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Rightly Understanding God’s Word: Whole-Book Context, Part 2, by Craig S. Keener

Part of the Rightly Understanding God’s Word series by Craig S. Keener.

As appearing in Pneuma Review Spring 2004.

 

Take a course on biblical interpretation with New Testament scholar, Professor Craig S. Keener.

Continued from Part 1 in the Winter 2004 issue 

 

8. The Spirit-baptized life in Mk 1:8-13

The Gospel of Mark explicitly mentions God’s Spirit only six times, but half of them appear in his introduction (1:8-13), where he introduces several of his central themes for his audience. His other uses emphasize the Spirit’s work in empowering Jesus for exorcism (Mk 3:29-30), Old Testament prophets to speak God’s message (12:26) or Jesus’ witnesses to speak his message (13:11).

In the introduction, John the Baptist announces the mighty one who will baptize others in the Holy Spirit (1:8); this Spirit-baptizer is Jesus of Nazareth. Immediately after this announcement, we see Jesus baptized and the Spirit coming on him (1:9-10). The Spirit-baptizer thus gives us a model of what the Spirit-baptized life will look like, for he himself receives the Spirit first. That is why what the Spirit does next appears all the more stunning: the Spirit thrusts Jesus into the wilderness for conflict with the devil (1:12-13). The Spirit-filled life is not a life of ease and comfort, but of conflict with the devil’s forces!

The rest of the Gospel of Mark continues this pattern. Shortly after Jesus emerges from the wilderness, he must confront an evil spirit in a religious gathering (1:21-27). Throughout the rest of the Gospel, Jesus continues to defeat the devil by healing the sick and driving out demons (cf. 3:27), while the devil continues to strike at Jesus through the devil’s religious and political agents. In the end, the devil manages to get Jesus killed—but Jesus triumphs by rising from the dead.

The Gospel of Mark explicitly mentions God’s Spirit only six times, but half of them appear in his introduction (1:8-13), where he introduces several of his central themes for his audience.

In the same way, Jesus expects his disciples to heal the sick and drive out demons (3:14-15; 4:40; 6:13; 9:19, 28-29; 11:22-24), and also to join him in suffering (8:34-38; 10:29-31, 38-40; 13:9-13). His disciples seemed happier to share his triumphs than his sufferings, but the Gospel of Mark emphasizes that we cannot share his glory without also sharing his suffering. That lesson remains as relevant for modern disciples as for ancient ones!

 

9. How to Make Disciples in Matthew 28:18-20

The immediate context of 28:18-20 provides us examples for how to testify about Christ (28:1-10) and how not to testify about Christ (28:11-15). But the context of the whole Gospel of Matthew further informs how we should read this passage, especially because it is the conclusion of the Gospel and readers would have finished the rest of this Gospel by the time they reach it.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2004

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. sites.google.com/site/drckeener

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