live-blogged by Andy Naselli

Live from the chapel on the campus at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

Students, faculty, and guests are gathering for a much anticipated lecture by Dr. Phil Ryken. At 3:00 PM CST, Ryken is scheduled to present the latest Scripture and Ministry lecture (sponsored by the Henry Center): “The Suffering and the Glory: Pastoral Ministry in Union with Christ.”

About Phil Ryken

From Ryken’s bio (which also lists most of his books):

Dr. Ryken holds degrees from Wheaton (B.A.), Westminster (M.Div.), and the University of Oxford (D.Phil.). He is on the Board of Trustees at both Wheaton College and Westminster, and is an Executive Board Member with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Philip Graham Ryken is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he has preached since 1995. He is Bible Teacher for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, speaking nationally on the radio program Every Last Word. Dr. Ryken was educated at Wheaton College (IL), Westminster Theological Seminary (PA) and the University of Oxford (UK), from which he received his doctorate in historical theology. He lives with his wife (Lisa) and children (Josh, Kirsten, Jack, Kathryn, and Karoline) in Center City, Philadelphia. When he is not preaching or playing with his family, he likes to read books, shoot baskets and ponder the relationship between Christian faith and American culture.

Lecture Overview

Here is how the Henry Center has described the lecture:

What is the meaning and purpose of suffering in the work of pastoral ministry? What hope do we have that preaching the gospel will make a lasting difference for Christ? The rich biblical doctrine of union with Christ provides a complete theological and practical context for understanding both tragedy and triumph in the ordinary work of the pastor.

Philip Ryken has experienced both the cross and the empty tomb in his ministry at Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, where he has preached for thirteen years. The author of thirty Bible commentaries and other books on Christianity, culture, and the church, Dr. Ryken has a passion for the local church and for connecting people in ministry to the life-giving work of the crucified and risen Christ.

1. Introduction

  • Seminaries are often criticized for teaching practical theology that is not all that practical.
  • But seminaries also teach theology that is not all that theological.
  • Philippians 3:10-11: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Thesis: Pastoral ministry is exercised in union with Christ, both in his humiliation and in his exaltation—the suffering and the glory.

2. The Doctrine of Union with Christ

  • Being connected to Christ is one of the central concerns of the NT.
  • Paul repeatedly emphasizes the necessity of being found “in Christ” (e.g., Phil. 3:9; Eph 1:3; 2 Cor 5:17).
  • Union with Christ is central to systematic theology, including predestination, election, justification, adoption, and sanctification.
  • Every aspect of salvation is wrapped up in union with Christ.
  • Union with Christ was a prominent theme in the theology of the Reformers (e.g., Calvin), post-Reformation theologians (e.g., Beza, Zanchius), Puritans (e.g., John Preston), and Princetonian theologians (e.g., Archibald Alexander).

3. I Want to Know Christ

  • Puritans often distinguished the work of Christ into his humiliation and his exaltation.
  • Humiliation is the work of Christ in suffering and dying for sin.
  • Exaltation is the work of Christ in conquering sin and death through his resurrection and ascension.
  • Both humiliation and exaltation are clearly in view in Philippians 3:10-11. The kais in verse 10 are epexegetical: what follows serves to explain what Paul meant by knowing Christ. He meant personally knowing Christ in his crucifixion and resurrection.
  • In order to attain this knowledge of Christ, Paul had to declare spiritual bankruptcy (Phil 3:4-7).
  • Paul knew Christ already, of course, but knowing Christ only made Paul want to know him all the more. He wanted to become ever more closely identified with the crucified and glorified Christ.
  • Paul’s aspiration to know Christ in his humiliation and exaltation usually is taken as a general comment on the Christian life, but what the apostle says about being united to Christ in suffering and glory should also be considered from the vantage point of Christian ministry. Paul was writing these words not simply as a Christian, but also as a minister of the gospel.
  • The doctrine of union with Christ thus provides the paradigm for a theology of pastoral ministry.

4. Becoming Like Him in His Death

  • To follow the pattern of Christ’s own ministry, in which the cross came before the crown, one must begin with the sufferings of the ministry. Pastoral ministry is not a matter of life and death, but a matter of death, then life (cf. Rom 8:17; 1 Pet. 4:13).
  • The biblical history of gospel proclamation is primarily a story of suffering. For every success there seem to be dozens of failures.
  • Example: Most of the Old Testament prophets were called to suffer (cf. Jer 1:17-19; Isa 6:8-10). Many faced rebellion from God’s people. Other suffered persecution (e.g., Elijah, Jeremiah). They anticipated the sufferings of Christ (cf. Heb 11:26). They suffered in union with Christ (cf. Luke 24:25-27; 1 Pet 1:11).
  • Jesus suffered many indignities at the hands of the evil men who plotted to have him killed. He was unlawfully arrested, unfairly accused, unjustly convicted, and unmercifully beaten. But he endured his greatest sufferings on the cross, where he died a God-forsaken death. Stephen challenged the Sanhedrin, “Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him” (Acts 7:52-53).
  • At the time of his death, the preaching ministry of Jesus Christ could hardly be judged anything except a failure. The main thing it seemed to accomplish was getting him killed.
  • Jesus’ followed suffered as well (e.g., Peter, Stephen, Paul). These men suffered all these things because they were united to Jesus Christ in his sufferings and death. In the context of his gospel ministry, Paul became like Christ in his death.

5. The Fellowship of Sharing in His Sufferings

  • What does this litany of misery teach about pastoral ministry? A call to pastoral ministry is not to be trifled with. Any minister who knows his Bible can hardly expect to escape suffering—specifically suffering for the cause of Christ.
  • An authentic pastoral theology must be adequate to the task of ministry under conditions of the most extreme hardship. Being united to Christ in the ministry of his gospel always involves conflict within the church and some measure of opposition from without. “The sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives” (2 Cor 1:5).
  • Nevertheless, many ministers are surprised by suffering because they have failed to grasp the implications of pastoral ministry in union with Christ. How rare it is—especially in America—to find a minister who desires fellowship with Christ if it includes sharing in his sufferings.
  • Paul’s joy in his suffering is striking (Col 1:24; 2 Cor 12:10).
  • There were two reasons for Paul’s readiness to share in Christ’s sufferings: (1) It was necessary for the evangelization of the lost (Col 1:24). (2) It afforded a deep, personal knowledge of Christ.
  • This does not mean that suffering needs to be sought out. The kind of spiritual intimacy that Paul sought comes not only from outward suffering, but also inwardly from dying to self (cf. 2 Cor 4:5a; 1 Cor 1:23a; Gal 2:20). As one aspect of his union with Christ, the pastor must die to self in all its hideous forms: self-indulgence, self-aggrandizement, self-love, and self-will. He must be dead to pride, dead to financial gain, dead to recognition and approval.

6. The Power of His Resurrection

  • Paul’s ministry a gospel ministry grounded in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
  • The power of Christ’s resurrection is the life-giving power of God the Holy Spirit. (This is Trinitarian theology.) The Holy Spirit is the effective transforming agent of God’s resurrection power (cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11).
  • The resurrection gives power for gospel ministry. It was not until Jesus was raised from the dead that his preaching achieved lasting effect.
  • The resurrection was not simply the basis for the apostles’ message, but it was also the source of their power.
  • Through the preaching of the risen Christ, the Spirit is inaugurating the glories of the coming age. Practical theology is not merely a theology of the cross but a theology of glory.
  • The Spirit has the power to regenerate, sanctify, and glorify.
  • The Spirit is at work not only in a minister’s evident successes, but also in his apparent failures. Paul viewed his ministry from the vantage point of the cross (suffering) and empty tomb (glory).
  • Many of the greatest glories of preaching are deferred benefits. The hope of deferred glory is of particular encouragement to men who are discouraged by their apparent fruitlessness in gospel ministry.
  • Charles Spurgeon: “Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for recompensing joy hereafter.”
  • The apostle Paul was looking for that recompensing joy (Phil 3:14, 20b-4:1a; 1 Thess 1:19-20).

7. Conclusion

  • The exaltation of a pastoral ministry, which is rarely glimpsed in this life, will be fully displayed only at the Second Coming, when God will reveal his Son in the risen church.
  • When—somehow—we attain to that resurrection, we will know Christ’s power to the fullest measure.

The lecture closed with Q&A. The audio for the lecture and Q&A should be available shortly here.