• Church,  New Testament

    Pastor, Elder, and Bishop: What’s the Difference?

    How should you refer to your church leader? Most of us use the term pastor, but some use the term elder and even bishop. If you are confused by these different denominational terms you are not alone. A bishop is typically equated with Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, although Anglican and a few Lutheran churches also use the term. The term elder is often associated with the Mormon church and the young men you meet in ties on your front porch, though more evangelical churches are utilizing the term elder now. For most people, the term pastor is an easily-recognizable term referring to the spiritual leader of a church. The Biblical Evidence As far as personal history, I grew up in a Baptist church that had a pastor, an assistant pastor, and a deacon board that made church leadership decisions. It was not until high school that I was introduced…

  • Church,  New Testament

    Who Can Perform Baptisms in the Church?

    Who can perform the baptisms for church? Does it have to be an official pastor? Can a woman perform the baptism? These are important questions which have significant impact in the daily life of the church. The impetus of this article was reading a provocative article entitled, “The (In)significance of the Baptizer in the Early Church: The Importance of Baptism and Unimportance of the One who Baptized.” As the title suggests, the author argued that the evidence of the early church downplays those who baptize in the church. I think there is wisdom in not making the baptizer more than he ought to be. However, at the same time, it is inherently a theological issue that we ought to think through. Does it matter who baptizes in the church? I offer my reasoning in three simple points. First, Matthew 28:18-20 does not limit those who baptize to a special class.…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Theology

    How Many Resurrections are there in Scripture?

    Easter weekend is upon us, and so we celebrate the most important part of Christianity—the fact that Jesus is alive! This is the essence of our hope as believers. Because of Christ’s resurrection we have hope of our own resurrection. But understanding the timing of future resurrections can be tricky. How many are there? I saw an online discussion recently about how many resurrections there are in Scripture, and a question was asked about when OT believers are resurrected. I think it is a worthwhile discussion to have, and I think we can accurately observe four resurrections in Scripture. (This is of course assuming that the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 and the saints in Matthew 27 are temporary and they die again). But, if you are interested, I have tried to compile a complete list of all the resurrections in the Bible. The Foundation for ALL Resurrections: Christ…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Fulfillment of Scripture is More than Prophecy

    We see the use of “fulfillment” terminology all over the New Testament. For example, in reference to Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Elsewhere John says that the events of the crucifixion happened “that Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 19:36). These are just two of the numerous examples in the New Testament where a fulfillment formula is used. The question is, what does it mean? Fulfillment as Prediction and Actualization of Prophecy The most common understanding of the fulfillment formula is that of prediction-actualization. The Old Testament prophets predicted certain things, and the actualization of that prophecy comes to pass (i.e., it was fulfilled). For example, in Isaiah 7:14 we see a prophecy concerning a virgin giving birth. In Matthew 1:22–23 we see that this prophecy is actually realized (fulfilled) in the virgin birth of the Messiah, Jesus. Similarly, there are…

  • New Testament,  Theology

    A Significant Chronological Problem for Postmillennialism in Acts 3:21

    Postmillennialism is trending upward on the eschatological popularity scale. It has many visible and popular adherents, such as Doug Wilson, Jeff Durbin, and more recently, James White. As postmillennialism gains popularity, many questions arise about whether it is an accurate view of the world’s future. One significant challenge postmillennialism has is a chronological issue in Acts 3:21. Postmillennialism teaches that, over time, the church will emerge victorious by progressively and gradually triumphing over the world. Eventually the whole world will embrace the gospel, times of immense blessings will flow, and then Jesus will return to receive the kingdom. A self-assessed optimism of the future marks this view. In contrast to postmillennialism, premillennialism teaches that the coming of Christ must precede the establishment of a peaceful earthly kingdom. When Christ comes, he himself will establish a thousand-year reign (millennium) on the Earth. There are many ways to assess the theology of…

  • New Testament

    Not So Silent Night Above Bethlehem?

    Will Varner recently posted over at Focus on the Family about how, although we often view the first Christmas night as a beautiful and tranquil evening, it was probably anything but that! Varner notes that although we often visualize angels as messengers of peace and good news, angels were often symbolically gathered for war! The first matter to consider is our mental image of angels. The biblical word cherubim has morphed into the English word cherub, which evokes images of fat and cute little creatures intended to warm our hearts. Such images are foreign to the Biblical description of angelic beings. The second matter is the Hebrew term tsva, often used to describe a group of angels and translated into English as “host.” But tsva is better understood as a military term, and in Modern Hebrew, tsva means “army.”  Luke refers to these angels with the Greek word stratia, which translates that Hebrew tsva (“army”) in the ancient…

  • New Testament

    The Nasty Innkeeper Who Turned Away Mary and Joseph—Did He Exist?

    Everyone is familiar with him. He’s the nasty, mean innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph because the inn was full. The innkeeper is so famous, every Christmas many Christians draw lessons from his failure to provide accommodation for the Savior’s family. Indeed, some Christians allegorize the story by saying we all relate to the innkeeper because we often don’t make room for the Savior in our own hearts. But what if the notion of an innkeeper in the traditional telling of the Christmas story is a little misleading? Okay, I actually think it is not just misleading but actually just wrong. I don’t think the evidence is there in the Christmas story for an innkeeper. Here is why I think that. The Word Traditionally Understood as Inn, Likely Does not Mean Inn In the KJV of Luke 2:7 we read, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Should We Expect a Future Kingdom for National Israel?

    It is becoming increasingly popular to discount a future kingdom for geopolitical Israel. But both Old and New Testaments speak of a time when Israel will be restored as a national kingdom, with the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. Passages such as Psalm 72:1–20, Isaiah 2:1–3, 11:1–9, 65:17–25, Zech 8:4–5, 14:16–19 are but a few of the passages which teach a future kingdom for Israel that is distinct from the eternal state. Although the Old Testament is very clear when speaking of a future kingdom for Israel, some biblical interpreters believe that the New Testament tempers our expectation for a future kingdom for Israel. Yet, there is no reason to deviate from what is clearly laid out in the Old Testament. The General New Testament Expectation of a Kingdom for Israel Rather than adjusting the expectation of a future kingdom for Israel, the New Testament confirms what the Old Testament told…

  • Biblical Languages,  New Testament

    Faith is Not Enough To Save Someone

    In the King James Version, James 2:14 reads, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” This verse was quoted to me in high school by a Mormon who was arguing that faith alone is not what saves an individual. According to my Mormon friend, and others who perhaps read the KJV, James 2:14 teaches that faith alone cannot save an individual. Some readers will be initially discouraged to hear that the Greek language makes the point even more strongly. In Greek, the phrase, “Can faith save him?” is μὴ δύναται ἡ πίστις σῶσαι αὐτόν. The presence of the μὴ particle assumes a negative reply. This means that when we read the question, we are supposed to know that the answer is “Of course not.” In other words, James has telegraphed the answer to the question—faith is…

  • Culture,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Slavery—Why Does the Bible Allow It?

    Why does the Bible allow slavery? At first glance this seems an irredeemable blemish to the goodness of the Bible’s message. Slavery is recognized as one of the great evils of our history. To many, this provides a significant reason for rejecting what the Bible teaches. Some balk at the belief that Christians can believe God revealed himself in a book which, not only does not condemn slavery, but actually allows it. How should we think about the fact that the Bible allows slavery? This is a challenging issue because our society brings with it cultural baggage which makes accurate interpretation of biblical texts on slavery difficult. Those of us who live in the Americas and Europe are familiar with the African slave trade, and this is the kind of slavery that we envision taking place in the Bible. But there are some key differences between the Bible’s picture of…