profitable for building men and women up in the faith, whether we get all the history or not.

(And the history we have is always subject to interpretation and dispute. Just read Biblical Archaeology Review and you will find that we may not be all that clear on every claim of historical context!)

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

the only source of success

Tonight our message covered the mission of the twelve as the Lord instructed and empowered them, then sent them out. It also covered the interest of Herod in Christ following his execution of John and the publicity brought about by the apostle’s training mission. Our series of events closed with the feeding of the 5000 and the walking on water.

I spoke tonight on the subject of success in God’s eyes. The sensation caused by the miracle working certainly looked like success from the world’s eyes, but it isn’t what the Lord was interested in developing. He knew what was behind Herod’s interest. He knew where he was headed, in just about one year’s time. The Lord’s intention is to help the twelve see that he had empowered them for a specific ministry and that they were perfectly capable of performing it. That is what the feeding of the 5000 was all about. The disciples come to the Lord as the day grows long and the people are hungry, suggesting the Lord send them away so the crowd can get something to eat. The Lord says, “You feed them.” They say, “How is that going to happen?”

What they have forgotten is where they have been and what they have been doing up till the day before. They have been casting out demons and healing the sick. In Matthew, the Lord said he gave them the power to raise the dead, although we don’t know if they had yet done this. But the point is, the Lord is saying to the disciples, “You feed them. I gave you the power, now use it.”

But the disciples are a bit thick and don’t get it. So he asks them how much bread they have, then blesses it and gives it to them. He sort of holds them by the hand and makes them walk through the motions of miracle working.

Then later, he lets them row all night, not getting anywhere. He comes walking by on the sea, and Peter asks if he can join him (after they get over the shock). The Lord invites him out and Peter walks over to the Lord, then starts looking around and sinks. The Lord says “O ye of little faith.” Mark’s Gospel says that they still didn’t get the lesson of the loaves, for their hearts were hardened.

The disciples weren’t hardened to Christ, for they worshipped him in the boat, but they were hardened to what He was trying to teach them:

I have given you everything you need to carry out my mission and commands. What you need is an absolute faith and dependence on God. If you have that, you will succeed in God’s eyes.

God calls us to a mission as well, if we will trust Him, he has already given us all we need to fulfill it.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

PS, thank the Lord for backups! I accidentally deleted the last four messages out of my normal folder, but thanks to my backup program, I was able to restore them instantly. Well… at least, instantly after I got over having my life pass before my eyes!

The recent sermon outlines are all available here:

The Concept of the Kingdom
The Parables of the Kingdom
Miracle Worker Rejected
The Only Source of Success

a day of listening to preaching

Well… Today was a day of eight sermons…

I headed across the pond to a conference of Canadian pastors held over in Vancouver, hosted by my good friend pastor Gordon Conner. On the way I enjoyed a couple of messages by Minnick on my PDA. I managed to make it through Vancouver traffic to actually arrive in time for the first preacher of the day. The traffic wasn’t too bad, but I still think Vancouver has one of the most poorly engineered traffic systems of any city I have ever been in.

The morning included three sermons. The highlight had to be a message by Harry Strachan. I don’t know how old he is now, but he pastored in Simcoe,ON for many years and was bro. Conner’s mentor. This was my first opportunity to hear bro. Strachan preach. He started out by saying something like this, “the basic problem we have in the church today is that we don’t know God.” He proceeded to preach a tremendous message on knowing God. I only wish he could have gone on longer. I can see why bro. Conner holds him in such high regard.

The last message of the day came from bro. Conner. There were two more scheduled this evening, but I had to beat it back across the pond to avoid arriving home at 3 am – too much on the go for tomorrow. So I caught one more Minnick and a Peter Masters on my PDA on the way back. I actually had time for more, but ran out of messages!

All in all a great day. I find preaching very refreshing. It stirs me up. I was able to see a few friends who are separated from me by many miles and make a few new ones. What a blesing! And we were treated to a great salmon barbecue for lunch! (The WET coast isn’t all bad. We even had sun for the afternoon.)

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

9.17.06 Sermon Summaries

Saturday night I had one of those ‘life flashing before one’s eyes moments’. I have taken to trying to write my messages first thing in the week. This has resulted in difficulty keeping in my normal time constraints when preaching since I have time to really develop the messages…

Well, this week, I wrote the first two messages, then worked on the Study Guides to accompany the Bible Reading for next week. I just had one more sermon to write, and devoted the day on Saturday for that. I had a few little thingst to catch up on at the church that evening, but thought all was well. I decided to print out my messages after supper, a fortunate decision. As I opened up the files, I discovered message number two was a blank file – it had been started, saved, but nothing written down. Man! Am I getting old, or what?

So… it was back to the study and work, work, work! Fortunately I discovered my mistake early enough to write the message in time to get to bed at a decent time before our services on Sunday. Thank you Lord!

Our messages today brought us to Matthew 13 (and some surrounding events in the Synoptics, including pericopes from other parts of Matthew). Matthew 13 is the great chapter of Kingdom parables. I decided to use the first message to preach a fairly doctrinal message on The Concept of the Kingdom.

The central idea of the message was this: Jesus offers the opportunity to belong to a perfect kingdom for an exclusive few who will hear and believe what he says. I used the passage in Mt 13.10-17 as the framework upon which to hang a good deal of kingdom teaching. First, we spoke of the privilege of New Testament saints (as exemplified in the passage by the disciples) to know the mysteries of the kingdom. In this section, I discussed a point of difference I have with some dispensationalists who teach that Christ’s offer of the kingdom to Israel meant an offer of the historical aspect of the kingdom, Israeli nationalism, in the first century. The plan of the cross is God’s plan from the foundation of the world, his offer of the kingdom at the time of Christ was not the nationalist ideal, but a new, mystery and spiritual form of the kingdom that had not hitherto been revealed. It is the privilege of saints to know the truth concerning this kingdom. The teaching of the kingdom was open to the disciples, but deliberate impediments were placed before unbelieving Israel, including the method of teaching in parables, the primary content of Mt 13. This is in keeping with the Lord’s instructions to Isaiah when Isaiah accepted the Lord’s call in Isa 6. Then king and kingdom were the longing of the OT saints, and so a privilege for NT believers. God offers that kingdom to all men today, but only those who truly receive Christ gain the spiritual insight to understand in the heart what Jesus is talking about in passages like Mt 13. It is more than intellectual understanding, it is knowing the King through the Spirit.

The second message was devoted to a survey of the content of Mt 13, The Parables of the Kingdom. The proposition was: The Lord is revealing by parables an outline of the mystery aspect of the kingdom for the disciple’s use in his own ministry. I should mention that I listed six aspects of the kingdom in the first message. These came from my classroom notes from a lecture by Jesse Boyd in 1977 in a New Testament Prophecy class:

  • Ultimate Aspect — God’s sovereign rule over all creation.
  • Spiritual Aspect — God’s rule in the hearts and lives of His people.
  • Historical Aspect — God’s rule over the nation Israel.
  • Mystery Aspect — God’s rule over professing Christendom.
  • Messianic Aspect — God’s rule over the nations of the earth during the Millennium.
  • Eternal Aspect — God’s rule over the redeemed universe.

Mt 13 involves teaching concerning the Mystery aspect of the kingdom – God’s working and rule in Christendom, the world of professing Christians. The parable of the sower describes entrance into professing Christendom. Some do not enter, some seem to enter, and some really do enter the spiritual aspect, but many who seem to enter aren’t really in the kingdom. They are only in the mystery aspect of the kingdom. The parables of the weeds, the mustard seed, and the leaven describe the growth of the mystery aspect of the kingdom as it progresses in the world. The key phrase for the weeds is that “the field is the world”, it is not the church. As the kingdom grows in the world, it starts small, but becomes great, and, like leaven, it wields a wide ranging influence wherever it exists. The parables of the hid treasure and the pearl of great price describe the great value of the kingdom, worth everything an individual has. The parable of the dragnet describes the consummation of the kingdom, the final judgement and the end of the mystery aspect. No more wheat and weeds growing in the same field. Finally, the scribes of the kingdom, who understand what Jesus taught, have tools both new and old (the new-old commandment, 1 Jn 2.8-9) with which to build the kingdom. Our task as believers is to enter into that labour with them, using the same tools and continuing the task till the dragnet draws the age to a close.

Our last message today, Miracle Worker Rejected, was centered around the last part of Mt 13, the rejection at Nazareth. From the order of events in the synoptics, some time passed between the preaching of the parables and the incident at Nazareth. There is the silencing of the storm on the sea of Galilee by an awakened saviour, the healing of the demoniacs of Gadara (one of whom went preaching about Christ in that region), the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the healing of two blind men on the way to Nazareth and the healing of a demon possessed man along the way. The Pharisees continue the line that Jesus is doing this by demonic power, and the people of Nazareth pick up the theme by asking, “Where does he get this mighty power?” I used this question to point out this is exactly what liberal Christianity wants to do, to deny the supernatural. In the Lord’s day, they couldn’t deny that these things were happening, so they had to attribute it to evil spirits. Today, the situation is the opposite. The liberals want to deny the spiritual world altogether, so they deny both demons and the miracles. The desire is to humanize Jesus, which is exactly what the Nazarenes did with the questions about Jesus as the carpenter’s son, as the son of Mary, as the brother of men they knew, etc. The response of the Lord is to cryptically rebuke their unbelief and to not do many miracles there, other than healing a few people who came in faith. In this message I was working on this proposition: Those who reject the miracles lose the capacity for faith in the teaching. I think this is true. The teaching of Jesus has no more impact than that of Joseph Smith, or Mohammed, or Bhudda, or Charles Russell, or whoever it might be if he is not the mighty miracle worker, sent from the hand of God.

Well that is it. This next week will see us reaching a point of climax in Christ’s ministry with Peter’s great confession.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3