“Pastor, Would You Do Our Wedding?”: 20 Questions to Think About Ahead of Time

At some point every minister will hear this question: “Pastor, would you do our wedding?” And that is not the moment when you should begin to formulate principles and guidelines on the issue of weddings. You should develop convictions on the subject, or at least have an idea of where you land on certain questions, as soon as possible. The context for the following questions is a man and woman wanting you to officiate their wedding. Pastors will not always agree on the answers, but these are the questions you must think through:

(1) Will you do weddings for people who are not members of your church?

(2) Will you make premarital counseling a condition to officiating the wedding?

(3) If “yes” to #3, will you insist on giving the premarital counseling yourself?

(4) If one person professes to be a Christian while the other does not, what will you do next?

(5) If one person is a Christian and the other is not, would you offer premarital counseling but not officiate the wedding?

(6) Would you consider marrying two unbelievers?

(7) If two professing Christians are living together before marriage, do you perform the wedding as soon as possible, or do you ask one of them to move out until the wedding?

(8) Would you insist that the couple read any books together, and would your book choices differ if the couple were unbelievers?

(9) How would you handle a situation where one or both sets of the couple’s parents were against the wedding?

(10) How would you proceed if you discovered that the couple’s relationship began in adultery?

(11) Would you officiate a wedding where one (or both) has a previous spouse still alive who is unmarried?

(12) Would you officiate a wedding where one (or both) has a previous spouse still alive who has remarried?

(13) If you believe there is biblical support for divorce in certain cases, does a biblical divorce in the past of one or both people permit remarriage?

(14) If you believe there is biblical support for divorce and yet a divorce occurred for unbiblical reasons in the past of one or both people, would you officiate the wedding?

(15) How would you proceed if a couple–one a professing Christian and the other not–has had children together?

(16) Could there be any practical issues that might make you reconsider officiating a wedding (such as a couple’s financial instability, lack of steady employment, differing views on manhood and womanhood, differing views on raising children, vast age difference, irreconcilable denominational convictions, etc.)?

(17) How would you proceed if you learned that there had been physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse in the relationship?

(18) How would you proceed if you learned that one or both of the persons had a criminal background?

(19) Would you make it a condition that you preach the Gospel at the wedding, no matter if the couple consists of believers or unbelievers?

(20) Have you thoroughly studied passages like Genesis 2:18-25, Ezra 10:18-44, Song of Songs, Ezekiel 16, Malachi 2:10-16, Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:1-10, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:1-6, 1 Corinthians 7, 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Peter 3:1-7, Revelation 19:6-9, Revelation 21:1-5?

No couple is exactly alike, so more questions, sub-questions, and follow-up questions may be necessary for you to make a decision. The previous twenty can lead to some pretty tough conversations, so pastors must pray for a heart of humility and words of kindness.

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The Literary Arrangement of Matthew 8-9

Scholars have noted that Matthew 8-9 is carefully arranged with miracles grouped in threes. After each cycle of miracles is a section of teaching on discipleship and/or mission.

Cycle One
1–Jesus cleanses a leper (8:1-4)
2–Jesus heals a centurion’s servant (8:5-13)
3–Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-17)

Teaching (8:18-22)

Cycle Two
1–Jesus calms a storm (8:23-27)
2–Jesus heals two demoniacs (8:28-34)
3–Jesus heals a paralytic (9:1-8)

Teaching (9:9-17)

Cycle Three
1–Jesus raises a girl and heals a woman (9:18-26)
2–Jesus heals two blind men (9:27-31)
3–Jesus heals a mute man (9:32-34)

Teaching (9:35-38)

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What Part of Scripture . . . ?

You know this: what part of Scripture . . . 

  • was written by an apostle
  • had a multiple and circular readership
  • had readers in Asia
  • had an opening where you can discern the Persons of the Trinity
  • had the word “blessed” in the opening verses
  • spoke of testing faith
  • had the phrase “revelation of Jesus”
  • ascribed praise and honor and glory to God
  • spoke of angels
  • spoke of Jesus as a Lamb
  • used temple language
  • spoke of an earthly ruler
  • mentioned spirits in prison
  • spoke of Jesus in heaven
  • declared that the end was near
  • mentioned “elders”
  • foretold Christ’s return
  • promised a crown of glory
  • featured warnings about the devil
  • used the word Babylon
  • extolled God’s eternal kingdom
  • talked about a “morning star”
  • warned against false prophets
  • spoke of angels committed to chains
  • referred to Sodom
  • promised vindication for the godly and punishment for the ungodly
  • mentioned Balaam
  • specified a “thousand years”
  • prophesied that the heavens would pass away
  • held out hope for a new heavens and a new earth

The answer? The letters of 1-2 Peter, of course. Surprised? Well, pray tell, what book were you thinking of?

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Jesus Helps Us Identify the Fourth Kingdom in Daniel 2

In Daniel 2, four successive kingdoms are given in 2:32-33.

  1. Head of Gold (2:32a)
  2. Chest and Arms of Silver (2:32b)
  3. Middle and Thighs of Bronze (2:32c)
  4. Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay (2:33)

Identifying the first kingdom is easy because Daniel specifies it: “you are the head of gold,” he told Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:38). The first kingdom is Babylon. But scholars disagree on whether the second kingdom (silver) is the Medes or the Medo-Persians. If it is the Medes, then the third kingdom is Persia and the fourth is Greece. But if the silver represents the Medo-Persians, then the third kingdom is Greece and the fourth is Rome. You see the dilemma: the decision you make on the second kingdom affects everything else.

But what if Jesus can help us identify the fourth kingdom? Then, with the first and fourth kingdoms identified, the second and third kingdoms would become clear as well. In order to see this, we need to know more of the vision Daniel recounted. In 2:34, a stone came during the rule of the fourth kingdom, and in 2:44-45 this stone is interpreted to be God’s kingdom that shall never be destroyed.

In Luke 20:9-18, Jesus tells a parable of wicked tenants. A man’s tenants continued to kill servants whom he sent (see 20:10-12, 15). The scribes and chief priests realized Jesus directed the parable against them (20:19), and Jesus was casting himself in the role of the final servant (the man’s “beloved son,” 20:13) who was killed by the wicked tenants (20:15a).

The last two verses of Jesus’ parable are the key: in Luke 20:17, Jesus cited Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus used stone imagery again in 20:18: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” This language is not from Psalm 118:22 anymore but from Daniel 2. In Daniel 2:34 the stone “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces,” and similar language can be found in 2:44-45.

Jesus is the stone. He is the stone that the builders rejected (Ps 118:22), and he is also the stone that shatters those who fall on him and those on whom he falls (Dan 2:34, 44-45). If Jesus is the fulfillment of the stone in Daniel 2, and if the stone would come during the reign of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2, then we can identify the fourth kingdom by simply asking who was in power during the Son’s incarnation: Rome. Not Greece. If the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 was supposed to be Greece, then either Daniel is false prophecy or Jesus has deficient hermeneutics.

Jesus applied to himself the imagery of the stone from Daniel 2, and this confirms that Rome was the fulfillment of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2. So if the first kingdom (head of gold) was Babylon and the fourth (legs of iron and feet of iron/clay) was Rome, then we can accurately identify the second (chest and arms of silver) and third (middle and thighs of bronze):

  1. Babylon (Head of Gold)
  2. Medo-Persia (Chest and Arms of Silver)
  3. Greece (Middle and Thighs of Bronze)
  4. Rome (Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay)

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Filed under Daniel, Book of, Hermeneutics, Kingdom of God

The Gospel for the Weary

Over on Mike Leake’s blog “Borrowed Light,” I’ve written a guest post about how the weary need the gospel.

Excerpt:

As you run, you will notice footprints along the way. This direction is one which Abel, Enoch, and Noah traveled (Heb 11:4-7). Abraham and Sarah walked it (11:8-19). It was the route Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph took (11:20-22). Moses and Rahab preferred it, no matter the cost (11:23-31). Countless others staked their lives on this promised road, leaving their example of faith and devotion (11:32-40). Their stories are their footprints. Their lives comprise a cloud, and you are surrounded by it.

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Filed under Discipleship, Gospel, Hebrews, Letter to the, Perseverance

The 10 Major Issues in Dating the Book of Revelation

As I’ve been preparing to preach a series through Revelation at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, I’ve noticed that in discussions of the book’s date of composition, certain issues appear again and again. The following list is an attempt to distill what scholars sort through when they project a date for the book.

  1. The references to nearness. In Revelation 1:3, “the time is near” (cf. 22:20). Should references to nearness be taken straightforwardly as something the first readers would’ve seen fulfilled? Or do the references still point to the future even from our vantage point two thousand years after the book? Or are there degrees of fulfillment, as in some Old Testament prophecies, so that the readers should expect fulfillments both soon in their lifetimes and far into the future?
  2. The situations of the seven churches. In Revelation 2-3, seven Asian churches are addressed in seven letters. Discerning the issues in each letter, do the respective circumstances best fit a date in the late 60s or the mid-90s (the only plausible dates, in my opinion)?
  3. The testimony of Irenaeus. In Adversus Haereses 5.30.3, Irenaeus dates the visions of John’s Apocalypse near the end of Domitian’s reign (AD 81-96). The question is: how much weight should the testimony of Irenaeus be given? Some say this external evidence should be decisive, while others say it should be a factor though not decisive. And since Irenaeus didn’t write in English, have his words been accurately preserved and translated? Some people argue that it was John himself (rather than the Apocalypse) who was seen near the end of Domitian’s reign, which could mean an earlier date for the writing of Revelation. Other scholars hold firmly to the traditional translation of Irenaeus’ words.
  4. The endurance of persecution. The book of Revelation called its readers to prepare for suffering. But when in the first century was such suffering experienced? Does the book have in view what happened under Nero? Or perhaps immediately after Nero? Or later under Domitian? Scholars debate the degree of persecution under Nero and Domitian. Did persecution extend beyond Rome? Is there evidence that an emperor specifically targeted Christians? To what degree were Christians persecuted? Were there scattered pockets of persecution, or was there governmentally sanctioned persecution?
  5. The emperor cult. Does Revelation possess an awareness of the emperor cult? When did the worship of emperors begin? Did certain emperors command worship? What was the status of the emperor cult under Nero and under Domitian?
  6. The number of the beast. In Revelation 13, we find the (in)famous 666. John says, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666″ (13:18). But what man has the identity 666? Was it one of the emperors Nero or Vespasian or Domitian? According to some scholars, calculating the number of the beast is important because the man may be the formerly- or presently-reigning emperor when the Apocalypse was written. Or is the number about a future ruler? If John told the readers of Revelation to calculate the number, was the beast’s identity clearly known to them? If so, is the beast’s identity discernible to us or is the ability to calculate that identity now lost? And what kind of calculation is involved anyway? If John means the practice of gematria, should the calculation be with Greek letters or Hebrew letters? And are we looking for a last name, first name, or nickname? Or is the number purely symbolic, thus making mathematical calculations irrelevant? Is any proposal of an actual name simply wrongheaded?
  7. The seven kings. In Revelation 17:9-11 John says, “This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.” According to some scholars, the numbers here are symbolic and do not have historical referents. Other scholars, though, believe John is evoking an order of emperors and thus gives indication of who may be reigning when he says “five of whom have fallen” but “one is.” If the “five” can be identified, then “one” who “is” would be the emperor reigning when the Apocalypse was written. The problem, though, is identifying the first emperor in the order. Do you start with Julius Caesar or with Augustus? And do Galba, Otho, and Vitellius belong in the order, or are they omitted? Some scholars say that identifying emperors for the “seven kings” is a chasing after the wind and, instead, readers should take the numbers symbolically. If a specific order of emperors is unnecessary, Revelation 17 may not help us date the book at all.
  8. The myth of Nero’s return. Does the book of Revelation have an awareness of the Nero Redivivus, the legend that the dreaded Nero would return one day? If Revelation is aware of this myth, then a post-Neronic dating for the book is most likely. Post-Neronic, though, could mean the reign of Vespasian (pre-70 AD) or even later (post-70 AD) during the reign of Domitian. Or, if Revelation does not show semblances of the Nero Redivivus, then this issue may leave the door open for a Neronic dating, or it may mean the Nero Redivivus myth isn’t helpful to dating the book at all.
  9. The use of “Babylon.” Since many scholars agree that “Babylon” in Revelation refers to the Roman Empire, this use may indicate a post-70 AD dating. Post-70 AD Jewish literature uses “Babylon” for Rome.
  10. The mention of the temple. In Revelation 11, John was given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple. The question is whether this means the second temple was still standing and thus implying the book of Revelation was written pre-70 AD, or whether the temple language is purely symbolic (perhaps of God’s people) and thus Revelation 11 offers no help in dating the book.

There may be other issues to be considered in dating the book of Revelation as well, of course, but these ten are major players in the dating game.

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Filed under Eschatology, Revelation

Writers Who Date Revelation Pre-70 A.D.

While reading literature about the dating of Revelation, I’ve come across a number of names who dated the book before 70 A.D. Here’s a non-exhaustive list, in no particular order:

  • F. F. Bruce
  • E. Earle Ellis
  • Stephen S. Smalley
  • R. C. Sproul
  • Peter Leithart
  • J. B. Lightfoot
  • Kenneth Gentry Jr.
  • Doug Wilson
  • George Knight
  • John A. T. Robinson
  • C. F. D. Moule
  • James Jordan
  • D. Moody Smith
  • Philip E. Hughes
  • David Aune
  • Jay E. Adams
  • Greg Bahnsen
  • B. F. Westcott
  • F. J. A. Hort
  • Philip Schaff
  • Gary DeMar
  • Adam Clarke
  • Rudolf Bultmann
  • Augustus Strong
  • Hank Hanegraaff
  • Albert Schweitzer
  • C. C. Torrey
  • Keith Mathison

Any name surprise you?

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