Interview with Graeme Goldsworthy on Biblical Theology

help-me-teach-the-bible-coverNancy Guthrie recently interviewed Dr. Graeme Goldsworthy on the topic of biblical theology on the Help Me Teach the Bible Podcast.

Their conversation talks about what biblical theology is, how it affects our understanding of the Bible, the history of the discipline, as well as comments on Goldsworthy’s specific approach to biblical theology.


Right Click to Download the Audio


“God’s kingdom is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” —Graeme Goldsworthy

Goldsworthy’s Definition of Biblical Theology:

Essentially, it is about understanding the theology of the Bible, the way it [theology] is presented in the Bible. It’s not a systemization of doctrines, it’s looking at the way the theology is unfolded [throughout the Bible story].


Books mentioned:

Related Links:

Seven Biblical Definitions of Ministry Success (Part Two)

lightstock_169198_medium_kevin_halloran

Continued from Part One.


4. Success is Believing.

“For me [this truth] points to one of the great needs of Christians—which is not to believe more and better things, but to believe what we already believe. During my bout with success, my faith had slipped so miserably that I was not believing the things I actually did believe.” (63)

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 (63)

“Whether these great people of faith [from Hebrews 11] were called to focus their belief on God’s rewards in history or in eternity, they all believed that God was actively working in them and through them and for them, and would reward them even though they could not always see or understand how.” (64)

Hughes proceeds to offer an extended meditation on the implications of Colossians 1:15–18 on our lives and ministries. How does believing Christ as Creator of everything, Sustainer of the universe, the Goal of all creation, and the Lover of our souls change our outlook on ministry?

Gauge your belief by answering these three questions truthfully (70):
1. Am I believing that God can take care of me?
2. Am I believing he loves me?
3. Am I believing that he rewards, that he is morally active on the part of those who seek him?

5. Success is Prayer.

Like a lumberjack’s work would be less effective with a dull axe, “God’s servants fail in their appointed tasks because they do not take time to sharpen their lives in prayer.” (71–72)

“Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.” E. Stanley Jones (73)

We must pray because (72–77):
1. …of what prayer does to us.
2. …of what prayer does in the church. “Prayer brings power to the church and to ministry.”
3. …Jesus prayed.

“Fellow servants, we know that the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray, even making intercession for us, but we also know that there is our part, which is discipline. Surely we can do nothing in our own power; nevertheless we are called to be fellow workers with God.” (81)

Hughes also drew from Ephesians 6:18–20:
“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

6. Success is Holiness.

“The logic of Scripture is unavoidable: God calls his people to be holy (Leviticus 19:2). Holiness is foundational to true success. No one can be regarded a success who pursues a life contrary to God’s will. Therefore, we come to this irony: there are untold numbers of successful pastors and Christian workers who are abysmal failures.” (84)

“I have known Christ-professing, Bible carrying men and women in Christian ministry who were adulterous, even incestuous, and saw no contradiction in their lives. I have known Christian workers who have led a secret pornographic existence: fundamentalists at church and X-rated cable voyeurs at home. Even more tragic, their delusion is so deep that they admit no inconsistency in their behavior.” (87)

“Lay this maxim to heart: when lust takes control, God is quite unreal to us…When we are in the grip of lust, the reality of God fades. The longer King David gazed [at Bathsheba bathing in 2 Samuel 11], the less real God became. Not only was his awareness of God diminished, but in the growing darkness he lost awareness of who David was—his holy call, his frailty, and the sure consequences of sin.” (89)

“Understand, servants of God, that some of life’s choices, especially those that have to do with sensuality, have irreversible consequences. You may be making that choice now. For your sake and for God’s sake, do not take the fatal step!” (91)

“During our difficult time in learning about success, Barbara and I were encouraged as we came to see that holiness is foundational to true success. We were also heartened. Although holiness is not easy, the fact that God demands it means that he helps those who seek it.” (93)

7. Success is Attitude.

“In Christian ministry it is no exaggeration to say (with some common-sense qualifications, of course) that attitude is everything. There are two attitudes that particularly characterize ministry failures: negativism and jealousy.” (96)

[Paul’s response to suffering in prison:] “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).” (98)

“Next to our free salvation in Christ, our attitude is the most important thing we possess. Attitude is more important than circumstances, the past, money, successes, failures, our gifts, other’s opinions, even the ‘facts.'” (99)

“Jealous, envious hearts are unhappy, for there is a miserable pathology to jealousy. The Bible unforgettably commemorates this in the case of the prodigal’s older brother. His jealous heart makes it impossible for him to share in his family’s joy. In fact, he misses the party of his life! (Luke 14:25–30). Then, unable to share in the things that please his father, he suffers further estrangement…He is miserable. A heart subject to such pathology can never be successful, regardless of its outward performance.” (101)

“Those who have negative attitudes in the ministry never truly know success, regardless of their accomplishments. Their negativism sours the proper sweetness of their desserts…They are unable to enjoy the pleasant things that come their way, for they always manage to dwell on what might have been and fear the worst in what is to come.” (103)

“Through the example of Paul and others, Barbara and I became aware of how important a role in our mind-set played in our ministry. We had learned that a positive attitude and an encouraging attitude are foundational to a truly successful life.” (104)


*Page numbers taken from the 1988 edition of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes.

Summary: Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

lightstock_169198_medium_kevin_halloran

In his early life as a pastor, Kent Hughes faced a personal crisis. He seemed to be doing everything right in ministry, but his church wasn’t growing—at least not compared to the church across town. This lack of ‘success’ ate at him and made his efforts seem worthless. What else do I need to do to be successful?

Many—if not all—pastors face a similar crisis. Is this just part of the grind of ministry, or is there a better perspective?

Kent and Barbara Hughes sought God for answers from the Scriptures for their dilemma and what they found make the backbone of their important book Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.

The Hughes’ tell their story of liberation from the success syndrome of ministry by sharing rich examples from biblical characters, powerful illustrations, and God’s eternal perspective that will energize and refocus readers. Instead of measuring success with worldly standards, the authors share seven biblical definitions of ministry success, which we share below in the form of a quote summary.

“…the miserable yoke of worldly success is so crushing because it is a burden that God’s servants were never meant to bear.” (106)


Seven Biblical Definitions of Ministry Success

1. Success is faithfulness.

“As Barbara and I searched the Scriptures, we found no place where it says that God’s servants are called to be successful. Rather, we discovered our call is to be faithful.” (35)

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2).” (35)

Using the episode from Numbers 20 when Moses struck the rock to provide water for Israel instead of speaking to it, Hughes explains that, “one can be regarded as hugely successful in the ministry and yet be a failure.” (36) Moses was not faithful to God’s word and faced the consequence for it: not being able to enter the Promised Land.

Two Essential Elements of Faithfulness:

1. Obedience

“Obedience (knowing and explicitly doing God’s Word) is the key to true success.” (38)

2. Hard work

“No one keeps track of a pastor’s time…if a man is not a self-starter, it is so easy to come in late and go home early. It is also very easy to let prayer and sermon preparation slip, and, generally, to imagine that extraneous interests are ‘ministry.’ There is more sloth in the pastoral ministry than we would like to admit.” (42)

[Commenting on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–20]:
“The Lord has nothing good to say about lazy servants; they are unfaithful.” (42)

2. Success is Serving.

“Whenever we may be on the path of servanthood, there is one thing we all must do if we are to be servants, and that is to look to the cross. It is the crowning event of Christ’s servant life, just as Jesus had said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45)…So here’s one secret of successful ministry: When we keep our eyes upon the cross, we want to serve. Friends and co-workers, if we have been chafing under our ministerial burdens, possibly wondering if we have followed our own fancies, we need to envision Christ washing the feet of rough, unlettered fishermen. We need to see Christ on the cross washing our sins away as the Ultimate Servant. And then we need to whisper, “Lord, you washed their feet; you washed away my sins. I will serve you and your church. Amen.”” (50–51)

Three Essential forms of service:

  1. Preaching. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1), tell us that a primary avenue of servanthood is preaching the truths of the gospel.” “Faithfulness in the pulpit requires a vast investment of time and energy and is a great service to Christ and his church, whether recognized by the church or not. Those who would honor God in the pulpit must be servants.” (51)
  2. Administering. “Do we see our executive duties as opportunities to serve Christ? If we do, we will be encouraged to give our very best to him in loving, efficient administration.” (52)
  3. Counseling. “Paul charges us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Here the pastoral ministry provides vast opportunity for servanthood because we are very often the ones to whom people turn to unburden themselves…pastoral counseling compels us to serve others much in the way the Lord would if he were still here on earth.” (52)

3. Success is Loving.

“Before all things, even service to God, we must love God with all our hearts. It is the highest priority in life! It is the first question for every theologian, every pastor, every missionary. It is the quintessential question for everyone who wants to please God.” (58)

“What appears at first glance to be success, is not necessarily success in God’s economy.” (58)

Love liberates us in four ways (59–60):

  1. It places our lives and ministries beyond the fallible, oppressive judgment of the quantifiers—the statistic keepers.
  2. It liberates us from the destructive tendency to compare ourselves with others.
  3. It frees and motivates us to live our life’s highest priority [loving God].
  4. It is freeing to the whole church, regardless of status, because loving God is something equally open to all.

3 Ways to Cultivate More Love for God (60–61):

  1. Be honest in examining yourself and your current love for him.
  2. Cultivate earnestly the conscious inner ability to love him while we serve him.
  3. Spend special time with him.

Part two shares four more biblical elements of ministry success.