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  • Nate Davidson

    Here’s a helpful and thought-provoking quote from page 1580 in volume 2 of Eckhard Schnabel’s Early Christian Mission:

    “The word that the witnesses of Jesus the crucified and risen Messiah and Savior proclaim has a historical foundation that is particular, unrepeatable, unique. The Twelve are a part of a specific history; their role cannot be taken over by later witnesses. This is why the church in the second and third centuries soon began to read the ‘witness’ of these first witnesses in their services as authoritative Scripture. Luke does not intend to transform the readers of the book of Acts into ‘apostles’—his readers are members of the community of believers who ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’ (Acts 2:42) and who carried it as the word of God to other people (Acts 8:4; 11:19-21). As Christians who live in the twenty-first century, we have not seen the crucified and risen Messiah, but we have believed the teaching of the apostles, who did see him and could confirm his resurrection. It is our task to hear, understand and proclaim their witness. We do not proclaim our own experience if and when we engage in ‘mission’ in the New Testament sense of the word; rather, we proclaim the word of the first witnesses.”

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  • Nate Davidson

    Brent, thanks for this post. I think this topic is crucial. This question is vital for the health of local churches. It deeply affects church practice and life. As churches and individuals, how do we know how to “conduct [our]selves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?” (Phil 1:27). Who ought to administer the Lord’s Supper and baptism? Who can plant new churches and appoint new church leaders? How does the Lord Jesus speak to and lead his church today? Ultimately, this question focuses on authority. To whom do we look for authority as we worship, plant churches, and theologize?

    I’ll add one argument to support the points that Brent made above and then one further argument. My first argument is that the NT uses the word αποστολος/apostle almost exclusively to refer to the group of men chosen by the Lord Jesus as his authorized witnesses and representatives. Here’s a table and a pie chart that shows how NT authors used this word:

    0458b7b4-7b3c-44cc-9d67-223ed136d1f7-image.png

    d32f81fd-f8e8-4d22-85e3-5a914ae1558d-image.png

    While ἀπόστολος could refer to any authorized messenger in wider Jewish literature, these charts clarify that in the NT it almost always refers to a specific group of men chosen by the Lord Jesus as his authorized messengers. The Lord chose these men according to specific criteria (see Brent’s post above). Nobody today could meet these criteria.

    Second, I would argue that on one level the apostolic office has not ceased, not because I think that new apostles can arise today, not because I think that that the office was passed from the apostles to the first bishops and on through church history. I don’t think the office has ceased because I think it continues in and only in the original writings and teachings of the apostles: the NT. When the apostles died, their God-given, Spirit-inspired authority continued through these writings. The apostles appointed men to replace them as leaders in particular churches. However, they did not confer their apostolic authority upon these men nor could they have. True apostolic authority came directly from the Lord Jesus not from human beings. As the apostles neared the end of their lives, they urged their followers to continue in the apostolic teachings: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you––guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us…And the things you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 1:13–14; 2:2).

    We cannot miss that this “good deposit” came to these churches and leaders through the apostles’ writings. As the apostles aged and the church expanded, they did not appoint others to replace them as Christ’s apostles. Instead, the apostles kept writing to exert their Christ-given, life-giving authority over the church. Near the end of the final apostolic writing, the last living apostle wrote, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll” (Rev 22:18–19). Remarkably, the apostles expected their writings to continue as the risen Lord’s standard for the church even beyond their earthly lives.

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  • Nate Davidson

    In a couple weeks, the church I help pastor will begin a sermon series on Joshua. I’m supposed to give the intro sermon that overviews and applies the message of the whole book. Right now, my plan is to focus in on Joshua 21:43-45 because these verses seem to capture the outline and message of the whole book.

    This process has made me curious though. Have any of you ever had to preach or teach a whole book of the Bible in one sermon/lesson? How did you go about it? What were some of the benefits and difficult parts of teaching a whole book in one sitting?

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  • Nate Davidson

    Thanks for your reply. I’ll respond to your reply in reverse order:

    1. I think that you were right to push back when I suggested that verb’s person and number might shift because a change in voice. As I reread my comments and this passage, I wonder if Luke’s change in person and number has to do with 1) the act of the verb itself, 2) Luke’s theological emphases, and 3) literary style (to heighten the urgency of the command). As I said in earlier comments, Luke seems to be emphasizing the saving name of Jesus and the urgency of personal faith. Another reason for the second person plural in the first command is that Peter is talking to the people who crucified the Messiah. He holds them all culpable for this sin, and he calls them all to repent from this sin. Thoughts?

    2. To your second reply: Are we talking about different pronouns here? I was speaking about the ἔκαστος in the second clause. It sounds like you are speaking about the ὑμῶν. The text critical issue I brought up was separate from the pronoun. It had to do with the verb φησίν. Sorry that I was not clear here.

    3. I still think it unlikely that the preposition modifies μετανοεω/repent along with βαπτιζω/baptize. The point I was trying to make was that “in the name of…” frequently occurs with baptism and never occurs with μετανοεω. This holds even though ἐν is the normal preposition. I think the strongest argument against the idea has to do with the meaning of μετανοεω and the way the NT authors most commonly use it to command/talk about a turning from sin (Check out Moises Silva’s article in NIDNTTE). In Acts, Luke often uses it as the first command in a two-part action that describes conversion (turning from sin and turning to Jesus): Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 26:20. Luke seems to use μετανοεω to describe the first part of conversion: repenting of sin/turning from idols. Further, when NT authors describe this action further by using a preposition, the prepositional phrase usually specifies the sin they are turning from: Acts 8:22; 2 Cor 12:21; Rev 2:21, 22; 9:20, 21; 16:11. So, I don’t think it likely that Luke would use the preposition in a distributive sense here.

    I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, by the way. You’ve encouraged me to dig deeper and reminded me why I love the Greek NT so much. One thing I’d love to know is: What is at stake in our conversation? Do you think the meaning changes in some way?

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  • Nate Davidson

    I think we could see another possible example in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus’s declaration in v.18 and his promise in v.20 seem to provide the ground for the inference in v.19.

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  • Nate Davidson

    These are some great questions. Thanks for raising them. I’m hoping that some of my answers will be helpful, and I’m hoping that this thread will provide me a chance to learn from you and others as well.

    To your first question: “how likely is it that the phrase ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ modifies both verbs,” I think that it is unlikely for three reasons:

    First, the NT most commonly connects being baptized with in/into the name: Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16; 1 Cor 1:13, 15. I don’t think repenting into the name ever occurs (other than the possible example you point out here).

    Second, the change in person, number, and voice that you note between μετανοήσατε (repent!) and βαπτισθήτω (let each of you be baptized) creates a degree of separation between the two clauses. Thus, I think this separation makes it unlikely that Luke meant a preposition from the second clause to apply to both clauses.

    Third, if the original text contained the φησίν (Metzger comments: "A majority of the Committee was impressed by the diversity of early testimony supporting reading (b), but preferred to enclose φησίν within square brackets because of the weight of codex B, which lacks the word.), then I think it is even more unlikely that the preposition modifies both verbs. This variant between the two commands would create even more separation between the two clauses.

    Now, to your second question: “why is “be baptized” singular?” I’d offer three potential answers.

    First, Luke seems to introduce an intentional ordering in these commands. Peter issues the first command (μετανοήσατε/repent) to all of his hearers. The second command applies only to those who obey the first: “All of you need to repent. Then, if one repents, let that person be baptized.”

    Second, I would think that the shift from active to passive voice affects the person and number of the second command.

    Third, the change in person, number, and voice along with the pronoun ἔκαστος/each one seems to add some level of emphasis or urgency to the second command. Perhaps Luke highlights the focus in Peter’s speech on Jesus as the Messiah. Peter emphasizes that it is the name of Jesus that saves. This would be consistent with this specific speech and with one of the wider theological emphases in Acts.

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  • Nate Davidson

    I love this question, and I’m thankful that you brought it up. Our kids are all still young. For now, we focus on teaching them to study Scripture in three ways:

    1. Jesus is the point of Scripture: It wasn’t until seminary that I started taking the NT seriously when it talks about the OT. For years I read the OT without understanding because I did not read it as God intended me to read it. So, we try to teach our kids that all of Scripture is about Jesus. There are some great resources that help with this like the Tales that Tell the Truth series (https://www.thegoodbook.com/children/tales-that-tell-the-truth/book/), the Big Picture Story Bible (https://www.amazon.com/Big-Picture-Story-Bible-Redesign/dp/1433543117), and the Bible Project (https://thebibleproject.com/). Eventually, I’d like to help my kids memorize some of these verses too:
    • John 5:46: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

    • Luke 24:25-27: "He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

    • Acts 2:29-31: “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.”

    • 1 Tim 3:14-15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

    • 1 Pet 1:10-12: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

    1. We have our kids listen to an audio Bible at night. This helps them listen to whole books, teaches them to pay attention to context and arguments, and teaches them to look for natural markers and divisions in the text rather than chapters and verses. Again, it’s amazing how listening to whole books teaches them a lot of the interpretive principles that I had to learn in the classroom: literary context, discourse analysis, tracing an argument, etc. Our favorite audio Bible is The Bible Experience (https://christianaudio.com/the-old-testament-audiobook-download). Even listening to other books on audio helps them learn and refine these skills when it comes to Bible reading.

    2. Finally, I really like Mike’s idea of starting with Phrasing. My oldest son is learning to read now. I think this would be a great skill to teach him now because he’s naturally trying to break sentences down into clauses and phrases. I think before we ever get to technical tools though, it really helps kids to model these skills by asking questions when we read the Bible together (like why did Paul right “therefore” here and maybe even Phrasing out a text to read together. From there, you could work together on a small portion of Scripture, working together to divide out the text and indent subordinate phrases and clauses.

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  • Nate Davidson

    Understanding the OT background to a NT text often sheds light on the meaning of both texts. Some NT texts are particularly rich in this regard because an author weaves together several OT texts together to form the background for the NT text. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is one example of such a text. Which OT texts provide the background for the Great Commission?

    Daniel 7:14 provides a clear place to start:

    OT Background of the Great Commission (3).png

    Compare the yellow, underlined portion (ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία/to him was given dominion) and the blue, underlined portion (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη/all the nations) to Matthew 28:18-20:
    OT Background of the Great Commission (2).png

    When we compare these texts (especially in Greek), it seems clear that Jesus quoted from Daniel 7:14 when he gave the Great Commission to the Eleven.

    Now, the question becomes: “So what?” Why did Jesus point back to Dan 7:14? How does understanding this OT background help us understand our Lord’s words in these verses?

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  • Nate Davidson

    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

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