Wednesday, July 19, 2017

4 Defeating Demons (The Combat Boots of the Gospel)

The Gospel message both protects believers in spiritual battle and advances the Christian army against Satan's kingdom.

Friday, July 14, 2017

3 Defeating Demons (The Breastplate of Righteousness)

In his exposition in Ephesians 6 Paul explains that spiritual warfare is accomplished, in part, simply by godly living.

(Due to technical difficulties the lesson had to be recovered from the SD card; apologies for the sub-par audio.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Three Titles of What We Call "Pastor"

In the Church of God (Anderson) we latched on to the title "pastor."  Strangely, we who desired to return to primitive Christianity neglected (for the most part) the other two titles that the New Testament gives to the same group of leaders.  I believe this creates an imbalanced view of the responsibility (and authority) that this God-ordained group holds.

Pastor (ποιμήν)—shepherd

In his Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament William Mounce defines pastor as
one who tends flocks or herds, a shepherd, herdsman, Mat 9:36; Mat 25:32; met. a pastor, superintendent, guardian, Joh 10:11; Joh 10:14; Joh 10:16 pastor; shepherd.

When we think of pastors/shepherds we think of gentle-souled men holding lambs to their chests.  Put bluntly, many churches mistake a pastor with a chaplain—someone hired to marry 'em, bury 'em, visit 'em and make 'em happy by obeying their wishes.  However, a pastor was understood in biblical times as a leader.  He led his flock.  Read David's 23rd song.  Pastors told sheep when to eat, when to sleep and when to move.  They protected their flocks, yes, but they commanded them.

Elder (πρεσβύτερος)—elder, presbyter 

The New Testament word gets its origin in Judaism and Christianity from all the way back in Israelite history to the time of Moses.  It is a fascinating story:
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and instructions." Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.(Exo 18:13-27 NIV)
To summarize, elders rule.  They judge.  They adjudicate cases.  They hand down decrees and judgments.  

Bishop (ἐπίσκοπος)—overseer, guardain, supervisor 

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, shortened in academia to BDAG, gives us fascinating definitions for bishop:
one who has the responsibility of safeguarding or seeing to it that someth. is done in the correct way, guardian...
The term was taken over in Christian communities in ref. to one who served as overseer or supervisor, with special interest in guarding the apostolic tradition... (279)

Not to put too fine a point to it but a modern day equivalent is boss.  Why?  Because the only other office in the New Testament church, the deacon (διάκονος), holds an intriguing definition from BDAG:
one who gets someth. done, at the behest of a superior, assistant to someone (230)
A deacon gets something done; a bishop tells him what to get done.

The bishop is concerned that the doctrine that has once and for all time been delivered to the saints is (a) known and (b) obeyed.  He is to [e]ncourage and rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2.15b NIV).  He is "not to let anyone despise [him]"(Titus 2.15c NIV).

Many church problems occur when people become offended and demand their way.  A congregation may bend over backwards to prevent that from happening.  However, does anyone become offended when God's glory is offended?  This is the role of the bishop.  He gets offended when God's glory and holiness are defamed.

Being a pastor, elder and bishop can be a lonely job—when those terms are rightly understood.  Sadly, the modern evangelical church often doesn't understand these definitions.

The Day My College's Founder, Max Gaulke, Wrote to Me

As a young Pastoral Ministries & Bible major at what is now Mid-America Christian University I was fairly shocked with Max Gaulke, the founder of my Alma Mater, sent this handwritten note to me in response to a small article I published in the Reformation Witness. I still have this cherished letter. My favorite part of the letter reads, "Keep the right Doctrinal Perspectives, & never flinch from All the truth. Those with half-Truth Gospels, have usually the wrong half."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

89 The King Chooses the Weak and Vulnerable

In contrast to his often noisy and disbelieving critics, Jesus was a messiah they didn't expect: not seeking a human throne by insurrection and not boldly proclaiming an earthly kingdom by riot. Instead, he avoided conflict until it was his time to die. And he was insistent that his disciples would come from the ranks of the desperate and despised.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2 Defeating Demons (The Belt of Truth)

Satan's primary method of operation is getting people to believe a lie and then to suffer the consequences of believing it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

88 The King Offers Freedom to Legalists

Religious figures hated Jesus so much (because he didn't obey their unwritten rules) that they wanted him dead. Do we love Jesus and his Bible or only our conception of him with our own made-up rules?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1 Defeating Demons (Introduction)

We began our study of Ephesians 6 to learn the methodical ways the demonic realm attacks believers.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why I Preach from the NIV

For fifteen years or so my pulpit Bible happily has been the English Standard Version.  The ESV is a fine translation from evangelical scholars.  It can be trusted.

However, I have slowly changed my opinion on biblical translation—kicking and screaming all the way, to be downright honest—and I have opted to use the New International Version.  I needed to use something else.  Consider this chart that compares the reading grade levels of different translations from

  • KJV — 12
  • RSV — 12
  • NRSV — 11
  • NASB — 11
  • ESV — 10
  • HCSB — 7-8
  • NIV — 7-8
  • CEB — 7
  • CSB — 7
  • NKJV — 7
  • NLT — 6
  • GW — 5
  • Message — 4-5
  • NCV — 3
  • NIrV — 3
My beloved ESV is at a 10th grade reading level.  What's wrong with that?  Bible translator Dr. Douglas Moo explains, 
First, our translation choices must reckon with our audience’s ability to understand English. I tell you nothing you don’t already know when I say that fewer and fewer American adults can read effectively. A 2013 study concluded that 35 percent of adults in the US can’t read at all or read below a fifth grade level. Even college-educated and fully acculturated adults, who spend their time on Facebook and Candy Crush rather than reading books, have difficulty handling English at any level of complexity...[A]nd if, as surveys reveal, the average American is reading at a seventh to eighth grade level, translations cannot necessarily be faulted for trying to hit that target.

Boyce W. Blackwelder
The writings of the late Reverend Doctor Boyce Watson Blackwelder (February 3, 1913—August 22, 1976) have helped me become more comfortable with my shift in view.  He received his Th.D. while under the supervision of the 20th century Greek grammarian giant, J. R. Mantey, of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Blackwelder taught at Anderson University School of Theology and was one of our most well-known scholars in the Church of God (Anderson).  His specialty was New Testament Greek and he published exegetical translations of the four gospels and Paul's letters.  He titled them, simply, The Four Gospels: An Exegetical Translation and Letters from Paul.  Blackwelder also wrote the immensely popular Light from the Greek New Testament.

Dr. Blackwelder believed that accurate translation didn't require a strict word-for-word method of translating but, rather, to express the thoughts/idioms of the Greek (donor language) in an accurate English expression (receptor language). 

As he explains in Gospels:
This is an exegetical translation—not a paraphrase.  The aim of biblical exegetics is to make as clear as possible the means of the scriptural text...[t]hus an interpreter tries to discover what each statement meant to the original writer and render it accurately into the language at hand. 
It is impossible in every instance, to translate the same Greek word by the same English word.  Translation is more than a mere word-for-word rendering of one language into another language.  Transferring the idiom characteristic of the Greek into the corresponding idiom characteristic of contemporary English becomes a challenging task. (pg. 8)
For example, consider a traditional rendering in a portion of The Lord's Prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven, 
Hallowed be thy name.   (Mat 6.9b)

Contrast it with Blackwelder's rendering:

Our Father who art in heaven,
May Thy name be held in reverence.  (Mat 6.9b)

You see, to seek that God's name be hallowed is to seek that his name be held in reverence.  Which rendering is more
word-for-word?  The King James' rendering.  Which rendering is clearer for a 21st century audience?  I believe it's Blackwelder's.  All one has to do is read Blackwelder's translations of the gospels and letters of Paul to see the latitude the Church of God scholar allowed himself in expressing the New Testament language in crisp contemporary English of his day.  (For those who might think Blackwelder didn't stick to the text closely enough, the same charge could be leveled against the Septuagint [LXX], the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced by Jewish scholars shortly before the birth of Christ.  This was the common Bible of the early church and, in fact, heavily quoted by the New Testament writers, themselves. If it was good enough for them then such translational philosophy can be good enough for us.)

The New Testament Greek employed by the biblical writers was Hellenistic koinē (i.e. "common") Greek.  That is to say, it wasn't the literary Attic Greek of earlier writers.  And, in fact, vernacular [spoken] biblical Greek is simpler than a literary [written] Koine of the era.  As Blackwelder explains in Light:

Another category of material of the Graeco-Roman world which is an important source of light for New Testament studies is the literary Koine.  There are two types of Koine, the literary Koine which is represented by extrabiblical literature, by most of the inscriptions, and by a few papyri; and the vernacular Koine which is represented by most of the papyri and ostraca, by a few inscriptions, and by nearly all biblical Greek. 
It is not difficult to understand why there were two basic varieties within the Koine.  Though no literary speech develops independently from the vernacular, yet spoken language is never identical with the literary style.  The old Attic of Athens had a vernacular and a literary style that differed from each other, and such a distinction characterized the Koine from its beginning. 
"There was formal literary effort of considerable extent during the Koine period."  The forms of the literary Koine more nearly approached the classical nature of the Attic than do those of the New Testament.  The Koine literati sought elegance of expression while trying to avoid pedantry.  The literary Koine occupies an intermediate position between the vernacular Koine and the older classical form of the language.  (pgs. 24-25)
Put another way, the Bible's Greek was written in the easy-to-understand everyday Greek that people spoke in day to day life.  Why did the Koine emerge from the formal Attic Greek vernacular dialect?  It had to do with war.  Blackwelder helps us understand in Light:
In the latter part of the fourth century B.C., the forces of Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire, bringing the language of the victors into the ascendancy throughout the then-known world.  "Remaining as armies of occupation, and settling amongst the conquered peoples, they popularized the language, simplifying its grammatical and syntactical structure." (pgs. 18-19)
The New Testament is beautiful but doesn't try to sound beautiful, if you will.  But neither was it sloppy speech.  In Light:
Although the new Testament writers were not Atticists, neither were they "mere purveyors of slang and vulgarisms."  [A. T.] Robertson reminds us that Paul was a man of culture as well as a man of the people, and says, "The New Testament uses the language of the people, but with a dignity, restraint and pathos far beyond the trivial nonentities in much of the papyri remains."  "The New Testament is mainly in the vernacular Koine, but it is the vernacular of men of great ability" and reflects definite literary elements especially in the writings of Luke, the letters of Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.  But above all, the New Testament is the language of spirit and life.  (pg. 25)
This, I think, makes a strong case for the NIV.  It is accessible yet dignified.  

***Many people have an NIV that was copyrighted in 1984.  My pulpit Bible is a revision of this text that was copyrighted in 2011.  ALL of the NIV Bibles sold today are the 2011 edition.***

Why change?  Blackwelder put it well in Light:

There is a need, from time to time, for new translations of the Scriptures because all languages change and every generation needs a clear, accurate rendition of the Book of books.  Certain English words do not mean what they did a few hundred years ago; hence the proper ones must be substituted in order to express in contemporary thought the meaning of the original text."  (pgs. 16-17)
Some words don't need hundreds of years but merely years, perhaps a decade or two.  For example, people today use "them" instead of the third person singular "him."  While I find it ugly English I have to work with the English that is rather than the English I wish were in usage.  As the videos below demonstrate, the general public—already barely literate—don't see "him" as a generic that means "him or her."  They see it as a masculine pronoun for, well, a male.  [For more information, start Dr. Moo's video at the 21:45 minute mark and the second video at the 31:15 minute mark.]

Notice carefully Blackwelder's words, "every generation needs a clear, accurate rendition of the Book of books."  Every generation.  The daunting task of translating the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek of the Bible into clear English is neverending.  We must not ask ourselves merely, "What version do I prefer?" but, also, "What speaks accurately and clearly to this generation?"

The NIV 2011 is written on the 7th-8th grade level; it is fresh yet restrained compared to the NLT or other translations and/or paraphrases on the market.  It uses contemporary English that people currently are speaking.  No translation is perfect but, overall, if one is going to go this route and listen to Blackwelder then the NIV seems to me to be a sane choice.  If I want to win the lost I don't want my pulpit Bible to be an unnecessary hurdle they need to jump to understand.  The gospel and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is "foolishness to the Greek" and a "stumbling-block to the Jew" enough.

Consider these videos which drive home the arguments that helped persuade me to turn to the NIV.  

 The first easy-to-understand and very helpful video is by Pastor David Whiting of Northridge Church. He explains why they changed from the 1984 version to the NIV to the 2011 text:

The second video is by Dr. Douglas Moo, a world-class evangelical scholar who sits on the NIV's Committee on Bible Translation.  (Dr. Moo wrote two standard commentaries on Romans and Galatians that I have in my office):  

Here is a direct link .pdf download of Dr. Moo's written lecture.  Click here.