Friday, April 29, 2016

The Vision (5.29.16): A Body Hast Thou Prepared Me

Image:  Page from Hebrews in Codex Vaticanus

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 10:1-10:

Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:  6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.  7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

What is the spiritual application to be made from this passage?

John Owen said it teaches that if God calls someone to some task he will also provide the means for the accomplishment of that task.  The Father decreed that the Son would redeem sinful humanity by a better sacrifice.  To that end, he prepared him a body.  Owen:  “Whatever God designs, appoints, and calls any unto, he will provide for them all that is needful unto the special duties of obedience whereunto they are so appointed and called (Hebrews, Vol. 6, p. 461).”

But that just does not seem enough.

We could say the point is to stress the necessity of the incarnation.  He had to be a man to identify with us (Heb 4:15).

In the end, however, I think the greatest spiritual benefit of this passage is that it evokes awe and worship at the knowledge revealed of the eternal counsels of God.  We get to overhear a conversation in the Godhead from eternity past.

The spiritual benefit is to contemplate:  If we are saved it is only because we were made the beneficiaries of the gracious plan of God. It was a plan conceived in mercy in the mysterious counsels of God in which the Father decreed that the Son would enter into the world as a real flesh and blood man.  John Owen reminds us of the fully Trinitarian comprehension of the description:  “The Father prepared it in the authoritative disposition of all things; the Holy Ghost actually wrought it; and he himself [the Son] assumed it.” (Hebrews, Vol. 6, p. 464).

Indeed, he would take on a body which was prepared for him.  And the Son declared to the Father, Let it be written in the divine record book.  “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.”

And he really came and he really perfected God’s plan.  And he really laid down his life.  And he really bled and died.  And three days later, he really raised it up again.  And he really ascended to the right hand of the Father. And he is really coming again to judge the living and the dead.  And his sacrifice really did away with the old covenant sacrificial system.   And he has really cleansed our conscience of sin.  And this really is the only way a man might be made perfect or definitively sanctified by God.

The practical result is worship:  Praise be to God!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Simple Outline of Revelation

Reaching the end of the semester in a survey of the NT class means getting to give a lecture on the book of Revelation, which almost always draws the interest of the students.  The book’s apocalyptic style (revelatory visions in a narrative framework) is mystifying enough to many to draw the conclusion that it is indecipherable.  The more I do this lecture, however, the more convinced I am that the narrative structure is simpler and more straightforward than typically assumed.

Here is the “simple outline” of Revelation I share with students:

I.  Introduction and Letters to Seven Churches:  chapter 2-3

II.  Throne Vision:  chapters 4-5

III.  Seven Seals—Seven Trumpets—Seven Vials:  chapters 6-16

IV.  The Fall of Babylon:  chapters 17-19

V.  The Defeat of Satan and Final Judgment:  chapter 20

VI.  A New Heaven and a New Earth:  chapters 21-22


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bible League Quarterly: "This flower is too pretty to be planted in such dirt!"

Someone recently gave me an anonymous gift subscription to Bible League Quarterly, the magazine of the Bible League Trust, and I got the first two issues of 2016 in the mail from the UK this week.  I had subscribed a few years ago but had let it lapse.  The BLQ is a gem, and I am thankful to my benefactor for the opportunity to read it again.

The opening article in the January-March 2016 issue from editor John Thackway is a reflection on 1 Samuel 27:1 titled “David’s Fainting Fit.”  The title reminded me of the recent post here from Bunyan.  Thackway makes skilful application of David’s spiritual state to that of his readers:

Gospel ministers can suffer this “fainting fit,” and sink into deep dejection.  Some can hardly continue, and some even leave the pastorate.  Many Christians have sunk terribly low or turned aside from the right way.  It may be, dear reader, that you find yourself on the brink of this.  Or maybe you have already come to where David was and are now ensnared in the consequences.

David’s “fainting fit” is on record here for our admonition and comfort.  Let us follow the account of what happened and seek to apply it to ourselves (p. 324).

I was also struck by this vivid illustration on how the Lord sovereignly uses our circumstances, even troubled ones, to grow us in godliness:

The story is told of a little girl walking in a garden who noticed a particularly beautiful flower.  She admired its fragrance.  “It is so pretty!” she exclaimed.  Then her eyes followed the stem down to the soil in which it grew.  “This flower is too pretty to be planted in such dirt!” she cried.  So she pulled it up by its roots and ran to the tap to wash away the soil.  It wasn’t long until the flower wilted and died.  When the gardener saw what the little girl had done, he exclaimed, “You have destroyed my finest plant!”  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I didn’t like it in that dirt.”  The gardener replied, “I chose that spot and mixed the soil because I knew that only there could it grow to be a beautiful flower.”  And so it is in our God-appointed circumstances that, by God’s grace, we produce the beauty of Christian character and the fragrance of Christ (pp. 322-323).


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Vision (4.22.16): Appointed unto men once to die

Image:  Ancient Roman funerary inscription for eight year old boy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York

Image:  Grave site of Benjamin Franklin, Christ Church burial yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

We are left in the end to ponder this verse.  It is appointed unto men once to die.  Some obsess over and distort the Lord’s appointment of the time of our deaths.  Have you heard someone say things like, “Well, I guess his number was up”?  God is sovereign over all and he knows the time of our death, but that misses the point here.  He knows the end from the beginning.

We have a simple and solemn reminder that we will die.  It is a universal reality for all men and has been since the fall.

My family took a trip to New York City last week and we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I had the opportunity to walk through part of the Greek and Roman exhibition.  Some of the pieces I saw were ancient funerary art.  One that stood out was a marble grave marker for a young boy placed there by his father in the 1-2 century A. D.  It reads:

To the spirits of the dead. For C. Porcius Dionysius, who lived 8 years, 10 months, and 13 days. C. Porcius Dionysius [the father for whom the son was named] made this for the sweetest of sons.

As we drove home we also stopped off in Philadelphia and visited Christ Church and its burial ground where Benjamin Franklin was laid to rest in 1790 after 84 years of earthly life having gained great fame among men.  Washington said of him that he was “venerated for benevolence, admired for talents, esteemed for patriotism, beloved for philanthropy.”

All men die.  From little boys to old men.  From obscure men to famous men.

It is appointed unto men once to die.  Paul said:

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

But what happens afterward?

Scripture says that after death there is a krisis, a judgment.

What are the standards for this judgment?  Jesus teaches us those standards:

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

So, the question is:  Have you confessed Christ or have you denied Christ?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bunyan: The broken-hearted man is a fainting man

From John Bunyan,The Acceptable Sacrifice (original 1688; Banner of Truth edition, 2004):

The broken-hearted man is a fainting man; he has his qualms, his sinking fits; he oft-times dies away with pain and fear; he must be stayed with flagons, and comforted with apples, or else he cannot tell what to do:  he pines, he pines away in his iniquity; nor can any thing keep him alive and make him well but the comforts and cordials of Almighty God.  Wherefore with such an one God will dwell, to revive the heart, to revive the spirit.  ‘To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones' (p. 10).


Monday, April 18, 2016

New Book: The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research

The book produced from the 2014 conference at SEBTS on the Pericope Adulterae (see my report here) is available for pre-order from Bloomsbury/ T & T Clark.  Unfortunately the price is high (Amazon lists the kindle price at $67.19 and the hardback at $104.46)!  The 2008 book edition of the SEBTS conference on the ending of Mark was printed by B & H Academic in paperback at a much more reasonable price.  I guess there’s always inter-library loan.

Larry Hurtado, the only contributor to the book who was not part of the SEBTS symposium, describes this book as now being the “go-to” resource for text-critical study of the PA (see his blog post on the book here).  Hurtado, of course, sides with Knust/Wasserman/Keith in rejecting the originality of the PA, but I find his “heretical” statements against text-critical orthodoxy in this post to be interesting.  He sees the PA as an inexplicable late addition.  What about the possibility it was early [original, in fact, to John], went through a period of suppression from some corners, but tenaciously persisted and prevailed?


Friday, April 15, 2016

The Vision (4.15.16): The offense of the blood of Christ

Image:  Spring scene, Charlottesville, Virginia. April 2016

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22).

We are left to ponder the scandal of a crucified Christ, who not only died on the cross but whose blood was also poured out there for the remission of our sins.

This has long been an offense.

In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul could speak about the preaching of the cross as foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews.

It was an offense to the early Gnostic heretic Marcion, who wanted a more sophisticated, non-Jewish religion.  David L. Dungan notes that Marcion claimed Jesus “had not been crucified. The mob of Jews mistakenly crucified someone else (possibly Simon of Cyrene) and ignorant Christian writers got the truth completely garbled…..” (History of the Synoptic Problem, p. 48).

This denial was taken up by Moahmmed in the Koran (Surah IV):

And for their saying, “Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an apostle of God.”  Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness.

And it has been denied in modern liberal theology which preaches the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man but is embarrassed by the cross.  The liberal twentieth century minister Harry Emerson Fosdick called the preaching of the cross a “slaughterhouse religion.”  The contemporary British so-called “evangelical” Steven Chalke has called the preaching of the cross a form of “cosmic child abuse.”

But the Scriptures still stand bearing witness that without the shedding of blood there is no remission.  It is not an accident of history that Christ was crucified and that his blood was shed.  It is not an embarrassment.  It was the perfecting of the new covenant.  It could not have happened any other way.  This was the signature work as the Mediator of the New Testament.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle