Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Non Gospel of Legalism

Taken from The Reason for God, by Tim Keller:

"If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, the ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior. You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus. That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus. It is a Christianized form of religion. It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the Biblical rules as by breaking them...The devil, if anything, prefers Pharisees - men and women who try to save themselves. They are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do more spiritual damage."

I've never heard it said that way before, but it is dead on. The spirit of legalism is an ever present danger because it feeds on human pride, an ever present sin to be killed. The antidote to pride and legalism as a healthy does of biblical realism. We are wretched sinners, not fictitious sinners, who need real grace, not merely fictitious grace. Thus Luther's words to Melanchthon should be heard (and preached) again:

"If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly,  but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world]  we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness,  but, as Peter says,  we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.  No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner."

the Truth isn't always in the middle

I am a fairly regular reader of Scott McKnight's blog Jesus Creed, though I don't keep up every day, and he blogs a ton (how does he find all that time). I usually find his posts stimulating and enriching. Recently, however, he has been writing a series of reflections on "The Third Way", using Adam Hamilton's book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics as the discussion starter. Now I haven't read the book and probably won't, at least for a long time, but the thought behind it seems at once attractive and also wrongheaded.

McKnight correctly writes the 'liberal' and 'conservative' are not the only two options. Of course I agree with that. The labels are useless to begin with because they are very relative (in politics as well as religion). To my uncle and all my other fundi relatives I'm a raging liberal. To the liberals I work with on the CaRLA board, I'm a conservative fundi. McKnight, and Hamilton, argue for a middle road between the two. McKnight acknowledges that the middle road between conservatism and liberalism is a hard one to hold too. He says that people complain all the time that this Third Way "muddies the waters. It creates ambiguity."

The Third Way does muddy the water and create ambiguity, but that's not my issue In the first post from Dec. 8th with McKnight/Hamilton's position. In fact, I don't think it muddies the water enough. It seems overly simplistic. If the liberals are to the left and the conservatives are to the right, pitch your tent in no man's land. Ok, but what if you should be pitching it to the left? Or to the right? Sometimes the truth is in the middle gray area, but not always. Sometimes it's to the right, sometimes to to the left. Just as we should avoid totting the party line (whether it Republican, Democratic, Presbyterian, Liberal Protestant, Evangelical, etc.), so we should avoid totting the Moderate party ("run to the gray").

I think McKnight/Hamilton's thesis works at the macro level, but not when it comes to evaluating individual doctrines, maybe not individual policies either. For example, the liberal Jesus, the 'historical Jesus' is a wonderful Jewish teacher who made no divine claims, had a small inconsequential ministry in Palestine stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got himself crucified. His later disciples deified him in political churchmanship...The conservative Christian Jesus is the Jesus of the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian Definition. The truth isn't in the middle, it's with the ancient and 'conservative' Christians who continue to assert the truths of Jesus deity and humanity in one person, his life, death and resurrection.

This approach is more muddy because it requires deep thought not only about the gray area, but also about whether there is a legitimate middle ground on a particular issue.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Song of the Week

This song makes we want another motorcycle, several more tatoos, a gnarly beard and leather chaps - ok, that's taking it a little too far.

John the Revelator - Govt Mule

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ever Wonder What Christmas is Like with 3 Boys

Summary: a wonderful mess.

The two oldest boys were awake by 6:30am, though we made them stay in their room and play till Luke woke up around 7:15am. I snuck down to turn on the Christmas lights. We all came down and the boys went nuts seeing the packages under the tree - but before we ripped into the them, we sat and read the Christmas story from Luke and prayed, thanking God for his blessings.

Then the boys took turns opening their gifts. Caleb's favorite gifts were the pocket knife (I snuck that one past Lynn into his stocking) and the PS2 (used). Jakes was his games (Guess Who, the Marvel Edition and Scooby Doo) and his action figures. Lukes, probably his tools.

The rest of the morning was spent assembling toys and games and showing the older boys how to play their video games (Hot Wheels Racing and Back Yard Baseball). No tears when I broke one of the toys putting it together - the Ben Ten Alien Chamber. I was proud of the both.

After lunch, we had sometime to play and then naps. I needed it as I am not feeling well today and either is Caleb. After naps, we begin cooking the Ham for dinner. It takes a lot longer than we expect. Lynn does most of the cooking and I play with the boys. After Dinner, I clean up since Lynn cooked while she plays with the boys.

Then the fun began. Lynn cries out, 'Dan, dan, come quick. Help!" I look over and Luke is puking all over the living room as Lynn tries to carry him quickly to the bathroom. Hmmm. Pickles and pineaple don't settle well in a sick belly. Who knew.

Cleam up and more play. Then baths and showers (for Lynn too since she got puked on). Play and then singing for nightime - O Come all Ye Faithful and Silent Night. Up stairs I get a great hug and Lynn yells at me for being too close to Luke (remember, I'm not feeling well). I hand him off to her and she immediately screams. Whats up? He puked all over her again, this time in her face. They boys are all upset because they've got green puke on their bedroom floor (Lucky Charms after the initial puking episode was not a good idea in hindsight).

Clean up, pray with the family and come downstairs, still not feeling well and ready to crash - but maybe after a quick game of Baseball on the PS2.

Life with kids. It takes a strong soul to survive!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Metallica leads to a spiritual conversation

Yesterday I was sitting and reading in the Honda dealership, waiting for my paperwork to come through. My phone rang - it rings with Metallica's One. Another dealer heard the ring, recognized it, came over and we began to talk about our favorite Metallica songs (he's a bigger fan than me. I've never gone to a concert, he's been to 5). We talked about other heavy metal groups we like, then other genre's we like. I mentioned I like a lot of the music we sing at my church. He perked up and we began to talk about our respective churches for 30 minutes or so (he goes to a AOG church in Bedford and plays electric guitar in the band).

I just found it interesting that a conversation that started over heavy metal turned to the importance of putting God over family, family over ministry and many other wonderful spiritual topics. Granted, this was an easy transition as we were both believers, but it does make we wonder what other topics could be used as bridges to speak of spiritual things. It's a skill I'd like to develop more this coming year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reading the Bible Chronologically

I did this a few years ago (though at the time I felt compelled to come up with my own chronological plan). If you haven't ever read the bible through or haven't read it through chronologically before, I'd really recommend it. Some of the placement is speculation (putting Job after Genesis 11 for example); but it really does help put the prophets in their historical context and helped me get an understanding of the flow of the Bible story.

I know there is a study Bible called the Reese Chronological Bible for sale, but here's a link to a free chronological Bible reading plan you could print out and keep with you in your Bible.

Song of the week

Something new for the blog: coming every Monday a song from my library:

The Call (Narnia Soundtrack).MP3 - Regina Spektor

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The best and the worst of 2008

I might supplement this with more categories later, but here's a start.

Best Movie

I haven't seen many movies in the theaters this year, but I saw two awesome movies and one dreadfully bad movie. The best Batman: The Dark Knight. This was an awesome movie, Heath Ledger was amazing, though Christian Bale's Batman voice got annoying. Also, Prince Caspian (which I'm watching right now on video) was better than the first installment of the Narnia movies. I loved it and so did my boys.

The worst movie was Transporter 3. No surprise though - the third installment of an awful movie is more awful than the original.

Best Book

I'll have to mention at least a few. Christopher Wright's The Mission of God (2006) is fantastic, but very long. Anyone who is interested in how to do a biblical theology should read Wright. Also, Tim Keller's The Reason for God (2008) is a great apologetic. I loved the tone of Keller's writing and how he takes new angels to age old questions. In addition, Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin DeYoung (2008) is a winsome but detailed evaluation of the emergent church. It is definitely worth the read. Also, very interesting to me was D.A. Carson's Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (2008), though I doubt others would be as interested (he was my mentor at TEDS).

The worst book I read this year was a collection of essays by emergent folks, Emergent Manifesto of Hope (2007). The book was overstated, filled with false dilemmas and poor caricatures of traditional evangelical churches. I concluded that most of these writers were writing against the worst type of evangelical market driven churches (or fundamentalist churches) and that they presented little more than liberalism of a century ago repackaged.

Best Fiction Book

Since my friend Mark suggested I read more fiction, I have. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit were the best of the year. I can't believe I didn't read these earlier. Also at the recommendation of a friend I read and really enjoyed the Ted Dekker's Circle Trilogy: Black, Red, White. These books are one part Tom Clancy, one part Tolkien and one part Lewis. Awesome indeed. For those who like war fiction, I'd recommend the Brotherhood of War series by W.E.B. Griffin. Really keeps your attention and you enjoy his characters very much.

Unfortunately, Dekker's book Adam makes was the worst fiction book I read recently. Predictable and weird at the same time. Not good.

Best CD

I have very eclectic music tastes, but don't buy a ton of music. The best of what I bought this year include Coldplay's Viva la Vida, Metallica's Death Magnetic, Charlie Hall's The Bright Sadness, Counting Crows Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, Sojourn These Things I Remember, and Eddie Kirkland Orthodoxy.

Worst CD belongs to Chris Tomlin Hello Love.

Best Sporting News

The best sporting news of the year was the Dolphins bounce back from a 1-15 season. This year they are 9-5 and still have a chance to make the playoffs. I knew the Big Tuna would turn things around, but wow, this is more than I could have hoped for in one year. Also good news is the signing of Kerry Wood by the Cleveland Indians. Our closer issues kept us out of the playoffs last year. We did, however, overpay. On the hockey front – oh, who cares about hockey.

Worst news: Sabbathia to the Brewers to the Yankees. I hate the Yankees.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Joel 2:28-32 in NT, part 4

(continued from part 3)

Section 3: echoes of Joel in Romans 10

That Paul quotes from Joel in 10:13 is no surprise to anyone. The words of Joel form a lynchpin in Paul's overall argument regarding the universality of salvation. Not many commentators have explored the more subtle influences of Joel 2:28-32 on Paul's argument in Romans 10. The echo begins softly in 10:4 where Paul uses the phrase "everyone who believes". Admittedly this is not the exactly the same as "everyone who calls", but the same universal focus is apparent. Moreover, Paul goes on to explain how one will express this belief in 10:9, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Compare with Joel's statement in 2:32a, "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." In addition, while the quote in v. 11 is from Isaiah 28:16 ("Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame"), it may have been Paul's ruminations on Joel 2 that brought the Isaiah passage to mind. Joel 2:26-27 states, "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame." Moo acknowledges in a footnote, "Paul might also have been influenced in the choice of this text by the verses immediately preceding it (vv. 26-27), which speak of the day when God's people would not be 'put to shame. [56]" However, Moo is suggesting that Paul chose Joel 2:32 because the verses surrounding it connected to his quotation of Isaiah 28:16. This seems backwards when one considers the number of conceptual echoes of Joel 2 in Romans 10.

Also, Paul's phrase "there is no distinction" could serve as an apt summary of Joel's promise of the outpouring of the spirit on all flesh regardless of class, gender or age, but now the category of race has been abolished as well so that there is "neither Jew nor Gentile". Following this, Paul promises that the Lord is "bestowing his riches on all who call on him", a wonderful interpretation of Joel 2:28-32 where upon close examination it is seen that the Spirit will not be poured out on all people or even all Jews without qualification. In fact, it will be poured out on those who call on the name of the Lord.

The echoes of Joel 2 are clear even before one reaches the explicit quotation in10:13 where one reads, "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'." For Paul this clearly means Gentile as well as Jew, and in this he seems to depart from Joel and even Peter's original intended meaning (though not Luke's). Is this indeed the case? Wolff believes so, "For Paul (Rom 10:13), Joel 3:5a is important documentation that no distinction obtains any longer between Jews and Greeks. He has thereby given a universal interpretation to the 'everyone' (pas) of G, which render 'all' (col) in 3:5. Joel no more intended that than he had known the name of Jesus.[57]"

Osborne also, "While in Joel 'all' refers to all Israel, here it refers to all people, Jew and Gentile alike. So salvation (as in vv. 1, 9, 10) refers to universal salvation available to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord.[58]" So according to Wolff and Osborne, Paul goes beyond Joel's intended meaning. Hubbard adds, "The pivotal clause of Joel 2:32, 'all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered', not only serves as a key text for Peter's invitation to the diaspora Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:21) but also anchors Paul's argument about the centrality of faith, no law, in the reception of salvation (Rom 10:13).[59]"

One shouldn't object too strenuously to such interpretations; however, a more refined argument would avoid unnecessary confusion. It is more accurate to say that Joel and Peter understood their promises referring to Israel and that Paul understands them as referring to the newly constituted Israel. Allen is right on the mark when he writes,

"It was Paul's task to be pioneer in the theological rationalization of that hybrid entity, the Christian Church; and this was one of his prime concerns in his letter to the Romans. His exposition of Joel 2:32 in Rom. 10 depends heavily on his earlier argument in Rom. 4. This is evident from his appeal to faith in 10:11, which, although explicitly referring back to Isa. 28:16, is inextricably linked with the doctrine of justification in his complex theology (Rom. 10:3-6, 10). Underlying the concept of faith in Rom. 10 is the analysis of the implications of Gen. 15:6, a basic text for the doctrine of Rom. 4. There he argued the legitimacy of regarding Abraham as 'father' of a spiritual community of believing Gentiles and Jews. For the apostle the concept of God's people received in Christ a wider meaning that that latent in the OT. 'All flesh' for him is still Israel, but a great Israel. Unbelieving Jews and Gentiles stand outside the community, which comprises the new people of God.[60]"

As Allen goes on to point out, this wider interpretation of Joel 2:32 (really, 2:28-32) flows not only from Paul's work in Romans 4, but also leads up to what he will say in Romans 11, namely that the Gentiles have been grafted into the 'olive tree' of Israel.


This paper has been an attempt to show that the New Testament dealt faithfully with the promises of Joel 2:28-32 even while interpreting them freshly in light of new redemptive historical developments. Going back to the text of Joel it has been shown that Joel would likely have understood the complex of promises as coming in multiple stages, for the outpouring of the Spirit would come after the restoration of loss from the locust. This outpouring would result in fresh prophetic activity. It is unlikely that Joel believed this prophetic activity would be taken up on the same day or even near the same day as God's action to bring history to a close. Thus, when Peter declares 'this is that', he means that the outpouring of the Spirit is the sign the 'last days' had begun and that Joel's promises were beginning to be fulfilled. The promise of the 'democratization of the Spirit' was being fulfilled, but other portions of the promise would be fulfilled in the more distant future.

Moreover, when Joel used the term 'all flesh', he meant all the faithful remnant of Israel – those who would call upon the Lord and identify solely with Him. This too is what Peter meant, though for Peter the faithful remnant was those who called on Jesus as Lord. Essentially, this is Paul's understanding, though Paul extends the promise of salvation to the Gentiles as well. This is because, for Paul, those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ are the true sons and daughters of Abraham. They are the true Israel. So for Paul the promise of salvation and the Spirit is still for the faithful remnant of Israel, though it is Israel reconstituted in Christ.


56 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 660.

57 Wolff, Joel and Amos, 70.

58 Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 273.

59 Hubbard, Joel and Amos, 73. See also Everett F. Harrison, Commentary on Romans, The Expositors Bible Commentary New Testament, electronic edition, release 10.1.98 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).

60 Allen, Joel, 104-105

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Joel 2:28-32 in the NT, part 3

(continued from part 2)

Section 2: Peter's Sermon in Acts 2

Having done the work in the book of Joel, we now turn our attention now to Peter uses Joel's prophecy to explain the phenomenon being witnessed on the day of Pentecost. Evans is correct in pointing out that "Peter's sermon is laced throughout with language taken from Joel"[31]; however, this paper will focus on the direct quotation of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21 (and 2:39). As mentioned in the introduction, when considering Peter's use of Joel's prophecy, there are several issues one must address: first, in what sense is Joel's prophecy actually fulfilled by the events of Pentecost (or surrounding Pentecost), and second, how does Peter understand the phrase 'all flesh'.

Most modern commentators have noticed that Peter's sermon is consistent with what, since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has been referred to as pesher. Longnecker explains that pesher "lays all emphasis on fulfillment without attempting to exegete the details of the biblical prophecy it 'interprets'.[32]" Evans adds, "pesher exegesis is based upon an eschatological understanding which sees certain events predicted, in a somewhat hidden way, in the writing of the prophets of old.[33]"

That Peter is emphasizing the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy can be seen in the slight but significant adjustment to the LXX text [34] that begins Peter's quotation of Joel. Peter takes up the 'afterward' (μετὰ ταῦτα) of Joel 2:28 and interprets it as 'in the last days' (ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις). This alteration of the LXX text highlights what was somewhat obscure in Joel's words, namely that the outpouring of the Spirit was an eschatological event (see discussion above). This was in keeping with the rabbinic understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit [35]. However, Peter isn't merely following the rabbi's, he is declaring that the Spirit is proof that the 'last days' have arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. As Ridderbos writes, "The first thing that comes clearly to the fore in Peter's speeches, and what one might call the ground on which all his preaching rests, is the consciousness that the time of eschatological fulfillment has dawned.[36]" Luke, the historian retelling the Pentecost account and summarizing Peter's sermon, is also conscious of the dawning of the 'last days'. Witherington writes, "…Luke sees a certain christological and eschatological message as central to the preaching [of the apostles].[37]" He goes on,

"As is clear from Peter's speech and the quoting from Joel 2:28-32 at Acts 2:17ff, the working of the Holy Spirit is seen as a sign that the eschatological age has begun, and that the promises of the OT era are being fulfilled in the lives of those who follow Jesus. In general, the point of the Joel passage is that not just some but all of God's people from the least to the greatest will have the Spirit and be equipped for witness or service with various gifts in the eschatological age ushered in by Jesus.[38]"

That Peter understood the prophecy of Joel as being fulfilled, at least in part, on that day is not, however, an uncontested point. Older dispensational theologians have argued that Pentecost did not in any real way fulfill the promises of Joel. For example, Merrill Unger writes,

"It seems quite obvious that Peter did not quote Joel's prophecy in the sense of its fulfillment in the events of Pentecost, but purely as a prophetic illustration of those events…Peter's phraseology 'this is that' means nothing more than that 'this is [an illustration of] that which was spoken by the prophet Joel. In the reference there is not the slightest hint at a continual fulfillment during the church age or a coming fulfillment toward the end of the church age. The reference is solely in an illustrative sense to Jewish auditors at Pentecost. Fulfillment of Joel's prophecy is still future and waits Christ's second coming in glory and a copious spiritual outpouring ushering in kingdom blessing. [39]"

Driven by the same theological assumptions, namely that promises made to Israel must be fulfilled in ethic Israel (either in history or in the millennium), A.C. Gaebelein agrees, stating, "Had he [Peter] spoken of a fulfillment then of Joe's prophecy, he would have uttered something which was not true, for the great prophecy of Joel was not fulfilled on that day.[40]" More recently, however, dispensationalists, even of the classic variety, have acknowledged that such an interpretation does not hold up to close scrutiny, especially in light of the discovery of the Qumran documents and the study of pesher[41].

Unless one follows those who reject the idea of fulfillment in Acts 2, one must determine whether this prophecy was fulfilled in whole or in part. While it is easy to see how Joel's words about the outpouring of the Spirit were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, it is not as easy to see how the portents of Acts 2:19-20 were fulfilled on the day. While dispensationalists have gone in one direction, denying any fulfillment, covenant theologians have often gone in the other, seeing Joel's words as being completely fulfilled. Garrett writes,

"Classic covenant theology asserts that the Pentecost experience was indeed the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. It has generally taken the signs in the sky in more of a spiritual than a literal sense. Some scholars suggest that the signs that accompanied Jesus' crucifixion (e.g., the darkening of the sky, Matt 27:45) fulfilled the prophecy of the darkening of the sun and moon."[42]

Some have attempted to locate the fulfillment of these portents in the unnatural events surrounding Pentecost, connecting the 'signs on earth below' to the miracles of Jesus [43] or the gift of tongues and the healing miracles that would soon follow [44]. Others have suggested that these wonders and signs were meant to refer to the "uncanny happenings in sky and earth some seven weeks earlier [45]." Bruce suggests,

"The wonders and signs to be revealed in the world of nature, as described in vv. 19 and 20 may have more relevance in the present context than is sometimes realized: it was little more than seven weeks since the people in Jerusalem had indeed seen the sun turned into darkness, during the early afternoon on the day of our Lord's crucifixion. And on the same afternoon the paschal full moon may well have appeared blood-red in the sky in consequence of that preternatural gloom"

This could partly explain the addition of three words to the LXX text at v. 19, 'above' (ἄνω) to describe the wonders done in the heavens, 'signs' (σημεῖα), and 'below' (κάτω). Yet, even if there is some reference to events near the day of Pentecost, Bruce is also right in seeing any near fulfillments as 'tokens' of the more climactic fulfillment at the end of the age.

Rather than viewing Joel's prophecy as entirely unfulfilled or entirely fulfilled, it is better to acknowledge that some portions of Joel's prophecy have been fulfilled and others await a future fulfillment. While Kaiser may overstate his case, he is correct when he writes,

"When Peter stood up in front of the crowd on the day of Pentecost and affirmed, 'This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel' (Acts 2:26), it appeared that there was no more to be said. The prophecy had been fulfilled! Yet all interpreters know that Pentecost took care of only the first two verses in that prophecy, and that only to an initial degree. Where were the 'wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke'? 'The sun will be turned to darkness,' promised Joel, 'and the moon to blood.' These events await the consummation of history. The Book of Revelation picks up the same themes and projects them into the last days of earth's history.[46]"

Not only does this square with what appears to have happened on the day of Pentecost, as recorded by Luke, but also with a proper interpretation of Joel's words in the Hebrew OT. As pointed out above, there are indications within the passage of Joel that there would be a lapse of time between the outpouring of the Spirit and the cosmic signs that would accompany the final Day of the Lord. Those same things are highlighted in Acts 2.

Peter highlights the prophetic aspects of the outpouring of the Spirit with the addition of the phrase 'and they shall prophesy' in v. 18 (another alteration to the LXX). Certainly Peter emphasizes this due to his desire to defend against the charge of drunkenness and to explain the utterances given by the Spirit. What they were experiencing was not the effects of intoxication but of divine inspiration through the poured out Spirit of God. This fresh experience of the Spirit resulted in fresh prophetic activity (i.e. proclamation). This is as Joel had predicted – the Spirit would be given not merely for personal enjoyment or growth, but to equip and strengthen God's people for ministry. Jesus' says as much in Acts 1:8 when he promised his disciples power from the Holy Spirit and commissioned his followers to be his witnesses.

So while the outpouring of the Spirit and the resulting prophetic activity are fulfillments of Joel's prophecy (partial at this point, see below), the signs and wonders of Acts 2:19-20 remain yet unfulfilled. It seems reasonable to conclude that Peter understood the prophecy of Joel was beginning to be fulfilled, and that, like Joel, he understood that there would be a period of time between the outpouring of the Spirit and the climactic Day of the Lord and the final consummation of the kingdom of God during which the people of God would exercise their prophetic giftedness empowered by the Spirit. Moreover, as Bruce points out, "Certainly the outpouring of the Spirit on a hundred and twenty Jews cold not in itself fulfill the prediction of such outpouring 'upon all flesh'; but it was the beginning of the fulfillment.[47]" More was to come. More would receive the gift of the Spirit, and more would call on the name of the Lord and be saved [48], as Peter intimates in vv. 38-39. Stott writes, "…between the Day of Pentecost (when the Spirit came inaugurating the last days) and the day of the Lord (when Jesus will come concluding them) there stretches a long day of opportunity, during which the gospel of salvation will be preached throughout the world.[49]" More was to come, but the beginning of the fulfillment was clear to Peter. 'This is that'; the 'last days' were inaugurated by Jesus and the 'democratization of the Spirit' is proof positive.

The second major issue surrounding Acts 2 and the quotation from Joel is Peter's understanding of the phrase 'all flesh' (πᾶσαν σάρκα). Here it is necessary to distinguish between Peter's view and Luke's view, one speaking at the beginning of this dramatic development in redemptive history and the other writing having the benefit of seeing God's salvific program advance several degrees. Most commentators agree that Peter likely understood 'all flesh' as Joel did, as referring to all the house of Israel regardless of sex, age or class. Witherington makes the point emphatically,

"It cannot be stressed to strongly that the event recorded in Acts 2 is not really about the inauguration of the worldwide gentile mission. In Acts 2:14 Peter addresses his fellow (local?) Jews, but also all others who κατοικοῦντες
("and those who were dwelling") in Jerusalem. Peter's preaching, then, in vv. 14ff. must be seen as essentially a message to the Jews of the world, not to the whole world.[50]"

Witherington is likely correct, especially in light of Peter's surprise at the inclusion of Gentiles and their receiving of the Spirit. Longnecker concurs, "It seems difficult to believe that Peter himself thought beyond the perspective of Jewish remnant theology. Just as he could hardly have visualized anything beyond the next generation, so he could hardly have conceived of anything spatially beyond God's call to a scattered but repentant Jewish remnant.[51]" For Peter, as for Joel, it would not be all Jews merely by virtue of their Jewishness that would receive the promise, for "all people means not everyone irrespective of their inward readiness to receive the gift, but everyone irrespective of their outward status. There are still spiritual conditions to receiving the Spirit, but there are no social distinctions…[52]"

Based on this, it is likely that when Peter offers the promise to 'all who are far off' in v. 39, he probably has dispersed Jews in mind, not Gentiles [53]. If, as has been argued, Peter understood 'all flesh' as limited to Israel, the promise of v. 39 must be limited to Israel also (for the Spirit is offered here as well). Consequently, the reader should assume the promise of v. 21 was, in Peter's mind, limited to those in Israel who call upon the name of the Lord (clearly meaning Jesus in the context of the Acts 2). For Peter, it is the faithful remnant of Israel who identified with Jesus as Lord, who would be saved and receive the gift of the Spirit. This is in keeping with what one learns of the disciples nationalistic tendencies in Acts 1, where they respond to Jesus' promise of the coming Holy Spirit with a question, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

On the other hand, when considering this speech, one must also consider Luke's intentions. Longnecker is right to suggest that "this is one of those situations where a narrator like Luke has read into what the speaker said more than was originally there and so implied that the speaker spoke better than he knew.[54]" One can almost picture Luke, a Gentile writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, grinning as he recalls Peter's words and contemplates how the church's understanding of Joel's prophecy must have evolved as God's redemptive plan unfolded. Polhill comments, "Joel undoubtedly had seen the Spirit's outpouring only as a gift to Israel, and perhaps many of those Jewish-Christians at Pentecost saw it the same way. The remainder of Acts clarifies that the promise applies to the Gentiles as well: it is indeed poured out on 'all people.'"[55]

In actuality, it was not so much that Luke or the church came to see the gift being offered to Israel and to the Gentile nations. Rather, it was an evolving understanding of the nature of Israel. This can be seen more clearly when one examines Paul's use of the Joel material in Romans 10.

Up Next: Romans 10 and conclusion.


31 Craig A. Evans, "The Prophetic Setting of the Pentecost Sermon" in Zeitschift für die neutestemntliche Wissenschaft und di Kunde der Älteren Kirche, 74.1-2 (1983), 149. Evans points out that Luke uses approximately 20 words from the book of Joel in Acts 2, words that "provide essential details to the narrative itself". C.H. Dodd contends that Joel was one of the key Old Testament sections that became foundational for the church's apocalyptic/eschatological understanding. He argues that quotes from any one of the large sections would be understood as pointing to the whole context of the work quoted – "it is the total context that is in view, and is the basis for the argument." C.H. Dodd, According to Scriptures: the Substructure of New Testament Theology (London: Fontana Books, 1965), 126.

32Longnecker, Commentary on Acts, The Expositors Bible Commentary New Testament, electronic edition, release 10.1.98 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).

33 Evans, "Prophetic Setting", 150.

34 There are some insignificant adjustments to the LXX text that need not preoccupy us, including the reversal of order in which the promises regarding old men dreaming dreams and young men seeing visions and the addition of the word 'my' (μου) as a qualifier of servants in v. 18.

35 "Peter's conviction was very much in keeping with the rabbinic consensus that the Spirit no longer rested on all Israel but would return as a universal gift at the end time." J.B. Polhill, Acts, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992), 109.

36 H.N. Ridderbos, The Speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (London: Tyndale Press, 1962), 12.

37 Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 100.

38 Ibid, 140.

39 Merrill F. Unger, "The Significance of Pentecost", Bibliotheca Sacra vol. 122:486 (Apr 1965):177-178.

40 A.C. Gaebelein, The Acts of the Apostles, An Exposition quoted in Daniel J. Treier, "The Fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32: A Multiple-Lens Approach", Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:1 (March 1997), 13.

41 See, for example, Zane Hodges, "A Dispensational Understanding of Acts 2", in Issues in Dispensationalism, ed. Wesley R. Willis and John R. Master (Chicago: Moody, 1994), 167-179.

42 Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 370.

43 Allen, Joel, 103.

44 I. Howard Marshall, Acts, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity, 2000), 74.

45 Allen, Joel, 103.

46 Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Back Towards the Future (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1989), 123.

47 F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 68.

48 Space will not allow for a full discussion of how those hearing Peter's sermon would have understood 'LORD'. If Peter quoted the text in Hebrew, then the reference would clearly have been to YHWH. The identification of Jesus as Lord become clear in v. 36. However, for the reader of Luke's account, the Greek 'Lord' the connection with Jesus would be more evident (Marshall, Acts, 74).

49 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1990), 75.

50 Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, 141.

51 Longnecker, Commentary on Acts.

52 Stott, The Message of Acts, 74.

53 Calvin disagrees, "The Gentiles are named in the last place, which were before strangers. For those which refer it unto those Jews which were exiled afar off, (and driven) into far countries, they are greatly deceived. For he speaketh not in this place of the distance of place; but he noteth a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, that they were first joined to God by reason of the covenant, and so, consequently, became of his family or household; but the Gentiles were banished from his kingdom. Paul useth the same speech in the second chapter to Ephesians, (Ephesians 2:11) that the Gentiles, which were strangers from the promises, are now drawn near, through Jesus Christ, unto God" (Commentary of the Acts of the Apostles, The Ages Digital Library Commentary, version 1.0. Ages Software,1998). Calvin, however, doesn't seem to deal with Peter's own hesitation to reckon these dividing walls between clean and unclean as demolished. Paul ministers and writes after the gospel and the Spirit had been given to Gentiles. Peter speaks before that event. If Calvin is reading into Luke's intentions, he is certainly correct; however, it seems unlikely to this author that Peter's understanding is quite as open as Calvin would suggest.

54 Longnecker, Commentary on Acts.

55 Polhill, Acts, 109.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joel 2:28-32 in the NT, part 2

(continued from part 1)

The result of this gracious bestowment of the Spirit would be dramatic flurry of prophetic activity – prophesying, dreaming and seeing of visions. Hubbard contends, "The emphasis here must be on a deeper knowledge of God, a richer form of the relationship for which 2:27 promises. [20]" Even if one grants Hubbard this conclusion, one must not fail to connect this blessing to Israel's call to be a blessing. A 'richer form of relationship' would have missiological implications even if there were not prophetic (speaking) manifestations of this 'richer relationship'. A richer knowledge of God would not/should not be hoarded by those blessed with it, but shared widely with those who possess a deficient knowledge of God (i.e. the nations). In other words, this blessings of intimacy associated with the outpouring of the Spirit must be viewed within the context of Israel's overarching mission to make YHWH known as he has made himself known to them.

However, downplaying the revelatory function of prophecy as Hubbard does goes against the long history of what it meant to be a prophet in Israel. Grudem explains, "The main function of Old Testament prophets was to be messengers from God, sent to speak to men and women with words from God (emphasis in original) [21]." Throughout the Old Testament, prophecy was regarded as speech on God's behalf, not merely a devotional closeness to God or intimate knowledge of God. The prophets brought God's message to the people, speaking on YHWH's behalf (if not, they were false prophets). The category of 'silent prophet' seems to be entirely absent. Thus, Prior rightly comments,

"The gift of the Spirit was not to be for personal satisfaction, or even for national recovery and stability. It was to strengthen the people of God to take up a position of prophetic leadership among the nations in a world heading for an apocalyptic day of final reckoning. If individual prophets had the task of taking God's word to a nation at risk of God's judgment, a prophetically inspired people would have the task of taking God's word to a world on the brink of ultimate judgment.[22]"

It may be objected that the nations in this context are not spoken of as coming to join the people of God or of being blessed by the people of Israel. Indeed, the surrounding context points to the final and climactic judgment of the nations by God. This would be problematic if all the references to 'in those days' and 'at that time' are conflated to one single event or Day. However, rather than narrow our understanding of prophecy so as to exclude its typical emphasis on proclamation and its missiological impact, the interpreter ought to see the increase in prophetic activity as good reason not to flatten the passage and force it to refer to a single Day or a short period of time but to understand the time references as pointing vaguely (and non-sequentially) to the 'collective event' of the Day of the Lord [23]. As Garrett points out, "It would do little good for God to give the gift of the Spirit and the power of prophesy if on the very same day he brought the world to an end.[24]"

The promise of the widening and intensifying work of the Spirit is immediately followed by descriptions of cosmic signs associated with the ultimate Day of the Lord. While Sweeney connects the imagery to the temple complex and the process of slaughtering and burning sacrifices, most commentators draw the parallel to the Exodus event. On this interpretation the blood corresponds to the first plague (Ex. 7:14-25; alternatively to the blood on the doorposts and lintel, Ex. 12:7-13), the fire and smoke to the manifestations of God's presence that guided them in their flight from Egypt (Ex. 13:17-21). This gives the reader the true sense of the double sidedness of the Day of the Lord – it would be deliverance for God's people and violence and destruction for his enemies. The darkness of the heavenly luminaries, while echoing language of the earlier part of this chapter (2:2) also has connections to the exodus event , specifically to the locust plague that was so severe the 'whole land was darkened' (Ex. 10:15) and also to the ninth plague, the plague of darkness (Ex 10:21-29). These signs envision the mighty arm of God coming to the defense and salvation of his people while at the same time coming to mete out judgment to the nations. Stuart concludes, "All of this dramatic and cataclysmic action heralds Yahweh's coming to deliver the righteous and dispense with the wicked, the intended activity of the sovereign's day of conquest.[25]" Prior ties these portents and their symbolism to the mission of Israel as they signify a holy God present with his people "…protecting, preserving, providing, proclaiming, and thereby calling them to attention and the watching world to account"[26] (emphasis added).

All is certainly not doom and gloom, for the prophet holds out salvation for all those who will call upon the name of YHWH. Just had God had saved his people expression of his wrath in the form of locusts, so he will save them from the eschatological outpouring of his wrath on His Day. Again, there is disagreement on how Joel would have understood the words he uttered. Some commentators limit the meaning of 'everyone' to Jews and see an example of remnant theology in Joel's prophecy. Writing from this perspective Bewer states, "Israel's purgation is implied [for it] is not every Jew simply because he is a Jew, but every God fearing Jew who trusts in Yahweh and calls on Him for help…The passage speaks only of Jews, not men in general.[27]" Alternatively, Garrett writes,

"This is as close as Joel came to opening the doors of salvation explicitly to Gentiles: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Even here one could restrict the meaning to Jews in light of the fact that he was addressing a Jewish audience, but such a constriction of the meaning of the text would not be in character with the rest of the message of the Old Testament. The eschatology of the Old Testament frequently asserts Gentile inclusion in the eschatological kingdom. Psalm 87, as noted earlier, says that someday Gentiles from all over the world, even from among Israel's worst enemies, will claim Zion as their place of birth. They will claim Israel and Israel's God as their own. Indeed, the very purpose behind the creation of Israel was to be a blessing to many nations (Gen 12:1–3; cf. also Isa 19:23–25). [28]"

While the immediate context may incline the interpreter to side with those who limit the promise of v. 31 to a remnant within Israel, the whole thrust of prophetic eschatology and the fine details of the context, point toward a more inclusive reading – 'everyone' refers to Jews and Gentiles who call on the name of the Lord. Calvin, after acknowledging that Joel had his fellow Jews in mind here, clarifies,

"the Prophets after having spoken of the kingdom of Christ, had no doubt this truth in view, that the blessing in the seed of Abraham had been promised to all nations; and when he afterwards described the miserable state in which the whole world would be, he certainly meant to rouse even the Gentiles, who had been aliens from the Church, to seek God in common with his elect people: the promise, then, which immediately follows, is also addressed to the Gentiles, otherwise there would be no consistency in the discourse of the Prophet. We therefore see that Paul most fitly accommodates this place to his subject: for the main thing to be held is this, that the blessing in Christ was promised not only to the children of Abraham but also to all the Gentiles. When, therefore, the Prophet describes the kingdom of Christ, it is no wonder that he addresses the Jews and Gentiles in common: and then, what he said of the state of the world, that it would be full of horrible darkness, undoubtedly refers, not to the Jews only, but also to the Gentiles. Why was this done, except to show that nothing else remains for them but to flee to God? [29]"

There is, therefore, somewhat of a tension in the text, for Joel seemingly offers the promises of the Spirit and salvation to the faithful Jewish remnant who align themselves with God, yet the prophetic ministry of Israel and the description of eschatological doom seem to be for the purpose of calling Gentile as well as Jew to repentance and faith.

The answer may be that Joel envisions, as Calvin posits, an eschatological enlarging of Israel to include the Gentiles as well. Gentile inclusion in the covenant was not at all foreign concept to the people of Israel [30]. Thus, there is exegetical warrant both for limiting the promises to Israel and of widening their implications to include Gentiles who would be incorporated into the covenant community as God's purposes ripened. Ultimately, it must be remembered that those who call on the Lord are also those whom the Lord has called. It is those whom YWHW has called who will identify with him, calling on his name, and be included among his people, seeking refuge on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem.

Summary: This text is a complex fabric of particular and universal promises with near and distant fulfillment. The great and awful Day of the Lord has had/will have many particular manifestations through history, as the locust plague attests. On the other hand, all of these particular and limited expressions of God's judgment must be viewed as part of the whole universal and climactic Day of the Lord. The outpouring of the Spirit here is offered as a promise for the particular people of God but the resulting prophetic ministry would have universal implications as Israel, true to her mandate, would take the blessing and become a blessing.

With relation to time, the restoration of the loss that had resulted from locust plague seems to have been either past or near future to Joel's prophesying. However, the promise of 2:28-32 would find their fulfillment in the eschatological future.

Up Next: Joel 2 in Peter Pentecost Sermon.


20. Hubbard, Joel and Amos, 70.

21. Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy (Wheaton: Crosssway, 2000),

22. Prior, The Message of Joel, Micah & Habakkuk, 76

23. "…the whole set of events makes up one collective totality and constitutes only one idea even though the events may be spread over a large segment of history by the deliberate plan of God…One prominent example of this common phenomenon in the OT is they 'day of Yahweh'. Consistently in all the prophets this day is viewed as one day, yet it is obviously a collective event…in which are gathered all the antecedent historical episodes of judgment and salvation along with the future grand finale and climactic event in the whole series". Kaiser, "The Promise of God", 110-111.

24. Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Bradman & Holman, 1997), 373.

25. Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, 261.

26. Prior, The Message of Joel, Micah & Habakkuk, 76.

27. John M. Powis, William H. Ward and Julius A. Bewer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah and Joel, International Critical Commentary (New York: Schribner's, 1911), 124-125.

28. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 375.

29. John Calvin, Commentary on the Prophet Joel, The Ages Digital Library Commentary, version 1.0. Ages Software, 1998.

30. Even at the Exodus we are told that 'mixed multitude' went out of Egypt with them (Ex. 12:38). Other examples include Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Rahab and Ruth. Hedlund writes, "The uniqueness of Israel was not in blood but in covenant. The incorporation of aliens into the commonwealth of Israel was an early stage in the progressive development of mission in the Bible. That foreigners were in fact inducted demonstrates the seriousness of God's mission." Roger E. Hedlund. The Mission of the Church in the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 82. In Isaiah 56 we read of God's intention to include others in the house of Israel:

"The Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,

"I will gather yet others to him

besides those already gathered."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Funny Cosby Sketch

I think I listened to this sketch a thousand times on family vacations. It's fun.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joel 2.28-32 in the NT, part 1

I'm not sure anyone will read a very long exegetical paper, but Joel 2:28-32 is an incredibly rich promise and one that several NT authors draw upon. Just how they use it gives us great insight into how they understood their Bibles and how they understood the progression of redemptive history. So, here's my latest paper in many parts (I hope the formatting of different fonts works):

The Use of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2 and Romans 10

Joel 2:28-32 (MT 3:1-5) is a text that surfaces in direct quotes and subtle allusions throughout the New Testament.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls." (ESV)

The importance of this short book to the theology of the church must not be underestimated. Prior contends 'in proportion to its length, the book of Joel arguably had more impact on the writers of the NT than any other OT book'[1]. The purpose of this paper is to examine two passages in the New Testament which echo these verses from the prophet Joel, namely Acts 2:16-21 and Romans 10:12-13. The tangle of issues in these texts is complicated and incredibly rich; however, this paper will only focus on two primary issues. First, how do the various parts of the Joel's prophecy find fulfillment in the events surrounding Pentecost? The second issue this paper will seek to address is the meaning of the phrase 'all flesh'? Who did Joel think would receive the outpouring of the Spirit and have Peter/Luke and Paul maintained this original meaning or altered it in ways that violate Joel's intentions?

The thesis of this paper is not only that Peter saw the events of Pentecost as fulfilling a portion of Joel's prophecy, leaving other portions to be fulfilled in the future, but also that Joel would have understood the promises of 2:28-32 as coming in stages and not all on one day or at one time. Moreover, while Peter understands the phrase 'all flesh' as Joel does (meaning 'all the people of Israel'), Paul's understanding is larger (meaning 'all of God's people, Jew and Gentile') but not at all inconsistent with Joel's intended meaning. Simply put, the New Testament deals faithfully with the promises of Joel 2:28-32 even while interpreting them freshly in light of new redemptive historical developments.

This paper is organized into three main sections. The goal of section one is to establish the original meaning of Joel 2:28-32. It is simply a brief exegetical outline and theological inquiry into the issues in and around the selected text. The second section is an examination of Acts 2:16-21. The third section is a brief study of Paul's use of the Joel material in Romans 10:12-13.

Section 1: Interpreting Joel

One of the challenges the interpreter faces when approaching the book of Joel is the lack of clarity regarding Joel's historical setting. Discussion continues over the dating of the book, with dates offered ranging from early 9th century BC to the early 5th century. This paper will presume an early post-exilic date, probably around 500BC, which seems to be the growing consensus of scholars [2].

The message of Joel is dominated by the Day of the Lord theme, a theme that many of Joel's predecessors had developed also, especially the prophets Amos and Zephaniah. To understand how Joel uses the motif of the Day of the Lord one must understand it as a 'two sided phenomenon'[3]. Israel had come to believe that the Day of the Lord would mean unadulterated blessing for them but unmitigated disaster for the nations. Amos, however, taught that the Day of the Lord would spell doom for Israel also, and this message was confirmed by later prophets [4]. Hubbard correctly contrasts the message of Amos with that of Joel when he writes, "Amos had said that the Day was darkness not light (5:18,20); Joel says that it is darkness before light.[5]"

In the opening section of the book of Joel (1:1-20), the prophet applies the judgmental aspect of the Day of the Lord to the devastating plague of locusts. Then in 2:1-17, while using language from the locust plague, Joel shifts his focus from the literal six legged insects to the climactic and eschatological Day of the Lord of which the locusts were a herald [6] and calls God's people to repentance. Joel 2:18 is the pivotal verse in the book, indicating that the people did indeed repent and return to the Lord (though from what sin or covenant breach we are not told) and that God would respond with blessings. The initial stage of blessing would be a restoration of what had been lost. Hubbard contends that the present participle in 2:19 'I am sending' (שֹׁלֵ֤חַ) suggests an immediate fulfillment. This immediate initial blessing would be followed by a second stage of blessing, "the inauguration of a new era in God's dealing with his people.[7]"

This second stage of blessing is outlined in 2:28-32. While there is no clear indication of when Joel envisioned the second stage of blessing to be given, there are at least some clues. The Hebrew אַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֗ן("afterword") makes it clear that it would be after God had restored Israel's losses from the plague of locust. Patterson argues, "Since the previous section dealt with the near future, it may be safely presumed that the events prophesied here lay still farther beyond. Indeed, these chapters disclose the Lord's eschatological intentions.[8]" The verbal connections between 2:28, 2:29 and 3:1 seem to favor Patterson. 'Afterwards' in v. 28 is connected to the 'in those days' of v. 29 and of 3:1ff. In 3:1ff the phrase 'in those days' is clearly eschatological and not likely to have been viewed as an imminent development. Such a view is supported by a reading of rabbinic literature in which the work of the Holy Spirit is relegated to the past and to the Age to Come [9]. Kaiser, on the other hand, sounds a corrective note when he writes,

"Never had an individual in the OT been completely without the aid and work of the Holy Spirit. Certainly Jesus held that the subjects of the new birth and the special work of the Holy Spirit in the gift of salvation were not new or inaccessible doctrines to the OT men and women before the cross. In fact he marveled that Nicodemus could have been a teacher in Israel and still have been so totally unaware of this fact (John 3:10).[10]"

This is important, for if Kaiser is right, and there is convincing reasons to believe he is, then we should not read Joel's words as a promise that the Spirit would begin his work in some future day. The outpouring of the Spirit should be understood not as a beginning but as an intensification and an enlarging of the Spirit's work. This is seen in two key elements of God's promise through the prophet: first, God will 'pour out' (אֶשְׁפּ֤וֹךְ) his Spirit, and second, it will be poured out on 'all flesh' (כָּל־בָּשָׂ֔ר). As Stuart writes, "In the new age all of God's people will have all they need of God's Spirit.[11]" The 'democratization of the Spirit'[12] is a major advancement in God's plan for his people. The people would experience the fullness of the Spirit in a way that had, up to this point in redemptive history, been true of only a select few.

To whom, though, does this 'all flesh' refer? Walter Kaiser argues strongly that it must refer to 'all mankind', meaning Jew and Gentile alike. Kaiser points out that of the 32 uses of כָּל־בָּשָׂ֔ר outside of Joel, 23 of those instances are references to 'the nations', and in four of those it is used as a near synonym for 'the nations'[13]. To say that Kaiser stands alone in his opinion would only be a mild overstatement, for the context of Joel's promise trumps Kaiser's argument as to the normal usage of the phrase. Wolff writes,

"Certainly 'all flesh' (כָּל־בָּשָׂ֔ר) can mean the whole of humanity, indeed even animals as well as humans. Yet here it surely means not 'the whole world as such', but 'everybody' in Israel, for according to the introduction in 2:19 this oracle also pertains to Yahweh's people, and immediately preceding it the manifestation of Yahweh 'in the midst of Israel' has been announced (2:27).[14]"

Calvin too interprets the 'all flesh' to be a reference to 'all Israel'. Allen, Patterson and Garrett all agree, as does Hubbard who points out the pronouns used in immediate context qualify the extent of the outpouring, namely 'your sons', 'your daughters', 'your old men' and 'your young men'. Robert Chisholm offers a similar assessment,"Joel envisioned an eschatological outpouring of God's Spirit upon "all flesh" (Joel 2:28 [3:1]). In this context the phrase seems to refer to all classes of people within Judah rather than to humankind in general (cf. "Your sons and daughters ... old men ... young men," and "servants, both men and women," vv. 2:28 b- 29 [3:1 b- 2]). God would pour out his spirit upon all the residents of Judah, regardless of age, gender, or social status, enabling all to exercise prophetic gifts (cf. Ezek 39:29 and Zech 12:10; see also Num 11:29).[15]"

Kaiser, on the other hand points out that "the male and female servants" of v. 29 would have included Gentiles. Yet Kaiser ignores the fact that even Gentiles servants could and often were included in the covenant community through circumcision (Gen 17:27, Ex 12:43-49) and were thus included in the house of Israel. Further strengthening the case against Kaiser's reading, and for a more limited understanding of 'all flesh' is Ezekiel 39:29 in which God promises, "I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God." This lavish outpouring of the Spirit promised by Joel would be for all the people of Israel irrespective of class, gender, or age. This promise echoes the wish of Moses in Number 11:29, "But Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!'"

VanGemeren further limits (correctly) the scope of 'all flesh' arguing that "the promise of the Spirit is limited to a particular group in 'Israel''[16]. After commenting on the openness of the promise (the Spirit is promised to all despite class or sex or age), he writes,

"On the other hand, the application of the promise of the Spirit is not mechanical. Not 'all people' will be saved and find deliverance in the city of God, Mount Zion. Only those who 'call' on the name of the Lord make up 'all people'.[17]"

In other words, v. 32 further qualifies v. 28 [18]. Thus, for VanGemeren and for Wolff, there is a remnant motif coming through here. This group from within Israel will "constitute the new community of the Spirit, who will be brought through the Day of the Lord as the heirs of the promises of God.[19]"


1 David Prior, The Message of Joel, Micah & Habakkuk: Listening to the Voice of God, Bible Speaks Today(Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1999), 70.

2See, for example, Leslie Allen, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976).

3 Allen, Joel, 36.

4 Ibid, 30.

5 David A. Hubbard, Joel and Amos, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1989), 22.

6 Space will not allow for a full exploration of the possible relationships between the locusts of chapter one and the armies of chapter two. Some have argued that Joel has in mind the plague of locusts in both chapters one and two (see Allen and Hubbard) while others have argued that the Joel envisions human armies in chapter two of which the locusts were just a portent (see Patterson). Still others have argued that Joel uses the real plague of locusts referred to in chapter one to speak of the final conflict on the climactic Day of the Lord (see Treier). Finally, some have argued that the locusts of chapter one and two should be viewed as a human army (see Stuart).

7 Hubbard, Joe and Amos, pg. 68. Hubbard rightly points out that the distinction is not between material and spiritual blessings as many other commentators contend. The material loss and restoration were spiritual at their root – the loss resulted from covenant breach and the blessings flow from a restoration of covenantal relationship.

8 Richard D. Patterson, Commentary on Joel, The Expositors Bible Commentary Old Testament, electronic edition, release 10.1.98 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).

9 Allen, Joel, 104.

10 Walter C. Kaiser Jr. "The Promise of God and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit: Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:16-21," in The Living and Active Word of God: Studies in Honor of Samuel J. Schultz, ed. Morris Inch (Winona Lake, Eisenbrauns, 1983), 112.

11 Douglas Stuart, Hosea – Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1987), 216.

12 Ibid, 260

13 Kaiser, "The Promise of God", 119.

14 Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos, trans. by Waldemar Janzen et al, ed. S. Dean McBride Jr., Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 67.

15 Robert B. Chisholm, "rc;B; ( )", New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem, VanGemeren electronic edition v. 7.25.01 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).

16 Willem VanGemeren, "Spirit of Restoration", Westminster Theological Journal 50:1 (Spring 1988): 91.

17 Ibid, 91.

18 See also Wolff, Joel and Amos, 68-69.

19 Ibid, 91.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

books make great xmas presents

After my last post on the 'worst Christmas present ever', I thought one about some of the best would be appropriate. I found this on Justin Taylors blog.

Ok, well I've only read half of those, but the others look good also!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Worst Christmas Present Ever, Seriously.

This one is appalling.

"A number of Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana and Illinois are offering gift certificates for their services this Christmas.

Officials say the vouchers enable people to give their loved ones "the gift of life" — that would help pay for annual checkups and birth control — but also can be used for abortions."

Read the whole article...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christ at the center of Scripture

For the past few months I have been studying how the Bible interprets itself, especially how the NT interprets the OT, but also how later parts of the OT interpret and apply earlier parts. While it may sound boring to many, it has opened up new windows of insight into how the apostles, even how Jesus, understood themselves to be heirs of the Old Testament story and how we are connected to that story as well. It has shown me how true it is that Christ is the center of Scripture, something I've known and taught, but now feel even more deeply.

Understanding this really does effect how we read our Bibles. There are two schools of thought on this topic: one is that we read the NT in light of the Old; the other is that we should read our OT in light of the New, especially the 'Jesus event'. Which is it? I think it has to be both - which requires multiple readings and rereadings of Scripture. First we read the Old Testament as if we have never heard of Jesus, which requires an active imagination! Then when we get to the new we are stunned at how Jesus steps into the stream of Israel's history. Jesus is like David. He's like Moses. He's like Joshua. He's not like Adam. Like but also unlike Israel herself. He's a better prophet than the prophets. He's a better priest who offers a better sacrifice than the priests. He's the own who ushers in the Day of the Lord with all its terrors and blessings.

Then, having read this, we go back and reread the OT and see all the ways it points us to Jesus. Adam failed to keep the law - someone must come to keep it for us. Melchizedek is a type of Christ, David is too. The tabernacle and especially the temple are types of Christ. The sacrifices prefigure the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. The exodus is a type of the salvation offered by Jesus. So is the return from exile.

Too often we leave off one of these readings. If we forget to read the OT in light of the New, we'll treat the OT as though it's sub Christian literature, like Marcion. If we forget to read the NT in light of the Old we'll neglect the stream of history into which Jesus stepped. We'll neglect the actual importance of events like the exodus and the calling of Abram and the exile and return and end up spiritualizing them or turning them into some wild allegory. We'll miss out on the significance of what it meant for the early church to call Jesus 'Lord' and 'Christ' and 'Son of Man'.

Schleiermacher, the founding father of modern hermeneutics and also the father of liberalism, urged the readers of the Bible to read the parts in light of the whole, the construct the whole from the parts. Know the whole story and read the parts, especially the unclear parts, in light of the whole (also Luther's analogy of faith). When you do this, the ways in which the NT reads and interprets the Old don't seem nearly so weird. On a first read, it doesn't seem like the NT writers always care about the original context or the intent of the author. However, when you see that a passage from Exodus has an immediate context, the verses and chapters immediately surrounding it, and a larger context, the whole sweep of redemptive history, many problems solve themselves.

Did NT authors take things out of context? Maybe out of the immediate context, but not the whole context. They had read the whole story and saw how the parts fit together even better than Moses or David did. Did they NT authors then violate the authors intent in writing a particular passage? If by author you mean Moses or Joshua or the prophet Joel, then you could make a case for that (not one I would agree with, but you could make the case). However, while David and Joel were the human authors, they were only the human authors and the Scripture are not product of only human activity, but of divine revelation. They true author is God - what else could it mean to call the Bible God's Word. The NT authors, while they may appear to violate the original intent of the OT authors DO NOT violate the intent of God, the divine author. Moreover, I don't believe they violate the intent of the human author either. If Moses saw how John used Genesis 1 in the first chapter of his Gospel and knew the whole story of Jesus, I think he'd nod and say, 'yeah, didn't see that in what I wrote, but you're right.'

Thinking through what this means for our hermeneutic is challenging and important. How we interpret Scripture has become an issue of ambivalence to many ('oh that's just your interpretation'), though through history it has often been a matter of life or death. Luther, with his head on the chopping block:
Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason (for I believe neither in the Pope nor Councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures adduced by me and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen

Another Perspective on Gay Marriage

I stumbled across this article today which offers a very different perspective, one that I'll need to mull over more thoroughly, on the same sex marriage debate. Summary: Prop 8 in Cali. is more tolerant and liberal than laws in Mass. demanding same sex marriage be recognized. Hmm.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Calvin's Institutes

I decided to start reading The Institutes today. I've actually never read it and I know it will take me a long time, especially since I have a ton of work due mid December, but first impressions are good. I've really only read the preface, but he's much more readable than Edwards, my other hero. Here's a paragraph from the preface:

Let our doctrine be tested by this rule and our victory is secure. For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by Him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in Him?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Clarification on Previous Post on Gay Marraige

In the comments on my previous post, SEG asked for some clarification on why I am for using the legislative process to put an end to abortion but not a fan of the ban on gay marriage. First, let me say that I am not for gay marriage and do believe homosexuality is a flagrant sin (one of many). But I think there is a difference between the two issues, abortion and gay marriage.

Here's the difference as I see it, and I am open for correction and input. First, I see nowhere in scripture where I am to crusade in the larger society for morality. We should be moral people and salt and light that change society from the inside out. I do see, however, where we are called to stand up for the weak, the powerless, to care about justice, etc. In most ways, the gay marriage issue is a victimless issue. We obviously can't say the same thing about abortion.

Secondly, changing the terminology from marriage back to civil union is semantics - just wording. Now I really haven't spent time reading the legislation, but I am under the impression that virtually all of the rights extended to gay couples under the umbrella of 'marriage' will continue to be extended under the umbrella of 'civil union'. No matter what you call it the sin remains. To change that, you'd have to outlaw homosexuality (sodomy laws, etc.) and enforce it. I don't know many people who are in favor of this, and I certainly am not. On the issue of abortion, I'm not advocating action to protect a word or concept, but lives.

Hope the clarification is helpful.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gay Marriage and Constitutional Bans

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I'm not one who supports amendments to the Constitution banning gay marriage. Yesterday three states passed amendments to their state constitutions banning it. Here's a quote from William Duncan on marriagedebate.com:
Voters in California, Arizona and Florida approved constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman yesterday. This is great news for marriage.

The California victory is especially important since it reversed the California Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage in May of this year. The Florida victory is significant because the amendment there needed sixty percent approval to be enacted. The Arizona victory reversed the very narrow defeat of a slightly more complicated marriage amendment in 2006.

First, I should say I'm not necessarily opposed to constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, I'm just not for them. I'm very ambivalent, but do think advocacy for and money spent to promote such bans are a complete waste.

Going back to the quote I can explain why. First, Duncan says this is great news for marriage. I really and truly fail to see how such amendments will make make marriages better. Will they lower divorce rates, increase fidelity or anything else that could be considered good news for marriage. Secondly, I don't get the personification of marriage - as if marriage is now celebrating.

More importantly, I don't see how this truly changes anything except in name. Civil unions are still protected legally and gay individuals in civil unions are still provided the same rights, essentially, as married couples. Frankly, a rose by any other name is still as sweet. I don't care if you call it a civil union or a marriage. Civil unions are marriages in all but a legal sense.

Now please, understand I'm not advocating a gay lifestyle. I think its sinful, but lets work at addressing the sin and stop quibbling over words.

Finally, I question why Christians care so much about how the state defines marriage. Will I allow the state to define for me or my kids how we should understand marriage. Until the day the state tells me I have to perform gay marriages, I just don't care if a gay couple gets hitched at a courthouse. 'Whatever' I think is the proper response.

Wonderful insight from Riddlebarger on President Elect Obama

Kim Riddlebarger is one of the men who has shaped my theology and my view of the world significantly over the past 5 years (yes, both are still taking shape even after seminary). He's brilliant, got some flair, can be punchy, likes to drink and smoke cigars (I prefer my pipe), and is remarkably level headed. In other words, he's the perfect Calvinist.

Anyway, check out his President Elect Obama. Very good.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I'm not lockstep with anyone - everyone is just stupid sometimes!

I remember my mom asking me once during a strong Piper phase I went through if I disagreed with John Piper on anything. Even back then I didn't agree with Piper on all points theological. Today, that disagreements are more numerous. For example, he recently posted an article "Why Women Shouldn't Run for Vice President, But Wise People May Still Vote for Her". Wow.

In actuality, I can't think of anyone I'm lockstep with - not Calvin, not Edwards. I'm a nomad theologically. I don't fit in any denomination that I know of, except maybe the EPC. Makes it hard to find a job (!), but thankfully I'm not looking. I think there is a wisdom in not being overly worried with consistency (it is the hobgoblin of little minds), and being humble in our approach even to our own beliefs. I honestly disagree with things I believed even a year or two ago. I learn, I grow, I rethink, and I think it's good. I love being at a place like ECC where I'm constantly exposed to people who disagree and with a staff who is open to thinking and rethinking things.