Monday, January 21, 2013


This Christmas season I read a volume of Christmas Sermons by Augustine. Brother Augustine and I do not see eye to eye on theological matters, Augustine being the Augustinian he was and I being a Wesleyan. Nevertheless, as I approached his writings, I chose not to read it with a critical eye. My desire was for devotional reading which would aid my meditation upon Christ's birth during this Christmas season. His repeated emphasis on numerology and some of his hangups about sexuality are present in the twenty-three sermons. The sermons selected were quite repetitious which at times caused me to take a break from reading them. That is why I have just finished them. My main complaint, though, is with the editor. I'm all for editing sermons for contemporary audiences, but the editor decided to be a comedian when translating these 4th or 5th century sermons, at times, making me very ill. (Not having the book in front of me, I'm not sure exactly when these sermons were preached.) Despite these drawbacks, two things standout. Augustine had a unique ability to put into human language just how hard it is for the human mind to fully comprehend Christ's incarnation. Also, his sermons on the Epiphany reveal why Protestants should not ignore the celebration of it. Before, I had never even given much thought to the celebration. The volume I read can be found at the link above. Next Christmas season I will read Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons as well as Athanasius' On The Incarnation.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Jesus prepared his disciples to suffer; he prepares us today as well.

First, he spoke of the suffering he was to endure: Lk: 22:37, Jn 15: 18-20, 1Jn. 4: 17. He spoke these verses in connection with his own suffering: Mt. 16: 21-26, 10:34-39. His suffering is an example for us to follow: 1Pet. 2:20f.

The Church will suffer at the hands of the state when the life of the state becomes controlled by a false view of salvation: Mt: 24:5, 11, 23-26, 1Tim 4:1, 2Pet. 2, 1Jn. 4:1, Jude 4.

We are called to endure suffering with joy: Mt. 5:10, Acts 5:41, 1Thess. 3:2f., James 1:2, Rom. 8:17, Col. 1:24. The Church represents Christ in its sufferings. One of the burdens the church will face is post Christian indifference: 1Pet. 4:12.

From Christ The Meaning of History by Hendrikus Berkhof

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


From Christ the Meaning of History by Hendrikus Berkhof:

Berkhof quotes W. Eichrodt: “The Old Testament writers find in the self-disclosure of God the factor in world events by which individual events are placed in a spiritual connection, and which makes events meaningful; i.e. only through it can a chaos of changing and hurried events become comprehensible as real history. Under the impression of this divine experience they cannot describe world events in any other way than as historical succession in which everything is united under God’s leading, and moves to a definite object.”

In Israel, history was radically and permanently delivered from the law of nature, and therein history was discovered. Not in the sense that Israel found history in a unique act of thought; not even in the sense that she had discovered something that, although hidden, already existed. But the Israelites had come in contact with a God who changed events into history by his acts before their ears and eyes.”

The Old Testament is full of these acts. But one act is connected with the origin of this sense of history: the deliverance from Egypt in the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. The remembrance of this event through Passover festival formed the center of Israel’s worship. This event was goal directed; the goal was to be led into the Promised Land by God. From there, history is lead to the next goal or climax, David and Solomon’s kingship. The next goals were the exile and the age of the Messiah.

Israel’s profession of faith concerning the Exodus: Dt. 26:5-9. Israel dated the beginning of their history: 1Kings 6:1. The meaning of all institutions, ordinances of life are to be in the context of this background; the father is to pass it on to the son: Dt. 6:20ff.

The Exodus was not a myth but a historical event and is praised as such in the Old Testament: Ps. 78, 106, 136, Neh. 9. It is often found in the confession of sins: 2Kings 17:7, 36, Is. 52:4-6, Jer. 2:6, 32:21ff., Amos 2:10, 3:1f., Micah 6:4, Ps. 78, 106.

The Prophets describe the Messianic age as deliverance from Egypt, although they know the coming deliverance will exceed the first. The goal of the 1st deliverance is goal oriented, bringing Israel into the Messianic age: Is 4:5, 10:24-27, 11:16, 43:16ff., 48:20f, 52:12, Jer. 16:14f., 23:7f., 31:32, 32:39f., Hos. 2:14, 12:10f., Micah 7: 15, Zech. 10: 10-12. The final deliverance doesn’t only concern Israel. It concerns all nations. Final deliverance will not occur until all nations end their warfare and go to Jerusalem to learn the law of God: Is. 2: 1-5, Micah 4: 1-5. God set Israel apart so she will become the center of the world in which all nations belong: Is. 19: 23-25. The person and work of Christ cannot be understood apart from this beginning of history. In Matthews gospel Christ is called from Egypt: Mt. 2:15, he goes through the waters: Mt. 3, makes the journey through the desert: Mt. 4, makes the covenant on the mountain, and when he dies, makes atonement as the lamb of God who delivers all nations at the end of history.

Almost all historical and prophetic witnesses of the Old Testament refer back to the Exodus rather than Abraham. The exceptions: 1Kings 18:36, 2Kings 13:23, Ps. 105, Is. 29:22, Micah 7:20f.

The Royal Psalms, where God is praised as the king of the world: Ps. 47, 93, 96, 97, 99. Other psalms celebrate God’s reign over the whole universe in space and, especially, time: Ps. 24, 46, 48, 75, 76, 92, 98. The witness of the Royal Psalms concerning history resounds in the New Testament, see Rev. 11: 15, 11:17f., 12:10, 19:6.

Passages from the prophets concerning history moving toward the apocalypse: Is. 24-27 (this passage played an important role in the eschatology of the early church, see Mt. 21:42, 1Cor. 15:54, Rev. 20,21), Ezk. 36-39 , Zech. 9-14 (Compare 9:9 with Mt. 21:5, Jn. 12:15, Mt. 23:29. Compare 13:7 with Mt. 26:31, Mk 14:27. Compare 11:12f. with Mt. 26: 15,27:9. Compare 12:10 with Jn. 19:37, Rev. 1:7. Compare 14: 4 to Mt. 24:3, Mk. 13:3. Compare 14:7-9, 11 with Rev. 11:15, 21:25, 22:1,3,5) and Dan. 7.

Jesus’ vision of his role as Messiah has its roots in Is. 53, as the suffering servant, which leads to him as King of all nations, Dan. 7. Jesus view of himself as the Son of Man which consisted of a whole theology of history; in claiming to be the Son of Man he was claiming cosmic history as his own, Mk. 14:62ff., Mt. 26:64, Lk. 22:69.

Jesus marks a decisive turn in history: Lk. 2:34, 12: 49-56, Jn. 9:39, Lk.22:53, Mt. 26:45, Jn. 7:30, 8: 20, 13:1, 19:11, Lk. 11:20, Mt. 12:28.

Berkhof writes: “The earliest generations of believers, immersed in the literature of the Old Testament, must have considered the prophecies of the last days fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in a manner now difficult for us to imagine. It might even be possible that they saw this in every detail of the gospel story. This now escapes us.” (Was the young man who fled naked during Jesus’ arrest refer to the coming judgment of Israel as written in Amos 2:16?)

Jesus suffered, died, and arose on the 3rd day---Hos. 6:1f.

Mt. 28:18 fulfills Dan. 7:14.