I was recently asked what books I plan to read in 2018. My goal this year is to read books that assist me while I teach in the academy (Undergraduate College & Seminary), serve in the church, and grow in my personal life. Baptist Bible Seminary recently posted a quick word regarding two resources I plan to read this new year. You can catch the story here. I do plan to read more than the two represented here, and as those decisions are made, I will post titles, short snippets, and/or reviews of the resources I read.
I recently preached a Christmas sermon at NorthValley Baptist Church (Mayfield, PA) and used Luke 1:46-56 as my text. I began the message asking the congregation, “What’s worth celebrating to you?” As they sat there contemplating the question, I encouraged them to make a list. (before continuing to read this blog post, you, . . . yes you, create your list). I’m sure the majority of our lists include graduation ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, salvations, one’s first job, accomplishments of our children, etc. But I wonder, would “God’s grace” make our list? Would we even stop and think about His grace as something to celebrate; is it even of the celebratory nature? To many, probably not.
But I want you to consider Luke’s recording of Mary’s Song of Praise. Luke interrupted the normal flow of his biblical narrative to engage the audience to join in the celebration of what God has done; and did so using Mary’s song of praise. This passage (1:46-56) follows closely on the heels of Luke’s recording of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (1:26-38) and then Mary’s eager departure to visit Elizabeth (1:39-45). These two preceding portions of Luke’s story demonstrate the gracious hand of God; that is, Mary is with child, namely the Messiah, and Elizabeth, who is full of the Holy Spirit, discerns that Mary is blessed among women. Now, what does Mary do? Well, Darrell Bock in his commentary summarizes Mary’s response. He states, “Elizabeth’s blessing produces a reaction from Mary. She bursts into praise, offering a hymn of thanksgiving. The hymn gives thanks for God’s gracious dealings with her, actions that reflect how he has treated humanity through all generations,” (BEC, 142).
Mary declares that God is great and He is Savior (1:46-47). There are two reasons (ὅτι-clauses) for her praise. First, Mary praises God because of His loving care to use her to bear the child. She is privileged and graced by God. She also declares that “from now on, (ESV)” all generations will call her blessed. This is the cool part = ‘from now on,’ things will be different. Once Mary was touched by the gracious hand of God, things are and will be different. They are never the same! Amen!
Second, Mary praises God because He is holy; the mighty one (v. 49). God’s holiness is not an afterthought; rather it is an explanation of His sovereign authority as the ruler over his people. This description, ‘mighty one,’ refers to a warrior who fights on behalf of His people and delivers them.
Mary also declares that God is merciful and righteous (1:50-53). He is merciful because his mercy extends to those who fear Him; that is, those who acknowledge God’s rightful position and authority over them. His mercy (ἔλεος) is similar to the Hebrew term hesed – royal-covenant/faithful love. He is righteous because He extends His power and removes His enemies from His path. He exalts the humble and supplies need to the hungry.
Lastly, Mary praises God for His loyal love (1:54-55). It is God’s covenant mercy and remembrance of His promises to Abraham that Israel is and will be blessed. Bock states, “The point is that God’s action is motivated by his loyal love. He remembered mercy declaring that God’s actions grew out of his faithful regard for his covenant promises,” (BEC, 159). But it begins with Jesus, of whom Mary will deliver. She celebrates with an anthem of praise.
God’s act of salvation, isn’t this worth celebrating? What is your plan this Christmas season to do so? His act is rooted in grace and faithfulness, will you pause this Christmas season to praise the Lord for His faithfulness?
When I come to this time of the year, the thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of Paul’s thanksgiving sections within his letters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul highlights their faith and endurance under extreme difficulty. He does not hesitate to boast to other churches that God is working in and through them. These prayers are a great example of how we as believers can also pray.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, he begins by stating his obligation to pray for the Thessalonians. He saw his opportunity to pray as a personal responsibility before God on their behalf; a sense of proud boasting, if you will. Paul prayed for them because of the further development of their faith in God (cf. 1 Thess 1:3), the faith in God that produces action. He says that their faith grew abundantly and their love increased (2 Thess 1:3). As a result of this growth, Paul took the opportunity to boast to other churches. In fact, Paul’s motivation for boasting was the Thessalonians’ steadfastness and faith (v. 4), again, even amidst severe hostility. Mike Stallard in his commentary on the Thessalonian letters states,
Paul had noted this quality of the Thessalonians in his first epistle when he mentioned their ‘steadfastness of hope’ in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3). In the last chapter of the second epistle, the apostle prays that the Lord may direct their hearts into the ‘steadfastness‘ of Christ (3:5). This again shows the apostle’s constant teaching that there was always room for growth in the qualities that he acknowledged in the Thessalonians” (pp. 137-38).
I think the question that comes to my mind is, would Paul boast about my growth? I could also ask myself, what plan do I have in place this week for continued growth to occur?
Paul does not stop there. He continues in verses 5-10 to expand on the persecutions & afflictions. These terrible times were evidence of the righteous judgment of God (v. 5); that is, their suffering is a demonstration of the genuineness of their faith (their identity – cf. 1:1). They endured this suffering to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. And, because God’s judgment is “just,” it’s “right;” it is right of him to repay those who trouble the Thessalonians. He will also give relief to the those who are being afflicted (vv. 6-7). One could say that a picture of this relief is the ‘slackening of a string on a bow.’ The relief He gives is when His Son is revealed and gives/hands-out vengeance to those who do not know God & who do not obey the gospel. It is a punishment that is eternal; it lasts forever (vv. 7-9).
Another question, knowing that one day Jesus will punish those who do not have a relationship with Him – does this motivate me to love others and share the gospel? What am I doing with the truth?
Paul concludes with a short prayer (cf. 1:11-12). His prayer is that God will help them to continue to display their true standing; their calling. It is an evaluation of their conduct in light of His calling; but all the time realizing that God enables them to do what is good and right. God’s calling is the foundation/basis for their conduct . . . now display it. However, they were not left to do it themselves. Paul states that this work of faith comes by the means of His power (v. 11). Ultimately for the purpose of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be glorified, and we, as believers, be glorified in Him. To be glorified in Christ is possible only because the most exalted God and Lord is the one who stands as the true source of all things (v. 12).
The focus of Paul’s prayer is living in the present while having knowledge of the hope of a future. Rest, relief, and honor is coming to the believer; whereas judgment, destruction, and separation from God awaits the unbeliever. This provides the reality for us to live day by day as we do the work of faith; and can only be carried out by God’s enabling grace. The suffering of one’s present life is to be one day replaced with glorification. This is Paul’s incentive for the believer to live a life worthy of his status, for the Spirit indwells him. Those who bear Christ’s name must also glorify God in that name. This is dependent upon the supply of grace that is sourced in the Spirit of God.
Click the link for the diagram of 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12.
Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament. By Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2016. 550 pp.
Seasoned New Testament scholars, Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have provided an intermediate Greek textbook that is sure to assist both professors and students with a current resource for the study of the grammar and syntax of the Greek New Testament. Their goal is to provide a resource that is accessible and fun to students. They claim this is a textbook, not a reference guide/resource; a hands-on, practical guide to assist in the proper interpretation of God’s word.
The format of the textbook is straightforward and user-friendly.
First, each chapter begins with a section titled, “Going Deeper.” The purpose of this section is to introduce the student to a practical illustration that applies the material found within the chapter. For example, chapter 3 – which discusses the Genitive case, walks the student through common wording that is often found on Christmas cards (“peace on earth, good will toward men,” ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας). Is this an accurate translation of the Greek text? There is also a text-critical issue with this verse; should the text read εὐδοκίας (gen case), or εὐδοκία (nom case)? And, is Luke (2:14) suggesting that good will go to all men, humanity at large?
Following the “Going Deeper” section, each chapter states the objectives and introduces the material. Several biblical examples, written in Greek and translated into English for the ease of the student to follow along & see the relevant syntactical forms, illustrate the grammatical and/or syntactical category discussed in the chapter.
Third, and probably one of the unique sections of the grammar, is the inclusion of practice sentences. These are carefully chosen to provide students with the ability to practice the skills they have learned. This feature is unique because it is unlike the typical intermediate grammar; that is, most grammars either do not include practice sentences or publish them in a separate volume. This grammar includes them.
Fourth, this intermediate grammar offers vocabulary for students to memorize. In the introduction (p. 4), it states that the student who memorizes all words in the New Testament that occur 15 times or more will have memorized 830 words.
And last, this grammar offers a built-in reader. By reader it is meant that there are New Testament texts for students to translate at the end of each chapter. These texts were carefully selected so that students were exposed to the following: (1) grammar & syntax discussed in the chapter, and (2) a pastorally relevant/theologically foundational/or doctrinally debated text that is 10-12 verses in length. The reader sections also provide helpful notes to guide the student through the translation process.
One of the benefits to this grammar for professors is the available resources. There are a number of teacher aids from weekly quizzes to PowerPoint presentations to chapter summaries. These resources are accessible at www.deepergreek.com
As the reader thumbs through the table of contents, he will not be surprised to find typical chapter titles for an intermediate grammar (e.g., Genitive Case, Dative Case, Participles, Infinitives, etc.). However, the authors have also incorporated recent studies within the fields of verbal aspect and discourse analysis into chapters 7 and 13 respectively. They have consulted a number of NT scholars (e.g., Campbell, Decker, Porter, Black, Huffman, Runge) to provide the latest information and/or techniques; especially in these fields.
“Keeping current” is a must in New Testament Greek grammar. With a publication date of 2016, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is sure to have the latest information on key grammatical and syntactical concepts. I am especially impressed with chapter 15 (Continuing with Greek) because it offers resources for students of the Greek NT. The writers of this Greek grammar strongly encourage their readers to invest time into recommended resources and tools such as websites (e.g., ntresources.com), exegetical commentaries (e.g., EGGNT series, Handbook on the Greek Text series, etc.), lexicons (e.g., BDAG), and grammars.
This is an all-in-one grammar that will be a great help to the student or pastor who desires to advance his understanding of the Greek New Testament. If you plan to learn or continue to learn Greek, you will want this text on your shelf.
I went through a series on 1 Peter in Sunday school a few years back and came to a passage that is familiar to many Christians (1 Peter 2:1-3). As I worked through the text and read through a few commentaries, I came away asking, “What is Peter admonishing his readers to do?” Are they to “crave, long for” the word of God (τον λογον του θεου)? The question I wrestled with was, “what was Peter’s intention with this command (επιποθησατε)?” In other words, what “is” Peter admonishing believers to “crave, long for?” Is it really the word (λογον) of God?
To most, and this includes several commentaries; the phrase “crave the pure spiritual milk of the word” refers to the word of God previously discussed in 1:22-25 (1:22, λογου ζωντος θεου; and 1:25, ρημα κυριου). But are the words (“word of God,” τον λογον του θεου) in the text? In order to determine what exactly Peter is discussing; the context must be considered; which many commentaries do. They go back to 1:22-25. But what about the ‘immediate context (vv. 1-3 of chapter 2)?’ I think the immediate context (2:1-3) can help provide with a possible understanding as to what Peter is admonishing his readers to “crave, long for.”
Three things within the context point to Peter’s admonition to crave, and it may not be the word of God. Rather, could Peter be admonishing his readers to crave the Lord God who is the believer’s spiritual nourishment? This is especially true in times of suffering and distress, which is the contextual background of the book of 1 Peter).
The Logic of verses 2 and 3, then, is “since [first class cond clause] you have tasted that the Lord is good,” = “crave.” Basically Peter is exhorting/admonishing his readers to “crave, long for” a reasonable life, or attitude that reflects a life or identity that has been graciously given to them. Although it is possible that Peter is admonishing his readers to crave/long for the word of God from the context of 1:22-25, I think in light of the context of 2:1-3 and Peter’s use of the OT he is stating that God in Christ alone both conceives and sustains the life of the new birth. They are to crave the Lord God for nourishment, for He alone is their hope.
It gives me great honor and joy to be able to share the news that Rod’s long awaited for textbook is now in hand. Reading Koine Greek from Baker Publishing Group is now in my hands. Unfortunately, the public will have to wait a few weeks before it is available. When it arrived, I sat down and quickly skimmed through it and knew Rod would have been very pleased with it. It was a bittersweet moment as the excitement and joy of having it in hand was hard to contain, but knowing Rod would never have the opportunity to see or use it brought tears so I had to set the book aside so as not to ruin it.
The joy of seeing the product of many years (about 25) of work of formulating his style and teaching as he broadened his understanding of Greek over those years through expanding the material as well as techniques of teaching, allowing it to grow into this volume. Then thinking of the past few years of actually getting it into a publishable format, proof reading it ourselves over and over, checking grammar, and on and on, and to see it finally in print was a bit overwhelming.
Baker has done an excellent job in the actual printing and overall presentation of the book. I was surprised at the size of it, but shouldn’t have been after the many times of working through it in the proofing stages. The illustrations (although Rod’s) have been displayed in such a way that it adds to the overall look of the book. My hat’s off to the editors at Baker who so graciously worked with us (yes, I feel I had a part in this too) and kept us informed and have continued to keep me posted even after Rod’s home going. They shared with me that when the book made it to their hands, work literally stopped as the editors stood around in the hallway, paging through it. They too struggled with that bittersweet moment of seeing the final product, but knowing Rod would not share in the joy of seeing it himself.
Oh, that God would take a farm boy growing up in a pastor’s home and use him to help others learn the language of the Bible is a definite proof of God’s mercy and grace to mankind. Rod would never have thought himself worthy of God’s grace and never thought highly of himself in the things he did. Our prayer as a family is that God would take this piece of work that he burdened Rod to write and use it for generations to come so that others might understand the Word of God, but even more that those in our colleges and seminaries would understand the importance of knowing the biblical languages so they may better teach it in our churches. That was Rod goal in life and in writing–to challenge men to be prepared to preach the Word in such a way that God would receive the glory and people would understand what the Word said.
I hope in sharing this that I’ve not come across as bragging about this new book as that would totally be against what Rod and I would desire. My purpose in this post is to share the excitement and the purpose of Rod’s writing. As he would always sign his work, Soli Deo Gloria.
Over the past three months, since Rod’s promotion to glory, much has been happening at the Decker home. I’m afraid I’ve not been keeping communication open here on the blog. For some, my academic and theological input wouldn’t be as challenging as Rod’s was so I’ve not attempted to keep that area up to date. However, many of you that read his blog on a regular basis have been gracious to send words of comfort and continue in prayer on behalf of the family and myself. I’ve been remiss in sending a thank you for remembering us in such a way. So please know that we are grateful to each of you for your kindness and prayers. God is answering and giving strength to keep pressing on.
This past week we completed the sorting and cleaning out of Rod’s home study and have gotten his office at the seminary close to being finished. The books are ready to be boxed and passed on so others may use his library & his office space. The process was tough emotionally at times but here is where God answered your prayers and helped give strength to sort out all the material as well as cleaning off his computer. I’m amazed how many backups and paper copies Rod had of his soon-to-be published books. But the thought of losing it to a power outage or other mishap probably encouraged his diligence in making sure he had copies to fall back upon should something happen.
I never cease to be in awe of his thoroughness in everything he did. Many of you know that side of him in the academic realm but he carried it over into the home as well. Knowing death was inevitable over the last year of his life, he was so helpful in leaving behind a paper entitled “End of Life Wishes” (probably his only paper without footnotes!) which also included details for me and the family as to things that needed to be done and how to do it. He was a faithful husband and father and we praise God for the almost 40 years we shared with him.
I don’t understand what God’s purpose was in taking him (other than that his work on earth was completed) any more than some of you, but I do know that God has more in store than I can imagine at this time. He is stretching me to learn things (doing things on the computer I’ve never done before–like this blog), and helping me realize that even though the team has been cut in half, there’s still much to do for God. Rod is missed at church, the seminary and by friends and family, but life does go on and that is what Rod would have desired.
I’m realizing that God can still use me. It had been 4 years that I had been unable to attend church, teach Sunday School or Bible studies or even attend Bible studies on a regular basis due to caring for Rod’s father’s and Rod. Now I’m so excited to be back on a regular basis and involved in our local church. I missed that the most but wouldn’t have traded church attendance for the care of either one of them. I was able to witness two men age and deal with death in such a graceful and godly manner that I felt blessed to have had a part in their care.
May God bless each of you as you strive to serve our great and faithful God. After going through the loss over the past three months, I can’t imagine how people who don’t know the Lord personally deal with their grief. God is our strength and refuge, an ever present help in time of trouble. Great is the Lord! Our hearts are filled with gratitude for each of you.
Now that Rod has been promoted to glory, this blog will be somewhat in limbo. Many of you have gained much from Rod’s blog and he hated to see it come to an end. Perhaps in the future there will be some additions but that is a work in progress and might be a few months before it comes to fruition. Rod’s desire would have been for his readers to continue stretching themselves in their studies and use God’s word to bring honor and glory to God rather than man. May each of you carry on Rod’s legacy by being faithful to our great God who led Rod each day and each step. Nothing would please him more (both God and Rod!).
Many have asked what the arrangements are for Rod’s funeral. As many of you know, Rod had unique ideas regarding death and burials. His desire was to have a direct burial–not because we couldn’t afford otherwise, but because so much to do is made about the person and he didn’t want the focus to be on him.There will be a grave side service for family and a few close friends on Thursday (no that’s not two days but there were some schedule conflicts so that had to be altered but we are honoring the rest of his wishes). There will be a memorial service at the Northmoreland Baptist Church on June 7 at 2:00 that any who can attend may do so.
Rod’s desire in both services is that God be the focus and that he would be the one honored–not Rod Decker. I guess that should not be a surprise since that was the way he lived. God alone is the one to whom glory and honor should be given. Rod was just an instrument used by God and the kids and I count it a privilege that we reaped even more than most of you.
On another note, the family thanks each of you for your prayers and notes of encouragement. We are coping well most of the time and it’s easier than I expected it would be to deal with the loss. Knowing he is pain free and with the Savior allows us to rest and know that God will care for us and fill that void. Personally, I’m looking forward to getting involved in our church once again after a few months away as I cared for Rod. One doesn’t realize how much the body of Christ/local church means until you can’t be a part of it. I’m thankful I was able to care for Rod to the end and don’t regret a minute of it or that I “had” to miss church, but I am now ready to return and pick up my responsibilities and add new ones from what I’ve learned through this journey.
Oh death, where is your sting? Death is swallowed up in victory.
It is through hurting hearts (the frail, selfish side of us) that I write this post to inform our dear friends that Rod has been promoted to glory. He is now absent from a body consumed by cancer and is at rest and present with the Lord. We hurt for our loss but are rejoicing that the battle is over and the victory won. God granted Rod the desires of his heart and he died as he lived. He was fearful of dishonoring God in the last days and I can praise God that he remained faithful to the one he loved and served to the end. He went peacefully in his sleep on May 25, 2014.
The children and I are doing as well as can be expected at this point. Even though we knew death was coming and inevitable for us all I don’t think we can ever be fully prepared when it actually happens. We feel God’s strength even in our tears as we cling to each other and talk through the “need to’s”, the plans, and laugh as we realize that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t fit in his best suit to be buried. Rod was never a person who did things for show and we will honor that in his death. We talked much over the past couple years and the past few months especially and his (& our) desire is that all the focus will be put on God and Christ for his memorial service. Rod did not want any attention drawn to himself as a man or to anything he might have accomplished on earth. It was all done for God and to God goes the glory.
We all have lost a man of integrity, a man of humility, a man much wiser than even he knew but we’ve gained so much more in his death. Heaven is more real and our perspective of losing his earthly body is much different from what we thought. He has just begun life while we remain on earth to experience more suffering, death, and human perspectives. His goal in life was to lead people to the Word and understand that it makes a difference in how we live. If he has accomplished that in lives other than his own family then the honor goes to God for using a humble man as an instrument to carry that message. Rod would say, “Go deeper, don’t grieve for me but take what I’ve taught and grow more in tune with God.”
We as a family thank you for your prayers over the past months. God has answered even if we don’t know who you are. He continues to strengthen us and we plan to continue the legacy Rod left behind and serve to the end.
Rydbeck, Lars. “On the Question of Linguistic Levels and the Place of the New Testament in the Contemporary Language Milieu.” In The Language of the New Testament: Classic Essays. JSNT supp. series #60. Edited by Stanley E. Porter, 191-204. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991.<1> [My comments are included in the
As I have the time (and energy) over the next few days or maybe weeks, I’ll be posting some Greek grammar materials that I don’t think I’ve posted before.
I’ll begin with a summary of Buist Fanning’s chs. 1-2. Buist was the external examiner for my dissertation, now quite a few years ago. I’ve always appreciated his gentle spirit and detailed work.