Can depression be spiritual?

introduction

“There is no soundness in my flesh…there is no health in my bones…My wounds stink and fester…I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.”—David (Psalm 38:2-10, ESV)

Many people, upon reading David’s words, would assume that he has depression.  In fact, if a doctor heard these words, they would probably start filling out a prescription for antidepressants.[1] In fact, in one study, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that “the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988-1994 and 2005-2008).”[2]

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While I am not against medication, I think it is unfortunate that many people simply assume it is a physical problem without addressing any other potential issues.[3] This is a failure on part of our physicians and pastors (and, believers in general). What do I mean by that?

We have been discussing depression, and our last discussion focused on physical issues related to depression. Science and Scripture, rather than disagreeing with one another, actually demonstrate the affects our bodies can have on our emotions. But this does not address the whole issue, because human beings are more than simply physical bodies.

In this post, we will introduce the spiritual aspect of depression. We covered this briefly in another post, but for now I want to describe the spiritual make up of humanity, because it has enormous ramifications for how we understand and “treat” depression.

Back to the Beginning

We read about the creation of the first man, Adam, in Genesis 2:5-7. God used “the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” and as a result, “the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7, ESV). We see that human beings are comprised of body (physical) and soul (spiritual).[4]

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There are, then, two sources of depression to the human being: physical and spiritual. In other words, we fail to address depression fully if we neglect the spiritual. Turning our attention back to David, we fill in the dots and find an interesting addition to our understanding.

2 For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh

because of your indignation;

there is no health in my bones

because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester

because of my foolishness,

I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;

all the day I go about mourning.

For my sides are filled with burning,

and there is no soundness in my flesh.

I am feeble and crushed;

I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;

my sighing is not hidden from you.

10  My heart throbs; my strength fails me,

and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Do you see the difference? While it is not always the source of the depression, in many cases, sin lies at the root of human depression. In David’s case, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied to his friend Uriah, and ultimately had Uriah murdered (see 2 Sam. 11-12). His sin brought about this severe depression. I agree with Adams’ sentiments when he writes, “Sin leads to guilt and depression, sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression, ad infinitum.[5]

Depression can definitively be spiritual. In our next post, we will discuss sin in greater detail. We will examine what sin is and then look at how to address it. Finally, we will look at the way sin brings about and contributes to depression specifically.


[1] On a personal level, my wife, who was taking antidepressants at the time, went to talk with her doctor about weaning herself off the medication. When my wife began telling the doctor about her struggles with depression the doctor interrupted her and said she could prescribe her some antidepressants. She would be wise to review Proverbs 18:13 (the doctor, not my wife!).

[2] Peter Wehrwein, “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans, Harvard Health Blog, 20 October 2011, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624, accessed 17 March 2021.

[3] I disagree with Jay Adams at this point. He writes, “The hope for depressed persons, as elsewhere, lies in this: the depression is the result of the counselee’s sin.” See Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 378. I believe that Adams fails to consider the fallen aspects of the human body, with the resulting corruption of our emotional states. Though not exhaustive, a pastor friend of mine, Ryan Davidson, has written on this topic. See J. Ryan Davidson, Thinking Through Anxiety: A Brief Christian Look (Warrendale, PA: Ichthus Publications, 2017). I also found Dan Wickert’s comments helpful, “A second question I consider is, ‘How are you handling life on the medication?’ Are they handling the normal problems of life in a biblical, God-honoring way while they are on the medication? If not, then taking them off the medication usually will not help the counselee to please God.” See Dan Wickert, “’Mary’ and Paralyzing Fear,” in Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015), 121.

[4] For a brief discussion of the division of human beings (i.e., dichotomy or trichotomy), see Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, 9, footnote 2.  

[5] Ibid., 377.

What is church growth?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word discipleship? I am sure that there are many different images that pop into the minds of those considering this thought. Perhaps there are some who envisage a Buddhist monk with his disciples in the mountains alone. Or, there may be some that think of a cult, where the leader is surrounded by her faithful devotees. Whatever picture comes to your mind, it is important that we consider this question in light of the church.

God has called, equipped, and empowered His children to carry out the Great Commission. This mission entails the church going and making disciples. That is, after all, the last command of Jesus before His ascension. “Go therefore,” he said, “and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:18, ESV)
As we consider the health of the church, discipleship and growth are part of the purpose of the church. Mark Dever gives us the importance of this to the health of the church when he writes, “A healthy church is characterized by a serious concern for spiritual growth on the part of its members. In a healthy church, people want to get better at following Jesus Christ.”[1]

Unfortunately, many churches have forsaken this key aspect of their existence in favor of programs, or shows, and many other issues. If we are to be a healthy church, we need to focus on discipleship. That means people coming and growing. Dever writes, “In the New Testament we find the idea of a growth that involves not just more people but people who are growing up, maturing, and deepening in the faith.”[2] He cites Ephesians 4:15-16, where Paul writes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (ESV)
As all want our churches to grow, but as we seek numerical growth we must work and pray for spiritual growth. This does not happen because of one pastor (the Scriptures actually teach that each church should be led by multiple pastors, or, elders, but that will come at another time), it happens because the church works toward that purpose. Notice Paul’s words, “we are to grow up in every way….by every joint….when each part is working properly…” These are not statements referring to one individual. They are collective terms. This brings up several questions we should all consider:


· Am I helping others grow?

· Am I consistently attending and pouring into others’ lives?

· Am I open to correction and rebuke when necessary?

· What gifts has the Lord blessed me with to build His church?

There are many more questions we could ask, but spend time thinking and praying through them. It will help the church, fulfill the commandments of Jesus, and help us all grow.


Dever also provides what he terms “A biblical practice of growth.”[3] His list includes the following: expositional preaching, biblical theology, a biblical understanding of the gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church discipline, and a biblical understanding of church leadership.[4] Since we have already discussed many of these before, I will not reiterate them.


However, I hope that you can see how each one is like a piece of the puzzle. They are all necessary for the church to be healthy, and they are all interconnected and mutually dependent. How can we hope to work on all of these simultaneously?


I would venture to work as a physician. They do not tell a patient with multiple areas of concern to start everything at once. They begin with one thing and then move on from there. That is good advice for us in the church context. While all of these are important and necessary, it is too overwhelming for us to do all of them at once. I suggest that you pick one that you would like to focus on personally, and then the Lord will work as He sees fit.


Let us grow, and seek to grow, for the rest of our lives, all for the glory of God!


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 198. [2] Dever, 202. [3] Ibid., 205. [4] Ibid., 205-211.

What is church discipline?

(Post originally published at Warrior Creek Baptist Church. Used with permission.)

Paul, after describing an incestuous relationship permitted in the church, tells the Corinthian believers, “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:4-5, ESV)

This word from Paul bites the ears of the present-day believer. It is unimaginable to the church growth guru. It is unthinkable to the civilized, well-to-do churchgoer. It is detestable in our inclusive culture. What is Paul thinking?

Paul is thinking about church discipline. Not unlike a doctor setting a bone, the church works to keep the holiness growing. Along similar lines Mark Dever writes, “Church discipline sounds like a pretty negative topic, I admit…When we hear of discipline, we tend to think of correction or of a spanking; we think of our parents when we were little…We should all, without hesitation, admit our need for discipline, our need for shaping…Once we have come to that admission, however, notice that much of discipline is positive discipline, or as it is traditionally called, ‘formative discipline.’”[1]

Dever is absolutely correct about our aversion to church discipline. But if desire to be a healthy church (i.e., a biblical church), we do not have a choice regarding discipline. We need to understand that it is, indeed, biblical. From there we can see how churches can practice discipline. As we work through the Scriptures, please keep in mind Dever’s distinguishing remarks. We are engaging in formative discipline, which aims at restoration and growth (a biblical goal, by the way!).

THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE

In his chapter on church discipline, Dever lists the following references: Heb. 12:1-14, Matt. 8:15-17, 1 Cor. 5:1-11, Gal. 6:1, 2 Thess. 3:6-15, 1 Tim. 1:20, 5:19-20, Titus 3:9-11. We cannot look at all of these (well, I guess we could, but statistics show that you would stop reading before we were halfway through!). We will use one to demonstrate the biblical basis for church discipline.

Matthew 18:15-17 (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-11) provides the direct commandments of Messiah Jesus for handling offenses (i.e., sin) in the church context.


15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that atthe testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. (NET)

Several key points stand out:
· It is in the context of Christian relationship (i.e., “brother)· It involves sin· The goal is restoration (“If he listens to you, you have regained your brother”)· It involves consistent refusal to repent (one on one, one plus one-to-two witnesses on one, church on one) The other passages cited by Dever either branch off of this basic treatment or expand it. For example, for the goal of restoration, after warning against fellowshipping with an unrepentant offender, Paul tells the church “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:15, NET)

The Scriptures are unanimous on the need for, the goal of, and the manner in which church discipline is to be practiced.

THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE


How, then, does a church actually discipline? This is a great question, and it requires a lengthy response. To begin with, as we discuss church discipline, we must always keep in mind the restorative aspect of it (or, what Dever refers to as “formative discipline”). It is not meant to be a mace with which to bludgeon church members. If we forget this, then we risk practicing a biblical tenant in an unbiblical way.
Second, the majority of churches (well-established churches in particular) have some form of discipline written in their constitutions and/or by-laws. I have been a member at eight churches, and each church lays out the process of church discipline. This is excellent for at least two reasons. First, it provides the biblical plan for church discipline prior to the need to practice it. Second, it protects the church from potential litigation.
Third, and this is key, churches must practice church discipline. Though churches desire a growing membership and attendance, they cannot ignore the biblical need for formative discipline. The church has been commissioned by the Lord Jesus to make disciples (see Matt. 28:18-20). A failure to practice church discipline is a failure to make disciples. Of course, this is unacceptable. However, churches that fail to practice church discipline, besides disobeying their Lord, also weaken the membership. “A little yeast affects the whole batch,” Paul writes to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 5:6, NET). In other words, a little sin affects the whole church.

Where do we go from here? I think it would be helpful to provide teaching on the matter first. In other words, address it from the passages in which it appears, make mention of it through conversations, and ensure the leadership understands its importance and necessity. Second, begin actively discipling now. In other words, if churches were more concerned about the spiritual health of their members then many of the issues requiring discipline would be prevented. Third, actually practice it when needed.
A church that disciplines, in a biblical and healthy way, is a healthier church.


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 168-169.

The Hermeneutical Triad: A Case Study of Κοσμος in 1 John

THE HERMENEUTICAL TRIAD: A CASE STUDY OF Κόσμος IN 1 JOHN

By Bobby Howell

Introduction

In their monumental work, Köstenberger and Patterson discuss what they call the “hermeneutical triad.”[1] This triad, the authors claim, provides the interpreter with a framework through which proper interpretation can take place, and from which theological consistency and doctrinal substance can spring. They remark, “While discerning the spiritual message of Scripture—theology—is the ultimate goal of biblical interpretation, an appreciation of the historical-cultural background of a particular text and a proper understanding of its literary features are essential.”[2] In other words, theology, as it is connected with biblical interpretation, is not possible without the hermeneutical triad.

What these two men are discussing is the importance of considering three aspects to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).[3] These three features are history, literature, and theology.

The Importance of History in Interpretation

It is vital to grasp the historical setting if one is to interpret Scripture correctly. Köstenberger and Patterson write, “In order for the interpretation of Scripture to be properly grounded, it is vital to explore the historical setting of a scriptural passage.”[4] The books comprising the Scriptures are historical. They were written by individuals at particular points of time, in exact cultures, at precise moments of antiquity. Thus, “every book in the Bible also has historical particularity.”[5]

Without a proper view of the historical context in which a text has been given, it is impossible to interpret it accurately. For example, without considering the historical setting of Philippians 4:13, one can easily attempt to apply Paul’s statement to any difficult situation one may face. Understanding that Paul was a prisoner of the Roman empire in a position in total dependence on other’s generosity helps one understand his point. He needed to be content in “whatever situation I am” (Phil. 4:13, ESV).[6] The context also limits the application, however, this in no way diminishes the importance of historical data.[7]

The Importance of Literature in Interpretation

“In keeping with the bedrock hermeneutical principle of interpreting the parts in light of the whole, we will proceed from the larger canonical framework to the literary genre and from there to specific linguistic features of various passages of Scripture,” write Köstenberger and Patterson.[8]

Their threefold division of literature importance can be illustrated in the table below:

Division of Literature for Biblical Interpretation
CanonGenreVarious Passages

            There are three aspects of this step within biblical interpretation. The first deals with the canon of Scripture. This step is helpfully defined by F.F. Bruce. He describes this step as “the interpretation of individual components of the canon in the context of the canon as a whole.”[9] Thus, one work (e.g., John’s first epistle), is interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture. Berkhof’s words are helpful at this point, “The Bible was not made, but grew, and the composition of its several books marks the stages of its progressive development. It is, in the last analysis, the product of a single mind, the embodiment of a single fruitful principle, branching out in various directions. The different parts of it are mutually dependent, and are all together subservient to the organism as a whole.”[10] The first step seeks to interpret the specific passage in light of the grand theme of Scripture.[11]

            The second step addresses the literary genre of the individual book or passage.[12] This step of the interpretative process examines the genre in which the passage resides. Köstenberger and Patterson state, “…these features—biblical genres or types of literature—are historical narrative, poetry and wisdom, and prophecy in the Old Testament, and historical narrative, parable, epistle, and apocalyptic in the New.”[13] Vanhoozer provides a brief definition, “A ‘genre’ (from the Latin genus, ‘kind’) is a species of literature.”[14] Utilizing the analogy of a map, Vanhoozer describes the importance of understanding genre, writing, “Each genre has its own ‘key’ and ‘scale.’ The ‘key’ explains what a text is about…. each genre has its own ‘scale,’ that is, its own conventions for thinking and its own manner of fitting words to the world.”[15] In other words, one must know the genre of the passage (i.e., poetry or narrative) to understand a said passage.

            The final step in the hermeneutical triad deals with the specific passage. There is much that factors into this step.[16] Briefly, the interpreter addresses the discourse, words, and their relationships to arrive at the intended meaning of the author.[17]

The Importance of Theology in Interpretation

            The third point in the hermeneutical triad is theology. Köstenberger and Patterson express this step as “the third and crowning aspect of the hermeneutical triad, theology.”[18] The authors make it clear that this third step applies what is learned from the first two steps in the form of doctrine. They write, “Doctrine is often viewed as a lifeless listing of a creed or confessional statement and contrasted with a vital spiritual first-hand experience of God….it is vital that we make sure that we derive our theology from the Bible rather than imposing our own preferred viewpoints onto Scripture.”[19] There is a need, then, to interpret the Scripture in light of the Scriptures. As the two authors note, “biblical theology is theology that is biblical, or, in other words, theology that is derived from the Bible rather than imposed onto the Bible by a given interpreter of Scripture.”[20]

            The third point, biblical theology, must maintain, at the very least, “two considerations.”[21] These are that it must be “historical” and “on its own terms.[22] Biblical theology develops doctrines organically, as Vos helpfully remarks, “It [biblical theology] exhibits the organic growth of the truths of Special Revelation.”[23]

Summary

            The hermeneutical triad developed by Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Patterson is “a compass will ensure that Bible students stay on track in their interpretive journey.”[24] With this brief introduction to the hermeneutical triad, it is now time to apply it to a book of Scripture, namely, 1 John, and in particular, John’s use of the word κόσμος.

The Hermeneutical Triad: A Case Study of Κόσμος in 1 John

Having discussed the major points of the hermeneutical triad, it is now time to apply these principles to a case study. John routinely uses the word κόσμος in his literature.[25] Not only will this result in a right interpretation of John’s first letter, as well as Johannine literature in general, but it will also yield further fruit in the theological understanding of κόσμος from a biblical-theological point of view. The apostle John wrote the first epistle that bears his name “somewhere between a.d. 85 and 100.”[26] Though this is debatable, it helps narrow the composition of this letter to the later part of his life. This allows the interpreter to discover the historical setting of the book. John, though unnamed in the epistle, discusses a variety of issues, such as assurance of salvation and the outworking of salvation.[27]

At the time of John’s first epistle, the church has been through a period of growth and persecution.[28] As the gospel expands beyond the boundaries of Israel, the church strives against physical persecution, but it also fought against theological errors.[29] Thus, many letters were written by the apostles encouraging endurance in the face of persecution as well as adherence to the apostolic faith.[30] John’s letter has several purposes, as noted by Akin, “To promote true joy in the child of God,” “To prevent the child of God from committing sin,” “To protect the child of God from false teachers,” and “To provide assurance of salvation for the child of God.”[31]

Furthermore, John was Jewish, the son of a fisherman.[32] His writings, in both his gospel account and his letters, demonstrate a knowledge of the Jewish faith.[33] Additionally, John demonstrates a deep understanding of the complexities of the faith.[34]

All of this information factors into one’s understanding of John’s letters, specifically 1 John. Köstenberger and others describe the letter in this way, “Since 1 John does not refer to specific names and places, contains little mention of specific events, and is general in its teaching, it seems that John focused on important truths of brad relevance to address as many believers as possible.”[35] This general destination, then, allows the reader to understand John is broadly addressing doctrine and warning.

Κόσμος in Johannine Literature

            A brief examination of the historical setting and genre of literature has been offered. It is now time to address the third point of the hermeneutical triad: theology. The focus is on the word κόσμος. To begin with, what does κόσμος mean? It is found frequently in John’s writing, one hundred and five times, according to Enns.[36] There are eight possible definitions presented by Arndt and Gingrich.[37] These range from a simple “adornment” to “the planet upon which we live.”[38]

It seems that there are four primary usages in John’s literature. In several instances, John uses κόσμος to describe “the world as the earth, the planet upon which we live.”[39] This usage is used in a general sense, to describe “the habitation of mankind,” and “in contrast to heaven.”[40] John also uses the word to refer to “mankind,” in a universal way as well as a comprehensive way.[41] A third way that John uses κόσμος is “as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, cares, sufferings.”[42] The final and fourth way that John uses this word is to describe “the world, and everything that belongs to it appears as that which is at enmity w. God, i.e. lost in sin, wholly at odds w. anything divine, ruined and depraved.”[43] These usages, and select references, are displayed in Table 2.

The Four Usages of Κόσμος in Johannine Literature
Κόσμος as planetJohn 6:14; 9:39; 11:9, 27; 16:21, 28a; 18:37
Κόσμος as humanityJohn 1:29; 3:17b; 8:12; 9:5; 17:6; 1 John 4:14
Κόσμος as material possessions1 John 3:17
Κόσμος as opposition to GodJohn 12:31b; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 4:4; 5:19

This list is not exhaustive. However, it does offer a wide range of usage by the apostle. With this foundation laid, it is time to evaluate the word as found within the first epistle. From this research, the theological implications can be displayed following the entirety of the Scriptures. As a result, the hermeneutical triad will be displayed in the research.

Κόσμος in 1 John

            From Table 2, one can see that there are four usages of κόσμος in the first epistle of John. Each occurrence will be examined to determine which definition is intended. After this examination, the findings will be summarized within this epistle. Theological implications will then be presented. After this, a framework for understanding the entirety of Scripture will be offered with pertinent examples.

1 John 2:2

1 John 2:2 describes the atoning death of Jesus “not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Colin Kruse offers a helpful summary of John’s thoughts, “In the present context it [the world] means the unbelieving world. Christ’s atoning sacrifice was made not only for ‘our’ sins (i.e., believers’ sins) but also for the sins of the unbelieving world.”[44] This usage will fall under the second category in Table 2, “κόσμος as humanity.” According to Ardnt and Gingrich, this would be classified as “the world as mankind…gener.”[45] While this is much debate surrounding the extent of the atonement, for present purposes, John’s usage of κόσμος refers to humanity.[46]

1 John 2:15-17

The next occurrence of κόσμος is found in 1 John 2:15-17. John warns his readers, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” Κόσμος appears six times in these three verses. There is one usage as will be shown.

John uses κόσμος to refer to that which opposes God. This is seen in all three verses.[47] W.E. Vines provides another definition of this usage, stating it refers to “the present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God.”[48] Two key points help clarify the legitimacy of this rendering. First, the context demonstrates a contrast between followers of God and what Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles refer to as “secessionists.”[49] MacLeod further clarifies this when he writes, “He has been writing to them [i.e., God’s children], not about them. He is addressing his readers as genuine believers who possess a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”[50] John’s letter has contrasted the children of God with those who oppose God regularly. Table 3 demonstrates this contrast through the first two chapters of this epistle.

The Contrasts of God’s Children with those who oppose God in 1 John Chapters 1-2
Description of God’s ChildrenDescription of Those Who Oppose God
Light (1:5)Darkness (1:5-7)
Confessed Sin (1:9)Unconfessed Sin (1:8, 10)
Keep God’s Commandments (2:3, 5-6)Failure to Keep God’s Commandments (2:4)
Love Brothers and Sisters (2:10)Hates Brothers and Sisters (2:9, 11)
Love for the Father (2:15)Love for the World (2:15-16)
Faithfulness to God (2:19)Unfaithfulness to God (2:19)
Anointing by the Holy One (2:20)Denier of the Holy One (2:22-23)
Authentic Faith (2:27)Counterfeit Faith (2:26-27)

It is apparent, then, that John is using κόσμος in contrast with God.

Akin reminds the reader of a second important factor that it is important to consider John’s use of κόσμος, writing, “The difference is found in the way John uses the term kosmos in each instance. Contextual considerations are crucial.”[51] As has been referenced (see Table 2), the context provides the reader with the necessary information in determining his intended usage. Hiebert notes this as well, writing, “The term basically denotes order, arrangement (the opposite of chaos), and hence an orderly system. It could be used to denote the earth (John 21:25), or the world of mankind (John 3:16) in its various organizations and systems. But because of the fallen nature of the human race, the term predominantly has an ethical import, the human race in its alienation from and opposition to God.”[52] Without dismissing the general idea, Hiebert focuses on the contextual usage.[53]

1 John 3:1

            In 1 John 3:1 John writes, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”The greater context of this epistle provides insight into the continual use of comparison between the children of God and the “secessionists.”[54] Again, the use of the hermeneutical triad provides immediate benefit to the work of the interpreter. One is reminded of this at the beginning of chapter two, “In order for the interpretation of Scripture to be properly grounded, it is vital to explore the historical setting of a scriptural passage, including any culture background features.”[55]

            However, it is equally important to consider the grammatical clues that limit the definition to a singular focus. Berkhof reminds readers of this important step, writing, “The interpreter must determine whether the words are used in their general or in one of their special significations, whether they are employed in a literal or in a figurative sense.”[56] John is contrasting the children of God and “the world.” At least two grammatical indicators limit his usage to that system that opposes God. In this verse, “ὁ κόσμος” is functioning as the subject of this clause. First, the usage of the phrase “διὰ τοῦτο” indicates a causal clause.[57] In other words, John explains why “ὁ κόσμος” fails to “know” God, as demonstrated in the failure of “ὁ κόσμος” to know the children of God. Though “a difference of opinion exists as to the antecedent of the pronoun in dia touto (‘for this reason’ or ‘on account of this’),” this in no way obfuscates John’s intended usage of “ὁ κόσμος.”[58] He is clearly describing a group of individuals living in opposition to God.

            Another significant grammatical clue that demonstrates this usage is the surrounding context. Akin rightly states, “This latter view appears to be more appropriate in the immediate context. The child of God is unknown by the world because they have different fathers (i.e., God and Satan).”[59] This discussion of two fathers takes place in 3:7-10. John describes the origins of the two groups (i.e., children of God and children of the devil) with the repeated use of “ἐκ.” That preposition is used four times in 3:7-10. Once it is used in connection with the devil, while the other three occurrences connect to God.[60] Concerning the phrase “ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου,” which in verse 8 is used as a predicate nominative, Wuest writes, “‘Of’, is ek, ‘out of,’ used with the ablative case, gives us the ablative of source. That is, his sinful propensities, issuing from his totally depraved nature inherited from Adam, find their ultimate source in the devil who brought about the downfall of our first parents.”[61] John’s usage, then, seems clear. He is referring to the group that opposes God.

1 John 3:13

            In this verse, connected to the overall context of chapter three specifically, and John’s epistle generally, the apostle exhorts his readers to not be surprised “εἰ μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος,” literally, “if [he] hates you [plural] the world.” Structurally, this is a first-class condition.[62] Though this has obvious implications, the focus remains on John’s use of “ὁ κόσμος.”[63] Contextually, it is connected with the surrounding context (see notes on 1 John 3:1). Akin connects this usage of the world with those who oppose God, writing, “John uses the word “world” (kosmos) here as he did in 2:15, indicating that evil is an organized system in opposition to God and under the control of the devil.”[64] Furthermore, the verb that John uses to describe the connection between “ὁ κόσμος” with “ἀδελφοί,” is powerful. The verb is “μισεῖ,” is a present, active, indicative, singular verb. It means “To strongly dislike or have aversion toward someone or something that usually results in separation between the one who hates and the thing hated.[65] It was noted above that the world has an innate hostility toward God.[66] Again, by following the guidelines within the hermeneutical triad, the interpreter is enabled to see the intended meaning by the apostle John.

1 John 3:17

            Continuing his discussion on love and hate (3:11-15), John begins a new section joining the love demonstrated by Jesus (vs. 16) with the love expected of His followers (vs. 17). John writes, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17) This verse presents several important issues to consider.

            To begin with, one could attempt to link John’s usage of “τοῦ κόσμου” with his usage in 3:7-10 and 13. That is, the interpreter could view this as a connection with the world as a system opposing God. However, this would be a fallacy. One must be careful not to engage in the “word study fallacy.”[67] Carson correctly notes, “the heart of the issue is that semantics, meaning, is more than the meaning of words. It involves phrases, sentences, discourse, genre, style.”[68] This is another instance of the importance of engaging the hermeneutical triad. The interpreter must consider the literature of a given book, and even within that book the differences in style and structure. To be specific, this involves syntax.[69] Through a study of John’s usage of κόσμος, one can readily see that, even in this brief epistle, John uses it in at least four ways (see Table 2). This eliminates the potential rendering of the world’s system.[70] However, returning to John’s statements, one can see another syntactical piece of information that provides further clarification to his particular usage. “Tοῦ κόσμου” is in the genitive case. Although there are difficulties in interpreting this case, one can see that John’s use here is not as problematic to determine.[71] “Tοῦ κόσμου” is modifying “τὸν βίον,” functioning adjectivally in an attributive way.[72] In other words, “it is goods of the world,” or “worldly goods.”[73] Furthermore, the context makes this clear. This demonstrates that John is referring to material possessions.

1 John 4:1-6

            This section provides six occurrences of κόσμος. It is found in verse 1 (once), 3 (once), 4 (once), and 5 (three times). These will be addressed in order. John writes in 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How does John employ “τὸν κόσμον”? The case he uses is the accusative case. One immediately notices that it is the object of the preposition “εἰς.” Since εἰς only takes accusative objects, one needs to determine why John is employing this prepositional phrase. Considering the entire sentence (4:1), the only possible usage is spatial.[74] In other words, it is the location to which the “many false prophets” go.

            The question remains, “Which usage is John utilizing?” It seems material possessions can be ruled out easily. This leaves three possibilities: the world as the planet, the world as humans, and the world as the system opposed to God. Barker seems to have the world as a system in mind.[75] Akin provides additional details when he writes, “These false prophets have the world, that evil system under Satan’s control that opposes God, as their stage; and the scope of their influence and work includes all of humanity.”[76]

            Considering these two sources, it seems probable that John is referring to the world as that system opposed to God. But are there grammatical or syntactical clues that lead to this conclusion? There are several issues to consider. First, the context mirrors John’s comments in 2:18-28.[77] The parallels are as follows:

Parallels of 1 John 2:18-28 and 4:1-6
1 John 2:18-281 John 4:1-6
Antichrist is coming and antichrists have comeSpirit of antichrist is coming and false prophets are already present
Antichrists eventually separate from true believersFalse prophets have gone out into the world (i.e., separation)
Antichrists deny Jesus as MessiahFalse prophets do not acknowledge Jesus
Believers know God through the anointing of the SpiritBelievers demonstrate saving relationship through acknowledgement that Jesus is from God

Structurally, then, it is evident that the same line of thinking is present in chapter four as it was in chapter three.[78]

            Second, another key indicating factor is John’s use of “ἐξεληλύθασιν.” The word means “go out; come out.”[79] It is significant considering John’s constant employment of the preposition “ἐκ.” John uses ἐκ to draw a distinction of origin between the children of God and the children of the devil (3:7-10). It would seem that grammatically speaking, John is again distinguishing between God’s children and children of the devil. However, care must be taken not to draw too much from this point. In fact, rather than strengthen the view of several scholars, it seems that John is using “τὸν κόσμον” to refer to the humanity, and specifically lost humanity.[80] Kruse confirms this when he writes, “This [gone out into the world] is an allusion to those who left the community, the secessionists, who deny the incarnation (cf. v. 2; 2:18-19,22), and it implies that their affinity is now with the unbelieving world, not the Christian community.”[81]

            After writing about the test in verse 3, John then provides additional information about the spirit of the antichrist in verse 4. This spirit, as he writes, “is already in the world.” John uses the prepositional phrase “ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ” to define the location of the spirit’s presence. It seems evident that John is using this phrase in a “spatial” manner.[82] As with his use in 4:1, one must determine which world to which he is referring. Similar grammatical and syntactical clues are present in 4:3 as they were in 4:1. Kruse provides a clarifying statement, “The spirit of antichrist, the devil (cf. John 12:31), who is active in the inhabited world.”[83] Thus, he takes John using “τῷ κόσμῳ” to refer to the “inhabited world,” as in the world of humanity. Akin does not address this specifically. John Anderson describes this usage in two ways: the system opposed to God or the collective of humanity.[84] While that is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, it seems more likely that John is using this to refer to the inhabited world, including both God’s and the devil’s children.[85]

            Verse 4 contrasts “the one who is in you” and “the one who is in the world.” The difference lies in John’s consistent distinction between God and the devil. He does so by using similar wording and order.

ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν

ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ

To which world is John referring? There are two possibilities: the world as the system opposed to God and the world as humanity. One key aspect to determine the usage is the two uses of “ὁ.” They are distinguished by the modifying prepositional phrases, “ἐν ὑμῖν” and “ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ,” respectively. It is used in its “spatial” sense.[86] The contrasts that have appeared in John’s letter also provide further evidence that John is discussing, not only two sources (i.e., God and the devil), but also two people groups (i.e., children of God and children of the devil). Anderson notes, “It [τῷ κόσμῳ] refers to all that is hostile to God. The word is used here in its moral sense rather than as a location.”[87] While Kruse takes a broader definition, it seems clear that, from the specific distinction between God’s and the devil’s people.[88] Akin seems to agree with Anderson when he writes, “The world is the devil’s domain, and its philosophy is an expression of his values and agenda.”[89]

            The next verse provides additional information for the false prophets. John writes, “They [i.e., the false prophets from 4:1] are from the world and therefore they speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” This verse provides two uses of κόσμος. The first use, which is found in the first two appearances (“ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου” and “ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου”) refers to the world as a system opposing God. Within the specific context (i.e., 4:1-6), the false prophets are distinguished from the children of God. This, in turn, provides a greater degree of certainty that this is the worldly hostility to God. Anderson provides a detailed overview when he pens, “It is a metonymy for the customs, culture, and philosophy of unregenerated mankind, who live in the world and who are hostile to the concepts from God. It is the sinful principle found in sinful mankind. It is all that is ruled by the devil.”[90]

            In other words, the origin of the false prophets is that system in complete opposition to God.[91] Likewise, their speech reflects this hatred toward God. Anderson notes, “It indicates that the source of their ideas comes from the viewpoint of the culture and philosophy of the world around them.”[92] “They speak continually (lalousin, present tense) from the world,” writes Akin.[93] While the children of God hold to the incarnation of Christ, the false prophets operate within the realm of the world.

            Those inhabitants of the world “listens to them.” This is the second usage referring to humanity, specifically unsaved humanity.[94] There is a circular line of thinking that John presents. The people of the world speak in the worldly language to the inhabitants of the world, all reflective of the hatred toward God.

1 John 4:9, 14, 17

            In verse nine, John describes the salvific effort of God by sending Jesus through His incarnation. This takes place in a physical location, i.e., the world. There are three possibilities. John could be using this word to describe the inhabited world. Likewise, he could also use it to describe the planet. Finally, John could use it as that which opposes God.

The third interpretation is unlikely. First, John adds the phrase “that we might live through him.” John includes himself with the believers, separating themselves from the unsaved world.[95] Second, it seems evident that considering John’s consistent comparison of the children of God and the children of the devil seems to rule out any savable aspect of this system of the world.  This leaves the first two definitions as possibilities.

Though the earth is possible, the general context of 1 John seems to rule this usage out of place. Though the creation will be restored (cf. Rom. 8:22-25), the primary focus of Scripture in general, and 1 John in particular, is on God’s people.[96] Thus, John is employing “τὸν κόσμον” to refer to the inhabited world (i.e., humanity).

This same usage is found in verse fourteen as well.       Barker adds clarity to this, writing, “Therefore, since there is such a close connection between seeing and testifying and the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is likely that the author meant his words to include his readers and to be applied to all Christians throughout history.”[97]

The inhabited world of humanity is also found in verse seventeen. John writes, “In this world we are like Jesus.” Though there is debate on what John meant by “we are like Jesus,” the intended meaning of “τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ” is clear.[98] It is the inhabited world, the location of human existence.

1 John 5:4-5

            In the final chapter of John’s epistle, there are four final usages of κόσμος, three appearing in 5:4-5. These two appearances have the same wording in verse four, “νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον” and “ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον.” The differences are in the controlling verb and verbal. “Νικᾷ” is a present, active, indicative, third person, singular verb. The verbal, “ἡ νικήσασα,” is an aorist, active, participle, singular, nominative, and feminine. The general idea is “conquer; overcome; prevail.[99] While there are implications for the verb and verbal, the focus is on the accusative noun found twice, “τὸν κόσμον.” Both uses function as direct objects of the verb and verbal, respectively.[100]

            This provides the grammatical foundation for understanding John’s usage as relating to that system that opposes God. There is conquering and there is the one conquered. The one conquered is that system in opposition to God.[101] Barker refers to it as “the kingdom of death.”[102]This same idea is present in verse five. The victory, “ἡ νίκη” is the belief in the incarnation, life, and ministry of Messiah.[103] That system, led by Satan, followed by unsaved humanity, and displayed through rebellion against God, will be overcome. That is John’s intended idea.

1 John 5:19

            There is one more appearance of κόσμος in this letter. John writes, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” In this section, John is issuing concluding comments summarizing his letter.[104] Continuing the distinguishing of believers and unbelievers, John once again discusses the origins of individuals and implications for life (5:18-20). The believer originates from God while unbelievers “[are] under the control of the evil one.” John uses “ὁ κόσμος” to describe them. There are at least two reasons to accept this usage.

            First, there is the contrast directly mentioned by John. There are children of God and children of the world.[105] There is a clear peculiarity between these two groups.[106] Second, the statement “the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” provides additional clarity to John’s intended meaning. The only two viable options are the world as humanity (limited to unsaved by the contrast), and the world as the system opposed to God. While the system has some potential, ultimately John ties the word to unsaved humanity.[107]

Conclusion

            Utilizing Köstenberger’s and Patterson’s hermeneutical triad, one can properly understand the varied uses of ὁ κόσμος in John’s first epistle. By briefly examining the historical background, the interpreter understands the regular contrast between God’s children and the secessionists. This information helps the interpreter also understand the diverse use of ὁ κόσμος. By discussing the genre, syntax, and grammar, additional clarification was gained. Finally, weaving the theological implications throughout the study offered further insight into the four-way use of ὁ κόσμος. By utilizing the hermeneutical triad, students of biblical interpretation can rightly understand the Word of God. This important task is highlighted by the authors when they write, “In the area of hermeneutics, this translates into fallacies arising from the neglect of the context, prooftexting, eisegesis, improper use of background information, and other similar shortcomings.”[108]

            Furthermore, the triad also provides insights into understanding ὁ κόσμος throughout the rest of Scripture. While there are four different ways John uses the word, the following two examples will focus exclusively on the world as a system opposing God.

            Beginning in Genesis chapter ten and running through the Scriptures until the book of Revelation, Babylon is used to describe the enemy of God. Mackintosh writes, “Not that we are to look upon the Babylon of the Old Testament Scripture as identical with the Babylon of the Apocalypse. By no means. I believe the former is a city; the latter, a system; but both the city and the system exert a powerful influence against God’s people.”[109] There is no doubt that historically speaking, Babylon was an ancient city.[110] However, as one employs the theological point of the triad one can see that the world is present, even in the first book of the Bible.[111]

            The second example is Egypt. Scripture demonstrates the importance of the Exodus event in the nation of Israel.[112] Scripture also contrasts God with Pharoah as representative of Egypt. Ryken, at the beginning of his treatment of the book of Exodus, displays the fruits of the hermeneutical triad when he writes, “This part of Exodus is about Satan’s opposition to God’s plans and promises for his people.”[113] Ryken is using the concepts of the world developed by John to view the nation of Egypt and the oppression by Pharoah of the people of God. Thus, while conducting the necessary historical background research and necessary linguistical investigation, Ryken not only gleans theology but biblical theology.[114]

            The incorporation of the hermeneutical triad will, as the authors posit, provide the student of Scripture the necessary tools for right interpretation and application of the Word of God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Akin, Daniel L. 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary. Nashville: TN, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Allen, David L.  Hebrews, The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010.

Anderson, John. An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008.

Austin, Bill R. Austin’s Topical History of Christianity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983.

Barker, Glenn W., Lane, William L., and Michaels, J. Ramsey. The New Testament Speaks. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969.

________., “1 John,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994. 1077-1109.

Bates, William H. “The World: An Inductive Exegesis and an Exposition,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 68, no. 269, (Jan. 1911), 105-131.

Beeke, Joel R. and Smalley, Paul M. Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.

Berkhof, Louis. Principles of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1950.

Brannan, Rick. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software, 2011.

Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church Revised and Enlarged. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1981.

Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. “For Whom Did Christ Die?” Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 105, no. 417 (Jan. 1948), 7-35.

Conniry, Jr., Charles J. “Identifying Apostolic Christianity: A Synthesis of Viewpoints,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 32, no. 2 (June 1994), 247-261.

Duvall, J. Scott and Hays, J. Daniel. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008.

Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

________. , New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors Revised Edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Gentry, Peter J. and Wellum, Stephen J. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants 2nd Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018

Gibson, David and Gibson, Jonathan eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

Goldingay, John. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch: Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.

Hart D. G., and Muether, John R. With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: 2002.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 3: An Exposition of 1 John 2:7-17,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 145, no. 580 (Oct. 1988), 420-435.

________., “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 5: An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 146, no. 582, (Apr. 1989), 198-216.

________., “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 8: An Exposition of 1 John 4:7-21,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 147, no. 585 (Jan. 1990), 69-88.

Hodges, Zane C. “Hebrews, 1, 2, and 3 John,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty New Testament Edition. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 1983.

Kline, Meredith G. “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 38, no. 1 (Fall 1975), 1-27.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., Kellum, L. Scott, and Quarles, Charles L. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

_____., Merkle, Benjamin L. and Plummer, Robert L. Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament Rev. Ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020

Kruse, Colin G. “1—3 John,” in D.A. Carson, gen. ed., NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974.

Mackintosh, C. H. Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1980.

MacLeod, David J. “The Love That God Hates,” Emmaus Journal, Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995), 3-20.

Niemelä, John. “Finding True North in 1 John,” Chafer Theological Seminary, Vol. 6, no. 3 (July 2000), 25-48.

Owen, John. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2007.

Patterson, Richard D. “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 66, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 25-46.

Robinson, Adam. “Abhorrence,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Ryken, Philip Graham. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.

Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology: A Popular Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999.

Schreiner, Thomas R. The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Stott, John R. W. The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Tan, Randall K. J. “A Linguistic Overview of 1 John,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 10, no. 3, (Fall 2006), 68-76.

Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1994.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Is There Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II: The Writings of John, The Gospel, The Epistles, The Apocalypse. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, nd.

Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2017.

Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader Volume Four: Golden Nuggets, Untranslatable Riches—Bypaths in These Last Days. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966.

Yarbrough, Robert. “1 John,” in Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Zuck, Roy B. Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 1991.


[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Academic, 2011), 67.

[2] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 68.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the New International Version.

[4] Ibid., 93.

[5] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 21, emphasis theirs.

[6] Though presenting their thoughts in a different way, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays offer a helpful example of the triad on Philippians 4:13. See J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 237-246.

[7] See Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 1991), 76-90.

[8] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 151.

[9] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 291.

[10] Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1950), 53.

[11] See Köstenberger’s and Patterson’s remarks, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 151.

[12] This will be determined by the passage chosen. For example, 1 John is a letter (or, epistle) and must be interpreted as a letter. The book of Acts, however, has several literary genres. For a brief discussion of these genres, see L. Scott Kellum, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 6-10.

[13] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 237.

[14] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 342.

[15] Vanhoozer, Is there Meaning in this Text?, 343.

[16] See, for example, Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575-576; Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament Rev. Ed. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 441-469, 483-497; and Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 67-109.

[17] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575; Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 152-161, 164-168, and 170-180.

[18] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 693.

[19] Ibid., 694.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 698.

[22] Ibid.; see also Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2017), 16. For an example of how this works, Beeke and Smalley offer a biblical-theological development of the image of God, see Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 161-174.

[23] Vos, Biblical Theology, 17.

[24] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 66. It should be noted that though the term “hermeneutical triad” is original with Köstenberger and Patterson, the authors acknowledge these aspects are not new. See page 24.

[25] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology Revised and Expanded (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008), 138-139.

[26] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: TN, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 27; see also Robert Yarbrough, “1 John,” in Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 177.

[27] Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 792-795. Though the apostle does not sign his name, conservative scholarship, in general, adheres to his authorship. Ibid, 783-790.

[28] Bill R. Austin, Austin’s Topical History of Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 43-55; Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church Revised and Enlarged (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1981), 55-85; N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 450-452.

[29] For the physical persecution, see: Acts 4:5-22; 5:17-42; 6:8-15; 7:54-8:3. Many other references could be cited. For the theological errors affecting the church, see Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 419-420, 792-795.

[30] The letter of Hebrews is an excellent example. Allen remarks, “Historically, the most common purpose advocated suggests the author is attempting to dissuade his Jewish Christian readers from a relapse into Judaism brought on by increasing persecution and a desire for the stability of the old faith.” David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 79. See Jude 3 for one reference to the apostolic faith; see also Charles J. Conniry, Jr., “Identifying Apostolic Christianity: A Synthesis of Viewpoints,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 32, no. 2 (June 1994), 247-261.

[31] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 32. Stott discusses a different opinion, though he does not differ with Akin’s summary in any significant way. See John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 43-55.

[32] See Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11; and John 1:35-42; see also Glenn W. Barker, William L. Lane, and J. Ramsey Michaels, The New Testament Speaks (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969), 397-400.

[33] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 305-325, 800-804.

[34] Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 135-144.

[35] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 791.

[36] Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 138. According to Logos Bible Software,

[37] William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 446-448.

[38] Ibid., 446-447.

[39] Ibid., 447.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Colin G. Kruse, “1—3 John,” in D.A. Carson, gen. ed., NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2260.

[45] Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon, 447.

[46] For a discussion on the atonement from a definite atonement perspective, see: David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013); John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2007); for a discussion from an unlimited atonement perspective, see: Lewis Sperry Chafer, “For Whom Did Christ Die?” Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 105, no. 417 (Jan. 1948), 7-35; Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1994), 241-242; Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 367-373; and Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 841-858.

[47] For an expositional discussion of these verses, see Andrew David Naselli, “Do Not Love the World: Breaking the Evil Enchantment of Worldliness (A Sermon on 1 John 2:15-17),” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 22, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 111-124.

[48] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Tetament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1981), 233, s.v. world.

[49] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 793.

[50] David J. MacLeod, “The Love That God Hates,” Emmaus Journal, Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995), 3-20.

[51] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 108.

[52] D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 3: An Exposition of 1 John 2:7-17,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 145, no. 580 (Oct. 1988), 433.

[53] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575-576; Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 191-195.

[54] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown, 792-795; Colin G. Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2255.

[55] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 93.

[56] Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 74.

[57] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 369; cf. Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 402.

[58] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 134.

[59] Ibid.

[60] John will continue this contrast with a brief discussion on Cain, whom John refers to as one “who belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3:12). Interestingly, John uses the Greek phrase “ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ,” demonstrating origin or source. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 371.

[61] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader Volume Four: Golden Nuggets, Untranslatable Riches—Bypaths in These Last Days (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 148; D. Edmond Hiebert, , “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 5: An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 146, no. 582, (Apr. 1989), 214.

[62] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 690; Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 418, Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 156.

[63] For example, John Anderson writes, “It is viewed as an already existing condition [Alf, Lns, My, Ws]. However, although hatred is a fact, individual Christians do not always encounter it [AB].” See John Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 116. See also Akins comments, where he writes, “presents this hostility not as a potential or foreseeable threat but rather as a present reality, a reality that is to be expected.” Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 156.

[64] Ibid., 156.

[65] Adam Robinson, “Abhorrence,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), emphasis original.

[66] See note 42.

[67] D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 27-64.

[68] Ibid., 64.

[69] Gordon Fee defines syntax as “the arrangements and interrelationships of words in larger constructions.” Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors Revised Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 92

[70] One could also use logical reasoning to determine that the God-hating world is not intended here.

[71] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 586-587; Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 73-74; Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 89-90.

[72] Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 92-93.

[73] Cf. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II: The Writings of John, The Gospel, The Epistles, The Apocalypse (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, nd.), 352.

[74] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 369.

[75] Glenn W. Barker, “1 John,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 1099.

[76] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 171.

[77] Ibid., 169.

[78] Akin draws a similarity in 3:13-24 as well. See Akin, 169. For an expansive treatment on the similarities within Johannine literature, see John Niemelä, “Finding True North in 1 John,” Chafer Theological Seminary, Vol. 6, no. 3 (July 2000), 25-48.

[79] Rick Brannan, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011), s.v., ἐξέρχομαι.

[80] Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon, 447.

[81] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[82] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 372.

[83] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[84] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 141.

[85] Considering the context, in which John is encouraging his readers to test the spirits, this conclusion seems to be strengthened.

[86] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 372.

[87] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 142.

[88] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[89] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 174.

[90] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[91] D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: 2002), 28-30.

[92] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[93] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 174.

[94] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[95] Barker, “1 John,” 1101; Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews, 1, 2, and 3 John,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty New Testament Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 1983), 899.

[96] For an in depth treatment of this concept presented through the covenants, see Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants 2nd Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018); Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013); for a covenant theological perspective, see Guy Prentiss Waters, J. Nicholas Reid, and John R. Muether, eds. Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020). For a discussion of the restoration of creation, see Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 387-392.

[97] Barker, “1 John,” 1102.

[98] Barker, “1 John,” 1103; Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 900; and Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2264; and D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 8: An Exposition of 1 John 4:7-21,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 147, no. 585 (Jan. 1990), 83-85.

[99] The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011).

[100] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 179-181.

[101] Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 901; Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192-193. For a brief discussion of what it means to overcome the world, see Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192-193; Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 171.

[102] Barker, “1 John,” 1104.

[103] Concerning the NIV’s rendering of as “victory,” Akin writes, A translation that keeps the root the same in English would read: ‘For everyone born of God conquers the world. This is the conquering that has conquered the world, even our faith.’” Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192. See also Barker, “1 John,” 1104-1105.

[104] Barker, “1 John,” 1108-1109; Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2258 and 2265.

[105] Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 373.

[106] For a thorough study of this, see Randall K. J. Tan, “A Linguistic Overview of 1 John,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 10, no. 3 (Fall 2006), 72-74.

[107] William Bates argues for this, though in a different context (i.e., Satan as the god of this world). See William H. Bates, “The World: An Inductive Exegesis and an Exposition,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 68, no. 269 (Jan. 1911), 112-114; see also George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 612-613.

[108] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 61.

[109] C. H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1980), 56.

[110] John Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch: Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020), 182-184, 186-190.

[111] Gentry and Wellum connect this method of interpreting the Old Testament. See Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 132.

[112] See Richard D. Patterson, “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 66, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 25-46; Meredith G. Kline, “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 38, no. 1 (Fall 1975), 1-27.

[113] Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 27, 29-30.

[114] This is precisely the benefit of the hermeneutical triad, specifically the biblical theology aspect. See Vos, Biblical Theology, 17-18.

How does evangelism help or hinder the health of the church?

Post originally published at https://www.warriorcreek.org/pastor-s-blog, used by permission.

In his small book titled, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, J. Mack Stiles defines evangelism as “teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[1] As we consider the health of the church, we cannot ignore evangelism, that form of communication with the goal of reaching people for Jesus Christ.
It is the execution of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NIV)
The command of Jesus has enormous implications for the church in general and for the health of the church specifically. In this post, we are going to briefly discuss evangelism and how it can help or harm the health of the church. In his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever asks four questions in regards to evangelism:
· “Who should evangelize?”· “How should we evangelize?”· “What is evangelism?”· “Why should we evangelize?”[2]
Who should evangelize? Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Obviously, this does not mean that every disciple of Jesus will evangelize. In fact, I think it could be argued that most disciples of Jesus do not evangelize. This, however, is irrelevant. Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Mark Dever captures the reasons why so well as he writes, “Christians often leave evangelism to “the professionals” out of a sense of inadequacy, apathy, ignorance, fear, or simply feeling that it is inappropriate for them to do it.”[3] I am sure that we all have experiences with one or more of these. However, we should never use these as excuses not to evangelize.
How should we evangelize? This is important, and one that deserves more treatment that we will offer here. However, there are a few points we should keep in mind. First, we must understand the gospel (remember Mack Stiles’ definition). Greg Gilbert provides the essence of the gospel in four words, “God, man, Christ, response.”[4] We build upon these four core concepts, but without them we cannot communicate the gospel. In addition, we should use “our lives and our lips.”[5] That is, our life styles should reflect the teachings of the gospel. They should conform to the Word of God. In addition, our we should evangelize with our lips. That is, we need to vocalize the whole God, man, Christ, and response truths. Learn what the Scriptures say about these four concepts. Develop different ways to articulate them. That is how we should evangelize.
What is evangelism? We have already answered this with Stiles’ definition, and I think it bears repeating. “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[6] Stiles develops this definition by adding several key points. We seek to teach the Gospel specifically (again, think of Gilbert’s four concepts). Stiles describes his own process, “No matter where or with whom, the process is simple: we read the passage [of Scripture] and talk about what it means.”[7] We teach the Scriptures. However, we do not simply fill people’s heads with knowledge about the Bible. We “aim to persuade.”[8] “Our aim helps us remember that much is at stake: to see people moved from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Aiming for something bigger helps us know which fights to pick and which to avoid,” writes Stiles.[9] This helps us understand what evangelism is and how to evangelize.
The final question we must ask is, Whys should I evangelize? To this question, Mark Dever offers three helpful and biblical reasons:
· “a desire to be obedient to the Great Commission”· “a love for the lost”· “a love for God.”[10]
These are excellent reminds of the importance of our mission. We seek to obey our Lord in fulfilling His Great Commission. In addition, if we love the lost (i.e., people who are not disciples of Jesus Christ) we will share the only hope they have of being found. Finally, and as Dever notes, “preeminently” we should evangelize because we love God.[11]
Summary
Evangelism is a key aspect of the Scriptures, of the Christian life, and it should be a mark of the church. If evangelism is found in the church, then that church is on its way to health. How are we, individually, doing with evangelism? How is our church engaging in evangelism? Obviously, it is difficult in the midst of this pandemic. However, a pandemic is not permission to avoid evangelizing. We need to be a healthy church, and to be healthy we need to evangelize. [1] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 26. [2] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 120. [3] Ibid. [4] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 32. [5] Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly By Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly 4th Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2012), 56. [6] Stiles, Evangelism, 26. [7] Ibid., 31. [8] Ibid., 26. [9] Ibid., 35. [10] Dever, 9 Marks, 138. [11] Ibid.

How does conversion affect the church’s health?

(This post is originally found at https://www.warriorcreek.org/pastor-s-blog, used with permission)

A drunk who has spent years and enormous amounts of wealth.

A compulsive buyer who cannot say “No” to a good bargain.

A serial adulteress.

An incontrollable liar.

A politician.

A lawyer.

What does these have in common? Many answers could be offered, and most would more than likely be correct. However, one answer to that question has enormous impact on our understanding of the health of the church.

These individuals, and many others like them, cannot change. That would be the answer that connects them all. Unfortunately, many people in our society, including Christians, hold to this view. Mark Dever discusses this when he writes,

“For many today, wisdom is seen as learning to accept your internal circumstances, to adjust to them, to adapt to them—not to try to fundamentally change them. The die is cast, the lot is fixed, our personality is assigned, and except for some terrible trauma, the assumption is that the leopard does not change his spots, the anxious person his personality, or the insecure person his psyche. ‘That’s the way it is!’ Maturity comes from facing up to the truth about yourself and resigning yourself to it.”[1]

But is that true? Are people assigned to their different vices and shortcomings? How you answer this has enormous implications for the health of the church. For if no one can truly change, then the church will be filled with people no different from the world.[2] And if no one can change, then there is no salvation. That is, if people cannot change, then sin remains, and damnation awaits (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

This would be terrible news, if it were true. But praise the Triune God that it is definitely not true! Paul tells us such in 2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV) That is change. The old is gone, the new is here. Jesus tells Nicodemus essentially the same thing, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3, NIV) We can change, but how?

This is what the third mark of a healthy church comes into play. We are dealing with conversion, a term that has fallen into disuse, unfortunately replaced with the term “decision.” Helping remove confusion from the term conversion, Mack Stiles notes, “But the Bible clearly teaches that conversion is not a function of your parents’ religion, of which church you join, or of what your passport says. It’s not based on your academic achievements, even if they are from a religious institution. Conversion comes from true, conscious, genuine faith in Jesus.”[3] It is not a decision in the same sense that one becomes a fan of the Dallas Stars hockey team. It is true change, rebirth, new creation.

One of the sad results of a consumer-mentality is how it has changed the church. We have seeker-sensitive churches (a phrase that creates a whole host of problems). These churches have good aims. They want to see people in the community saved. However, they go about it in the wrong way. As a result, churches may skim on what conversion is, shrinking it down to what they consider “essential,” that is, making a decision or repeating a prayer. While the decision to trust Christ for salvation is there (see Rom. 10:9-10), it is not just a decision. It is a change.

Putting it in stark terms, Paul describes conversion as dead people coming to life (see Eph. 2:1-10). As we consider the health of our church, we need to see if our church as whole understands what conversion is. All the teachers, deacons, pastors (yes, the New Testament teaches a plurality of pastors/elders) must understand conversion. Not only that, all our members must grasp conversion (interestingly, membership is one of the marks of a healthy church, which, Lord-willing, we will discuss on 16 February 2021).

Conversion must be an essential mark of our church if we are to see the Gospel proclaimed (with lives and lips). Conversion must be expected if we desire to grow into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:1-16). We started with a list of individuals with various problems. After their salvation (see John 3 and 2 Cor. 5), we will find this:

A saved lawyer.

A sanctified politician.

A former liar.

A committed wife.

A wise steward.

A sober man investing in his family, church, and community.

What is the key to conversion: Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel.


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 97.

[2] Compare the differences between people who are saved and people who are lost: 1 Cor. 5:9-6:11; Gal. 5:16-26; and Col. 3:1-11, to offer a few.

[3] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 36.

How does Gospel Understanding Affect Church Health?

This post was originally published on warriorcreek.org/, used with the author’s permission.


“What is the gospel?” asks the cashier at the grocery store. This comes on the heels of your questions, “Do you go to church? Have you believed the gospel?” What do you say?
You are caught off guard, and unconsciously pull out a gospel tract and hand it to the nice, young lady, explaining that a small booklet will answer her questions. You quickly gather your items and head for the door, simultaneously embarrassed by your forgetfulness and angered by your response.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever felt like you were unable to articulate the gospel? Well, you may have experienced this, but did you know churches experience it as well?

We are in a series that is discussing the question, “What is a healthy church?” Part of the answer to that question depends upon our understanding of the gospel.

We return to Mark Dever’s book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever gives us four negatives that help dispel confusion,

· “The good news is not simply that we are okay.”

· “The good news is not simply that God is love.”

· “The good news is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend.”

· “The good news is not simply that we should live right.”[1]

We could spend a good deal of time dissecting these negative answers to the question, “What is the Gospel?” However, I think they immediately clear up the confusion and dispel the clouds that often skew our vision of the glorious gospel.

At the level of churches, one can also see how important this is within the walls of the church. It is paramount that churches avoid these “simply’s” of the gospel. Our churches need to understand what the Gospel is for several reasons.

If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot fulfill her mission (see Matt. 28:18-20). If the church does not understand the Gospel, then the church cannot disciple her members. If the church does not understand the Gospel, the question must be asked, “Is this a church?”

The stakes are high when discussing the gospel. But if you have followed this far, you will notice we have not answered the question, “What is the gospel?”

We turn our attention to Greg Gilbert, the author of What is the Gospel?[2] Gilbert summarizes his answer, drawing and relying upon Romans 1-4, writing, “We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.”[3]

That is the gospel in summary format. The entire Scriptures build upon this foundation (or, skeleton). As Glasser et. al. remark, “The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments is a missionary book, the revelation of God’s purpose and action in mission in human history.”[4]
In order to understand the Gospel better, you need to read the Bible, God’s Gospel book (or, missionary book). Churches, in order to be healthy, need to understand the Gospel. Confusion of the Gospel not only hinders the health of the church at large, it also has the possible barring of people from salvation. For example, if a church does not preach the Gospel, let alone understand the Gospel, then the church could by default keep people away from their hope of salvation.

The church, which is made up of individuals like you, must have an intimate grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without it, it is unhealthy at best, and dead at worst.


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 80-90. [2] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). [3] Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 32. [4] Arthur F. Glasser, et. al., Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17.

How can a church be healthy with so many views?

“Long-held Christian beliefs about everything from the nature of God to morality have been reshaped and have become unimportant to many people.”[1]

Mark Dever’s statement is a sad testament to the reality of the church today. As we continue our discussion on the topic of the health of the church, we must consider the beliefs of the church. How can a church be healthy with so many views? If the church is to be healthy, the church must hold to biblical theology.

Now, I will admit that I am tempted to dive into the nerdy pool known as biblical theology with intensity. However, I want to balance that with a practical view of the church at large. With that in mind, I think it would be helpful to offer a definition. In his book, Biblical Theology, Geerhardus Vos defines biblical theology as, “deal[ing] with revelation as a divine activity.”[2] Revelation is a term that is used to God’s communication to humanity. There are two primary ways that God does this, through general and special revelation (both can be observed in Psalm 19).

We are focusing primarily on special revelation, in other words, the Bible. What we believe, both as individuals and as a church, must come from God’s revelation. This revelation is the result of divine activity, as we learn from Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (ESV). His counterpart, Peter, also teaches us this, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, ESV).

When we consider the health of the church, we must understand that God defines what a healthy church is, and He does so in His Word. Therefore, it is necessary that our churches look to His Word for her health.

Dever, connecting biblical theology to our lives, asks, “How relevant are your own beliefs to your daily life? When you last sat in church, how much did you examine the words of the prayers you heard? How much did you think about the words of the songs you sang? Or how about the words you heard from Scripture? Does it really matter to you if what you said or sang in church was true?”[3]

Think about those questions. When is the last time you asked yourself these questions? I hope that it becomes immediately apparent how our theology (i.e., what we believe) informs and affects our practice (i.e., how we act).

We need only examine the various churches today to see that biblical theology does not inform many churches. But our concern is with our church. How can we ensure our church adheres to biblical theology?

First, we must hold up the Scriptures as the Word of God. It is not just a book of collected wisdom. It is not just a book of morality. It is not just a book of God’s dealing with people throughout history. It is God’s Word, more necessary than bread for life (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” Matt. 4:4, ESV). The Scriptures, not tradition (though tradition has its place), nor political opinion, nor societies, should hold the place of primacy within the church.

Second, we must submit to the Scriptures for all faith and practice. In the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, we read this summary of the importance of the Scriptures, “The whole counsel of God…is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture…The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.”[4] I realize that is a lengthy quote, but I hope it illustrates the importance of God’s Word in our lives and practices in the church.

Third, we must spend time studying and understanding the Scriptures. The Baptist Confession, referring to the Scriptures, states, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding to them.”[5] Notice that phrase “in a due use of ordinary means.” That is, as we use our minds to read and understand the Scriptures, our knowledge grows. This is specific knowledge, as Peter reminds us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…” (2 Pet. 1:3-4, ESV). All things for “life and godliness” are found in the “precious and very great promises” provided to us through “His divine power.” As such, we should spend time studying the Word of God, individually and corporately. We have no excuse not to study.

While much more could be written, I will close with Mark Dever’s words. He writes, “In the Bible we see God giving us His Word—His promises—and we respond to Him by trusting Him—just as Adam and Eve did not do in the Garden of Eden; just as Jesus did throughout His life and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane. And as we hear and believe God’s Word, we begin to have that relationship with Him that He made us for. This is the God whom we can trust and should trust, because His Word will not disappoint. This is what the Bible is all about.”[6] Will our church practice biblical theology? If we are to be a healthy church, we have no other choice.


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 58.

[2] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2017), 5.

[3] Dever, 9 Marks, 58.

[4] LBCF, I:6, 10.

[5] LBCF, I:7.

[6] Dever, 9 Marks, 75.

Book Review: “Going Deeper with New Testament Greek”

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek Revised Edition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 562 pages, hardback.

Overview

This revised edition of Going Deeper is a blessing to Greek professors and students. It will, in my estimation, become a staple in intermediate Greek classes. These three men, all incredibly capable of authoring such a work, provide a unique resource. They note in the preface, “In Going Deeper with New Testament Greek, we have attempted to present the material in a way that is accessible, and even fun, knowing that most students will be reading the chapters sequentially.”[1] The work is accessible because the authors wrote it with both the teacher and student in mind. For the teacher, they organized the work into 15 chapters (as the authors note, it is the average length of a semester). They also provide access to “(1) weekly quizzes; (2) exams (midterm and final); (3) PowerPoint presentations for each chapter; (4) chapter summaries as a separate document; (5) chapter exercise sentences as a separate document; (6) answer keys for quizzes, exams, and chapter exercise sentences; and (7) automated Moodle quizzes based on the summary charts in each chapter.”[2] Another benefit, both to the student and the teacher, is the inclusion of practice sentences. The authors also provide “biblical examples.”[3] These are selected with a precise process that allows the teacher (and students) examples within Scripture, further developing the interest in New Testament Greek studies. They also include two vocabulary lists (one at the end of each chapter, except chapters 14 and 15, and the other as an appendix). Both the vocabulary and practice sentences remove the need to purchase additional workbooks or vocabulary guides.

The work is divided into the following major categories: introduction to Greek (1 chapter), nouns (3 chapters), articles/adjectives (1 chapter), verbs (4 chapters), verbals (2 chapters), pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs and particles (1 chapter), diagramming and discourse analysis (1 chapter), word studies (1 chapter), and continuing Greek (1 chapter). There are also two appendixes (one providing vocabulary and the other a “survey of 12 grammars”).[4]

Strengths

It should not be surprising that the differences between Going Deeper from other grammars are the strengths. To begin with, the intentionality of selecting Scripture passages that apply to the focused concept of the chapter under the previously mentioned guideline selections (see page 5) encourages students to continue pursuing their Greek studies. For example, chapter 2 begins with John 1:1, where Köstenberger discusses the syntax and implications, and notes, “Of course, Jesus’s deity does not rest on this one verse (see, e.g., John 20:28), but a sufficient knowledge of Greek syntax saves the reader from drawing the wrong conclusion.”[5] A similar example is provided by Köstenberger in chapter 5, too. In this way, they are meeting their stated goal where the authors write, “we hope to stir in you’re a passion, and to provide you with the necessary tools, to ‘go deeper’ in your pursuit of your mastery of NT Greek.”[6] The examples frequent the pages of this book.

Another strength, and point of departure from most grammars, is the “Reading the New Testament” sections.[7] As they noted in their preface, these reading selections focus on the “grammar or syntax discussed in the chapter,” “pastorally relevant, theologically foundational, or doctrinally debated,” and “around 10-12 verses in length.”[8] Chapter 8’s reading section serves as an excellent example. The passage is Acts 2:37-47. Scholars and individuals familiar with this passage will immediately think of Acts 2:38, and rightly so. While not overloading the student or teacher with the material, they present the exegetical information verse by verse (or, in the example of 44-45, two verses) and word by word (focusing on the most important). For the phrase ‘for the forgiveness of your sins,’ they offer this brief treatment, “The proposition εἰς is often used to communicate purpose (‘for’) but can also communicate grounds (‘on the basis of’).”[9] This theologically relevant passage is presented in this reading section with the pertinent grammatical and syntactical information. To the book’s strength, each chapter (except for chapters 14 and 15) has such a reading.

A third strength is chapter 13 “Sentences, Diagramming, & Discourse Analysis.”[10] Reminding the student (and teacher) of the importance of structure, Plummer remarks, “When we teach or preach a text such as Matthew 28:19-20, we need to ask not only if we are faithfully conveying the meaning/content of the original text, but also if we are emphasizing what the inspired author emphasized.”[11] Plummer presents the ways the student can competently do this. For sentences, he provides a paragraph (or, two) discussing the sentence, he breaks it down to words, phrases, and clauses.[12] Plummer also presents two forms of diagramming: line diagramming (457-460) and arcing (460-464). In both cases, Plummer provides the needed information to engage in these respective forms of diagramming as well as handsome examples.[13] Finally, Plummer treats discourse analysis. Always connecting the study of NT Greek to the practical realm, Plummer reminds students that “Practically speaking, properly noting discourse boundaries should influence what portion of text a preacher selects for a sermon—i.e., he should choose a length of text that respects the biblical author’s communicative structure.”[14]

In order not to overwhelm the reader, I want to highlight one major strength of this work. This strength lies in appendix 2 “Noun and Article Charts: A Survey of 12 Grammars.”[15] This survey is helpful for several reasons. First, it provides an overview treatment of significant grammars. It allows the intermediate student and seasoned professor a bird’s eye view of how grammars dissect the Greek language. Second, it provides only the necessary information. It only presents the names without discussing any examples. Third, it is organized well. One does not have to spend time examining a key for one can easily understand the tables. Fourth, it provides a library for students and professors who may need to research something in further depth. For example, if a student believes that a word in the Genitive case is something in particular he or she can cross-examine how other grammars denote it.[16]

Weaknesses

One issue is the binding of the book. Grammars are utilized, and the binding should be durable. Upon receiving Going Deeper I was surprised that the binding was not better. A Smyth sewn binding would be better than the glued binding. Thus, it may hinder longevity in usage.

Another “weakness,” which I would rather term a suggestion, is to supplement the material with additional appendixes. Staying true to their purpose of design, the work is geared for the teacher. However, with the importance and popularity of participles in NT Greek, I think it would help to provide further treatment of participles.

Who should read this book?

Every professor of NT Greek should own this work. Regardless of the stage of education (beginning, intermediate, or advanced), this work provides a wealth of information and organization that will aid both professors and students.

Every student of NT Greek (whether pastor or professor) should also possess this book. It is an excellent reference, providing up-to-date discussions on important syntax, grammar, and resource issues. Additionally, it can aid in the retention and usage of NT Greek. Many students forget their Greek after seminary. However, this work bridges the gap between the classroom and the chapel.


[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek Revised Edition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 2.

[2] Ibid., 5-6.

[3] Ibid., 3-4.

[4] Ibid., 523.

[5] Ibid., 52.

[6] Ibid., 1.

[7] See pages 43-49, 113-120, 281-287 for a few representative examples.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 283.

[10] Ibid., 441-481.

[11] Ibid., 442.

[12] Ibid., 442-456

[13] See page 459 for line diagramming and pages 461-462 for arcing.

[14] Ibid., 465.

[15] Ibid., 523.

[16] 525-527.

What is sanctification?

While working on a sermon covering Philippians 2:12-13, I found question 38 of the Baptist Catechism quite helpful.

A Brief Word About Catechisms

First, catechisms were and are used regularly throughout church history. While to many the term catechism brings up the picture of the Catholic or Anglican church, protestant groups such as the presbyterians and reformed baptistic congregationalists have regularly used catechisms to disciple and educate believers. Typically, catechisms utilize the question and answer format. For example, question 38 of the Baptist Catechism has,

“Q. 38: What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

Question 38 of the Baptist Catechism

Second, catechisms offer a broad treatment of deep, biblical subjects. Entire books have been written on the topic of sanctification. Journals and scholarly articles increase the understanding and expand the debate on this doctrine. However, the Catechism summarizes the Scriptures’ teaching on sanctification with thirty-four words. In other words, it offers the bones of the doctrine, not a comprehensive treatment.

Third, and finally, catechisms are tools for aiding believers in understanding doctrines of the Bible. They are not the Bible, nor were they ever meant to replace the Bible. They are only effective and helpful as they rely on the Bible and its God-given authority. The moment catechisms loom over the Bible in an effort to wrest authority from God or His Word is the moment the catechisms are to be thrown into the fire. With that said, the Baptist Catechism does not seek to do this.

Baptist Catechism and Sanctification

I used question 38 as an example above, and I will offer it here again.

“Q. 38: What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

Question 38 of the Baptist Catechism

There are three parts to the answer that helped me in summarizing the complex doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification is the Work of God

First, let us note that the Catechism places the work of sanctification in God’s court. We read, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace.” The Catechism cites 2 Thessalonians 2:13 which reads, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first-fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (ESV) In this passage, the Spirit is the means by which the “brothers beloved” were sanctified.

Sanctification has a goal: Godliness

The second part that helps us understand what sanctification is refers to the goal. We read in the Catechism, “whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God.” That is our goal: godliness. In sanctification we are made after the image of God. I found this phrase interesting in light of a brief comparison of Genesis 1:26, 5:3, and James 3:9.

Genesis 1:26Genesis 5:3James 3:9
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”“When Adam had lived 13 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”“With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”
Man’s image prior to the fall centers on God’s image.Man’s image after the fall centers on man’s fallen image.Man’s image after the fall retains vestiges of God’s image.
All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version

Prior to the fall, man was created in the image of God. After the fall, man begat man in his own image, though this image retains aspects of the image of God. What ties this together with the doctrine of sanctification is the goal of sanctification: godliness. We see this presented in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Did you catch the reference to the image? Through sanctification (and two other key doctrines), believers are made into the image of his Son. That is the goal of sanctification.

Sanctification is a Progressive Work

The last part of sanctification upon which the Baptist Catechism touches is the progressiveness of it. We read, “Sanctification is the work of God…whereby we…are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

The progressive nature of sanctification is demonstrated by the Baptist Catechisms wording, “more and more.” That is, there will be a progression sanctification. Let me remind you that the Catechism is succinct; it is not meant to be an elaborate work of theology.

If we consulted the London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 13, “On Sanctification,” we would read in paragraph 2, “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

There is no doubt, on comparing the Confession and the Catechism, with accompanying Scripture, that the work of sanctification is a lifelong work.

Concluding Thoughts

There is much that could be written (and probably should) at this point. There are many applications that we could discern and utilize for our daily lives in the faith. However, that will have to wait until another day. For now, let the Baptist Catechism help us understand this wonderfully deep and delightfully sweet doctrine of sanctification.