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The Gospel According to Abraham – Genesis 15 Sermon

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Abraham is fearful in Genesis 15.

He’s fearful when life has gone well.

He’s fearful when life has gone badly.

He’s fearful when he’s unsure whether life will go well or badly.

At every turn the Word of the LORD meets him to overwhelm those fears with fresh promises of Himself.

Fear is when life overwhelms us

Faith is when Christ overwhelms us.

LISTEN to hear how Christ overwhelms our fears with more of Himself


 

 

Week 4 of Reading Between the Lines

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, My videos, RBTL, videos | Leave a comment

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The Trinitarian Old Testament

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, trinity | 1 Comment

It is sometimes claimed that the Hebrew Bible’s doctrine of God is essentially unitarian. It seems to me that anyone who makes such a claim is out of touch with how the church has always read the Scriptures and they have clearly not been paying attention to the Bible itself.

In this post I will simply (and very briefly) draw attention to 24 passages in which we see plainly a multi-Personal revelation.

My point is not that the OT betrays hints, shapes and shadows of triune structure.

My point is not that NT eyes can see trinitarian themes in the OT.

My point is not that we go back as Christians and now retrospectively read the trinity into the OT.

My point is not that the OT gives us partial suggestions of trinitarian life that are then developed by NT fulfillment.

My point is that these texts read on their own terms and in their own context (as the Jewish, Hebrew Scriptures that they are) demand to be understood as the revelation of a multi-Personal God. The only proper way to understand these texts is as trinitarian revelation. These texts are either to be understood triunely or they are mis-understood – on their own terms or any others!

Ok. Here we go – 24 Scriptures to consider:

  • Genesis 1. Verse 1: “In the beginning Elohiym… ” Here is the God to Whom we’re introduced. A plural noun! One that takes a singular verb. The grammatical oddity is meant to make us sit up and take notice. Our plural God acts as one. And His plural counsel (v26) “Let us…” gives rise to a united creation of a plural humanity – male and female to image His own life.
  • Genesis 3. The Voice of the LORD God (v8) who comes to walk with Adam and Eve is also the LORD God (v9)
  • Genesis 16. The Angel of the LORD (v9) is also LORD and God (v13)
  • Genesis 18&19. The LORD who appears to Abraham (18:1) is Judge of all the earth (18:25), yet He excercises His divine prerogative in union with “the LORD out of the heavens.” (19:24)
  • Genesis 32. Jacob wrestles with the Man (v24) who is the Angel (Hosea 12:4) who is God (Gen 32:28,30)
  • Genesis 48. The God who is God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is Shepherd and the source of blessing (v15) is the Angel of God (v16).
  • Exodus 3. The God of the burning bush is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v6) and the great I AM (v14). He is also the Angel of the LORD (v2) and will bring the people to worship Godon the mountain (v12).
  • Exodus 19. The LORD on the mountain (v10) warns Moses that in three days the LORD will come to the mountain (v11) and things will be very different then. Sure enough, three days later, the LORD descends on the mountain (v18) and then the LORD descends on the mountain (v20)!
  • Exodus 33. Moses meets face to face with the LORD in the tent of meeting (v11) but the LORD on the top of the mountain he must never see (v20-22).
  • Joshua 5&6. The Commander of the LORD’s army (5:14) who fights for Israel to deliver her is also the LORD who is worthy of worship (5:15; 6:2)
  • Judges 2. The Angel of the LORD brought them out of Egypt and established His covenant with them. (v1-4)
  • Judges 6. The Angel of the LORD (v11-12) brings the LORD’s blessing (one who is Sovereign LORD, v22). Yet the Angel, as another Person is Himself the LORD (v14) with the same divine majesty (v22-24).
  • Judges 13. God sends the Angel of the LORD (e.g. v9) who is Himself God (e.g. v22). And the Spirit fills Samson (v25)
  • Psalm 2. The Son Whom we are to kiss and find refuge in (v12) is the Anointed Son of the Father through Whom is exercised all divine rule and authority.
  • Psalm 45. The most excellent of men who rules the nations as Champion and King is called ‘Lord’ by His bride and ‘God‘ by His God. (v6,7)
  • Psalm 110. David knows two Lords who converse in their rule of the nations. There is the LORD and there is the Kingly Priest who is David’s Lord.
  • Proverbs. The Wisdom of God who creates (8:30) and gives new life (8:35) through granting the Spirit (1:23) is also possessed by the LORD (8:22)
  • Isaiah 9. The government of God’s righteous kingdom will be on the shoulders of the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (v6). Yet He is One who is born and through Whom the zeal of the LORD will accomplish His work (v7)
  • Isaiah 48. The great I AM, the first and the last who created the heavens and the earth and who called Israel (v12,13) is One who is sent from the Lord GOD along with His Spirit (v16)
  • Isaiah 63. The Saviour sends the Angel to save, yet they grieve His Holy Spirit (v9-10)
  • Ezekiel 34. The Shepherd of Ezekiel’s prophesy will be the LORD Himself (v12-22), yet this loving, kingly rule is exercised through the Prince, His Servant David (v23-24) who does all that the LORD is said to do as Shepherd and who rules for the LORD.
  • Daniel 7. The Possessor and rightful Ruler of the Kingdom that shall never pass away is the Son of Man (v13,14) who inherits the kingdom from the Ancient of Days (v9-12).
  • Micah 2. The Shepherd who will gather the remnant of Israel is the LORD (v12) who will set at their head a King who is also called ‘LORD’ (v13)
  • Zechariah 2. The One Sent from the LORD Almighty (v7,9,11) is the LORD Himself to live among the Israelites as the gentle, righteous, saving King of 9:9 (compare with 2:10)!

In all this my argument is not that these are hints of trinity but that they are texts that can only ever be understood from the perspective of a multi-Personal God. When two Persons called LORD are interacting in the text (when we see plainly “true God from true God”) then an understanding of God as uni-Personal is just dead wrong. It must always have been dead wrong for it could never account for the Hebrew Scriptures as written.

The only God there is is trinitarian and His revelation has always been such.

For more on Trinity in the Old Testament, see this series.

 

The Nature of God – Triune from the Beginning

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, covenant continuity, evangelism, pastoral theology | 1 Comment

I’ve been listening to a lot of Muslim – Christian debates. Here are three that have interested me recently – each of them with Dr Shabir Ally.

Firstly there’s James White vs Shabir Ally on whether the earliest witnesses to Jesus confessed His deity:

White argues that the earliest sources unashamedly confess the deity of Christ – the “Carmen Christi” of Philippians 2, the “NT Shema” of 1 Corinthians 8 and Mark’s Gospel speak of Jesus as Yahweh. Fascinatingly Shabir seems to concede as much, at least over the Philippians 2 material, but then claims that this must be a corruption of the earliest beliefs. Why? Because we know that the Jews were monotheists (which Shabir conflates time and again with “unitarians”).

Shabir wriggles off the hook because he claims that the Old Testament is unitarian. If this is so then NT trinitarianism must be a corruption and the Quran must be correct in saying that the Christians have changed their book. His wriggling is very unconvincing, obviously, because the evidence James brings is without question the earliest. All Shabir can do is to claim that beneath the Scriptures there must lie an original unitarian faith in Jesus that gets developed in trinitarian ways over time. It’s all a “just so story” but he gets away with it because he asserts that the OT is unitarian.

The second debate I watched recently was Jay Smith versus Shabir Ally. Watch Jay’s 35 minute opening statement from 17:55 where he brings devastating critiques of the historicity of the Quran and its transmission:

Shabir responds with numerological hocus pocus from 53:45. As Dr Ally waxes lyrical about the number 19 in the Quran your jaw will hit the floor (but not in the way Dr Ally hopes). It’s astonishing that this would be put forward in a serious debate and take up so much of Dr Ally’s argument. Jay’s historical critique of the Quran remains completely unanswered.

But still Shabir wriggles off the hook because, well, we all know that the NT must be corrupt? Why? Because it changes the doctrine of God from the OT.

Ok then, step forward Nabeel Qureshi. I loved this debate. Just listen to Nabeel’s opening statement from 8:15.

Here Nabeel is hitting where it hurts. I love that he questions whether Tawhid (Islam’s unitarianism) is the simple doctrine of God that Muslims claim. Actually Tawhid involves Muslims in all sorts of difficulties. If Allah is alone, how can he break free from the prison of his own transcendence to communicate with creatures. Some Muslims speak of the word of Allah existing with him in eternity which is really the only way you could have true revelation from Allah. Only if the Quran is an eternal communication could it communicate the eternal God. But of course as soon as you say that you are threatening Tawhid because you have something alongside Allah.

In Christian theology the eternal Word who is God from God is not a problem. He’s the solution. Without Him God must be mute and we must be left in the dark. Nabeel was right to press Shabir on the question of the Quran’s eternality, it goes to the heart of the Islamic doctrine of God and forces the Muslim to the horns of a dilemma. Either God does not have an eternal word and thus we cannot know that Allah is transcendent or he does have an eternal word and Tawhid is completely compromised.

More fundamentally though Nabeel establishes that the OT, in its own context and on its own terms, is not unitarian at all and could not be read unitarianly. This is where I have found evangelism to Muslims gaining most traction. When you show that Yahweh is face to face with Abraham and then rains down judgement from the-LORD-out-of-the-heavens (Genesis 18:1; 19:24) you show that Moses’ doctrine of God is nothing like Mohammed’s.

Have a watch and enjoy Nabeel’s arguments. And if you want another couple dozen more OT Scriptures – see these 24 verses that cannot be read unitarianly in the Hebrew Bible. We simply do not see a progression from unitarianism to trinitarianism in the Bible or history. What we see in the Scriptures is a compound unity to God with three Persons who may take divine titles. We see this from Genesis 1 onwards. Unitarianism is not the pure origin, it is the much later corruption. This corruption began with the Rabbis reacting against the early Christians and continued with the heresy of Islam (much aided by pagan philosophy).

One thing I admire about Islam is its comprehensive view of history. For them Adam is a Muslim, so is Moses, so is Jesus – and they all taught Tawhid. The Christian view of history ought to be similarly consistent. Adam is a Christian, so is Moses, so are all true prophets – and they were all trinitarian. These are the arguments that truly fight fire with fire in Muslim-Christian debate and these are the truths that make sense of our Christian faith: triune from the beginning.

Sermon: Jesus in the Old Testament

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, My videos, sermons, videos | 3 Comments

Reading Between the Lines 1 – Jesus in the Old Testament from CCK on Vimeo.

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For more on Jesus in the Old Testament go here

Christ in the Old Testament – A Sermon

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, sermons | Leave a comment

luther-preaching

We begin in John 1…

Go back to Genesis 1…

and Genesis 3…

and Genesis 15…

and Genesis 22…

and Genesis 48…

And Exodus 1-3.

We hear about Christ as Present, Promised and Patterned in the Old Testament.

And we finish at the burning bush with the great I AM – the One who has always met us in our affliction.

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Christ in the Old Testament – A Sermon

Posted on by Glen in bible, covenant continuity, sermons | 1 Comment

luther-preaching

We begin in John 1…

Go back to Genesis 1…

and Genesis 3…

and Genesis 15…

and Genesis 22…

and Genesis 48…

And Exodus 1-3.

We hear about Christ as Present, Promised and Patterned in the Old Testament.

And we finish at the burning bush with the great I AM – the One who has always met us in our affliction.

DOWNLOAD

How Long O LORD Till Christmas

Posted on by Glen in Christmas, covenant continuity, creative, music, My videos, videos | 3 Comments

This is basically a child-friendly version of “O Come O Come Immanuel” the way Johnny Cash might do it.

 

CHORUS – THE PEOPLE SING:

How long O Lord till Christmas
How long till Jesus appears.
I know my Saviour, He’s coming,
Pass on this hope throughout the years.

VERSE 1: GOD THE FATHER SINGS

Gonna give my Son to the human race
Gonna bring them back into my grace x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

VERSE 2: GOD THE SON SINGS:

Gonna crush that snake, Gonna stomp his head
Though he strike my heel, Gonna kill him dead x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

VERSE 3: GOD THE SPIRIT SINGS

Gotta wait for Him through thick and thin,
Gotta set your hope on the Coming King x3
Pass on this hope throughout the years

ALL TOGETHER:

Gonna give my Son to the human race
Gonna bring them back into my grace.
Gonna crush that snake, Gonna stomp his head
Though he strike my heal, Gonna kill him dead.
Gotta wait for Him through thick and thin,
Gotta set your hope on the Coming King

 

 

More kids songs here

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God in the Old Testament

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, Doctrine of God | 3 Comments

ChristOldTestament

A repost from 2011

I’ve had many discussions under the title of “Christ in the Old Testament.”  But perhaps the issues would be seen more clearly if we labelled the debate: “God in the Old Testament.”

And actually, the fact that those two titles sound quite different tells you everything you need to know about the Christlessness of much of our God-talk.

We (and I include myself here in my knee-jerk western deism) imagine that there’s a bed-rock deity called “God” who is obviously the God spoken of in Genesis.  And then we discuss whether the Patriarchs also knew this shadowy figure called Messiah.  And we debate how Messianic certain discrete verses are, and to what degree the author was aware, and to what degree the first audience was cognisant of specific promises and appearances, etc, etc.  But we almost never challenge that view of “God” which we all signed off on in the beginning!

Thus, from the outset, God is defined as – essentially – ‘the God of monotheism’ (broadly conceived) and Christ is defined as a nuance to a more foundational divine reality.  Then we spend all our time debating how clear the nuance was!

But what if, from the beginning, Elohim wasn’t the god of Aristotle!  It’s a shocking thought I know, but let’s run with it.  What if He makes all things by His Spirit and Word and says “Let us”?  And what if this is not something that needs to be kept in check by a hermeneutic that expects only the omnibeing?  And what if the LORD God stoops down and breathes into Adam’s nostrils and what if, under the name “Voice of the LORD”, He walks in the garden in the cool of the day and encounters the couple as a divine Person.

How much clearer Adam saw God than us!  Without the “benefit” of our western theistic presuppositions, he sees the “very God from very God.”  He doesn’t think in that exact language, but he certainly doesn’t think in unitarian categories either. To think of “the Son” as something extra to his simple belief in “God” betrays disturbing assumptions about who we think “God” is.

Who is this “God” for whom the Son is an addendum?  Why begin the Scriptures with that “God”?  And if the primary truths about God are unitarian, is our own faith primarily unitarian, just with a Jesus nuance?

The question is deeper than “Christ in the Old Testament.”  In fact, it’s deeper than “God in the Old Testament.”  It’s the question of God.  Which explains why the issue can get quite heated at times.  But also why it’s so crucial.

Why does the God of the Old Testament appear so violent?

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, covenant continuity, evangelism | 6 Comments

bibleI’ve been asked to write brief answers to six thorny questions:

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Is God homophobic?

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Are the gospel accounts trustworthy?

Why isn’t God more obvious?

Why has the Church caused so much pain?

I’ve got to keep these under 600 words. I’d love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?

………………………

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Confronting the Caricatures

According to the Apostles, the Old Testament is all about “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ” while the New Testament concerns Christ, “the Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:36-43). Grace in the Old, Judgement in the New! What unites the Scriptures is Christ Himself.

John tells us Christ was there “in the beginning” (1:1-18). Therefore Christ was the One Moses, Abraham and Isaiah saw and wrote about (5:37-47; 8:56-58; 12:37-41). The problems we might have with “the God of the Old Testament” we have with Jesus.

Having said this…

The Times Have Changed

When Jesus came in the flesh He fulfilled and ended the temporary structures of the Old Testament, in particular the Temple with its priests and sacrifices and the theocratic nation with its kings and armies. Instead Jesus relentlessly urges forgiveness and non-violence (see Matthew 5:38-48; 26:52-54; Luke 6:27-36; John 18:36).

So here’s our challenge: Jesus tells us to put down our swords and to pick up His book. Yet in His book (the Old Testament) we read of several holy wars. What to  think?

Let’s examine the central act of violence brought up in these discussions – the conquest of the promised land, commanded in Deuteronomy, fulfilled in Joshua. (For further reading see Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster?)

The Conquest of Canaan

For 400 years Canaanite cultures were involved in child-burning and other grotesque evils (Genesis 15:13-16; cf “Molech”, Lev 18:21). The Lord gave them centuries to repent of it – considerably longer than any other “just war” ever launched. He then, through His people, visited them with a one off, unrepeatable judgement. It had nothing to do with race – this was not genocide. Later on, when the Israelites were also guilty of such sins, they too were judged.

Every Canaanite who ever sought mercy from the Israelites was spared (see Joshua 2&9). Certainly, prior to the conquest, God speaks the language of total destruction (Deut 20:16-18). Yet Copan argues that this was well understood in the day as militaristic hyperbole. The language of “driving out” precedes and predominates over language of “wiping out” (Deut 7:17-24; 9:1-6). And when Joshua sums up his achievements, he considers that he’s done what Moses had commanded – this, in spite of the fact the Canaanites were not fully driven out, let alone wiped out. (see Joshua 23-24; Judges 1)

Judgement and Grace

Having said this, these stories still shock. God is not a Rotarian. There is blood and fire to this Righteous Judge – in both Testaments. But remember three things:

First, we often complain that God should do more about evil in this world. When He gives us this one-off, unrepeatable pre-figurement of His righteous judgement, we cannot then complain at His intervention!

Second, the Bible makes it clear we are all moral and spiritual Canaanites. We all need the mercy shown to Rahab in Joshua 2. This is what Jesus provides, absorbing the fire and justice on the cross and providing us with refuge.

Third, in Jesus we are brought into a realm beyond judgement – a realm of cheek-turning, enemy-forgiving love (Colossians 1:13-14). Thus the New Testament views these ancient wars as types of our own campaign of peace (2 Corinthians 10:1-5; Ephesians 6:10-20). ‘Christian violence’ is a contradiction in terms.

In the end, the problem of violence does not lie in millennia old Hebrew wars but in our hearts. The solution is not to reject Jesus or His book. The only answer is Jesus Himself – the Judge who became our Refuge.

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