Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nearing The Weekend

This week has been full of all sorts of things. Writing, emails, studying, advising, phone calls, teaching. The weekend is drawing near. But before it comes I've got some things to still do. Most importantly I'll be meeting with my 1 Corinthians class this evening. We are walking through 1 Cor. 8–11 tonight. I can't wait. One of our friends is driving up here to MD today to secure some housing for her son who will be doing an internship in Baltimore over the summer. We are going to take her up to Baltimore and show her around. After class tonight, we'll probably stop for some coffee before hitting the highway.

I'm ready for the Pericope Adulterae conference. I've been asked to be an unofficial official photographer for one of the hosts. Last call. If you can make it to Wake Forest, NC, you definitely want to make the trip.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paul, Baptism, And The Great Commission

I received this email earlier.
Thomas,

I was wondering if you would be so kind as to help me work through 1 Cor. 1:17 and its implications.

I recognize that Paul acknowledges that he practices baptism, and actively engages in baptism. But in verse 17, he declares that his primary calling isn't baptism, but preaching the gospel.

My questions then would be…
1. Does Paul not feel bound by the command to baptize from the Great Commission? He clearly baptizes, but it sounds like he is saying that isn't his primary goal. 
2. Does this passage imply that Paul doesn't hold baptism in such a high regard as we might think appropriate, considering it was one of three participles that make it into Jesus' parting words to believers? 
3. Does this imply that successful ministry employs multiple partners working together with multiple foci? (Paul is here to preach, someone else works on getting everybody baptized, somebody else spends time discipling, etc). And if so, why would we chastise men who also include such focus on their minstries? (AKA, are the men of God who are equipped and adequate (2 Tim 3:17) specialists or jacks-of-all-trades? 
I guess my question is, what does Paul mean when he says that he was not sent to baptize? Is this description limited to his interaction with the church at Corinth, or indicative of all his missionary work?
I was reading this morning in 1 Corinthians, and thought that I would see if you would like to help a young, wayward believer better understand the word of the LORD.
Here is what I wrote back:
For the sake of time, let me give you a brief answer and some quotes. This is a busy week. I have advising appointments around every corner. I know you'll understand.

For Paul, nothing was more important than the gospel. And no part of his mission was more important than the proclamation of that gospel. After all, no one gets saved by baptism. It is only through the proclamation of the gospel that someone can be transferred out of the domain of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God's beloved Son (Col. 1:13). It is only through the proclamation of the gospel that the forgiveness described in Col. 2:13 and the cancellation of the certificate of debt can be effectual. Isn't this what Paul means in Rom. 10:14: "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" Paul viewed his ministry as proclaimer of the gospel first, foundational leader and personal representative second, and teacher third (2 Tim. 1:11). Again, the primacy of the proclamation of the gospel is clearly seen in the writings of Paul.

Nevertheless, are we to assume that he minimizes the place of baptism? I don't think so at all. I like what Gordon Fee says: "In saying 'Christ did not send me to baptize' Paul does not intend to minimize Christian baptism; his use of this imagery in Rom. 6:3–7 would forever rule that out" (1 Corinthians, 63). Because the Corinthians made such a big deal about who baptized who, Paul rejoiced that he didn't add to the newfound idolatry they were immersing themselves in. We do not have a full picture of what the missionary endeavors involved. But we can guess that Paul, for whatever reason here in Corinth, chose to baptize only a few people. Thus he either delegated this responsibility to others or simply allowed believers to baptize those that they shared the gospel with and watched come to repentance. Leon Morris makes a really good observation too. He writes, "Paul had baptized very few of the Corinthian converts, and he regards this as providential. He thanks God for it" (1 Corinthians, 42). Is it providential in Corinth, that for one reason or another he just didn't baptize people in Corinth (but did elsewhere)?

One of the initial converts is among the group Paul says he baptized (see Acts 18:8). Many more, according to Luke, were believing. Notice also that Luke tells us Crispus' household believed, but Paul says nothing about baptizing them, only Crispus. But, of Stephenas, he says he baptized his household.

One thing is crystal clear to me. Baptism needs to be done. Paul certainly affirms this. If it was minimal or not important, he would have objected, and he certainly would not have even baptized a few in Corinth. Beyond that, baptism isn't any single person's role. In our local churches today, somehow we've created this idea that the "pastor" does the baptizing. For Paul, it didn't matter who did the baptism. What was tantamount for Paul was what baptism signified and that it was not abused in any way.

So, in conclusion, let me try and respond to a few of your questions directly. You know how I can get on a tangent.

1. Does Paul not feel bound by the command to baptize from the Great Commission? He clearly baptizes, but it sounds like he is saying that isn't his primary goal.
Paul does not feel bound to be the one who baptizes. He does feel bound to encourage baptism as a sign of one's faith and identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Does this passage imply that Paul doesn't hold baptism in such a high regard as we might think appropriate, considering it was one of three participles that make it into Jesus' parting words to believers?
This passage does not imply that Paul doesn't hold baptism in as high regard as we think is appropriate. This passage tells us Paul was adamant that baptism, as with everything in the Christian life, ought to be done with the right heart and mind. Nothing, especially something that the Lord commanded, should be abused or cause division.
3. Does this imply that successful ministry employs multiple partners working together with multiple foci? (Paul is here to preach, someone else works on getting everybody baptized, somebody else spends time discipling, etc). And if so, why would we chastise men who also include such focus on their minstries? (AKA, are the men of God who are equipped and adequate (2 Tim 3:17) specialists or jacks-of-all-trades?
Successful ministry does involve multiple partners! Paul habitually points to his co-laborers, even Apollos. For Paul, everyone was to "preach," that is, proclaim what was accomplished on the cross through Jesus' substitutionary death and the resurrection occurring three days later. No one gets an escape clause from that! No one gets an escape clause from the command to train up the nations. Those are commanded of every believer. 
When it comes to baptism, however, who should do it is less important than the fact that it gets done. Of course, I'm not saying it makes no difference if the Dalai Lama performs a Christian baptism. But baptizing people is certainly something that can be delegated within the Body. And we ought to encourage everyone to baptize. Fathers, their sons. Mothers, their daughters. Brothers, their brothers. Sons, their dads. Friends, their friends. Employers, their employees. I see no limitations here. In fact, I think we ought to think about what will have the maximum impact for the sake of the gospel. After all, baptism is public. It is in itself a proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Whether or not Paul sensed a danger level with the Corinthians early on in his ministry there, I can't say. He stayed there a long period of time. And Luke is clear that his ministry there was a teaching ministry. 
That email wasn't so brief, was it? I really thank the Lord for you, brother. Keep up the hard work!
Anyone want to chime in?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teaching At Seminario Evangélico de Lima

I will be traveling to Peru in less than twelve months to teach at Seminario Evangélico de Lima. I'll actually teach a week in Lima (Jan. 26–31, 2015) and then a week in Cuzco (Feb. 2–7, 2015). Guess what? I can't wait! They've asked me to teach a Greek exegesis class from one book in the New Testament. I want your participation. Will you take the survey on the top right side of the page? What class do you think would be most beneficial? The survey is only active for the next six days. I'm inclined to one, but I'd like to see what you think. Forward a link to this page to your friends and get them to chime in. Tweet it. Blog it. Send it through the social media world to those you think would be interested. (Note: The survey is not present if using the portable view on a mobile device.)

I have a lot of love for Peru. Some of our dearest friends are from Lima. One of our most faithful co-laborers in the work of the gospel, Fiorella, is from Peru. She greatly assisted us in the translation of Dave Black's Learn to Read New Testament Greek. We've got a huge heart for theological education in Latin America too. I'm really thankful for men and women who are serving Christ by investing their lives in training up a future generation of faithful teachers of the Word.

Today is a big day too. I'm starting to pray for the students. I'll be praying for them every single day until class starts. It's no braggamony, but I love being able to tell my students that I've been praying for them. When I walk into class in January, I can't wait to tell them:
"Estudiantes, he estado orando por ustedes desde febrero. Bienvenidos a la clase. Es un placer estar con ustedes en este hermoso país, estudiando lo que es más precioso en todo el mundo--la Palabra de Dios."

Don't Forget Southeastern's Pericope Adulterae Conference

Don't forget about Southeastern's Pericope Adulterae Conference this Friday and Saturday. You can read about it here. You definitely want to consider attending. This is an important portion of John's Gospel. You will definitely have to think about this in any ministry you serve in. Is this section of Scripture original or not? If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me an email.


Faculty Advising Week

It's that time of the semester. As I'm sitting at my desk right now, I'm thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to do what I get to do. Of course, nothing is quite as amazing as being in the classroom with the students or meeting with them one-on-one to talk about ministry, the Great Commission, and New Testament Greek. But advising is an integral component to what I get to do as well. Walking a student through where they are in the program and helping them see what they need to do to finish, well, is an important ministry. In a way, each of us faculty are cheerleaders. We get to root them on to the finish line.

Well, I'm about to hit the books before my next appointment. I'm loving our study in 1 Corinthians. We are learning how to look at the Greek from select passages in the letter. This Thursday evening we'll be looking at 1 Corinthians 8–11. There's lots there. It would be impossible to mine it for all its worth in three short hours, but gold we will find! I can't wait!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Check Out The Updated "Resources" Page

We've updated the "Resources" page on our website. Check it out when you get some time.


Join Us In Praying For Rod Decker And Family

For quite some time now we've been praying for Rod Decker, Professor of Greek and New Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary. We've been praying for Mrs. Decker too. I had the privilege of seeing them both back in November here in Baltimore. There is a new post on his website entitled "Rod's Health." You can read it (and I hope you will), but let's do more than just read about what's going on in Rod's life right now. Let's commit to praying for this family during this time. Pray with us.

A Fun Date At The Zoo

Second to walking around downtown Wilmington, NC, my favorite thing to do with Lesly is visit a zoo. It's nearly impossible to beat the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. The only zoo I can think of that beat it, in my opinion, was Monkey Jungle down in Florida. I remember visiting that place as a kid and loved it.

Today, Lesly and I went over to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. The zoo is situated just a short distance from Inner Harbor and not too far away from Baltimore's historic Greenmount Cemetery. Watching the polar bears was awesome. One of them was jumping in and out of the water, like a little kid at a pool. We could have stayed there all day. We also got to see the three lion cubs. They are amazing. The cheetah was elegant, never dropping her chin. The arctic foxes spent an hour stealing each other's treats. Back and forth we watched them go. They weren't satisfied with getting their own. They were only going to be satisfied if they had the other's.

You'll have to forgive me now for all the pictures I'm about to post. Enjoy!














MOOC Videos Are Being Edited

Mrs. Debra Ross, our on-site online education developer, sent me the link to two of the videos we shot for my MOOC on the biblical covenants. They looked excellent. It sure is nice having someone on staff to assist in producing high-quality videos! Thanks, Debra, for all of your hard work!



Friday, April 18, 2014

Conference Commemorating The Biblia Políglota Complutense

The Universidad Complutense held a conference entitled "Preparando la Biblia Políglota Complutense: Los Libros del Saber" back in October. A a volume with the papers of the participants has been published and is now available at my school's website. You can view it here. I wish I could have been there. One thing you will enjoy checking out are the pictures of the polyglot. I wish I could've been there!


Have You Read My Post On The Expressiveness Of New Testament Greek?

One of the top posts ever on my website is "Is Greek Really More Expressive Than English?" You can view it here. I've also put it into a PDF if you're interested. You can access the document simply by clicking here. One thing you will miss by not checking out the original post is the series of comments, so be sure you see those too.

I remain unconvinced that Greek is more expressive than any language. Here's what I wrote back in 2013:
"In conclusion, I don't think any language is "more expressive" than any other language. This includes Greek. What we should consider doing is thinking beyond the word-level of sentences that we are translating. And for a pastor interested in seeing how a verse or set of verses he is teaching can be translated, he might consider looking at multiple translations in the process of studying the text. Don't just look at the NASB and ESV either. Check out some other ones, even in other languages that you know, and see how others have made sense of the Greek."




Thursday, April 17, 2014

Al Mohler And Peter Williams On "Technology In Learning Biblical Languages"

You will definitely want to check out the video below. Al Mohler and Peter Williams discuss the use of the tools when learning the biblical languages. I love this one quote: "Don't look down on interlinears and the various Bible software that help you just read." In my classes, students can bring any and every resource that they want to bring! There is no partiality and no "toolism" in my classroom. I think I just coined a new word right then! Just to clarify, I'm using the English noun suffix-ending –ism in one of its three uses, specifically to identify unfair treatment of a group of people or things things.

The tools should not be viewed as life preservers for people who have sailed the seas in the comfort of a giant ship, only to find that, when they are thrown into the waters of ministry, the only thing that will keep them afloat are the tools. I believe the biblical language tools are as valuable to ministry preparation as a computer is for all of our other classes. They are as valuable to ministry preparation as calculators and stats programs are for running statistics. Who wants to go back to the days of typewriters? Who wants to sit around and draw tables? Who wants to tabulate data and run equations manually? Who wants to use beans or an abacus to count? Not me. So why not incorporate the tools into the curriculum? My thought is we can use the tools and grow in our knowledge of the grammar at the same time. We don't need to postpone using the tools to a point when we realize in ministry that there just isn't enough time to do all that we were shown in seminary. I agree with Williams. We need to get into the text as soon as possible. We can't wait until we work through ten chapters of grammar before looking at the Word of God.

I really appreciated Al Mohler's words! Coming from a guy I highly respect and from someone at the helm of the one of the greatest seminaries in the world, his words warrant our attention. Check out the video and enjoy!

Hey, you can also watch my newest video: "Twenty-Seven Reasons for Learning the Biblical Languages (Minus a Few)." See below or click here.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thinking About The Word βαπτίζοντες In The Great Commission

I had a student chime in on a conversation I was having with a couple of individuals this afternoon. We were talking about the lordship salvation issue. I shared with them about a conversation Ricky B. and I had with John MacArthur while living in Los Angeles. I remember John MacArthur saying how kind Charles Ryrie is to him whenever he is in the Dallas area. You might have thought the two never talked considering what they write in their works The Gospel according to Jesus and Basic Theology. It surprised me. They actually were on talking terms, and they were loving each other with the love of Christ. That conversation said a lot to me.

The student who chimed in said he disagreed with me about lordship salvation, specifically that repentance, when defined as a "turning away from sin," is a necessary component of salvation. Here is one of the things he said: "The Greek word μετανοέω only means 'change of mind.'" There are few words, if any, that can only mean one thing. The very nature of language, especially with limited vocabulary, encourages wide semantic range. Some words have a wider semantic range than others. But words have ranges of meaning. How do you narrow down what a word means when you encounter it in the Bible, or any communication for that matter? You have to consider the context. The next thing that the student said was this: "John emphasizes faith. That's what's necessary." It's true the word πιστεύω occurs bookoos of times in the Gospel of John. No doubt. But there's a danger when you consider only what that author wrote and do not consider whether or not the word, translated mostly as "believe" in the Gospel, could involve more than just a mental affirmative assent concerning the gospel and what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

That leads me to this consideration. Could an author use a word and more be entailed by the use of that word? I think we see a perfect example of that in Matthew 28:19–20, the passage known to us as the Great Commission. I really like Dave Black's translation. Let me share it with you here before we hone in on one of the participles:
"Wherever you go, train everyone you meet -- the people in every nation -- how to be my followers. Mark them publicly by immersion in the triune name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them not just in knowledge but in the practice of everything I've commanded you. And as you do this, remember this: I will be with you, day after day after day, until the very end of the age."
What are we going to do with the participle βαπτίζοντες? Well, first of all, don't you love how his translation takes it to immersion. The famous transliteration of the root with "baptiz" that we see in all of our translations of the Bible really only maintains an intentional ambiguity that helps with marketing and sales. In other words, the ambiguity is retained generation after generation just so the translation can be attractive to a wider audience. Okay, so that's a tangent.

But back to my point. What's involved with the word βαπτίζοντες? Which of us would ever say that it only refers to the act of immersion in water? That's of course what Jesus tells us to do. But we are not supposed to be immersing people just for the sake of immersing them. What Jesus is commanding his own apprentices to do is not just go in to the world and get people wet! Involved in this participle are the following ideas:
  1. His disciples were supposed to clearly explain the gospel. No one could be marked as a Christian who had not first heard the gospel. 
  2. Those who heard the gospel and responded to the gospel were to be publicly identified with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 
Three participles are given in the Great Commission to enunciate what is involved in making disciples of all the nations, i.e., "training everyone everywhere." We might expect to see something like κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, like found in Peter's Gospel, but we don't see anything like it here. In fact, in Matthew's Gospel, we probably would expect to see an added participle, the use of κηρύσσοντες, between μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη and βαπτίζοντες. The use of another participial clause is really unnecessary though. Isn't the idea of sharing the gospel caught up in and implied by the use of βαπτίζοντες. I think so. We only baptize those who respond to the gospel. Let's think for a moment about what would happen if we found a κηρύσσοντες clause in place of the βαπτίζοντες clause. If we did, we would miss the connection Jesus makes to the teaching aspect of the Great Commission. What I see in the Great Commission is this:
  1. We share the gospel with everyone everywhere. 
  2. We concentrate on teaching everything Jesus commanded us to obey (not just the gospel) to people who have responded to the gospel and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Until then, our teaching concerns the gospel, over and over and over again. 
I think a lot of churches confuse these two points. They want to teach everyone everywhere first and hope that they respond to the gospel somewhere along the way. That's not the way Jesus puts it. By including the participle βαπτίζοντες where and how he does, Jesus makes this point definitive. We must first be telling people the gospel. They can't be baptized unless they hear the good news. There's no significance of a Jesusless, gospelless baptism. The teaching of everything Jesus commanded comes after that! Until then, we teach them some of what Jesus commanded, namely the gospel and how they should respond to Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection three days later.

So this leads me to my concluding thought and question. Why do some of us want to restrict John's many uses of πιστεύω to just mental affirmative assent (minus repentance)? Repentance is an essential component of the gospel. Jesus called people everywhere to repentance (see Matt. 4:17). When he sent his disciples out, he told them to carry the same exact message (see Mark 6:12). Repentance was an important component of Jesus' teaching even after the tragic day that Israel rejected him as the rightful heir to the David throne (see Matthew 12–13 for the "tragic" day; and see Luke 13:3, 5; 16:30; 17:4; etc.). I have no doubt that the Apostle John understood that repentance was an intricate piece of what we call salvation.

Be careful when you base your theology on a single lexical definition, ya'll. Exercise major caution when you hear someone else do it. With that said, don't swing to the other side of the pendulum and ascribe every semantic possibility to a word. Let the context limit and expand what a word means!

You can download the PDF version of this essay here.





Mid-Atlantic Christian University's Sixteen "Payoffs" For Learning The Biblical Languages

It's very rare to see a long list for why someone should learn the biblical languages. I enjoyed reading Mid-Atlantic Christian University's list earlier this evening. I'm posting the list below. If you go to their page, you can read the comments that they provide about each one.
  1. You can study the actual words that the authors wrote. 
  2. You have insight into options that cannot be conveyed in a translation. 
  3. You can gain a better grasp of Scripture and theology. 
  4. You can understand English translations better. 
  5. You can better understand poetry as the author intended. 
  6. You can better understand the literary devices the author used. 
  7. You can better understand the modes of thought of the cultures of the Bible. 
  8. Your study of the Bible is more independent – it is yours! 
  9. You can use more and better understand resources that make reference to Greek and Hebrew: lexicons, word studies, theological works, grammars, concordances, journal articles, commentaries, etc.
  10. You are better able to evaluate the study of others. 
  11. You can preach better expository sermons. 
  12. Your sermons can come to life with meaning and interest. 
  13. You will find that you better understand language in general. 
  14. You will be better prepared for further studies in graduate school. 
  15. At MACU you cannot get an F on your transcript for first semester Greek and first semester Hebrew; they are “fail safe.” 
  16. For fun there are T-shirts available to students and alumni who have completed at least one semester of Greek and Hebrew.
I loved the list! Very cool. Can I add a few more? 
  1. You will pay attention to every word of Scripture. We often get comfortable with the readings in English. Looking at it in the original language forces us to consider "everything that is written down (morphemes, lexemes, mood, tense, voice, person, number, word order, etc.)" (something Dave Black used to tell us in class all the time).  
  2. You get to show everyone at your local church how much smarter you are than everyone else, especially when you pronounce Greek words from the pulpit or put them up on the screen. Students, never, ever, ever, ever, ever fall into this temptation! Your task is to make much of the Lord Jesus Christ when you teach. Like John said about his own ministry, you decrease; he increases. Your responsibility is to faithfully and accurately explain the meaning of a passage. Let your satisfaction come from the silent "well done" that comes from knowing you showed yourself approved. 
  3. You will internalize the Word of God more. When you labor over a passage like you do when you study Hebrew and Greek, you will remember it like never before. The harder you work at something, the more you have to show for it.
  4. You don't have to share the gospel anymore. You are more valuable to Jesus as a Greek scholar than as a missionary. May it never be! Students, don't ever, ever, ever, ever, ever fall into this temptation! I don't care how much Greek you know, studying Greek is not your marching orders. The Great Commission is! If you're living for anything other than the Great Commission, you're not living the life Jesus intends for you to live. 
  5. You will be able to do your own textual analysis of passages like, in the New Testament, Matthew 5:22, John 7:53–8:11, the ending of Mark, and others. Why's that King James Version different than your trusty New American Standard Bible? Without a knowledge of the biblical languages, you're at a handicap evaluating textual issues. 
  6. Building on number five above, learning the languages will help you understand more about biblical inspiration. Divine inspiration and the inerrancy of the Word of God deal with the original manuscripts. You don't really understand why there are differences in Bible translations and different manuscripts until you learn a little about the languages. 
  7. David Alan Black will sign and mail you a copy of my book Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament. Actually, I mistyped. He only signs books that he has authored, so no free book. Sorry. 
  8. I will sign a copy of Black's Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek and mail it to you. Actually, that's not going to happen either. My study on Luke 6:40 taught me that, "after being fully trained, the disciple will be like his teacher." Like Black, like Hudgins. 
  9. The spiritual benefit from learning the biblical languages outweighs the spiritual benefit from watching The Price Is Right with Drew Carey by a ratio of 120:1. The truth is you will grow spiritually in learning the biblical languages. 
  10. You get to experience God's grace and power in your life, firsthand. I've never met a Hebrew student or a Greek student that didn't say something like, "It was by the grace of God I got through that!" Why would you want to miss out on an opportunity like that? 
  11. You will finally get to understand the issue between so-called "literal" translations and non-literal translations. The goal in Bible translation is not keeping the number of receptor words to the absolute minimum (i.e., one word for one word as much as possible). The goal in Bible translation is faithfully recreating in a receptor language that which is communicated in an original language. 
Alright, it's getting near bedtime. Here's the takeaway: Learning the biblical languages is worth it. Mid-Atlantic has got a great list. I can't stress to you enough how much I appreciate them making their list available online.

Are you interested in learning Greek? Order a copy of Dave Black's Greek DVDs. Check out our New Testament Greek Portal. Check out my YouTube page. Download Jacob Cerone's Quizlet files. Take a class with me at Capital Seminary and Graduate School. Here's another possibility: I've heard through the grapevine that one of my current students is going to teach Greek at his local church in the very near future. Need anything else? Shoot me an email. If I can assist you in anyway, I'd be glad to. Just let me know.