Day 6 – Humility in Ministry

“ Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”
– Philippians 2:3-5

Day 6 – Humility in Ministry

The Scriptural antidote to combat pride and its dangers is humility. Humility in ministry is crucial to personal holiness, longevity in ministry, the ability to serve the people the Lord has entrusted to pastors, and so much more.

Renowned author, Paul David Tripp, has said “humility means you love serving more than you crave leading.” As you consider praying for your pastor, here are some ways to specifically pray for humility in ministry:

  • Sober-mindedness to the weight of shepherding God’s people
  • Desire to serve and not be served, in imitation of Christ
  • Recognition of weaknesses
  • Commitment to personal spiritual growth

Prayer Prompt

Lord, I pray that my pastor (for a church member)/ I (as a pastor) will reflect the heart of Christ in his willingness to serve the local church. May his heart not be bent towards ego, building a platform, or contentment in worldly pride and pursuits, but in Christ and His plan. Give him the awareness of his pride and it’s effects on the work You are doing in and through your church…



Day 5 – Ability to Resist Temptation

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
– Ephesians 6:10-11

Day 5 – Ability to Resist Temptation

In 1 Peter, Scripture describes the spiritual warfare present in our lives of believers and the nature in which the enemy is on the prowl. How much more so than is it for pastors who are called to proclaim the Gospel, shepherd His people, and lead His church?

With sin so easily accessible in this world and in our hearts, let’s consider praying for our pastors to have the Hily Spirit empowered strength to flee temptation like:

  • Unhealthy desires for fame, power, money, bigger church, bigger platform, etc.
  • Sexual immortality and perversion
  • Anger and lack of self-control
  • Forsake prioritizing family and work/life balance

Prayer Prompt

Lord, I pray that my pastor (for a church member)/ I (as a pastor) would be able to recognize the need to resist temptation and the ability to quickly and appropriately flee temptation. From the trappings of the world to the sinfulness of our hearts, I ask you guard their hearts and cultivate in them a sweet passion for what’s good and right in Your eyes. Help them to know they are not isolated and alone in these areas of weakness and that your grace is sufficient to overcome…



Day 4 – Personal Holiness

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” – 1 Peter 15:16

Day 4- Personal Holiness

A pastor’s public ministry should never outpace their personal holiness. Nevertheless, temptations abound daily to prioritize good things over one’s personal walk with the Lord. Today, take some time to consider the many temptations pastors may face throughout the course of their ministry and pray that the Lord would help pastors:

  • Renew their commitment to spiritual disciplines in their life
  • Prioritize their walk with God
  • Balance the many commitments in ministry and family in God-honoring ways
  • That their would be no difference between their public ministry and private life

Prayer Prompt

Lord, I pray that my pastor (for a church member)/ I (as a pastor) would have a renewed commitment to personal holiness in their lives, stemming from a fresh understanding of your own holiness. Keep them from the temptation of busyness for the sake of man’s approval and allow their hearts to be fixed upon your approval alone. Help them to be in constant communion with you throughout this day and the rest of this week as they pursue you in all they do…



Day 3 – Trust in the Lord

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6

Day 3 – Trust in the Lord

Throughout the normal rhythms of life, it can be easy for all of us, including pastors, to lean on our own strengths, to trust in our own power to accomplish what is ahead, but Scripture paints a different picture. Scripture calls us to trust in the Lord, over and over again, in every season of life. For pastors, trust in the Lord is essential to church ministry. Spend time today praying for pastors that they may trust in the Lord. Here are a few specific ways to pray to this end:

  • Truth of Scripture
  • Promises of God
  • In moments or seasons of trial
  • In moments or seasons of comfortablility
  • That the Lord will work in and through the church
  • For sustaining energy to fulfill their calling

Prayer Prompt

Lord, I pray that my pastor (for a church member)/ I (as a pastor) will take the truth of Proverbs 3 and apply it to their lives. I pray that in the seasons of doubt about Your promises or when they receive criticism that they will lean on You, Lord, for their strength. Restore them with the truth of your Word and the joy of living a life trusting in you..

*These prayers are a part of our series of prayers for pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month. A new prayer will release every morning throughout the month for pastors and their members to reflect on and pray.



Lead Where You Are

Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted with permission from Turnaround by Jason K. Allen. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing. The book is available wherever Christian books are sold.

The most important leadership role you will ever have is the one you’re in right now. Or, to put it more succinctly, lead where you are.

By most any definition, I was a young man in a hurry. There is just something about being in your twenties that predestines restlessness. My mentor, Pastor Steve Lawson, sensed my restlessness and counseled me: “Jason, the most important job you will ever have is the one you have right now.” His words registered on my heart before they landed in my ear. I still remember where we stood, by his administrative assistant’s desk, when he spoke those words to me.

His instinct was right. I needed to hear his admonition. Not only did I need it, but in some ways I wanted it. I sensed that my unsettledness was unhealthy. I purposed that day, due to both the apparent spiritual principle and the obvious practical benefits, to live by those words. I encourage you to do the same.

Leadership isn’t just in your future. It’s in your present. Scripture teaches that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and even the most assured plans should come with a deo volente—if the Lord wills.

Along those lines, do not romanticize your future or daydream about how to seize it. Give your best energies to the position you currently hold. In leadership you are called to a stewardship of the present. And, in a very real sense, you will never have a greater stewardship than the one you have right now. We must work to maintain this mentality. Our self-help, self-improvement generation teaches us to strive for, to even connive for, our own betterment. But that is not the way of the faithful leader.

As an example, some have noted my father’s generation viewed work like an escalator. You get on at a lower floor, remain faithful in your position and to your employer over the long haul, and, as the decades pass, you will ride the escalator up to higher floors.

My generation views employment more like a jungle gym, hopping from place to place, always scouring the horizon for self-advancement and never missing an opportunity for self-promotion. The leader’s strategy for career advancement ought not resemble American Ninja Warrior.

Thus, to lead in the future, make sure you lead in the present. Do not spend your time refining your personal leadership philosophy; go with what you know now. Pursue faithfulness in leadership, not success. The world does not need more hypothetical leaders; it needs more actual ones.

In fact, Jesus commended such faithfulness, promising, “The one who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and the one who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much” (Luke 16:10). Vocationally, your today is more important than your tomorrow. The fastest way to a higher office is to excel in the one you occupy now.

Generally, those who serve most faithfully—who prove themselves indispensable to their organization’s health—will not be overlooked. Such faithfulness is a rare trait, and employers work to retain such individuals. Indispensable employees usually do not have to fear pink slips and rarely must ask for pay raises.

I can assure you, if you faithfully lead where you are, it is unlikely you will be overlooked by man. And I can promise you, with the words of Christ in mind, you will not be overlooked by God.



More Than You Can Handle

One Sunday morning one of my fellow pastors shared in his sermon this lie many Christians believe: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” He argued that God actually consistently gives us more than we can handle to show us and remind us that our faith must be in Jesus, not ourselves.

I couldn’t agree more with him. The idea that God will not give us more than we can handle is a prideful belief if you think about it. The idea is about us and our capacity to bear trials, struggles, pain, or whatever else needs “handled”. It limits God as a distant figure setting up life and then leaving us to our own devices to solve the issues He gives us. Just this idea alone points to the absurdity of this view, but let’s get practical. What happens when you cannot handle what God has given you? What happens when life is too hard and when you’ve had too much? Are you a bad Christian? Is God a bad God? Certainly not.

God often gives more than we can handle, and He moves the most in these seasons of our life. For me, my greatest growth in faith came in a time that was too much to handle. When I was 17, I was nominal in my faith. I wanted to live for God in the future, but in the present, I wanted to play sports and make people like me. I was not headed in a good direction. But thank God, He gave me more than I could handle.

The fall of my senior year my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was the most difficult thing I could imagine. I constantly thought, “Why me and my family God?” I didn’t think things could get worse, until they did. The following spring, while my dad’s health was rapidly declining, my grandmother suffered a major heart attack, I had surgery on a broken foot, and my 10-year-old brother was on life support awaiting a heart transplant. Later in the summer, my father passed away and my younger brother, who by God’s grace was given a new heart, had extensive brain damage. I originally thought the cancer diagnosis alone was too much to handle, but it was only the beginning. I can honestly say that God gave me too much to handle. I hit rock bottom. And while it sounds crazy, I am thankful for it and would not change this season of my life if given the chance. In this season, God drew me to Himself more closely than I ever had been before.

In the darkest moment of my life, at rock bottom, when God had given me way more than I could handle, it was not my strength that got me through, but His. He was right there with me. I learned to lean on and depend on him more than ever. I had a peace I could never explain other than God was with me and while everything around me – my life, my family, and my future – were crashing down, He was not going anywhere. One verse I clung to in that season was James 1:2-4:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

This verse meant so much to me because it gave me hope that God was working in the worst moments of my life. It gave meaning to my suffering. It gave purpose to my plight.  It reminded me that God was not abandoning me but strengthening me. I can honestly say that it was because of this season in my life that I am a pastor today. I thank God that He gave me more than I could handle.

Do not believe the lie that God will not give you more than you can handle. You will be severely disappointed or worse, miss out on a closer walk with Him because you constantly run from anything difficult. God works in the moments that are too hard for us to handle. It is in these moments that we realize how desperate we are for Him and how helpless we are on our own. God will consistently give you more than you can handle. Here are a few verses to hold onto during those seasons of life:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
  • Romans 5:3-4: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
  • Psalms 119:7: It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
  • Hebrews 2:10: For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
  • Philippians 3:10: that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

When life comes crumbling down, God does not. Run to him. Cling to Him. If you are struggling right now, know that God is working. You are not alone. He is with you. His church is with you. God will give us more than we can handle, but He will also see us through the other side with a stronger faith.



Age with Joy

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

There is a precious book my daughter loves to have read to her, titled, The Lines on Nana’s Face, by Simona Ciraolo. It is a beautiful story that follows a little girl who asks her grandmother about every wrinkle on her face. The grandmother responds, not perhaps with the horror we might expect in having one’s multitude of wrinkles pointed out, but with delight in retelling stories from her past; of the joy, grief, sacrifice, and anxiety that led to the lines that now cross her aged face. It is full of beautiful illustrations and one of the most compelling books on the beauty of aging.

For aging is beautiful. On the one hand, aging is difficult, it carries with it its own sufferings: our aging body that seems to slowly betray us, forgetfulness, pain, illness, and the harsh reality that we are mortal. But on the other, for Christians, aging carries a promise. Aging reminds us of the contrasting reality of our finite bodies that hold eternal souls. As our hair grays and lines cover our features we do not lose heart, because our inner self is an inverse of this outward decay. Our outward self deteriorate, yes, but as it does, our inner self is growing in maturity, wisdom, holiness, and nearing the day we get to see our Savior face-to-face.

Just as Death has lost its sting, so aging has lost its ability to cheat us. We may momentarily lose loved ones or abilities, our outward self will waste away; but it is only a momentary loss, and as the Holy Spirit renews us day by day, our inward lives are strengthened, more robust and alive. Even as our flesh decays and we are nothing but bones in the ground, this is but a temporary reality. Because the grave is indeed swallowed up in Christ’s victory. We are laid to rest, yet we will rise again with bodies imperishable.

Perhaps your graying hair and wrinkles do not remind you of joy-filled memories but regret and tragedy. Nonetheless, in Christ, even those memories can be a source of joy, as they are evidence of the Lord’s work in your life to bring you to today wherein he makes you more like himself and less like the person of your past. Whether aging brings us out of suffering or into it, Christ is with us, and in the process of purifying us. By looking at the lines in our own face and remembering who we were in contrast to who we are today, we can see his work, like threads in a tapestry.

If this is true, Christians ought to in many ways celebrate aging. We ought to revere the elderly, and delight in hearing stories of their past that we might glean wisdom from them. We ought to embrace our gray hair as a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31). We ought to look at the lines in our own face and remember the goodness of God throughout our life. Above all, we ought to face the grave–and all the aches and illness along the way–with hope, not fear, knowing that death is not the final victor.

In knowing that we will have victory over death, that one day our aged, earthly bodies will be transformed into immortal heavenly ones, we can look differently at our own graying hairs, and drooping skin. Instead of seeing gray hairs as curses or threats, we can see instead, evidence of the Lord’s sovereign care, as we are reminded that he lets not a hair fall–nor gray–apart from his will. We can allow the reality of our age to unfold on our features with joy, acknowledging God’s goodness in our life. We can use up our bodies laboring for the gospel, and let them show the signs of a life lived, not in pursuit of the fleeting beauty of youth, but in service to others for a kingdom that will never end.

As we observe our outer selves wasting away, we should not despair, nor long for the past, but with gratitude recognize the gift of the present the Lord has brought us to, and eagerly anticipate our future with him. May we let our face be traced with lines, and tell younger generations the stories that are evidenced on our bodies. How our gray hair is is evidence of the Lord’s sustaining work in our lives; how our crow’s feet are evidence of joy in the presence of the Lord; how the creases between our brow exist because we have studied God’s Word with persistence; how frown lines may have found their place through suffering, but a suffering that was always accompanied with the comfort of Christ. May we embrace our age as evidence of God’s goodness to us. May we not lose heart as our outer body wastes away, because we know that God keeps his promise to renew us day by day.



How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Step 10––Biblical Theology

Text (Genre, Literary units and text hierarchy, Text-criticism)
Observation (Clause and text grammar, Argument-tracing, Word and concept studies)
Context (Historical and Literary context)
Meaning (Biblical and Systematic theology)
Application (Practical theology)

Once you have established your text, made accurate observations, and discerned your passage’s contexts, it is time to determine your text’s meaning. To do this, it is critical to understand biblical theology, the discipline that considers how the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Jesus. Here you ask, “How does my passage connect to the Bible’s overall storyline and point to Christ?”

Four Guiding Presuppositions

The discipline of biblical theology assumes at least four key principles about the Bible:

1. The Bible is the locus of God’s special revelation.

Every line, word, phrase, clause, and paragraph in Scripture is God’s word. No other book is like the Bible, for it alone is God’s special revelation. Therefore, biblical theology is a textual discipline, such that the author’s intent guides the connections we make both backward and forward within every text. Historical context informs and supports the study but never trumps it.

2. The Bible demands that we submit to it and engage it in constructive ways.

We must see God’s word in its final canonical form as our primary and decisive authority in all matters of faith and practice. Furthermore, our interpretation should never deconstruct the biblical text, misinterpret the text, contradict the biblical author’s intentions, or fail to evaluate fairly the claims of the text in accordance with its nature.

3. The Bible is prescriptive.

Because the Bible is God’s word, it has the authority to prescribe a certain lifestyle and worldview for its readers and to confront alternatives. God’s purpose in having us grasp his purposes in salvation history is to move us to worship and surrender to the living God through Christ.

4. The Bible expresses a coherent, unified theology.

God is the ultimate author of Scripture, and he is the ultimate unified and coherent thinker. Thus, we must push to grasp the unified theology of the whole Bible. Every passage contributes in some way to the whole.

Definition and Nature of Biblical Theology

 The whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ, and every passage contributes in some way to Scripture’s message that God reigns, saves, and satisfies through covenant for his glory in Jesus. Central to determining a passage’s meaning is not only considering what it proclaims but how this message relates to and informs the greater message of Scripture culminating in Christ.

Biblical theology is a way of analyzing and synthesizing what the Bible reveals about God and his relations with the world that makes organic salvation-historical and literary-canonical connections with the whole of Scripture on its own terms, especially with respect to how the Old and New Testaments progress, integrate, and climax in Christ. Let me unpack this extended definition under six headings.

  1. The Task, Part 1: Biblical theology analyzes and synthesizes what the Old and New Testaments reveal about God and his relations with the world.

Biblical theology seeks to interpret the final form of the Christian Bible––to analyze and synthesize God’s special revelation embodied in the Old and New Testaments. That God’s special revelation comes through Old and New Testaments highlights both Scripture’s unity and diversity. The one Bible has two necessary parts, each of which we must read in view of the other. The Old Testament provides foundation for what Jesus fulfills in the New Testament.

  1. The Task, Part 2: Biblical theology makes organic connections with the whole of Scripture on its own terms.

Biblical theology is about making natural, unforced connections within Scripture. In the process, it recognizes growth or progress in a thought or concept and lets the Bible speak in accordance with its own contours, structures, language, and flow.

  1. Salvation-Historical Connections: Biblical theology makes salvation-historical connections with the whole of Scripture on its own terms.

Salvation history is the progressive narrative unfolding of God’s kingdom plan through the various covenants, events, people, and institutions, all climaxing in the person and work of Jesus. Redemptive history moves from creation to the fall to redemption to consummation. It’s the true story of God’s purposes climaxing in Christ that frames all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. One way to summarize his-story is through the acronym KINGDOM, as represented in the following chart:

Scripture declares the story of God’s glory in Christ. Within this framework, we can make salvation-historical connections in at least five different ways:

  • Thematic developments: We can trace a theme through the story of salvation, noting how it culminates in Christ. Some of the main themes are kingdom, law, temple, people of God, exile and exodus, atonement, holiness, and missions.
  • Covenantal continuity and discontinuity: We should consider how the progress of the biblical covenants maintains, transforms, alters, or escalates various elements in God’s relations with his people and the world.
  • Type and anti-type: Both Old and New Testament authors regularly identify predictive thematic anticipations or types rooted in the progressive development of Scripture’s historical record (e.g., Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Col. 2:16–17). By God’s design, specific persons (e.g., Adam, Moses), events (e.g., creation, exodus), and institutions (e.g., temple, sacrifice) establish patterns that culminate in the life and work of Christ Jesus. These types are prophetic and prospective from their inception, even when interpreters only discover them retrospectively.
  • Promise and fulfillment: We must track specific promises and then identify their partial, progressive, and/or ultimate fulfillment at various stages in salvation history, ever remembering Paul’s declaration that “all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]” (2 Cor. 1:20). An example here would be how Micah 5:2 declares that the royal deliver would rise out of Bethlehem, and Matthew declares this fulfilled (Matt. 2:5–6).
  • Use of the Old Testament in the Old and New Testaments: Here, we assess how later biblical writers interpret and/or apply earlier canonical revelation, especially with a view to understanding Christ Jesus.

  1. Literary-Canonical Connections: Biblical theology makes organize literary-canonical connections with the whole of Scripture on its own terms.

Biblical theology arises out of the narrative framework of salvation history, but we cannot restrict the discipline to redemptive historical connections because the Bible includes more than the story of God’s glory in Christ. As seen below, Scripture includes groupings of narrative books that frame commentary books. We must consider every passage in light of its placement and role within the canon as a whole, which contains two Testaments, each with corresponding narrative and commentary sections and each with a potentially-corresponding three-part structure. The chart arranges the Old Testament in alignment with the order in Jesus’s Bible (see Luke 24:44) and the New Testament in accordance with the earliest canonical evidence.

Along with final-form composition and structure, literary-canonical connections include the historical details that tie the canon together. Here I refer to information regarding authorship, date, or provenance of a given passage. Where God reveals such information, it is fair and appropriate to use it to consider how books or passages that are united historically address various themes or contribute to our knowledge of a given topic. Because Moses was the substantial author of both Exodus and Leviticus, we can use each book as an interpretive lens for the other. Because Samuel–Kings and Chronicles address similar time-periods from different perspectives, we can compare the two to help clarify the distinctive theology of each corpus.

Finally, literary-canonical connections also include accounting for our passage’s biblical corpus or genre. Studying the teaching in Ecclesiastes should naturally be related to that of Proverbs not only because Solomon is likely the same author but also because both are wisdom books. Similarly, one should interpret Zephaniah in view of its placement in and contribution to both the Book of the Twelve and the Latter Prophets as a whole.

  1. Relationship of the Testaments: Biblical theology wrestles with how the Old and New Testaments progress and integrate.

The relationship of the Testaments is perhaps the biggest question faced in biblical theology. Scripture was not shaped in a day. God produced it over time, progressively disclosing his kingdom purposes climaxing in Christ and pointing ultimately to the consummation. Biblical theology gives significant effort to tracking this progression and to considering how the various covenants and Testaments integrate in God’s overarching kingdom plan.

  1. The Centrality of Christ: Biblical theology wrestles with how the Old and New Testaments climax in Christ.

The ultimate end of biblical theology is Jesus. The salvation history that frames Scripture all points and progresses to Christ, and all fulfillment flows from and through him. All laws, history, laws, prophecy, and promises find their end-times realization in Jesus (Matt 5:17–18; Mark 1:15; Acts 3:18; 2 Cor. 1:20). Therefore, we can rightly assert that the Old Testament is a messianic document written to instill messianic hope (see Rom. 1:1–3; 3:21; 10:4). Indeed, the apostles recognized that Yahweh foretold by the mouth of all the prophets from Moses forward the tribulation and triumph of the Christ and the subsequent glories (Acts 3:18, 24; 10:43; 1 Peter 1:10–11), and God revealed to those prophets that “they were serving not themselves but you” when they wrote their words (1 Peter 1:12). If we fail to appreciate that the Old Testament is Christian Scripture, we do not approach it like Jesus and his apostles, and we have no basis to call our interpretation “Christian.” 

The Bible’s Frame, Form, Focus, and Fulcrum

Thus far, we have learned something about what the Bible is about, how it is transmitted, why it was given, and around whom it is centered. That is, the Bible has a frame, a form, a focus, and a fulcrum.

  1. The Frame = The Content: What?

The Bible is the revelation of God, who reigns over all and who saves and satisfies all who look to him. In short, Scripture is about his kingdom and how he builds it through covenant for his glory in Christ. We could say that Scripture’s content relates to God’s reign over God’s people in God’s land for God’s glory (Luke 4:43; Acts 1:3; 20:25; 28:23, 31).

  1. The Form = The Means: How?

Throughout salvation history, God has maintained his relationship with the world through a series of covenants. The most dominant of these are the Mosaic (old) covenant and the new covenant in Christ. The old covenant bore a ministry of condemnation and brought forth an age of death; the new covenant bore a ministry of righteousness and brought with it life (2 Cor. 3:9). Moses recognized Israel’s stubbornness and predicted the old covenant’s failure (Deut. 9:6–7; 31:16–18, 27–29). But he also envisioned that God would mercifully overcome the curse with restoration blessing (4:30–31) in what we now know as the new covenant (Jer. 31:31). A prophetic, new covenant mediator would facilitate this era of blessing (Deut. 18:15), which would include God’s transforming the hearts of covenant members in a way that would generate love and obedience (30:6, 8–14). God would curse all his enemies (30:7) and broaden the makeup of his people to include some from the nations (32:21, 43; cf. Gen. 17:4–5). Christ is the mediator of the new covenant (Gen. 22:17–18; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15; 12:24), which has superseded the old (Gal. 3:24–25; Rom. 10:4), made every promise “Yes” (2 Cor. 1:20), and secured for us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4).

  1. The Focus = The Purpose: Why?

The chief goal of all God’s actions is the preservation and display of his glory, and it is to this end that all Scripture points. Because all things are from him, through him, and to him, God’s glory is exalted over all things (Rom. 11:36) and should be the goal of our lives (1 Cor. 10:31).

  1. The Fulcrum = Sphere: Whom?

Jesus Christ is the one to whom all salvation history points, and the one who fulfills all the Old Testament anticipates. The entire Bible centers on this promised messianic Deliverer who secures reconciliation with God for all who believe in him as the divine, crucified, resurrected Messiah. His ministry produces a universal call to repentance and whole-life surrender to him as King.

We can synthesis Scripture’s as God reigns, saves, and satisfies through covenant for his glory in Christ. Put another way, the Bible calls Jews and Gentiles alike to magnify God as the supreme Sovereign, Savior, and Satisfier of the world through Messiah Jesus. The Old Testament provides the foundation for this message; the New Testament fulfills all Old Testament hopes.[1] 

Conclusion

Scripture is self-interpreting, for the God who never changes is the author of it all. To determine the full meaning of a passage, we must always ponder how your passage contributes and relates to the rest of Scripture culminating in Christ. The whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Jesus, so we must consider how every passage in the Old Testament relates to this overarching flow and message.

[1]  For two examples of biblical theology at work, see Jason S. DeRouchie, “Why the Third Day?: The Promise of Resurrection in All of Scripture,” Desiring God, 11 June 2019, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-the-third-day; Jason S. DeRouchie, “God Always Wanted the Whole World: Global Mission from Genesis to Revelation,” Desiring God, 5 December 2019, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-always-wanted-the-whole-world.



How Dangerous Hermeneutics Can Inform False Teachers

One sign of a false prophet is when a religious leader invents novel and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, interpretations completely divorced from the original context. Religious charlatans usually engage in such hermeneutical gymnastics in order to bolster their own power. An example of such scripture-twisting is seen in LDS Church’s slanted take on Isaiah 29:11 – 12, a passage they improperly handle in an attempt to bolster the authenticity of both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. 

To understand why the LDS Church is wrong about Isaiah 29:11 – 12, we first must examine what the passage does mean. In a discussion about theological and ethical error, Isaiah stresses that sin leads to spiritual dullness. When sin takes control, it deadens our ability to think correctly about God and how we should live.  Sin cauterizes the conscience and disables it from working properly. Subsequently, it becomes unusually difficult to understand God’s word or what God would have us to do. That’s the point of Isaiah 29:11 – 12:

The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, “Please read this.” And he will say, “I cannot read.”

Because sin dulls the conscience, Isaiah 29:11 – 12 describes a sort of self-inflicted spiritual illiteracy that ensues. People are given God’s word, but they can’t understand it because sin has negatively affected the intellect. In Isaiah 6:9 – 10, God had already warned Isaiah of such a response to his preaching. Isaiah 29:11 – 12 gives forceful and cautionary advice that sin inhibits our ability to think rightly about God and ethics. 

The Book of Mormon is a work of fiction invented from Joseph Smith’s furtive imagination. Smith claimed the Book of Mormon was translated from golden plates buried in upstate New York, an ancient record of a Jewish-Christian civilization which once thrived in the Western Hemisphere prior to European contact. To make his story sound more exotic, Smith claimed the account on the golden plates was written in “reformed Egyptian.” When the Book of Mormon was completed, Smith conveniently claimed to have returned the golden plates to an angelic being. 

A rational question is, “What is reformed Egyptian?” Martin Harris, one of Smith’s scribes and a financial backer, asked the same thing. Though Harris was one of the “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon, Smith never actually showed Harris the ancient writing he was purportedly translating. Usually, Smith translated by placing a “seer stone” in a hat and then burying his face in the hat and repeating out loud to an amanuensis what God was supposedly telling him. 

Harris was eager for proof Smith was a true prophet, so he asked Smith to reproduce the “reformed Egyptian.” One is left to wonder why Harris could be a witness to the Book of Mormon, and yet not be allowed to look upon the pages. Nonetheless, Smith scribbled out some “reformed Egyptian” characters on a piece of paper. In February 1828, Harris took the sheet of paper containing Smith’s reproduction of the mysterious alphabet to Charles Anthon, a professor of classical literature at Columbia University.  Harris, for some reason, left the meeting thinking to himself, “Joseph Smith is a true prophet!” Meanwhile, Charles Anthon spent the rest of his life saying, “I claimed no such thing!” When Anthon recounted the meeting, he said he tried to warn Harris that he was being tricked by Smith.   

But Martin Harris claimed Anthon’s initial response to the list of characters from Smith was positive, with Harris insisting that Charles Anthon wrote out a brief note affirming the authenticity of the characters and their translation. But, according to Harris, when Anthon asked where Smith got the plates and was told they came from an angel, Anthon ripped up his endorsement and then purportedly told Harris something to the effect, “Bring me the plates and I’ll translate them myself.” Harris responded he could not bring them because they were “sealed.” To which Anthon rejoined, “I cannot read a sealed book.”

What do gullible Martin Harris, the deceptive Joseph Smith, and the frustrated Professor Anthon have to do with Isaiah 29:11 – 12? Joseph Smith seized on Anthon’s purported comment about being unable to read a “sealed” book, and using some fast and loose word association, claimed the entire event was a fulfillment of Isaiah 29:11 – 12, and LDS interpreters to this day insist this prophecy was fulfilled in the Harris / Anthon incident. The claim is that Anthon is the “literate” or educated person in Isaiah 29:11 who can’t read a sealed book. In other words, Anthon couldn’t understand the characters Smith had scrawled out. Then, LDS teachers claim Joseph Smith is the “illiterate” or uneducated person mentioned in Isaiah 29:12 to whom the book is given and who is apparently blessed by God. 

Isaiah 29:11 – 12 cannot mean what the LDS church claims. The point of these verses is not that the literate man cannot read the book while the illiterate man can read it. The point of Isaiah 29:11 – 12 is that no one can read what Isaiah is discussing! No matter to whom you take the book, it is unreadable. Like men running around with a book they could not read, Israel would have God’s words but not understand them. Why? Because their own sin had blunted their ability to grasp the meaning. 

The Community of Christ, a smaller LDS group, owns a sheet of paper they think contains copies of the characters Joseph Smith gave to Martin Harris. Now known as the “Anthon Manuscript,” the artifact was passed down to the Community of Christ by David Whitmer, another witness to the Book of Mormon and a very important person in the early history of the LDS Church. Though some scholars think the Anthon Manuscript may not be the exact document Harris took to Anthon, by any standard, it contains several lines of nonsense; the characters Smith scrawled out are so fanciful that calling them gibberish would be a complement. There is no such thing as reformed Egyptian. It is just one more part of Joseph Smith’s religious scam.  

False teachers abuse God’s word to build their own kingdom, not Christ’s church. A sure sign of trouble is when a preacher abandons careful handling of the text and fails to determine what a passage meant to the original audience. A time-tested rule of biblical interpretation is this: The text can’t mean now what it didn’t mean then. Isaiah 29:11 – 12 was not referring to nonsense like “reformed Egyptian” when Isaiah wrote it and it’s not referring to Joseph Smith today. 



Who are the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6?

In Genesis 6 Moses paints a picture of the human race falling into sin to such a significant degree that God is said to have “regretted” making mankind (Gen 6:6). The depths of sin that God witnessed among those who were created to bear his image (Gen 1:26–27) had “grieved him to his heart” (6:6). This picture of the sinfulness of mankind sets the stage for one of the most well-known stories in the Bible: the flood narrative.

As with most biblical stories, however, the various details are often debated. The particular debate I’m interested in here is concerned with how we identify the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

Here is the passage:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen 6:1–4).

In this text Moses describes the multiplication of mankind on the face of the earth. This, after all, was the imperative given to Adam and Eve (cf. Gen 1:28). As humanity increases, there is a strange story of “sons of God” being attracted to the “daughters of man” (6:2). The situation (“sons of God” finding the women “attractive”) results in marriages (“they took as their wives”). But the question is, who are the “sons of God” that find these women “attractive” and then marry them?

There have been several answers provided in the history of interpretation. The two answers that I’m most interested in are the (a) Sethite view and (b) the Fallen Angels view.

The Sethite view understands the “sons of God” to be the descendants of Seth. The women (i.e. “daughters of man”) were not women in general but the offspring of Cain. The overarching point, then, is that the line of Seth is intermarrying with the line of Cain, the murderer of Abel. This, it is argued, helps explain the downfall of the human race into such degrees of sin that God is grieved and eventually unleashes the rains of judgment.

Another view understands the “sons of God” as angelic beings that have become sexually involved with women. These fallen angels are perhaps who Peter and Jude have in mind in various places (cf. 1 Pet 3:18–22; 2 Pet 2:4–10; Jude 5–7). Again, the overarching story aims to show the depth of sin that the human race had fallen into. Here, fallen angels, like their father the Devil before them (cf. Gen 3:1-7), helped lead all of mankind away from their Lord.

Admittedly, this position is not without problems and there are reputable biblical interpreters who take a different view (e.g. John Calvin). However, there are a number of persuasive arguments in favor of the fallen angel view:

  1. Though not determinative, this view seems to be the majority view of Christian history.
  2. Second Temple Judaism writers understood the passage as referring to angels.
  3. “Sons of God” is used to reference angelic beings in other parts of the Bible (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).
  4. The specific phrase “sons of God” is not employed to reference God’s people in the Bible, though God’s people are called God’s sons in various places (e.g. Jer 3:19).
  5. Angelic beings are perhaps in view in Gen 6 according to NT passages (cf. 1 Pet 3:18–22; 2 Pet 2:4–10; Jude 5–7).
  6. In this view, the use of “man” (אָדָם) is employed consistently to reference the totality of mankind.

In my view, the fallen angel position makes the most sense of the flow of the narrative and the grammar of the text. It is the grammar of the text that has caught my eye most recently and is one reason I hesitate to take the Sethite view. Namely, Moses references “man” or “humankind” (אָדָם) eight different times in 6:1–7. The usage consistently aims to describe the entire human race, not one narrow slice of humanity.

Now, why does this present a problem for the Sethite view? Those who understand the “sons of God” to be descendants of Seth believe these men are marrying women who are in the line of Cain (“daughters of man”). Moses, according to this view, is showing what happens when the line of promise mixes with Cain’s line. Furthermore, this view means the usage of אָדָם in 6:2 and 6:4 is not a reference to all of humanity but narrows in on the line of Cain only.

Again, why is that a problem? I believe one reason this is a problematic reading is because Moses consistently used אָדָם (“man”) to refer to universal humanity in Genesis 6. His point is to show the universality of sin and therefore help readers make sense of the universal judgment of God that comes via the flood. To see, then, the use of אָדָם (“man”) in this flow of thought as limited to one slice of humanity (i.e., the descendants of Cain) would introduce an idea that seems out of place. It would require us to read the text this way: 

When [all of humanity] began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the [daughters of Cain] were attractive. And they took as their wives any [of the daughters of Cain] they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in [all of humanity] forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the [daughters of Cain] and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of [all of humanity] was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made [all of humanity] on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out [all of humanity] whom I have created from the face of the land, [all of humanity] and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:1–8).

Perhaps Moses is trying to show his readers that the intermarrying of the descendants of Seth and Cain led to a spiral downwards into such levels of sin that warranted the flood of God’s judgement. Yet, what clues would cause us to read אָדָם as narrowing in on the line of Cain when the passage consistently uses אָדָם to paint a picture of universal humanity? And universal human sin is the particular problem Moses is highlighting and the coming flood will deal with. It seems we would need more, or at least clearer, grammatical warrant to adopt a reading that understands two uses of אָדָם (“man”) in the middle of a narrative (6:2, 4) to move from universal (mankind) to a more narrow referent (line of Cain). Despite the biblical-theological reading that argues for the Sethite view, as theologically interesting as that reading may be, we must not jettison commitment to the grammar of a text.

Instead, it seems to me the best reading sees every use of אָדָם (“man”) as a reference to the totality of humankind. Thus, all the families of the earth are multiplying. The “sons of God” found women attractive and married them. These demonic forces (fallen angels) are involved in leading the totality of humanity away from God, just as the Serpent had led Adam and Eve to rebel. The whole human race has spiraled downward. Sin abounds. God is grieved. Judgment is coming. And it is coming to every slice of the human race for all have sinned (cf. Gen 6:7; Rom 3:23). Only God’s mercy allows Noah to escape via the ark he is commanded to prepare.

Admittedly, these questions are complex and the Sethite view is a plausible (and faithful) reading of the Genesis account. In the end, whether you see “sons of God” as descendants of Seth, fallen angels, or you take some other view, the overall point seems clear. Southern Seminary professor, Dr. Bill Cook, states the matter succinctly:

Of course, I may be wrong, and the Sethite interpretation may be correct after all. I certainly grant that the ancient view seems strange to our modern ears. But since Peter and Jude both appear to have held it, it seems to me the best interpretation of Genesis 6:1–4. Regardless of which interpretation is correct, though, the main point is plain: humanity was falling deeper and deeper into sin and running farther and farther away from God.

In light of the pervasiveness of human sin, the text sends us to our knees. We all, like mankind before us, have turned aside and gone our own way (Rom 3:12, 23). Therefore, we are humbled to the dust. 

And yet, Genesis 6 reminds us that though sin abounds, the grace of God abounds all the more. Noah builds an ark that saves all who take refuge within. Thousands of years later, God provides another ark of salvation. That latter ark is not a boat made of wood but a person who carries a wooden cross and dies a substitutionary-atoning death for all those who would turn from sin and trust in him. Thus, like those who found refuge in Noah’s ark and were saved from the waters of judgment, those who come to Jesus are brought through the waters of judgment and saved from wrath of God (cf. 1 Pet 3:18–22).