Blog Posts by David Mathis

The Wine Jesus Drank

David Mathis

Twice Jesus was offered wine while on the cross. He refused the first, but took the second. Why so?

The first time came in verse 23, “they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” William Lane explains,

According to an old tradition, respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciating pain…

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The One Who Stills the Seas

David Mathis

 Why were Jesus' disciples so wigged out when he stilled the sea? Already afraid of the great storm, you'd think they might have been calmed by Jesus' calming of the waves. But it seemed to have the opposite effect. Mark 4:41: "And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'"

The disciples now seem to be…

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Samson’s Spectacular Sin

David Mathis

In the book Spectacular Sins, John Piper writes about how God uses even (and especially) his people’s most tragic sins to work his global purposes for the glory of his Son, and for his people’s good. Judges 14 picks up on the tune.

There Samson bids his parents secure him a wife, a particular Philistine woman who has caught his eye. And, as you probably know, in ancient Israel,…

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You Can't Make This Stuff Up

David Mathis

The Giving of the Law at Mount Sinai

Here is Moses’ amazing monotheistic appeal to the people of Israel at the edge of the Promised Land, after 40 years of wilderness wandering.

Ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard…

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Barrabas and Me

David Mathis

The crowd calls for Jesus' crucifixion.

Who do you identify with in the Passion narratives?

Of course, as good Christians, we say Jesus. He’s the good guy, our protagonist. As we relive the story, we pull for him, and against his enemies. And a long list of enemies it is: Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him, the chief priests who hate him, Herod who mocks him, the crowd that calls for his crucifixion, Pilate…

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Saving Souls: The Best Way to Save the Whales

David Mathis

Who else would call Noah’s ark “a floating zoo of creepy-crawlies”? Sam Crabtree is a skilled turner of curious phrases and has the rare gift of never being boring. His most recent article wrestles with how to be both green and missional. Here’s a sample:

We can strive to save both mortal mammals and immortal souls, while realizing that saved whales will not save souls, while saved souls might so…

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Beyond Five Points

David Mathis

Tulips and sky

Don’t limit your understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty to five points in a mnemonic device (TULIP). Do start there, or at least cover that terrain in due course, but know that there is so much more to the full biblical worldview sometimes called Calvinism.

In the introductory essay that I referred to yesterday, J. I. Packer says, “it would not be correct to simply equate Calvinism…

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The Permanent Value of TULIP

David Mathis

In his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, J. I. Packer writes that Calvinism and Arminianism are “two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content.”

Packer continues, (paragraphing added)

One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God…

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Deliver Us from Morality

David Mathis

I recommend Doug Wilson’s Five Cities that Ruled the World (Thomas Nelson, 2009). The cities he highlights are Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York, each leaving the world a legacy.

Jerusalem has bequeathed to us a legacy of the spirit; Athens, reason and the mind; Rome, law; London, literature; and New York, industry and commerce. (xx)

In developing the literary legacy of London, Wilson unearths this nugget from C.…

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Rethinking Perfection

David Mathis

Jesus keeps us off balance. We think we know that perfection is a fastball of justice, and he throws us the curveball of grace.

When I read Matthew 5:48 abstracted from it’s context, I’m thinking mainly in terms of justice.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Perfect,” ah yes, surely that’s mainly about being just. But Jesus’ context gives this charge some wicked spin.

Despite…

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God in a Manger, Part 3: Jesus Is Treasure

David Mathis

We’ve looked at Jesus’ full divinity under the heading “Jesus Is Lord” and his full humanity under “Jesus Is Savior.” Now we turn to his single personhood and utter uniqueness that makes him our soul-satisfying Treasure.

The term hypostatic union is much easier than it sounds, but the concept is as profound as anything in the universe—the personal union of the eternal Son of God with our humanity.

The English…

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God in a Manger, Part 2: Jesus Is Savior

David Mathis

Yesterday we summed up Jesus’ full divinity under the heading “Jesus Is Lord.” We said that the doctrine of the incarnation could be remembered with John 1:14, “The Word became flesh.” That “Word” is the divine second person of the Trinity, the eternal Word, who we know as Jesus.

Today we shift focus to Jesus’ full humanity. Not only did he remain fully divine when he took humanity to himself,…

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God in a Manger, Part 1: Jesus Is Lord

David Mathis

Advent is my yearly reminder to brush up on Christology, the doctrine of the person of Christ. I’ve found it helpful to approach the subject under three headings:

  1. Jesus as Lord (fully divine)
  2. Jesus as Savior (fully human)
  3. Jesus as Treasure (one person)

So here’s part one, with parts two and three on the way in the next couple days.

In this Christological triad (Lord-Savior-Treasure), Jesus’ Lordship is tied to…

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The Impossibility of Drinking Too Much

David Mathis

A sinner can’t over-drink at God’s oasis—the fountain of life in the cross of his Son. Calvin explains:

[In the Bible] we read not of any having been blamed for drinking too much of the fountain of living water; on the contrary, those are severely reprimanded who ‘have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water’ (Jeremiah 2:13).

Again, what more agreeable to faith

  • than to feel…
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How to Read Exodus and Other OT Books

David Mathis

How to Read Exodus coverTremper Longman has produced another beneficial resource for reading and rightly appropriating the Old Testament. This time it’s How to Read Exodus.

Tremper is particularly gifted at engaging with an impressive breadth of Old Testament scholarship. And he does this with an authentic and relentlessly Christ-centered bent, solidly evangelical convictions, and the ability to distill and articulate his findings in such a way that scholars, pastors, and laymen alike…

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Esther & Jesus: "The Reverse Occurred"

David Mathis

The Hebrew Scriptures point to Jesus in a myriad of ways. One way is narrative patterns, like the one in Esther 9:1:

On the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.

And so it happened at the cross. At the very moment when the Enemy of the True Jew hoped…

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Jesus Treated Women Differently

David Mathis

Fellow complementarians, try framing the gender debate in three categories instead of two.

Feminists and egalitarians love it when everything to their right is cast as one monolithic "complementarianism." But authentic complementarians need to highlight that there is not only sin to the left, but to the right as well. True biblical complementarity is neither feminism nor misogyny. It’s neither egalitarian nor patriarchal. Jesus plotted another course altogether, a third…

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An Unmarked Grave: Life of Calvin, Part 9

David Mathis

Calvin fell deathly ill in the winter of 1558 at age 49. He thought he was at death’s doorstep and so turned his few remaining energies to the final revision of his Institutes. Until this time, he hadn’t been fully pleased with the shape and content of his often-revised magnum opus. Wanting to leave the church with a definitive edition, he worked feverishly, despite the fever, to finish.

His…

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The Fateful Years: Life of Calvin, Part 8

David Mathis

T.H.L. Parker calls 1553–1554 Calvin’s “fateful years.” According to Parker, this was when “two large storms blew from different quarters and raged simultaneously.” One was Calvin’s battle with the libertines; the other was the infamous Servetus affair.

The Genevan air was charged in the Fall of 1553. It was September 3 when the confrontation with the libertines reached its climax, and it was October 26-27 when Michael Servetus was condemned…

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Return to Geneva: Life of Calvin, Part 7

David Mathis

After a golden three-year exile, Calvin returned to the city that expelled him. He didn’t jump at the opportunity but went reluctantly, feeling constrained by God’s will to resume the work.

It was September, 1541 when he stepped back into the pulpit and continued his exposition of the Psalms, picking up at the very place he had left off.

Now that Calvin was back, he would settle in for life…

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Resource for Preaching OT Narrative

David Mathis

Ralph Davis’s The Word Became Fresh is an outstanding resource for those eager to preach from the largest chunk of their Bibles—the Old Testament narratives. In a mere 150 pages, Davis walks through all the basics that are so obvious they take brilliance to see. His style is a wonderful blend of humor and seriousness, substance and simplicity (even if a bit too punchy at points).

In this book, Davis…

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The Golden Years: Life of Calvin, Part 6

David Mathis

Calvin spent the happiest years of his life outside Geneva. It started in April of 1538 when Calvin and fellow reformer William Farel were expelled from Geneva.

Their eager reforms were moving quicker than the city council was ready for. Tensions escalated. Calvin in his youth and Farel in his zeal wouldn’t back down, and the council eventually expelled them. It wasn’t Calvin’s first or last mistake in ministry, but…

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A Night's Stay in Geneva: Life of Calvin, Part 5

David Mathis

William Farel was the fiery redhead who cursed John Calvin’s ivory-tower life in Strasbourg and twisted his arm to stay in Geneva. Here’s the story.

Having published his Institutes, which were immediately successful, Calvin left Basel, still a fugitive from France, in the Summer of 1536 to make for Strasbourg where he could pursue a life of study and writing while tucked away under the pastoral care of famed…

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Institutes: Life of Calvin, Part 4

David Mathis

Calvin wrote as a fugitive. Exiled from France, he eventually settled in Basel where he found enough leisure to put together the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The first edition debuted in March of 1536 and was a relatively short book—nothing close to the 1000-plus pages of the final edition. The first edition was designed to be small enough to fit into a minister’s coat…

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