Acts 2:42-47

This pericope provides a general description of the ideal characteristics and behaviour of the earliest Christian community. It also serves as an introduction to the next few chapters that go into more detail on the early church in Jerusalem (probably through to 6:7). There are no specific details given in this introduction for example about which believers were involved or how many believers were being added. This is in contrast to the pericopes immediately before and after that do contain more details along these lines. We know from later in Acts that what is being described in general terms here occurs in specific cases (4:36-37) and that not all members of the community shared the same motivations and ideals (Ch 5).

This Christian community being described is unique in that it is closest in space and time to Jesus’ teaching and ministry. The promised gift of the Holy Spirit had just arrived, and the community was directly benefiting from the teaching and signs done by the Apostles – those directly commissioned by Jesus (1:8). The community was only just forming, hence possibly also the need to be meeting together as frequently as they were. This community is also distinguished by its unique relationship to Judaism, as the author Luke is careful to show the connection as the believers continue to meet in the temple courts and follow practices such as prayers and fellowship familiar to Jews.

Contemporary Christians should not expect to experience the same wonders and signs, as these were done by the Apostles. We should not expect the same favour of the people, as this was likely influenced by the relationship of Christianity to Judaism. We should not expect the same numerical growth, as this was God’s work (v47).

However, given this is an ideal Christian community, we should seek to emulate the behaviour and characteristics which we see reinforced throughout the New Testament e.g. devotion to apostles teaching, fellowship/unity of believers, prayer and worship. And given that the gift of the Holy Spirit is normative for all Christians (2:38-39), we should expect Christian communities to display distinctive signs of the presence and power of God, and we should not expect to be able to limit or control the expression of that Spirit, as long as it’s consistent with expressions we see in the rest of the New Testament.


Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. Vol. 26. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.
Thompson, Alan. One Lord, One People : The Unity of the Church in Acts in Its Literary Setting. London, GBR: T & T Clark International, 2008.

An outline of Mark’s references to Jesus’ self awareness of the nature and purpose of his death

  • 2:5-7. Jesus forgave sins. Only God can do that. The Old Testament presents a model of forgiveness of sins associated with a sacrifice. I think Jesus here is foreshadowing the sacrifice of himself for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 7:27).
  • 2:20. Jesus expects to be taken away from his disciples, in circumstances causing fasting/grief.
  • 8:31, 9:31, 10:33. Jesus expects that he will die and rise again.
  • 8:33. 14:36. Jesus taught that the path he was on towards death and resurrection was God’s will.
  • 8:34-38. He taught that his act of sacrifice and losing his life was a pattern/path for believers to follow
  • 9:1, 14:25, 14:62. Jesus expects that through/after his resurrection that he would come into the kingdom of God in some kind of fuller/more powerful way
  • 10:33. Jesus expected to be betrayed by his own, condemned by Jews and killed by Gentiles.
  • 10:45. Jesus taught that giving his life would be an act of service and function as means of a random.
  • 14:8. Jesus told them that is good to prepare for his burial.
  • 14:22-25. Jesus taught that his life would be ‘poured out’ for many.

1 Kings 11

Despite enjoying peace and prosperity (wisdom, wealth, and wives) as blessings from God, Solomon breaks the covenant with his attitude and actions incurring the just (but merciful) punishment of God.

Purpose (my reflections):

  • Consequences for disobedience are real. The stakes are high. God is serious. Sin is punished
  • Attitude and action maketh the man
  • Even the greatest splendor without God is a filthy worthless rag (What does it profit a man to gain the world but forfeit his soul?)

Supporting points:

God is crystal-clear in the Solomonic covenant (1 Kings 9:1-9): Walk before God as David did and be forever blessed, or disobey and follow other gods and incur disaster. On the surface, chapters 9-10 describe the peak of Solomon’s reign. But there are lots of ways his reign is less than ideal e.g. selling off Israelite towns to the king of Tyre (1:10-11); Solomon’s great splendor in chapter 10, rather than God’s; Solomon explicitly acts contrary to Deut 17 e.g. accumulating gold and horses.

Despite growing wealthy, his spiritual poverty begins to show itself more clearly. Solomon’s many forbidden wives appear to be the most significant influence in his spiritual degeneration. We see the extent of Solomon’s apostacy in building multiple high places for their/his ‘detestable’ gods (v5-8).

It is interesting to consider the different ways the author describes Solomon’s state of sin – his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD as was David (4), Solomon did evil, did not follow the LORD (6), his heart turned away from the LORD (9), his attitude (11). From this we see something of the complex interplay between heart and hand, attitude and action. As public statesman and representative of God’s rule, obviously his actions are significant. But the heart of the matter is the state of his heart. His wives turn his heart from God, as his heart then turns him towards evil action.

Solomon’s heart turned from God points to his failure in keeping the greatest (most fundamental) commandment – Love God with ALL your heart (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37). Jesus makes this standard of heart orientation our standard as well.

David is the model against which Solomon is compared (6, 13), and significantly, it is for the sake of David that the kingship of Solomon will continue at all. That the kingdom is to be torn away is no surprise (i.e. 1 Kings 9:6-9). And note that God’s punishment is prophetic, showing both the mercy of God in delaying the impact of the punishment, but also divine providence of God his his control of events into the future.


  • Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings, TOTC 9 (Leicester: IVP, 1993), 134–136
  • Iain W. Provan, 1&2 Kings, NIBC/UBCS 7 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), 91–93

2 Samuel 7

Main point
The sovereign almighty LORD does not need or want David to build him a house. Instead, God will build his own house (13) through the house he will build for David (11b).

Main purpose
God does not need man, but we need God, and he has already done, and will do, all we need (cf. Acts 17:24-31). So let’s join with David in praising Him and praying, ‘Your will be done’.

Supporting argument
David has reached a point of rest and reflection in his reign. He is established as king, he has claimed the capital, built a palace for himself, defeated the Philistines, had children, and successfully brought the ark of God into Jerusalem (2 Sam 5-6). Understandably and for seemingly good reasons, David considers building a house for God (consider Deuteronomy 12, particularly v10-11). Although David was supported initially by Nathan and not reprimanded by God, it is possible that David’s motivations reflect the influence of other near Eastern kings in devoting national resources to building temples for their gods (3).

The message from God is that the development of His relationship with his covenant people has always been based on His agenda, initiative and activity. God lets David down gently – David’s plan is rejected, but his person is not (2). God is already at work towards establishing a house for himself. God does not need David to construct an impressive but lifeless building – God is building a living house in the life of David himself (3). The 2nd part of God’s response is his establishment of a covenant with David, which forms the basis of a lasting dynasty of blessing under God’s kingship that finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God promises David that he will make his name great (v9b), provide him a place for his people (v10), and provide rest (v11). In the structure of these promises, the lack of apparent obligations on David’s behalf, and David’s response of simple sure belief, this covenant appears to be a new formulation of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Gen 12:3, 15:6).

God promises that a descendant of David will build a house for God (which David’s son Solomon does) and God will establish his kingdom forever. It is important to note though that it is clearly a kingdom under God, as God establishes the throne, the king is the son, and God is the father (14). Verse 14b-15 anticipate the reality of the history of the Israelite nation from the point of Solomon’s decline, that although God’s love never failed, the people of God brought on themselves the punishment of God through other nations. It is not surprising then that these promises of God were understood as future messianic promises (e.g. Jeremiah 33:14ff, Isaiah 11ff). And clearly from the time of the New Testament on, v12-16 are understood as substantially referring to Jesus (3) – see Acts 13:22-23, Matt 1:17.

David offers a humble, dependent, trusting response in v18-29 – who am I? what more can I say? How great you are! You are God! This is a great model of humility from the one whom God uses as the one to represent all the positive and beneficial aspects of kingship through the rest of scripture (1). David’s prayer connects the kingship of God and the promises he has fulfilled in the past for the people of Israel, with the promises and work of God into the future through himself. I love the way that David prays God’s will back to him, aligning his will to the will of God, and claiming God’s promises as his own. David response expresses the right belief that these are promises from God, fulfilled through God, for the praise of God.

(1) Mary J. Evans, 1 & 2 Samuel, NIBC/UBCS 6 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2000), 245–252.
(2) Robert P. Gordon, 1 and 2 Samuel, LBI (Exeter: Paternoster, 1986), 235–242.
(3) Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, NAC 7 (Nashville: Boradman & Holman, 1996), 334–345.

Mark 13 summary

In verses 1-23 Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and describes the signs of the end of the age. The disciples ask the obvious question – when will this happen, and what will be the signs beforehand so that we can be prepared? In a parallel passage in Matt 24, the disciples ask more specifically regarding the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age. It may be that the disciples considered these things closely related. In Jesus’ response, he indicates that the destruction of the temple will be one of the signs of the end times, along with natural disasters and political events such as wars. Another sign is the persecution of Christians as the gospel is preached to all nations. The destruction of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple, which occurred at least in one form in AD 70 (see also Luke 21:20), is another significant sign not only because it was a period of unequaled distress, but because it represents a decisive end to the Jewish temple period. Jesus cleared the temple in Mark 11, foreshadowing the significance of his once-for-all sacrificial death for our sins replacing the role of the temple in mediating our relationship with God. And now, the physical temple itself is removed by Roman powers. Another significant sign of the end times that brackets Jesus’ discourse is that of false prophets (5, 22). Perhaps it’s not actually that surprising that within the visible church, those looking for to Christ’ return might be susceptible to believing in false prophets. Significantly, all the signs of the end times have occurred, and had already occurred, at least once, within the generation after Jesus.

Verses 24-17 describe the end of the end times, when Jesus returns. These verses concern Christ’s future public visible return at end of human history. From the earthly physical birth pains (7-9) to the heavenly reality of the son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. There will be a sudden gathering of the elect (cf. Luke 21:28 which adds a distinctly uplifting feel as the elect lift their heads because redemption is drawing near).

Verses 28-37 form the conclusion and summary. The main application that Jesus appears to want to impart to the disciples is to watch out, be alert, and be ready for not only the end times, but the end itself. Whilst the timing of these things is unknown, the signs have already all happened (the twigs are tender), the Son of Man will return and what Jesus has spoken of will surely come to pass (v31). Matt 24-25 graphically fleshes out the tragic consequences for not being ready (Matt 24:51, 25:30, 25:46). I’m reminded of Jesus words in Rev 22 where four times he says that he is coming soon – clearly this is an important truth meant to guide how we live now. The idea of being alert and keeping watch is quite active. That is, we are to keep working at our assigned tasks (v34), which is preaching and living out the gospel.

Finally, it is helpful to consider the overall purpose of Mark in including this discourse of Jesus. Whether Mark wrote before or after the siege of Jerusalem took place, the world for Jewish Christians was not a pleasant place to be. This passage does not incite idle speculation about the end times. Instead, it teaches the plain reality of the end times experience and encourages the believer to stand firm till the end, watching out and living expectantly of Christ’s return.


  • David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: The Gospels and Acts. Vol. 1. Second Edition. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011), 118–120 and 173
  • Craig L Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. 2nd Edition. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 375–381
  • Larry W. Hurtado, Mark, NIBC 2. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2989), 211-220Garland, David E. Mark. The NIV Application Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House), 1996.

Hannah’s song: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Main point

Hannah delights in Gods deliverance her from her trials and looks forward to the way God’s anointed king will deliver all that are on the LORD’s side.

Main purpose

Let the hearer draw nearer to God in praise and thankfulness because God is powerful and purposeful. We are to serve him with humility and trusting obedience.

Supporting argument

Despite Elkanah and Hannah’s faithful obedience (1:3), God had closed Hannah’s womb, reminiscent of God’s dealings with the patriarch’s wives. Hannah brings her personal grief and desperation before the Lord Almighty (1:11). God allows her grief, her honesty, her boldness, and her bargaining. In her distress in asking for a son she foreshadows Israel in it’s distress in asking for a king (1 Samuel 8:19-20). God knew that Hannah would faithfully keep up her end of the bargain – she had 3 years to change her mind, to weaken in her resolve, to love man more than God, but she proved faithful and dedicated her son’s life to God just as she had promised. Hannah, Elkanah and Samuel’s humble, thankful characters are contrasted with those of Eli’s wicked sons. Hannah’s obedience and faithfulness in keeping her promises is also contrasted with the unfaithful Israelites in the book of Judges.

As God works through Hannah’s suffering to bring about his good purposes, Hannah’s private grief before God (1:13) turns to public praise (2:1-10). The birth of a child to a barren woman is cause enough for celebration. But Hannah’s joy is not ultimately in the way God has blessed her, but in God.The shape of Hannah’s prayer of praise shifts from personal experience (‘my’, ‘my’, ‘my’) (1-3), to God’s general rule over creation (4-8), to looking forward to God’s full and complete rule over the earth through his anointed king (9-10). As Hannah’s horn is lifted up in verse one, illustrating God’s deliverance in providing a son, Hannah prophetically looks forward to God’s anointed king having his horn exalted, picturing his rule over the earth with power and strength (9b – 10).

Hannah’s prayer of praise moves the story of God’s chosen people from being king-less, oppressed and powerless at end of Judges, towards the reinstatement of God’s chosen people under his kingship in 1 Samuel. Fittingly, Hannah prophesies a king as she dedicates her son who will be a prophet establishing Israel’s kingship under God. The ‘king’ being prophesied here was expected from Judah’s tribe (Gen 49:10), anticipated clearly in Deut 17:14-20, failed to emerge during the time of Judges (Judges 9), and at least partially realised through the reign of David (2 Samuel 22). However Hannah’s song of praise looks forward further still as it provides a source of inspiration for both Mary and Zechariah’s songs in Luke 1, as they point to God’s ultimate saving/delivering/redeeming work in Christ as the ‘horn of salvation’ and the fulfillment of the holy covenant between God and his chosen people (Luke 1:69-75). This act of micro-salvation from God for Hannah then looks forward to his plans for macro-salvation in a king, and then ultimately in Jesus Christ.


  • Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2000), 22–27.
  • Mary J. Evans, 1 & 2 Samuel, NIBC/UBCS 6 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2000), 39–42.
  • Robert Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel. Vol. 7. The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 74-77.
  • Robert P. Gordon, 1 and 2 Samuel (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1984), 25-26.
  • Walter A. Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, IBC (Louisville: John Knox, 1990), 15–21.

God’s kingdom

When does the kingdom come?

I understand the kingdom to be God’s activity in the world, and so I think God’s kingdom came with creation. God reigns as king over all (Ps 97:1). However God’s kingship was rejected in the fall and the ongoing sinfulness of humanity ever since. God re-established his kingship with the people of Israel (Is 43:15) and installed human kings (or ‘regents’) to act as leaders of God’s kingdom on God’s behalf (1 Samuel 10:1). However God always had a better kingship planned. Daniel (7:13-14) looks forward to a better eternal kingdom with a king reigning with all power and authority. It is Jesus’ incarnation that inaugurates this full and final kingdom period – which we might distinguish as the kingdom of Jesus. Matthew ch1 shows Jesus arriving on the scene as the Christ king from the line of David. Jesus himself announces in Mark 1:15 that the Kingdom of God is now near, in time and space, in Jesus’ physical presence, and in his death and resurrection, as historical events in the world. As Blomberg puts it, the kingdom that comes with Jesus is “the in-breaking of God into history to realize his redemptive purposes”. Jesus appears to have come more completely into his kingdom after his death (Luke 23:42-43). So the kingdom came in the past in creation, but was re-inaugurated in the incarnation of Christ, and will be completely established in the future (the kingdom is clearly still growing i.e. Matt 13), in new creation (Rev 21-22) – from one garden (Gen 2) to another (Rev 22:1-5). The kingdom is progressively coming through all of human history.

Where is the kingdom?

God’s kingdom is both a reign (subjective experience) and a realm (objective reality). It is an objective reality now in the heavenly realms where God has and always will reign, and will be most objectively real for us in the future when Christ returns, brining his inaugurated reign that he started in his incarnation to completion in the new creation. It is also a subjective experience of God’s reign though as it is entered into through each persons repentance and belief (Mark 1:15). It is manifested through the normal experience and expression of Christian life (Rom 14:17, 1 Cor 4:20). Every believer by virtue of being a follower of Jesus is an outpost or local expression of the kingdom of Jesus. The kingdom has a real place now in this creation then as God’s will is done (Matt 6:10), both subjectively and objectively. The kingdom is corporately embodied in the physical manifestation of the community of believers as the church. More than that, the kingdom of God is the possession of believers (Luke 12:32) and believers proclaim and extend the kingdom through preaching and witnessing to Christ in this world (Acts 1:6-8, 28:30-31).


  • Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 448–452
  • Wenham & Walton, Exploring the NT, 170–180
  • Graeme Goldsworthy, ‘Kingdom of God’, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 615–620
  • Joel Green, ‘Kingdom of God/Heaven’, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2nd ed.), 468–481

Following Jesus based on Mark 8:22–10:52

There are two main categories of Jesus’ disciples:

  1. those from the 1st century who physically followed Jesus during his earthly ministry; and
  2. all other Christians.

Within the first category, we might distinguish between the 12 disciples specifically called by Jesus to be leaders of other disciples (Mark 3:13). However there is very little in Mark’s gospel to suggest any further distinctions.

All would-be disciples, whether physical followers or not, must meet 2 requirements, according to Mark’s gospel: give up their old lives; and follow Jesus (8:34). (1)

Jesus’ teaching on discipleship used broad inclusive language (See uses of ‘whoever’ e.g. 8:34f.; 9:35, 37, 41, 42). (2) The early church in Acts considered all those who confessed Jesus as the Messiah to be a disciple (Acts 11:26), so we can consider the words disciple and Christian (‘follower of Jesus’) as synonymous.

Some further observations on discipleship from Mark’s gospel:

Discipleship is cross-based. The best explanation for the apparent ‘messianic secret’ in Mark’s gospel is that Jesus wants his followers to know him for who he really is, not just a miracle worker, healer or teacher. DeSilva links Jesus’ 3 messianic predictions of his death in Mark’s gospel with Jesus teaching on discipleship (8:31-38, 9:31-50, 10:32-45). That is, Jesus’ death and what it means to be a disciple are intrinsically linked. (3) It’s only when we know Jesus as the suffering Saviour Messiah, who died and rose again, that we can be a true disciple.

Discipleship requires self renunciation. (4) This is the heart of the message of 8:34-36. This is not necessarily about giving up material possessions or suffering physically for Christ, but its giving up the right to direct our own lives now, so that we might share in the glory of the Father when Jesus returns. As the example of the rich young man in Mark 10 further illustrates, wealth in this life (whether material or not) can not credit you anything towards entering the kingdom of God. Discipleship is nothing about your own achievements now, but all about the master whom you are following. Mark 8:35 cannot make the argument any stronger – your achievements are worth so little that we are to lose our life entirely to Jesus and the gospel now, in order to gain life in Christ.

Discipleship is modeling Jesus. As Jesus modeled ultimate servanthood (9:35, 10:42-45), disciples of Jesus are to strive to show the same attitude of servanthood, humility, and love for others.

The gospel of Jesus is the best investment you can make. Although Jesus was speaking directly to his disciples in Mark 10:29-31, it appears as though Jesus was teaching a general principle that you can never fail to reap an abundant return, even in this life now, for investing with your life now in the gospel of Jesus. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 10:10 here – Jesus comes that we may have life to the full; and consider also Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he says we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. This is the abundant return from the gospel now, and in the life to come.

Discipleship is a process. Disciples receive the kingdom of God with faith like a child (10:15,52), even if sometimes mixed with doubts (9:24). Sometimes disciples can believe the truth (Peter in Mark 8:29-20) but fail to live it out (8:33). Mark 9:42-50 suggests that disciples are involved in an ongoing process of putting sin to death in their life. The consequences of sin is hell, and there is therefore no cost too great to avoid sin now, which is all part of the discipling process.
Wilkins summary is excellent:

“The disciple who is privileged to be a member of Jesus’ kingdom is a servant, which means thinking God’s thoughts (Mk 8:31–33), pursuing the life of the cross (Mk 8:34–38) through the message (Mk 9:1–8) and example of Jesus (Mk 9:9–32), and thus rejecting status (Mk 9:33–37), exclusivism (Mk 9:38–10:16) and the treasures of this world (Mk 10:17–31).” (1)


(1) M. J. Wilkins, “Disciples and Discipleship,” ed. Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown, and Nicholas Perrin, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; IVP, 2013), 204-209.
(2) David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: The Gospels and Acts (vol. 1, Second Edition.; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011), 215.
(3) David Arthur deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 202-204.
(4) Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition.; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 323–324.

Judges 3

Main point:

God is following through with his promised consequences for disobedience from Deuteronomy (e.g. Ch 28-33). However he is also following through with his covenant promises originally made to Abraham, and so God continues to graciously raise up deliverers to save his people when they cry out for help. The main character and hero of the story is God.

Main purpose:

Warning against disobedience and unfaithfulness. And an encouragement to trust in the loving, faithful, promise-keeping God who wins each victory.

Supporting argument:

The book of Judges is a theological text. Despite it’s concern with Israel’s history in the promised land, it is God’s imperatives that direct the action as God orders the activities of the nations, and initiates the testing of the Israelites faithfulness (2:21-23). Judges clearly connects to the biblical narrative of what has gone before, with Judges 1:1 looking back to Joshua’s faithful conquest of the land and the period of obedience (Judges 2:7), and the final verse of Judges (21:25) looking forward to the impending period of the Israelite kings. In this way, Judges is an important connecting book showing the development of God’s salvation history, continuing the tensions from the patriarchal period of seeing the promises of God under threat in the promised land, and showing the link between God’s Abrahamic promises of people, place and blessing finding their fulfillment in the establishment of the physical kingdom of Israel in the promised land (1 Kgs. 4:20-25). (2)

Judges is to be read in the context of knowing that Israel has already failed to live up to it’s covenant promises. Ch 2 outlines the failure of the Israelites and how God is going to respond in judgment and testing. It is God who chooses to not drive out the people, and to use the nations that remain as a test (2:22-23). But the test is not for God’s sake, but for the people, to reveal to them the extent of their fidelity to God (1). There are real consequences for the Israelites failures. Their evil actions really result in divine curses. However Judges is not the story of Israel’s failure (their failure is already made clear to the reader in Ch 2), but the story of God’s continued faithfulness, grace and deliverance.

Ch 3 contains 3 of the Judge stories that continue through most of the rest of the book. Each story generally follows a pattern of “apostasy, subjugation, appeal, the raising up of a deliverer, peace”. (2) From Othniel, a well credentialed, proven military leader from the tribe of Judah; to Ehud the left-hand deceitful assassin from the tribe of Benjamin; to Shamgar, an ox driver (?), possibly not even an Israelite. God’s means of deliverance varies as he works through unexpected people, making the point that it is God’s work of deliverance. Even Othniel, the judge with the strongest pedigree, gets no credit himself but his credentials are that God raised him up and gave him his spirit (3:9-10).

A few of the judges are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as part of the summary of faithful biblical characters who have played a part in God’s salvation history. Again though, the point of these characters is not that they are exemplary examples to follow, but that the one in whom they put their faith is faithful. God works through flawed individual characters and an entire nation of disobedient unworthy recipients of grace to bring about the ultimate expression of salvation and blessing to all people through Christ (Heb 11:39-40, 12:2).

(1) Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth (vol. 6; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 139-147.

(2) Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 156–178.
(3) Andrew E. Hill,  A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

The title ‘Son of God’ in Mark’s gospel

The title and concept of ‘Son of God’ can have different meanings depending on the context – it can refer to exalted men (Gen. 6:2), angels (Job 1:6), all of Israel (Ex 4:22-23), or a unique descendant of David who would reign forever as God’s king (2 Sam. 7:12-14). In intertestamental times, the title came to anticipate a messianic eschatological redeemer of God (1).

Jesus’ original hearers would not have understand the title as declaring Jesus as God’s ontological equal, one part of the triune godhead (this understanding only developed after the resurrection (2)), however it would have been understood as a way of suggesting Jesus’ significant role and relationship to God. Bateman links ‘Christ’, ‘Son of David’, ‘Son of God’ and other similar phrases as parallel and complementary titles used in this Jewish context to point to Jesus’ messianic function, his pine authentication, commissioning and empowering by God (without arguing that the titles constitute claims of deity). (3)

Mark does not record many uses of the title ‘Son of God’ but it is a significant concept arising at key points in the gospel; from the introduction (which according to Wasserman most likely includes title ‘Son of God’ (4)), to Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration (1:11, 9:7), used by evil spirits to challenge Jesus (3:11, 5:7), through parabolic usage (12:6) and eschatological discourse (13:32), to the accusation by the high priest (14:61) and the declaration by the centurion (15:39). The use of the title ‘Son of God’ by the centurion at the cross is significant. Although the centurion’s statement could grammatically be taken as ‘a son of God’, it makes more sense to me that Mark intended this declaration at the cross as the highpoint of the revelation of Jesus as God’s son who takes away the sin of the world, being therefore a statement of pine identity, beyond what the gentile centurion himself could comprehend. (5)

Leim argues that for Mark, Jesus embodies multiple OT figures and hopes such that it is the combined picture that is summed up in the title ‘Son of God’ that does bind Jesus pine identity with God (4). It is possible then given the way Mark uses the title to complement the rich picture of Jesus he is presenting, that Mark’s original audience understood the title as supporting the claim of the gospel authors of Jesus’ deity.


(1) James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 482-483.

(2) Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition.; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009), 473-474.

(3) Herbert W. Bateman IV, ‘Defining the Titles “Christ” and “Son of God” in Mark’s Narrative Presentation of Jesus’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50.3 (2007): 537–559.

(4) Tommy Wasserman, “The ‘Son of God’ Was in the Beginning (Mark 1:1),” Journal of Theological Studies 62 (2011): 20–50.

(5) Peter K. Stevenson, “The Crucified God: Mark 15:25-39,” Direction 41, no. 1 (2012): 148–64.

(6) Joshua E. Leim, “In the Glory of His Father: Intertextuality and the Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of Mark,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 7, no. 2 (2013): 213–32.

Dan McClellan, “Son of God,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Joshua 2

Main point:

God has promised the land, God has prepared the land (e.g. people melting in fear), God will give the land as a possession, all as part of his purposeful work to fulfill his promises of land and people (e.g. Rahab as the first Canannite convert).

Main purpose:

We are to respond in faithful obedience; like the spies confidently working in cooperation with God’s purposes, and like Rahab recognizing the supreme sovereignty of God and submitting to His authority.

Supporting argument:

Joshua starts very positively, opening in chapter 1 with great promises by God to his people of land and success based on obedience (1:7). Joshua responds obediently (1:10-11), and the people respond obediently as well (1:16-18). The spies were confident in God’s promises (2:14, 24) unlike the spies of 40 years earlier (Num 13). What could improve on this? The answer – the faith of Rahab. The story of the faith of Rahab in Ch2 serves to both illustrate the validity of the promises of God (e.g. confirms that a great fear has fallen on the people of Jericho), and look forwards towards an expansion of the people of God to include both Jews and gentiles. “(Rahab’s) presence in the book of Joshua is a positive feature, displaying the outworkings of the Abrahamic covenant, God’s inclusive interest in all who would confess him as sovereign Lord, and his providential care for his own people.”(6) Rahab was a woman of a vibrant faith in action (Heb 11:31 and Jam 2:25), putting native-born Israelites to shame (1, 2), implying the justification of the condemnation of the Canaanite people for not sharing her faith (3), and ‘earning’ a place in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5). Rahab’s declaration of faith was personal and confident (‘I know’), specific (‘the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below’) and unconditional. It does not appear that the spies had sexual relations with Rahab as there is no hint of condemnation for their actions. Staying with a prostitute may have been a good way of gathering information about Jericho and function as a suitable place to stay without raising suspicion (4). Interestingly, although the Israelites were expressly forbidden from making covenants with the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-6), it appears as though Rahab’s expression of faith in God justified a covenant with her to save her family’s life. The declaration of the spies in 2:24 shows their confidence in a promise-keeping God and looks back to the song of Moses in Ex 15:13-15 as it looks as though God is causing those prophetic words to come true.


(1) Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Third.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 61.
(2) R. J. D. Knauth, “Alien, Foreign Resident,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 31.
(3) Philip Satterthwaite and Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament: The Histories (vol. 2; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 42–43.
(4) John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jos 2:1.
(5) Brenda Heyink, “Prostitution,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).
(6) David M. Howard Jr., Joshua (vol. 5; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 78-112

Applying the 10 Commandments to modern Christians

You shall not murder

This law is applicable to modern Christians because it was well established before the 10 commandments (Gen 4:10-11, 9:6) and is continued into the New Testament (Matt 5:21-26, Romans 13:9).

This is a law against the willful taking of life, and perhaps also against negligence or carelessness resulting in death. For the modern Christian, this is a law against disregarding God’s design for living in a peaceful society (Romans 12:18).This is a law against rejecting the rule of the creator God by claiming authority over life that only God rightly has.

But perhaps most significantly, it is a law against an attitude of the heart that does not love others (See Matt 5:21-26). That is, if ‘you shall not murder’ is the negative command, the New Testament clearly makes the positive version of the same command to be ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Romans 13:9). For modern Christians, the law to not murder is trumped and fulfilled in Jesus’ teaching to love others (Matt 7:12).

You shall not steal

This is a law against taking what is not yours. This law has a horizontal aspect of not taking from other people, but also a vertical aspect of not taking for yoursself things that God hasn’t given you. That is, it is a sin of rebelling against the rule of God and not trusting in his provision.

For a modern Christian, it is not always easy to identify when something is stealing. For example, accessing another persons information or creative work on the internet, or cleverly structuring your finances to reduce your amount of income tax payable. The legal system is not necessarily a clear guide either as it struggles to keep pace with technological change.

Paul argues in Romans 13:9 that this command is summed up in the one rule of loving your neighbour as ourself. That is, “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10, and see Jesus comments in Matt 7:12). It is not enough then for us just not take from others, but we are to love others in actively pursuing their best interests (1 Thess 5:15).

So perhaps a good guide to inform how well we are keeping this command is not to ask the question “is this stealing?” but instead to ask “Am I acting in a way that seeks the best interests of the other party” – whether that be in regards to property, your investment of time, or your resources etc.

To seek the best interests of others always is also a way to guide your heart against failing to trust in God’s provision, as it takes your focus away from your own perceived needs and directs you to act in response to others needs first.

Interpreting parables and Luke 15

Parables are brief metaphorical narratives that have two levels of meaning (1). My guidelines for interpreting parables from the synoptic gospels are:

  1. Understand the parable as a simple story designed to be easily understood by a 1st Century audience (‘1st level’ of meaning)
  2. Look for anything in the simple story that might be unusual or challenging for this original audience. This may be a clue to the ‘2nd meaning’.
  3. Look at the context of the parable for hints as to how to understand. For example, is any explanation given? Is the parable in response to a question? How did the original audience respond?
  4. Consider the main characters of the story. Is there something to be learnt from each character? Is there a ‘master’ character that might consolidate what you learn from each subordinate character?
  5. Develop an understanding of the main point of the parable
  6. Check how this understanding fits within and supports the overall message of the Gospel
  7. Think about ways to apply this understanding of the parable to yourself

Applied to parables in Luke 15:

  1. Everybody understands the experience of losing something of value, whether it’s property, resources or people.
  2. The sheep and the coin appear to be modest loses. The response of the man and the woman in finding what was lost appears to be excessive. The behaviour of the father in the Lost Son story is highly unusual according to the customs of that day. The father appears to be excessively gracious, compassionate and forgiving to the Lost Son.
  3. Jesus tells the parables to address the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’. To be lost is to be a sinner in need of repentance. Jesus implies from the first two parables that his listeners should be joining with the angels of God in heaven and rejoicing over sinners who repent (15:7,10).
  4. The man, woman and father all appear to represent God. We learn that God cares for those who are lost, seeks the lost, and is compassionate and forgiving when the lost are found. The Lost son is another main character who presents a lesson on repentance. The older brother character represents the point of view of the Pharisees and scribes who do not share God’s joy at the repentance of sinners
  5. God loves to welcome repentant sinners into his family. I think Jesus is presenting himself as being the agency of God in seeking and saving the lost.
  6. Jesus repeatedly taught that his mission was focused on seeking and saving the lost (Luke 4:18-21, 5:32, 19:10). Jesus also taught the importance of repentance (Luke 3:3, 15:7).
  7. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees who took no joy from repentant sinners. I am a repentant sinner myself. I should take more joy in God’s calling of me to repentance, as well as much joy from others who repent and turn to God. My ministry should be more closely reflective of Jesus’ ministry with an increased focus on those who are lost rather that just on those who are already found. Will I be a follower of Jesus with the attitude of the older brother, or will I adopt the attitude of the outrageous radical loving Father?

1. Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 299–309.
2. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 2014.
3. David A. deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, 337–342.
4. Garwood P. Anderson, ‘Parables’, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 650–663.

Exodus 3

Main point
God continues to fulfill his covenant promises to the people of Israel by revealing his redemptive plans, extending his self revelation, and graciously commissioning Moses as his emissary and prophet.

Main purpose
Know that God is the unparalleled and unbounded, faithful, gracious, almighty savior of his chosen people; and so we can confidently trust and obey.

Supporting argument

Fulfill his covenant promises –
God reveals himself to Moses as the God of the patriarchs (6) and instructs Moses to introduce him to the elders of Israel and the king of Egypt as the God of the patriarchs (15) and the God of the Hebrews (18). The words of God in Genesis 15 have come to pass – Abraham’s descendants have been enslaved for 400 years and God now needs to act to fulfill his promises of rescue (Gen 15:14) and in so doing, continue the process of fulfilling his promises to Abraham of people, blessing and land (Gen 12:3).

Revealing his redemptive plans –
God uses this promised redemptive act to extend the covenant promises established with the patriarchs. God promises to reveal not only his power to rescue (8), but also his compassion (7) and the comfort of his presence (12). God promises to not only bring his people up to the promised land, but to a “land flowing with milk and honey” (8), which is a picture of comfort and prosperity. God promises to not only powerfully rescue his people (20) but to cause the Egyptians to let them plunder them also (21-22).

Extending his self revelation –
In revealing his name to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’, God is revealing more of his nature and character. Of his nature, his name expresses the idea of being un-qualifiable, un-defineable, un-bounded by concepts that can be expressed in words – to say that God is anything is to bound his nature, and so the most fitting expression is just to say that ‘He is’ (‘He is’ is the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘Yahweh). Of God’s nature also, this self revelation declares his identity for all time and in being unbounded in nature, suggests that he is God for all people as well (15). Of his character, his name implies his presence with his people. i.e. ‘I am with you’ (Sailhammer, 246)

Graciously commissioning Moses –
After 40 years of shepherding in obscurity, God calls and commissions Moses to bring his people out of Egypt under God’s mighty hand (20). Whilst Moses is the lead human character in this story, Moses in his inadequacy and questioning appears to be a foil for revealing more of God. God graciously engages with Moses in conversation and answers Moses’ concerns. As we consider the character and experience of Moses, it is possible to learn something of how God chooses to work through human agents – we see God teaching Moses patience during his 40 years of shepherding; we see Moses learning humility and fear before a Holy God (6), we see the importance of a honest personal relationship with God prior to public ministry, and also see the primary importance of the presence and power of God in enabling humans to be his effective agents for his purposes. However the story is not ultimately about Moses (or us), but about God. As Hill argues, “The basic theological purpose of the book (of Exodus) is divine self-disclosure. God has not only remembered his covenant promises to the Hebrew patriarchs, but also has now revealed himself to Israel as Yahweh”.


Hill, Andrew E. A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).
Fretheim, Terence E. Exodus. (Louisville: John Knox, 1991).
Motyer, J. Alec. The Message of Exodus. (Leicester: IVP, 2005).
Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch as Narrative. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992).

Mark 2:18-22

This pericope, occurring within the middle of a pattern of five conflict stories, summaries the main idea at the heart of the emerging conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities – Jesus’ ministry is not another alternative solution for realising the hopes of the Jewish faith. Jesus’ ministry marks the beginning of a new means of relating to God that replaces and fulfills all that has gone before. Whilst the major strands of the Jewish faith (from the hyper-religiousness of the Pharisees to the guerilla warfare of the Zealots) focused on the external realities of the people of God relating to politics, geography, national identity and so forth, Jesus’ ministry focuses on the internal problem of sin; the problem is within rather than without.

Fasting, a typical sign of external religion, was a common practice within Judaism. Fasting can generally be understood as a means of seeking to attain grace under the Old Covenant. However under the ministry of Jesus we attain grace by receiving and believing in Him (John 1:12, 16-18). Jesus uses the picture of a wedding feast with himself as the bridegroom to capture the contrast between the administration under the old and new covenants.

(Verse 20 appears to be a separate idea, perhaps a later addition to the narrative, and an early allusion in Mark’s gospel to the passion of Jesus with fasting used as a literal expression of mourning).

The twin illustrations in vv21-22 express the idea that although the ministry of Jesus may appear similar (new cloth on old cloth, new wine in old wine skins), it is in fact compatible within the paradigm of the Old Covenant.

The original audience for this Gospel were Christians undergoing persecution by the Roman authorities for their faith. The story of Jesus’ conflict with the authorities along with the imagery of the abundant wedding feast with Jesus would have served as a message of great comfort to them in their time of need (1 Peter 4:13).


  • Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed. (Nottingham: Apollos, 2009)
  • James R. Edwards, The Pillar New Testament Commentary:The Gospel According to Mark (Eerdmans, 2002), 87–93.
  • David Garland, Mark (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 102–106.
  • William Lane, The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 107–113.
  • Robert Guelich, Mark 1:1–8:26 (Dallas: Word, 1989), 106–117.

Genesis 15

Main point
God is a gracious promise-making and promise-keeping God. His people are the undeserving recipients of his promised blessings.

Main purpose
Know that God is faithful and therefore respond in belief and obedience.

Supporting arguments
In chapter 14 we read about Abram’s military success, some hints at him bringing a blessing to the nations, and his demonstration of fidelity to God (and his priest). However chapter 15 opens with Abram in a pitiful and timid state, crying out to God for confirmation of his promised offspring (12:3, 7, 13:15).

Amidst the fear, the doubts, and the questioning from Abram, the overall impression from this chapter is that there is nothing particularly meritorious about Abram but for his believing the LORD in verse 6. It is to this undeserving recipient that God promises a very great reward (v1) in the form of innumerable offspring (v5) and an expansive and complete inheritance of land (v18-21) (The 10 people groups indicating a complete and whole number).

A plain reading of the chronology of the chapter suggests that God told Abram to look into the daytime sky to count the stars. If this was the case, then this adds another element to the belief of Abram; believe that God will provide innumerable offspring (as many stars in the sky), and, believe that God will do this despite an absence of any evidence (as the stars cannot be seen during the day).

Verse 6 functions as the fulcrum of the chapter, sitting between the promises of offspring and land, and making plain that Abram’s belief results in a right standing before God (credited as righteousness), which is the foundation upon which the covenant with Abram is established. It should be noted that Abram’s right standing then leads to expression and confirmation in his right living (Genesis 18:19, James 2:20-24), and ultimately serves as the platform for God’s blessing to the nations through the obedience of the nation of Israel. Note also that Abram was not the first to be credited righteousness through faith (Hebrews 11:7), but is recognised as being the model (or father) for all who believe in God, and ultimately in Christ, through faith (Romans 4:11-12, Gal 3:29).

A covenant ceremony of some kind, similar to that described in vv12-21, would have been a common practice of the ancient near East to bind parties to a long-term partnership. The precise meaning of each of the elements in the narrative is hard to determine due to a lack of direct corollary in either the Pentateuch or other writings from the same time period. However the one clear aspect of this covenant agreement is that it is God alone who binds himself to the covenant (Abram is in a deep sleep!), and in so doing, God binds himself to be responsible for delivering on all the promises of the covenant, ultimately fulfilled in the sacrificial death of the Son of God.

As it is God who initiates the covenant with Abram, God who binds himself to the terms of the covenant, and God alone who is able to fulfill the impossible promises of the covenant, it is the LORD God alone who should be believed and obeyed. How striking then are the sinful actions of Abram at the start of the very next chapter in believing the unsatisfied self-reliant urgings of his wife Sarai.


  • Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15 (Waco: Word, 1987), 322–335.
  • John H. Walton, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 420–423.
  • Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005)
  • Paul R Williamson, Abraham, Israel, and the Nations : The Patriarchal Promise and Its Covenantal Development in Genesis (Sheffield : Sheffield Academic Press,  2000), 260-267.
  • John E Hartley, Genesis (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series) (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), 240-253

Tower of Babel: Genesis 11:1-9

Summary point:
God’s people, in God’s world, God’s way.

Summary purpose:
Know your place, as God’s special chosen people, called out of the world, to honor and obey God.

Falling between genealogy accounts, this passage contributes an anachronistic explanation for the dispersion of people groups after the flood. The area where the Tower of Babel narrative occurs is mentioned in the preceding genealogy in Gen 10:10 as one of the emerging centres of people.

The error of the people in building a city and tower reaching to the heavens appears to be two-fold:

  1. They were disobeying the creation and post-flood mandates to fill and multiply on the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:7)
  2. They were attempting to be like God, and/or attempting to bring God down to humankind’s level, by building a tower that connects the earth to the heavens, the dwelling place of God

The narrative follows a similar pattern established throughout the earlier chapters of Genesis in revealing a God who deals with his disobedient creation in ways that show both his righteous judgment along with his grace. The pattern established usually involves sin, mitigation and then punishment, and varies in scope between individuals (Adam/Eve, Cain) to groups (Noah and his descendent’s).

In this story, the pattern reaches something of a climax, as God punishes ‘the whole world’ (Gen 11:1) for their sin by confusing their language and confounding their efforts. But by scattering the people over the face of the earth, He is also showing grace and providing a blessing to the ‘whole world’ by ensuring that His good purposes for humanity in multiplying and subduing his creation are realised.

The narrative clearly portrays God as the hero of the story. God matches their devious but complex plans by his own seemingly casual and simple act of language confusion. Twice the LORD is said to have scattered the people over the face of the earth. It is not that the people scatter, but that God scatters.

The story serves as a summary and conclusion to the theology and place of humanity in God’s world established in Genesis 1-11. It also serves as the context and launching point for the next stage of God’s history established through the Patriarchs and the founding of the nation of Israel. It is as though the lens on humanity focuses right out in chapter 11 to see the big picture of the ‘whole earth’ being directed by God to multiply and fill the earth, before focusing right back down from chapter 12 onto a single family line stemming from in Abram.

Andrew E. Hill, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 94.
John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Ge 10:1–32.
K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26 (vol. 1A; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 466.
W. Osborne, “Babel,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 73.

My summary of John’s Gospel

The key purpose of the Gospel of John is that those who read it might believe in who Jesus is (Messiah and Son of God), and by believing, have life in His name (John 20:31). Chapter 1 introduces this clear purpose as it outlines the main message of the Gospel (Believe in Jesus and become a child of God (v12)), as well as introduce all the key truths about Jesus which we must believe in order to be saved. That is, that Jesus is God (v1), God become man (v14), Son of God (v18), Christ/Messiah (v17), and Saviour (v29).

Alongside these grand and compelling truths about Jesus, the Gospel details the ministry of one who is deeply interested and invested in people. The Gospel contains a number of distinctive extended interactions between Jesus and both individuals (e.g. Nicodemus (ch3), the Samaritan woman(ch4)) and groups (the disciples (13-17), and “the Jews”).

Based on these truths about Jesus and the account of his life, the Gospel author John masterfully brings the thoughtful reader to a compelling choice – reject Him or receive Him. The one option that is not available to us is to remain indifferent to him (1).

Some other distinctive characteristics of this Gospel:

  • The clarity with which the divinity of Jesus is argued, not only in 1:1 but later in the “I am” phrases, clearly equating Jesus with the God of Israel (Exodus 3:14) (2).
  • The Gospel is full of repeated images, patterns, ideas and emphasis that all contribute to the strong and clear case for belief in Jesus as God. For example, Jesus calls us to drink from the well of life (Ch4) and eat the bread of life (Ch6), He calls us to walk in the light Ge provides (Ch8), and live in the vine (Ch15) which is Himself.
  • The dualism that emerges in the opening chapter and then continues throughout – light/darkness (1:5), life/death, in the world/not of the world, receive/reject etc (3).
  • Many familiar accounts from the other Gospels are absent (parables, the sermon on the mount, the transfiguration) yet Blomberg argues that “almost every distinctive passage in John finds at least short conceptual counterparts in one or a handful of much shorter Synoptic sayings somewhere”. (4)

As a Christian, it’s hard not to be be moved by Jesus’ prayer for all believers (me!) in Chapter 17, and then to be struck by the distinctly tender finish to the Gospel in chapter 21 as Jesus repeats the phrase ‘Peace be with you’, and then as Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples and charges Peter to ‘feed his lambs’.

As a slight aside, I was also struck by how John records the start of Jesus’ public ministry, by selecting the contrasting scenes of Him turning water into wine and then clearing the temple. Could you imagine a religious leader within the reformed evangelical tradition announcing their public ministry by promoting alcohol consumption, and then causing a public disturbance in a church meeting?

Structurally, there is a distinct beginning (1:1-19) and end (chapter 21), although chapter 21 may be a later addition (5). The Gospel opens and closes with Christ’s command to follow him (1:43, 21:19), again confirming the main purpose of the Gospel. I would divide the rest of the Gospel into 3 sections, split by Jesus’ long discourse with his disciples in chapters 13-17. The first section contains the main part of His earthly ministry and the latter section dealing with His arrest through to resurrection.

1. Elena Bosetti, John (n.p.: Pauline Books and Media, 2011), 8.
2. Joel Green, Jeannine Brown and Nicholas Perrin, ‘The Dialectical Theology Of John’, Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels (USA: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 2013), 400.
3. John Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel (New York:Oxford University Press, 2007), 387-418.
4 C. L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (2nd Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009) , 178.
5. Graham Stanton, The Gospels And Jesus (2nd ed.; n.p.: Oxford University Press, 2002), 98.

Bootcamp reflections

I had my first ‘face-to-face’ experience of Ridley College this weekend at their (our?) 24hr Bootcamp, to start the academic year, and welcome new students (like me).

It was just under 3hr drive to the campsite at Upper Plenty. I was one of maybe one or two others that had come to the Bootcamp as online students. I met one guy who had traveled all the way from Perth. Still, it didn’t stop every single person I met from commenting on how good it was that I had travelled down for the event.

I’m really glad I went. I think it will prove invaluable over the next few years to have real faces, personalities and stories behind the names and written words that I interact with online.

It was rewarding for me to connect with a number of people on a personal level, to get a better feel for what Ridley College is all about, both formally and the vibe of the place, and to have my heart stirred more broadly and bigg-ly to consider Christian ministry in general – the call to it, different expressions and experiences of it, different pathways etc.

I picked up on a few elements of what I think are aspects of Ridley college culture:

  • An emphasis on community – based on shared life experience of studying at College, a common faith, but also community as a way to account for what appears to be a fairly diverse collection of Christian denominations. (I had a few conversations where people commented how Ridley is keen to train anyone to equip them for Christian ministry, whether they are Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist (pentecostal?) etc).
  • I enjoyed the singing. I don’t know whether it’s particular to Ridley, or this particular group of people we had, or whether I could expect it generally at any Christian college, but everyone sang with so much enthusiasm and volume (regardless of singing ability). Sure, some of the voices weren’t great, but it was the combination of all the enthusiastic voices that actually created it’s own unique musical feel – even the off notes and the droning voices combined in a weird kind of mix with the pitch perfect voices to create a rich and intriguing harmony
  • Almost all the Faculty were there, and I bumped into a few of them assuming they were students. They seemed to all enjoy being part of the experience alongside the students. They all knew each other by name and had an obvious affection for each other.
  • There were a lot more females than I expected. There was at least as many female students there as males.
  • There was a lot of talk about ‘discernment’ – or rather, that word kept popping up – the year of discernment before one becomes a candidate within Melbourne Diocese, discerning the things that are disputable matters when Christian disagree, discerning what is best from amongst all the good choices for ministry etc.

I’m really not sure how I feel about on-campus college study now. I had some good conversations with people who encouraged me to consider it. Clearly it’s preferable in most ways for people going into full-time paid Christian ministry. But I don’t think it’s always the best way for everybody.

I think my two main reservations are; leaving currently life and ministry in Albury to pursue it (and all the drastic implications of that), and that I feel like I’m not done with my current professional career yet – there’s a few aspects I haven’t quite resolved, one of which is how to be an effective Christian in a secular workplace.

Reflections from Week 1 Old Testament foundations

Purpose and goal of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)

  1. orthodoxy: Right thinking
  2. orthopraxis: right action

It’s more than just that OT is fulfilled in Christ, but that the OT does not have the proper meaning if not seen in the light of Christ.

Need to be mindful of multiple authors and audiences of the Scripture. It is God and man, but human factors will influence how/what is written.

Genesis 1 was not designed and written to answer the question ‘how’ but ‘who’
Who: All powerful, singular, speaking, living, one true God

Genesis functions as an ancient apologetic with themes and messages counter to other creation narratives e.g. 1 God sovereign over all, humans the pinnacle of creation, global inclusion account rather than tied to particular people

To be made in God’s image is to be his representatives and to exert his rule under him. When we fail to rule under God, we fail to live up to our image (see Nebuchadnezzar humbled as a wild animal)

Model for interpreting the bible:

  1. Look up (prayer)
  2. look down (exegesis)
  3. look back and
  4. look forward (biblical theology)
  5. look here (application)