Creation Chronology in 1 Corinthians 11

Wes Bredenhof:

Does the New Testament allow a non-historical reading of the Genesis account? Check out Jim Witteveen’s well-reasoned answer from 1 Corinthians 11.

Originally posted on Creation Without Compromise:

Over the past week, a large percentage of my time was spent poring over the first sixteen verses of 1 Corinthians 11, and writing what wound up being two sermons on this passage. It’s a tough passage – “one of the most difficult and controversial passages in the Bible,” according to Thomas Schreiner, and a passage which “continues to vex modern interpreters,” as David Garland writes. The passage deals with the issue of head-coverings for women, and over the centuries, even interpreters who work within the same theological framework have argued strongly in favour of contradictory conclusions.

Given the focus of our website, the topic of this post will not be whether or not the Apostle Paul’s instruction concerning head-coverings is still applicable today, or, if so, how it is to be applied. I’ll save that stuff for the sermons. Instead, I’m going to focus on one aspect of Paul’s…

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Reconciling the Regulative Principle with “Feast Days”/”Days of Commemoration”

In its basic form, the regulative principle of worship states that we are only to worship God as he has commanded, not adding or taking away from Scripture. It was some years ago, while I was still in university, that I became convinced that this regulative principle of worship is the Reformed, confessional, position on worship.  It was not difficult to see that the teaching of Heidelberg Catechism QA 96 (we are not to worship God “in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word”) is biblical and exactly in line with other Reformed confessions like the Westminster Standards.  I also came to see that this Reformed principle of worship was not only in the Belgic Confession in article 32, but also in article 7.  I wrote a paper on that, demonstrating that the regulative principle, according to our confession, is simply the liturgical outworking of Sola ScripturaI have also argued that denying the regulative principle of worship has serious consequences and leads to bizarre liturgical innovations.

The principle itself is straightforward.  Application of the principle is where we often encounter differences.  It took some time for me to work through some of these issues too.  For example, there was a time when I struggled with understanding how one could celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 and still hold to the regulative principle.  However, through further research and conversations with others, I came to peace with that.  I still hold to the regulative principle, but I can also in good conscience join with God’s people in commemorating the birth of our Saviour on December 25.  Rather than have me explain in detail how I have reconciled these things, I highly recommend this article by my colleague Daniel Hyde.  This article is being published in the 2015 issue of the Mid-America Journal of Theology.  It helpfully explains how one can both hold to the regulative principle and worship on the “feast days” or “days of commemoration.”

A Thought on David’s Sin

Wes Bredenhof:

Helpful insight here from Ryan Smith.

Originally posted on One Christian Dad:


A story of lust, adultery and murder.

2 Samuel 11.

Have you read it? Take a moment and do so.

Back yet?

Recently, a pastor friend read this chapter to a group of men, and I listened as he explained the account. How the springtime was a time for war, and King David sent Joab and his servants, but he himself stayed back.

While he stayed back he looked upon Bathsheba and lusted.

Then he committed adultery with her and murdered Uriah.

We all know the account. But here is the interesting thing. David’s sin did not start with lust or murder.

It started when he broke his routine, when he disobeyed God and stayed back.

He was supposed to go to war. That was what Kings did at that time of year, and that is what the Lord expected of him.

He stayed back.

When he should have been leading…

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Does Every Text Have One Main Point?


Timothy Keller continues to publish thought-provoking and (mostly) worthwhile books.  While I’ve had my concerns about some of his positions, I can also appreciate some of the good contributions he makes.  This book on preaching covers a lot of familiar ground, but it also makes a few insightful observations that I haven’t encountered elsewhere.  Rather than review the entire book, let me just share one of the points I found to stir up the grey matter.

The first chapter includes a discussion about expository preaching.  Keller notes that oftentimes such preaching is conceived of in such a way that every biblical text must have one main point and that one main point must become the theme of the sermon.  However, “this assumes that every biblical text has only one big idea or main point to it” (42).  This rule, while generally helpful, can be taken too far.  Because, as Keller rightly observes, “In some Bible passages it is not easy to discern one central idea” (43).  He then gives several examples, mostly drawn from biblical narratives.  Here’s one of them:

Then there is the strange account of the the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11-20) who tried to cast a demon out of a man “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  In the comical result, the demon talked back through the man to the would-be exorcisers:  “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” before leaping upon and beating all seven of the sons.  What was Luke trying to get across to us by including this incident in his book of Acts?  I’ve heard a number of great expositions of this passage, and all of them were grounded in the text and not contradictory of one another.  Nevertheless, they were not the same.  Multiple valid inferences can be drawn from such narratives, from which a wise preacher can select one or two to fit the capacities and needs of his listeners.  (43)

I think Keller is correct, I’ve seen it several times in my own sermon preparation over the years, although I would also add this:  what is the Holy Spirit trying to get across to us?  Cannot the Holy Spirit have multiple purposes in a text of Scripture?  Why not?

The book is richly footnoted — nearly 50 pages of footnotes!  Some of the footnotes take things a bit further in terms of discussion.  This is also true with the matter above.  In footnote 16 in chapter 1, Keller points out that this idea of one central proposition in a text (and therefore in a sermon) is drawn from classical rhetoric.  The problem is that the Bible is not, by and large, a work of classical rhetoric.  Thus, “identifying what the theme is can be fairly subjective” writes Keller.  The concept of a big idea can become somewhat forced, although Keller grants again that there are some passages where the concept definitely works.  His summary (summarizing a footnote!):  “We must be careful of a kind of ‘expository legalism’ — in which it is assumed that there can be only one exegetically accurate sermon and sermon theme on any one passage” (250).  In the next footnote, he also adds that this should not be misunderstood as saying that “the biblical text itself has multiple or indeterminate meanings.”  The Bible is not a wax nose which can be turned which ever way you please.

I want to add one other element to this discussion, something which Keller unfortunately doesn’t touch on:  what exactly is a text?  Some of this discussion really depends on how you define a text for preaching.  Consider this comment of Keller:  “…there are places like Proverbs, in which it is notoriously difficult to see unifying themes in the chapters and in which often every verse provides a new ‘big idea.’ ” (250).  But who would argue that a chapter in Proverbs (well, most of the chapters anyway — there are exceptions like chapters 7-9) provide a text for expository preaching?  Having preached on Proverbs a few times, I think most of those verses are self-contained texts for preaching, either individually or in connection with one or more neighbouring verses.  This is all the more true when you consider that chapter divisions were added to the text long after it was originally written.  Many times chapter divisions are helpful in seeing some flow of thought in Scripture, but many other times they are just arbitrary and artificial additions, sometimes more a hindrance than a help.  In other words, the chapters don’t necessarily define a “passage” or “text.”  Because he doesn’t tackle this, there is a lack of clarity in Keller’s discussion on the definition of a “Bible passage” versus “a text.”


Discipline: God’s Medicine

Wes Bredenhof:

Some helpful biblical insights here…

Originally posted on The Reformed Reader:

Sometimes God disciplines his children when they stumble and sin. Does this mean God no longer loves those he chastens? Quite the opposite! Samuel Bolton explains it well:

“I grant that God’s justice is fully satisfied in Christ. He can require no more than what Christ has already done and suffered. Abundant satisfaction has been made. Therefore, far be it from any to say that God chastises his children for their sins as a means of satisfying his justice. Christ having done that has left nothing for us to bear by way of satisfaction. The Papists indeed say that our sufferings are satisfactions, and therefore they punish themselves and submit to penances. But no Protestant divines say so. We say that God does not chastise us as a means of satisfaction for sin, but for rebuke and caution, to bring us to mourn for sin committed, and to beware of…

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