Archives for May 2007

on the function of the Gospels

I hope to preach a message on this subject later this summer, but I would like to make note here of a little something I observed concerning the Gospels as we worked through them this last eight months.

We are all quite familiar with John’s purpose for writing his gospel, he is quite up front about it (at the end of the book!) He says:

ESV John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John’s purpose is clearly evangelistic. It is no accident that we publish so many gospels of John (along with Romans) and use them as an evangelistic tool. John intends to inspire belief and many people find the grace of God through his pages. Thus it could be said that John wrote his gospel for the world, for the lost, for unbelievers rather than for believers.

As I considered this purpose, it struck me that there was quite a difference in purpose between John’s Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels. While the Synoptics are less explicit concerning their purpose, I think we can discern purpose from their form and from some of the comments Luke makes in the beginning of his gospel. Consider Luke’s well-known opening to the unknown Theophilus:

ESV Luke 1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Clearly, Luke’s purpose is to bolster the certainty of a believer named Theophilus. Theophilus is a Greek name, it’s etymology means ‘lover of God’. We don’t know if this was a given name or a nickname, but it is quite evident that the man Luke addresses has already been taught these things, but needs strengthening in his certainty and knowledge of the gospel record. From this, I think it is safe to say that Luke, at least, was written to believers (or to ‘a believer’) with discipleship as its primary purpose and goal. Luke’s purpose is to systematically inform Theophilus of the certainty concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the foundation of Christian religion.

Can I make a similar assumption for Matthew and Mark? Neither book has a clear purpose statement, but the style of each matches Luke’s, while retaining their own individual characteristics and each one providing some unique information not provided by the others. It seems safe to say that their purposes were also didactic, intended to bolster the faith of existing disciples rather than primarily to be focused on an evangelistic purpose like John.

The order in which these books were written may also have a bearing on this notion, although the order is in much dispute. The fact is that no one really knows when the Gospels were written. Widely varying suggestions have been made. Currently, I believe most writers favour the notion that Mark came first and the others drew on his material. The writers who make these claims by no means have been able to conclusively prove them. And of course, these claims come first from liberal sources who want to denigrate the supernatural aspect of inspiration at every opportunity. I know of no real objective reason for taking Mark as the first Gospel, it is all conjecture and theory.

As a result, I have considered an entirely different order than I read in many of my commentaries. Since the opinions are so diverse, I believe the field is wide open and submit that my suggestion is as good as any, and (to my mind!!) better than some. My conclusions flow from two main fronts – the history of the early church (Acts) and the notion that the Synoptics were written as disciple manuals.

The history of the early church was prophetically outlined for us by the Lord Jesus himself in Acts 1.8:

ESV Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The church in the beginning was primarily a Jewish church, even in Samaria. The Samaritans subscribed to the Pentateuch and were descendants of Israel (partly). The church in Jerusalem and in Judea was of course Jewish. In the early days of the church, from AD 30 (Pentecost) to approximately AD 49 was primarily Jewish. A few Gentiles began to be mixed in with the conversion of God-fearers, like Cornelius (Acts 10), and proselytes, and by AD 45 a significant Gentile body had been added by Paul’s first missionary journey. But still, by AD 49, the church was still predominantly Jewish.

Some conservatives like to date the book of James about AD 45 as the first writing of the New Testament. I think that is about right. Consider the many Jewish flavours of the book of James, writing to the dispersion, writing in such an ‘Old Testament’ style. [I have said that James is the most ‘Old Testament’ of the New Testament books, just as Malachi seems to be the most ‘New Testament’ of the OT books.] Sometime after the first missionary journey, Paul wrote Galatians to his first converts in Europe. I think that he wrote this before the council of Jerusalem, but others differ. Paul’s message in Galatians is to combat Judaizing, the attempts of some to impose Jewish notions on Christian doctrine and practice. Paul is writing in the forefront of a transition, a period when the church is going to be transformed from primarily Jewish to majority Gentile.

In light of this, when would a discipleship manual directed especially to Jews likely be written? I would suggest that the window of opportunity would be sometime between AD 45-49, whent the church as a ‘sect’ of Judaism would be at its zenith. The need for instruction in the certainty of things believed would be very evident at this point in time. The book of Matthew is such a book. Almost universally it is suggested that Matthew wrote with Jews in mind. I agree. And I think the most likely time for such a book would be fairly early in the life of the church, especially at a time when the church was predominantly Jewish. Such a time as about AD 45, for instance.

The church changed over time. The next ten years saw Paul’s aggressive missions into Gentile, especially Greek, territory. Churches were established all over Asia Minor and in Greece. The whole body of the church expanded and changed. In this milieu, a new need began to become apparent – the need for Greek-oriented discipleship materials. Who better to supervise this work than the apostle Paul? Of course, for such a project, you would have to slow Paul down. He was always on the move, evangelizing everywhere, who had time to supervise a writing project like this? Well, Paul was slowed down at one point in his ministry. He was in jail. He was in jail in Caesarea for two years, close to original sources and in the company of Luke. It seems highly likely to me that Luke, our writer of the Greek-oriented Gospel of Luke wrote his gospel under Paul’s supervision during those two years while Paul was cooling his heels in Caesarea, AD 57-59. (The Acts appear to have followed, written mostly in Rome, in the immediate aftermath of the Caesarean imprisonment.)

The church in the Latin world came last, not planted by the apostles, but later highly influenced by the presence of Paul and possibly Peter, although the presence of Peter is in much dispute. I tend to think that it is highly likely Peter spent time in Rome, overlapping with Paul’s imprisonment perhaps, but certainly following it. At this time, with a growing Latin church, the need for a Latin discipleship manual became apparent. Mark, under Peter’s supervision, took up the task and the result we have is Mark’s Gospel, written perhaps about AD 64.

What is the point of all this? Obviously it is all speculative. Many scholars would array themselves against my notions. But the idea I keep coming back to is the notion of the Gospels as discipleship manuals. If I am right about their original intent, they have not lost any of their disciple making force since. Much of our preaching and teaching seems to focus on the epistles, the highly didactic literature of the New Testament. This is likely an important part of their function, but I wonder if we don’t neglect the Synoptics too much. After all, we are disciples of a Person and we need to be thoroughly familiar with that Person in our daily spiritual lives. We commune with Him in prayer, we identify ourselves with Him in baptism, we ‘feast’ on Him at the Table, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should make much of the Gospels as they were intended and make them our own discipleship manuals? Shouldn’t we be making much of Christ and his life? Shouldn’t we be trying to pattern ourselves after him in thought and action?

I think so. I hope you do too. Blessed Synoptics study! And all the rest of the NT, too, of course.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the destructiveness of pride

I am in the midst of reading The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah by Wiley Sword. I picked it up at the Carter House, a national monument in Franklin, TN, the site of an epic battle near the end of the Civil War. The house on site is the home of a man who lost a son in the battle (a Confederate officer, shot five times in the battle, dying in the family home in the bed in which he had been born 23 years previously). The hill on which the house sits commanded the field of battle and was the center of Federal entrenchments and earthen works.

The Confederate general over the Southern forces, John B. Hood, was an arrogant, ambitious, and incompetent fool. As I read the pages of the book, it becomes quite apparent that the man gained his position by political machination, but had no ability for the task at hand. He sent his army into an attack against the entrenched Federal forces over an open field about two miles in length and almost the same in breadth. The Federal forces, but for a strategic error on their part, could have utterly destroyed his army. As it was, 2000 men died, about 1800 Confederates and about 200 Federals. An additional 3800 Confederates were seriously wounded and about 700 captured. On the Federal side, about 1000 were wounded and 1100 captured. Most of the slaughter occurred in the first half hour of fighting, as the attack commenced at 4:00 pm, with sunset on Nov 30, 1864 only about 35 minutes away. Fighting continued until about midnight, but the bulk of the casualties were suffered during the few daylight minutes of the fight.

On our recent trip south, we toured the site of the Carter house. The house and some of the outbuildings still stand, riddled with bullet holes from this fight almost 150 years ago.

Hood graduated from West Point near the bottom of his class. He was unimaginative as a military leader, but after having been wounded earlier in the war (he lost a leg and the use of his right arm), he made a dashing figure in the social scene of the Confederate capital. While there, he made a personal friendship with the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, and maneuvered into the leadership of the western Confederate army. His accession to leadership was accomplished by managing to be appointed second in command, but also by sending secret messages back to Davis (on Davis’ orders) putting everything the commanding officer did in a bad light. These tactics eventually led to the dismissal of the general and appointment of Hood as his replacement.

The night before the battle, Hood’s forces actually had the Federal army trapped in Spring Hill, TN, about 16 miles or so south of Franklin. Through a comedy of errors, the various Confederate brigades allowed the Federals to escape over the road to Franklin during the night. Some of the Confederates were camped only 200 yards from the road. Hood, in the meantime, rather than ensuring that his officers were all on the same page and even ensuring that he fully understood the situation, took an early bed and enjoyed a good night’s sleep. On awaking, he blamed his men. Sending them on a march for Franklin, he put the officers he blamed most and their divisions in the forefront of the attack. Many of his finest men died in that first furious half hour.

While we heard all of this from our tour guide at the Carter House, the impact of what our guide had to say really did not sink home with me until I began reading the account of this last epic battle. The death and destruction in this battlefield were literally horrific. Corpses littered the ground in front of the earthworks, sometimes stacked several layers thick. Some men were propped up by the corpses around them and appeared to stand, though themselves dead.

All this cost came about because of the arrogance of the general, John B. Hood. But for his pride and unwillingness to consider alternatives, thousands of lives would have been spared (and he had the potential of carrying the day of battle even after the Federals slipped out of his Spring Hill trap).

No doubt the results were providential, as it seems to me that the South was in the wrong in the Civil War. My American friends like to tell me that the war was about ‘states rights’. Well… I was talking to a friend once about the former national 55 mph speed limit the USA used to have. He pointed out that the speed limit was a states rights issue as well. But, I observed, no one is going to go to war over a speed limit. Slavery was a different issue, and the South was on the wrong side of that issue. Thus, the folly of man brought about the decisive and final end to the institution of slavery in the USA and the ambitions of the Southerners who defended it.

But the main lesson I draw from touring the battlefield and reading the account is the folly of human pride. Most of us are not in a position where our pride will so directly affect so many lives, but the effect of human pride is no less devastating in its influence on ourselves and those around us. The Word of God says:

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

How much do we hate pride? Do we hate it enough to really eschew it? I find that pride is the insidious sin that creeps into my life and into the lives of those around me so often. We are so convinced of the rightness of our own selves and our own views that we cannot imagine any other course of action than our own. We are right, the blame must fall on someone else, usually the closest target at hand, those closest to us and most loved by us.

What a great need we have for God’s grace. May God keep us from the effects of our pride and deliver us from the domination of our pride.

For those of you who have a chance to travel near Nashville, I would recommend a visit to the Carter House in Franklin, TN. (I think it is somewhere near exit 65 on I-65.) The scene today is peaceful, but the lessons are profound.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Update: corrected casualty statistics above.

on ‘it’s quiet… too quiet…"

I am back to a semi-normal schedule in my ministry. The duplex renovation is virtually complete – I am just fiddling with a few final touch-ups. We have it on the market and hope to have a sale soon. We are in a protracted negotiation with a buyer, hopefully this one will make it go. I have also finished my Thru the NT series, so I am not tied to the weekly production of a study guide.

As a result, I hope to be getting back to writing about things that interest me. I have a whole list of them stored in my PIM. My plan is to write a little each day as I am able.

My inconsistent posting in the last months is symptomatic, however, of something I observe in the entire blogging experience. If you check the blogs I have listed in the sidebar, you will note that many of them suffer from the same malaise. Blogging, like any writing, requires discipline and effort to persist in it. There is a first rush of enthusiasm that may or may not carry a writer through six months of effort or so.

After the first rush is over, the real test begins. 1. Do I have enough drive to write to keep on writing on a regular basis? 2. Do I have anything more to say after I have gotten my ideas off my chest? 3. Do I write for the sake of writing, or do I write for the satisfaction of having readers?

The answers to each of these questions may vary, but the tests are real. I have all my life longed to be a writer, but until blogging came along, no real satisfactory medium presented itself. Blogging allows writing in short bursts on a variety of topics. I may never have any idea sufficient to produce a book (many don’t, including those who actually get published). But I am interested in a wide variety of things and like to experiment with my expression of those things.

Lately, in the blogosphere that I read, it seems that most of my friends are too busy with other things to spare the time for blogging. It also may be that they have hit the ‘blogging wall’ and it remains to be seen whether they will move past it. Some, of course, simply write when they feel inclined, not as a matter of daily passion. That is part of the beauty of the medium, to me. Nevertheless — they are leaving me starved for opinions (their opinions, not mine! I have plenty of opinions on everything, just ask!) I hope that more will be forthcoming from their ‘pens’ soon.

In the meantime, if you have any thought of being a writer, all the books I have ever read on the subject say this: write. Whether you write a blog or not, write something. Keep a daily journal. Set aside a half hour each day to work on something – just write. If it’s any good, you can always go back and rewrite later. Otherwise, you can accumulate an archaeological store for someone to ponder over when they uncover your bits and bytes in some distant archaeological effort.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on summarizing the theme of the Bible

We made our Bible Study session (11:30-12:15) for the last two Sunday’s a discussion format. After our last two years reading and preaching through the Bible I wanted our folks to give me some feedback as to what they learned.

Last Sunday was a testimony time. I asked our people to come prepared to share one or two major lessons from the project. Our people were universally positive. Perhaps the biggest blessing to all was putting the Bible in context, especially the prophets of the OT.

Today I wanted them to help me come up with a summary statement of the message of the Bible. First we worked on one word that summed everything up. Several suggestions were made, but we settled on this word that covered everything to us:


I asked our folks to think of Bible verses that could stand as summary statements in their own right. As we talked, three verses came out, each of them, I think, quite appropriate. Here they are, in the order suggested.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

The bulk of our discussion centered around coming up with a summary statement. We wanted to capture every major theme of the Bible as we understand it. The result is the following three sentences which do a pretty good job of summing things up, I think:

The Bible is the history of the fall, redemption, and future of man by the work of God through Christ’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection.

The Bible is the record of man’s response to the Holy Spirit’s witness.

The Bible is the revelation of my personal need of repentance and a living relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

For our session today I prepared nothing other than the suggestion of our theme – our people came up with the form of these statements with my coaching, but from their own understanding of the Scriptures. I was pretty proud of them. They show an increased grasp of understanding, beyond even what I had expected (o me of little faith!).

As for a sermon summary for today, I preached a summary message on the Old Testament. The message of the Old Testament can be summarized with these four ideas: Fall (the notion on which the whole Bible and the Christian religion is predicated), Faith (God always offers grace in the form of promises which some men avail themselves of by faith), Failure (in spite of grace and the example of some, the universal record of even the people of God is a record of spiritual failure), and Future (the OT always looks forward to what the Lord will do, even to the book of the Revelation [as seen in Zechariah] for the consummation of all things, especially the promises of the OT covenants). The title of the message was ‘Our Deep Need’, focusing our attention on the need of mankind for grace, we cannot save ourselves, we need the work of God.

For our afternoon service, I had my son Rory preach. He is home from his freshman year at BJU and preached on Jehu, “A Half Hearted Servant”. His message centered around the idea that the devil is satisfied if he can have part of your heart, but God wants all of your heart. Great damage can come to your life (and the lives of others) if you hold on to any idol you harbour in your heart against God.

All in all, a great day!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the final NT Sermon Summaries – April 2007

Catching up with my sermon summaries, here are the last in the series, the sermons preached during the month of April:

The Final Public Ministry – Jn 12

We are going to see in this passage encounters between the Lord and four different groups of people. For the most part, the people who observed the Lord in this chapter got it wrong, all but a very few. The same is true today – most get it wrong when it comes to Jesus Christ. They don’t understand him and receive nothing from him. You need to be sure that you are getting the right perspective on the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am going away – Jn 13.1-14.14

The Lord’s going away is necessary for the disciple’s going ahead.

I Send another Comforter – Jn 14.15-16.33

The provision of God for the inadequacy of believing men is the constant indwelling of the infinite Spirit.

The High Priestly Prayer – Jn 17

The prayer we have in Jn 17 is the most extended prayer of the Lord in the Bible. It is a remarkable window into heaven, giving us a glimpse of the communication between Father and Son. But the prayer in Jn 17 is not purely the interpersonal communication within the Godhead – especially during the Lord’s earthly ministry, but to some extent ever afterward, I think, the Lord Jesus communicates with the Father from a human perspective. This prayer is the prayer of a man [a perfect man, a God-man, but still a man] to God. It is therefore very instructive for us.

04/08/07 [Easter Sunday]
Behold the Lamb of God (2) – Jn 18-19

In the first Behold the Lamb, we looked at Christ through the eyes of sympathetic witnesses. In this Behold the Lamb, we will look at Christ through the eyes of mostly unsympathetic men. They see merely a man. We will see much more than a man. The abused man who hung on the cross of Calvary is the precious Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world.

He is not here! – Jn 20-21

John 20 is the resurrection chapter. The whole emphasis is believing the message John is giving. John 21 offers more proof, but it is more about what we do next – believe, yes, but now serve.

The New Commandment Applied – 1 Jn 1-3

The light that should dominate the Christian life comes from one source, but we think of it in several different locations. First is the light that comes from God. God is light. The second source in our minds is the word of God, which of course comes from God also. The word is light. In particular the light in which we are exhorted to walk in 1 Jn is the new commandment: love one another.

Certainty in the Confession of Christ – 1 Jn 4-5

Another major theme in 1 John is knowledge. From knowledge comes certainty. If we have the knowledge of the truth and we walk in the truth and live the truth, we will develop spiritual certainties about certain things. Genuine Christian experience produces spiritual certainty and stability.

Watch yourselves, watch your church – 2 Jn, 3 Jn

I have given our message this title: Watch yourselves, watch your church The ‘watch yourselves’ part comes from 2 Jn. The ‘watch your church’ part from 3 Jn. I am going to set our theme from 2 Jn, making much of the theme of truth, then point to three ways this theme is applied to three individuals in 3 Jn. Christian love is practiced in the sphere of discerning truth – it is bounded by truth and practiced in truth among lovers of the truth.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ – Rev 1

The book of Revelation is the Lord’s last love letter to his church, intended to instruct present saints for life in this age and future saints for enduring the trials to come.

The Lord in the Midst of the Candlesticks – Rev 2-3

It is better to think of these seven churches as typical of the kinds of churches that exist at any time. Some are well thought of by the Lord, some are poorly thought of, others are in the middle somewhere. When we look at these chapters we should be asking the question, ‘What does the Lord think of me? What does the Lord think of my church?’ The Lord’s overview of the church should stir us to conviction, correction, and continuation [in the work of the Lord].

The Scene in Heaven – Rev 4-5

The prospect of heaven calls forth the complete surrender of the person in abject devotion and worship to the One who alone is worthy.

The Scroll Unsealed – Rev 6-8

Our subject matter for today is mostly judgement. So how can we make this relevant to us? I think we need to look into these chapters and see what the chapters say about God and also look to see what the chapters say about man. What do these chapters reveal concerning the relationship between God and man and how should we live now as a result? Failing human beings must yield to the will and way of the sovereign God.

Three Woes – Rev 9-11

Judgement intensifies as the tribulation progresses. The last three trumpets are called the three ‘woes’. Woe to the world and to the enemies of God means glory and blessing for the saints.

The Great Antagonists of Israel – Rev 12-13

Chapters 12 and 13 are primarily explanatory – they explain what the conflict of the Tribulation is all about. In these parenthetical chapters, we are going to see the three great antagonists of Israel during the Great Tribulation, fully revealed in their persons and in their fury against God and God’s people. The antagonists of Israel are the antagonists of man, intent on drawing men’s worship away from God and to Satan.

Anticipation of the End – Rev 14-15

In this section, the Lord himself is giving a preview of the final days of the tribulation, an anticipatory vision anticipating the anticipatory vision that pictures the final consummation of all things. It ought to stir us up to be in prayer for the lost, to be witnesses to the lost, to point them to God as their great Sovereign, and to Christ as their great Saviour. The judgement of sinners and victory of saints is assured by God’s repetitive revelation: does the love of Christ constrain you to tell men?

The Great Harvest – Rev 16-19

The picture we are given in the earth of the harvest is that of a vine ready to harvest – a vine where the grapes are in prime condition, ready and bursting for the harvest (Rev 14.18). God’s final answer to sin is judgement. It is much better for man to judge himself, turn to Christ, and thus be received into glory before judgement to come.

The Time of the End – Rev 20

Human history does not simply conclude with a great ‘NO!’ by God against sin and sinners. Besides saying NO, by bringing the kingdoms of men to an end, God will also say YES by bringing a perfect kingdom to men. The purpose of God’s YES is to demonstrate to the utmost the righteousness and justice of God’s final NO to sin.

The New Jerusalem – Rev 21-22

In our passage today we will find six new things. Each of them represents something that is new in quality, fresh, vital, alive, not necessarily brand new, but renewed. The New Creation restores all that was lost in the fall — at great cost.

In my messages from Revelation, I repeated this quotation from my notes in a Bible class taught by the late Jesse Boyd at BJU. The quotation captures exactly the right approach to the book of Revelation (and the entire Bible).

The Golden Rule of Interpretation:
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.” DAVID L. COOPER [New Testament Prophecy classroom notes taken by Don Johnson of a lecture by Jesse Boyd, circa 1977.]

This series had tremendous impact on my life, and the life of our church. I am working on getting the audio onto a DVD along with the sermon and Bible Study notes. I can make this available to anyone for the cost of mailing (anticipated readiness in the fall). Write me at dcsj AT telus DOT net if you are interested.

I would encourage anyone who has not done so to make a project of reading the Bible in chronological order. It will open up the Scriptures to you in ways you never saw before.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on marriage

We are all home again, my wife and I and our younger four in Victoria, and our oldest and his bride in their new home in Greenville. We entered a whirlwhind of activity for two weeks leading up to the big event, then a week of winding down – they on their honeymoon and we visiting family. I expect they were more relaxed than we. Now we have been home for a week… busy as ever, but with some time to think about what happened in Greenville. I thought I would share some of my meditating with you.


While at the rehearsal dinner, a thought came to me concerning the nature of Christian marriage. I thought it so important that I reworked the message for the wedding in order to incorporate it. I have been thinking about it a good deal since. Here is the thought as I jotted it down on my PDA while enjoying the dinner: “God joins a man & woman together – the preacher’s pronouncement witnesses the work of the Holy Spirit.”

The thought behind this involves one of the more difficult passages of the New Testament to interpret.

Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”


Matthew 18:18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

I won’t go into the exegesis of these passages here, but the idea as I understand it is this: The church and its servants are given authority by God to act as witnesses of things God does in heaven. We see evidence of God’s work and pronounce that it is so, giving our witness to it.

A marriage, perhaps especially a Christian marriage, is one of these kinds of events.

In the wedding ceremony, a couple pledges a set of vows to one another before the Lord. After the vows are said, the preacher pronounces the couple man and wife. What is it that makes that pronouncement true? Is it the fact that the preacher has vested in him authority by the Church and the state to make such pronouncements? Does the statement of the preacher make the two people married? Or is it the fact that the couple recited the vows to one another? Do the promises themselves make the couple one? What is actually happening in a marriage ceremony?

The vows are important as said to one another, but they are much more important in that they are said before God. A marriage ceremony is an oath taking ceremony. The man and the woman pledge their oaths before God and in the presence of witnesses. The witnesses, especially the preacher, but really the whole marriage party and the members of the congregation all gather to hear the pledging of these oaths in the presence of God. The pronouncement of the preacher is a recognition on earth of something that is being sealed in heaven.

As the couple makes their vows, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in heaven take note of the troth that is pledged. They hear the vows and a supernatural response is made – two people become one flesh by the work of God. The preacher’s pronouncement is a ‘by faith’ witness that the supernatural act has taken place. The wedding party and the congregation acknowledge the same and receive the couple as man and wife. We humans do this by faith – one moment the two are two engaged individuals, the next moment they are man and wife. God did that. We witnessed it.

Perhaps the most important factor in making the violation of marriage vows such an offense is this supernatural thing that God has done. When you act contrary to these oaths, you are acting contrary to a one flesh relationship God created. You violate God’s creative act, repeating in your small world the sin of Adam, violating God’s original creation.

The implications of these thoughts are pretty far reaching. We don’t need to go that far afield to be violating the troth that is pledged in marriage. If, as Jesus taught us, adultery can be committed in the mind, so too can errant thoughts violate the one-flesh bond between man and woman supernaturally created by God.

May God keep us faithful.

For Jesus’ sake.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on popular culture – by warren kinsella

It just doesn’t get any worse: “Popular culture — and American Idol is nothing if not popular –is like that. It is a commodity: base, venal and without a soul. Carefully contrived by Hollywood (or some related industry) to be hawked to the largest number of consumers, popular culture is all about maximizing profits, not expanding refinement. It does not aspire to be art.”

This comment comes from Warren Kinsella, a Liberal lawyer from ‘back east’, a well known political figure here in Canada. He is sort of the Liberal ‘Karl Rove’, at least that’s my perception of his former political involvement. There are certainly many areas where Kinsella and I will disagree, but I read him regularly. He writes well and knows a good bit concerning politics and culture. This comment was particularly striking to me.

The National Post page where this quote came from will only be available for a short time, so if you want to read more, you probably should make a copy for yourself.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on jon edwards, homeboy

You have been waiting with bated breath for this one, I am sure. Here it is, the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” t-shirt, exclusively licensed by Yale’s works of Jonathan Edwards site…

Maybe this is old news to you, but it struck me as funny tonight as I followed a link in an e-mail from the J Edwards site.

If you are not aware of this site, it is an ambitious and worthy project that plans to put all of Jonathan Edwards works online indexed to the Scripture, etc. The site is worth checking out from time to time.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on a view of our big event

For all my many fans (!!!) I thought I would share with you a picture of the great gang of young people involved in our recent event in Greenville.

The whole event was a real blessing and a privilege to be a part of.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on putting faces with names

Last Sunday I was in Dacula, GA, at Grace Baptist Church. Pastor Dave Wood is on the left, an old acquaintance from Greenville days long past. Next is Andy Efting, an on-line friend I have looked forward to meeting in person.

Next to Andy is my soon to be daughter-in-law and next to her (and somewhat obscured by my younger son) is my oldest son, the one who will be married tomorrow. [I am doing the ceremony!]

My son and soon to be d-in-l serve in this church as student trainees and general gophers. When Duncan graduated from BJU last year, I asked him to find a church where he could serve and learn and ‘get out of Greenville’. That is not to say that I have anything against the good churches in Greenville, but I want them to get out of the ‘orbit’ and in a more normal church environment for the purposes of preparation for future ministry. The church in Dacula fills the bill.

The rest of the picture are my other kids and me. My wife was unable to make it to the service because of family needs in Tennessee, but made it down to G’ville the next day…

I am in kinko’s printing out the last of my tweaks on the wedding ceremony… just 13 hours from now (it is 1 am!! Am I nuts or what?) [Don’t answer that…]

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3