Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why is the Ethiopian Eunuch so important?

Horse

I’ve been reading Alan J. Thompson’s latest volume in the NSBT series titled The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (my review of it here). In chapter 3, Israel and the Gentiles: the kingdom and God’s promises of restoration, he points out that Acts 1.6-8 says a lot about how the book of Acts will play out. Throughout his book Thompson shows how the kingdom of God is seen throughout Acts, how Acts continues the themes from Luke’s Gospel, and how Acts tells us that God keeps his covenant promises.

In Acts 1.6 the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answers them in verses 7-8, and many people find his answer to be an odd one. Though I can’t get into it now, Thompson believes and gives evidence for the position that the disciples did understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God (Acts 1.3). The disciples ask about the kingdom of God and Israel in 1.6, and he answers them in 1.7-8.

In 1.8 Jesus gives three phrases which reflect the OT:

  • ‘when the Holy Spirit comes upon you’ (Isa 32.15)
    • This refers to the “end of the desolation of Judah and the coming of the new age with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit” (107)
  • ‘you will be my witnesses’ (Isa 43.12)
    • God’s people will be transformed, now that he is the only God and Savior, and will be his witnesses to an unbelieving world around them.
  • ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Isa 49.6)
    • A Servant representing Israel will restore Israel, and this restoration will include Gentiles (Isa 49.6 is also used in Acts 13.47, where Paul and Barnabas explain their reasoning for reaching out to Gentiles).

God will rebuild the Davidic Kingdom “through the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of David (2:30-33), the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit of the last days (2:16-17), the ingathering of the exiles of Israel (2:5, 9-11) and the repentance and turning to the Lord of Israel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, which unite under one Davidic King (2:38-47; 4:4; 8:4-25)” (116).

Outcasts

In Acts 8.26-40, Philip comes across an “Ethiopian,” a “eunuch,” a “court official,” although after 8.27 the man is only referred to as a eunuch. Why a eunuch of all titles? Thompson shows that Luke says four things about this eunuch:

  • v34, ’the eunuch’ asks Philip about a passage of Scripture (Isa 53.7-8)
  • v36, ‘the eunuch’ asks about baptism
  • v38, ‘the eunuch’ is baptized by Philip
  • v39, ‘the eunuch’ did not see the vanished Philip again “but went on his way rejoicing” (116).

Fly Away

Luke emphasizes the fulfillment of Isaiah throughout Acts (Acts 1.8; 8.34 quoting Isa 53.7-8; Acts 13.47; and in many more places). While the eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, it is in Isaiah 56 where we see God’s promises for the eunuch. “Isaiah 56 looks forward to the time of God’s salvation when the exclusion of those with defects from the assembly of God’s people in [Deut] 32:1-7 will be overturned“ (117).


Isa 56.3 says, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’”

In 56.5 the Lord tells the eunuchs, “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”


The Lord will give joy to those who love and worship him (56.7-8). 56.8 ties the gathering together of Israel with the gathering together of foreigners, including eunuchs. Here in Acts 8, the “despised and rejected” eunuch is reading about the “humiliation and ministry of this despised and rejected Servant” (117).

“All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor 1.20). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. Israel looked forward to the physical resurrection, and it happened in Christ Through Christ’s resurrection Israel was and is being gathered together with Gentiles included, as the one people of God. Christ “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph 2.14-15). Christ, seated at the right hand of God, rules and reigns now, and we are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Baptize

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BTS: Typology in Hebrews

melch

In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are:

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
(4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

Originally the third structure, Typology in Hebrews, was going to be the only section covered. However I enjoyed all four structures and thought I’d give them all their own fair share of space (links to the posts are above, in case you missed the dazzling blue color).

Schreiner defines typology like this: “Typology exists when there is a historical correspondance between events, institutions, and persons found in the OT and the NT” (36). Schreiner argues that “typology does not merely represent correspondence [between the OT and the NT] but a correspondence intended by God…. Biblical typology is characterized by escalation. This means the fulfillment is always greater than the type” (37). (You can also read my friend Lindsay’s post about typology which has helped me see some of the nuances in comparison to other ideas).

This is important, as all throughout the letter the author argues from the “lesser-to-the-greater.” If the message relayed by the angels is reliable, and every disobedience received its just retribution, how much more important is the word of Christ? How much greater is there a punishment to be received if his word is neglected (Heb 2.2-3)? If Jesus is greater than any and all of the OT persons and institutions, how can the readers turn away from him and go back to the Jewish rituals and sacrifices?

Psalm 45

Schreiner provides an example of the use of Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1.8-9. I was happy to see this here as Mari and I have been curious about this use of the psalm (and the psalm itself) for weeks.

Psalm 45 says,

1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people.
13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

Hebrews 1.8-9 quotes verses 6-7 saying, But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’

Schreiner says,

“[Psalm 45] is originally a royal psalm about the Davidic king. It is a wedding song celebrating the king’s majesty and greatness. When the king is identified as ‘God’ in the psalm (45:6), we have an example of hyperbole. The king (cf. Exod 7:1) is identified as God in the psalm given his stature and rule. As God’s vice-regent he is called ‘God,’ but no one in Israel interpreted the wording literally as if the Davidic king were actually divine. But what is said about the Davidic king was no accident, for it pointed forward in a deeper and truer sense to Jesus Christ. For this one truly is the Son of God, the one whom angels worship and who created the universe (1:2, 6, 10, 12). We see a prime example of escalation in typology here” (39).

Abel and Isaac

Both Abel and Christ were sacrificed as “innocent victims, but Christ’s blood speaks better than Abel’s, for Christ washes clean those who trust in him. Abel’s cries out for justice, but… through [Christ’s] death human beings can boldly enter God’s presence” (43).

The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac typologically portrayed the accomplished sacrifice of Christ (Heb 11.17-19). “Abraham was convinced that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he sacrificed him (Gen 22.4), but Jesus, in contrast to Isaac, was truly raised from the dead, fulfilling what was adumbrated in the ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac” (43).

Conclusion

Typology, therefore, is a pattern set in place by God. If all things have been created by, through, and for Christ (Col 1.16), then it’s reasonable to see that all things point to Christ. God could have created a clear box called “  ” (a.k.a. ‘nothing’) where millions of clear mannequins raise their hands to worship God in the same, equally-droning tone. Instead, we have colours, mountains, valleys, rocks, clouds, animals, and a variety of people and personalities. They all point to Christ, and they all represent God. Even more, events have been set in place to show us the greater-ness of Christ who is seated in the heavenlies. More on that in my next post.

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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What I’m Up To Now

Timber
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything informative about my life. This past spring, besides reviewing books, Mari and I lived in Waterford, Ireland where I taught 2 Corinthians at the Calvary School of Ministry. I enjoyed teaching, and I even saw a few familiar faces from the Bible College that was in Siegen, Germany. Afterwards Mari and I went back to Norway and started revving up for our second wedding. This time, it was only the celebration. We had our civil ceremony back in February [you can read that blog post here. It brought in the most views I’ve ever had in a month, the next month the third highest views – the second highest was November when Mari and I became engaged… perhaps I should write more about Mari?], and this time we wanted our friends and families to be able to celebrate with us.

A week before the wedding Mari’s aunt passed away, and her funeral was the Tuesday before our wedding. There were two houses on her property, one that was built a few months before her passing. Mari’s parents have moved to the old house, and Mari and I are able to stay in the new house (so long as I can actually stay in Norway).

The Test

[The Test]

Student Visa

The summer went well. After our celebration we finally took our honeymoon. We went to Makarska, Croatia. It was nice, but there were a lot of tourists (which I guess we only added to the problem). Now… before our wedding Mari and I went to London to apply for my student visa. Mari has one year left of university before she graduates with her bachelor’s degree. The easiest way for me to stay in the country is to get a student visa (and no, I don’t get to automatically stay in the country because we’re married). I was accepted into Fjellhaug Internasjonale Høgskole (FiH), for a one year program in religion.

To apply for a Norwegian student visa I either have to apply from my home country (US) or from a country where I have had residence for the last 6 months (UK). In my previous life post I mentioned some problems with the visa I had because Calvary York’s sponsorship had been revoked (for reasons which I don’t agree with). Now my visa was going to expire on June 1, so we arrived in London on May 29th. We would go to the Norwegian Consulate there and apply for my visa.

Upon arrival we found that with CCY’s sponsorship being revoked, my visa was also rejected (which happened sometime between March and May). The border agent didn’t understand why we were coming to the UK to apply, but eventually we made it through… with me on a visitor stamp and not on my visa. But after some touring around in the rain, we made it to the Embassy, I applied for my visa, and we flew back to Norway that night. A week later we had the wedding, and then a week later we left for Croatia.

Another week passed and, after Croatia, we returned home to Norway. It just so happened to be my birthday that day, and we were anxious to open up my letter from UDI (they process the applications from foreign nationals) which would tell me if my application had been approved or not. I had met all of the other requirements, but we were unsure about the visa issue. We opened the letter, and my application had been denied. Even more so, it said I had to leave the country in three weeks!

Volvo

[And they wouldn’t be sending me out in this sick volvo]

This didn’t make sense, so Mari and I went to the police station in Arendal to ask them some questions. It turns out UDI had some summer interns working that summer who may or may not have worked on my application. Whoever did work on my application, however, made some mistakes. We could contest them, but it would take up to a year to hear back on anything. And it’s that year that I need to be in Norway. In the end the police told us that I didn’t need to leave in three weeks and I could stay until my visitor stamp was up (August 15). So now what does one do… but continue on with summer life?

Summer Life

Family

During the summer I painted our house and a work shed (elhuset [el-hew-seh]) on the lot while Mari worked at an old people’s home with people who had dementia. I also learned how to drive stick shift, and, as anyone who has tried to learn stick shift can attest, it was horrid. I despised it. But Norway has hills. Low gears make it easier to get up the hills with ease and back down the hills without wearing down your brakes. After a freaky 8 hour drive over to Sola, Norway, and a much easier 6 hour interstate drive back home, I felt much more comfortable with driving. Besides driving, hiking, pancakes, waffles, and plenty of reading, we had a pretty calm summer. In our last week we went to Mari’s 5-year high school reunion.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 7.53.20 AM

What makes me feel old is that my 10-year reunion is in two years.

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So What Are We Up to Now?

If you haven’t heard, we’re in Houma now! Since my application didn’t fly earlier, we had to fly to the states so I could apply at the closest Norwegian Consulate: Houston, TX. Luckily it’s only 5 hours away and I have family there. Mari met my grandparents on my mom’s side for the first time, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and we had a successful meeting at the Consulate. And now…. we wait. We’ll be here until the middle of October, and hopefully within the next month and a half I’ll receive my acceptance letter. If not, I’ll be around until November and then I can fly to Norway. For now Mari and I have school online. We’ll hang out with my family and friends, and, as usual, I’ll be reading and uploading other posts about books up here.

Housing

[Special thanks to Caelen Weber for our wedding photos!]

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Review: Five Festal Garments (NSBT)

5FG

Five Festal Garments by Barry Webb is the tenth volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology [NSBT] series edited by D. A. Carson. Webb, known for his work on Judges, writes about ‘the Scrolls,’ made up by the five shortest books in the Writings, the third and final part of the Hebrew canon. These five books are the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. For a long time now these books have presented problems for their interpreters, with issues ranging from canonicity to “the manner in which they should be understood and used as Holy Scripture“ in the lives of God’s people (14). With biblical theology, Webb presents these five enigmatic books as case studies for how Christians can reflect on the OT. 

Each chapters covers one of the five ‘Scrolls.’ Each chapter has three parts:

  1. What does the book say about itself?
  2. How does the book fit into and add to the rest of the OT?
  3. How does the book relate to the NT gospel and its “promise and fulfillment” structure?

Outline/Summary

Song of Songs

This book is certainly about love, but is also filled with realism and idealism. There are difficulties: not only do the two love-birds have to wait for love, but they have relatives and busybodies who get in the way, they face hostility, and they live in a world that is no longer the Garden of Eden. Love can turn to lust, love-making to rape. But what is most dominant is idealism. “The overwhelming impression that the Son leaves us with is that love is a beautiful thing, almost too beautiful for words to express” (27). This book is wisdom literature and reflects the ideals of Genesis 1-3. The love represented here is “the very flame of Yahweh,” seen in the relationship between the Christian and Christ, represented on earth by marriage, and what will be fully consummated in the new creation.

Ruth

Ruth is a sort of ‘romantic-comedy.’ It features courtship and marriage, and like a comedy it has a happy ending. Throughout Ruth we see God’s kindness towards the characters. It is shown through Boaz as he cares for Ruth and gives her a son. It is shown to Naomi as she, at the end, is no longer ’empty’ but is ‘filled’ by holding Ruth’s son Obed. This was not kindness given because of legal obligation, but one seen beyond the letter in the spirit of the law. In Ruth we see how the Law is worked into daily life, and we see God’s kindness is not only shown in miraculous feats of splendor for the nation, but is seen “in the way his covenant people treat each other on a daily basis” (53).

Lamentations

“Learning is our soul’s requirement, and suffering our most persuasive teacher” Ruadh of Kells (59). Lamentations is “ordered grief.” “Grief itself, by its very nature, is a rather formless thing. The mind of a person in deep sorrow characteristically moves in circles, returning again and again to the source of grief, unable to leave it and unable to resolve it” (61). The first four chapters of Lamentations is an acrostic set to the Hebrew letters allowing for “grief to be fully expressed, and… at the same [setting] limits to it” (61). The author moves from Yahweh’s rejection, to his anger, to the encompassing sin of Israel, to the downfall of Israel’s leaders, to the entire community praying for a dose of Yahweh’s gracious mercy. Will he respond? Lamentations is a “parade example of applied theology” (78). Divine anger is right, but it is also unendurable. God’s people suffer within the covenant, and God’s new covenant people had One to suffer God’s wrath for them: Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastes

This chapter, like the book of Ecclesiastes itself, is difficult to read. Ecclesiastes isn’t a narrative like Ruth or Esther. Many scholars and people have had trouble finding a definite structure to the book. In this life, everything “is [vanity] in the sense of being transitory, passing, of no lasting significance” (93). Ecclesiastes, difficult as it is, understands God as the Creator and Maker of the universe, the one who has “made everything beautiful in its time” (3.11). The God we see in Genesis is the same we see here, “God is judge and the one who determines the conditions of human existence on earth precisely because he is first of all creator” (103). But there is hope… in Christ. There is promise of a new creation. He has defeated death, and we have eternal life. “The resurrection of Jesus from the dead decisively resolves the ambiguity we [find] in Ecclesiastes about the afterlife and final judgment (Acts 17:31)” (108).

Esther

Esther is a story of Jewish people in the Persian land of Susa, 150 miles northwest of where Abraham set out from Ur to Egypt. There is no reference to God, but he is still at work amongst his people, keeping his promise to Abraham that he will bless those who bless them, and curse those who curse them. Here we’ve come full circle from Abraham to the Jewish people promised to him by Yahweh. In the new covenant, there is an elect people and there is a people who hate them. Here, “of all the narratives of the Old Testament, it is precisely those that deal with the people of God in exile (the stories of Joseph, Daniel and Esther) that resonate most strongly with the circumstances of the new-covenant people of God” (131).

Conclusion

As an evangelical, Webb holds to the understanding that the Bible has a divine author who, in the sixty-six books, gives a single, coherent message. Yet how do we preach these difficult texts to Christian congregations today? This volume (as the series implies) shows the importance of biblical theology. The kind of biblical theology Webb employs in his volume focuses “on the unity of Scripture, while doing full justice to its diversity” (15, emphasis original). Webb doesn’t get into too many of the critical logistics of these difficult books. Instead he employs literary and historical criticism, looking at how each book is to be on it’s own and in light of the surrounding historical context. He looks at how the story is crafted, what it’s setting is, what it’s setting in Scripture is, and how we as Christians are to read these books in the biblical storyline.

Recommended?

To know how to better read the Bible with a Christian lens, especially short, difficult books like these, is immensely important. These five books are readable and applicable to the Christian life. The pastor (and the layman) will delight in this book. It should be consulted before the commentary, as it gives the reader an overhead view of these “five festal garments.” This volume will leave you wanting more, and hopefully will both provoke you an encourage you to study these odd, enigmatic, and wonderful little books.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 151 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (April 26, 2001)
  • Sample PDF

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.indd

In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
(4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

This time we’ll look at the second structure, Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews.

Schreiner defines already-but-not-yet eschatology in this way: “God’s eschatological promises have been inaugurated through Jesus Christ but not consummated. Fulfillment has truly come in Jesus Christ, but the fulfillment isn’t complete” (31). Basically, OT prophecies are being fulfilled, but are not yet completely fulfilled. Read on to see how this plays out in Hebrews, along with providing examples of what the definition above really means (especially if you’ve never heard of the term “already-but-not-yet”).

As we saw in my previous post, Jesus fulfills Ps 110.1 and is sitting and reigning at the right hand of God. As is so, “the last days have arrived (1:2), for the Messiah reigns as the OT prophesied” (33). Hebrews 9.26b says, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.“ Yet if Jesus has appeared at “the end of the ages” and reigns in heaven, why are there still enemies (Heb 1.13; 10.13)?

Hebrews 2.8b says, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” But one day the heavens and earth will be shaken and removed, and all that will be left is God’s kingdom (12.26-28)

The “not-yet” part of the program requires faith (10.39-11.40). Schreiner adds, “If the promise were visible (cf. 11:3) and the reward were given now (11:6), faith in God’s future promises would be superfluous” (35).

We see in 2 Corinthians 1.20 that all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, and from that verse until chapter 7.1, Paul gives us a list of promises that have come through Jesus, though some of them we do not see now. We have been anointed, sealed, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (1.21-22), and we have life by the Spirit (3.3, 6). But while we have a building from God that is eternal in the heavens (5.1), we cannot currently see it (it is “in the heavens”). So what do we do? “We walk by faith, not by sight” (5.7).

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1) (p 34-45).

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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Review: Praying with Paul

Praying with Paul

(The bigger, the better, right?)

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and is the author and editor of more books than you can shake a stick at (or “more than fifty books” as the back cover says). Simply, if you haven’t heard of Carson, you haven’t read a book (or my blog, at least). If you haven’t read Carson, this would be a good place to start. After seeing all that Carson has written about, one might think he lives in a high, impregnable ivory tower. But when one looks at all he’s done, all he’s preached on, and all he’s written, one should get a different idea about him.

In Praying with Paul, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (2nd Ed.), Carson invites the reader to look with him at some of the Apostle Paul’s prayers to the Father. What is Paul’s perspective when he prays? Does he pray for good health? A good life? Or does he pray for wisdom? Life? And not only for himself, but for others too? Carson looks at prayer through Paul’s eyes (along with Moses and Daniel), the proper perspective of God, and why we should pray when God is sovereign and already has the plan laid out.

Outline

In Chapter One, after expressing his own inadequacies in the school of prayer, Carson lists 8 practical prayer helps that he has received from more mature prayer warriors. In Chapters Two and Three, Carson works through 2 Thessalonians 1.1-12 (and 1.3-12), giving us the structure of prayer and what kind of petitions we should bring before the living God. Chapter Four is focused on praying for others and looks at a long list of Paul’s commands to pray for others. Chapter Five (1 Thessalonians 3.9-13) covers Paul’s passion for people, sinners just like you and me, praying they make it to the end. We look at Colossians 1.9-14 in Chapter Six, and we see “what to pray for, how to approach God,” and that we would live a life that is pleasing to Him. Chapter Seven looks at excuses we make not to pray. In Chapter Eight (Philippians 1.9-11) Paul prays that his readers would abound in the knowledge of God, which will lead them (and us) to be eager to pray.

Chapter Nine works to answer the long-asked question, “How does prayer change things if God is sovereign?” [See my posts here]. Chapter Ten (Ephesians 1.15-23); For what “reason” (Eph 1.15) does Paul set himself to pray? For all that God has done for the believer. Chapter Eleven (Ephesians 3.14-21) Paul prays for ‘power,’ power through the Holy Spirit, and “power to grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ.” And this power is likely not what we think it is. Chapter Twelve (Romans 15.14-33); We look at a final, fresh prayer of Paul, one that was only partially answered. We should be praying for ministry, further ministry, both for ours and for another’s, and that God would give life to the people we and others are serving.

The Chocolate Milk

I enjoyed the book as a whole, I especially enjoyed Chapters Nine through Eleven (probably due to the placement of Chapter Nine). After considering how God works with, in, and through prayer, Chapter Ten Paul prays because God is sovereign. “Just as Daniel prayed for the end of the exile because God had promised that the exile would end, so Paul prays that christians may grow in their knowledge of God because God had declared his intention to expose his people to the glories of his grace, both now and for eternity (Chapter Nine, 149).” Because God has promised to work, God does work. In Chapter Eleven the power God strengthens us with, rather being some king of grand might where we easily overcome our fears, sins, dry spells, and worries, is one that keeps us weak so that we will rely on him. As we focus on the cross of Christ, we see how we are to live: sacrificing ourself and humbling ourselves for the benefit of all others.

But before I begin preaching (these were first sermons by Carson), the entire book is a gem. Carson knows the hardships in prayer. “The idea… is that Paul understands real praying to include an element of struggle, discipline, work, spiritual agonizing against the dark powers of evil. Insofar as the Roman Christians pray this way for Paul, they are joining him in his apostolic struggle” (188). In praying we are warring against the enemy. No wonder it’s so difficult. And it’s not enough to know theology. It’s not enough to know about God. We need to know Him. He is a personal God, and we are to pray for his promises in our lives and in the lives of others.

Recommended?

I have yet to read Keller’s book on Prayer, but I would imagine this would be an excellent companion volume. Any book by Carson is good, and this book is no different. Prayer is difficult to follow through with in my own life. As a natural-born introvert, one-way conversations don’t get my blood pumping (not do two-, three- four-. etc). But following along Paul’s fresh prayers, along with other biblical characters and the psalms, we can begin to view prayer in the proper way. Rather than making it all about ourselves, our day, our jobs, and so on, we can pray for true spiritual maturity in our lives, our spouses, our children, and others, and we can see why we can and should do it. Carson speaks with gentleness and clarity. This isn’t a book on boring exegesis. It’s on exposition. What does Paul say? What does it mean? And how can we make this ours? Mature prayer warriors (if I may use the term in a non-cliche way) are few and far between. It doesn’t take being a spiritual giant to pray. It simply takes seeing who God reveals himself to be in his word and wanting to know more of him that you can sit down and pray. This book is easy for any high schooler to read, but it has the depth and clarity from a scholar of over 40 years.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 2 edition (January 20, 2015)
  • PDF Sample Here

Posts

  1. God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, Part 1
  2. GS & HR, Part 2
  3. GS & HR, Part 3
  4. GS & HR, Part 4
  5. GS & HR, Part 5
  6. Two Poems on Prayer

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to Baker Academic  for allowing me to review this book! I was not required to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Filed under Paul, Review

Two Poems from Carson’s “Praying with Paul”

In D.A. Carson’s book Praying with Paul, he gives the reader two poems from two anonymous authors which “sum up a great deal of profound theology in very practical terms” (200).

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.

I thought that in some favoured hour
At once he’d answer my request;
And, by his love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry power of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried.
“Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me!”

And also:

He asked for strength that he might achieve;
wwhe was made weak that he might obey.
He asked for health that he might do greater things;
wwhe was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He asked for riches that he might be happy;
wwhe was given poverty that he might be wise.
He asked for power that he might have the praise of men;
wwhe was given weakness that he might feel the need of God.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life;
wwhe was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He has received nothing that he asked for, all that he hoped for;
wwhis prayer is answered.

This isn’t a warning to “be careful what you pray for.” It’s to let you know that God is more interested in conforming us into the image of his Son (Rom 8.29) than he is letting us live fat and happy. Our ideas of health and wealth may be too close to walking the line (Mk 4.7, 18-19). Rather, we often have our own thorns that keep us from becoming prideful and which are meant to help us keep our eyes on our Sovereign Lord. When you’re weak, you can’t do anything but obey. When you have infirmity, you don’t have the ability to spread yourself. You focus on what God has given you and you do it well. In poverty you learn to fix and do things yourself, learning how the created world is set to work. In our weakness we see that God is all we have. With eternal life, God is the center and everything flows out of him. Rivers of living water make our good days, our difficult days, and our boring days meaningful and hope-filled. The man in the second poem asked for certain means to bring him to a certain end. As a loving, eternal Father, God gave him a better end, one filled with a “broken” life with him.  Broken of our schemes of earthly joy, that we may seek our all in him.

Next, my review of Carson’s Praying with Paul.

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Filed under Biblical Studies, Paul