Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Vision (10.16.14): Lessons from Joseph of Arimathaea: A good and just man

Note:  The devotion below is drawn from several sections of last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 23:63-71.

And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just (Luke 23:50).

All the Gospel writers agree that the man responsible for taking charge of the remains of Jesus after his crucifixion was Joseph of Arimathaea.  He was part of the Jewish counsel, the elite group of seventy men who formed the Jewish Sanhedrin and who were given limited governing authority by the Romans.  That was his external office.  Luke proceeds, however, to give us an internal profile of this man as well.  He describes his character:  “and he was a good man, and a just [man].”  The word “good [agathos]” implies that he was a sound and morally upright man.  The word “just [dikaios]” implies that he was righteous, fair, and honest.  Luke describes Joseph in the same way that the centurion described Jesus (v. 47).  There was a Christ-like quality to this man.

Earlier in Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial it had seemed as though the whole counsel had been unanimous in condemning Jesus (see 22:70-71; 23:1-2).  They seemed to have spoken with one voice.  But now we learn that the verdict had not been unanimous.  Maybe Joseph had not been present or maybe he had lain low, or his voice had been drowned out.  Still, Luke records:  “The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them” (v. 51a).

Luke adds two more important notes in v. 51b:

First, that Joseph was from the Jewish town of Arimathaea.  Joseph was a popular name, so men were often identified by the places from which they came (cf. Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene).  We might note the providence that at his birth the infant body of Jesus was cared for and protected by Joseph of Nazareth and, at his death, by Joseph of Arimathea.  Both were named for the Biblical Joseph who said to his brothers:  What you meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen 50:20).

Second, Luke says that he “also himself waited for the kingdom of God.”  This is the kingdom that Jesus had announced was present in his life and ministry.  The kingdom he called men to enter into.  The kingdom of which he taught his disciples to pray:  “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10).  But also, the kingdom that Jesus taught would not fully come until the end of the age when the Son of Man came in the clouds in glory to judge the nations (Luke 21:27) and to separate the wheat from the tares (cf. Matt 13:37-43).

Matthew says that this Joseph was “rich man” and that he “also himself was Jesus’ disciple” (Matt 27:57).  John 18:38, likewise, says outright that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, then adds, “but secretly for fear of the Jews.”  He reminds me of some Christians I have heard about especially in some Muslims counties who become believers but they have to do so secretly, for fear of the repercussions which would take place if their faith was found out.  Perhaps Joseph’s conscience had been torn over whether he should publically identify with Jesus or not.

Knowing this makes what Luke says he did not all the more amazing and encouraging:  “This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus” (v. 52).  That took an act of courage on his part.  It put him at risk before Pilate and the Jewish council.  What if there had been an attempt to round up the followers of Jesus and send them to the cross as well?  Despite the risk, Joseph went to Pilate and was granted permission to bury the body of our Lord.

Here is the question we need to ask:  Can it be said of us, as it was by Luke of Joseph, that we are a good and just men? Like Joseph have we been content to lay low, to stand at the back, to blend in?  Have we shown a tendency not to want to stand forward and be publically identified with Christ?  Are we, like Joseph, secret disciples?

Notice that there were some like Peter who boldly promised to follow Christ, but when the rubber met the road, they denied and deserted him.  Thankfully, Peter was, however, finally restored.  On the other hand, here is Joseph who laid low in his faith during Jesus’ life but then courageously stepped forward in his death.  In his commentary on this passage Norval Geldenhuys observed:

In the hour of crisis it is often the Peters who have sworn loyalty to Jesus with big gestures and fullness of self-confidence, that disappoint, and it is the secret and quiet followers of the Master (like Joseph, Nicodemus, and the women) that do not hesitate to serve Him in love—whatever the cost (Luke, pp. 619-620).

Maybe you are like Joseph.  You have not been as vocal, as public in your faith, but you are ready to come into the light when he calls upon you.  Is he calling you for such a time as this?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Index to Text Criticism Resources on Stylos

Note:  A friend recently suggested to me that it would be helpful to provide some navigation tool to help new readers of my blog to find resources on text criticism located on stylos and/or  To that end, I have created this index entry with links to various resources.  There is also a link to it in the sidebar of the blog now under the title "Jeff's Text Criticism Resources."  The index is incomplete.  In particular, it does not yet included blog resources that deal with translation, rather than text, issues.  DV, I also hope to add in the future some of the academic book reviews and articles I have done on text criticism.  Of course, there will also be future posts on text criticism that will need to be added.  Thus, future updates will be forthcoming.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Vision (10.9.14): Why "Chinese" Gordon Needed the Church

Image:  George W. Joy's "Death of General Gordon" (1893)
idealized his demise in Khartoum.

Image:  Gordon in Egyptian uniform

One subset of books I enjoy collecting are juvenile biographies.  Usually I find that the older they are the better.  This week I have been reading Arthur Orrmont’s Chinese Gordon:  Hero of Khartoum (Putnam, 1966).

Charles George Gordon (1833-1885) was a larger-than-life, swashbuckling British hero of the Victorian era.  He got the nickname “Chinese" Gordon for his leadership in British military victories in China.  He died in battle after being overrun by Muslim adversaries in Khartoum, Sudan, just days before British reinforcements arrived.  For this he was either hailed as a hero or pitied as a fool.  In his times, Gordon was a household name throughout the British Empire.  Various statues and monuments to him still stand from Melbourne, Australia to London.  From what I have read so far, however, I can see why my copy of the book was discarded from a public junior high school, and I was able to find it for a song on the shelf of a Salvation Army Store.  Gordon’s story is not exactly politically correct.  Some of his exploits in battle, for example, might today be labeled atrocities.  There was no filter for his cultural imperialism.

In his day, however, Gordon was held up as an ideal Christian man who bravely battled the infidels.  He did indeed have an immense interest in the Bible and Christianity.  In fact, there is still a place in Jerusalem called “Gordon’s Calvary” (also known as “Skull Hill”), because he convinced many that this was the historical site of Jesus’ crucifixion.  His views, however, were also prone to obscure speculations and unorthodox conclusions (e.g., he apparently believed that hell was a physical place on earth, and he believed in reincarnation after death).

Some of the saddest lines in the book describe how Gordon became intensely interested in Christianity as a late teen.  This is how the author describes Gordon’s pilgrimage:

From this point on he was a serious, deeply committed Christian.  However, his theology was then, as later, unorthodox, and highly individual, based on his own interpretations of the Bible.  He was never to join a particular sect or church (pp. 10-11).

From this account doubt is raised as to whether or not Gordon was ever really a Christian.  For true Christians will always desire to commit themselves to a local body of believers (cf. Heb 10:24-25; 1 John 3:14).  One might speculate what difference might have been made if Gordon had sat under gospel preaching from a minister of Christ’s church in a Christ centered congregation from a young age.  What if his individual pursuit of Christ had been joined to a corporate pursuit?  What if his “private interpretation” (cf. 1 Peter 1:20) of the Scriptures had been regulated by a robust confessional faith that answered to the confirmed convictions of the Scripture’s teachings and the old paths worn by the great men of the past?

In the end, those lines convinced me that the life of Charles “Chinese” Gordon is a warning.  Personal zeal and enthusiasm for Christ is not enough.  We need his Body.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Where does the name "Jehovah" come from?

Image:  The tetragrammaton, the four consonant Hebrew term for God:  Y-H-W-H.

Image:  The Hebrew word "Adonai" with vowel points.

Image:  The tetragrammaton with the vowel pointing for "Adonai" which apparently resulted in the transliterated English term "Jehovah" in early English Bible translations like the Geneva Bible and the KJV.

I was recently asked by some students to explain:  Where does the name “Jehovah” come from?  Here is an answer:

The English word “Jehovah” appears four times independently in the KJV of the Old Testament (Exod 6:3; Ps 83:18; Isa 12:2; 26:4).  It also appears three other times as a compound:  Jehovahjireh (Gen 22:14; the LORD will provide);  Jehovahnissi (Exod 17:15; The LORD is my banner); and Jehovahshalom (Judges 6:24; The LORD is peace).

Side Note:  The word “Jehovah” also appears in the Geneva Bible at Exod 6:3; Ps. 83:18 (but not at Isa 12:2; 26:4) and as a compound at Gen 22:14; Exod 17:15; and Judges 6:24 [and perhaps in other places in the Geneva Bible; I have not surveyed the entire].  I have also not yet taken time to survey whether it appears in other early English Bible translations which predate the KJV, like the Great Bible (1540) or the Bishop’s Bible (1568), but this seems likely.  The evidence from the Geneva Bible alone proves that “Jehovah” is not a unique rendering of the KJV.

In each instance “Jehovah” is a transcription/translation of the tetragrammaton or four consonant special name for God that frequently appears in the Old Testament.    This divine name is usually translated in the King James Version simply as “LORD” (“Lord” in all capital letters).  This is a very helpful convention in that it informs the reader who does not know Hebrew when the tetragrammaton is being used.  It is in keeping with the translation philosophy of the King James Version to use a variety of English words to render the same underlying original language term (see “The Translators to the Reader” in the Preface to the 1611 KJV which explains, “we have not tied ourselves to a uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words”).

The ancient Hebrews had an aversion to pronouncing the name of God and instead used the word adonai (“Lord”).  The term “Jehovah” apparently comes from the Hebrew consonants of the tetragrammaton (J-H-V-H), along with the vowel markings for adonai.  Some modern translations render the divine name as “Yahweh,” from the consonants from the tetragrammaton (Y-H-W-H) [preferring, however, to use J for Y and V for W].

The term “Jehovah” has also come to be distinctively stressed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, a modern heterodox offshoot of Christianity.  The Jehovah’s Witness’ New World Translation (Revised in 2013) selectively translates the Greek word kurios (“Lord”) as “Jehovah” in various NT passages to fit their idiosyncratic beliefs, including the denial of the divinity of Jesus (e.g.,  When Jesus is referred to as kurios by Thomas in John 20:28 the word is not translated as "Jehovah" but as "Lord").  In the King James Version and other orthodox translations the English word “Jehovah” is never used in the New Testament, since it is a unique transliteration of the Hebrew name for God and the New Testament is written in Greek.

Some dictionary entries:

 The Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Harper, 1985) entry for the word “tetragrammaton” explains:

The hybrid word “Jehovah” is a combination of the vowels of “Adonai”  with the consonants of the tetragrammaton….” (p. 1036).

B. W. Anderson’s article on “Jehovah” in the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2 (Abingdon, 1962, 1990) offers the following definition:

An artificial form, often attributed to Petrus Galatinus in ca. A. D. 1520, which results from the combination of the consonants of the Tetragrammaton, “YHWH,” with the substitute vowel reading which was introduced when the MT was fixed during the sixth-seventh centuries A. D.  The pre-Masoretic text was consonantal, vowels being supplied by the reader from a knowledge of the language.  In the post-exilic period (after 538 B. C.) the sacred name “Yahweh” was withdrawn from popular usage for fear it would be profaned.  Of the various substitutes that were employed, the chief was “Adonai” (“Lord”), the vowels of which the Masoretes as a rule added to the consonants “YHWH” to indicate that “Adonai” should be read.  The combination of the two—the Tetragrammaton and the vowels of “Adonai”—yields the artificial name which appeared in a few passages of the KJV and was regularly used in the ASV.  The RSV, following ancient synagogue practice, renders, “The Lord” (p. 817).


Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Vision (10.2.14): CRBC Schedule Change Begins This Sunday (October 5)

Image:  Bells Grove Christian Church meeting house located at 2997 Courthouse Road in Louisa, VA (about two miles off the Louisa/Ferncliff exit on I-64).  The congregation that had met there since 1923 stopped holding services about two years ago due to lack of participation.   God willing, starting on October 5, CRBC will begin holding Sunday evening services at this location each Lord’s Day at 5:30 pm.

Please note that Christ Reformed Baptist Church's new schedule begins this Sunday:

Lord’s Day (Sunday) Morning Worship at Covenant Lower School in Charlottesville: (Click Here for Directions)

10:30 am                      Morning Worship
12:00 noon                  Covered Dish Lunch
12:45 pm                      Sunday School (Bible Study)

Lord’s Day (Sunday) Evening Worship at Bells Grove Church in Louisa: (Click Here for Directions)

5:30  pm                      Evening Worship

I am continuing to preach through the Gospel of Luke on Sunday mornings (now in Luke 23).  When we finish Luke, Lord willing, we will begin a Sunday AM series in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel.

Our Sunday School Lessons will continue the current afternoon series through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

In the evening services I will begin a new expositional series starting this Sunday through the book of Acts.

All are invited to join us for any or all of these meetings as we devote the Lord’s Day to, as our Confession puts it, “the private and public exercises of the worship of God.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Orientation to the 2014 Keach Conference

Image: Clevenger, Savastio, Blackburn, Riddle

Video:  Couldn't make it to this year's conference?  Watch this "You Were There" video to get a feel for the Friday evening fellowship.

Note:  Each year at the Keach Conference, I provide an "orientation" to our meeting.  Below are my notes for the 2014 Keach Conference Orientation (look here for orientations to the 2009, 2012 and 2013 meetings).

Let me extend to you warm and friendly greetings in the name of him who was dead and is alive, even our Lord Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and men.

This is now the thirteenth consecutive fall season that a group of believers, including ministers and laymen, young and old, men and women, have gathered to listen to encouraging teaching, to enjoy fellowship, and to renew bonds of friendship in a theology and ministry conference in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Over those years we have met on various days of the week and, in the beginning, we met just for a single day.  Finding that that was not enough time to spend together, since 2007 we have met over two days, the last Friday evening of September and the Saturday morning following.

We originally called our meeting “The Evangelical Forum,” but in 2010 we changed the name to the Keach Conference, in honor of the Puritan Baptist pastor, Benjamin Keach, who was publically pilloried for his writings on believers’ baptism and who was one of the original adopters of the 1689 Confession.

This is now the eighth consecutive year that we have taken as our Conference Theme one of the successive chapters in that venerable 1689 Confession, this year reflecting on the subject, “Of Christ, the Mediator.”  As one of the speakers told me on the phone when we spoke of his coming, “What a chore!  You mean I get to come and preach about Christ!”  One of the constants of these past 13 years has indeed been the high quality of the men who have come and shared with us, not only in the plenary messages but also in private and small group conversations.  We are especially thankful for Pastors Blackburn and Savastio for taking time from their schedules and families to be here with us for these meetings.

Though he was not a Baptist, the Congregationalist “Prince of the Puritans” John Owen was highly esteemed by our Particular Baptist forebears.  Some have even suggested that if the Lord had given him more time on earth, he might well have become a Baptist.  In their writings on various topics a position often seemed to be settled if it could be shown that this was also the opinion of Owen.

In his classic work, The True Nature of a Gospel Church and its Government, Owen includes a chapter titled “Of the communion of the churches.”  In that chapter he lists five ways in which churches might have communion or fellowship with each other.  Now our conference is not a church synod or official council but Owen’s list can be loosely applied to the fellowship we have in a conference like this as individual believers who are local church members. Here is a summary of his five points describing the basis of Christian communion (as taken from the 2012 simplification and abridgement Gospel Church Government):

First:  In general, they believe the same doctrine of truth. They hold the same articles of faith and make the same public profession.

Second:  They also believe in the church itself. This fellowship requires the belief that the Lord Christ has had in all ages a church on the earth that cannot be confined to particular places or human organizations. This church is redeemed, called and sanctified by him. It is his kingdom, his interest, his concern in the world.

Third:  They pray. The fellowship of churches in faith consists to a large extent in the principal fruit of that faith, namely, prayer....   They have a blessed fellowship in prayer continually. This fellowship is more evident in that the prayers of all are for all. There is not a single particular church or a single member of any of them that does not have the prayer support of all the churches in the world and all the members of them every day. Although this fellowship is invisible to the eyes of flesh, it is glorious to the eye of faith. It is a part of the glory of Christ, the mediator in heaven. This fellowship in prayer gives to all churches a communion far more glorious than any outward rite or plan of men’s devising.

Fourth:  They administer the same sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Fifth:  They profess that they are subject to the authority of Christ in all things. This means that they are under obligation to do and observe all that Christ has commanded.

May this 2014 Keach Conference be part of the communion we share with Christian brothers and sisters and of the communion that our churches share with each other through us.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Scenes from the 2014 Keach Conference

Image:  New to this year's conference:  t-shirts!

The Thirteenth Annual Keach Conference was held last Friday evening and Saturday morning (September 26-27, 2014) at Covenant RBC in Warrenton.  Here are a few scenes from the meeting:

Image:  2014 speakers:  Jim Savastio (left) and Earl Blackburn (right)

Image: Bret Vincent leads worship.

Image:  Friday evening fellowship

Image:  Fellowship

Image:  Conversations

Image:  Youth fellowship

Image:  Saturday am session

Image:  Earl Blackburn preaching on Saturday am

Image: Saturday am break

Image:  Pew conversations

Image:  After session conversation with Jim Savastio

Image:  Q and A session

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Vision (9.25.14): Keach Conference 2014 Theme: Of Christ the Mediator

Note:  Looking forward to the 13th annual Keach Conference this weekend at Covenant RBC in Warrenton, VA.  As many know, this will be the eighth consecutive year we have taken a succeeding chapter in the  Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) as our theme.  The year's theme will be Chapter 8:  "Of Christ the Mediator":

1._____ It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. 

2._____ The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. 

3._____ The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety; which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who also put all power and judgement in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same. 

4._____ This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world. 

5._____ The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him. 

6._____ Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever. 

7._____ Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. 

8._____ To all those for whom Christ hath obtained eternal redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them; uniting them to himself by his Spirit, revealing unto them, in and by his Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey, governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit, and overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. 

9._____ This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from him to any other. 

10.____ This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of his prophetical office; and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God; and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to his heavenly kingdom. 

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle