Author Archives: Jason Kees

ETS 2016 Reflections

Next week (Nov 15-17) the Evangelical Theological Society will convene in Providence, RI for their annual conference. The theme,“The Heritage of the Reformation,” celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with the following plenary speakers: 

  • Gwenfair Adams, Associate Professor of Church History, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; editor of the Romans 1-8 volume in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series.
  • Timothy George, Founding Dean at Beeson Divinity School and General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of Theology of the Reformers)
  • Scott Manetsch, Professor of Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Associate General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of the Oxford publication on Calvin’s Company of Pastors)

This will be my third consecutive meeting to attend and I am eagerly anticipating what will be a rewarding week of scholarship and discussion between friends I have not seen since last year in San Antonio.

As I wrote last year about my time in Atlanta for 2015, I wanted to do the same for 2016. Below are a few observations from the 2016 meeting that was held in San Antonio. Continue reading

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Reflections on Preaching the Apocalypse

On January 10, 2016 I began to preach through the Apocalypse. After forty-four sermons last night, July 2, 2017, I finished preaching the book.

For some time I debated on preaching the Apocalypse and felt that I would need about a year to prepare, read, and think. Twenty-two chapters of symbolic language, coupled with the various interpretative methods, makes this book notoriously difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, I felt that it would be a good exercise for myself as a pastor and my congregation.

Here are seven (let the reader understand) reflections from my time spent in the Apocalypse.

1. The book is not as difficult as I initially expected.

To be sure, the Apocalypse is difficult. The book is loaded with heavy symbolism and employs this symbolism to describe the unholy trinity (chps. 12-13) and the Christ (1:12-20; 5:5-7; etc.). Yet, these symbols find their fulfillment in various Old Testament passages. John expects his readers to be familiar with those images, which is suggested by how little he explains their meaning.

2. Many people bypass the seven churches in chapters 2-3 to get to the narrative.

We spent seven weeks on these churches, and it was a profitable time for our church. The Apocalypse was written for these churches to provide encouragement to remain steadfast against the opposition they faced from outside (Rome) and within (internal false teaching). Furthermore, there is the common refrain “to the one who overcomes” (Τῷ νικῶντι) that is revisited in the book, as well as the rewards given to the one who overcomes (cf. 2:7 and 22:2)

3. The one introduced in chapter 4 as “the one who sits upon the throne” is also the one to initiate the judgments upon the world.

There are many verbs in the passive that can be understood as the “divine passive,” which simply means that a certain action is done by God. There are several, but one that has resonated with me is from 13:5. The beast from the sea was given (ἐδόθη) a mouth to utter blasphemous words against God. I think the point of that is to remind the reader that even the unholy trinity is not beyond the sovereign control of the one who sits upon the throne. Continue reading

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Book Review: Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership

Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership. By Bobby Jamieson. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2015. 256 pp. $24.99, Paperback. ISBN 978-1-4336-8620-7.

Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership is another contribution in the ever growing field of 9Marks’ ecclesiological discussion. For Bobby Jamieson, a PhD student at Cambridge University, the main point of the book is tied in to the ecclesiological nature of baptism and church membership. “This whole book aims toward the conclusion that churches should require prospective members to be baptized—which is to say, baptized as believers—in order to join” (1). He does so in three major parts.

In part one, “Getting Our Bearings,” Jamieson spends the first two chapters by laying his groundwork carefully. In chapter one Jamieson argues that “according to Scripture baptism is required for church membership and for participating in the Lord’s Supper, membership’s recurring effective sign” (8). As the book is Baptist in its truest fashion, this is to exclude paedobaptists since they have not been baptized biblically and, therefore, are excluded from participation in the Lord’s Supper (8–11). This, he believes, is a debate worth having. In chapter two Jamieson highlights six reasons open membership “feels right,” but is incorrect. Of the strongest, especially within Reformed circles, is the desire for evangelical cooperation across lines between Presbyterians and Baptists.

Part two is Jamieson’s attempt to build a case for the points he has argued thus far. In chapter three he stays close to the biblical text to argue that believer’s baptism is when a Christian’s faith is made public. “If you’re looking for a visible hook to hang your hat on when you speak about conversion, baptism is the natural choice” (41). He also takes on Piper’s stance on open membership (50–52). Continue reading

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Book Review: Recapturing the Voice of God

Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture. By Steven W. Smith. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2015. 240 pp. $24.99, Paperback. ISBN 978-1-4336-8250-6.

51lzb2yqnl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Steven W. Smith, current Vice President for Student Services and Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has challenged the primary notion of what people consider expository preaching. According to Smith, expository, or text-driven, preaching “is not a style but a theologically driven philosophy of preaching whose purpose is to get as close to the text as possible” (1). Sermons are simply a “re-presentation of what God has already presented” (3). In order to accomplish this, Smith argues that preachers should pay attention to the genre.

Chapter one highlights the deficiency of the typical “one size fits all” structure of a sermon. The structure of the text shapes the structure of the sermon (8). The task of the preacher is to “re-present what God has said” and the end of preaching is “to sound like God’s Word” (10). This leads to his point in chapter two, namely that the secret to great preaching is simply staying at the text until its meaning is clear (17), because it is the pastor’s responsibility to explain the Scripture to the congregation (22–25).

In chapter three Smith helpfully guides the reader through the basics of genre and forces the preacher to understand the influence of genre. He argues that genre is both situational and moving. Smith convincingly argues that if the preacher views the genre as arbitrary the communication of the text will be flat. The preacher must remember that the exegetical work is done by “mining the life that is already embedded in the text” (32), thereby relinquishing the temptation of presenting the sermon as either flat or static.  Continue reading

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My Final PhD Seminar

After two and a half years of seminar work, writing papers, presentations, and flying to and from Kansas City, my final PhD seminar begins today. It has been a long and strenuous journey through my classes, and it seems odd that I have finally reached my final seminar before my comprehensive exam and dissertation.mbts-pict

I remember when my doctoral studies started in August 2014 and I mapped out my potential schedule, the “Dissertation Seminar” seemed all too far away. I had Old/New Testament Theology, Advanced Greek/Hebrew grammar, and various other courses that I looked forward to taking. I never thought this seminar would be reached, but slow and steady finishes the race.

The way Midwestern offers their non-residential courses allows the student to take two seminars each semester, but only one at a time. When one seminar ends, the next one possibly available for the student will begin the next day or a week later. For example, when my Old Testament Theology seminar ended in April 2015 my Adv. Greek Grammar began the very next week. Also, taking advantage of directed studies can speed up the degree as well. I was fortunate to take NT Theology and Adv. Hebrew Grammar in this format.

With the full support of my wife and congregation, I have not stopped my schooling since January 2015. In fact, my Adv. Hebrew class ended a week before our son was born, so this has been my first “break” since January 2015. Continue reading

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The Ninety-Five Theses

The Ninety-Five Theses

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

luther_95-thesesOut of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one’s heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep. Continue reading

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Martin Luther on “Righteousness of God”

The teaching of justification by faith alone stands as one of the five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Fide served as the battle cry for the Reformers who declared that a person is saved or justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law. It was Martin Luther who rediscovered this biblical doctrine during his tenure as a lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. As he studied, he became convinced that the primary source of Christian theology was not the papal traditions but rather the Bible itself, especially interpreted through the lens of Augustine of Hippo.[1] This discovery eventually lead Luther to rebuild the church from the ground up as in an effort to be faithful to the command of Scripture that the believer is simultaneously a righteous person and a sinner (simul justus et peccator). Thus, the foundation laid by Luther may well be the reason he is attributed with the statement, “Justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.”[2]

Martin Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ changed the course of church history, but what preceded the Reformation was a distinctly different understanding of the meaning “righteousness of God.” Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ served as the catalyst that launched the Reformation. In essence, Luther sought to understand how one martin-luther-statueobtained favor before God. In other words, Luther wanted to know how humanity entered into a relationship with God, one that would save from damnation, death, and hell. Of course, the medieval and Catholic answer to this was the sacraments and the need for intermediaries, such as Mary and the saints. Nevertheless, Luther still wrestled with this as the basis, and it was primarily from how Paul used the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

Luther’s vision of God served as the foundation for what he thought about everything else, especially with the notion of sin and the Law.[3] He knew that people stood condemned before a holy God, and he rejected the notion that people could earn their righteousness.[4] Yet upon his reading of Romans, Luther struggled still with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

I had conceived a burning desire to understand what Paul meant in his Letter to the Romans, but thus far there had stood in my way, not the cold blood around my heart but that one word which is in chapter one: “The justice of God is revealed in it.” I hated that word, “justice of God,” which by the use and custom of all my teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically as referring to formal or active justice, as they call it, i.e., that justice by which God is just and by which he punishes sinners and the unjust.[5]

Continue reading

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ETS 2015 Reflections

ets-logoLast year I was able to attend my first national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held in Atlanta, Georgia. I have wanted to attend since I was accepted for student membership in 2010, but scheduling conflicts always prohibited my journey. I had to live vicariously through others who attended, listen to their stories about papers presented (and book sales), and follow their journey via Twitter.

I was talking with a friend a few months back who is also attending this year, and he asked about my experience from 2015.

First, it was every theological students dream. There before me on every floor were world-renown scholars in their own discipline. I saw Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology was helpful for me in my early years, from a distance in the book store. I sat a few rows ahead of Bill Mounce who authored the Basics of Biblical Greek textbook that taught me the Greek language. I saw both Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning whose work on Verbal Aspect has dramatically changed how I read the Greek New Testament. I shared an elevator ride with D.A. Carson, saw Doug Moo in the lobby, and watched Tom Schreiner help count votes in the business meeting. I was attending a theological conference with these “heavy-hitters.” Continue reading

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MBTS Chapel with Thor Madsen

This past week I was on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for my most recent PhD seminar, and I had the privilege to, once more, attend chapel. On Tuesday Dr. Madsen, the PhD program director and wearer of many hats, preached from Revelation 14 and did not mince words or soften the message of The Apocalypse.

I encourage you to listen Dr. Madsen expound the entire chapter.

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Book Review: A New Testament Biblical Theology by Greg Beale

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. By G.K. Beale. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 1,072 pp. $54.99, Hardback. ISBN 978-0801026973.

In his Biblical Theology in Crisis, Brevard Childs formally announced the discipline of Biblical Theology as dead in 1970. This premature denouncement was formed through his understanding of scholarly engagement with biblical exegesis and theology and the difficulty in grouping the two disciplines together. However, contrary to Childs’ claim the discipline of Biblical Theology has flourished and currently thrives. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (NTBT) by G.K. Beale attests to the flourishing of biblical theology.

Beale, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, has produced the massive tome of his understanding regarding how biblical theology should be approached. Notable is the subtitle of the book The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New as readers of Beale’s previous works will remember his connection between the Testaments. The structure of the book is meticulously detailed with ten “parts” that are composed of twenty-eight chapters in total.

Beale understands biblical theology as nothing else than “the exhibition of the organic progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity” (9). His thesis of how biblical theology is presented within the Bible is connected with the “already-not yet” realized eschatology proposed by George Ladd. He rarely deviates from this notion and highlights its connection to either the biblical storyline or theological themes throughout the work. He prefers to examine the Bible as a whole thematically rather than individual works, which provides him the ability to cover more material and to view the storyline of the Testaments. Continue reading

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