Friday, January 22, 2021

The Vision (1.22.21): Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand

 


Image: Closeup: Devil's Walking Stick, North Garden, Virginia, January 2021

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 3:1-6.

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mathew 3:1-2).

John the Baptist came as a preacher. Just as Peter could call Noah before the flood a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), so John could be called before the coming of Christ a preacher of righteousness.

Notice that the Lord did not send a commander of armies before the Messiah; he did not send a scholar; he did not send a scientist or a sage. He sent a preacher.

And what was the message of John? “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

John’s message was a call to repentance. You may have heard that the verb for “to repent” literally means “to change one’s mind.” More simply, it has been described as turning away from sin and turning toward God.  The person who repents was heading in the direction of sin and death, and he was turned toward obedience and life.

John’s message was also an announcement about the impending arrival of the kingdom of heaven. This was not a political kingdom. Christ before Pilate would say, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). It was a way of speaking about the rule and reign of God that would begin with the coming of Messiah and the calling of men to repent of their sin and to believe in him. The Lord Jesus himself would later tell his disciples in Luke 17, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, Lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (vv. 20-21).

One day the kingdom will come in its fullness, and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and there will be new heavens and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. But in this age, the kingdom is built person by person, heart by heart, as men turn from their sin in repentance and in faith toward Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Vision (1.15.21): Jesus of Nazareth

 


Image: Frozen pond, North Garden, Virginia, January 2021

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 2:19-23.

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:23a).

“I am Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 22:8).

A Bible Dictionary I consulted (Harper’s) said the following about Nazareth: It was “an insignificant agricultural village not far from a major trade route to Egypt, the Via Maris.” This would be equivalent to saying it was something like a podunk bump in the road, in the middle of nowhere, just off an interstate exit ramp. The entry continues, “It is not mentioned in the OT, Josephus, or rabbinic writings.”

We know that Nazareth was something of a byword, an object of scorn. To see this, we can look at the account in John 1 of how the disciple Philip went to his friend Nathanael and told him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v. 45). Nathanael’s reaction: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see” (v. 46).

Nathanael did not expect the Messiah to come out of Nazareth.

All this, of course, shows that the Gospel record is true. If he had not been reared in such an inconsequential place as Nazareth why would the early Christians have ever fabricated such a story?

If there was one thing that Nazareth had it was a synagogue, which the Lord Jesus attended, as was his custom, as he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Luke describes how he later came back to that synagogue and was nearly thrown from the top of the hill on which the town stood after he declared, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24; for the whole story see Luke 4:16-30).

Why was it God’s will that Christ would come from Nazareth? There is theological significance in this.

It seemed not enough for him to be born in little Bethlehem, but to grind things home he had also to be reared in the “Nowheres-ville” of obscure Nazareth. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

What this signifies is the depths of the incarnation. As Paul describes it in Philippians 2, he “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (v. 7), and “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself” (v. 8).

And in 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

Reflecting on the obscurity of Nazareth, J. C. Ryle observed, “almost five-sixths of the time that the Saviour of the world was on earth, was passed among the poor of this world and passed in complete retirement. Truly this was humility!” (Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 17).

To save nobodies like us, it pleased the Lord to send his Messiah to a God-forsaken place like Nazareth. Behold the love and mercy and condescension of our God toward us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Vision (1.8.21): Then was fulfilled that which was spoken

 

Image: Isaiah, 1838, by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891)

In preaching on Matthew 2:13-18 last Sunday we took note of two more “fulfillment passages” from the Old Testament Scriptures in the description of the nativity of Christ within the opening two chapters of Matthew.

An ordinary reader likely would not have perceived what was here prophesied, but the apostle Matthew saw it under the guidance of the Spirit.

As I noted in the message, it is striking that the prophetic citations in Matthew 1-2 come from across the body of the Old Testament prophetic writings, from Isaiah, to Micah, to Hosea, to Jeremiah:

Of his virgin birth, from Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel…” (Matt 1:23; Isa 7:14).

Of his birth in Bethlehem, from Micah: “And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda … out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matt 2:6; Micah 5:2).

Of his flight into Egypt, from Hosea: “Out of Egypt shall I call my son” (Matt 2:15; Hosea 11:1).

Of Herod’s massacre of the innocents, from Jeremiah: “In Rama there was a voice heard … Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matt 2:18; Jer 31:15).

All these prophecies have a subtle cumulative impact, telling us that all the Scriptures were all pointing toward Christ.

It recalls what the risen Christ will later say to the two befuddled disciples on the way to Emmaus (emphasis added):

Luke 24:25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

It is a striking thing to consider, especially in days like these, that God was providentially at work in history to bring forth his son to “save his people from their sin” (Matt 1:21). He had declared this in the prophets, though men were slow of heart to perceive it.

The comforting thing to know is that he continues to work out his will and purposes in Christ, to the end, “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

WM 187: Text Note: Matthew 1:25: "her firstborn son"

 



I want to add another note on the text of Matthew, focusing on several variants in Matthew 1, before settling on a significant one in 1:25.

I am currently preaching through Matthew, and I previously did a post on the genealogy, looking at Matthew 1:7-8, 10 (see WM 185).

I thought I would add another on a variant at Matthew 1:25, but before getting there I want to look briefly at a couple of other variants which Bruce Metzger discusses in his Textual Commentary, second edition (1994).

Several of these variants are supported by the TR, and incorporated into the modern critical text, yet Metzger discusses them, and his interest seems especially aimed at examining or considering readings that would be at odds with an orthodox theological understanding of Christology or with inerrancy/infallibility.

Brief look at five other variants addressed by Metzger:

Between the opening two notes on Matthew 1:7-8 and 1:10, and the final note on 1:25, Metzger discusses five other passages:

First: 1:11: He notes that several mss. add a name to the genealogy, Joakim. He gives the omission an {A} rating.

Second: 1:16: the description of Joseph as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” This is the TR reading, and it also has an {A} rating.

Metzger notes two variants.

Given the above as the first reading, the second is: “to whom being betrothed the virgin Mary bore Jesus, who is called Christ”.

And the third: “Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin, begot Jesus who is called Christ.” This is found in the Sinaitic Syriac.

It is the last variant that seems most to intrigue BM, since it would be a reading that would deny the virgin birth and see Jesus as the natural son of Joseph.

This is the longest discussion in the commentary on Matthew 1 (pp. 2-6) and closes with a decisive paragraph debunking the third reading (p. 6), but one might wonder why there was so much interest to begin with? Note: There will be a connection with 1:25.

Third: 1:18: “of Jesus Christ.” This gets only a {B} reading since Metzger dubs it “intrinsically improbable” that “Jesus Christ” would be prefixed by a definite article. He even says this construction only appears in “inferior manuscripts” like those with Acts 8:37. Circular reasoning!

Fourth: 1:18: The modern critical text reads genesis (creation, generation) rather than gengesis (birth) as in the TR.

The traditional reading seems right in context, the genealogy having already been given, and it seems even the modern English translations use “birth” here.

Fifth: 1:22: It is noted here that a few ms. insert the name “Isaiah” here as a “scribal explanation.”  Neither the modern text or the TR include the prophet’s name.

What is the issue in Matthew 1:25?:

The traditional text reads (Scrivener’s TR):  και ουκ εγινωσκεν αυτην εως ου ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου ιησουν

An English translation (KJV): “And he knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”

 

The modern critical text (W & H): και ουκ εγινωσκεν αυτην εως [ου] ετεκεν υιον και εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου ιησουν

An English translation (ESV):  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

 

Cf. Luke 2:7 (Scrivener): και ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εσπαργανωσεν αυτον και ανεκλινεν αυτον εν τη φατνη διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι

 

External Evidence:

The traditional reading is supported by, among others, the uncial codices C, D, K, L, N, W, Gamma, and Delta (note: of these C, D, and W are very early), as well as the vast majority of later minuscules. It is the Majority reading. It is also found in various Old Latin mss. (aur, d, f, ff1, and q),as well as the Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta and the Harklean Syriac.

The modern reading is supported by the two heavyweights Aleph and B, perhaps Z, perhaps 071, family 1, family 13, and 33, as well the Old Latin, the Middle Egyptian, the Old Syriac (Sinaitic and Curetonian), and the Coptic (Sahidic and Bohairic, with some variation).

Internal Evidence:

Metzger’s major assumption (see his first paragraph in this entry) is that the traditional reading is a harmonization with Luke 2:7 (Scrivener): και ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εσπαργανωσεν αυτον και ανεκλινεν αυτον εν τη φατνη διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι

Though both Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7 are part of their respective birth narratives, they are not necessarily literary parallels. Matthew 1:25 comes after the account of the angelic appearance to Joseph and the fulfillment citation of Isaiah 7:14. Luke 2:7 comes in its own distinctive context.

Would a scribe have recalled this parallel or even turn to compare it?

Is it not just as possible not that a scribe of Matthew drew from Luke to “correct” Matthew, but that both Matthew and Luke drew from a common Christian tradition that identified Jesus as the firstborn son of Mary?

Metzger proceeds to note the reading in the Sinaitic Syriac: “She bore to him [to Joseph] a son.” And to compare this to the Sinaitic Syriac of Matt 1:16.

His point seems to be to raise the possibility of early sources that would not have known the virgin birth and there did not need to stress Jesus as the first born son of Mary.

Conclusion:

The traditional reading of Matthew 1:25 has ancient (C, D, W) and widespread (Majority, early vulgar translations) attestation.

Jesus was clearly known in the tradition as the “firstborn [prōtotokos]” of Mary (cf. Luke 2:7).

We can easily see either how the traditional reading might have been omitted through scribal error or through an intentional effort to deny the virgin birth.

On the other hand, we do not believe there is a compelling reason to abandon the traditional reading and run the risk of possibly undermining a cardinal doctrine of Christ’s virgin birth.

We are repeatedly told that no variant affects doctrine, but this is not so. Aside from doctrines of canon, sufficiency, and preservation of Scripture, various issues arise within individual variants like this one in Matthew 1:25. The modern critical text of Matthew 1:25 by omitting “her firstborn son” offers a muted undermining of the traditional text’s affirmation of the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Christ.

The traditional text, thus, should be maintained.

JTR


Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Vision (1.2.21): The Star, Wise Men, and Worship

 

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 2:1-12.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him (Matthew 2:11a).

Matthew and Luke are the two Gospels that provide for us a detailed account of the birth of the Lord Jesus in Bethlehem.

Only Matthew provides the account of the “wise men” [Greek magoi] from the east who follow a providential star to seek out the newborn Messiah.

You may have heard reports that on December 21, 2020 there was an event known as the “Great Conjunction” in which the planets of Jupiter and Saturn lined up from the vantage point of earth to create an appearance “as one bright shining star” (as the website astronomy.com put it). The astronomers tell us that this alignment had not occurred in the same way for about 800 years, since the last great conjunction on March 4, 1226.

Some have referred to this as the “Christmas Star.” The seventeenth century astronomer Johannes Kepler apparently suggested that a similar alignment took place in 7 BC, around the time of the birth of Christ. That theory may or may not be true. Matthew makes mention of a star which guided the wise men from the east to the new-born Christ, but there is nothing to indicate that it was or was not the result of a “Great Conjunction.” As we noted with respect to the virgin birth of Christ, once we posit a God who can create the world in the space of six days and all very good, then there is little anxiety about his power to do in that creation as he pleases to fulfill his purposes.

If there is one main theme that permeates Matthew 2, it might be worship. The wise men are seeking the Messiah to worship him: “for we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him” (v. 2).

Herod falsely claims that he desires to worship Christ: “bring word again, that I may worship him” (v. 8).

While the wise men have their quest fulfilled as they are led to Christ and worship him: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him” (v. 11a).

One might see a model of three types of “worshippers” in these three references to worship:

There are those who have a hunger to seek to worship the one they do not yet fully understand or comprehend.

There are those who duplicitously feign interest in Christ, even though their hearts are, in truth, hard toward him, and they prefer to do away with him.

Finally, there are those who reach their goal when they discover Christ by the help of special revelation. They rejoice with great joy. They fall down before him and offer him the very best of all that they have, even themselves.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle