A Missions Trip to Remember

When my wife Toni and I first came to Arizona with three small sons almost nineteen years ago to pastor what today is Southeast Valley Bible Church, the believers there agreed that I would invest several weeks a year in international mission’s work. As we’ve grown over the years, SVBC has kept their end of the deal. That’s been a thrill for my ministry over the years.

I’ve been privileged to travel the world encouraging God’s men and women in ministry leadership. Many are national leaders. Others are primarily North American missionaries who serve in the context of overseas ministry.

This year I partnered with my slightly younger self-adopted twin brother, Dr. David Deets who pastors Whitneyville Bible Church near Grand Rapids, MI. He and I have done a lot of ministry-travel together over the last four years. David and I also serve and fellowship in IFCA International and in a global ministry leadership organization called IBL (Institute of Biblical Leadership). We were also joined by Pastor Fred Mukumbu. Read more about A Missions Trip to Remember

Theology Thursday - Slavery and the Bible (ca. 1850)

The following essay appeared in the September 1850 issue of DeBow’s Review,​ which was one of the most important antebellum journals in the South. It appeared just as Congress was debating and passing what became known as “the Compromise of 1850.” The author is anonymous, but the piece sums up, in a remarkably straightforward way, the “Biblical argument” for slavery from a pro-Southern perspective. SharperIron does not endorse the conclusions or presuppositions of this article. However, the article stands as a historical marker; an important reminder that, if a man is desperate enough, he can “find” a way to “biblically” support his position on just about anything.1

A very large party in the United states believe that holding slaves is morally wrong; this party founds its belief upon precepts taught in the Bible, and takes that book as the standard of morality and religion. We, also, look to the same book as our guide in the same matters; yet, we think it right to hold slaves—do hold them, and have held and used them from childhood.

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Mysterious Melchizedek: A Working Theory of Hebrews 7 (Part 1)

Abraham and Melchizedek. Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante (1633-1670)

Part One: The Loud Silence

The writer to the Hebrews (perhaps Apollos?) is trying to convince tottering Jewish believers to remain true to Jesus Christ. He is also trying to comfort these believers who are shaken up because some of their peers had turned away from faith in Jesus Christ and returned to non-Messianic Judaism.

The writer is out to prove that faith in Jesus is better than Judaism without Jesus by proving that Jesus is Superior to anything Judaism has to offer. Prior to chapter 7, he has proved Jesus’ superiority by asserting His deity. Now he is proving Jesus’ superiority in His humanity. The Melchizedek argument demonstrates that Jesus (in His humanity) is superior to Abraham, the man considered the Father of the Jewish faith.

Jewish imagination did a lot with Melchizedek, and during the medieval times, they viewed him as none other than Noah’s son, Shem. The Jewish Encyclopedia gives many examples of Jewish creativity: Read more about Mysterious Melchizedek: A Working Theory of Hebrews 7 (Part 1)

Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3-16 with Implications for the Church’s Social Responsibilities, Part 3

From DBSJ 21 (2016); posted with permission. Read the series so far. This installment continues the exegetical study of 5:3-16.

Enrolling Widows in the Church: Verse 9–10

Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, εἰ ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν, εἰ ἐξενοδόχησεν, εἰ ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν, εἰ θλιβομένοις ἐπήρκεσεν, εἰ παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ ἐπηκολούθησεν.

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Paul transitions from the families’ responsibility to care for widows to the church’s responsibility. He begins with the command to enroll true widows, further clarifying who those widows are. Read more about Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3-16 with Implications for the Church’s Social Responsibilities, Part 3

Our Theological System Should Not Tell Us How to Exegete the Bible

A theological system ought to be the product of exegetical study of Scripture, not a preface to exegetical work. Hermeneutical principles are first observed in the Scriptures themselves, even in a cursory and casual reading. Those principles are then applied in actual study of the text in the exegetical process.

This important order of principles and process is one reason that it is a bit of a misnomer to refer to a “dispensational hermeneutic.” Dispensational thinkers claim that they (are at least attempting to) consistently apply a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic to the biblical text. In that hermeneutic approach, dispensational conclusions are just that—conclusions. If we claim to hold to a dispensational hermeneutic, then on the one hand we are asserting our lack of bias in consistently applying an objective hermeneutic, while on the other we are showing our bias by claiming a dispensational presupposition. One can’t have it both ways. Dispensationalists have struggled with this to some degree. Reformed theologians, on the other hand, have virtually dismissed this issue altogether, readily admitting that theology drives their hermeneutic. Read more about Our Theological System Should Not Tell Us How to Exegete the Bible

What Is a Prophet? (Part 2)

Elijah Fed by an Angel - Ferdinand Bol, 17th Century

Read Part 1.

Prophecies of Far Future Events

The ministries of Samuel (see 1 Sam. 3:9-18), Elijah (2 Ki. 1:3-4), Micaiah (1 Ki. 22:17-20), and Elisha (2 Ki. 3:14-19) included short-term predictions which could be verified. But there were also prophecies which anticipated things much further off, like Nathan’s oracle,

I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly… (NASB, 2 Samuel 7:10)

This hope for David’s people has not yet been realized, and the later prophets repeat it. These later writing prophets often made long-range predictions which could not be confirmed during their lifetimes, but these far off prophecies were established on the assurance of contemporary foretellings which came to pass. One thinks about Amos’s oracle against Israel (and the interfering priest Amaziah) in Amos 7:14-17, or Jeremiah’s pronouncements concerning the conquering Babylonians in Jeremiah 21:1-10. Ezekiel was told that there were still Jews in the land who foolishly believed that God would not drive them out of the land. His prediction to the contrary (Ezek. 33:21-33) ended with the solemn words, Read more about What Is a Prophet? (Part 2)

Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3–16 with Implications for the Church’s Social Responsibilities, Part 2

From DBSJ 21 (2016); posted with permission. Read Part 1.

Exegetical Study

With the historical and literary context addressed, it is now possible to look more closely at the passage itself. Verse three provides the underlying principle for the passage. In verse four, Paul gives his initial instruction to the family of the widow. Paul lays out the first criteria for true widows in verses five and six, before returning to his instructions for the family of widows in verses seven and eight. In verse nine, Paul moves to his instruction to the church regarding widows. In verses nine and ten, he deals with enrolling older widows in the care of the church, while in verses eleven to fifteen he gives his instruction for younger widows. He concludes in verse sixteen with a final exhortation for believing women to care for their own relatives in order to free the church to care for true widows. Read more about Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3–16 with Implications for the Church’s Social Responsibilities, Part 2