Saturday, November 22, 2014

New "Reformed Baptist Trumpet" (Vol 5. No. 3) is now available online


The latest edition of the Reformed Baptist Trumpet (Vol. 5. No. 3), the quarterly e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia has been posted online.

In this issue:

  • Jim Savastio's article "The Glory of the Mediator" (pp. 3-9).
  • W. Gary Crampton's article "The Knowledge of God" [chapter one from his book The Bible:  God's Word] (pp. 10-15).
  • A Review of John D. Currid's Against the Gods by Jeffrey T. Riddle (pp. 15-18).
  • An excerpt from Benjamin Keach's sermon "The Blessedness of Christ's Sheep" (pp. 18-22).
This issue and past issues can also be found online at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia website.


Grace and peace, Jeff Riddle RBT Editor

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Vision (11.20.14): Why did Christ not have to undergo eternal suffering?


Several weeks ago after I preached from Luke 24:1-12 on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, someone in the congregation approached me with an intriguing question.  Here is a summary of her question:

The Bible teaches that the unsaved who die apart from saving faith in Christ are under the wrath of God for eternity in hell.  If Jesus stood in our place and died for our sins, why did he not have to undergo eternal suffering?  Why was the duration of his suffering under the wrath of God limited in time?

The response I gave in the moment to this question went something like this (with Scripture proofs):

Yes, the Bible does indeed teach that those who die apart from saving faith in Christ are under the wrath of God for eternity in hell.  See, for example:

John 3:36:  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Matthew 25: 41:  Then he shall say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

It further teaches, however, that Jesus’ suffering on the cross and his sacrificial death, though of a limited duration, made perfect atonement for those who would be saved.  See, for example:

Romans 5:8-9:  8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

1 Corinthians 15:3:  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Hebrews 10:12:  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

The resurrection of Jesus is evidence of the fact that God the Father was satisfied by the suffering and death of Jesus for sinners.  God the Father accepted the perfect atoning work of Christ and vindicated him by raising him from the dead.  See, for example:

Acts 2:23-24:  23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24  Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Romans 1:3-4:  3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

1 Thessalonians 1:10:  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

We must also remember that Jesus was no ordinary man but the God-man and the Second Adam who, in himself, knew no sin but was made sin for us (see 2 Cor 5:21).  He could satisfy God’s righteous wrath through suffering of limited temporal duration which a sinful, unregenerate man, apart from Christ, can never satisfy even in suffering for an unlimited, eternal duration.

This question also sent me to look through some of my books on systematic theology.  I discovered that not every systematic theology addresses this question, but I did find a few who did.  Here are some insights into how others have addressed this question:

The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600-1646) addresses this issue in his treatise titled Hope, as seen in this passage:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cause of true lively hope in the hearts of the saints.  By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God has declared that He is fully satisfied for the sins of man, and that the work of redemption is fully wrought out; otherwise Christ must have been held in the prison of the grave forever.

The Calvinistic Baptist pastor John Gill (1697-1771) addresses the question in his A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1767-1770; The Baptist Standard Bearer reprint, 2007) under his discussion of the passive obedience of Christ.  He concludes with these words:

Eternity is not of the essence of punishment; and only takes place when the person punished cannot bear the whole at once; and being finite, as sinful man is, cannot make satisfaction to the infinite Majesty of God, injured by sin, the demerit of which is infinite punishment : and as that cannot be borne at once by a finite creature, it is continued ad infinitum; but Christ being an infinite Person was able to bear the whole at once; and the infinity of his Person, abundantly compensates for the eternity of the punishment (p. 404).

In his Systematic Theology (original 1938; Eerdmans New Combined Edition, 1996), Louis Berkhof addresses the question under his overall discussion of Christ’s “State of Humiliation.”  Following the Heidelberg Catechism, he notes that Christ’s sufferings began during his earthly life.  He then observes:

These sufferings were followed by his death on the cross.  But this was not all; He was subject not only to physical, but also to eternal death, though He bore this intensively and not extensively, when He agonized in the garden and when He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  In a short period of time He bore the infinite wrath against sin to the very end and came out victoriously.  This was possible for Him only because of His exalted nature (p. 339).

Contemporary New Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem also provides an extended discussion of this question in his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in his chapter on the Atonement.  Under the heading, “Not Eternal Suffering but Complete Payment,” Grudem begins:

If we had to pay the penalty for our own sins, we would have to suffer eternally in separation from God.  However, Jesus did not suffer eternally.  There are two reasons for this difference:  (a) If we suffered for our own sins, we would never be able to make ourselves right with God again.  There would be no hope because there would be no way to live again and earn perfect righteousness before God, and there would be no way to undo our sinful nature and make it right before God.  Moreover, we would continue to exist as sinners who would not suffer with pure hearts of righteousness before God, but would suffer with resentment and bitterness against God, thus continually compounding our sin.  (b) Jesus was able to bear all the wrath of God against our sin and to bear it to the end. No mere man could ever have done this, but by virtue of the union of divine and human natures in himself, Jesus was able to bear all the wrath of God against sin and to bear it to the end (pp. 577-578).

In the end we must confess that we will never be able to touch the bottom of the depths of what God has accomplished for us in Christ.  Still, it is worth the effort to meditate on how in a limited amount of time Christ took our eternal punishment upon himself.  We can thus say with Paul, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Psalm Singing Recording Resource




I recently ran across this site on soundcloud.com collected by Connor S. Quigley, which offers a treasure trove of psalm singing recordings.  This is a great place to listen and explore.  In addition to recordings that appear to come from congregational singing in the kirk, there are also pieces that come from professional singers, and psalms in other languages (e.g., Hebrew, French, Japanese, and even a Polynesian chant!).  Update:  Jason D. called to my attention (see comments below) that this site is even easier to navigate, with the Psalms in numerical order, though this site does not seem to have all the selections on the soundcloud site (like the non-English psalms).

Here are a few samples:



Mt. Zion Bible Church Conference: Music, Text, Family

Image:  JTR, Scott Brown, Jeff Pollard (left to right) at 2014 MZBC Family Conference

I had the privilege of giving three messages on the topic of New Testament text criticism last Friday-Saturday (November 14-15) at a family conference hosted by Mt. Zion Bible Church in Pensacola, Florida.  Mt. Zion is also home to Chapel Library, a tremendous non-profit,literature distribution ministry that has blessed and continues to bless many.

The conference had an eclectic theme.  In addition to my messages on text criticism, Scott Brown gave four messages on Christian family, and Jeff Pollard, the host pastor, gave three messages on music. Jeff's messages were particularly timely given that he was a professional rock musician before his conversion and call to the ministry.  Confessingbaptist.com did a nice wrap-up post on the conference with links to all the messages for those who might be interested.

JTR

Monday, November 17, 2014

"For David speaks concerning him....": Christ in the Psalms



While preaching last evening at Bells Grove on a section from Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:22-31) wherein Peter exposits Psalm 16 as a prophesy of Christ’s resurrection, I was struck by these words, “For David speaks concerning him….” (v. 25).

This statement is a reminder:

1. That the Old Testament speaks about Christ.  We do not have to limit our preaching to the New Testament to speak explicitly of Christ.  He is the focus of both testaments.
 
2.  The Psalms, in particular, speak of Christ.  I thought of this especially with regard to the singing of Psalms.  We have two explicit commands in the New Testament which instruct believers to sing canonical psalms (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).  I am an advocate for inclusive psalmody.  We should include the singing of Psalms in our corporate worship.  Sometimes one will hear the objection, “But the Psalms do not explicitly name the name of ‘Jesus.’”  Though the name “Jesus” is not found in the Psalms, this does not mean that the Psalms do not speak of Christ. Christ saturates the Psalms!  In them we find his nativity (Psalm 107:19-20), his teaching (e.g., Psalm 37:11), his miracles (e.g., Psalm 107:29), his death (see Psalms 22, 69), burial (Psalm 16:10), resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11), ascension (Psalm 47:5), session (Psalm 110:1), and second coming (Psalm 96:13).


Rightly then, does Peter say, “For David speaks concerning him….” (Acts 2:25).  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Confessing Baptist Podcast Interview # 69: Michael Barrett on the KJV Study Bible


It's here!  Reformation Heritage's KJV Study Bible is being released this month.  You can read about this resources on the KJV Study Bible website.

I did an interview with Michael Barrett, the Old Testament Editor for the KJV Study Bible, for Interview # 69 on the Confessingbaptist.com podcast.  I have also uploaded this podcast to sermonaudio.com (listen here).

You can also watch this video:

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Word Magazine # 31: Review: John Piper on the Pericope Adulterae: Part One

I just posted to sermonaudio.com Word Magazine # 31.  WM # 31 is part one of a review of a 2012 sermon preached by John Piper on the Pericope Adulterae (PA:  John 7:53—8:11).

Here is the complete sermon on youtube.com:



I only made it through the first seven or so minutes of the sermon.  I noted the following:

I.  As is common for many pastors and even scholars who adopt and advocate for the modern critical text, Piper begins his defense of this position with an appeal to authority.

Piper argues we should reject the PA, because this is the opinion of leading modern-critical scholars, including evangelicals.  He cites:  D. A. Carson, Bruce Metzger, Leon Morris, Andreas  K√∂stenberger, and Herman Ridderbos.

I suggested that the appeal to authority can be a fallacious argument, however, if an opinion is divided and appeal is only made to authorities who support one’s position.  I shared several quotes from Bluehorn and Bluehorn’s Fallacy Detective including this one:  “If many accepted authorities disagree on a particular subject, we can’t say our favorite authority is the correct one—there may be many other equally respected authorities who disagree” (p. 60).

Through the authorities to whom Piper appeals reject the PA, there are others who do not.  Among interpreters from the past we could list:  Augustine, Jerome, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and others.  Among contemporary scholars we could list:  Zane Hodges, Arthur Farstad, Wilbur Pickering, Maurice Robinson, and David Punch.  Piper cites none of these men who disagree with his position.

II.  Piper lists six reasons to reject the authenticity of the PA and I tried to offer a response to each.

Here are some notes on Piper’s six objections to the PA and my responses:

1.  The PA is missing in all the Greek manuscripts before the fifth century.

Response:  It is not surprising that the PA is missing in the few early papyri of John, since they are all Alexandrian texts.  The earliest uncials we have of the NT are from the 4th-5th centuries (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus).  So, there are very few NT texts that have Greek manuscript support earlier than the 5th century.  This is not necessarily unique to the PA.  In fact the PA does appear in Codex D from the 5th century and it also appears in the early Old Latin manuscripts.  It is cited by Ambrose (c.  374 AD) and Augustine (c. 400 AD).  It is also cited by other early Christian writings including the Didascalia (Teaching) of the Apostles and the Apostolic Constitutions from the 3rd and 4th centuries respectively.  In the end, it prevailed in the majority tradition and appears in over 1400 Greek manuscripts.

Clearly and admittedly, there was controversy over whether the PA should be included in the text of John in the early church, probably because some early Christians objected to what they considered to be Jesus’ lax view toward the adulterer.  The antiquity of the PA, however, is beyond challenge.

2.  The earliest Church Fathers omit the passage in commenting on John and pass directly from 7:52 to 8:12.

Response:  The passage was cited by some of the Fathers (e.g., Ambrose and Augustine).  The Church Fathers do not offer an exhaustive commentary on every passage from the NT.  The absence of comment on the PA may be due to controversy over the passage of the fact that it was omitted in the early lectionary readings.

3.  The text flows amazingly well if you omit the PA.

Response:  This is a subjective and hypothetical argument that might well be said about many other passages in the NT.  For example:  Remove any miracle account, for example, from a Synoptic Gospel and one can still read a continuous narrative.  This does not mean, however, that it would be remove that miracle story.

4.  No Eastern Church Father cites the passage till the tenth century when dealing with this Gospel.

Response:

First, I pointed out that this statement is misleading.  If you look at the sermons from John Chrysostom on the Gospel of John, for example, it is clear he did not offer an exhaustive commentary on every verse but on the passages from which he preached, probably following the lectionary or liturgical reading.  There are many other passages from John chapters 7 and 8 on which Chrysostom did not comment, because he did not preach on that text.

Second, I pointed to E. F. Hills’ discussion of the PA in The KJV Defended, including a section subtitled “The Silence of the Greek Fathers explained” (pp. 156-158).  This argument, he says, “is not nearly so strong as Metzger makes it seem” (p. 156).

5. The PA appears in four other places in John or in Luke [Note: This is the so-called PA as a “floating tradition” argument].

Response:  See my previous blog post on this argument.    This is clearly a faulty argument and should be discarded by those who reject the PA.

6.  The style and vocabulary of the PA are more “unlike” the rest of the Gospel than any other paragraph in John.

Response:  This is the key “internal argument” against the PA (and is related to objection # 3 above).  Things are not quite so clear, however, as Piper makes out.

I pointed to the discussion of the PA in the Introduction to Hodges and Farstad’s The Greek NT According to the Majority Text, Second Edition (Thomas Nelson, 1985):  pp. xxiii-xxxii.  Their conclusion of the PA on internal evidence:

In view of the features of the Johannine style that have been noted and the narrative’s almost unique suitability to this context, the idea that this passage is not authentically Johannine must finally be dismissed.  If it is not an original part of the Fourth Gospel, its writer would have to be viewed as a skilled Johannine imitator, and its placement in this context as the shrewdest piece of interpolation in literary history!  Accordingly,the consideration of the narrative’s text that follows assumes its Johannine authenticity (p. xxiv).

In the next episode we will continue to flow Piper’s treatment of the PA, including problems related to his assertion that though the PA is not part of Scripture, it is still contains truth that can be proclaimed or as he puts it, “It’s true.  It’s a true story….  whether it happened or whether it belongs in this Gospel” (start listening c. the 36:31 mark).

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Vision (11.6.14): Ten Principles for Believing Hermeneutics


Note:  I started thinking recently about how important it is to have an intellectual framework for interpreting the Scriptures.  I jotted down some preliminary thoughts below that might be expanded, added to, or adjusted in the future.

Hermeneutics refers to the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.  Believers approach the interpretation of the Scriptures guided by distinct principles.  Here are ten:

1.  The Scriptures are inspired (2 Timothy 3:16).  They were written by men, but they are not merely the words of men (2 Thess 2:13).  They are the Word of God.

2.  The Scriptures are infallible (Psalm 12:6).  They are completely trustworthy in all that they describe, teach, and affirm (John 17:17).

3.  The Scriptures are perspicuous (clear).  The truths of God are clearly revealed in the Scriptures even if, due to the limitations of our human finitude and the impact of human sin, we do not immediately understand them (Psalm 119:130).  When a Biblical passage is unclear to us, we should pray, seek the counsel of sound teachers (both non-immediate through reading sound expositors from the past and present and immediate by speaking to living elders) and fellow believers.

4.  The Scriptures are consistent and non-contradictory (John 10:30).  If we find an apparent inconsistency or a place where one passage appears to be in conflict with another, we must recognize that our inability to understand is not due to a weakness in the Scriptures but a weakness in our limited understanding.  We must, therefore, pray for illumination and understanding (Psalm 119:18).

5.  The Scriptures must be used to interpret the Scriptures (the analogy of Scripture, analogia scripturae).  Passages that are clearer to us must be used to illumine those that are less clear.  We should not base doctrine on any one verse or passage taken out of context but consult the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

6.  The Scriptures must be interpreted according to the standards of sound doctrine drawn from the totality of Scriptural revelation (the analogy of faith, analogia fidei).

7.  All the Scriptures point to Christ.  He is the scope and goal of Biblical revelation and may be found in all parts of it (Luke 24:27; John 5:46).

8.  The first mention of a Biblical doctrine or concept in the Scriptures often plays a defining role for understanding the nature and meaning of that doctrine as it appears in the rest of the Scriptures.  We should thus pay special attention to this phenomenon.  An example of this principle is seen in the foundational role of the opening chapters of Genesis for understanding doctrines like the doctrines of God, man, sin, and redemption.

9.  The interpretation of any passage of Scripture must take into account the literary genre of that passage and the context in which it is found.  The Scriptures are generally to be read and understood on a “plain sense” level.  The interpreter is to avoid fanciful and inappropriately allegorical readings that do not have a sound basis within the text itself.  Paul thus exhorted the Corinthians not to go “above what is written” (2 Cor 4:6).

10. The Scriptures have both an evangelistic and an edifying purpose.  First, they have an evangelistic purpose, convincing and converting sinners.  What John says of his Gospel may be applied to the totality of Scripture:  “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Second, they have an edifying purpose, encouraging and exhorting believers.  So, Paul writes:  “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Ten Commandments for Academic Writing


Note:  I developed these "Ten Commandments for Academic Writing" to help my students when writing chapter by chapter summaries of selected NT books, book reports, and exam essays.

1.  Thou shalt write in complete sentences.

A complete sentence expresses a complete thought or idea.  It consists of a subject and a verb (predicate).

Negative example:  Chapter eight.  Talking about how Jesus healed a blind man.

Correction option one:  Chapter eight talks about how Jesus healed a blind man.

Correction option two: Chapter eight describes how Jesus healed a blind man.

2. Thou shalt use simple, active sentences.

In general, you should try to use simple sentences with active verbs, rather than complex and convoluted sentences.

Negative example:  Paul took three missionary journeys, and he planted many churches throughout the Roman world, because he was such a great preacher and theologian, and all kinds of people, both Jews and Gentiles, wanted to hear his message.

Correction:  Paul was a preacher and theologian.  He took three missionary journeys and planted many churches throughout the Roman world.  All kinds of people, both Jews and Gentiles, wanted to hear his message.

3.  Thou shalt avoid wordiness.

In academic writing more is usually less.  Write with precision. Avoid conversational expressions and unnecessary fillers.

Negative example:  Jesus has all kinds of patience with lots of people who were constantly coming to approach him with awful sicknesses and troubles.

Correction:  Jesus was patient with the many sick persons who often came to him.

4.  Thou shalt properly use conjunctions (and, but, or).

If two complete sentences are joined to create a compound sentence, the two sentences must be joined by a comma and a conjunction (and, but, or).  If two sentences are together which are not joined by a comma and a conjunction, it is a “run-on” sentence.

Negative example:  Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, they met with the apostles and elders to discuss circumcision.

Correction option one:  Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, and they met with the apostles and elders to discuss circumcision.

Correction option two:  Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem.  They met there with the apostles and elders to discuss circumcision.

5.  Thou shalt avoid contractions in formal writing.

Contractions (like:   I’m, we’re, aren’t) are fine to use in personal essays, informal writing, or fictional writing.  In formal writing, however, they are to be avoided.

Negative example:  Peter’s a great disciple.  He’s the best known among the twelve apostles.

Correction:  Peter is a great disciple.  He is the best known among the apostles.

6. Thou shalt properly use the conjunction “however.”

“However” is an adversative conjunction (i.e., it is used to draw a contrast).  It can be used in two ways:

(1) It can be placed after a word, within commas, to emphasize a contrast.  In general, “however” should not appear as the first word in the sentence in formal writing.

Example:  Barnabas wanted to take Mark on the journey.  Paul, however, wanted to leave Mark behind.

(2) It can used as a regular conjunction (see # 4 above) to join two complete sentences. When used in this way, it is preceded by a semicolon (;) and followed by a comma (,).

Example:  Barnabas wanted to take Mark on the journey; however, Paul wanted to leave him behind.

7.  Thou shalt use proper capitalization.

The first word in each new sentence should be capitalized.  Proper nouns, including the proper names of persons, places, and titles should be capitalized.  All references to the “God” of the Bible should be capitalized, while references to polytheistic deities should simply be written as “gods.”

Negative example:  this chapter describes how god spoke to jesus at his baptism in the jordan river.

Correction:  This chapter describes how God spoke to Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River.

8.  Thou shalt use proper possessive apostrophes.

When indicating the possession, you should add an apostrophe (‘) and the letter “s” to the noun.  If the noun ends in “s” one may simply add an apostrophe without an additional “s.”  This is especially true of the possessive of the name Jesus which should be written as “Jesus’” rather than “Jesus’s.”  You do not use apostrophe “s” to pluralize a noun!

Negative example:  Peter was one of Jesus’s disciples’.

Correction:  Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples.

9.  Thou shalt set off dependent clauses from the main sentence by a comma.

A dependent clause is a clause which adds to an independent clause but which cannot stand alone.

Example one:  Though deeply respected by his soldiers, Alexander could not convince his troops to march beyond India.

Example two:  While teaching in the temple, Jesus told many parables.

Example three:  After crying with a loud voice, Jesus died on the cross.

10.  Thou shalt always re-read and edit thy work when thou hast finished it.


Never turn in the first thing that you write.  Read over the text and correct any errors you have made.  Sometimes it is good to leave it for a few hours or even a day before doing a final edit. This way you can read your text with fresh eyes.