an expository sermon on Matthew 15:1-20 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on June 28, 2020
Living in the United States in the 21st century, we are blessed with a plethora of theological resources. The Bible, the gospel, and the things of God have never been so accessible as they are now in our society. Below are some of the books and articles that have been most helpful to me for getting a better understanding of Scripture, the focus of Article I of Friendship’s statement of faith.
Resources on the Authorship, Accuracy, and Authority of Scripture
Baptists and the Bible by L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame
“The Definition of the Term ‘Canon’: Exclusive or Multi-Dimensional?” by Michael J. Kruger
Resources on the Aim and Christ-centered Nature of Scripture
Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel by Nick Roark and Robert Cline
Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles by Graeme Goldsworthy
God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by James M. Hamilton Jr.
The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles by Abner Chou
“The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham” by James M. Hamilton Jr.
“The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15” by James M. Hamilton Jr.
What Is Biblical Theology? by James M. Hamilton Jr.
What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
Article I of Friendship’s statement of faith ends by affirming that Scripture is Christ-centered. This is an implication of its earlier statement that Scripture has “salvation for its end.” Since salvation is the aim of Scripture, it makes sense that the Savior would be the focus of Scripture. Indeed, all of Scripture is Christ-focused. Both the OT and NT provide testimony throughout their pages to Christ. Article I rightly concludes, “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” We believe this first because Jesus himself instructs us to read all of Scripture as a testimony to himself.
The Gospel of John includes many teachings of Jesus not contained in other Gospels. John shows how Jesus on multiple occasions taught people that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament. On one occasion, Jesus taught the religious leaders who were opposing him,
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people.But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?John 5:39-47
In this passage, Jesus tells his opponents plainly: “the Scriptures … bear witness about me” (v. 39). Jesus was not introducing a new reading of the Old Testament. He was not reading the Old Testament contrary to the intentions of either their human or divine authors. Rather, Jesus was pointing out that the Old Testament all along was bearing witness to him. They were preparing the Jewish people for him. They were setting the stage for him.
Jesus is even more direct (if that were possible) later in the same paragraph. He tells his opponents that he will not accuse them to the Father, but Moses will (v. 45). Jesus audaciously claims that Moses “wrote of me” (v. 46). Jesus’ opponents don’t believe him because they don’t believe the Old Testament (v. 47).
John records another instance of Jesus teaching that he fulfilled the Old Testament. “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Jesus goes even further back in biblical history. Not only did Moses look forward to Jesus, but the very Founding Father of the Jewish people, Abraham, looked forward to Jesus’ coming!
If John records how Jesus taught even his enemies to read the Old Testament as a testimony to him, then Luke records how Jesus taught his disciples to read the Old Testament this way. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus rebuked two disciples walking to Emmaus as they mourned his recent death,
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?Luke 24:25-26
Luke then tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Biblical scholars who argue that Christians shouldn’t read the Old Testament in a Christ-centered way are quick to point out that this verse doesn’t say that Jesus told those two disciples that everything in Scripture concerns him. But this verse does tell us that there are multiple threads both in the Law and also the Prophets of the Old Testament that point forward to Christ and indicate that he had to suffer before he entered glory. And the New Testament repeatedly shows us how to identify these threads, and following that method, they are in fact everywhere in the Old Testament.
Luke also records that Jesus taught all the apostles likewise. “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus taught the apostles how to read the Old Testament as a testimony to him, and Peter immediately applied various Psalms of David to the infant church (Acts 1:16-20). Peter’s Pentecost sermon similarly models Christocentric preaching from various Old Testament texts (Acts 2:14-36). The Christocentric Old Testament interpretation of the New Testament epistles is itself the fruit of Jesus’ own Christocentric reading of the Old Testament.
We read all of Scripture as a testimony to Christ because Jesus himself read Scripture this way and taught others to do the same.
God’s authorship of Scripture implies not only the absolute truthfulness of Scripture but also the authority of Scripture. Scripture is authoritative over all areas of our lives. Friendship’s statement of faith confesses of Scripture: “It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” These statements mean that Scripture is the authoritative standard for how God will judge us. It also is the standard by which we are united to fellow believers in a local church, and it should be the standard by which we evaluate all truth claims that we encounter.
Scripture: The Standard for God’s Judgment
Scripture reveals God’s righteousness. God judges people according to the standard of his perfect righteousness. One Bible passage that teaches this is Psalm 98:7-9,
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together,
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Scripture reveals God’s righteousness. It teaches us that God will judge with righteousness, as in Psalm 98 (cf. also Pss 9:8; 72:2; 96:13). As Paul reminds us in the New Testament, “God shows no partiality” (Rom 2:11). God will judge all people perfectly fairly, and Scripture shows us the perfect righteousness of God by which he will judge the world.
Scripture also presents God’s commands for us, according to which we will be judged. In Romans 2:6-8, Paul teaches, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” The New Testament repeatedly instructs us that God will judge all people according to their works (2 Tim 4:14; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 2:23; 20:12, 13). Scripture is the standard for righteousness. God’s law is in Scripture. Scripture is the standard, then, for God’s judgment.
Scripture: The Standard of Christian Unity
Scripture is also the standard for Christians’ unity within a local church. For Christians to have fellowship with one another in a local church as fellow church members, they must have a common understanding of how Scripture defines the church. Friendship Baptist Church gladly confesses with our fellow Southern Baptists that Scripture has clear standards for church membership and church governance, which our church strives to maintain.
Scripture puts two basic requirements on people for church membership: repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 3:10; 1 Tim 3:15) and baptism as a public profession of that faith (Acts 8:12; 16:14-15, 30-34, 40; 18:8).
The New Testament also teaches that each local church is autonomous under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 8:1-5; Rev 2-3). Each church democratically determines its doctrine (Rev 2:6, 14-15, 20), membership (1 Cor 5:1-2, 4-5, 7, 12-13), and leadership (1 Tim 5:19-20).
(Future blog posts on Article VI of Friendship’s statement of faith will defend the above biblical definitions of church membership and governance.)
Scripture: The Standard of Our Judgments
If John 3:16 was the most widely-known Bible verse in 20th century America, then Matthew 7:1 may be the most widely-known Bible verse in 21st century America: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” People devoted to religious pluralism latch onto that verse more than any other in the Bible, often in order to combat a Christian’s obedience to the Bible (e.g., in evangelism or confrontation of sin). But as Friendship’s statement of faith affirms from the outset, Matthew 7:1 does not forbid all human judgments. Rather, our human judgments should be based on Scripture, which is the “supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
The subsequent context of Matthew 7:1 is vital for not misapplying that verse. Multiple Christian thinkers rightly remind us: “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” And the context of Matthew 7:1 shows that Jesus was not prohibiting all judgments but a particular kind of judgment. Matthew 7:1 was but the introductory sentence of a full paragraph that runs through Matthew 7:5.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus was warning his disciples not to be too severe (v. 2) or hypocritical (vv. 3-5) in their judgments of others. Certainly Jesus’ statement did not mean that Christians should expose sin. Rather, Jesus’ statement was telling Christians to expose sin in a certain way: lovingly, and only after they have examined their own hearts for the very same sin. In fact, the commitment of Article I to judge everything according to the standard of Scripture is obedient to Jesus’ command, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
As Friendship’s statement of faith reminds us, we should judge “all human conduct” by the standards of Scripture. We should evaluate behaviors by Scripture’s teachings. We should apply timeless Scripture to time-bound cultural practices of 21st century America.
We should also judge “all human … creeds” according to Scripture. We should evaluate everything we believe about God, salvation, humanity, the world, etc., according to Scripture. Whenever we find a contradiction between our beliefs and Scripture’s clear teaching, we must submit to Scripture. Creeds and doctrinal statements are good, but they (even the Baptist Faith and Message!) must be measured against the ultimate standard of Scripture.
Finally, we should judge “all human … religious opinions” according to Scripture. Certainly, if we evaluate Christian beliefs against Scripture, we should certainly critically appraise non-Christian religious beliefs against Scripture! When another religious system confronts us and seeks to entice us, we must reject its claims on the basis of God’s holy word, the Bible. We should seek to share the true gospel with the other religion’s adherent with whom we are speaking.
The Bible’s authority is the ultimate standard, not only of God’s judgment of us, but also our unity as a church and our own judgments of all things in life. Based on truly biblical principles, the Baptist Faith and Message helpfully articulates our belief as Southern Baptists that we ought to conform every aspect of our life to the standards of Scripture.
Friendship Baptist’s statement of faith begins, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” We gladly affirm the Bible’s holy authorship, holy aim, and holy accuracy. This blog post shows the Scriptural support for the Bible’s holy authorship.
The Bible is a book comprised of 66 smaller books. Each book of the Bible has two authors simultaneously: a divinely-inspired man and God himself. The Baptist Faith and Message rightly affirms the dual authorship of all of Scripture, since the Bible repeatedly claims that it is both a human and a divine product.
No one questions human involvement in the Bible’s production. You may be surprised, though, that the Bible itself often acknowledges the human authors. The fifth book of the Bible begins, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deut 1:1). Many of the Psalms also identify their author in superscriptions, such as David (e.g., Ps 23), Asaph (e.g., Ps 50), the sons of Korah (e.g., Ps 42), Heman the Ezrahite (Ps 88), Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps 89), Moses (Ps 90), and Solomon (e.g., Ps 127).
Similar to Psalms, the Book of Proverbs leaves multiple traces of its human authors and compilers. Proverbs opens by identifying their primary author as “Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (Prov 1:1). A similar heading appears at Proverbs 10:1. Solomon compiled thirty sayings of the wise (Prov 22:17-24:22) along with additional sayings (Prov 24:23-34). Hundreds of years later, King Hezekiah’s scribes appended additional proverbs of Solomon in Proverbs 25-29. Proverbs concludes with an oracle of Agur (Prov 30) and an oracle by the Queen Mother of Lemuel (an otherwise-unknown middle Eastern king: Prov 31).
All of the Latter Prophets identify their authors by name, as well (the Books of Isaiah through Malachi).
Non-Christians (and even some self-styled “progressive Christians”) deny the Bible’s divine authorship, but the Bible clearly affirms its own divine origins from first to last. Jeremiah claims that “the word of the Lord came” to him six times in his book, and Ezekiel uses that phrase eight times. The Latter Prophets claim “thus says the Lord” 927 times. Well does Peter affirm the divine authorship of the Old Testament: “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20-21). Paul is even more direct: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16).
The New Testament is just as much the word of God as the Old Testament. Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26; cf. John 15:26-27; 21:24). The eyewitness Gospels of Matthew and John are therefore trustworthy. Mark’s Gospel is written by the spiritual “son” of Peter (1 Pet 5:13). Luke’s Gospel is similarly based on eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4). Interestingly concerning Luke, Paul writes, “the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages'” (1 Tim 5:18). Paul refers not only to Deut 25:4 but also to Luke 10:7 as “Scripture.” And Peter affirms that Paul’s own epistles are Scripture: “There are some things in them [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet 3:16, emphasis added).
As Southern Baptists, we are unapologetically people of the Book. We seek to base all our beliefs and practices on Scriptural commands and precedents. We at Friendship Baptist Church gladly affirm The Baptist Faith and Message as our statement of faith because its statements are Scriptural. We believe the Bible was written by men divinely inspired by God not because our statement of faith says so, but because the Bible says so. The next blog post in this series will show how the Bible undergirds our statement of faith’s claim about the holy aim of the Bible.
an expository sermon on 1 Peter 3:8-12 preached by Pastor Jordan Atkinson on May 5, 2019