Quotable: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Who?


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Can we trust that the Gospels we have in the New Testament accurately represent the earliest of Christians’ beliefs about Jesus? What about claims that there were other Gospels or alternate views of Jesus that—if discovered—would change everything we thought we knew about the story of Christianity?

In a section on historical criticism of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg gives his take:

It is particularly misleading, therefore, to speak of lost Gospels or lost Christianities in ways that suggest that orthodoxy somehow suppressed viable Christian traditions or to claim that history is simply written by the winners….The apostolic tradition prevailed in large part because later, competing options never commanded widespread credibility.

—Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group), 108.

 

Agree or disagree?

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Confessions and Musings on Matt. 23:23


“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
 
Matthew 23:23 (NIV)
 
I’ve been thinking about this verse for a few days now, as I felt convicted the moment I read it of being much closer to the way of the Pharisees here than the way of Jesus. Am I (and are we, reader?) paying attention to the small and particular matters of our faith while neglecting what Jesus here calls the more important (the “weightier” in the ESV) matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness?
 
To paint with a broad brushstroke, many of our Evangelical (though I hesitate to even use that label anymore) responses to the injustices in this world and—closer to home—the injustices here in our own country look more like the Pharisees’ actions here than they look like Jesus’ response.

Are we responding to cries that #BlackLivesMatter with choruses of #AllLivesMatter without considering how our words can burn and harm and pour salt on open wounds? Are we simply spitting out the latest factoid that we heard on NPR or FOX or our favorite podcast instead of sitting and listening in order to hear and understand? Are we making sure to have our quiet time and perfectly arrange everything so that it will look great in our Snapchat or Instagram story instead of reaching out to those in our lives to see how they are doing?

I don’t have many answers, and the ones that I do have are uncomfortable ones! But I think we the way forward is in listening, not in arguing; in lending our voice to the voiceless, not in parroting the talking heads on the news; in pursuing our own holiness but also in fighting for the wholeness of the downtrodden.  Food for thought (most of all for myself!) as we continue to engage with a hurting and broken world peopled with hurting and broken friends, neighbors, and families.

Review: “40 Questions about the Historical Jesus” by C. Marvin Pate


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40 Questions About the Historical Jesus fills a niche that relatively few other books on Jesus occupy. As the book’s introduction states, “there are many books that focus only on the background issues of the relationship of the historical Jesus to the Christ of faith” (9). These are issues of the historicity of the Gospels, what we can truly know about the man named Jesus of Nazareth that lived 2,000 years ago, and the like. “On the other hand, many other fine books about Jesus only summarize his life, ministry, death and resurrection as based on the Gospels” (ibid.). So some books primarily focus on the background while others focus on the contents of the Gospels as we now have them.

Both of these approaches have their values, but this is a book that distinctly aims to incorporate both background issues to Jesus and the Gospels as well as discussing the content of the Gospels. A brief glance at the table of contents reveals how Pate goes about this: Part 1 (Questions 1-11) addresses background questions about the historical Jesus, Part 2 (Q’s 12-19) includes questions on Jesus’ birth and childhood, Part 3 (20-32) covers questions about Jesus’ life and teachings, and Part 4 (33-40) zeroes in on the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

How does the book do in accomplishing its aims? I was impressed by the scope of the questions (everything from “When was Jesus born?” to “Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?” to “What is the main message of [Matthew/Mark/Luke/John] about Jesus?”) and by the well-researched and thoughtful answers.

Of course, like most books trying to serve as an introduction and reference to a subject as vast as the background to and contents of the accounts about Jesus, this is far from an exhaustive list of questions. For example, aware of some who question whether Jesus was actually crucified on a Friday or perhaps was crucified on a Wednesday (mainly due to a rigid interpretation of “3 days and 3 nights”), I tried to find a specific answer to those exact objections here in this book. Question 37 answers “Did Jesus remain in the tomb three nights and three days?” but mainly does so by presenting positive evidence for a buried-on-Friday-raised-on-Sunday interpretation rather than answering specific claims to the contrary. This is sufficient, but not precisely what I was looking for.

Still, this is a great resource that serves as an excellent starting place for investigating questions about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

4 stars out of 5


C. Marvin Pate. 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2015. 408 pp. Paperback. $23.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: “Discipling” by Mark Dever


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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
—Matthew 28:19-20a (ESV)

Discipleship: Jesus commands his followers to do it. But what does discipleship look like? Where do we disciple? And how exactly do we do it?

Mark Dever has written Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, the latest entry in the 9 Marks series “Building Healthy Churches,” in order to answer some of these basic questions. The stated goal of the book is to “help you understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ” (19).

Not sure where to start with discipling other believers or not sure how discipleship should fit within the context of the local church? Start here.

Continue reading

“Alive in You” by Jesus Culture


It’s been a while since I last shared what new music I’m listening to so here’s what’s been on repeat lately!

Jesus Culture’s latest cd has a song called “Alive in You” and I absolutely love it, especially the chorus:

You are God, You’re the Great I AM
Breath of Life I breathe You in
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire I’m alive in You.

This past season has, for various reasons, often felt like a furnace. Heat, pressure, no idea what’s coming next…but Christ, “one like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25) not only can keep us alive in the flames of the furnace and use it to refine us: He is also with us in the furnace and sovereign over every step that led us there and every step we’ll take afterwards. It’s truth I need to keep hearing 🙂

 

Fellow-Workers in The Great Harvest: Baxter on Matthew 9:37-38


Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest
.”
—Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The harvest is great, the labourers are few; the loiterers and hinderers are many, the souls of men are precious, the misery of sinners is great, and the everlasting misery to which they are near is greater, the joys of heaven are inconceivable, the comfort of a faithful minister is not small, the joy of extensive success will be a full reward. To be fellow-workers with God and his Spirit is no little honour; to subserve the blood-shedding of Christ for men’s salvation is not a light thing.

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—Richard Baxter, in The Reformed Pastor, p. 202.

Do we really believe this? And would we live differently, prioritize different things, and see different outcomes in our lives if so? Hard questions and much-needed exhortation from Baxter to us today.

Jesus: a Greater Savior


The unsearchable riches of Christ. —Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are “unsearchable”! You may look, study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Savior than you think He is when your thoughts are at their greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you are to sin, more able to forgive than you are to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs than you are to acknowledge them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus…Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell the good news to others.

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—Charles Spurgeon, in Evening by Evening, p. 243.

What is Involved in Being a Christian


He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of the purpose of God in creation and history, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity.

-James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, 4 as quoted in Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 6.

MLK The Baptist Preacher


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Among many, many other things, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher. Much of the strength, dignity, and beauty of his message came from a worldview aligned with the gospel and in service of the King. In celebration of this day, his life, and his legacy, here are a few quotes of his from sermons:

  • “The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial” (from “Pilgrimage to Non-Violence,” 1960).
  • “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies” (from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon, 1957).

You can read more about Dr. King’s faith in this article on Christianity Today, where I read the above quotes: Today I’m Grateful for Dr. King

[Reblog] A Response to Newsweek on the Bible


Newsweek recently had a cover story on the Bible that got a lot of attention and made some pretty ridiculous claims. There have been some good responses to it so far, but this is one of the best I’ve read so far. If the original article raised some questions for you or someone you know or if you’re just curious and want to read how Michael Brown responds to the original, then definitely read it! Here’s a taste:

The real question is: How reliable are the Hebrew texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the Old Testament? And how reliable are the Greek texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the New Testament?

Actually, they are remarkably well-preserved, to the point that we can say that, with the exception of changes in spelling of words (like colour vs. color in English) and the adding of vowels (which are not part of the original Hebrew text), for the most part, when we read the Old Testament in Hebrew, we are reading the identical Hebrew texts that Jesus would have read in his hometown synagogue as a boy….[and] the truth is that the evidence for the reliability of our New Testament manuscripts massively outweighs the evidence against it…

The Bible is a coherent book with a coherent message, and it has been passed on to us carefully…sometimes [God] does speak in whispers and riddles so that we will seek him more earnestly and study his Word more seriously rather than trying to relate to him as if he could be reduced to a simple mathematical formula. Is it surprising that there is a level of mystery and wonder in our relationship with God? Are we arrogant enough to think that, as human beings, we can fully comprehend the Lord? Can all divine revelation be packaged in a neat little box? And it isn’t it fitting that God reveals himself to those who humble themselves?

Read more here: A Response to Newsweek on the Bible

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