Preaching Wheels Up

“This exaltation of soul, rising at times to rapture, can never be fitly described; but the speaker who does not in some measure know what it means, was not born to be a speaker” (Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 428).

Straight to the Meaning

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #168

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue” (1 Cor. 14:18–19).

Paul distinguished praying in tongues for private edification from speaking in tongues in the assembly. He prays in tongues himself more than anybody, but in the church he would rather speak five intelligible words than ten thousand words that are unknown to the rest of the people there. As we will see a few verses down, unintelligible speaking in church is a sign of God’s judgment, not of His blessing. And if you fix that problem by translating what is said, you remove the element of judgment, but you have not removed the middle man. Why not just go straight to the interpretation? Why say something in church that nobody understands, then translate it, when you could just go straight to the meaningful talk?

Surveying the Text: Matthew


We are now continuing with our plan to work through the Bible, a book at a time. We have considered the first five books of the Scriptures, the Pentateuch, and have now come to the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels. Let us begin, as seems normal, with Matthew.

The Text:

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying . . ,” (Matt. 5:1–2).

Background to the Gospels:

As you know perfectly well, there are four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew and John were the only two gospel writers who were themselves apostles. Mark got his information (according to early church tradition) from Peter, while Luke tells us that he functioned as a researching historian, getting his information from different eyewitnesses and sources.

The early fathers said that Matthew was the first gospel, while modern scholarship generally thinks that Mark was. A good deal of scholarly consternation has been expended on what is known as the synoptic problem. The first three gospels share many similarities, which is why they are grouped together as the “synoptics.” The word refers to them sharing a “common view” of the life of Christ, with John’s account being very different. But the synoptics are also different from one another in very striking ways. The modern notion is that short means early (and Mark is short), and that Matthew and Luke quarried some material from Mark, and some other material from a source called Q (material that Matthew and Luke share, but which Mark does not). Some folks have even written commentaries on Q, a document that cannot actually be said to exist. Scholarship can be a marvelous thing.

Essential Translation

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #167

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Cor. 14:12–17).

When it comes to the public meeting of the church, the apostle Paul privileges the mind over the heart. This is not the same thing as privileging the intellect over love because the reason he is doing it is because he wants us to excel in the edifying of the church (v. 12). The Corinthians were zealous for spiritual gifts, but he wants them to press on beyond that—with the edifying of the body in mind. A man who speaks in tongues should (as far as public worship is concerned) pray for the gift of translation (v. 13). Genuine tongues that are untranslated are therefore excluded from public worship. How much more would untranslatable sounds be excluded?

Praying in tongues is a blessing to the spirit, but not a blessing for the mind. As far as the mind is concerned, the whole thing is “unfruitful” (v. 14). Why choose? Paul says that he will pray in the spirit and he will pray with his understanding as well (v. 15). If he does not do this, then someone who is ungifted or unlearned is in no position to say amen when the whole thing is over—which means that it must not be done (v. 16). You had a good time, but your brother was not edified (v. 17). What was the point?

We can see here a distinction between an emotional “blessing” and real edification. As the proverb goes, nothing dries more quickly than a tear. You can have all kinds of sensations, but when the sensation is passed, nothing is different. But when you build an edifice, when the project is done, the building is still there. That is what it means to be edified—the listener is built up, and changed from that point on. It is like adding a wing to your house. When you are done, the wing remains.

When the sermon series is completed, the congregation is transformed. It is like taking a journey—with a good map. When you get there, you have arrived somewhere. Speaking in tongues without true translation is like running in place.

Three Chains IV: Deliverance


We have been considering the ways in which men are held in bondage by fear, guilt, and shame. Fear threatens their safety. Guilt challenges their righteousness. Shame assaults their glory. Given the reality of sin, our response to this has to be true safety, genuine righteousness, and real glory—all given to us by another.

The Text:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:1–6).

Summary of the Text:

Those who are in Christ Jesus are described as those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (v. 1). For these, there is no condemnation. There are two contrasting laws. One is the law of the Spirit of life and the other is the law of sin and death (v. 2). The former sets us free from the latter. What the law could not do, God accomplished by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be condemned on the cross (v. 3). This condemnation on the cross did what all the righteous injunctions of the law could not do. This is what enables those who walk after the Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of the law (v. 4). Fleshly minds seek out fleshly things. Spiritual minds seek out spiritual things (v. 5). This means, at the end of the day, the fleshly mind seeks out death while the spiritual mind seeks out life (v. 6).

Three Chains III: Shame


We have been considering fear, guilt, and shame, and we have come to treat the topic of shame separately.

The Text:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1–2).

Summary of the Text:

The Old Testament saints in the previous chapter were witnesses in their lives to the faithfulness of God. But there is something in this expression which indicates that they are now, in some fashion, witnessing us. They have run their race, and they are now sitting in the stands, a great cloud of them, as we run the race that God has assigned to us. We are compassed around with a great cloud of witnesses. We need to stretch out, take off any encumbrances, which would include any entangling sin, and then run patiently. The expression patiently indicates that it is a long distance run, not a dash. As we do, we look to the finish line. That finish line is Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He was the first one to run the entire race, and He did it with His eye on the finish line, which was the joy set before Him. The joy and glory He has obtained was what made it possible for Him to hold the shame He had to endure in contempt. He despised the shame, considering it a trifle in the light of the joy that was coming.

Shame in the Sin of Others:

Shame is not the same thing as guilt. It often accompanies guilt, but it is not the same thing. In addition, there are times when the sin of one person causes shame in another. This was the case with Tamar when her brother raped her (2 Sam. 13:13). This is the kind of emotion experienced by children who have been abused and violated, for example. This kind of shame occurs when you are sinned against. Another example would be when a lazy son causes his father shame (Prov. 10:5). Another kind of shame happens when you are despised by others because of a righteous stand you have taken. “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: Let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel. Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; Shame hath covered my face” (Ps. 69:6–7). And in other situations, shame accompanies sins a person has committed himself. This would particularly be the case when the sin is generally despised, and is roundly condemned. A wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame (Prov. 13:5).

Shame in the Hand of God:

Three Chains II: Guilt


The solution to fear is deliverance. The answer to guilt is justification. The solution to shame is the honor of glorification. To release someone from one of these chains requires that he be released from all. And Jesus Christ is the only one who can do any of it. Last week we considered the authority of fear, and the deliverance provided by the fear of God—which is love for God, given by the grace of God. This week we move on to the chain of guilt in order to address how God has released us from it.

The Text:

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).

Summary of the Text:

In the first chapter of Romans, we learned that the Gentiles were under the power of sin. In the second chapter, Paul argued that the Jews were also under that same power. Here in the third chapter, he is showing us that Jews and Gentiles together were sinners together, and that all are under the power of sin. Everyone is a sinner, and everyone is a sinner in accordance with the law. God gave the law to those who are under the law (meaning under the condemnation of it), and God’s purpose in giving the law was so that every mouth would have to shut up, and so that whole world would become objectively guilty before God.

Guilt Outside and Inside:

In Scripture, guilt is not primarily existential guilt. When we say “guilt” our primary meaning for this is guilt feelings. But guilt is created by, and measured by, the law of God. In other words, guilt is objective, regardless of how the guilty party feels about it. Once the judgment of the law is passed, and the accused has “his mouth stopped,” there are certain subjective sensations that come when the holy law of a holy God comes into the conversation and shuts you down. But that is a consequence.