I have found, in my brief time as a Pastor, that the greatest way for me to think through my sermon is by composing a manuscript. There is something about seeing the words on a document that helps me think and reason clearer as opposed to simply putting my thoughts only in my outline. I am more focused when I write, much more so than running through the outline in my head imagining myself preach the text before my congregation.
This quote from Jonathan Edwards has resonated well with me.
My method of study from my first beginning the work of the Ministry, has been very much by writing; applying myself in this way to improve every important hint; pursuing the clue to the utmost, when anything in reading, meditation, or conversation has been suggested to my mind, that seemed to promise light in any weighty point; thus penning what appeared to me my best thoughts on innumerable subjects, for my own benefit. The longer I prosecuted my studies in this method, the more habitual it became, and the more pleasant and profitable I found it. The further I travelled in this way, the wider the field opened; which has occasioned my laying out many things in my mind to do in this manner, (if God should spare my life) which my heart hath been much set upon.
I like his use of the word “prosecuted.” It reminds me of Luther’s comment when he worked through justification by faith. “Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.” It was the desire of both Edwards and Luther to ardently know what the Scriptures meant, and both saw great Reformation occur during their time.
There is much value for the pastor who sits down and, after much reading, begins to write his thoughts on a topic with which he is unfamiliar. Good writing begets good reasoning, and good reasoning begets (God willing) spiritual truth that will edify his congregation.
 Jonathan Edwards in Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry: with An Inquiry into the Causes of its Ineffiency (Philadelphia: Banner of Truth, 2009), 50n1.
 From http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/martin-luther-lessons-from-his-life-and-labor.
On a recent episode of “Word Matters,” a podcast by Brandon Smith and Trevin Wax, the discussion was focused on the temptation scene in Mark’s Gospel. In comparison to the other Synoptic Gospels, the brevity of Mark’s temptation scene is almost breathtaking, especially when one considers both Matthew and Luke stretch their versions to include the dialogue between Jesus and Satan and are nearly five times longer. What Mark might lack in detail, he provides a seemingly obscure reference to wild animals being with Jesus in the wilderness.
I listened closely to what both Smith and Wax had to say about this verse because I am currently preaching through Mark on Sunday mornings and I had trouble determining what I thought was correct. There have been various interpretations to this, and Smith helpfully provides more of the popular ones. I was encouraged to hear Smith voice my understanding of this reference, especially when the commentaries I was able to reference suggested otherwise. I believe the reason Mark included the “wild animals” in his temptation scene was to point to a renewed creation in which the Christ would inaugurate at the end of the days.
I think it is important to remember that 1:1–15 comprises the first overall section of Mark’s Gospel. The description of John the Baptist baptizing people and the baptism of Jesus are meant to be compared to one another. John baptizes with water, the one after him will baptize with fire (v 8). The people from Judea and Jerusalem are coming to Mark to be baptized (5), Jesus comes for baptism as the perfect son of God who is obedient to his father (9). Read more
Jason Duesing has recently published 7 Summits in Church History, which is a brief introduction of Christian history that is geared to the local church. Drawing from the illustration of mountain ranges, Duesing writes about seven church history figures that he considers to be the seven summits of the Christian history mountain range. His list includes:
- Martin Luther
- John Calvin
- Balthasar Hubmaier
- Jonathan Edwards
- William Carey
- Carl F.H. Henry
At his blog Duesing is now hosting several scholars and pastors who have agreed to answer who they consider their “Seven Summits” or what figures in church history they would enjoy sharing a meal with.
As I edited and prepared the responses to be published I began to think about who my “Seven Summits” were. For what it’s worth, here they are.
- Martin Luther – It would be fascinating to hear his personal stories during the Protestant Reformation as well as his life afterwards, particularly how he pastored in light of the Reformation. Plus, its Martin Luther.
- Jonathan Edwards – Edwards is perhaps the most brilliant mind America has ever produced. Coupled with the task of serving as a pastor, missionary, and brief seminary President, Edwards embodied the Pastor-Theologian model well.
- John Owen – Owen is the theologian I plan to read for many years to come. His sermons in Vol. 9 of his works has been thorough, comprehensive, convicting, and encouraging.
- Friedrich Schleiermacher – As I have written before, I have an appreciation for Schleiermacher and would like to engage him in a conversation not necessarily upon his hermenutics but why he still ministered and taught even after leaving the faith. His presence is still felt in many fields of study and his grasp is far-reaching.
- Charles Spurgeon – This is almost a no-brainer. Spurgeon’s works have benefited me for many years and I particularly find his stance against liberalism during the Downgrade Controversy encouraging. I am amazed how much work he accomplished in his lifetime.
- A.T. Robertson – The Greek scholar of the Southern Baptist world.
- Brevard Childs – Despite much criticism, Childs, for the most part, made famous the canonical method of hermeneutics in Old Testament studies. His emphasis upon the received text has made me a better interpreter of the Scriptures.
A few honorable mentions: John Bunyan, John Calvin, Bruce Metzger, Leon Morris, F.F. Bruce, David Brainard, Augustine, Francis Schaeffer.
On Sunday nights I am preaching through Revelation, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience thus far. I hope to preach the entire book, but it will take perhaps more than a year (or longer) to do so. For all I know, we might not make it past chapter five simply because I still struggle with exactly how to handle preaching those chapters in light of my eschatological system. At any rate, time will tell.
In chapter one John is told to write to the seven churches which are in Asia (1:11), and this comprises chapters 2–3. When John turns to see the voice that spoke to him he sees one like a son of man standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (1:12–13). After the Lord comforts him and tells him not to fear, he is told to write all that he sees (1:19). The Lord then explains the mystery of the seven starts and the lampstands. He says the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches (οἱ ἑπτὰ ἀστέρες ἄγγελοι τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησιῶν εἰσιν), which are the recipients of the letters in 2–3.
However, the question is over the exact identity of the ἄγγελοι for, as any Greek 1 student can tell you, ἄγγελος can mean either “angel” or “messenger.” Typically context provides the key to interpretation, but not so much here. When the ἄγγελος are the recipients of the letter in 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14 there is no further clarification provided. It seems that most translations take the route of “angel” (ESV, NASB, HCSB, KJV, NIV, ASV), but some choose “messenger” (ISV, Aramaic Bible in Plain English, GWT, Weymouth NT, Young’s Literal). Read more
In my Advanced Hermeneutics seminar last October I found myself researching Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern hermeneutics. I researched his early years, Kantian influence, and the hermeneutical circle that he, and subsequently others, used frequently. His impression upon the discipline of biblical hermeneutics is far-reaching and is even seen behind the veils of interpretative methods today.
Schleiermacher was born on November 21, 1768 in Breslau, Prussia where his father served as a chaplain of the Reformed Church to a regiment in Silesia. A very bright individual who was the product of a Moravian Brethren upbringing, he desired to receive a broader education than he was receiving at the time. At fourteen he began to doubt aspects of the Scripture. As a student at a boarding school in Pless there arose within him a strange skepticism towards the genuineness of the ancient authors of the Bible and they, as a result, began to seem disjointed and unreal to the young scholar.
After his promotion to Barby in 1785 to study philosophy his doubting eventually lead him to turn to liberal Protestantism to acquire the answers he desired. He wrote to his father that he could no longer believe the Son of Man was the true eternal God, his death a vicarious atonement, and an eternal punishment for those who could not attain faith in Jesus. After receiving permission from his father, Schleiermacher transferred to the University of Halle where he immersed himself in Kant, Greek philosophy, and the famous writers of the early church to the period of the Reformation. After he passed his theological exams in 1796 he spent six years preaching at a hospital in Berlin and two years as the court preacher at Stople. Eventually he traveled back to Halle and accepted a position as professor of theology at the University of Halle, only to leave and return to Berlin to preach at Trinity Church and lecture at the University. Read more