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Posts Tagged ‘apostasy’


I have really appreciated The Gospel According to the Old Testament series. Since I’m preparing to teach on Hosea, it was time to read the volume on Hosea: Love Divine and Unfailing by Michael Barrett.

Based on the previous volumes I had high expectations. Perhaps too high. Perhaps unfairly. But this volume didn’t meet my expectations.

This is a good an helpful book. It was expecting, or hoping for, a great book.

Why I was disappointed may be explained by his comments in the conclusion:

If you picked up this book expecting an expositional commentary, you have been disappointed. … My concern was to put in focus the big picture that will ultimately help us understand the details and grasp the significance of Hosea’s message.

I was hoping for a volume that tracked with the flow of Hosea, particularly since I’m teaching it in that way. I did not expect a commentary since this is not a commentary series. But I wanted it to work through the book. Barrett handled it from a more thematic approach. He said many helpful things, but it was not as “user friendly” for the teacher.

In the first part he focuses on “just the facts” of Hosea. This begins with Hosea as a Messianic Man. Hosea is a shortened form of Joshua (or vice versa) and means “salvation.” Joshua is the Hebrew name translated into Greek as Jesus. Hosea was anointed as a prophet which is a “messianic occupation.” Barrett spends some time explaining the role of the prophet in the life of Israel. He also puts him in his time and place: the northern kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II.

The second chapter expands on the historical context of Hosea. It was a time of declining power and prosperity. Assyria was gaining strength and was a looming threat that is addressed in the book.

In the third chapter, His Creed, the focus is on Deuteronomy’s influence on what we read. The prophets viewed their circumstances through the covenant and declared the appropriate blessings and curses according to the covenant. Hosea makes no sense if you aren’t familiar with Deuteronomy. Barrett spends some time explaining how the Mosaic covenant points to, anticipates and explains the ministry of Christ.

The second part of the book focuses on his life, particularly his marriage. His marriage to a wayward wife named Gomer was a living sermon intended to reflect God’s marriage to Israel. It is viewed as an analogy. There are points of correspondence, but not complete identity. Barrett points in particular to the exclusivity of relationship. This means that apostasy, or syncretism, is like adultery: Gomer’s adultery in particular.

Christianity parallels the ANE process of marriage. The Father gave a people to the Son to be His Bride. The Son has paid the bride price with His blood. The Spirit establishes the covenant union between the Son and the Church (invisible).

Then Barrett goes into Hosea’s marriage. Hosea was not the only prophets who undertook prophetic or symbolic actions. Some of them were strange, like Isaiah walking around naked and barefoot (Is. 20) to symbolize the coming exile. You have Ezekiel laying on his side all day, cooking over dung, to symbolize the siege upon Jerusalem. In this case Hosea’s whole life became symbolic or prophetic. His marriage and kids pointed Israel (and Judah) to deeper realities.

Sin and rebellion will be met with covenant curses. The northern kingdom hRedemptionad strayed, stepped out on their covenant lord, with other gods and nations. The consequences were coming. But God’s purpose was not to ultimate destroy His people but to bring them back. The third section, The Sermon, lays this all out.

Too often people think of the Mosaic Covenant as grace-less. They are wrong and Barrett explores that gracious element for us. He helps us to understand the role of law in the covenant, not for gaining life but how God’s redeemed people are to live to bring Him glory. He then moves into the (re)new(ed) covenant and some of the ways it is “new and improved” rather than completely new. He also brings in the horrible price to be paid for their rebellion. But rebellion, and misery, is not the final word.

Therefore, as disgusting as Gomer may appear, every Christian must admit the Gomer that is his or her own heart.

Barrett ends with the way home. He talks about the gospel more exhaustively in this chapter. He speaks of repentance. Hosea’s message was not given to take away all their hope but to call Ephraim back from the abyss.

Barrett consistently points out the gospel connections and message to be found in Hosea. There are some exegetical questions that are not discussed sufficiently, particularly the use of “Adam” (8:1). He does have a helpful appendix discussing Matthew’s use of “out of Egypt I called my son”.

While not a book that met my admittedly high expectations, it was a good and helpful book to read as I prepare to teach Hosea. If you are planning on preaching through it, or teaching on it, I would recommend reading this book.

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I know, that is an ambitious title. These things are connected in our theology; or at least they should be.

When I interact with those who advocate for believers’ baptism they often point to the New Covenant which is said to be very different than the Old Covenant (it is in some significant ways). The New Covenant, they say, leads them to hold to a regenerate or pure church such that the difference between the visible and invisible churches to be nearly insignificant. While there is nothing in any of the direct statements about the New Covenant that prohibit infant baptism or demand believers baptism they think it does. They are using a good and necessary consequence argument to defend believers’ baptism. We Reformed paedobaptists also use an argument based on good and necessary consequence. The difference is that we acknowledge this but they usually don’t.

The author of Hebrews refers to the promise of the New Covenant twice: in chapters 8 and 10.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8

The author wants them to know that 1) the New Covenant is better and 2) the Old Covenant is obsolete. This does not mean the covenants are completely different and disconnected. The word used here for “new” is “kainos” instead of “neos”. “Kainos” can mean renewed rather than absolutely new. It can also refer to “more recent”.

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In the first part I examined the fact that all pastors will have to talk about sex from the pulpit because the Bible talks about sex- often. But how often a pastor needs to talk about it will differ according to the needs of the congregation. John MacArthur probably doesn’t have to talk about sex often. I’m not sure I’d want him to talk to me about sex, that would be like talking about sex with my father-in-law. Just doesn’t seem right. Mark Driscoll, who pastors a church filled with young converts, will have greater need to address the subject.

How should a pastor speak about sex? That is the topic I want to pick up now. Just because you should talk about it doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind.

When I was taking classes for my counseling degree we had a course on sex. I know you won’t believe me, but sex comes up often in counseling situations. One day we spent time on an exercise. We split up into small groups of both men and women. We had to practice saying “penis” and “vagina”. It was incredibly funny for me because one of my classmates was really struggling to say them in mixed company. That was so far out of her comfort zone. But when you try to do this, it can be weird for anyone.

We were trained to use the proper terms for things, not slang. We called oral sex just that- not a Lewinski or any number of other terms.

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One of the series I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the years is P&R’s Gospel in the Old Testament series.  WTS Books is currently running a sale on them of 50% off the 11 volume set.  They would make a great Christmas gift (sorry Desert Springs people, I have most of them).

I first learned about the series when the late Ray Dillard visited RTS Orlando for Spiritual Emphasis Week.  He preached on Elijah and Elisha and their connection with Jesus and the gospel.  This was turned into Faith in the Face of Apostasy.   Unfortunately Dr. Dillard would not live much longer.

I am currently re-reading Living in the Gap between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham for my sermon series on the life of faith in the life of Abraham.  Iain Duguid, formerly of Westminster West and now at Grove City College and planting an ARP church, is the author.  He also wrote Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel According to Isaac and Jacob.  These are 2 of my favorites in the series, offering hope to guys like me for whom life is a series of struggles- some self-made.

There are also volumes on Jonah, David, Hosea, Daniel (by a professor at Erskine though not my favorite volume), Job and Israel’s Worship.  I guess I’m missing the volumes on Ruth and Zechariah (which I may not get).

They take the position that all of Scripture (not each and every verse) points us to the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption- Jesus.  So the show how the text points us to and prepares us for the ministry of Jesus for us.  Great stuff.  This series was also helpful for me to learn how to see and make those connections for my people so I was actually preaching the gospel each week.  I find them valuable.

 

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Some more from the Westminster Confession of Faith for you.  Since I’m covering the Perseverance of the Saints today, I’ll toss out a great quote as a freebie.

“There is one grace you cannot counterfeit … the grace of perseverance.”  Gardiner Spring

Chapter XVI: Of Good Works

168. What makes a good work good?  They are works that God has commanded, done in faith by the power of the Spirit to the glory of God.

169. Is man saved by his good works?  No!

170. Why are good works necessary for a Christian?  They are fruits and evidence of saving faith (James 2).

171. Can a sinner outside of Christ do any good work? No, their acts remain sinful for they are done from an impure motive (not from the love for God- violating the 1st commandment).

172. Are the good works of believers meritorious? No, they are not meritorious.  We cannot attain eternal life through them.  Our good works are only accepted in Christ.

173. What is the motive for good works?  Our motive is to be the glory of God, and trust in His Word accompanied by love for God and gratitude for such a great salvation.

174. Is any good work ever pure? If not, then how are they accepted by God as good?  No, all our best works remain tainted by sin.  They are accepted as good by God because of Christ whose blood removes the stains from our works.

175. How would you respond to a statement such as the following: “I know people who make no profession of Christian faith and yet they live morally better than many Christians. Does that not please God? Does He take note of this?”  Outwardly they live better lives than many Christians- but Christianity is not about how righteous we are, but how Christ alone saves us.  God not only demands perfection, but truly good works flow out of a person’s love of God (Ex. 20).  Those that don’t violate the first commandment and are therefore actually sin.

 

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Less than $15 at WTS Books!

Less than $15 at WTS Books!

I own and read this book under its previous title: Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology.  I’ve recommended the book to friends, and on my blog.  I guess that title was a bit over the top for some people.  It was re-released as God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery.  Ray Ortlund’s book is still part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.

This is a great book on a very difficult subject.  It makes for must reading if you are reading, studying or preaching from any of the prophets that wrestled with Israel’s apostasy.  It works through the many passages that show how ugly it is, and how prevalent our temptation really is.

I’m glad this book is still available, and wish more pastors would read it.  This is particularly true in America where Satan’s strategy to neutralize the Church is seduction rather than persecution.  We live in dangerous times as prosperity (and the prospect of losing that prosperity) silently seduces us from faithfulness to the Holy One who has created, redeemed and adopted us.  It is the silent spiritual killer that is corrupting many sermons, books and churches.

Sorry if I sound alarmist, pessimistic and negative.

This book is not an easy read.  It is a bit academic in that it assumes some working knowledge of the original languages.  It is also difficult due to the metaphors Scripture uses to convey how corrupt Israel was in pursuing false gods or engaging in synchretism.  Scripture often sexualizes it (and translators work to make it PG) to drive the point home, shocking us for holy purposes.  Even if you never preach on those difficult texts, this book will help you keep such texts in mind as you encounter the common call to return to God with all your heart, to love the Lord with all we are and to be blameless before Him.

No, not an easy read but a very important read.  I’m glad D.A. Carson asked Ray Ortlund Jr. to make this a part of the NSBT series.

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