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March 02, 2015

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By E. Ray Clendenen

President Obama is famous for repeating some variation of the phrase, “Let me be clear.” There has been some discussion of what he means by this. Some suggest it marks a “sound bite” or a “take-away” for reporters. Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and author of “The Argument Culture,” sees the phrase as potentially working on three levels: “I’m pointing to the point I want you to listen to, I’m pointing to the interpretation that I want you to have, and maybe there’s something there on the meta level, where I’m saying something about me as a person, that I’m being clear,” she says. Others suggest that the subtext is “I’m running an open, honest government.” He is asserting and defending that he values transparency (see Andy Coller, “Dissecting President Obama’s Favorite Phrase,” Politico 2010).

But what do Bible translations mean when they claim the virtue of “clarity”? For example, the preface to the ESV states, “The ESV has been carefully weighed against the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, to ensure the fullest accuracy and clarity and to avoid under-translating or overlooking any nuance of the original text.” The meaning of “clarity” here in connection with weighing the original languages is perhaps expounded in the next paragraph that states, “Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.” I would propose, then, that the ESV’s use of “clarity” is somewhat like what I have called “faithfulness” (see my last blog, “Faithfulness in Bible Translation”). 

In translation work, it is common to find an editorial comment that a word or phrase has been “supplied for clarity.” This is also found in edited editions of letters. It means that in the opinion of the translator or editor the meaning of the original text without the addition (i.e., a literal rendering) would be ambiguous, misleading, or obscure to the intended audience. “Clarity” in this case means lucidity, the quality of being easy to understand or unambiguous. For example, in Genesis 8:13 the ESV translates literally: “In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth.” The English reader is left wondering what year 601 is in reference to. For the sake of clarity, the HCSB adds a note at that point: “= of Noah’s life.” The NET, on the other hand, translates “In Noah’s six hundred and first year” (see also NIV, NLT), and a note reads, “the word ‘Noah’s’ has been supplied in the translation for clarity.” 

A lack of clarity in this sense may also result from translating an idiom literally, even though English readers will not likely understand it. For example, in the ESV Numbers 31:6 says that Moses sent Phineas to war “with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand.” Timothy Ashley’s commentary on Numbers proposes that the “vessels” referred to were the anointed furnishings of the tabernacle, probably including the ark. The idea that all this plus the trumpets could be “in his hand” is ludicrous. The phrase “in his hand” was an idiom meaning they were “in his care” or were his responsibility. So the HCSB translates, “in whose care were the holy objects and signal trumpets” (similarly the NET, NIV, NLT, etc.). 

Another example is Psalm 1:1, which in the ESV praises the man who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Although perhaps preserving the beauty of the King James, without an explanation this would be rough going for a modern Bible reader. I have never heard anyone say they were walking in the counsel of someone; to stand in someone’s way is understood today very differently from what the psalmist intended; and to sit in someone’s seat is equally misleading. Therefore, in the interest of clarity, most modern translations unpack these idioms rather than just reproducing them, as in the HCSB: “who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers.”

While striving to be faithful to all the meaning in the original text, a Bible translation must also strive for clarity in its language. Otherwise, we produce translations that fail to communicate, forcing readers to depend on a scholarly clergy who holds the “keys of interpretation.” The apostle Paul had rather “speak five words [in the church with] understanding, in order to teach others also, than 10,000 words in another language” (1 Cor 14:8-9). I believe he would urge us to let our translations sound the trumpets of alarm or encouragement from Scripture clearly. We should apply Yahweh’s instruction to the prophet Habakkuk, who was to “write down this vision, clearly inscrib[ing] it on tablets so one may easily read it” (Hab 2:2).

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February 24, 2015

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The truth of Scripture is meant not only to be studied—it’s meant also to be sung.

What the people of God believe shapes the way we worship, and how we worship shapes how we practice our faith. Church musicians and lyricists who have crafted hymns with deep biblical content and soul-stirring arrangements have been of inestimable importance in passing on the faith once delivered to the saints.

It was Martin Luther who said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” In line with the Protestant Reformation’s concern for worshipping God in spirit and in truth, we are grateful to announce a unique music project that is one of the highlights of Ligonier’s decades in ministry—Glory to the Holy One.

Glory to the Holy OneGlory to the Holy One is an album of sacred hymns and choral works written by Dr. R.C. Sproul and set to music by Jeff Lippencott, an award-winning composer whose compositions have been featured in film and television. Recorded in esteemed venues around the world, the new project provides the church with an offering of that which is good, true, and beautiful in the Christian faith.

Good theology sung well renews our minds, comforts our souls, and encourages us in the work of the kingdom. Our generation must recapture the church’s historic conviction that its anthems and hymns are not indifferent matters. And it is our responsibility to show the coming generations what good theology looks like in song.

Now available on CD and iTunes, Glory to the Holy One features lyrics drawn from Scripture and a lifetime of theological reflection. Our hope is that this project will show how beautiful music and the deep truths of God’s Word can be combined to exalt the Lord and edify His people.

Visit GlorytotheHolyOne.com for a free MP3 download and to stream samples of the full album.

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February 16, 2015

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Books
by Barry York

At the heart of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is learning from Him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

As a new professor at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in Pittsburgh, I came eager to help the students learn the ways of Jesus at this institution that honors highly the Word of God.  Yet what has humbled me the most in my short time here is how much Christ is teaching me.  RPTS is a place where not only students but professors learn.  

Please let me share with you three of those lessons.

The students here have incredible life and ministry situations that instruct me in the way of the cross.

After the very first class I taught, one of the staff persons here took a picture of the students and me.  However, two of them had to be left out of the photo.  Why?  They come from a nation that is hostile to the gospel.  Their identity must be protected.  How humbling to be teaching men who will be making sacrifices for the gospel I had only heard or read about previously.  

Lessons of the cross are being pressed upon me daily.  I have not yet heard my homiletics students from this communist country fail to mention suffering in their chapel sermons.  In teaching church planting and discipleship, men from other cultures speak of hundreds of conversions they have witnessed and I wonder as I listen if we need to trade places between lectern and desk!  Some international students are university professors who are already more educated and gifted than I am.  They are unknowingly schooling me in Christ’s ways as they treat me with love and respect.  

The varied background of the seminary community is teaching me to exercise the love of the Triune God. 

When we gather each morning for chapel, I am amazed at the diversity of students I see: the man from Singapore leading our singing; the couple from India preparing to church plant; the African American women from nearby who want to serve their churches more knowledgeably; the Haitian student beaming with smiles as he greets us; the men from Asia whose wives and children, living nearby, come each morning to worship with us.  In addition, I see brothers preparing to serve in other NAPARC congregations, Baptist pastors who love the commitment to God’s Word here, and students from a variety of non-denominational churches.  Chapel has become a slice of the heaven we will enjoy where all the tongues and tribes will be represented!

With so many different backgrounds represented here, being at RPTS has reminded me of the importance not only of doctrine but of love.  Again and again, I am being taught while I teach to be patient with those who differ, to seek to patiently correct those I believe are wrong, and to appreciate what God is doing in different places in His vineyard.  

The challenging changes in the academic landscape are stretching me to use new tools and approaches in education.

Seminaries have had to adapt to the changes technology has brought to education.  According to Pew Research, 89% of four-year public colleges and universities offer online classes. Whether a seminary will provide online education is almost not a question anymore, and with its developing distance learning program RPTS is no exception.  Also, increasingly students are not wanting merely training in orthodoxy, but orthopraxy.  They want not only their heads addressed but their minds and hearts involved.

Consequently, I have had to learn many new skills in being a teacher.  Becoming accustomed to being recorded and providing online resources over educational platforms for our growing number of distance education students has been a new experience.  Corresponding with students across the nation and even in different lands whose faces I may have never seen has been unique.  Turning some classes such as homiletics or mercy ministry more into workshops with a strong emphasis on assignments being done in local congregations has stretched me, but both students and their instructor are learning more about His kingdom.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29).  At RPTS, I’m feeling his yoke and its lightness in a whole new way.  We invite you to come and learn with us.

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February 09, 2015

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The Bible is a book. It may be called a collection of books compiled into one majestic volume. As a book it is designed to be read. In this respect it is like all other books. But in important ways, the Bible is not like any other book. It is the Book of books. We customarily call this book the Holy Bible. Its holiness is found in its otherness. It is a sacred book because it transcends and stands apart from and above every other book. It is holy because its ultimate Author is holy. It is holy because its message is holy. And it is holy because its content is designed to make us holy.

The Bible is an inspired book; that is, it is “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is inspired in a way that reaches far beyond the inspiration of human artists. The Bible offers more than brilliant insight, more than human sagacity. It is called “inspired” not because of its supernatural mode of transmission via human authors, but because of its origin. It is not merely a book about God; it is a book from God. Therefore, the true church confesses its trust and confidence that the Bible is the vox Dei, the veritable “voice of God.”

The Bible is a normative book. The church has rightly declared that the Bible is the “norm of norms, and without norm.” A norm is a standard, a measuring rod by which things are judged. We may use many lesser standards to regulate our lives, but all such regulations must be subordinate to Scripture. To be the “norm of norms” is to be the superlative norm, the standard by which all other norms are measured. The Bible is not simply “first among equals”; other standards have no parity with it. As Jesus is exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords, so we submit to His Word as the norm of norms, the standard of truth, and the one infallible rule for the people of God.

God is the Lord of heaven and earth, and He alone is able to impose absolute obligation upon His creatures. He does this through the written Word. The Reformers of the sixteenth century recognized this unique authority of the Bible, expressing it in the motto sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” The Reformers did not despise other authorities or deny the value of tradition and the creeds, but they distinguished the singular authority of the Bible, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

God calls every Christian to pursue righteousness. Our trust is to be childlike, but our understanding must be mature. Such trust and understanding require study of God’s Word. The authentic disciple meditates on it day and night. Our goal is more than knowledge; it is wisdom, the fruit of inward and outward obedience. It is our prayer that the Reformation Study Bible will aid students of the Bible in their understanding of Scripture that they might walk wisely before the Lord in all wisdom.

The Reformation Study Bible is so called because it stands in the Reformed tradition of the original Geneva Bible of the sixteenth century. In modern Geneva, Switzerland, a memorial wall has been built and dedicated to the sixteenth-century Reformation. This International Monument to the Reformation is adorned with statues of the great leaders John Calvin, Theodore Beza, William Farel, and John Knox. Surrounding these figures is the phrase Post Tenebras Lux—“After darkness, light.”

The light of the Reformation was the light of the Bible. Luther translated the Bible, which in his day could be read almost exclusively by professionals who knew Latin, into everyday German that could be read by ordinary people. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. Yet there was substantial opposition to these efforts in England. Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536, and later, the Reformation was suppressed during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–58). The Roman Catholic Mass was enforced, services could not be conducted in English, and priests were forbidden to marry. Two hundred eighty-eight people were burned alive, including the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

These persecutions drove exiles from Britain to the European Continent. Many of the most capable scholars among them came to Geneva. There they undertook the task of preparing a new translation of the Bible in English. This new translation, the Geneva Bible, was published in 1560 and was carefully designed to be accurate and understandable. It was the first English Bible to use verse divisions, as “most profitable for memory” and for finding and comparing other passages. It included study notes explaining Scripture based on the interpretative principles reclaimed during the Reformation.

The Geneva Bible was the most widely used translation in the English-speaking world for a hundred years. It was the Bible used by John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, and William Shakespeare. Though the King James Bible was published in 1611, it did not supplant the Geneva Bible until fifty years later. It was the Geneva Bible that the Pilgrims and Puritans carried to the shores of the New World. It was used by many American colonists who read it, studied it, and sought to live by its light.

Since the Geneva Bible was published, a multitude of English translations and study Bibles have appeared. This present volume intends to return to the clarity and power of that important translation. By presenting a modern restatement of biblical, Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes, the Reformation Study Bible aims to carry on the legacy of the Geneva Bible in shining forth the light of biblical Christianity, which was recovered in the Reformation.

The Reformed tradition understands biblical Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This faith, we believe, is expressed in the ecumenical creeds common to all Christian traditions, together with the Reformation distinctives that are the result of accepting the Bible as the supreme and only infallible authority for faith and practice. We believe that these ecumenical creeds and the Reformation confessions provide the church with a full-orbed summary of the doctrine of Scripture. The words of the Bible are true, and its message is powerful. It conveys the infallible promise of God, its Author, that it will not return to Him empty but will certainly accomplish His intended purpose (Is. 55:11).

From the Introduction to the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible, written by Dr. R.C. Sproul, general editor. Dr. Sproul is also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.

RSBNew from Reformation Trust. The new edition of the Reformation Study Bible has been thoroughly revised and carefully crafted by 75 theologians and pastors from around the world under the editorial leadership of R.C. Sproul. Pre-order by February 18 and receive free shipping anywhere in the continental U.S. Visit ReformationStudyBible.com.

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February 02, 2015

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Tabletalk magazine exists to help Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. It meets Christians where they are, whether young or old in the faith, and it takes them deeper. Tabletalk helps to provide Christians with the tools they need to dig down into the depths of God’s Word and the theology of God’s Word in order to be faithful to God’s Word—and thus to worship God in all of life. 

January 26, 2015

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by E. Ray Clendenen

Although not as versatile as some words (such as run), the word faithful can mean different things in different contexts. It can refer to “loyalty,” the quality of always acting in the best interests of someone else. It can also refer to “consistency” or “predictability,” always acting according to certain principles or in a certain manner (like the Yellowstone geyser, Old Faithful). Or it can refer to “strength,” “stability,” and “reliability,” as exemplified by a foundation, a bridge, or a person like “Stonewall” Jackson. 

Sometimes faithful can refer to “obedience,” the quality of a servant who follows the instructions of his master. Or it can refer to “truthfulness” or “accuracy,” the quality of being in accord with reality, the facts, or an original. For example, a movie can be measured on being “faithful to the book,” or a witness in court can be measured on whether his testimony is “faithful to the facts.”

Any of these meanings can be said to apply to something that is trustworthy. But it is the last usage described above that applies most naturally to Bible translations. According to Proverbs 12:17, “The faithful (Heb. ʾemunah) witness tells what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit” (see also v. 22; 14:5). And Proverbs 13:17 warns, “An unreliable messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.” A faithful messenger fulfills his responsibility to the master to represent him appropriately and to convey accurately the message entrusted to him. As such, the master can trust him, but so also can his audience. What they hear from the faithful messenger is the message intended by the master, as if the master had delivered the message in person. 

The apostle Paul has in mind such messengers when he instructs Timothy, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful (pistos) men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). In a similar vein, the Jews, Paul said, had been “entrusted (pisteuo) with the very words of God,” being expected to guard and transmit them faithfully (Rom 3:2). 

In the case of a Bible translation, of course, the messenger must convey the master’s message in another language. This prohibits the use of the same words and requires that the focus be on the same message, bridging different linguistic realities. Certainly, faithfulness in Bible translation demands that the words used in the translation be as close as possible in meaning to the words used in the original language text. 

Translation is never “word-for-word,” however popular that phrase might be. Simply put: the problem is grammar. Although English, Hebrew, and Greek all have nouns, verbs, prepositions, and other grammatical features, they behave differently in the various languages and are found in different order in a clause. Translators must work hard at determining what syntactical forms in English most accurately reflect what was intended to be conveyed by the Hebrew or Greek syntax. 

One final issue of translation faithfulness that must be considered is the tension between faithfulness and tradition. For example, when the King James Version was done, the Hebrew word nephesh was understood to mean “soul” in almost every case (it occurs there 443 times). However, for the last several decades, Old Testament scholars have recognized that nephesh rarely means “soul.” The NIV (2011) renders it “soul” only 72 times, and the HCSB uses “soul” only 33 times. In Genesis 2:7, for example, the KJV “man became a living soul” is rendered by most contemporary translations as “man became a living being.” 

On the other hand, in some passages the KJV tradition is considered so familiar that many translations succumb to the temptation to continue the traditional translation even though it is difficult to make sense of it. Such is sometimes the case with Psalm 1:1—“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (KJV). What does a contemporary English speaker make of “walk in the counsel of the wicked,” or “stand in the way of sinners,” or “sit in the seat of scoffers” (see ESV, NASB). 

Finally, the phrase “I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” in Psalm 23:6 (KJV) is literally “I will dwell in [or “return to”] the house of the LORD to length of days.” The phrase “length of days” occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible and clearly refers to the length of a person’s life in almost every case (the exceptions are Psalms 21:4 and 93:5). So, the HCSB translates this phrase as “I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live” (see also NET, NRSV).

One would expect a faithful Bible translation to convey the message of the original texts even when it differs from the message that readers have come to expect. All of this is part of what it means to be a faithful Bible translation.

Dr. Ray Clendenen serves as Senior Editor of Bible and Reference Publishing at B&H Publishing Group in Nashville, Tennessee.

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January 19, 2015

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The Plate

By Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

You could see the panic rising in his eyes.  As the collection plate moved ever closer to him, indecision tightened its grip on his heart.  In his hand was a wad of cash, and, as he ruffled through the various bills, one could almost hear the question that echoed in his head.  “How much should I put in the plate”?  After years of being a deacon in a number of churches representing different denominations, I have seen this scenario played out regularly.   Suddenly, as the pastor announces the collection of the offering, the struggle begins, almost as if it were a surprise that there would be a collection during worship. 

Our pastors diligently prepare every week for worship.  They spend hours reading the appointed text, consulting commentaries, writing prayers, and selecting appropriate music.  Dr. Dennis Prutow, Professor Emeritus at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, notes in the introduction to his book Public Worship 101, “There is a great privilege the people of God have of drawing near to God in corporate, public worship.  In corporate, public worship, God is pleased to draw near to His people to renew His covenant with them and to assure them that they belong to Him and that He is indeed their God.”

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:19-22).

Just as the pastor has prepared for the Lord’s Day, the flock needs to prepare for the feeding that the shepherd is to deliver.  The people need to open their ears to hear the spoken Word of God and draw the incredible joy that comes from the confidence in the knowledge of adoption into His family.  

Attitudes about and attention to the stewardship of His things varies greatly amongst Christians.  Some arrive to worship prepared, check written or cash counted, ready for the return of His bounty in our lives to further the work of the church in His kingdom.  Other Christians give the topic little thought, randomly giving as they remember.  I even know of a person who routinely placed an empty envelop in the collection plate so that those watching might think he was giving.

What are some things that we might consider as we think more intentionally about the stewardship of His things?

  • Are you encouraged in your spiritual growth and trust in God as you give to the work of His kingdom?
  • We recall that God is the owner of all things, and He has entrusted those things to our care and attention.
  • When we are focused on God and His things, our priorities are changed from our self-focused desires and toward His kingdom.  We no longer neglect His works in the pursuit of our own ambitions.
  • Reflect upon the great and mighty things He is doing in the world.  Globally, people are coming to faith in Christ, lives are being transformed, and He is being glorified.
  • We are reminded to be joyful in our giving.  We are in His presence in our acts of stewardship during worship.

Practically, we can be thinking of many things in our stewarding responsibilities.

  • How are you preparing your children to worship God with tithes and offerings?  At some point, a child needs to move beyond being given a coin to put in the basket.
  • Have you thought about the things the Lord has entrusted to your care and how you will honor Him when you are called home - your Last Act of Stewardship?
  • How well do you know the organizations that you support financially?  Are they well-run and responsible, or are they working against His kingdom?
  • Are you supporting the works of your own denomination or church?

Matthew 25 and Luke 19 record for us the parable of the talents.  On the day of the settling of accounts, will the Lord make that pronouncement we so desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant”?  Be faithful in the little that He has placed in your control.

Learn more about Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary at RPTS.edu.

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January 12, 2015

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The Trellis and the Vineby Tony Payne.

Perhaps it’s a kind of laid-back Aussie skepticism about the possibility of anything ever being very successful, but I have been genuinely surprised by the reaction to The Trellis and the Vine over the past five years.

January 05, 2015

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By Tony Merida

OrdinarySocial causes come and go like bad fashion trends, sometimes quite literally: what color bracelet are you wearing this month? 

Surely our consumer-conditioned attention spans have something to do with this, but let’s be real: when you care about something enough to devote serious time and energy, it can be discouraging when the anticipated results never materialize. 

Many people know they should care for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed, but few are motivated to do this over the course of a lifetime. Jesus reminds his followers, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). In other words, we ain’t gonna solve poverty anytime soon. 

How in the world can we keep up the good work when it feels like a lost cause? Good theology. 

Theological types often get stereotyped as all head and no heart. This is unfortunate because a few key doctrines of the faith provide the sustainable inspiration we need for a lifetime of good works. 

Love everybody, because imago Dei

If we believe that everyone is made in the image of God—imago Dei—then everyone is worthy of dignity, love, basic human rights, and hearing biblical truth. 

Those who abuse people made in God’s image through enslavement, torture, rape, and grinding poverty, are dehumanizing people and insulting God Himself. Many victims of human trafficking and abuse report how they felt inhumane after being oppressed. 

Those who believe in the imago Dei should live out their theology through practical acts of love for the oppressed and vulnerable.

Show mercy, because redemption

The Bible records for us the story of God coming to save people. When we were enslaved, He freed us. When we were orphans, He adopted us. When we were sojourners, He welcomed us. When we were widows, Christ became our groom. 

The mercy and justice of God meet at the cross, where our redemption comes from. We needed His redemption because we cannot live up to the standard God has set. But One did. Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of a life of righteousness and justice. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness. 

Now, as believers, we have power to live just lives, and when we fail, we know God won’t crush us, for He has already crushed Christ in our place. Now we pursue justice because we love God, and have already been accepted in Him. 

We want to show mercy. That’s what God’s redemption has done for us. 

Stay hopeful, because restoration

The good news about injustice isn’t only that we’re making some progress today, though we are. We take heart knowing that the King of kings will return to restore this broken world, bringing perfect peace—shalom

In the coming Kingdom, will be no more orphans; no more trafficking; no more abuse. This fallen world will give way to glory. Doing justice and mercy is about showing the world what our King is like. It involves bringing the future into the present, that is, giving people a taste now of what the future will be like then

When you welcome the stranger, share the good news among the nations, cultivate diverse friendships, adopt children, or defend the defenseless, you are simply living as the King’s people before a watching world. We don’t fight the problems of this fallen world as victims, but as victors.

Work for good not grace, because justification

We can’t keep God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves perfectly. But Jesus has kept the Great Commandments perfectly for us. And only Christ can justify us. Only Jesus can make us ordinary citizens of the kingdom of God.

Justification means “just as if I’ve never sinned” and “just as if I’ve always obeyed perfectly,” as my friend Daniel Akin has said. Jesus Christ can forgive you entirely, and give you His perfect righteousness.

Justified people stand accepted in Christ. So, don’t look to yourself or your good deeds for salvation, but trust in Christ alone. From this acceptance and justified position, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit to do good to all your neighbors. Tim Keller explains how receiving the good news leads to a life of good deeds:

Before you can give neighbor love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need (Generous Justice, 77).

In other words, justification leads to justice for others. Receive— and give—the neighbor love of the Great Samaritan, and give Him thanks.

Always remember the people

My focus flowing from these theological motivations is on people

You may do justice and mercy through large-scale, political and social transformation like William Wilberforce, who worked to abolish slavery. Or you may do mercy and justice through simple acts like welcoming a foster child. 

In whatever case, let’s do it all in effort to bless people. Because people are made in God’s image, because people need redemption, and because people will one day dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth where everything will be finally transformed, we should be seriously interested in how to love our neighbors as ourselves—our orphaned neighbors, our lonely neighbors, our impoverished neighbors, our enslaved neighbors, our racially different neighbors, and our lost neighbors.

That’s how God loves us, as good theology helps us understand. 

For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.

 Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Ordinary, Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.

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December 29, 2014

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“We are all aware of the growing phenomenon of biblical illiteracy. Mitch Maher has set out to address this problem. His overview, Clarifying The Bible, indeed clarifies the whole Bible. A clear and likable communicator, Mitch knows his stuff. May the Lord use Mitch and this project to turn the tide of biblical illiteracy!”

Dr. James “Jim” Hamilton
Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

ClarifyingAs you think about your Bible reading plans for 2015, or your reading hopes for those you love, consider an awesome tool that helps believers understand the big picture of the Scriptures: Clarifying The Bible by Mitch Maher. Clarifying The Bible is a two-hour video presentation and workbook that gives viewers the basic framework and storyline of the Bible. The material is presented in a passionate, compelling fashion, and in the end delivers on its promise to help people see the Bible with more clarity than ever before.

Get a feel for this resource by watching some or all of this FREE 29-minute clip of Mitch teaching on Paul’s letters—it’s generally everybody’s favorite section.

Clarifying The Bible has been endorsed by more prominent leaders like Robert Lewis (Creator of Men’s Fraternity), Tom Nelson (Teacher of The Song of Solomon Conferences), John Bryson (Teacher of 33 The Series and College Ready), Tedashii (Hip Hop Artist), and Kennon Vaughan (Founder of Downline Ministries). In addition, see what others are saying:

Clarifying The Bible provides an excellent framework and introduction to God’s Word. This should be a standard issue for all believers as they pursue Biblical literacy. I have used this in discipleship and equipping capacities as a baseline for teaching the Bible. I could not more highly recommend this resource. This is a gift to the church.”

Clint Patronella
Groups Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas Campus

Clarifying The Bible has turned the lights on for countless aspiring disciple makers participating in the Downline Institute. It’s simple yet robust, theologically deep yet re-teachable, and its progression and flow build the confidence of the learner. It is no wonder this tool is being taught by pastoral and lay leaders all over the world. I’ve rarely made it six months with a young protégé without equipping them with Clarifying The Bible.”

Danny Hinton
Executive Director of Downline Ministries, Little Rock, AR

“Mitch is a gifted teacher and communicator who’s passionate about teaching the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He has an incredible ability to take very academic information and make it very practical to your life. Mitch has been an instrumental part of the Kanakuk Institute for years. The information in Clarifying The Bible is an essential part of the spiritual development of any believer, no matter what the age.“

Keith Chancey
President, The Kanakuk Institute, Branson, MO

Purchase your copies today, available in digital or hardcopy, and/or invite Mitch to speak at your church or ministry. Check it out at clarifyingthebible.com.

SPECIAL NEW YEAR’S OFFER ON THE DIGITAL BUNDLE: Regularly $15.00, use the coupon code challiesnewyear to get the videos and PDF in your inbox immediately for just $10.00. This coupon only applies to the Digital Bundle and will expire on January 9.

MitchIf you or someone you know needs some clarity on the Bible, try Clarifying The Bible. Again, that website is clarifyingthebible.com.

Mitch Maher is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, TX. In addition to his Clarifying The Bible presentations around the country, Mitch is a regular teacher for the Kanakuk Institute and Downline Ministries. He’s been married to his wife Tara for 14 years, and they have three daughters.

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