Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
Note: This is a series of occasional verse by verse expositions of Jude. An archive of past commentaries can be found under the label "Jude Exposition" below.
Jude 1:15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
This verse is a continuation of the thought began in v. 14. The Lord will come at the end of the ages "with ten thousands of His saints" (v. 14). What will be the purpose of his coming? He comes to "execute judgement on all." Paul also says, "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom 14:10). This is not something believers have to fear, because we will be covered by the righteous life of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). The focus of this verse is particularly upon the Lord’s judgment of the wicked: "to convict all who are ungodly among them."
One word stands out in the English translation. It is repeated four times. That word is "ungodly." In the traditional Greek text of this verse, the adjective "ungodly" (asebes) appears twice, the noun "godlessness" (asebeia) appears once, and the verb "to act in an ungodly manner" (asebeo) also appears once. The wicked are in essence "ungodly." They have committed actual "ungodly" deeds. The have lived in an "ungodly" way. They are "ungodly" sinners.
Jude stresses the radical nature of man’s depravity. There is no naïve talk here of a "spark of divinity" in man. Our nature has been corrupted by sin. Apart from God’s transforming grace, we do not seek God. We do not understand God. We do not love God. As Paul notes in Romans 3: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God" (vv. 10-11).
As we have heard so often in this brief letter, Jude is warning the false teachers and those who have been duped by them that they must one day stand before Christ and give an account of their lives and doctrine. If they have spoken out against Christ, there will be a time of reckoning. Here is one more gracious plea for them to turn away from sin and toward Christ.
Jude is also encouraging the believers to remember the justice of God. Even if it seems that the wicked have the upper hand in this age, one day all things will be set right. The Lord has said, "Vengeance is mine" (Deut 12:19; cf. Rom 12:19).
Why do believers not have to fear the final judgment?
Why does Jude stress the word "ungodly" in this verse?
How would this verse serve as a warning to the wicked?
How would it serve as an encouragement to believers?
I got a call from a Pastor friend last Saturday evening telling me that our mutual friend Brian Hamrick had passed away at age 33. Brian leaves behind a wife, Katherine, and two young sons, Nathan (4) and Luke (1).
Brian was a native of Richmond, Virginia and attended Southwestern Baptist Seminary. I got to know him while he was serving as Pastor of the Fairfields Baptist Church in Burgess, VA in the Northern Neck. He was also part of the Evangelical Forum.
We printed an excellent article from Brian on the subject of church discipline in the summer 2006 Evangelical Forum Newsletter titled "If there is sin, what then?" (look here on pp. 44-52). It was adapted from a sermon he had preached in April 2006 at the annual meeting of the Rappahannock Baptist Association. He also did an article on our 2005 Evangelical Forum meeting for the Founder's blog. I recall when he told me he was moving to Florida to become pastor of the First Baptist Church of Clewiston, I told him that this was really going to be a loss to those of us who had been so encouraged by his fellowship in Virginia and in the Evangelical Forum.
I visited with Brian last Sunday night during one of his more difficult times. I read Augustine's favorite Psalm to him (Psalm 32) and before we prayed, he said, "Tom, I want you to know that I am ready for whatever the Lord has for me. If He heals me, I am ready. If not, I am ready for that, too. It's OK." His grip was as strong as his faith and I left encouraged by the obvious display of God's grace in his life. I grieve over our loss.
I remember Brian as a big, tall (he stood 6' 6''), handsome, articulate, intelligent, warm, and able young man. He loved the Lord, He loved his family. He loved the local church. I don't know all the circumstances of his death. Just a few weeks ago he was in the pulpit. He had some intestinal surgery. He developed sepsis. And now he has gone to be with the Lord. His death is a reminder that no man knows his time. It also brought to mind the last verse of "Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Arrayed":
We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.
A funeral service will be held at 11 am on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at FBC-Clewiston, Florida. A memorial serivice will also be held on at 2 pm on Friday, May 1, 2009 at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.
I have been listening to this series of talks from R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary in California titled, "Raiders of the Lost Art."
Clark describes what he calls Q.I.R.C. (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty) and Q.I.R.E. (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience).
He speaks from a self-consciously “reformed” perspective. For Clark “reformed theology” is more than mere acceptance of the five points of Calvinism or predestination, but it is a more all-encompassing doctrinal and ecclesiological system. Baptists, therefore, cannot be truly “reformed.” He laments the fact that so many Presbyterian and Reformed churches are no longer truly “reformed” in theology and practice.
Among many provocative ideas, he challenges uncritical adoration of those like Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who stressed evidence of external private religious experience. According to Clark, this undermined the classical Westminster emphasis on the ordinary means of grace (e.g., The question to ask a person in spiritual examination is not “Have you been doing your daily quiet times and personal devotions?” but, “Have you been attending the morning and evening worship services on the Lord’s Day in your local church?”).
Clark also affirms the regulative principle in worship. This includes singing only inspired texts in worship. The final talk is a thoughtful defense of the second service on the Lord’s Day afternoon or evening.
While he was still an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther began a series of lectures on Romans at Wittenberg on November 3, 1515 that continued until September 7, 1516. By the fall of 1517 he had posted his 95 theses that launched the Protestant Reformation. It was his study of Romans that God used, in large part, to set this revival in motion.
Luther’s commentary on Romans, which came from those lectures, begins with these words:
This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes (source: Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans [Kregel, 1954]: p. xiii).
My morning routine usually includes listening to NPR while having coffee and reading the paper. I recall Cal Thomas' quip that every morning he reads the Bible and the New York Times, so he can see what both sides are up to. We also tend to get into family discussions about items on the news (though I frequently mute NPR stories favorable to things like "same gender marriage"). What is really nice to hear is when the children can discern bias in an NPR report!
The children have picked up on the fact that nearly every other item on the news these days relates to the economy. So, they have taken to ascribing the cause of every ill in life to the economy. Example: "Why haven't you done your chore yet? The economy. Why is the bike tire flat? The economy." Of course, they have also taken to ascribing the solution to every problem as "Protestantism" (I have indoctrinated them well!). Example: "How were you able to do so well on your math test? Protestantism." Smiles.
Malcolm Watts, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Salisbury, England, preached this series of four messages during the weekend in which the Arann Reformed Baptist Church of Dublin, Ireland constituted. I listened to them last week while taking my morning and evening walks on the beach. These are challenging sermons on the doctrine of the local church:
As a follow-up to "The Coming Evangelical Collapse" post, you might read the Newsweek cover story from last week with the feature article, "The End of Christian America" by Jon Meacham. The article notes the relatively steep statistical decline of those in the US who self-identify as Christians (down ten percentage points from 86% in 1990 to 76% today). Are we seeing the beginnings of a post-Christian, secular America? Meacham writes:
There it was, an old term with new urgency: post-Christian. This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.
We have been enjoying the week at Topsail Island, NC. I have spent quite a bit of time this week working with four year old Isaiah on bike riding. This has got to be one of the most satisfying things that a Dad ever gets to do. How neat is it to give your son a push and watch him wobble off on his own!
I finished a Sunday morning series through the Gospel of Mark a few weeks ago. Every once in a while someone will ask what I read to prepare. The key reading, of course, is the text itself. When I am preaching a series through a book, I usually read sequentially through at least two or three commentaries. I try to read at least one older commentary and one or more modern ones. For Mark, I read Matthew Henry's commentary. I also read William Hendriksen's Mark (Baker, 1975) and Edmund Hiebert's The Gospel According to Mark: An Expositional Commentary (Bob Jones Press, 1994). I was really helped by all of these both to understand and to preach the text of Mark. At the beginning of the study I was also reading James A. Brooks' Mark (B&H, 1991)in the New American Commentary series, but I did not find it be of much spiritual or homiletical help, so I dropped it. The longer I am in the preaching ministry, the less useful I am finding newer commentaries that focus on dialogue with contemporary scholarship. As with so many things, the older are often better.
Another excerpt from last Sunday's sermon from Psalm 69:
At the end of Psalm 69:4 Jesus (the Messiah) says, "Though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it."
Think about that and just apply it to the Ten Commandments:
The man who never had any God above God had to suffer for our blasphemy.
The man who never made a graven image had to suffer for our idolatry.
The man who never took the Lord’s name in vain had to suffer for our profanity.
The man who never desecrated the Lord’s Day had to suffer for our Sabbath-breaking.
The man who never dishonored his human mother or any rightful human authority had to suffer for every instance in which you and I were dismissive of our parents or rejected the rightful human authority that was placed over us.
The man who never took a human life, had to suffer for all the murders, and abortions, and angry outbursts of humanity.
The man who never committed adultery had to suffer for every unchaste thought that we have ever had.
The man who never stolen had to suffer for the restoration of every act of theft.
The man who had never uttered a lie or falsehood had to suffer for every outright lie, half-truth, and piece of gossip that has every crossed our lips.
The man who never coveted and who was the most contented person who ever lived had to suffer for our restless and discontented hearts.
Here’s the thing this Psalm should shake us into realizing. Jesus did not die for some set of hypothetical sins of corporate humanity. He did not die for the sins of everyone else. He died for my sins.
Here's an excerpt from last Sunday's (4/5/09) sermon "A Song of Suffering" from Psalm 69 (you can also listen to the sermon here):
Psalm 69 begins with the graphic visual image of a man on the verge of drowning to death: "Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck" (v. 1). He is like a man tied to the shore, and the tide is coming in. The water is rising, and he is about to be plunged beneath the waves. I think one of the earliest and most innate human fears is that of drowning. David seizes on that primal fear to describe the depth of his spiritual struggle.
In v. 2 the metaphor shifts a bit as if he is a man thrown down into a well. He sinks into the deep mire "where there is no standing." In other words, now we are to imagine him thrown into such a slimy pit that he cannot touch the bottom. "I have come into the deep waters, where the floods overflow me" (v. 2). In v. 3 we learn that the tears of the sufferer have added to the flood. He has cried so much that he is dehydrated and his throat is parched.
What this psalm remind us is that Jesus came to save men from such a hopeless state of despair. We cannot touch the bottom of our sin. Even the best of men are capable of the worst of things.
Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century said, "You have not yet considered the weight of sin."
John Calvin said among other things that "according to the constitution of our nature, oil might be extracted from a stone sooner than we could perform good works." In another place, Calvin said that no man knows even as much as 1% of his sin.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: "When a man truly sees himself, he knows that nobody can ever say anything about him that is bad."
Joel Beeke said that "we are active ‘sin-aholics’ by nature."
Jesus did not come to merely stand on the sideline and casually toss us a life preserver. No, he jumped into our experience alongside of us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
He did not come to be a sinner but to be tempted in all points even as we are. He came to be despised by sinful men. This is our condemnation that the light was in the world but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19). His enemies were more than the hairs on his head (v. 4). His enemies were a countless throng. They number every single human being who has ever lived. Apart from God changing our hearts we do not love Christ. Still, he came to enter fully into our experience and to be among us for the glory of God.
The big buzz in sports circle around C-ville this week has been the hiring of Tony Bennett from Washington State as head basketball coach at UVA. Someone pointed out to me last night that Bennett was featured in a Baptist Press article back in 2008.
A follow up on a point raised last night at JPBC on the external evidence for the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:13b): "For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." The doxology is omitted in modern translations like the RSV, NIV, and ESV. The ESV footnote explains, "some manuscripts add" v. 13b.
What is the ancient attestation to this text and how early is it?
E. F. Hills (see his discussion in KJV Defended, pp. 146-50) says, "almost all the Greek NT manuscripts" include the doxology. He notes it is in codices W (4-5th century) and Sigma and Phi (both 6th century). My copy of the UBS 3rd corrected edition also lists codices K L Theta Pi and family 13 among others.
Hills adds that it is also in an early Christian work called the Apostolic Constitution (4th c.) and is cited by Chrysostom (345-407 AD) and Isidore of Pelusium (370-440 AD).
The earliest testimony to the doxology in Greek, however, is found in the Didache, an early Christian writing usually dated to the first half of the second century (see Didache VIII.2). It is also well attested in the ancient versions including Old Latin and Syriac (Peshitta, Harclean, and Palestinian).
The key external evidence against it is summed up by Hills: It "is omitted by by Aleph B D S and by six minuscule manuscripts. It is also omitted by all the manuscripts of the Vulgate and by nine manuscripts of the Old Latin. And certain Church Fathers omit it in their expositions of the Lord’s Prayer."
Conclusion: The doxology has credible, ancient attestation in the traditional text of Scripture and should be included in the canonical text of Scripture.