Thursday, April 29, 2010

All Things New: Bible Conference

I'm heading down to Radford, Virginia tomorrow where I will be speaking Friday and Saturday (back at CRBC on Sunday) in a Bible Conference hosted by Wilderness Road Baptist Assembly, a Reformed Baptist Church plant in the New River Valley.  Steve Clevenger from Covenant Reformed Baptist Church will also be speaking.  The meetings will be held in the Radford Public Library.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sermon of the Week: David Silversides on Recreation

Might a Christian play sports?  Should a believer strive to be a professional athlete or a professional entertainer?  Should lawful recreation be pursued on the Lord's Day?

David Silversides, pastor of Loughbrickland Reformed Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland, tackles these questions and more from a Biblical perspective in his sermon, "Recreation and the Glory of God." 


Watson: "The scorpion carries his poison in his tail, the slanderer carries poison in his tongue."

I am still preaching through a series on the Ten Commandments in our Sunday afternoon services at CRBC.  This Sunday, it will be the ninth commandment ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor").  Each week we have looked at the literal and deeper meanings of each commandment.  The ninth forbids perjury (false witness) in the court of law.  Christian interpreters have taken the wider meaning as relating to all areas of speech. In his study of The Ten Commandments, the Puritan Thomas Watson applies the ninth commandment against the sin of slandering a neighbor:

This [slandering our neighbor] is a sin against the ninth commandment. The scorpion carries his poison in his tail, the slanderer carries his poison in his tongue. Slandering ‘is to report things of others unjustly.’ They laid to my charge things that I knew not.’ Psa 35: 11. It is usual to bring in a Christian beheaded of his good name. They raised for a slander of Paul, that he preached ‘Men might do evil that good might come of it.’ ‘We be slanderously reported; and some affirm that we say, “Let us do evil, that good may come”.’ Rom 3: 8. Eminence is commonly blasted by slander. Holiness itself is no shield from slander. The lamb’s innocence will not preserve it from the wolf. Christ, the most innocent upon earth, was reported to be a friend of sinners. John the Baptist was a man of a holy and austere life, and yet they said of him, ‘He has a devil.’ Matt 11: 18. The Scripture calls slandering, smiting with the tongue. ‘Come, and let us smite him with the tongue.’ Jer 18: 18. You may smite another and never touch him. Majora sunt linguae vulnera quam gladii [The tongue inflicts greater wounds than the sword]. Augustine. The wounds of the tongue no physician can heal; and to pretend friendship to a man, and slander him, is most odious. Jerome says: ‘The Arian faction made a show of kindness; they kissed my hands, but slandered me, and sought my life.’ As it is a sin against this commandment to raise a false report of another, so it is to receive a false report before we have examined it. ‘Lord, who shall dwell in thy holy hill?’ Psa 15: 1. Quis ad coelum? ‘He that backbiteth not, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour;’ ver. 3. We must not only not raise a false report, but not take it up. He that raises a slander, carries the devil in his tongue; and he that receives it, carries the devil in his car.

Later he adds:

They are reproved who make no conscience of slandering others. ‘Thou fittest and slenderest thine own mother’s son.’ Psa 50: 20. ‘Report, say they, and we will report.’ Jer 20: 10. ‘This city (i.e. Jerusalem) is a rebellious city, and hurtful to kings and provinces.’ Ezra 4: 15. Paul was slandered as a mover of sedition, and the head of a faction. Acts 24: 5. The same word signifies both a slanderer and a devil. 1 Tim 3: 11. ‘Not slanderers;’ in the Greek, ‘not devils.’ Some think it is no great matter, to misrepresent and slander others; but it is to act the part of a devil. Clipping a man’s credit, to make it weigh lighter, is worse than clipping coin. The slanderer wounds three at once: he wounds him that is slandered; he wounds him to whom he reports the slander, by causing uncharitable thoughts to arise up in his mind against the party slandered; and he wounds his own soul, by reporting of another what is false. This is a great sin; and I wish I could say it is not common. You may kill a man in his name as well as in his person. Some are loath to take away their neighbour’s goods — conscience would fly in their face; but better take away their corn out of their field, their wares out of their shop, than take away their good name. This is a sin for which no reparation can be made; a blot in a man’s name, being like a blot on white paper, which will never be got out. Surely God will visit for this sin. If idle words shall be accounted for, shall not unjust slanders? The Lord will make inquisition one day, as well for names as for blood. Oh therefore take heed of this sin! Was it not a sin under the law to defame a virgin? Deut 22: 19. And is it not a greater sin to defame a saint, who is a member of Christ? The heathen, by the light of nature, abhorred the sin of slandering. Diogenes used to say, ‘Of all wild beasts, a slanderer is the worst.’ Antonius made a law, that, if a person could not prove the crime he reported another to be guilty of, he should be put to death.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: Keith Mathison's "Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper"

I just finished writing a longer review of Keith Mathison's book Given For You (P & R, 2002) on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper.  Here's how it starts:

There is a current revival of interest taking place in Reformed circles in the doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper. A friend and colleague in Reformed Baptist pastoral ministry recommended this book to me as an important resource in this ongoing conversation. The author works for Ligonier Ministries and as an editor for Tabletalk magazine. In his forward, R. C. Sproul says that after reading the manuscript he told Mathison, “You may die now” (p. x). He explained that even if Mathison wrote nothing else in his life this book would provide a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Mathison prefaces the book by noting that his purpose is “to introduce, explain, and defend a particular doctrine of the Lord’s Supper—the doctrine taught by John Calvin and most of the sixteenth century Reformed Confession” (p. xv). He adds, “This is not the doctrine taught in most Reformed churches today” (p. xv). Calvin’s view was usurped in Reformed circles by the memorialist view of Zwingli. Mathison argues that Calvin’s doctrine is the Biblical position and that it should, therefore, “be reclaimed and proclaimed in the Reformed church today” (p. xvi).

To read the whole thing go here.

For other reviews look here.


Reflections on 1 Peter 2:8b and Reprobation

In preaching through 1 Peter 2:4-8 on Sunday I was struck by the last half of v. 8. In describing those who reject Christ, finding him to be “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (cf. Isaiah 8:14), Peter concludes, “They stumble, being obedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”

The issue here is with the idea that God appoints (the Greek verb is tithemi) sinners to reject Christ. The idea would be that if he appoints those who will be saved (cf. Acts 13:48: “And as many who had been appointed [here the Greek verb is tasso] to eternal life believed.”], he also appoints those who will be lost. This is the scandal of “double predestination." Some other passages to examine include:

• Paul’s hypothetical suggestion in Romans 9::22, "What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,"

• Paul’s mention of vessels of “honor” and “dishonor” in 2 Timothy 2:20, "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor."
• Jude’s reference to ungodly men “marked out [AV: “ordained”; the Greek verb is prographo, literally “written beforehand”] for this condemnation” (Jude 1:4).

The modern commentaries are quite nervous in handling the text of 1 Peter 4:8b:

Edmond Hiebert acknowledges Calvin’s frank assessment, “They had been appointed to unbelief.” Yet Hiebert concludes that this cannot be what it really means: “The clause refers not to their predestination to unbelief, but to the inevitable result of their willful rejection of the message of Christ” (1 Peter [BMH, 1984, 1992]: p. 141).

Tom Schreiner is more forthright, but he also retreats into the defense of mystery: “The Scriptures do not resolve how these two themes [God’s predestination and human responsibility] fit together philosophically, though today we would call it a ‘compatibilist’ worldview. We must admit, however, that how this fits together logically eludes us….” (1, 2 Peter and Jude, New American Commentary [B & H, 2003]: pp. 113-14).

As for older commentaries the Geneva Bible notes draws this conclusion about Peter’s contrast between “the most blessed condition of believers, and the most miserable of the rebellious one”: “…although they be created to this end and purpose, yet their fall and decay is not to be attributeth to God, but to their own obstinate stubbornness, which cometh between God’s decree, and the execution thereof or their condemnation, and is the true and proper cause of their destruction.”

Here’s how I handled it in the manuscript of my sermon:

Notice Peter’s final comment on those who reject Jesus: “They stumble….” Peter says that they were appointed to this. Here we have the doctrine of reprobation. It is a frightening doctrine. We know—as our confession makes plain—that God is not the author of evil. Those who reject Christ cannot blame God for forcing them to make this choice. Those who reject Christ will be held fully responsible for their own actions, but here Peter affirms that God is sovereignly in control even of those who reject his Son, and he uses even that to his own glory.


Textual Note on 1 Peter 2:7a

In reading and preaching though 1 Peter, I ran across this textual issue in 1 Peter 2:7a: “Therefore to you who believe He is precious; but to those who are disobedient….”

The issue relates to the verb translated as “disobedient.” In the traditional text the verb is apeithousi (present active participle, dative masculine plural, from apeitheo) and in the modern critical text it is apistousin (present active participle, dative masculine plural, from apisteo). Thus rather than translate “but to those who are disobedient” (so NKJV) modern versions read, “But to those who do not believe” (so the NIV).

The question: Does the authentic text here read apeithousi or apistousin?

First, we need to look at the external evidence. The traditional reading is supported by Codex Alexandrinus, Codex P, the vast majority of all other Greek texts, and the Syriac Peshitta. The reading favored in the modern text is supported by the twin heavyweights of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and a few others.

Next, we look at internal evidence. We might easily see how either word might have been confused with the other. Though a conservative interpreter, Edmond Hiebert accepts the modern “correction” noting, “The term ‘disobedient’ seems to have been imported from v. 8” (1 Peter [BMH, 1984, 1992]: p. 138), as indeed the verb apeitheo is also used in v. 8. Nevertheless, it seems to be equally conceivable that the verb was changed to apisteo in order to harmonize and draw a parallel with the first half of v. 7: “Therefore to you who believe (pisteueo)….” In this case the traditional text actually provides a more difficult reading and the modern text presents a more “smoothed out” rendering.

Conclusion: There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional text of 1 Peter 2:7a.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thomas Watson's Antidotes to Breaking the Seventh Commandment

In last Sunday afternoon's message on the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery"), I included a review from Thomas Watson's study The Ten Commandments on antidotes “to keep from the infection of this sin":

1. Do not come into the company of a wanton person. We must avoid places of temptation “as a seaman does a rock.” “He who would not have the plague, must not come near infected houses.”

2. Look to your eyes. Job: “I have made a covenant with my eyes, why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1).

3. Look to your lips. “Impure discourse is the bellows to blow a fire of lust.”

4. Look in a special manner to your heart. “Thinking of sin makes way for the act of sin.”

5. Look to your attire. This commandment means that we should dress in modesty, so as not to provoke others to lust.

6. Take heed of evil company. “The fire of lust in kindled in bad company.”

7. Beware of going to plays. What would Watson say of the access we have today to film and video?

8. Take heed of mixed dancing. Again, what would Watson say today about the current provocative dance styles?

9. Take heed of lascivious, and pictures that provoke to lust.  What would Watson say about the internet?

10. Take heed of excess in diet. “When gluttony and drunkenness lead the van, chambering and wantonness bring up the rear.”

11. Take heed of idleness. “When a man is out of a calling [job], he is ready to receive any temptation.”

12. Positively, let every man have a chaste, entire love to his own wife. Cf. Proverbs 5:18: “rejoice with the wife of your youth” see also vv. 19-20). “It is not having a wife, but loving wife, that makes a man live chastely.”

13. Labor to get the fear of God into your hearts. “As the embankment keeps out the water, so fear of the Lord keeps out uncleanness.”

14. Take delight in the word of God. “The reason why persons seek after unchaste, sinful pleasures, is because they have no better.”

15. Give serious consideration to the fact that God sees our every act of sin, that few who commit adultery fully recover from the harm it does, that it makes God stand as a witness against us, and that “it leaves hell in the conscience.”

16. Pray against this sin.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Video of the Week: Grace Community Church Ad

A friend sent me this link to a video for Grace Community Church in San Antonio, TX:


Thursday, April 15, 2010

One more Piper/Warren Follow Up

I just read Phil Johnson's April 9 post on "The Piper/Warren Connection" and commend it.  His description of Saddleback's recent Easter service (complete with a performance by the Jonas Brothers) alone is worth the read.

Along these lines, you might also read J. P. Thackway's article, "Why Good Men Change."


"Therefore, laying aside..."

A reflection on 1 Peter 2:1-2 from last Sunday's Sermon "The Pure Milk of the Word" (1 Peter 1:22--2:3):

1 Peter 2:1-2:  "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby."

You will notice that this second part of the passage begins with a reference to putting things away: “Therefore, laying aside….” (v. 1). Before we can put on a life of godliness we have to get rid of a life of ungodliness. Picture a man walking along, and he is carrying piles of garbage in his arms. I mean he has heaped up in his arms old newspapers, and tin cans, and used tissue paper, potato peelings, and banana peels. And as he walks along balancing all this garbage, he sees on the ground a pile of precious stones. Rubies, diamonds, sapphires. And he meets a kind looking man who says, “You can pick up and take with you anything that you find there before you.” The man tries to reach for the gems, but as he does the trash shifts, a few items drop which he quickly grabs and piles back onto the putrid top. The burdened man in exasperation finally says, “I really want to pick those precious stones up but can’t you see that right now my hands are filled to the brim with these things?” Then the wise and kind man says to him, “Friend, put down that garbage and leave it by the wayside and gather up this treasure that is being freely given to you.” Don’t you know that this is what Christ says to every garbage toting sinner whose path he crosses!


Quality is what counts

Image:  The congregation of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Wales.

In the April-June issue of Bible League Quarterly, J. P. Thackway reflects on a lesson learned from 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:

Largeness of numbers and apparent success are not the criterion.

The Lord will “try every man’s work of what it is”—not “how much it is.” Quality is what counts. Reality is what matters. So many churches justify worldly methods by pointing to increased attendances. As Dinsdale T. Young once pointed out, the only full place of worship recorded in scripture is the temple of Baal (2 Kings 10:21)! Being full of the Lord’s presence and favor counts for infinitely more, now and forever.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Affirmation 2010

I recently got my copy of the April-June edition of the Bible League Quarterly, published by the Bible League Trust in the UK.  I always look forward to reading through the articles in this little gem.  This issue has a note about "Affirmation 2010," a non-sectarian confessional document spearheaded by Malcolm Watts and "signed by twenty-five brethren, most of them ministers of churches represented by Baptist, Congregational, Independent, and Presbyterian."  "Affirmation 2010" has a website and I plan to order the 30 page document.  The website offers the preface to the document:

In view of the present violent opposition from the adversary of God and man, and the evident confusion and grave departure from Biblical Truth in the professing Church, we believe it laid upon us to make solemn affirmation of the doctrine we seek firmly to believe and strenuously to maintain.

It is understood that this Affirmation does not cover every tenet of the Faith once delivered to us, but statement is herein made, and emphasis given, to the doctrine particularly assailed at the present time.

Aware, as we certainly are, of our own great weakness, and depending as always upon the support and strength of our faithful God, we unitedly make solemn and public testimony to vitally important truth, while at the same time firmly rejecting the errors and novelties which are contrary to them. We call upon all who love the Truth to join with us in making this formal affirmation of Faith, and we pray God to use it to the overthrow of false doctrine and practice.

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19

You can also listen to an interview with Bible League Trustee Pooyan Mehrshashi on Affirmation 2010 on the internet broadcast, "The Heart of the Matter."


Monday, April 12, 2010

Cove Creek Opening Prayer

Somehow I was asked and made a commitment to be an assistant coach on Sam's team this season at Cove Creek (though my experience in playing baseball is limited!).  I was also asked to do the annual prayer for the 15th annual Opening Ceremonies.  I'm not completely sure how I feel about prayers for these kinds of public events, but I tried to make it as Jesus-centered as possible.  Cove Creek Commissioner John Grisham introduced me as the "guest pray-er."  Here's the prayer:

Gracious and loving God,

You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The Psalmist tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by you. You have given us sport and recreation for our health and for our good pleasure.

Today we especially thank you for baseball and the enjoyment it brings both on the field and in the bleachers. As we stand on the threshold of a new season, we thank you in particular for Cove Creek Park, and we seek your blessing on all that will happen here.

We thank you for the benefactors, administrators, and staff who have made this field of dreams a reality once again this year.

We thank you for the parents, coaches, fans, and officials who will provide the support, instruction, encouragement, and order that will be needed here.

We especially thank you for these young athletes—our own sons and daughters. We ask you to guard their physical safety. We ask that you help them to honor their parents and to extend proper respect to their coaches and officials. We ask that you would enable them to strive for excellence in proportion to their abilities, to be just in competition, generous in victory, and noble in defeat. Help us to do all things to your glory.

Finally, help us to remember what Jesus taught us in the Great Commandment, that the two most important things we can ever do in this life are to love you with every fiber of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let that show in our attitude toward you and toward each other in this place this season.

We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen.

Opening Day at Cove Creek

Saturday (4/10) was Opening Day Ceremony at Cove Creek Park. Our son Sam is entering his sixth season at Cove Creek and his first in the "major league" division. Our son Isaiah is beginning his first year in "coach pitch."  Joseph is back again as number one fan for his big brothers.

Llewellyn's parents were able to come up and join us for the "Opening Day" ceremony.

Photos above:  The Cove Creek Marlins in 1-2-3-4-5 order.  Sam pitching in the opener for the Angels.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thomas Watson: "Many dig their grave with their teeth."

Thomas Watson's musings on the Sixth Commandment include the typical Christian interpretation that the commandment forbids suicide.  Watson pushes even further.  According to him, we violate this commandment when we do not exercise proper stewardship over our bodies.  "Many dig their grave with their teeth."

Watson says, one may be guilty of self-murder "indirectly and occassionally":

(1)  When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might prevent. If a company of archers were shooting, and one should put himself in the place where the arrows fly, so that an arrow kills him, he is accessory to his own death. In the law, God would have the leper shut up, to keep others from being infected. Lev 13: 4. If any should be so presumptuous as to go to a leper, and get the plague of leprosy, he might thank himself for his own death. (2) A person may be guilty of his own death, in some sense, by neglecting the use of means for preserving life. If sick, and he uses no remedy; if he has received a wound, and will not apply a cure, he hastens his own death. God commanded Hezekiah to lay a ‘lump of figs upon the boil.’ Isa 38: 21. If he had not done so, he would have been the cause of his own death. (3) By immoderate grief. ‘The sorrow of the world worketh death.’ 2 Cor 7: 10. When God takes away a dear relation, and any one is swallowed up with sorrow, he endangers his life. How many weep themselves into their graves! Queen Mary grieved so excessively for the loss of Calais, that it broke her heart. (4) By intemperance or excess in diet. Surfeiting shortens life. Plures periere crapula, quam gladio [More perish by drink than by the sword]. Many dig their grave with their teeth. Too much oil chokes the lamp. The cup kills more than the cannon. Excessive drinking causes untimely death.


Thomas Watson on Murdering A Man In His Name

I will preach tomorrow at CRBC on the sixth commandment.  I have been reading Thomas Watson's commentary on the commandments as I work through them.  Watson is brilliant at going beyond the literal level to the "fuller" spiritual meaning of each commandment.  On the sixth commandment, he points out that we break this commandment not merely when we injure another man in his body but also when we injure a man's reputation:

We must not injure another in his name. ‘A good name is a precious balsam.’ It is a great cruelty to murder a man in his name. We injure others in their name, when we calumniate and slander them. David complains, ‘They laid to my charge things that I knew not.’ Psa 35: 11. The primitive Christians were traduced for incest, and killing their children, as Tertullian says, Dicimur infanaticidii incestus rei [They charge us with infanticide and label us incestuous]. This is to behead others in their good name; it is an irreparable injury. No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Another Odd Turn: Piper and Warren

Things took another decidedly odd turn recently when John Piper announced that he was inviting Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Community Church and author of The Purpose Drive Life, to speak at his 2010 Desiring God Conference this October (other speakers include folk one might expect like Al Mohler and R. C. Sproul).

Here is the video in which Piper broke the news:

Many are baffled by this decision.  For one critique, read Tim Challies's post "Why John Piper Should Not Have Invited Rick Warren."  For another, read the comments by Michael Horton.  Piper has pushed the envelope in recent Desiring God sponsored conferences by inviting controversial speakers like emergent church pastor Mark Driscoll and Federal Vision proponent Doug Wilson (see R. Scott Clark's post "A Gentle Rebuke to Brother John").  Many think that inviting Warren is going too far.

Piper defends his decison in this video and argues against those who have criticized him as having "secondary separation" issues:


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sermon of the Week: "Adopting for Life" Conference Messages

Southern Seminary hosted an "Adopting for Life" conference back in late February.  You can listen and view over 20 audio and video message here, covering everything from practical, personal, ecclesiastical, and theological issues related to adoption.