verb — [ho-de-geh-oh]
definition: to assist in reaching a desired destination; lead, guide; to assist someone in acquiring information or knowledge; teach, explain, instruct.
πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην ἐὰν μή τις ὁδηγήσει με; (Acts 8:31)
An Ethiopian eunuch, traveling home on the Gaza road, was confused reading the prophet Isaiah. Directed by the Spirit, Philip ran over to the chariot and asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. He answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31 ESV, NAS), unless someone “explains it to me” (NIV, The Message). Then he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Forms of the word hodegeo are also used in passages such as Matthew 15:14 and Luke 6:39 referring to “blind leading the blind.” It is also used in John 16:13 where Jesus promises that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Until yesterday, I had never heard, or at least paid attention to, someone explaining this word. I’ve lauded exegesis and paid thousands of dollars for almost a decade of training to avoid eisegesis. Interestingly enough, MacArthur, Boice, and Barclay make no comment whatsoever about the use of hodegeo in Acts 8:31 (and I mention them because those are the commentaries on Acts I own). I had to hear about hodegesis from Eugene Peterson (yes, that Eugene Peterson).
“The Greek words for “explain” and “guide” share the same verbal root, “to lead,” and have a common orientation in and concern for the text. But the explainer, the exegete, leads the meaning out of the text; the guide, the hodegete, leads you in the way (hodos) of the text.”(Working the Angles, 128)
Peterson illustrates the nuance of hodegesis like this:
“It is the difference between the shopkeeper who sells maps of the wilderness and the person who goes with you into it, risking the dangers, helping to cook the meals, and sharing the weather.”(Ibid.)
Don’t get me wrong. I.♥.exegesis. Let’s give three cheers for exegesis! I’m just surprised that this exegetical, hodegetical bushwhacker of a word hasn’t lead the way more often.
When I began pursuing a call to gospel ministry, and even as I started studying gospel theology and pastoral responsibility, I did not realize how much more was required than faithful proclamation of the gospel message on Sundays and at funerals. There are a thousand and one ways to get exegesis and theology wrong. The temptations for a preacher to compromise or remain silent are legion. But proclaiming the gospel with accuracy, boldness, and constancy is not as difficult as also ministering the gospel through dying, forgiving, and hoping.
Around and since my ordination, I’ve developed a few convictions about personal pastoral practice. A call to gospel ministry requires (at least) sacrificial service and suffering, reconciling and peace-making travail, and consuming, happy confidence in God’s promises.
A preacher’s work extends beyond the sacred desk (the pulpit) and beyond his study desk (in private). A preacher works with people, not merely at people or for people, and they often cause him pain. The preacher is called to model the gospel in a life of death.
Maybe some day I’ll write out posts for a few messages I taught from 2 Corinthians 4, but in summary, the privilege of gospel ministry includes slaving for others. Service is gospel work. Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve. Those who would lead like Jesus must be servants. So Paul said, “what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
The privilege of gospel ministry also involves suffering. That, too, is gospel work. Jesus gave His life for us. Those who would lead like Jesus must also die. Paul said not only that he was brought to the breaking point over and over, but also that death was at work in him (which means that ministry is a dying life). He wrote:
[we are] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
In Colossians 1:24 he wrote that “in [his] flesh” he was “filling up what [was] lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Like Paul, a pastor’s death isn’t redemptive, but it is illustrative of Christ and the gospel. We proclaim a message of death and resurrection from a platform of dying.
A preacher doing the work of an evangelist preaches forgiveness. First and foremost he implores men, “be reconciled to God.” The gospel, Jesus’ substitutionary punishment taking, enables God to be righteous and forgive our unrighteousness. Vertical forgiveness restores relationship between God and repentant rebels. That is the powerful work of the gospel.
Horizontal forgiveness is secondary but it is not less relevant. In fact, because restored relationships between men and other men are only possible due to Christ’s work on the cross, we devalue the gospel to the degree that we don’t insist and work for sinners to be reconciled to each other. Pastors are called to preach, counsel, and mediate reconciliation. They must also model forgiveness.
We prove nothing about the value or power of the gospel if we only love those who follow our lead, who compliment our sermons, and who rewrite their mental theology as soon as we speak. We’re not in the wrong place if there are others who hurt us. We’re in a better place to show how fantastic forgiveness looks.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, all Christians are called to put on tender hearts like Christ, forgiving each other as Christ forgave us. Those called to gospel ministry work to equip others to practice forgiveness for the sake of Body unity. Practicing personal forgiveness builds the platform for preaching. Shepherds should be out on the Forgiveness Front as examples to the flock.
Preachers preach the “best” good news; none have a more hopeful message than those in the gospel ministry. And yet, it’s a short downhill slide into discouragement and pessimism. We see dead men everywhere. Many of the spiritually living men we’re around struggle with doubt and disobedience. We counsel broken people in broken relationships. We work against the flow in a fallen world and our efforts often appear futile. Plus, last week’s offering was low, again.
Thing is, the gospel doesn’t require good circumstances for its effect. In fact, the gospel presupposes problems, problems that are above every preacher’s pay grade. It is good news precisely because things are bad. The gospel makes alive! The gospel grows! The gospel sanctifies! The gospel heals! Because of the gospel promises, no ministry death is wasted. Fruit will be yielded in due season and our resurrection cannot be concealed. We can serve, suffer, die, and forgive with indulgence.
Yes, we’ll be burdened when we see sin in ourselves and in our flocks. Suffering is called suffering for a reason. But we have been born again to a living hope! Of all the things people observe of gospel ministers, humble and explosive hope should be obvious. It’s an area in which I’m working to make progress.
Throwing around the word “gospel” is ironically faddish. It has emerged as a cover for all kinds of “evangelical” activity. But we shouldn’t let those who don’t appreciate the call define the call. I’ll admit that my understanding was not then what it is now. The call to gospel ministry is much bigger and more comprehensive and costly and applicable than I realized. I anticipate it only intensifies from here, and I’m looking forward to it.
On laughing as responsible leadership:
For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.—King Lune in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
On laughing as hard humility:
[K]ings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness….It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
On laughing as Calvinist worship:
If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.—John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel
Meals that are centered on gratitude and thanksgiving—like harvest home festivals and this Eucharistic meal—are never times for grabbing and getting your own. We not allowed to pretend that the blessing we enjoy begins with us. We must not refuse the son of David if the son of David is the one who set the table in the first place. And He has, and so we come with gratitude and a willingness to imitate the attitude that blessed us, which means a willingness to share and to overflow.
—Doug Wilson, Nabals at the Supper
I’ve been toying with Google Chrome as a secondary browser (after Safari) since the Mac beta became available. A new version is available today as explained in this post, Pedal to the Chrome Metal. Whether you read the post or not, whether you try Chrome or not, you should at least watch this video. Loading (and filming) 2700 frames per second is taking dominion type of work.
I grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player. I dreamed of standing on a well-manicured, thick, dark green grass infield, singing the National Anthem, and waiting for the umpire to yell, “Play ball!” Playing ball was virtually the only occupational desire I had, at least until the summer before my senior year of high school.
My summers were filled with baseball. The summer before my junior year I joined a traveling team and missed eight weeks in a row of Sunday services. Even in my state of spiritual immaturity I knew that if my soul was going to survive, I would have to do something I had never done before: read my Bible on my own. And I did. It wasn’t deep study. I used the Campus Journal booklet, a “student” (read: “dumbed down”) version of Our Daily Bread. But reading a verse, or part of a verse, and a couple paragraphs of thoughts, heated my cup of zeal hotter than ever. Sadly, when school started I lapsed back into spiritual slackerness.
The summer before my senior year brought more baseball, more missing church, and more personal Bible reading. I loved it. I don’t remember anything I actually learned, but I do remember craving the Word.
The season ended and I attended our high school church camp. I actually paid attention during the sessions though I was easily satisfied with (what I now know was rather) milky truth. I delighted to talk about the Bible in our cabin, with fellow students and with staff leaders, as well as with my youth pastor. I wanted to serve and I volunteered at almost every opportunity.
A week later I went to our church’s junior high camp as a counselor. Again, I loved every part. I had no idea what major changes (in me) God was working.
One of the messages that week, the only one I remember, was about how to know the will of God. I had been taught that the perfect will of God was a line of successive dots and that each dot represented a choice. Our responsibility was to identify the next dot on God’s “perfect” path for us. Of course, if a person failed to connect the dots of God’s will then they would fall away from the line and urgently needed to swing back to be in His perfect will again.
This preacher had a brand new (to me) paradigm. He explained that God’s will, as clearly revealed in Scripture, is that one be saved, being Spirit-filled, making progress in sanctification, and submitting to authorities. If those things are in order, then God’s will for us may be whatever we desire most.
Psalm 37:4 provides the governing principle. If we delight ourselves in the LORD, then He will give us the desires of our hearts. That sort of freedom sounds scandalous to some. But the idea is that if He is our greatest want, then He is working in us accompanying wants that accord with Him.
I was obeying God with a clear conscience (while I acknowledge now that a better informed conscience would have challenged me regarding my church absenteeism). The possibility that God’s will was what I most wanted floored me but also filled me with fear, especially because my increasing and consuming desire was to serve Him in full-time ministry. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than feeding on the Bible, telling others about Christ, and serving His Body.
I didn’t tell anyone about my thinking for over a month. I had seen too many disavowed “camp decisions.” I was not the son of a pastor, nor was I aware of any vocational ministry types in our extended family. I finally communicated with my youth pastor who could hardly have been more excited. Soon after I told my parents and, though my dad was thoroughly against it for some time, the desire in my heart grew stronger.
Everything changed that August in 1991, though not overnight. I pursued baseball through my sophomore year of college and now I look at the fancy grass from the bleachers. Back then I had no idea how much I didn’t know about the call to gospel ministry. I never would have guessed the road would lead to where I am today. Almost nothing I expected has happened, and almost everything that has happened has been better than I could have imagined.
 I do not recommended this approach to determining God’s call, that is, neglecting the assembling for few months. Like I said, I had a lot to learn.
 I don’t remember the preacher’s name. I also don’t know if he plagiarized John MacArthur’s book, Found: God’s Will_, first published in 1973. Either way, I’m thankful for both of them.
I read chapter two of The Silver Chair to the kids last night before bed (my first time through, too). Jill meets Aslan, and he explains the reason he called her away from Experiment House and reveals her mission. Before blowing her to Narnia, Aslan urges and warns Jill.
[R]emember, remember, remember the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind form following the Signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the Signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.(p. 21, emphasis added)
The parallels resonate in my head. There are times, often mountaintop type times, when our fellowship with the Lord is pronounced, when we better perceive His nearness. Also during those times His Word appears quite clear. It’s appropriate to linger with Him and rehearse our instructions, burning them into our minds for later when things may not be so obvious. The truth never changes, but we tend to forget it, and it may look different depending on where we’re standing and how much we’re entangled by seen things. We will have done well to memorize our mission and the promises He’s given.
I still have Snow Retreat on the brain. It’s been my own experience, and observation of other’s experiences, that a Bible-driven retreat can be a similar time of tasting that the Lord is good. The fact that our perception isn’t exactly the same once back down the mountain doesn’t necessarily mean that what was heard and seen was without substance. In fact, we are more accountable for, not excused from, commitments made in clearer air. We must take great care to remember the signs.
At the prayer meeting, not many people ask for prayer so that they might taper off in their adulteries, or their thefts, or all the lies they are spreading around town. But [bitterness, envy, anger, and pride] are respectable—we have a delicate way of acknowledging them without really dealing with them. And one of the reasons we get away with touching on them lightly is that the main problem is clearly … the other guy’s.
—Doug Wilson, Getting Your Eyes Off the Other Guy