Jesus the Spokesman

When the eastern sages asked Herod where Jesus was to be born his advisers looked to a prophet for the answer. Who better to turn to that one of God’s spokesmen? For the King of the Jews who was born was God’s Anointed King and over the centuries since God had first announced his coming, God’s spokesmen had foretold his life in great detail.

The prophets of ancient Israel did not merely foretell the future, they spoke God’s words. Open any of their books and see “thus says the Lord” on every page (e.g. Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13). Sometimes they said “hear the word of the Lord” (e.g. Amos 3:1) or concluded “declares the Lord” (e.g. Amos 2:11, 16). Israel’s prophets were God’s messengers with God’s message. They did not speak for themselves, but for God. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).

Little did Herod’s religious advisers realise that the promised Anointed King would be God’s greatest spokesman. “But in these last days,” Hebrews continues, “he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2) Until the birth of Jesus, the greatest Israelite prophet had been Moses. He spoke for God, giving the people of Israel God’s Law. In fact, he spoke face to face with God (Exodus 33:11). No other prophet was so privileged.

In one of his farewell addresses to Israel Moses had predicted the coming of a prophet, greater even than himself (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Now at Bethlehem that prophet had come. And true to his calling, when he began his public ministry thirty years later Jesus spoke for God, but not as the former prophets. He went beyond “thus says the Lord”. Time and again he prefaced his message with the words, “Truly, truly, I say to you” (e.g. John 3:5; 5:19, 24, 25).

The religious leaders heard blasphemy in those words. And so they should have, but that he was no mortal prophet. He was the very Word of God in the flesh (John 1:14). He alone could say such words without blaspheming. The Messenger was the Message.

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus, God’s last word (Hebrews 1:2). He was born on earth, a real human being. Yet he was born from above by the intervention of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). In a famous encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above [or, again] he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was the chief rabbi, but even he wasn’t good enough to see God, because God’s kingdom is not for good, religious people. It is only for those who have been born again from above. God’s Kingdom is not for those who merit by their outstanding character or deeds. It is for flawed people who recognize their unworthiness. So everyone needs that second birth because everyone is flawed by sin, and thus barred from heaven and cut off from God’s presence. Only a second birth from above can enable flawed people to enter the Kingdom of God.

Jesus the Spokesman was born that we might be born from above. As the apostle Peter reminds his Christian friends, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23) Jesus is the Word of God, the Messenger who is the Message. God has caused his children “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

As I remember Jesus’ birth this Christmas I am compelled to consider my own birth. Have I been born again, from above? The Good News of Christmas is that you can be born into God’s family and enter God’s Kingdom because Jesus has been born, has died, and has risen again. Only through believing in Jesus and trusting in his sacrificial death can we enter God’s family and his kingdom. As Jesus himself said, “Whoever believes in [me] may have eternal life.” (John 3:15)


This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 12 Dec 2010.

Jesus the Shepherd

To the shepherds of Bethlehem the angels announced a Saviour. But to the eastern sages the Scriptures announced a Shepherd. When they asked Herod where the king of the Jews was to be born, the priests and scribes told him Micah had said, “‘In Bethlehem of Judaea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” ’ ” (Matthew 2:5-6)

Such are the twists of the Christmas story. And as we shall see, Jesus the Shepherd will provide us with plenty more twists.

Micah’s prophecy that Herod’s clerics cited to their very unshepherd-like king and his visiting dignitaries reveals Jesus in a rich metaphor. The shepherd was a biblical description of a king. It did not emphasize the king’s majesty and authority, but his duties and responsibilities to his people, his flock.

Israel’s first great king was a shepherd in his youth, a true shepherd king. From David’s time on Israel’s kings and leaders were seen as shepherds of the people. Jesus the Shepherd was David’s direct descendent.

Just after the House of David lost political power in Judah to the invading Babylonians, the prophet Ezekiel berated the shepherd rulers of Israel for exploiting the human sheep for whom they had responsibility (Ezekiel 34). Instead of feeding the sheep, they had devoured them. Weak, sick, injured and lost sheep were abandoned instead of being strengthened, healed, bound up and rounded up.

God’s under-shepherds had failed. Now the Chief Shepherd, God himself, would have to step in and do the job properly. His plan was to have one shepherd, whom he called his servant David (Ezekiel 34:23-23). Herod’s visitors would soon come face to face with God’s new shepherd king, who could be relied on to care for God’s sheep as God would wish.

Matthew’s Christmas account takes another twist as he reveals the identity of God’s shepherd is not disclosed to Herod or his clerics, but to Gentiles, non-Jews! Thirty years later the Shepherd announced, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) God’s Good Shepherd would not only be Israel’s Good Shepherd, but the Good Shepherd of all who would hear his voice, Jew and Gentile alike.

And as the Good Shepherd explained his mission there came a further twist in the story. The Good Shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15, 17,18). Emaciated by neglect and exploitation of shepherd leaders who were more thieves and robbers, human sheep have a terminal condition that has only one cure. Jesus came as the Shepherd sent by God to announce and dispense that cure. Jesus “came that [we] may have life and have it abundantly.” He said, “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish” (John 10:10, 18).

Jesus’ death is our only means to life because the Shepherd became a sacrificial Lamb. Thirty years after he was announced as the Shepherd, John the Baptiser pointed him out to the crowds who heard him preach his fiery message, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Jesus died to cure our terminal condition, what the Bible calls sin. He died to give us life, abundant life, eternal life. His death paid the ransom to release us from the bondage of our sin that would ultimately squeeze the very life from our beings. As the prophet Ezekiel described it, “The soul [i.e. the person] who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Jesus’ apostle Peter later described Jesus’ death like this: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver of gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

I cannot help but wonder if Peter’s mind went back as he wrote those words to the day his brother Andrew told him he had come face to face with the Lamb of God (John 1:35-42). Three years later Jesus died at the time of the Jewish Passover feast. At the first Passover a lamb had died in place of every Israelite firstborn son. Saved from death, he and his family were also ransomed from the cruel bondage of Egyptian slavery. Now the Passover had been re-enacted. This time it was life-size, even supersize. In Egypt one lamb had been sufficient for a family. Now one Lamb was sufficient for the whole world. And like the passover lamb, God’s Lamb was without blemish or spot.

Peter was not the only one to spot the connection with the Passover. His disciple colleague John did too. He’d been there with Andrew the day John the Baptiser pointed out the Lamb of God, as he recounts at the start of his Gospel (John 1:35-42). And in his account of Jesus’ crucifixion he indicates clearly that Jesus died as the Lamb of God. He tells us that when the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side instead of breaking his legs it was a fulfilment of the Scripture that said “Not one of his bones will be broken” (John 19:36). The Passover account said just that (Exodus 12:46, cf Numbers 9:12).

What the Passover did in picture format, Jesus did for real. His death paid the ransom required to release men and women from sin’s bondage. When he died “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Those who respond to Jesus’ voice as God’s Shepherd “were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of [their] souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

Christmas is not about shepherds and lambs, it is about God’s Shepherd and God’s Lamb. If we see only shepherds and lambs we’re in danger of not hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice, calling us to real and lasting life. That’s the real Christmas present, purchased at the cost of the life of the Lamb of God.


This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 5 Dec 2010.

Jesus the Saviour

There is something about names. Some names strike fear and terror in the heart — the school bully, the abuser, the deadly foe, the arch business rival. Others command respect — the childhood teacher who invested time in us. While still others inspire affection and love — our spouse, or a favourite granny. Even in our modern, often impersonal world of numbers, names are powerful symbols, often invested with deep personal meaning.

As we enter the season of Advent, one name naturally comes to our attention — Jesus. It’s a name we hear daily, whether we’re a Christian or an unbeliever.

But what does the name Jesus mean to you? Many treat it with a casualness today, nothing more than an expletive, devoid of meaning or significance. Yet it is a name overflowing with meaning and significance. The most famous Jesus wasn’t the first to be called Jesus, nor the last. But he was given the name for very good reason.

Before his birth, Joseph, in whose family he grew up, was told what to call him and why. “He shall be called Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:18). So when John Newton wrote his hymn “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear” he began the fourth verse “Jesus! Our Saviour, Shepherd, Friend”.

There is no better starting place to get to grips with the name for Jesus and its significance. Whatever respect you may have for the name of Jesus, it is only a believer who has experienced Jesus’ saving work in their life who knows the sweetness of that name.

As we enter Advent and begin to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, we must face the unpalatable truth that the name of Jesus contains. It is sweet in a believer’s ear, but it brings all of us, believers and unbelievers alike, face to face with the dark underbelly of life. If Jesus is a Saviour, then we are in need of saving.

But from what? From our enemies? From ourselves? It is certainly true that we have an Enemy from whom we need saving. And often we are our own worst enemies, thinking and doing things of which we are deeply ashamed.

But Jesus came to save us from something more destructive — our sin. That principle ingrained in us from birth that rebels against God and everything he does and stands for. That principle that means each one of us will one day die, and if it is not dealt with in this life will be the thing that condemns us to eternal death.

That’s the reason Jesus was born: “to save his people from their sins.” Christmas without sin is absolutely meaningless. We might enjoy the tinsel and the trees, the turkey and mince pies, but if we don’t have sin and a Saviour we don’t have Christmas.

What the angel told Joseph, the angel choir announced to the Bethlehem shepherds. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11)

The birth of a Saviour is good news only if we face up to the bad news — we are sinners before Almighty God. And it is only good news when we realize that we cannot deal with our sin to God’s satisfaction by ourselves. We are hopeless, helpless sinners.

But the good news that Christmas reminds us about is that God himself has become our Saviour. The Jesus who was born in Bethlehem was not simply the Son of Mary, he was “Christ the Lord”. Christ means the Anointed One, and is the title Jews gave (and still give) to their expected deliverer. The Bible proclaims him to be Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour of the world.

The truly amazing thing about this Anointed Jesus is that the angels also called him “the Lord”. They do not simply mean he is our superior, to whom we owe allegiance. They mean that he is actually God himself, born in the flesh. The term “the Lord” is used throughout the first part of the Bible (the Old Testament) as the chief title of God. When the angel talked to Joseph before Jesus’ birth he told him exactly the same thing. Jesus was to have a second name — Immanuel, which is Hebrew for “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

The Good News of Christmas is that though we are helpless and hopeless sinners, guilty before a holy and perfectly just God, God himself has come to be our Saviour, to die for our sin. Jesus died the death we deserved for our sin, so that we might live.

The Good News of Christmas is that sinners on death row have been reprieved. They can live, and more. They can be part of God’s own family. As Jesus Christ’s beloved disciple, John, put it: “to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12, 13)

In fact, John wrote his Gospel account “so that you may believe that Jesus is The Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Do you believe?

Will you believe?

To have a truly happy Christmas you must believe. Then and only then will Jesus’ name be the sweetest name in your ear.


How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
   In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
   And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
   And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
   And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the rock on which we build,
   Our shield and hiding-place,
Our never-failing treasury, filled
   With boundless stores of grace!

Jesus! our Saviour, Shepherd, Friend,
   Prophet and Priest and King,
Our Lord, our Life, our Way, our End,
   Accept the praise we bring.

Weak is the effort of our heart,
   And cold our warmest thought;
But when we see thee as thou art,
   We'll praise thee as we ought.

Till then we would thy love proclaim
   With every fleeting breath;
And triumph in that blessed Name
   Which quells the power of death. 

John Newton (1725-1807), 1779
Believer’s Hymn Book, No. 79


This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 26 Oct 2010.

Reading on preaching

Here’s my online ‘reading’ on preaching this month, as posted to my church Web site in the Preaching Resources section. These resources were posted on 26 October 2010:

Resisting the Devil

“Resistance is futile!” intones the Borg drone in Star Trek. “You will be assimilated.” The superior physical strength of the cyborg and the overwhelming superiority of the collective mind cannot be resisted. Defeat is inevitable. Resistance is futile.

Is Peter’s command to “resist the Devil” (1 Peter 5:9) similarly doomed to failure? Jesus successfully resisted him (Matthew 4, 16; Luke 4). But can an ordinary Christian believer resist the overwhelming might and superior intellect of his Satanic Majesty?

Thinking sensibly

To succeed in resisting the Devil we will need to take Peter’s advice on how to go about it. First he commands us to “be sober-minded” (1 Peter 5:8). We must have a realistic appreciation of who the Devil is, and what our situation is.

It is commonplace today to view the Devil in one of two ways. Either people treat him as a mythical character, often portrayed in cartoon format as a playful agent of frustration or malevolence. Or they are obsessed with him to the extent that he is behind every ill that befalls them, from stubbing their toe to contracting cancer. Neither view is sober-minded, or scriptural.

Peter describes the Devil as “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The metaphor shows that the Devil poses a serious threat to the life and well-being of the child of God. We may not dismiss the idea of a devil as a fanciful notion.

The threat is real, but we must not exaggerate it. The book of Job shows us the Devil is “God’s Devil”, as Martin Luther used to say. His power is not equal to God’s. Nor is it exercised apart from God, but is under God’s authority. He may not exercise it against the believing child of God beyond the limits imposed on him by God. The danger posed by the Devil is real, but he is not omnipotent. His power is constrained by Almighty God.

Looking out

Peter also advises us to “be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). We must be vigilant, ever on the lookout for threats and attacks. If we are sober-minded we will not be obsessive about this, but we must take an active approach to the Devil’s schemes.

Peter’s description of the Devil and his approach give us an insight into the danger we face. And at the same time, some reflection on them will uncover great encouragement so that we may face him boldly.

Resisting our Adversary

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Devil is our Adversary. He is against us. He is our enemy. Peter doesn’t want us to think of the Devil as a great warrior, a spiritual Goliath we must face. Rather, he is our opponent in court. Once we see that ploy, we know that resistance is not futile, for we have an Advocate (1 John 2:1–2), a defence attorney, who is more than able to counter every legal argument the Devil may throw at us. Our salvation rests on a firm foundation. It is legally unassailable. We are justified, declared righteousness, by God, the Judge of all the earth. When our Adversary accuses us we can take comfort in Paul’s marvellous outburst: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” (Romans 8:33–34)

Paul does not have to give an answer. It is absolutely clear. No one. Our Adversary does not have a case. His accusations will be thrown out of court every time by the Judge himself. We may resist him on solid legal grounds.

Resisting the slanderer

If “adversary” shows us the Devil’s attempt to use legal argument to attack us, “Devil” shows us another despicable ploy he often uses. He is not content just to employ legal means. If he cannot convict us, he will slander our Advocate.

This was his tactic in the Garden. Not content to lead Eve to doubt the truth of God’s word he came straight out with a downright lie. “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from [the tree] your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4–5)

Ever will the Devil seek to have us think less of God than we ought. “God is holding out on you.” “God is not fair.” “God will not hold you accountable for your sin.” “God is not telling the truth.”

But our God is a God of truth. “He is not a man that he should lie.” (Numbers 23:19, cf Titus 1:2) Often as he spoke Jesus prefixed his words with “I tell you the truth . . .” He is “The Way, and The Truth, and The Life” (John 14:6).

When we hear the Devil’s slander we must take comfort that God our Saviour is the God of Truth. We may depend on his word alone. That was how the Lord Jesus himself resisted the Devil in the wilderness (Luke 4). If we would resist the Devil we must turn to it as well. That presupposes we know it. May we get to know it better.

Resisting the Lion

Peter’s final description of the Devil shows him at his most devious. He can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Yet for all his reasonableness and pleasantness, he is at heart a roaring lion, hungry for dinner. And we are on the menu.

The Devil is, for all his majesty as heaven’s former Number 1 Angel, no better than a brute beast. He is driven by appetite and instinct. Dangerous, but not irresistible.

But we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). And he has conquered death and sin and the Devil. His roar is much more terrifying than the Devil’s. His voice is as the roar of many waters (Revelation 1:15).

The Devil is God’s Devil, and Jesus is our Lion! And we are part of his tribe, for his people are “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). He is more than a match for our adversary in court, or in the jungle of life. We do not resist the Devil in our own strength and with our own resources. We do not resist him alone.

Resistance is not futile

A sober assessment of our enemy, our situation, and our resources leads us to the conclusion that resistance is not futile. We are defended by heaven’s great Advocate. We trust in the God of truth. And we are protected by the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

We can resist the Devil, firm in our faith. We do not believe in ourselves, but in Almighty God, under whose mighty hand we have humbled ourselves and to whose allegiance we have pledged ourselves.

We may face such a roaring lion as the Devil without fear because we can cast all our anxieties on the God who cares for us. He will not let us be devoured, though we may experience suffering, in common with our brothers and sisters worldwide. But “after [we] have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called [us] to his eternal glory in Christ will himself of restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [us].” (1 Peter 5:10) And at that time we will echo Peter’s confident affirmation: “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:11)

Resistance is not futile. We can and must resist the Devil. And we will resist him successfully if we rely on the resources that Almighty God has provided for us.


This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 26 Oct 2010.

Reading on preaching

Here’s my online reading on preaching this month, as posted to my church Web site in the Preaching Resources section. These resources were posted on 26 September 2010:

(The links after “added to” will take you to the page on the church site where they are listed permanently, while other links are to the resources and reviews themselves.)

A solidly married couple

Alec Motyer has a delightful comment on Psalm 125:3 that I read this morning:

What, then, is the ‘evil’ to which we can be tempted to put our hands (verse 3)? For we have all experienced the ‘Why should I put up with this any longer?’ moment, and that’s the danger point. When patient enduance runs out, sinfulness comes running in; impatience and making golden calves have for a long time been a solidly married couple.\1/



1. Alec Motyer, Journey: Psalms for Pilgrim People (Nottingham: IVP, 2009): 65

Shallow thinking

I’ve just received my copy of The Shallows.\1/ I’m looking forward to reading it, but not right now, as I’ve several other books on the go at the moment. I did, however, peek at the prologue where Carr mentions McLuhan (how could he not?), and the fact that the Internet is the latest medium to spur the debate on the impact of new media.

It struck me that while the Internet revolution may be as significant, or more significant than the Gutenburg revolution, there is an interesting difference. (Perhaps Carr will cover this in the book.) In the Internet Age we have the impact of visual representations (on television and in films [movies]) of what computer technology might be able to achieve. People in Gutenburg’s time experienced a revolution that unfolded over time, but we are in the middle of one that has been imagined ahead of time, and in considerable detail. That must surely have a major impact on how the revolution will play out, for reality is fast outpacing our earliest imaginings.

The Matrix is one powerful representation, but I suspect that Star Trek is more powerful, for it is in Star Trek that (information) technology is presented as ubiquitous and almost totally benign. I don’t mean the original Star Trek series, but the more recent ones: Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and even Enterprise. It is the great boon to society. Everything can be solved by means of technology, and usually instantaneously. Information is always somehow available. It is only in the face of unexplained interference or sabotage that the tense drama of being stranded in hostile terrain can be played out, but those scenarios are few and far between. (How is is that crew members can get stuck in turbolifts when site-to-site transport can be used in other emergencies?) More often, Star Trek captains command their chief engineers to solve impossible problems in unbelievably short timescales. And they always achieve the impossible. Mission Impossible happens in every episode to the nth degree. Kirk, Picard, Sisco and Janeway are not the real heroes, rather they are Scotty, Chief O’Brien, and B’Elana Torres.

And this presentation of technology affects many other more popular films and television series, so even those who have never seen Star Trek see the Star Trek Paradigm visualized regularly. Mobile [cell] phones may not be Star Trek communicators or tricorders, but they are the twenty-first century prototypes of twenty-fourth century fiction. We want the Internet to become what the Federation Database has become.

This advance visualization must have a massive impact on the Internet Revolution. The Internet already affects the way we speak: we no longer look things up, we google them. And it must surely be affecting the way we think. The Big Switch\2/ made a lot of sense of things for me, and I’m hoping Carr will do the same in The Shallows. But no matter the pressure of the instantaneous Internet, I will savour the deferred gratification of holding back starting until I can devote sufficient time to serious reading and reflection.



1. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember (London: Atlantic Books, 2010).

2. Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (New York: W W Norton, 2008).

To e- or not to e-, that is the question

Tim Challies recently posted a series of articles on a topic dear to my heart that are well worth reading. I share his enthusiasm for books that he shared in ‘5 Reasons Books Are Better Than E-Books’\1/. I’m also with him on ‘5 Reasons E-Books Are Better Than Books’\2/. Yes, e-books do have some advantages, but they are still outweighed by the books’ advantages. Like Tim, I just can’t imagine having to move house. It would be three times worse for me than for him. One mitigating factor is that I tend to buy reference materials as e-books in preference to books, especially when they are considerably cheaper. Then I feel guilty when I make little use of them. Are e-books making me more covetous?

But it’s not just sufficient to pit the arguments against each other and take your pick. There is a need to think through the consequences, which Tim points out well in ‘Books & E-Books, Media & Messages’.\3/ I agree wholeheartedly that convenience is not sufficient reason to abandon the book in favour of the e-Book. The medium has a definite impact on the message. E-media appear less permanent (Tim’s point about permanence notwithstanding), and paradoxically I suspect we give more credence to online, e-sources without sufficient critical appraisal. It’s similar to the appeal to “it was on television” as the ultimate “proof” of a fact. We can certainly read books uncritically, but the e-medium somehow seems to reduce our ability or willingness to engage critically with the content. McLuhan and Postman are definitely worth considering in this whole area. And Nicholas Carr is also onto something important in The Shallows\4/, which I’m planning to read later in the year.

When we come to read our e-Bibles we are going to run into some problems. I just can’t study with an e-Bible because you can’t see enough of the text at once (not even on my 24 inch monitor), or mark it up the way you need to make the study worthwhile. I certainly value tools like Logos, especially to check my rusty Greek and Hebrew, but they are just that: tools, not replacements for the text.

I think we’ve already run into a similar problem in churches that rely on song projection instead of hymn books. Sung praise is becoming more like karaoke than sacred worship. The medium has made the shift possible, and the reason is most likely convenience. The congregation may sing more loudly because they no longer have their faces buried in a book, but I find I’ve forgotten the previous line or two very quickly after singing them, whereas with a hymn book I can understand better what I am singing, and comprehend the meaning much more easily. I can’t think I’m alone in that, advancing age and declining memory notwithstanding. What will be the impact of preaching to a congregation who only have an e-Bible? Shorter sermons that engage the text less critically?

It’s not just the ‘E’s in our food* we need to be concerned about, it’s the ‘e-‘s in our reading that will have a serious impact on our intellectual and spiritual understanding. Since Christians are people of The Book, this should be a serious concern to us. Convenience is not enough to switch to e-Bibles, just as pragmatism is never enough to make informed and safe moral judgments. I’m going to need more convincing before I make e-reading my staple biblical intake. Tim’s articles have confirmed that for me. Moderation and small doses will certainly be my practice for the forseeable future.



1. Tim Challies, ‘5 Reasons Books Are Better Than E-Book’,, 17 Aug 2010, (accessed 7 Sep 2010)

2. ——, ‘5 Reasons E-Books Are Better Than Books’,, 18 Aug 2010, (accessed 7 Sep 2010)

3. ——, ‘Books & E-Books, Media & Messages’,, 20 Aug 2010, (accessed 7 Sep 2010)

4. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010). Carr blogs at Rough Type,



* Approved European food additives all have an ‘E’ prefixed to the universal reference number.