Living and Dying Like Jesus in Acts 6:1-8:3

Stephen is one of the most important characters in the story of Acts.  Both his life and death are presented as important examples of living and dying like Jesus.  Witherington explains how Luke’s rhetoric puts the spotlight on Stephen.

The introduction of Stephen in the list in 6:5 leads to somewhat lengthy presentation of the events that led to the end of his life. The very length of Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, the longest in a book full of speeches, probably indicates something of the importance Luke assigned to this episode in the history of earliest Christianity. This story ends a series of three trials before the Sanhedrin chronicled in Acts 4–7, with escalating results (warning, flogging, and in this case death). There can be little doubt that Luke sees the death of Stephen as engendering a crisis for the earliest Christians and a turning point. For one thing, for the first time “the people” and not just the authorities become antagonistic toward the followers of Jesus. For another, the death of Stephen causes various of his fellow Christians to flee Jerusalem and persecution, which in turn leads to the evangelizing of other places. This in turn causes the focus of the story to begin to shift away from Jerusalem after Acts 8:1. Luke is concerned to show why the church developed and moved in the east-to-west direction that it did.

Stepehn’s death was important, also because his life served as a model for Christian service

V. 8 begins by informing us again of the personal characteristics and also the actions of Stephen—he was full of θαρις and power, and he performed great wonders and signs among the people. This description tells us that he was involved not only in the internal life of the Christian community (the administering of food distribution), but also in its external life and witness. The two depictions of Stephen’s roles in Acts 6 are not contradictory, but speak to tasks in two different spheres of action. As Barrett suggests, these men probably originally began “with the charitable work of the Jerusalem church but developed their Christian action beyond this so as to become a group of leaders not necessarily in opposition to but at least distinct from the Twelve.”

Witherington also demonstrates how Stephen’s death is a type of the death of Christ.

One of the overarching impressions of the material in Acts 6:8–8:3 is that Luke is deliberately writing this story to indicate how Stephen’s last days and end parallel those of his master, Jesus. Not only so, but Stephen is depicted as standing in an even longer line of holy figures including not only the later prophets but also especially Moses and even before him, Joseph. Like Joseph, Moses, and Jesus Stephen is full of grace and power and inspired words, and is depicted as someone of great character and stature—appropriate for the church’s first martyr. The parallels between the passion of Jesus and of Stephen need to be enumerated:

  1. Trial before high priest/Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53 and par./Acts 6:12; 7:1)
  2. False witnesses (Mark 14:56–57; Matt. 26:60–61; not in Luke/Acts 6:13)
  3. Testimony concerning the destruction of the temple (Mark 14:58; Matt. 26:61; not in Luke/Acts 6:14)
  4. Temple “made with hands” (Mark 14:58; not in Luke/Acts 7:48)
  5. Son of Man saying (Mark 14:62 and par./Acts 7:56)
  6. Charge of blasphemy (Mark 14:64, Matt. 26:65; not in Luke/Acts 6:11)
  7. High priest’s question (Mark 14:61; Matt. 26:63; not in Luke [cf. 22:67, “they”]/Acts 7:1)
  8. Committal of spirit (only in Luke 23:46/Acts 7:59)
  9. Cry out with a loud voice (Mark 15:34=Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:37 and par./Acts 7:60)
  10. Intercession for enemies forgiveness (only in Luke 23:34/Acts 7:60)

Two striking things need to be noted about this list of parallels. Two of the ten items are found only in Luke and Acts and nowhere else (nos. 8 and 10). Five of the ten items are found in Acts and in the other Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ death, but not in Luke’s Gospel. Here is compelling evidence that Luke had Acts in mind while writing his Gospel, and edited certain items out of his Markan source about Jesus’ Passion, but wrote up the Stephen story using language reminiscent of the Markan Passion account! The end result in any case is to highlight the close parallels between Stephen’s end and that of Jesus.

Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 252-53.

This last point he makes to compare the death of Steven to that of Christ reminds me of Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:24:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I wonder, did Paul’s teaching influence how Luke recorded the death of Stephen as a type for what this passage is teaching?

Preaching Into The Wind

Preaching Into The Wind

Today I was a sponsored guest for a great preaching event hosted by Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA.  The event was titled, “Preaching Into the Wind: Biblical Preaching in a Skeptical Culture.”  The featured speaker was Haddon W. Robinson.  It was great to meet and listen to a man whom I have admired over the years for his devotion to Gospel proclamation.

Following are just some random bullet points of thoughts I had while listening and quotes taken from Dr. Robinson’s talk.

  • There was a time when preachers were respected and the church was trusted… but that time was not during the NT period.
  • Persuading the prophet of God to speak against God’s Word does not change God or His actions.  It only skews our perception of reality (1 Kings 22:1-50)
  • It is hard to stand for truth, when a leader only wants a “yes” man.
  • When you don’t want to face the truth, hire a panel of experts to offer consensus.
  • To speak with moral courage in the face of those who can, and will, try to destroy you is a challenge.
  • “To speak with moral courage, you must speak to an audience of one—God.” – Haddon Robinson
  • To speak boldly from the pulpit is not always moral courage.  Sometimes it is stupidity in the guise of “God says.”
  • In the age of TV, the intro to the sermon has taken on new significance. If you don’t grab someone’s attention in the first 20 seconds, they will use their mental “remote” to tune you out.
  • Preachers can no longer afford to talk “to” people, you must learn to talk “with” them”.
  • Times have changed.  in our age, “we need to preach through stories.” – Haddon Robinson
  • “If you quit when you’re through, you can preach longer.” – Haddon Robinson
  • “Preachers take too much for granted and talk as if everyone had a talking snake in their backyard.” – Haddon Robinson
  • On any given Sunday, do you hear more about how to “join” the church and participate in programs, or do you hear more about how to follow Jesus.
  • Take your message from one person and its is plagiarism.  Take your message from five people, and it is scholarship.
  • “‘Boring’ is not only bad communication, it is a destroyer of hope.” – Haddon Robinson
  • The Bible story is exciting.  If your pastor is boring, it is not God’s fault.
The Message is Not a Bible Translation: More Problem Passages

The Message is Not a Bible Translation: More Problem Passages


In part 1, I covered Eugene Peterson’s translation philosophy and gave four reasons that disqualify The Message as a Bible translation or paraphrase.

In part 2, I gave the first 2 of 9 examples from The Message that demonstrate why it is not a credible translation.

  1. Peterson inserts his own dogma that is nowhere in the Greek or taught anywhere in Scripture.
  2. Peterson neglects the person of the Holy Spirit.

Following are the next 6 examples.

3. Peterson neglects the historical role of Israel as a context for the New Covenant.

Matthew 10:6 (ESV)

6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew 10:6 (NIV11)

6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

Matthew 10:6 (The Message)

6 Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood.


Romans 9:27–28 (ESV)

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”

Romans 9:27–28 (NIV11)

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

Romans 9:27–28 (The Message)

27 Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. 28 God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.


This includes his consistent practice of editing out references to the Torah (Law).

Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1–2 (NIV11)

1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 1:1–2 (The Message)

1 How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College. 2 Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.


John 1:17 (ESV)

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17 (NIV11)

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17 (The Message)

17 We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

And he removes important verbiage regarding the relationship between Jew and Gentile.

Romans 10:12–13 (ESV)

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:12–13 (NIV11)

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:11–13 (The Message)

11 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” 12 It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. 13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

4. Peterson mistranslates the Greek by removing various references to sexual sin (including homosexuality).

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (ESV)

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (NIV11)

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (The Message)

9 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, 10 use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.


1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (ESV)

17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (NIV11)

17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (The Message)

17 Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” 18 There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another.

5. Peterson diminishes the historical cultus of idolatry.

Psalm 22:11–13 (ESV)

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

Psalm 22:11–13 (NIV11)

11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.

Psalm 22:11–13 (The Message)

11 Then you moved far away and trouble moved in next door. I need a neighbor. 12 Herds of bulls come at me, the raging bulls stampede, 13 Horns lowered, nostrils flaring, like a herd of buffalo on the move.

NOTE: In Peterson’s so-called “translation”, he leaves out the city name of Bashan.  However, Bashan is an important city name because it lets us know that the bulls in this chapter are not real animals, but represent the god’s of this city who were depicted as bulls. By using the city name of Bashan, the Psalmist is letting us know that he is surrounded by demonic beings which prefigures Christ on the cross surrounded by demonic forces seeing his death as their victory. All of this important meaning is lost because of Peterson’s overemphasis on making the passage “relevant”.


Romans 1:23; 26–27 (ESV)

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:23; 26–27 (NIV11)

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:23; 26–27 (The Message)

23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. 27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.


1 John 5:21 (ESV)

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:21 (NIV11)

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:21 (The Message)

21 Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.

6. Peterson often distorts the reality of the spirit world with a spiritualized worldview.

1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV11)

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

1 Timothy 4:1 (The Message)

1 The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars.


James 3:15 (ESV)

15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James 3:15 (NIV11)

15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James 3:15 (The Message)

15 It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving.

7. Peterson emphasizes a sin “lifestyle” where the Scripture emphasizes a sin “nature.”

Mark 14:38 (ESV)

38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:38 (NIV11)

38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:38 (The Message)

38 Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”


Romans 8:6 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (The Message)

6 Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.


Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV)

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1–3 (NIV11)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Ephesians 2:1–3 (The Message)

1 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. 2 You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. 3 We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.


Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV11)

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19–21 (The Message)

19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; 20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; 21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.


Colossians 2:11 (ESV)

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

Colossians 2:11 (NIV11)

11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,

Colossians 2:11 (The Message)

11 Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.

8. Peterson follows the trend of other gender inclusive “translations” by virtually eliminating the word “Lord,” and replacing it with a softer gender neutral “God” or “Master”.

In eliminating the word Lord in the New Testament, Peterson diminishes the connection between the Hebrew YHWH of the Old Testament, which is most often translated into English as Lord, with the Greek KURIOS of the New. The Greek Kurios is used 717 times in the New Testament and Peterson only translates it 27 times as Lord.  In most every case, he uses “Lord” when it refers to God from the Old Testament, but then he translates Kurios as “Master” in relation to Jesus.  This practice begs the question, “what is Peterson’s theological agenda?”

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (ESV)

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (NIV11)

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (The Message)

3 For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. 4 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5 God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.

This passage has some particularly confusing aspects in that Peterson chooses to translate Kurios as “Master” in verse 3, but then he does not translate it at all in verse 5.   And as it relates to the previous point number 2, Peterson again demonstrates his consistent bias against the Spirit by refusing to translate the word Spirit as a unique person of the Trinity, and instead he inserts the word “God” to make the passage read “God’s Spirit.” (see Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Volume 9: vnp.9.2.73 and Chafer Theological Seminary Journal Volume 9: vnp.9.1.144).

So far we have looked at 8 specific issues, citing multiple cases, that demonstrate the case that Peterson’s Message is not a translation, but a commentary which reflects his personal theology and opinion.  The next post in this series will outline the 9th and final point.

What makes a good translation?

Read my suggestions for what it takes to make a good quality Bible.

What translation should I buy?

Why you need to read more than one translation of the Bible

5 Day Sermon Planner – Part 1

Planning to preach the Word on a weekly basis is a challenge. My experience as a church planter, forced me to rethink my weekly schedule so in this episode of the 10 Minute Teacher, I will introduce you to my 5 day sermon planning process and cover the first half of what I do on day 1. Stick around for each episode as we build the tools necessary to weekly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Bad Hermeneutics or Great Leadership?

Bad Hermeneutics or Great Leadership?

This sermon was delivered by the often controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hills Church on 09/30/2007.  This sermon title is, “Fathers and Fighting”.

The passage Driscoll preached from was Nehemiah 13:23-31 (ESV).

23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” 28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. 30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

The following excerpt demonstrates Driscoll application of this passage to his church life and practice of leadership at Mars Hill.  On this occasion, the two church leaders Driscoll mentions in this sermon were fired in a private meeting just a few minutes after this sermon was preached.

NOTE: this excerpt is from the actual transcript of the sermon so the bracketed words “(Laughter)” indicate the audience reaction to what Driscoll is preaching.

You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there’s not confrontation, then you better enjoy sin because that’s what’s going to happen. “Then I confronted them, and I cursed them.” He’s just cussing guys out (Laughter). “And beat some of them (Laughter).” I’ll read that again. “And beat some of them.” Now, he’s an older guy. And he’s beating up members of his church (Laughter). What do we do with that? I’ll tell ya what I’d like to do with that. I’d like to follow in his example. There’s a few guys right now that if I wasn’t gonna end up on CNN, I would go Old Testament on ‘em, even in leadership in this church (Laughter). Here’s Nehemiah’s deal. Now, Romans 13 says we need to obey the government, so you can’t just walk around beating people up tragically (Laughter). It does simplify things. There’s no like attorneys and blogging. Just like “I punched you in the mouth. Shut up (Laughter).” That’s clean. It’s simple.

Now, in this Nehemiah gets so angry that he can’t make these guys stop, and so he physically assaults them. Now, this week in your community group you can dialogue whether or not you think that was godly. That would be something fun to talk about (Laughter). Okay? You can debate the merits of this old day. But I’ll tell you this: I’m not saying it’s okay to beat people up, but I understand (Laughter). That’s what I am saying. I’ll tell ya another story. There’s a guy I met. He’s a mixed martial artist and ultimate fighter. Good guy. Loves Jesus. He was at church recently. And he coaches a lot of young fighters. All right?

And so I coach a lot of pastors, so I asked him, I said, “What do you do with a guy who just doesn’t submit to authority, doesn’t obey the chain of command, doesn’t listen, doesn’t do what he’s told, just rebellious, stiff-necked, hardhearted and stupid?” I said, “What do you do with those guys?” His answer was brilliant. He said, “I break their nose (Laughter).” That was his answer. I said, “Wow! Please explain.” I mean, I’m taking copious notes. Please explain. Here’s what he says: “If I get one of these guys in my fighter camp where I’m training guys and he won’t play by the rules, he won’t listen or respect authority, if I let him get away with it, I have anarchy on my whole team and next thing you know no one is doing what they’re told, and everything falls apart.” That’s exactly what’s happening in Nehemiah’s day.

“So I warn ‘em. ‘You knock it off or I’m gonna put you in the ring, I’m gonna take you down, and I’m gonna bust your nose.’ And if they disobey, disrespect or disregard me, I put ‘em in the octagon, I take ‘em down, and I bust their nose (Laughter).” Okay? He said, “So you’ll notice on the guys on my team they all have a crooked nose and a good attitude (Laughter) (Applause).” I thought “Wow!” I mean, it’s heartwarming (Laughter). I just thought “That is—that makes so much sense to me.” And that’s what Nehemiah is doing. Now, you can debate the merits all day, but I understand (Laughter). “I beat some of them.” And the next one is a little disappointing. “And I pulled out their hair”, which sounds like a chick fight, doesn’t it (Laughter)? That’s a little disappointing. “Pulled out their hair?” I’m like “Hmm.”

So let’s do this. Let’s read into the story just a little bit. Let’s say that maybe it was self-defense, they attacked him, so he had to defend himself. Okay. And somehow the hair-pulling thing I don’t know. I don’t know what happened there. Generally speaking, most men don’t respect other men who pull men’s hair (Laughter). So I’m not—maybe he scalped him (Laughter). Maybe they attacked him, he beat ‘em up and scalped ‘em. I’m gonna go with that ‘cause I can respect that a lot more (Laughter). And then he goes on, “And I made them take an oath.” You think? “Repeat after me.” “Okie-dokie”, you know (Laughter). “Now that I’m bad and bloody (Laughter).” There’s just certain parts of the Bible that [inaudible]—when I talked to the ultimate fighter guy, I said, “You know, you probably never had a verse for it.” And I actually took him to Nehemiah 13. I said, “Here you go. You got a verse. Quote it to your boys when you bust their nose (Laughter).”

Mark Driscoll, “Fathers and Fighting” preached at Mars Hills Church Seattle, WA, Nehemiah 13:23-31, 09/30/2007, taken from Mark Driscoll Sermon Archive 2005-2009 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

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