From John Piper: Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker!

19 06 2009

Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker!

by John Piper, The Standard, June 1983, 18-19. Used by permission.
A slightly revised version of this article now also appears in Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Broadman & Holman, 2002).

“As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us as hard contend with its language”

Last year Baker Book House reissued a 1969 book of daily Scripture readings in Hebrew and Greek called Light on the Path. The readings are quite short, and vocabulary helps are given with the Hebrew verses. The aim of the editor, who died in 1980, was to help pastors preserve and improve their ability to interpret the Bible from the original languages.

His name was Heinrich Bitzer, and he was a banker.

A banker! Brothers, must we be admonished by the sheep what our responsibility is as shepherds? Evidently so. For we are surely not admonishing and encouraging each other to press on in Greek and Hebrew. And most seminaries-evangelical as well as liberal-have communicated by their curriculum emphases that learning Greek and Hebrew well is merely optional for the pastoral ministry.

I have a debt to pay to Heinrich Bitzer, and I would like to discharge it by exhorting all of us to ponder his thesis:

“The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry! (p.10).

A Plague of Uncertainty

What happens to a denomination where a useful knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is not cherished and promoted as crucial for the pastoral office? (I don’t mean offered and admired. I mean cherished, promoted and sought.)

Several things happen as the original languages fall into disuse among pastors. First, the confidence of pastors to determine the precise meaning of biblical texts diminishes. And with the confidence to interpret rigorously goes the confidence to preach powerfully. You can’t preach week in and week out over the whole range of God’s revelation with depth and power if you are plagued with uncertainty when you venture beyond basic gospel generalities.

Second, the uncertainty of having to depend on differing human translations (which always involve much interpretation) will tend to discourage careful textual analysis in sermon preparation. For as soon as you start attending to crucial details (like tenses, conjunctions and vocabulary repetitions), you realize the translations are too diverse to provide a sure basis for such analysis.

So the preacher often contents himself with the general focus or flavor of the text, and his exposition lacks the precision and clarity which excite a congregation with the Word of God.

Expository preaching, therefore, falls into disuse and disfavor. I say disfavor because we often tend to protect ourselves from difficult tasks by belittling or ignoring their importance. So what we find in groups where Greek and Hebrew are not cherished and pursued and promoted is that expository preaching (which devotes a good bit of the sermon to explaining the original meaning of the texts) is not much esteemed by the clergy or taught in the seminaries.

Sometimes this is evident in outright denunciation of schoolish exposition. More often there is simply a benign neglect; and the emphasis on valuable sermonic features (like order, diction, illustration and relevance) crowds out the need for careful textual exposition.

Another result when pastors do not study the Bible in Greek and Hebrew is that they (and their churches with them) tend to become second-handers. The harder it is for us to get at the original meaning of the Bible, the more we will revert to the secondary literature. For one thing, it is easier to read. It also gives us a superficial glow that we are “keeping up” on things. And it provides us with ideas and insights which we can’t dig out of the original for ourselves.

We may impress one another for a while by dropping the name of the latest book, but second-hand food will not sustain and deepen our people’s faith and holiness.

The Mother of Liberalism

Weakness in Greek and Hebrew also gives rise to exegetical imprecision and carelessness. And exegetical imprecision is the mother of liberal theology.

Where pastors by and large can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of biblical texts, they will tend to become close-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended relativists who don’t put much stock in doctrinal formulations. In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error.

Further, when we fail to stress the use of Greek and Hebrew as crucial in the pastoral office we create an eldership of professional academicians. We surrender to the seminaries and universities essential dimensions of our responsibility as elders and overseers of the churches.

Acts 20:27 charges us with the proclamation of “the whole counsel of God.” But we look more and more to the professional academicians for books which fit the jagged pieces of revelation into a unified whole. Acts 20:28 charges us to take heed for the flock and guard it from wolves who rise up in the church and speak perverse things. But we look more and more to the linguistic and historical specialists to fight our battles for us in books and articles. We have, by and large, lost the biblical vision of a pastor as one who is mighty in the Scriptures, apt to teach, competent to confute opponents and able to penetrate to the unity of the whole counsel of God.

Is it healthy or biblical for the church to cultivate an eldership of pastors (weak in the Word) and an eldership of professors (strong in the Word)?

The Pastor Debased

One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is the debasement of the pastoral office. From the seminaries to the denominational headquarters, the prevalent mood and theme is managerial, organizational and psychological. And we think thereby to heighten our professional self-esteem! Hundreds of teachers and leaders put the mastery of the Word first with their lips, but by their curriculums, conferences, seminars and personal example show that it is anything but foremost.

One glaring example is the nature of the Doctor of Ministry programs across the country.

The theory is good: continuing education makes for better ministers. But where can you do a D.Min. in Hebrew language and exegesis? Yet what is more important and more deeply practical for the pastoral office than advancing in Greek and Hebrew exegesis by which we mine God’s treasures?

Why then do hundreds of young and middle-aged pastors devote years of effort to everything but the languages when pursuing continuing education? And why do seminaries not offer incentives and degrees to help pastors maintain the most important pastoral skill-exegesis of the original meanings of Scripture?

No matter what we say about the inerrancy of the Bible, our actions reveal our true convictions about its centrality and power.

We need to recover our vision of the pastoral office which embraces, if nothing else, the passion and power to understand the original revelation of God. We need to pray for the day when pastors can carry their Greek Testaments to conferences and seminars without being greeted with one-liners. The day when the esteem for God’s Word and its careful exposition is so high among pastors that the few who neglect to bring their Testaments will go home to study. The day when prayer and grammar will meet each other with great spiritual combustion.

Never Too Late

In 1829 the 24-year-old George Muller wrote, “I now studied much, about 12 hours a day, chiefly Hebrew … [and] committed portions of the Hebrew Old Testament to memory; and this I did with prayer, often falling on my knees…. I looked up to the Lord even whilst turning over the leaves of my Hebrew dictionary” (Autobiography, p. 31).

In the Methodist Archives of Manchester you can see the two-volume Greek Testament of the evangelist George Whitefield liberally furnished with notes on the interleaved paper. He wrote of his time at Oxford, “Though weak, I often spent two hours in my evening retirements and prayed over my Greek Testament, and Bishop Hall’s most excellent Contemplations, every hour that my health would permit” (Dallimore, Whitefield, I, p. 77).

Brothers, perhaps the vision can grow with your help. It is never too late to learn the languages. There are men who began after retirement! It is not a question of time but of values.

Continuing education is being pursued everywhere. Let’s give heed to the word of Martin Luther: “As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us as hard contend with its language.” Bitzer did. And Bitzer was a banker!

Atheists watch Joel Osteen…are we surprised? Nope…

5 05 2009

Oh man, isn’t this an illustration of what modern “Christianity” has become!

Joel Osteen is going to preach at Yankee Stadium.

Here is a link to the article from CWN:

To whet your appatite while the other page loads…here is a great comment from the article:

(Joel speaking)

I’ve had atheists tell me that they watch me on TV.

No kidding…but doesn’t the natural man hate the things of God?

Yes, yes he does…lucky for them what Joel preaches has nothing to do with the gospel…

Grab that barf bag and hit the link…

Just when I was cozy and comfortable in my disobedience of the command to preach the gospel, along comes this.

13 12 2008

Brother Rand over at “A form of Sound Words” is a Street Preacher who lives in Canada and hits the streets every Friday night with his pastor, Pastor Tim.

I have been going out to the local University to preach with my pastor, Pastor John. We’ve been doing this on Friday nights. There are a lot of people on the streets surrounding the campus even in horribly cold weather, and all hours of the night.

But for the last two weeks I’ve stayed home.


Last night it was because I was cold and tired and had not coordinated with my partner John.

Or was it?

Sadly, after reading brother Rand’s post below, God has used this to convict my heart. It wasn’t the cold, and it wasn’t the lack of coordination…it was disobedience. Pure and simple. I have no one to blame, no one to look at and point a finger. I cared more about my comfort and warmth than I did about the Lord.

And I’m ashamed.

Here is Brother Rand’s post:


When the temperature drops down to -15C (3 degrees Fahrenheit), -25C (-17 Fahrenheit) with the windchill, street preaching requires a much higher level of determination and resolve. Praise be to God who gave us the ability and will to labour in the cold for the Truth’s sake tonight, and that for over 3 hours.

It was another evil old night out in the marketplace again; complete with blasphemy, drunkenness, immorality, wrath and other forms of ungodliness. Pastor Tim and I, with our Bible signs, didn’t go unnoticed by the devil’s people. We were despised and mocked by the overwhelming majority… only a small handful accepted some Bible literature, and fewer still listened to our preaching. It was and is somewhat disheartening, but our souls look to our God, for our hope is from and in him.

The bitter cold wind kept me from distributing Gospel tracts near the shopping mall, so I walked around downtown with my Bible sign in an effort to keep warm while presenting God’s Word to sinners. I got only one vocal response:

“Are you in a cult or something?” a woman asked.

“I’m a Christian,” I replied.

“Well, I don’t believe in ‘sin’,” the woman said pointing to my Bible sign.

“You will,” I replied. “When God judges you, you’ll believe in the concept, and when God condemns you for your sin, you’ll understand the gravity of your error.”

“Whatever happened to God being love,” the woman replied with a few curses afterwards.

“He is love,” I said, “and He is holy, true and just.”

The woman, at this point, was beside herself and just yelled obscenities at me. I shrugged and moved along. The Lord be merciful to her.

Another woman walked up to me as I was quoting John 3:16-18 in my preaching, and said:

“Instead of just preaching Scripture, why don’t you just help people?”

“I am helping people, miss.” I replied. “I’m helping them by preaching the one thing that can give them spiritual life.”

“But I don’t even listen to you, I care nothing for your words,” the woman said.

“That’s because you’re dead, miss, spiritually dead in sin,” I replied.

“Hey!” she snapped, “I have Roman Catholic ancestry!”

“I couldn’t care less about that, miss,” I said.

I tried to explain to her that the two sons of the prophet Samuel had “godly ancestry” (not saying there is anything godly about Romanism), but they were still wretches before both man and God. I say “I tried” because the woman would hear nothing of it. She left with her bottle of wine under her arm, satisfied with her opinions and self-justifications. How sad.

Shortly after this, two sodomites decided to smoke marijuana right behind our street preaching spot in an attempt to aggravate us. We continued with our preaching, all the while being watchful against any other mischief from these wicked souls. They eventually left us, without making much of a fuss. Thank you, Lord.

It was right after the homosexuals left that I noticed four young ladies standing around our 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Bible sign: three of them were pointing out specific sins in the list, laughing over the fact that they were guilty of these, while the fourth Jezebel took a picture of her friends and the sign. I just had to shake my head. It did remind me of how Romans 1 ends:

“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:32)

As our night of preaching drew to a close, a young woman came out of one of the pubs and asked pastor Tim and I if we had seen any suspicious persons or activities on the strip of road where we were preaching. She explained that she and another young lady had had their purses stolen and was hoping that we had seen something that could help her recover her lost belongings; sadly, neither pastor Tim or I had seen anything. This whole incident made my sad night of preaching even sadder. Think about it: two weeks before Christmas, this young lady probably lost a fair amount of money, her credit cards, her health card, driver’s license and probably a few more important documents/objects, and the person who stole these from her is probably laughing right now, being quite pleased with his/her score.

What an evil world.

“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 John 5:19)

With that, I close the notes, dear readers. It’s been a pretty sad night of preaching… the experience somewhat wearisome… I think a good night of rest will do me good.

Have a blessed weekend, dear saints of God, and enjoy the Lord’s Day.


“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

Rick Warren biffs it again…somebody put a muzzle on this guy…

7 12 2008

After seeing this so many times over and over….the question that comes to my mind is this:

Does Rick Warren EVEN KNOW what the Gospel IS?

I’m not sure he does…nobody is this deceptive…uh that is except Rick Warren.

Uh Rick, if you need someone to write the actual gospel of Jesus Christ on some recipe cards that you can carry with you and read from, I’d be happy to do it.

In the mean time, everyone else just pull up a chair, strap on your barf bag and take a look:

Thanks to A little Leaven for this information.

New Link Alert: American Gospel Missions

8 11 2008

I’d like to announce another resource being added to the links at the right hand side of my blog page. This one is near and dear to my heart. American Gospel Missions

For those of you who’ve preached on the street, or for those of you who think that it’s “just not going to attract new converts”…then this link is for you!

Friends…Open Air Street Preaching is BIBLICAL! Get over it.


Which one of these glorifies God?

6 09 2008

This is a sad day.

The first video up is my brother in Christ Kerrigan Skelly from teaching on the “falsehood” of Limited Atonement. He has many videos of this type on his site. I’ve been out evangelizing with Kerrigan and I consider him a friend…but friends make errors; sometimes huge ones.

I tried to count all of the exegetical and logical errors in his video and I lost count…it’s clear that he really hasn’t carefully studied the side that he’s preaching against…he misrepresents Calvinism at every turn.

Compare Kerrigan’s “gospel” that puts man and his “free will” in the driver’s seat, with Dr. James White’s thoroughly biblical view of salvation; allowing God to be God.


After you’ve watched both; ask this question…Which one of these men glorifies God in the content of his preaching?


Kerrigan; if you see this I’m issuing you a challenge: Give Dr. White a call. Pitch your best argument against any of the T.U.L.I.P statements that you so vehemently preach to be false.

I’d be very interested to see how you do.

I’ll even make it easy for you, here’s the contact info:

“The Dividing Line” Featuring Dr. James White. Most Tuesday Mornings at 11:00am MST and Most Thursday Afternoons at 4:00 MST (pre-feed begins 30 minutes or so before start of program).

1-877-753-3341 (Toll Free)






Video Teaser: Paul Washer “Not Ashamed of the Gospel”

15 07 2008

This is just a very short snippet of a sermon that is available at It’s Paul Washer’s sermon entitled “Not Ashamed of the Gospel.”