Author Archive

Outlining 1 John 2:15-17 – Part 1


by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

How would you determine your sermon outline for 1 John 2:15-17? In a two-part post, I will attempt to answer this question.

Linguists now point out the fact that meaning is structured beyond the sentence level. When the preacher restricts his focus to the sentence level and to clauses and phrases in verses, there is much that is missed in the paragraph or larger discourse that contributes to the overall meaning and interpretation. The paragraph unit is best used as the basic unit of meaning in expounding the text of Scripture. Expositional preaching of the New Testament letters should, at minimum, deal with a paragraph.

For this post, it will be helpful for you to have a Bible in front of you. First John 2:15-17 is the seventh paragraph unit in John’s epistle (based on the Greek text) and the passage is clearly demarcated as a paragraph unit both structurally and thematically. Notice there is one imperatival verb in the paragraph and it occurs at the very beginning. This turns out to be of some significance for the meaning and structure of the paragraph, and thus for our outline. Linguistically, an imperative outweighs other indicative verbs on the prominence scale. When an imperative occurs in a paragraph, it is almost always diagnostic of hortatory genre – that is, a text which is issuing a command to do something or to refrain from doing something. Usually, such an imperatival clause will function as conveying the most prominent information in the paragraph from a semantic standpoint.

How many sentences are there in the Greek text of 1 John 2:15-17? According to the UBS fourth edition Greek New Testament, there are three: sentence one is verse 15a, sentence two is vv. 15b-16 and sentence three is v. 17. If you are working from an English translation, most have four sentences: sentence one is v. 15a, sentence two is v. 15b, sentence three is v. 16 and sentence four is v. 17.

The key goal in exegesis for sermon prep is to determine the structure of the passage. The key procedure in this process is to identify the independent (main) clauses and the dependent (subordinate) clauses and analyze their relationship grammatically and semantically to one another. Sentence one (v. 15a) is clearly an independent clause composed of a present imperative followed by a compound direct object.

Sentence two (vv. 15b-16) is introduced by a conditional clause “If anyone loves the world . . . .” Verse 16 continues sentence two since it is introduced with the conjunction gar in Greek which is usually translated “for” and which always introduces a clause, sentence or even paragraph that is subordinate to the previous clause, sentence or paragraph.

Verse 17 constitutes sentence three and is introduced by the coordinating conjunction kai in Greek which is normally translated “and,” although it can be left untranslated in certain circumstances when it begins a new sentence or paragraph. Note that this sentence is a compound sentence joining two clauses with the adversative conjunction de in Greek translated “but.”  “The world is passing away” conjoins “the one who does the will of God abides forever” with the adversative conjunction “but” expressing semantically the notion of contrast. The first clause in this sentence has a compound subject: “the world and everything in it” which is “passing away.” The second clause in the sentence has an articular participial clause “The one who does” followed by the direct object “the will of God.” This entire clause “The one who does the will of God” functions as the subject of the verb “remains.”

Sentence one (v. 15a) contains a single compound independent clause: “Love not the world neither the things in the world.” Sentence two (vv. 15b-16) contains a dependent conditional clause “if anyone loves the world” followed by a contrasting independent clause “the love of the father is not in him.” This is followed by a third dependent clause introduced in Greek by hoti, “because.” This third clause is rather lengthy, however a little reflection will bring out the syntax clearly. The subject of this clause is “All that is in the world.” This subject is followed by what is called an “appositive” phrase in grammar: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” This triple compound phrase further defines the meaning of “all that is in the world” and functions as an equivalent phrase, which is the meaning of “appositive” in grammar. Sentence three (v. 17) contains two independent clauses conjoined by “but.”

In order to develop a text-driven sermon outline, we need to answer three questions:

1. How are these three sentences related to each other syntactically and semantically?

2. Which of the three sentences contains the most prominent information?

3. What is the main theme expressed in the paragraph?

Part two of this post will begin with these questions and move to developing a text-driven outline for 1 John 2:15-17.

Developing Sermon Outlines — Dr. David L. Allen


Thank you, Dr. David L. Allen
SBCToday is delighted and appreciative regarding Dr. David L. Allen’s signal contributions to this blog in the past, and is even more deeply pleased to announce his commitment to post articles here every other week on Thursdays. Dr. Allen has distinguished himself in a variety of ways as a Southern Baptist statesman, as his biograph below reveals. SBCToday expresses heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Allen, and looks forward to many more salient, encouraging posts from his prolific pen.

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Dr. Allen responds to commentors


by David L. Allen
Dean, School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I appreciate all those who commented on my 3-part post — titled “On the Insufficiency of the Notion of Sufficiency Among Some Calvinists” –  both with respect to content and, for the most part, with respect to tone as well. My intention here is to respond only to the salient questions or disagreements voiced in the comments. I will follow this with a brief conclusion.

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On the Insufficiency of the Notion of Sufficiency Among Some Calvinists, part 3 of 3


by David L. Allen
Dean, School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

(Ed’s. note: A careful researcher and Southern Baptist statesman, Dr. Allen does not ascribe a singular view of Christ’s atonement to all Calvinists, universally; however, his sensitive use of qualifying terms provide both clarity and distinction regarding the topic at-hand.)

VII. The Problem Illustrated in the Southern Baptist Calvinism Advisory Committee Statement

I was privileged to be a part of the SBC’s Calvinism Advisory Committee and the resulting statement “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension.” I believe it is a helpful statement and serves as a good launching pad for further discussion. Documents of this nature sometimes contain some understandable ambiguity for the sake of unity. Let me state at the outset that I believe every signatory of the statement acted with a clear conscience and in good faith.

Consider the following two statements on this issue of “sufficiency” in “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension” on the subject of the Atonement of Christ:

We affirm that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was both penal and substitutionary and that the atonement He accomplished was sufficient for the sins of the entire world. We deny that there is anything lacking in the atonement of Christ to provide for the salvation of anyone.

In the section on “Tensions,” the following statement occurs:

“We agree that the penal and substitutionary death of Christ was sufficient for the sins of the entire world, but we differ as to whether Jesus actually substituted for the sins of all people or only the elect.”

In the spirit of the document’s call for continued dialogue, here is a question for those who affirm limited atonement: How can one affirm both of the above statements consistently? Notice in both statements the language “sufficient for the sins of the entire world” is used. As argued above, how can the atonement in any meaningful sense be said to be sufficient for the sins of the non-elect since there is no atonement for the sins of the non-elect? It would seem Calvinists who affirm limited atonement are forced to use the word “sufficient” only in a hypothetical way, which does not solve the problem. In fact, it creates a logical problem, a theological problem, and a practical problem with respect to preaching and evangelism. This tension has been pointed out by many Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike since the Reformation.[9]

All who affirm limited atonement face the problem of the free offer of the gospel. In their system, the atonement is actually only sufficient for those who believe.

VIII. Conclusion.

Strict Calvinists eventually cloud the issue of sufficiency when they tell us that Christ’s death is sufficient in the sense that if anyone believes the gospel, he will find a sufficient atonement for his sins. Therefore, all people are saveable insofar as if anyone believes, then he will be saved. Well of course! No one doubts that! That proposition is true as far as it goes because it only speaks to the causal relationship between faith and salvation: anyone who truly believes will certainly be saved. But strict Calvinists exhibit their confusion on this issue when asked why this is so. Their response: because there is an atonement of infinite value able to be applied to the one who believes. Of course there is. But ask the question this way: suppose one of the non-elect should believe, could they be saved? Not according to the limited atonement position because no satisfaction for sins exists for the non-elect.[10] (Ed’s. note: Be sure to read footnotation #10. It is powerful.)

Imagine that Christ had not died at all on the cross. Now, in such a scenario, imagine this statement: “If anyone believes in Christ, he shall be saved.” Such a statement is meaningless nonsense and is, in fact, false. In this scenario, there is no means provided for anyone to be saved regardless of whether they believe. This is precisely where the non-elect stand in relation to the cross of Christ and their sin in the limited atonement scheme.

My argument is simple: If there is no atonement for some people, then those people are not saveable. If no atonement exists for some, how is it possible that the gospel can be offered to those people for whom no atonement exists? If anyone is not saveable, he is not offerable. One cannot offer the gospel in any consistent way to someone for whom no atonement exists. Strict Calvinists cannot have it both ways. Either Christ has substituted for the sins of all men or He has not.[11]

This is the huge blind spot most strict Calvinists exhibit. Most Southern Baptists have long staked their claim that all people can be saved because Christ died for all.[12] Universal atonement grounds the free offer of the gospel to all people.

There is a provision of forgiveness for all to whom the gospel comes. There is a provision of forgiveness for all who come to the gospel.

[9] See my “The Atonement: Limited or Universal?” in Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, D. Allen & S. Lemke, eds. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 61-108.

[10] Some may try to evade the issue by arguing that the non-elect will not believe because they cannot believe apart from effectual calling. There are two problems with this response. First, it begs the question whether the Reformed understanding of total depravity as total inability and the Reformed notion of effectual calling are correct. Second, even if these are correct, the problem is not lessened: one cannot offer something to another in good faith when that “something” does not exist.

[11] See my critique of D. A. Carson on his ambiguous use of “sufficiency” with respect to the extent of the atonement in David L. Allen, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal?” in Whosoever Will, 89-91.

[12] This is certainly the implication of the following statement in the Article on Man in the Baptist Faith and Message: “The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”

On the Insufficiency of the Notion of Sufficiency Among Some Calvinists, part 2 of 3


by David L. Allen
Dean, School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

(Ed’s. note: A careful researcher and Southern Baptist statesman, Dr. Allen does not ascribe a singular view of Christ’s atonement to all Calvinists, universally; however, his sensitive use of qualifying terms provide both clarity and distinction regarding the topic at-hand.)

IV. John Owen’s Problematic Revision of the Lombardian Formula

When John Owen formulated his argument for limited atonement, he did so using the problematic categories of a commercialistic sense of the atonement where the sins of the elect only were imputed to Christ. This approach led Owen to modify the traditional sufficiency-efficiency model originally promulgated by Peter Lombard and accepted by all the Schoolmen and the early Reformers: “sufficient for all; efficient for the elect.” This modification prompted Richard Baxter, who himself held to an unlimited atonement, to call Owen’s sleight-of-hand “a new futile evasion.”[5] For Owen, as for all who affirm limited atonement, the atonement can only be sufficient for those for whom it is efficient. Forget the fact, according to all Calvinists, that the non-elect will not be saved given God’s discriminating purpose of election; this particular problem involves the fact that there is no atonement made for them in the first place! Double jeopardy indeed!

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