Wise Words from Augustine

I am reading through Augustine’s City of God for the next few months. I came across this helpful statement in book V. Augustine is discussing the development and might of the Roman Empire. Specifically, he is delving into the question of how the Romans became so powerful. In his discussion, he brings up to common reasons for why events and such turn out the way that they do: fate and chance. Concerning fate, he writes, “If anyone attributes them to fate because he uses the term ‘fate’ to mean the will or power of God, let him keep to this judgment but correct his language.” (City of God, 187)

There are several important points on which to focus our attention.

  1. He acknowledges that, at times, our language may be accurate theologically, but not linguistically.

    Here Augustine recognizes that there are times in which language is accurate theologically but not linguistically. He goes on to clarify, “For when men hear this word as it is used in ordinary speech, they understand it to mean nothing other than the force exerted by the position of the stars when anyone is born or conceived.” (City of God, 187) So, for example, it is theologically accurate to say that Jesus is like us. However, it may be difficult to say the same thing linguistically. For example, when most people here that phrase, they may assume that means Jesus is only human, not divine.

  2. He reminds us that our language must be accurate in our own context.

    Augustine notes, “Some distinguish this from the will of God [that is, fate], while others affirm that it indeed depends upon His will.” (City of God, 187) Augustine shows that language means different things to different people. Even when using biblical language, it is important for us to consider our context. We can see an example of this in Acts 17:22-31. Paul worked within the understanding of the people of Athens to communicate Gospel truth. He was also careful in what he did not say.

Language is important. How we communicate as Christians, especially in matters related to our sovereign God, are of inestimable importance. So, think theologically, express it accurately, and may God be glorified.

(Image Credit: By Fra Angelico and workshop – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1022879)

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“Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”: A Prayer

I began rereading John Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical MinistryThere are several books that I work through regularly (Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is highest on the list). Each book stirs up a different flame of passion, a great awareness of personal sin, and a earnest desire to be the kind of pastor that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of each chapter, Piper offers a prayer that accompanies the topic. For today’s reading, I was deeply moved by it. I hope that it provides you, pastor or not, with a greater desire to know our sovereign and holy God.

Piper prays,

God, delivery us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the ‘low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.’ (Bounds, 1972) God, give us tears for our sins. Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation. Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28). Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).

Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord.

Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. In His awesome name. Amen. (Piper, 4)

Brother pastors, let us resolve to ever be in this prayer!

3 Reasons Genealogies Are In the Bible

We all wonder why God allowed genealogies in the Bible. If you find yourself reading through the Bible in a year (or any other length of time), you may even dread it! The endless list of names you can barely spell, the mountains of individuals whose pronunciation you will butcher, and the disconnect from little to no knowledge about the individual causes genealogies to leave a bad taste in our mouths (think of burnt popcorn).

But Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17, ESV) This means that, yes, even genealogies are profitable. We are like children taking medicine. It tastes horrible, and our little brains cannot imagine how something so gross could possibly help us.

So, how do genealogies help us? How are they profitable? This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it original. I have read different commentaries, articles, and journals over the years. (If one of them sticks out, please send me the source so I can properly cite it!) The thoughts I am sharing this morning stem from that research. However, I want to offer three reasons why genealogies are in the Bible. My hope is to inspire you to cling to the truths of Scripture (see II Timothy 3:16-17), and to build your confidence in God’s wisdom.

Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals in His plan of redemption

One of the benefits of genealogies is that it shows us that God works with individuals. We tend to think of groups such as Israel, Judah, or the Levites. Or, when we do think of individuals, we think only of the big whigs: David, John the Baptist, or Paul. But what about the Loises and Eunices of the Bible (see II Timothy 1:5)? Even “insignificant” people have profound impacts in God’s plan of redemption. No one knows the names of the pit crew members (unless you are a fan of Nascar), but without them the racers would never be known. Genealogies teach us that God works with individuals, many of whom we will never really know, in His plan of redemption. What is your part in this plan? Perhaps you have thought your own life too common to make any significant impact in God’s work of redemption. Take encouragement from the genealogies. They show us that God works with individuals like you and like me.

Genealogies teach us that God works in the mundane

The second reason genealogies are in the Bible, though not second in order or significance, is that they teach us that God works in the mundane. Now, don’t get me wrong, the birth of the child is a miracle. Besides my salvation and marriage, the most exciting moments in my life we’re meeting three of our four children. There is nothing mundane about the birth of a precious baby. At the same time, however, it is mundane, at least in the broad sense. Parents have children, those children grow up, get married, and have children. It is mundane. Genealogies are not unlike this. After the tenth “And (insert name you cannot pronounce) begat (insert second but equally un-pronounceable name)…” you realize just how mundane genealogies truly are. The glaze over your eyes and the blank stare bring you back to fourth grade. But an amazing truth lies underneath the common experiences of life: God works in them. Have you ever stopped and considered that for rough thirty years Jesus did the mundane elements of life? He would wake up, eat, work, come home, attend synagogue, and repeat. Day after day. Year after year. Yet, this was part of God’s redemptive plan to save countless numbers of people. Genealogies are an expression of God’s work in the mundane. How do you view the mundane of life? Did you ever stop to consider that the mundane of life my be God’s way of using you in His plan of redemption?

Genealogies teach us humility

The final reason genealogies are in the Bible is to teach us humility. There are several ways this is observed. First, it shows us some of the great people of the Bible and some of the worst. It’s The Incredibles and the Malcoms in the Middles thrown together. It’s the Uncle Bobs the mean grannies. Our humility comes from the fact that God uses both. Second, genealogies teach us humility because it shows us that it is not all about us. We come, and we go. We do not live for ever. But God’s work does not stop with us. It goes on and will go on. Does that not humble us?

Conclusion

Let’s face it: genealogies are not the most exciting part of our Scripture reading. They can be a little boring. But, if we take the time to consider a few reasons God gave them to us, it may, like the redemption of sinners by the grace of God, transform something boring into a reminder of God’s Grace.