Matt Postiff's Blog
A new Bible book outline is available on the Book of Jude.
Jude's letter covers two major topics: the character and condemnation of the ungodly, and a call to contend for the Christian faith. Both are introduced in verses 3-4:
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4, NKJV).
In September, Thom Rainer's blog had an encouraging post on what characterizes men who have health long-term pastorates. I am a big fan of that approach, so it captured my attention.
- They pray daily for their church members and staff.
- They view their family as their first line of ministry.
- They connect with and love people in their community.
- They choose their battles carefully.
- They welcome structures that make them accountable.
- They spend time developing staff.
- They expect conflict and criticism.
- They connect with other pastors and ministries in the community.
- They affirm both theology and practical ministry.
- They ask long-term questions.
In Matthew 6, our Lord teaches us:
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:27 NKJV)
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
I emphasized the verb add in both quotes because it is the focus of the point I want to highlight. The Greek verb in both cases is the same. Our Lord is teaching us that worry can add nothing to our lives. In fact, it only serves to subtract—from our joy, peace, and even our life span! If you want to add something to your life, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then a whole lot will be added to your life. And not just food and drink—but peace and joy and every blessing God gives the believer.
All the Psalms share the genre of Hebrew poetry. Among the 150 Psalms, there are groups or categories that share the same form and subject matter. These could be called "sub-genres," but I have elected to call them "categories." In this article, I provide a categorization of all the Psalms using a simple lettering system.
To see the entire document, please download this PDF. I provide it in the hopes that it will be helpful.
I feel that it could still use a lot of work. If anyone wants to take on the project of doing some spot checking the document, or even exhaustively checking it, be my guest. Let me know what you find!
Recently there has been a lot of talk about theological triage , also described by phrases like weighing doctrines, gospel issues , doctrinal priority, or statements such as how directly a doctrine touches on the gospel.
In almost all of the material I have seen on the subject, it is simply assumed that there are different levels of doctrine. The reader is whisked past that foundational question and introduced to other questions such as 'which doctrine goes into which level?' and 'does the Bible teach us how to know which doctrines go into which level?'
A while ago, I began to ask myself about the logically prior question, and that is what I want to address here. That is, does the Bible itself teach that doctrines can be sorted into different bins based on their importance? Does it teach that we should privilege certain doctrines over others? What is the significance of it if we can do so (or cannot)? These questions troubled me because it seemed that Christians were teaching that doctrines can be—and indeed should be—so sorted, and this in turn seems to lead to an almost anything-goes mentality with certain lower-level doctrines. But where does the the assumption of doctrinal levels come from? We profess that the Scriptures are our only infallible authority for faith and practice, so it must be found in the Bible somewhere. I pondered on that question for a while. Over the course of some months, I have come to more clarity on the subject, although I am not done yet by any stretch.
I will admit that I didn't think in a critical way about this for years. I simply accepted the premise, and went merrily on my way saying that I believe the five or seven or eight fundamentals, the essentials of the Christian faith. I believed a lot more than those, but I raised those to the highest level and just assumed that was right and good, because everybody was doing it!
The idea of doctrinal prioritization has, at least for me, troubling "theoretical" implications for how we treat the Word of God. Some Bible teachings become third-level or doctrina non grata because they are unpopular in many churches, too difficult to understand, or are impossible to reconcile with modern science. Other doctrines are just simply not that important. What does that do to a preaching ministry that is devoted to explaining and applying the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)? Is that wrong to do with respect to the third-level doctrines?
And then there is the problem that there are some doctrines that many Christians immediately classify as third level—but which to me are obviously far more important to the system of Christian truth. Downplaying them has what I believe are disastrous consequences for one's belief in the Bible and a plain interpretation of it.
The idea of weighing doctrines also has "practical" implications. For instance, a young missionary couple left a mission over its inclusion of a precise statement on the doctrine of eschatology. They had come to the conclusion that including too much detail on eschatology was skewed theological triage, elevating a tertiary issue to a level where it dictated partnership. The doctrinal statement had been formulated and used by the mission and by likeminded churches for decades before these missionaries were even born, yet it now was skewed and worthy of separation over. Another example: Mark Dever wrote in 2009 that Christian leaders are in sin if they lead their congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular Millennial view . Obviously this topic has important real-life ramifications.
One very important ramification has to do with how we think. We cannot slice and dice our Christianity into pieces like "the doctrinal piece" and "the behavioral piece." You know—"if we just behave Christianly, then it matters little what we believe about the second and third order doctrines." I challenge that notion because belief is behavior. That is, like proper behavior is the Biblical discipline of the body and actions, so proper belief is the Biblical discipline of the mind and thinking. It is wrong to believe something as true that is not true. God cares about how we think. How we think affects how we act, and how we act affects how we think. If we think some doctrines are not that important, it will show up over time in our lives and churches.
Let us turn our attention to a passage that may shed some light on the subject. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus says:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (NKJV)
First, consider the matter of the comparative word weightier. The Greek word refers to 'heavy' things, often metaphorically as in the content of letters (2 Cor. 10:10) or legal matters (Acts 25:7). Here it denotes the comparative idea of the relative importance or significance of a matter compared to another. The Lord Jesus thus demonstrates that there are laws in the Mosaic system that were more important than others, obedience to which was definitely required.
Second, note that our Lord said, "These [the weightier matters] you ought to have done, without leaving the others [the lighter matters] undone." Because of the relative importance of justice, mercy, and faith, the Lord teaches that the scribes and Pharisees most certainly should have carried them out. But, and this is the point of this paragraph, they were still supposed to do the lighter matters. They were not to swap out the lighter for the heavier: they were to do both. We might read into this the idea that the Lord would more readily excuse a failure to tithe some of one's cummin, or at least condemn it less harshly; but He most certainly does not excuse a failure in the matters of justice, mercy, and faith.
I would suggest that our Lord gives us here a framework by which to consider the various Bible doctrines. Indeed some are weightier than others. But the lighter ones are not disposable. They must be believed and obeyed as well. Using a triage model, we do treat gunshot wounds and heart attacks more urgently and at a level 1 trauma center; but that does not mean that we ignore small lacerations. Even relatively insignificant cuts need to be cared for properly because they can become infected and kill the patient just as surely as a gunshot wound can.
To transition from the medical metaphor, intermediate or small wounds may be likened to doctrines that many Christians today have been (wrongly) convinced are tertiary. One's view on creation and the millennium, for example, may not seem significant until you connect a few dots and realize how they impact the whole body of doctrine. Ben Edwards gave a good example of the bodily resurrection of believers in his post . He wrote there, "your first inclination would probably be to say 'I don't think it reaches first level importance.'" Edwards rightly concludes that the believer's bodily resurrection is a gospel issue. But I am approaching this entire question from a different perspective: my first inclination would be the opposite of what he suggests. I would default to the position it is important simply because God's word teaches it clearly. And I would be quickly affirmed in my belief when I asked this question: "Would a gospel that cannot raise me from the dead really be good news?" Not according to the apostle Paul!
One's view of triage also reveals a general approach to reading God's Word which may lead in a very dangerous direction. Far too often, the modern church's reading of such texts amounts to a "hath God said?" which turns the Scripture upside down. May such an attitude toward God's word be far from us.
More to come, D.V. ...
For further reading.
 Albert Mohler, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity, AlbertMohler.com, May 20, 2004.
 Ben Edwards, Gospel Issues and Weighing Doctrines, Theologically Driven, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, September 16, 2014.
 Justin Taylor, Dever: You are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular millennial view", The Gospel Coalition, July 13, 2009.
A pastor friend sent me this list, written by Michael Hyatt. The following summarizes his points:
- They don't have enough confidence to lead at their level.
- They're arrogant, assuming they always know what's best. It takes confidence to lead. It also takes humility.
- They're disorganized.
- Their words and actions erode trust, even with their supporters.
- They over-promise and under-deliver. This one affects more than just politicians.
- They don't articulate a clear vision.
- They don't enroll others in their initiatives.
- They're not transparent. Openness encourages honesty.
- They're blind to what's happening in their own organizations.
- They don't hold people accountable—especially themselves.
I did some under-the-hood work on the blog today. The RSS feed is at the same place as it has been, but all the old entries are included, with improved titles. Broken links have been fixed, but probably some more have been introduced. Let me know if you run into any--thanks!
13:7 — The Good Shepherd is stricken. This is separated by a distance of many centuries until the next event on the timeline.
13:8 — The Tribulation period. This is the beginning of the "dark" period of the Day of the Lord.
12:1-3 — The nations come against Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation.
14:1-2 — Israel is almost entirely destroyed by the nations.
14:3-7 — The Lord returns from Heaven in order to deliver the Jews from utter destruction. There will be a very strange evening-light phenomenon in the heavens. delivers Israel from their enemies by providing an escape route through a newly created valley through the Mount of Olives.
12:4-9 and 14:12-15 — God will supernaturally destroy Israel's enemies. The "blessing" portion of the Day of the Lord begins.
12:10-13:6, 9 — The spiritual salvation of the remnant, including their repentance from sin, the cleansing of forgiveness, and the removal of idolatry and false prophets from the land. It is difficult to place events #5-7 in strict chronological order, since the Lord's coming will effect both (somewhat simultaneously?) the destruction of Israel's enemies and the salvation of the Jewish people.
14:8-11 — Kingdom blessing includes certain transformations of the land and Christ's rule over the entire earth. Significant topographical modifications will be made to the area around Jerusalem.
14:16-21 — Kingdom blessing also includes the nations worshiping before God and widespread ceremonial holiness throughout Jerusalem, even on horses bells and cooking utensils.
The sword awakes against the shepherd and strikes him. This is the crucifixion of Christ.
The sheep will be scattered after Christ's arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Some interpret this as the dispersion after 70 AD when the city was destroyed by the Roman general Titus. But Jesus applies it to the disciples (Matt. 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27, 50) and to Peter specifically (Matthew 26:33-35, 69-74; Mark 14:29-31, 54, 66-72).
The turning of God's hand against the little ones represents the time of the dispersion which continues until the present day, with many Jews still outside of the land, and many catastrophes befalling them. I cannot help but thinking of the Holocaust in this regard. God ultimately did permit this atrocity, at the hands of wicked Gentiles.
Two thirds shall be cut off and die but one third shall be left. This refers to the Tribulation, which is full of death for Jews as well as Gentiles. See Revelation 8:11, 9:15, 12:13, 13:7, 13:15, 19:21.
The one third will be refined through fire and will call on the name of the Lord. This remnant refers to the same group which we read about in 12:10-13:6 that will be saved en masse at the last day.
This past summer, I ran across the tract pictured above, written by the folks at MasterTracts.com. I cannot recommend it. The purpose of this post is to point out some serious problems with the tract.
The picture on the front is cute, but it trivializes the important subject matter at hand: the gospel. The illustration about Santa is well and good, but the message starts to go off the tracks when the author writes, "They [children] want to get what they deserve." The fact is, children want what they want; they want to receive far more than they deserve. In fact, if they were to be judged on their performance, they would deserve little if anything.
The tract has a jarring transition with the sentence "Why is hell necessary?" With this sentence, a heavy emphasis on hell comes to the fore, with no emphasis on heaven or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It offers some true statements about sin and the penalty for sin, but then it says, "God invites us to receive Jesus Christ as Savior, accepting His death as the full and just payment for our sins." This makes it sound like we accept the full and just payment for our sins, but that is not the case. The right way to explain it is that God has accepted Christ's work, and we are to exercise repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to believe in his resurrection from the dead in order to be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The author of the tract seemingly avoids calling upon the reader to acknowledge that Christ is Lord, something that is essential to a proper gospel response.
The tract adds what seems to be a definition of the word saved when it says that those trust Christ "will be saved, i.e., not go to hell." That is hardly a sufficient definition of the idea of salvation. What of heaven? What of union with Christ? What of a personal connection to Him? Reconciliation? Forgiveness?
Thus far, we might think to excuse some of these problems because of necessary brevity in a small tract format. I am inclined, however, to think that the errors we see indicate a deficient theology of salvation.
Finally, the last sentence says that a perfect gift is awaiting, "but only if we do what he tells us." We have to be so careful about using words like "do" in a context like this. It is far better to say "but only if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Bottom line: take care what you pass out as part of your evangelistic ministry. Not all tracts are created equal. A better option would be the Bridge Tract.
Conventional wisdom says that if your church has mostly old people, it is dying and will soon be buried and forgotten.
What qualifies as old is somewhat slippery, with no one wanting to admit that they fall into that category, but we'll say, for sake of argument, the cut-off age is 55 years.
I grant there are a lot of situations that have made the adage work out well. And the church needs to reach everyone in its community, including younger people and families so that it does not simply "die off."
But in some cases, the idea behind the conventional wisdom has led to an age-based discrimination in which some churches take older folks for granted or even actively marginalize them. That is a big mistake. Here's why:
- An article in The Atlantic shows that the distribution of the population by age is markedly shifting toward the older end of the spectrum. The "age pyramid" used to be a triangle; now it is more rectangular, and in China it is an upside-down trapezoid because of government birth control policies.
- Older Christians often have a lot of Biblical and experiential wisdom, so it would be shortsighted to marginalize them. One church I know of drove all the older folks away with their "new methods" and destroyed the church as a true gospel witness. To ignore the elders smacks of the youthful "wisdom" of Rehoboam that rejected good counsel (1 Kings 12:6-8).
- Older Christians may be driven away from such churches and need a church home that is not so culturally relevant (with loud music, for instance) that it is irrelevant for the older culture.
- Older Christians have more time (especially if retired) and more disposable income to support God's work.
- The church must reach out to older people as well, for there are many who do not know the gospel of Christ. The Great Commission knows no age limits.
- The body of Christ is supposed to diverse, and I would argue it should be about as diverse in terms of ethnic and age makeup as the culture around it. A church with only young people might be "exciting" but it would not be right.
- The church needs older men and women to teach the younger men and women. In our culture, with the teen-ification of twenty somethings, I don't think this means that 30 year-olds qualify as "older" so as to teach the 20 year-olds. We need men and women in their 50s and 60s who have some Biblical meat on their bones to train the younger people how to conduct themselves, how to dress, how to run the home, how to participate in church, etc. (Titus 2:3-5)
- The fact is that all of us are getting older. I hope there are plenty of elderly-friendly churches when I reach that stage!
Consider how your church might reach older folks. That will please God.