Book Notice: “That His Spirit May Be Saved” by Jeremy Kimble

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WIPFSTOCK_TemplateThough often passé in contemporary churches, the practice of church discipline is vital to the health and mission of the church. Jeremy Kimble, recent SEBTS PhD graduate and current Assistant Professor of Theology at Cedarville University, has published an important book that demonstrates the vitality of this oft-forgotten doctrine. In That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Kimble provides biblical, historical, and theological warrant for church discipline. His thesis, and the defense of it, holds significant implications for scholars and pastors alike.

In this published version of his SEBTS dissertation Kimble argues, “one purpose of church discipline is to serve as a declaration of potential eschatological judgment both to warn offenders of their need to repent, and, by implication to exhort the church members to persevere in faith” (pp. xv, 2). To argue his thesis, Kimble examines the biblical, historical, and theological evidence for such a claim. Significantly, he finds no lack of evidence for it.

The first chapter contains his assessment of “The Need for Discipline in the Church” (pp. 1–15). Anecdotal evidence of this need comes in the form of the absence of and/or fear of church discipline in many contemporary churches. Also, however, a survey of recent theological studies indicates the need for Kimble’s proposal (pp. 3–6). He then defines church discipline, eschatological judgment, and the perseverance of the saints, terms that appear again and again in his study. Significantly, he rightly points out that all humans will face eschatological judgment though not all will share the same eternal destiny (p. 9).

In chapter two, Kimble provides a “Biblical Analysis of Church Discipline” that demonstrates a biblical-theological respect for the continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT. First, he identifies Old Testament trajectories on the subject, namely, the exile from Eden (pp. 20–24), expulsion from the camp (pp. 24–29), and ejection from the land (pp. 29–33). Key phrases like “purge the evil person from among you” in key texts (e.g. Deut 13:1–5; p. 26) illuminate God’s concern for holiness in and among his covenant people. Second, Kimble notes “the shift in discipline” present in Ezra 10:7–8 that aligns with God’s desire for repentance and restoration in his people (pp. 34–35). Kimble then explores the key NT texts (Matt 16:13–19; 18:15–20; 1 Cor 5:1–13; Gal 6:1) that build upon the trajectories set in the OT. He finds that, across the Bible,

God deals with sin in a direct and indirect manner, sometimes bringing consequences upon people himself, and at other times allowing the people of God to mete out discipline. Regardless of the means God uses, his aim is to persevere his covenant with his people, maintain holiness, deal with sin, and persevere his people in their faith (p. 61).

So Moses, Jesus, and Paul each cared about and taught “church discipline” because God cares about his people.

In chapter three, Kimble explores the historical precedent for the practice of church discipline. He finds such precedent in the life and work of Martin Luther, Balthasar Hubmaier, and Jonathan Edwards. The survey indicates the key theological and ministerial role played by real church discipline. He shows how, for example, Edwards’s understanding of “visible sainthood” stems from a tight connection between the doctrines of salvation, sanctification, and church discipline (see pp. 102–7). While these historical figures evince differences, they each held that “ecclesial discipline was a sign of eschatological judgment” (p. 110). They also, though, practiced it so that by repentance the sinner might be renewed and restored.

Chapter four contains Kimble’s “Theological Analysis of Church Discipline.” In this discussion he reiterates the connection between eschatological judgment and discipline (pp. 117–22), perseverance and discipline (pp. 123–31), and the interrelationship between all three. Helpfully, Kimble shows that such a conception is part and parcel with the church’s mission (pp. 133–35). He then addresses questions, or potential objections, to his study (pp. 135–44): does the fallibility of a church affect this view; does a different view of perseverance affect (undercut) his thesis; what sins require discipline and what sins require the cover of love; and what is the process for restoration after discipline? His answers to these questions produce a clear, concise, and convicting presentation of this vital doctrine and practice.

Kimble concludes his very important book with some practical implications. The practice of regenerate church membership, the role of pastors as stewards and shepherds, and the significance of the ordinances show the important place of church discipline. Inevitably, this chapter will aid pastors and elders as they pray through and apply church discipline. Indeed, this is the great achievement of Kimble’s book. He has produced a rigorous academic work that at the same time feeds and equips the church. That His Spirit May Be Saved will be a valuable resource for all, especially teachers and pastors, who desire to see the church spotless and unblemished before Christ (Eph 5:27).

Southeastern Seminary (3): A Curriculum Marked by Five Core Competencies

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[Note: This blogpost is the third installment in a five-part series which articulates and expounds Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s mission to be a Great Commission seminary.]

In light of their desire to facilitate a learning environment consistent with the seminary’s Great Commission vision, the Southeastern faculty and administration have identified five core competencies which undergird its curricula: spiritual formation, biblical exposition, theological integration, ministry preparation, and critical thinking and communication.

1. Spiritual Formation: Students are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue an authentically Christian way of life, manifested by trust in God, obedience to Christ’s commands, and love of God and neighbor. An Old Testament course, for example, teaches syntax and exegesis not as an end in itself, but as a means of increasing one’s affection for God, one’s desire to worship and obey him, and one’s determination to share the gospel with one’s neighbor. The proper end of any seminary course is not merely sciential (oriented to conceptual knowledge), but sapiential (oriented to wise living).

Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed, to consider well [that] the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternall life, Jn 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. –Founders of Harvard College (1643)

2. Biblical Exposition: Students are taught to interpret, apply, and communicate the Scriptures, and to do so appropriately and effectively. Each of the courses in the seminary’s curriculum is shaped in some manner by Christian Scripture, and therefore each course is a rich environment for biblical reflection. An evangelism course, for example, equips students to rightly interpret the biblical teaching concerning the gospel so that they can communicate it in personal conversations or public speaking opportunities.

But everyone, indeed, knows that at times they [the Fathers] have erred as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they prove their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred. –Martin Luther

3. Theological Integration: Students learn to understand and apply the doctrines of Christianity to life and ministry. A seminary is by design an integrative institution. Reality is a coherent whole, so each discipline is integrally related to all others. Although a healthy approach to specialization can yield rich and deep insights within a particular field of study, unhealthy approaches tend to seal themselves off hermetically from other disciplines, thereby distorting and fragmenting a body of knowledge which should be unified and coherent. A seminary course in church planting, for example, might draw upon an exegesis of the book of Acts, a systematic treatment of the doctrine of the church, a historical overview of church planting methods, and an anthropological assessment of challenges for cross-cultural communicators.

Fields of study and areas of life that are frequently compartmentalized in people’s minds actually belong together, particularly in our use of the Bible. God created us to be whole people. We are meant to respond as whole people to the whole of God. Every aspect of our being—our minds, our emotions, our physical abilities, our digestion, our tears—has been created by God to play a role in our communion with him and our service to him. The Psalms are examples in words of what holistic response involves….Stretching our categories helps force us to think about integrating what we may have too neatly compartmentalized. –Vern Poythress

4. Ministry Preparation:  Students acquire knowledge, skills, and the disposition necessary for ministry and leadership in the church and world. Every course at the seminary—bar none—exists to prepare students to minister Christ’s gospel in this world. The seminary is not a research university or a think tank. It is a greenhouse for gospel ministers. A philosophy course, for example, introduces metaphysics or epistemology, but never as ends in themselves; it covers such topics in a manner such that they can be comprehended by the broad range of students at the seminary and can be utilized in Christian ministry.

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. –The Apostle Paul (2 Tim 3:14-17)

5. Critical Thinking and Communication: Students learn to think critically, argue persuasively, and communicate clearly. Every aspect of Christian life and ministry is the argument of a thesis: Jesus is Lord. Critical thinking and communication are vital to the life of the seminary. A New Testament course, for example, will necessarily recognize the centrality of logic to the entire endeavor of New Testament studies, as an interpreter must draw upon powers of valid induction and deduction moment-by-moment in order to exegete a biblical text.

Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said can be said clearly. –Ludwig Wittgenstein

There are two sorts of eloquence; the one indeed scarce deserves the name of it, which consists chiefly in labored and polished periods, an over-curious and artificial arrangement of words….The other sort of eloquence is quite the reverse to this, and which may be said to be the true characteristic of the holy Scriptures; where the eloquence does not arrive from a labored and farfetched elocution, but from a surprising mixture of simplicity and majesty. –Laurence Sterne

The faculty of Southeastern fosters these competencies across the curriculum, instilling them while cultivating a delight in God, his word, and his church. Because Southeastern seeks to be truly a “Great Commission Seminary” and envisions every classroom a “Great Commission Classroom,” each member of the faculty is committed to carrying out this mission.

Engaging Exposition (3): Seven Foundational Convictions And Commitments For Preaching And Teaching The Word of God

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1. Preaching Must Be Text-Driven So That It Truly Honors What Is In The Divine Revelation.

Expository preaching allows the Scripture text to determine both the substance and the structure of the message. How one structures the Scriptures will determine how one structures the sermon. The Scriptural text drives and determines, shapes and forms sermon development as it relates to the explanation of the biblical text.

2. Preaching must honor the principle of authorial intent, recognizing that the ultimate author of Scripture is the Holy Spirit, God Himself.

The Bible is best described as the Word of God written in the words of men. However, we must never forget it is ultimately the Word of God, and the divine author’s intended meaning as deposited in the text should be honored. David Alan Black notes, “It is within these parameters of authorial intent and grammatical form that faithful biblical interpretation takes place.”

3. Scripture must be interpreted and understood as it was given to the original audience. The text cannot mean today what it did not mean then.

A fundamental principle in preaching is that “…the best homiletical outlines of a passage are those that are derived from the text itself.” (D. Black). The faithful expositor must not eisegete the text, reading into it the preconceived notions of his own imagination or interest. As evangelical expositors we must continue to affirm that “the meaning is one, though the applications are many.”

4. Pulpit proclamation must affirm that the historical-grammatical-theological interpretation will best discover both the truth of the text and the theology of the

text.

Doctrinal/theological preaching is noticeably absent in the modern pulpit. Theological and biblical illiteracy is the heavy price being paid. As the preacher exegetes both his text and audience, he should be sensitive to the theological truths contained in and supported by the text. We believe exegesis must drive theology. A theological system must be shaped by Scripture and not the reverse.

5. Effective biblical instruction will take serious and develop the implications of what Jesus said about the Christological nature of Scripture (John 5:39; Luke 24: 25-27, 44-47).

Preaching that does not exalt, magnify and glorify the Lord Jesus is not Christian Preaching. Preaching that does not present the gospel and call men and women to repent of sin and place their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not gospel preaching.

Faithful exposition will be Christological in focus, inner-canonical in context, and inter-textual in building a biblical theology. It will carefully interpret Scripture in the greater context of the grand redemptive storyline of Scripture (Creation – Fall – Redemption – Consummation). Applying what can be called “a comprehensive Christocentric hermeneutic,” we will examine “the little narratives” and “pericopes” in light of the “big narrative,” the great redemptive narrative centered in Christ.

6. From beginning to end, from the study to the pulpit, the entire process of biblical exposition must take place in absolute and complete submission to the Holy Spirit.

All that we do in preparation and proclamation of the Bible should take place in humble submission to the Holy Spirit. In the study, as we analyze the text, study the grammar, parse the verbs, consult the commentaries, and gather the raw materials for the message, we should seek His guidance and confess our total dependence on Him.

When we stand to preach, to minister the Word to our people, we must plead for His filling and direction. Word and Spirit was a hallmark of the Reformers, and it must be the same with us.

7. Changed lives for the glory of God is always the goal for which we strive. Therefore it is a sin, of the most serious sort, to preach the Word of God in a boring and

unattractive fashion.

We repeatedly tell our students, “What you say is more important than how you say it, but how you say it has never been more important.” The wise preacher will exegete both Scripture and culture. He understands that he must know each equally well. And, he knows that what he says he must say well.

Luther said: “Let us then consider it certain and conclusively established that the soul can do without all things except the Word of God, and that where this is not there is no help for the soul in anything else whatever. But if it has the Word it is rich and lacks nothing, since this Word is the Word of life, of truth, of light, of peace, of righteousness, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of power, of grace, of glory, and of every blessing beyond our power to estimate.” (Martin Luther, “A Treatise on Christian Liberty,” in Three Treatises. 23.)