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Posts Tagged ‘Leon Morris’


ThessaloniansThis weekend our community groups begin our study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. We will be utilizing the study guide by John Stott, but I tend to supplement those study guides. Due to procrastination on many fronts and by many people, the guides are not in. That is okay because I’ve got my other resources, and this is a great opportunity to talk about the background to the letters, meaning the 2nd missionary journey and some info about Thessalonica.

Here are the resources I’m using:

The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians by John Stott in the Bible Speaks Today series. This was a no brainer since we are using Stott’s study guide. I love this series as well. A good balance between the academic and the practical marks this series. I’ve rarely been disappointed by any volumes. Stott’s commentaries themselves are often among my favorite accessible commentaries.

Epistles to the Thessalonians (now 1 & 2 Thessalonians) by Leon Morris in the Tyndale Bible Commentary series. This series has meaningful and concise commentaries. Leon Morris is another of my favorites from the same generation of scholars as Stott. I am currently using his big commentary on John for my sermon series.

1-2 Thessalonians by G.K. Beale in the IVP New Testament Commentary series. I bought this because of his commentary of on Revelation. This is not nearly the size, but I anticipate some of the same OT background to help understand Paul’s theology. (It is not in the picture. I must have mistakenly given it to one of the elders instead of the new copy of Morris.)

Teaching 1 & 2 Thessalonians (From Text to Message) and Introducing 1 & 2 Thessalonians: A Book for Today by Angus MacLeay. This is part of the “Teaching …” series. I found the volume on Isaiah very helpful for the study we just completed. I was disappointed by the volume on John.  This looks more like the former, and not the later (very short).

Since this is for community group, I didn’t want to read a very technical commentary. I would if I were preaching. I also wanted resources accessible to the other men leading our community groups.

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What is commonly called the Parable of the Dishonest Steward or Manager in Luke 16:1-9 has been called the hardest parable to interpret. Some of the people in our women’s ministry struggled with it. This is how I attempted to provide some assistance.

Preliminary Thoughts:
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you (according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3

If Paul wrote things that are hard to understand, Jesus said things that are hard to understand. That should not surprise us, particularly in light of the quotations from Isaiah 6 regarding parables. See Mt. 13:14ff.

7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (WCF, I)

This is one of the least clear passages. It is probably most closely connected with the Parable of the Prodigal Sons by proximity and vocabulary, as well as the Unmerciful Servant.

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
Is this Jesus’ commentary on the parable?
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Robert Capon calls this the hardest parable in The Parables of Grace.
Capon sees the connection with the Prodigal Son in that both he and the dishonest manager were wasteful. Both then came to themselves after coming to the end of themselves: destitution and impending destitution. One went home to be received, the other tried to make a way to be received. One sought forgiveness thru humiliation of self, the other mercy by showing mercy.

Capon notes this is the reverse of the Unmerciful Servant. There mercy flows top down. Here it flows from the bottom up.

Capon sees the Dishonest Manager as a Christ-figure thru his “death”. He makes much of Christ as “sinner” for us. But that was by imputation, not by act. So … I’m not liking his move.

Leon Morris sees the parable in a group of teaching on money. It is not part of the series of parables on lost things (sheep, coin, sons). “This is notoriously one of the most difficult of all the parables to interpret.”

Many think Jesus was commending his decisiveness, not necessarily the actions themselves.

He puts the parable in context of the questionable practice of charging interest to fellow Israelites called usury. They argued that if the other Israelite had anything he wasn’t destitute and therefore could be charged interest in order to make money. This seems to be an unbiblical loophole.
The steward or manager would tack interest on to the bond on the original transaction. This manager, discovering he was about to be fired, actually removed the interest from the bonds, bringing the owner into compliance with the law, and gaining favor from the borrowers. The owner, in pursuing any claim would have to admit to usury. He admitted the man’s shrewedness.

This parable was spoken to his disciples, and not the Pharisees like Luke 15.

The take away for the disciples to was use the money they had, even if gained by questionable practices in the past, for spiritual purposes. Use it wisely for good purposes, just as worldly people use it wisely for their worldly purposes. Our faith should affect how we use our money (and gain it in the future). A good illustration of this would be the tax collector Levi.

In the follow up lesson we are not to put earthly treasure above eternal treasure. Choose whom you will serve- God or money- because you can’t serve both. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we see the danger of serving money instead of God.

Wilcock notes that as this man was certain he was going to be fired, we all can be certain that we will die. We must make the right use of the opportunities life presents us. Use what belongs to this “present evil age” (unrighteous mammon) to gain an inheritance, a welcome, in the age to come.

Leon Morris’ analysis makes the best sense of the context to me. It also keeps Jesus from affirming dishonesty. This is one of the passages, being hard to understand, that we should be humblest about our interpretation.

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1422489_10202619602351025_1890806628_nThis coming Sunday I begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. While I have preached individual sermons or holiday series from John, I have yet to preach thru the Gospel. As I begin the series I have a stack of books that will be read along the way. Some of you may find some of these helpful.

Teaching John: Unlocking the Gospel of John for the Bible Teacher by Dick Lucas & William Philip. This is a short book (137 pages) uses a few of the stories in John to help you understand the bigger picture.

Getting to Know John’s Gospel: A Fresh Look at its Main Ideas by Robert A. Peterson. This is another short book that gets you oriented to the 3 purposes for the Gospel of John. It looks at some of the main groupings: “I Am” statements, 7 signs and others that help teachers to get a better handle on what is going on.

The Seven Signs: Seeing the Glory of Christ in the Gospel of John by Anthony Selvaggio. This is another short book of more limited scope- the 7 signs. He goes more in depth with those signs than the previously mentioned books.

The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation by Graham Cole. This is an entry from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson. This book will be particularly important in the first chapter.

Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Andreas Kostenberger & Scott Swain. This is another entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology. This is a key subject in John’s Gospel and a book like this really should be read as a result.

The Gospel According to John by D.A. Carson. This is part of the excellent Pillar Commentary series and done by a well-respected exegete & theologian. This is one of the standard commentaries on this gospel.

The Gospel According to John by Leon Morris. This is the older entry from the New International Commentary of the New Testament series. It has since been phased out and replaced by Michael Ramsey. I love Morris’ work and I’m glad I’ve got it.

The Gospel According to John by John Calvin. This is another good “old time” commentary. We interpret in community across time, and Calvin is a good one to study with.

Homilies on the Gospel of John (1-40) by Augustine. This is a good way to get in touch with the historical community of faith. I look forward to reading these sermons.

Books I Don’t Have Time to Read

No pastor can read everything. We have families to care for each day. There are also congregants that need our time and love. Here are some others that come recommended by others.

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A recent sermon was on Abram’s encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek.  Since it was a sermon, I just briefly mentioned that he was a man who was a type of Christ.  He was not, as some have thought, the pre-incarnate Son of God.

I had a question about that.  I did some more research, particularly on the Hebrews 7 passage at the crux of the issue.  I also went back to my unpublished work on the priestly ministry of Jesus.  Here’s what I said there (sorry the footnotes are incomplete):

The author then begins to explain what he meant all the way back in chapter 5.  He feels compelled to remind them of who this man was since he is such a mysterious figure.  Who he was has been greatly discussed over the course of history.  There has been no limits to the speculation some have engaged in.  We do well to heed Turretin’s warning about “the silence of Scripture imposing silence upon us here in a certain manner and checking our curiosity.”[1] We will find by the way the Apostle describes him that he never thought that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ as some have supposed.  Neither are we to suppose that he was actually the Holy Spirit, or Shem, the son of Noah.

This man, at the time of Abraham, was a king of what was probably Jerusalem[2].  In addition to his duties as king he was also a priest.  In the midst of great paganism we find a priest to the Most High God, Jehovah.  Like Abraham, Melchizedek was a worshipper of Jehovah.

(more…)

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This Sunday will be my first official Sunday in the pulpit of Desert Springs.  I guess I was technically their pastor after my examination.  But now we have moved and are in the process of settling in.

In May I will begin a series called Foundations of Faith from Genesis.  But I had 1 Sunday lost in the shuffle there.  So I figured that of the recent sermons I preached in Vero Beach, the one of John 15 would be the most appropriate as we begin our life together.

Why so important?  Jesus is the true vine, and we can do NOTHING without Him.  I am merely one of the branches.  We must remember to seek our life in and from Him.  Jesus is the one essential component of a vibrant church.

Not only that but we must recognize the roll of fruitfulness as an inevitability of union with Christ the vine.  If we are really connected to Him by faith through the Spirit, we will be fruitful.

Third, the Father will prune all who are to be even more fruitful.  We are not to plateau, but to continue to increase in fruitfulness.

I’m thankful to read the pertinent portions of D.A. Carson’s commentary on the Gospel According to John in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series due to the gift of a friend.  I’m also relying on Leon Morris’ volume in the NICNT series.  He’s one of my favorite commentators.

Next time I spend time in John, I may want to look for Dick Lucas and William Philip’s Teaching John.  Lucas is someone Tim Keller often mentions as a thoughtful exegete and preacher of the Word.

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Another painful phone call

Back when I worked for Ligonier ministries, I often talked with the “Born Again Guy”.  This was my name for someone who often called to discuss what it meant to be born again.  I did not like talking with him.  He was convinced that his novel ideas were true, and refused to ground those ideas in a sound, reasonable interpretation of Scripture.  I had many a painful, pointless conversation with him.

I wish I had a copy of Finally Alive then, because I could have sent it to him.  Perhaps John Piper would have made more progress with him than I did.  In his recent book , John Piper sets out to explain and apply the doctrine of regeneration.  He has a valid concern that the term “born again” has been removed from its biblical moorings.  There is a great ignorance about the biblical concept, and this misunderstanding has lead to many problems within the church.  It is at the root of much of the church’s problem with sin.  Piper’s desire is for this book to clear the air and restore the glory of God in regeneration.

Don't judge it by the cover!

Piper approaches this subject by exegeting and explaining the key passages that this subject.  The key passage is John 3, and this takes up much of the book.  He also spends significant time in 1 John and 2 Peter as he unpacks the implications of this significant doctrine.

The chapters in the book are short.  This is not a bad thing.  I was able to read a chapter during my 30-minute lunch break each day, slowly working through the book.  So while the material is not easy, John Piper provides enough for people to digest at each sitting.  He does not overwhelm people with lengthy chapters.

There are far too few books that cover this material.  I agree with 98% of what Piper says in this book.  The one thing I disagreed with him on was the meaning of “water and the Spirit”.  He thinks the “water” is a reference to the cleansing we receive (of which baptism is a picture) in regeneration (he argues this point from Ezekiel’s promise of the New Covenant).

I take an approach more akin to Leon Morris’ in that it refers to physical birth.  I think this due to the parallelism I see between verses 5 & 6.

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

To be born again, we must be born the first time, in the flesh.  Jesus is speaking of water and birth.  The interpretation that makes most sense to me is water referring to birth, being born of the flesh.  This is insufficient for us to see, or enter, the kingdom of God.  We are powerless, but utterly dependent upon the work of the Spirit to give us life in Christ.

This difference is fine tuning, and has little/no difference in application.  But this text and others are clear to both of us that regeneration precedes faith rather than follows faith.  Piper labors to show the truth and significance of this truth.  Scripture teaches the regeneration is a significant change that produces faith in us, grants us the power to resist temptation and so please God.  It does not just produce a relational change, but also a spiritual, moral change.

Regeneration is mysterious, but that does not mean it is irrational.  Scripture connects it with the ministry of the Word.  As Calvin often noted, Word and Spirit are joined together.  The Spirit grants us new life through the ministry of the Word so that we then believe the Scriptures.  We then begin to obey the Scriptures as well.

Not only that, but we begin to make the Scriptures known that others may be born again.  Scripture is clear that God’s appointed means for faith is hearing the Word, through others.  We are responsible to engage in evangelism.

John Piper’s book is theology at its best.  By that I mean:

  • It is Scriptural.  It seeks to understand Scripture in a cohesive way.  He’s not proof-texting, but seeking to examine texts in their context.
  • It is gospel-centered.  All sound doctrine is in accordance with the gospel.  This means it is connected, in some way, shape or form, to the gospel.
  • It is practical.  He shows the implications and applications of the doctrine.  As John Frame has oft said, we do not truly understand a text until we apply it.  Piper does just that.

Once again John Piper has written a book that many won’t like but need to hear.  It is not just about theological minutia, but reminds me of Charles Simeon’s criteria for a sermon: Does it humble the sinner?  Does it exalt the Savior?  Does it promote holiness?  This book achieves all three of these goals.

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WTS Bookstore has some good books on clearance.  Check out some of these deals!

The Letters of John Newton– I need to get this.  The one I’ve read was incredible, gospel-drenched wisdom.

Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards.  If you don’t own this- now is the time!  This is a great book by a great theologian.

Revelation by Leon Morris.  From the Tyndale Commentary Series, this small book is by one of my favorite biblical theologians.  Also 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

The Letters of John by John Stott.  Also from the Tyndale Commentary Series.  John Stott is one of my favorite exegetes.

Matthew by R.T. France.  The excellent commentary on Matthew from the same series.  His treatment of the Olivet Discourse was greatly influential in my thinking.

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