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Posts Tagged ‘prophet’


You might think it a challenge to review a book it took 3 years to read. You would be right. In this case it took 3 years to read a relatively short book. This was no John Frame tome. The problem was not the book, but my life. Other projects and books seemed of greater importance. This speaks not to the quality of this book but of the choices we all have to make.

The book of which I speak is Name Above All Names by Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson. Though these two friends of Scottish descent and upbringing share a common love for Christ, they do have some differences in theology. These differences are not apparent here, nor should they be. It would be interesting if they wrote a book discussing their views of the Church and sacraments. But they wrote about Jesus Himself in this book.

You cannot really tell that two men wrote this book. Sometimes such books make references to this. For instance, sharing personal stories attributed to one of them. I don’t recall any of that (if it is there, it would be in the early chapters I read 2-3 years ago).

I would describe this book as a popular-level biblical theology focus on Christology developing 7 important titles or names of Christ in the Scripture.

“Standing in various pulpits in our native land of Scotland we have often seen words visible to the preacher but hidden from the congregation: ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ (John 12:21).” from the Preface indicating their purpose.

It is popular-level because you don’t need to be an academic, professional or theology nerd to understand this book. As pastors, their pastoral hearts and minds are on display as they put the cookies where the average Joe and Jane can reach them. This does not mean the book is superficial, it certainly is not. But it is in “plain English” so ordinary people can understand and benefit from the book.

It is a biblical theology because it traces each of these themes through the Scriptures. Systematic Theology summarizes a doctrine. This means it can flatten out nuance, but it keeps you from heresy. Biblical Theology, when done well, shows the development through the progress of revelation and its importance to the history of redemption. It is the basis for the summary, such that they are meant to go hand in hand. This is not mere proof-texting but developing your theology from the texts in question. This book is an example of Biblical Theology done well.

It deals with 7 titles of Christ to develop our understanding of Christ, 7 being the number of completion so (okay, I’m kidding about this last part). I wish there were more chapter. One of the reasons I started the book was due to an Advent series that addressed some of these, particularly the Seed of the Woman. Over the last few years a quote or two from this book would pop up in a sermon. In addition to Seed of the Woman, they cover Jesus as True Prophet, Great High Priest, Conquering King, the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant and the Lamb on the Throne.

Each of these has great redemptive significance and they do a great job of fleshing that out for us in the book’s 180ish pages. That means the chapters are a tad long for our microwave, ADD generation. But the pages aren’t big, or writing dense so you can do it. Really!

They start with the protoevangelium, the Seed of the Woman. In other words they start in Genesis, in the Garden. In doing so they instruct the reader on why we have a Christ-centered approach to understanding the Old Testament from the words of Jesus to 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. As Ferguson notes in another book, From the Mouth of God, the OT is a development of this theme from Genesis 3:15. How is the coming of the Seed of the Woman to crush the head of the serpent developed, and resisted. This conflict initiated and sustained by Satan, that old dragon, marks all of history. Tucked into this chapter they talk about Jesus as the Second Adam so it is a 2 for 1 deal. The Seed of the Woman crushes the head of the serpent by doing what the First Adam failed to do.

Over the next 3 chapters they delve into one of my favorite subjects, the three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest and King. Jesus reveals to us the way of salvation as our Prophet, is the way as our Priest who sacrifices Himself for us and continues to intercedes for us, and applies that salvation to us by subduing our hearts and then protecting & expanding His kingdom in this world. In many ways this reveals the on-going ministry of congregations and pastors (a book for another time).

In the chapter covering the Son of Man, they spend a great deal of time in Daniel 7 before they get to the Son of Man sayings in the New Testament. The focus is not on a man but on Jesus’ role as “man as he was created to be”, an eschatalogical figure who ushers in the kingdom of God.

The road to the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days runs through the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. His is a representative suffering. He suffers not for His own sin but for the sins of others. He suffers not to deliver Himself but to deliver others. Before the crown comes the cross. This theme is developed in each of the last 4 chapters. They want us to grasp the theology of the cross and reject a theology of glory. Just as Jesus suffered here, we will too. But just as He was exalted, we are exalted in union with Him. But our life here is marked with suffering just as His was.

The final chapter focuses on the final book of the Bible, Revelation, to develop the title of the Lamb upon the Throne. Revelation is all about this Lamb who reigns for the comfort of His Church in conflict with the counterfeit trinity and church.

They help us to see Jesus more clearly through their examination of these 7 names. The reader will better understand the nature of Christ’s work for us. They will better understand how the Bible fits together. Begg & Ferguson have produced a book well worth reading. Tolle lege!

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The next of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to spend too much time on hurting people and not enough time developing future leaders. Dave Kraft is not the only one to warn of this propensity. It comes up in The Trellis and the Vine.

He isn’t saying churches, and leaders, should not care for the hurting people in the congregation. He is saying that you need to make sure you spend time cultivating future leaders too. The hurting can often demand your time. The hungry usually aren’t calling you to set up appointments.

“If all the leader’s time is devoted to shepherding and counseling hurting people to the exclusion of nurturing hungry future leaders, the ministry cannot continue to grow as God would desire.”

So it can be easy, particularly as a smaller church pastor, to focus too much energy on the hurting.

I suspect some of this has to do with gifting. The more priestly pastors are highly empathetic. They will spend lots of time working with the hurting. They will not place as high a value on the future. They won’t be preparing future leaders as much as a pastor with a strong prophetic or kingly gifting.

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Life being like it is these days, CavWife gifted me with a tiny book by Mark Driscoll for my birthday.  It was from his A Book You’ll Actually Read series.  This little book is On Church Leadership.

Here is how they describe it:

Cheap, simple, and you can read it in an hour. Mark Driscoll will guide you through the 6 important areas of church leadership with clear Biblical teaching and a raw sense of humor. You’ll explore the topics eldership, deacons, members, and women in leadership—with plenty of surprises along the way.

What is lost in Mark’s sense of humor.  His personality is submerged, for the most part.  His personality is part of what makes reading his books so enjoyable for me (and I recognize what that says about me).  But Mark’s insight and experience remain, which is what makes this book still worth reading.  It would make a good book to give to officers (present and potential).

He explains a nearly-Presbyterian form of church government tweaked to be more effective in this day.  In some ways he is a tad too pragmatic, but we Presbyterians are too “traditional”.  The form of government, which I believe to be biblical, is unchanging but how we apply it should be adjust for time and place.  So, I can appreciate what Mark is doing but I just can’t go with him everywhere he goes.  That’s okay, though.

In his introduction he faces the reality that even church people have what NBA great Bill Russell called “little red wagons”.  They have agendas other than Jesus and His kingdom.  He talks about this in other books.  Here he applies it to church government.  He’s also honest about our struggle with authority, and how people’s refusal to submit to proper authority almost killed Mars Hill in the early days.

“Their varying demands quickly sidetracked the mission of our church to love our city and see it transformed by the power of Jesus.  Our internal church strife quickly overshadowed our external cultural mission.”

So he starts with Pastor Jesus, a brief reminder that Jesus is the Head of the church.  The first chapter is incredibly brief, perhaps too brief.  I wish he could have included more thoughts like this:

“And it is ultimately Jesus who closes churches down when they have become faithless or fruitless.  Therefore, it is absolutely vital that a church loves Jesus, obeys Jesus, imitates Jesus, and follows Jesus at all times and in all ways, according to the teaching of his Word.”

He moves on to  Elders.  He affirms the plurality of elders.  He dares to say what needs to be said.  He reminds us that the qualifications for elders are primarily those of a mature Christian man.  The first part of that is vital- mature Christians.  It is too common for churches to nominate popular or powerful men.  Businessmen will run the church like a business.  But mature Christians, tested as family men, will run the church like a family, seeking to lead others to maturity.  And they are men- in accordance with Scripture- which is not a popular statement today.

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Still working through the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Here are the sections on the Covenant and Christ our Mediator.

Chapter VII: Of God’s Covenant with Man

80. What is a covenant (in terms of God’s relationship with man)?  It is a bond sealed in blood by which God has redeemed His people, and outlines how we are to live as His people.

81. What is meant by the “covenant of works” (or, “of life”)? Does it have a present validity?  It was the covenant under which Adam lived in the Garden.  It is the covenant under which we all fell into sin with him.  All who are in Adam remain in the covenant of works and shall experience the just condemnation due them.

82. What is meant by the “covenant of grace”?  It is covenant in which Jesus is offered as our Redeemer who perfectly obeyed in our place  that we might receive covenant blessings, and died in our place suffering the penalty for our sins committed under the covenant of works.

83. Explain the statement that there is one unified covenant of grace with various administrations. Distinguish from dispensations. The revelation of that covenant was progressive and expansive.  Each successive covenant provided greater clarity and blessing rather than replace previous covenants.  In dispensationalism, each successive dispensation replaces the previous dispensation.

84. What are the signs and seals of the covenant? Circumcision and Passover in the OT; Baptism & the Lord’s Table in the NT

85. Are you personally committed to covenant theology? Yes.

 

Chapter VIII: Of Christ the Mediator

86. Why is the office of Christ as Mediator necessary for the salvation of God’s elect?  Apart from the work of a Mediator, we perish in our sins.  God is just and he can’t just wipe the slate clean.  Someone must be punished for our sins, and we need real obedience to receive covenant blessings.

87. Could God have pardoned sin without Christ’s sacrifice?  No, for no mere man is able to perfectly obey God but sin each day in thought, word and deed.  God is just and must punish sin.  No other substitute was available.

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I was talking with someone about church planting the other day.  I’m trying to sort out my reasonable options in continuing to pursue another call in ministry.  So he was doing some quick assessment on the phone.  There was one question in particular that was quite interesting.

Are you a maintainer, reorganizer or starter?

Maintainer– this person maintains or administrates an organization, often to maintain the status quo.  They are not innovative or creative.  They may want to improve efficiency or effectiveness, but they will fiddle with the system rather than completely revise the system.  I guess I’d say this coincides with the priestly gifts.

Reorganizer– this person identifies the weaknesses in the system, including its goals, and works to redirect the organization to better goals and more effective processes.  As a result, this person is usually resented in the organization precisely because he/she threatens the status quo.  It coincides with the prophetic gifts in the church.

Starter– this person wants the ground floor opportunity, lacking the patience to change an organization.  They want to institute their structure and goals from the beginning.  It would coincide with the kingly gifts, and would include most church planters.

I can see a reorganizer starting a church when they grow frustrated by resistance to change in existing, established churches.  Since the reorganizer is not always welcome, and may have a difficult time finding a call, they may decide to plant.

Me?  Reorganizer!  I don’t see myself as being able to start ex nihilo.  I need raw materials to reshape and expand upon.  I was constantly trying to reorganize the church (which no doubt was frustrating to those who found comfort in the status quo) to refocus us on God’s agenda done God’s way.  On a staff, I will be the guy who consistently calls the congregation to rethink, refocus and reorganize to become increasingly faithful to Christ.  Not always welcome, but important (as are the starter & maintainer).

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The last chapter of Dan Allender’s Leading with a Limp addresses the offices of prophet, priest and king.  In the Old Testament, God led his people through men occupying those 3 offices.  They were typically anointed to their office, and functioned as types of Christ.

In his earthly and heavenly ministry, Jesus perfectly fulfilled those 3 offices for the benefit of his people and his own glory.  But that is not the end of the story.

“Interestingly, each of us has skills and gifts that place us primarily in one category- prophet, priest, or king.  Sadly, the crisis, complexity, betrayal, loneliness, and weariness of leadership transform most prophets into trouble-makers, most priests into dogmatists, and most kings into dictators.  Mystery and chaos send leaders spiraling into efforts to manipulate and manage the world without drawing on faith, hope and love.  Consequently, our striving for order and meaning must be interrupted by a prophetic voice that will sing cacophony to undermine our idolatry.  Prophets challenge kinds to fight injustice rather than devour the poor, and they call priests to speak of hope for reconciliation instead of promising peace without the necessary honesty regarding sin.”

Allender quotes Francis Turretin in noting that the offices match our threefold misery produced by sin- ignorance, guilt and bondage/oppression of sin).  Jesus frees his people from all three.  As a Christian leader, I need other leaders to help me apply all of them to the Body as Jesus intends.

“God, however, loves to use our strengths to get us into situations where our weaknesses are exposed and used for his glory. … In exposing and using our weaknesses like this, God reminds us again and again of our dependency on him and directs our praise to the only One who is worthy of it.”

One thing I take from that is that only Jesus is essential for the existance of the church.  But he uses people like me for the well-being of the church.  In part, he does this by revealing that they cannot depend on me.  I’m finite, and sinful.  They need me only as much as I point to him.

He reminds us of the balance between the gifts in the congregation.

“God also intends for those three roles to be represented in an organization by different people, and I am called to create space in our organization for all three roles.”

This threatens our pride and self-sufficiency.  It means we will be challenged with other valid viewpoints.  It means things will get messy at times as leadership works through issues to pursue the purity, peace and prosperity of the church.  He handles their roles in reverse order:

  • King: Creating Life-giving Structure
  • Priest: Creating Meaningful Connections
  • Prophet: Creating Compelling Vision

Prophets are necessary to challenge the status quo (which often ticks people off).  This provides the proper goals for the structures and the relational connections.  He keeps the king honest lest he use power for his own means.  He keeps the priest honest lest he avoid needed conflict by accomodating everyone.  The priest reminds the king and priest that without love, it is all worthless.  The king reminds the priest and prophet that love and truth require action rather than just warm fuzzies.  Together they create a holy community on mission, and that is the goal.

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I recently had a dialogue with another pastor about the office of prophet, priest and king in church leadership.  He had been re-reading Dan Allender’s Leading with a Limp, chapter 14: Three Leaders You Can’t Do Without (wow, how did I not blog on that chapter?!).  He wondered what my primary & secondary gifting were (prophet-priest if you’re interested).  One of these days I may try to put my more theologically oriented material into a leadership oriented book working through these issues.

In the meantime, I visited Drew Goodmanson’s blog and he had links to the Acts 29 regional conference in Raleigh.  He and David Fairchild had some seminars working through this triperspectival view of leadership.  I highly recommend them after listening to them today.  The first was on the foundations of triperspectival leadership, and the second was on the applications of triperspectival leadership.  David provided some background into their church plant, the struggles they had and how they have benefited from applying John Frame’s triperspectivalism to church leadership.

Here are some thoughts I jotted down in my notebook to keep track of them:

“When you plant (a church) you’re reacting to something you think you’ve seen wrong in the church, so you’re in this heavy, heavy deconstruction mode.”  David relating advice given by Mark Driscoll

There are differences between how Jesus exercised His office during the Incarnation and how He exercises it now in His exaltation (yes, still incarnated).  For instance, while on earth He preached directly to the people.  In his heavenly prophetic ministry, He worked through the Spirit to complete the giving of Scripture and works through the Spirit in the preaching of the same Scripture.  In His earthly priestly ministry He offered up His body as the perfect sacrifice for sin.  In His heavenly priestly ministry He lives forever to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25).

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