Thursday, October 28, 2010
Field Trip: A CRBC Reformation Weekend Family Field Trip Day is set for Friday, October 29 to the Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville (exit off I-64). This historic church was founded in 1740. Its ministers and members played a significant role in the American Revolutionary War and in the Civil War. R. L. Dabney was a past minister of the church, and he designed the church’s sanctuary. The church has a professionally created, museum quality, historical display on the church’s history that includes information on the Protestant Reformation, American history, and Reformed worship. We will meet at Tinkling Spring at 10:00 am, and then tour the historical display, church building, and cemetery. Bring your own lunch and we will eat together on the church grounds after the tour. Anyone is welcomed to join us.
Matthew Mead’s The Almost Discovered Christian Discovered (first printed 1661; SDG ed., 1993) was written “that the formal, sleepy professor may be awakened and the close hypocrite discovered” (p. xv).
Along the way, Mead notes 8 kinds of “counterfeit zeal” (pp. 55-60):
1. There is a blind zeal, a zeal without knowledge.
This was the zeal Paul had while a Pharisee and persecuting the godly.
2. There is a partial zeal.
It is to be “fire-hot” in one thing but “key-cold” in another. Many are “first-table Christians” yet neglectful of the second. While “others are mindful of the second-table, but neglectful of the first.” “So where zeal reaches to every command of God alike, that is a sign of a sound constitution of the soul.”
3. There is a misplaced zeal fixed upon unsuitable and disproportionate objects.
This is “a superstitious zeal” usually found in unconverted men “in whom grace never was wrought.” This is the zeal Paul had for “the traditions of his fathers” before his conversion.
4. There is a selfish zeal that has a man’s own end for its motive.
“Jehu was very zealous, but it was not so much for God as for the kingdom.”
5. There is an outside zeal.
Such was the zeal of the scribes and Pharisees who “would not eat with unwashed hands, but yet would live in unseen sins.”
6. There is a forensic zeal that runs out upon others.
“Many are hot and high against the sins of others and yet cannot see the same in themselves.” “It is easy to see the faults in others and hard to see them in ourselves.” “This zeal is the true character of a hypocrite. His own garden is overrun with weeds while he is busy in looking over his neighbor’s pale.”
7. There is a sinful zeal.
This is “a zeal against zeal.” It is a “devilish zeal.” It is a zeal against godliness and truth.
8. There is a scripture-less zeal that is not butted and bound by the Word, but by some base and low end.
“Many a man’s zeal is greater then and there, when and where he has the least warrant from God. The true spirit of zeal is bound by the Scripture, for it is for God and the concerns of His glory. God has no glory from that zeal which has not Scripture warrant.”
This Sunday (October 31), we will be asking our members to nominate men for consideration for service in our body as church officers (Ruling Elder and Deacon). Members will be given a slip of paper and may nominate as many men as they wish for each office. The Pastor will review these nominations and hold interviews with those who receive a significant number of nominations to discuss calling, qualifications, and expectations. He will then nominate candidates for election by the congregation at our Annual Church Conference in January.
Here are some thoughts to consider for each office:
A good summary of the qualifications appears in Paul’s instructions to Titus in Titus 1:5-9:
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you -- 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Since the Ruling Elder will be serving in the government of the church, he must first be one who has an established and exemplary track record in ruling or governing his own household (see vv. 5-6). This includes his marriage relationship and his relationship with his children. This does not mean that his wife and children are merely outwardly submissive to him. Is it evident that he has led in his home with authority and love?
Next, he must have an established track record in personal and spiritual life management (see vv. 7-8). Does this man govern himself and make good stewardship of his gifts for the kingdom? Does he speak the truth in love? Will he work in harmony with the Minister, with his fellow Elders, and with the church body? Is he a lover of strangers (hospitable)? Is he “holy,” distinctly set apart for God’s service?
Finally, and most importantly, he must be one who has demonstrated a passion for the truth (v. 9). Does he hold fast the faithful word? Is he sound in doctrine and able to exhort and convict those who contradict it?
A good summary of the qualifications for Deacons appears in Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:8-13:
8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
We see some parallels with the expectations for Ruling Elders:
He must be a man who has proven himself to be a good steward of his household (vv. 11-12). Will his wife complement his ministry? Has he managed his household well?
He must be a man who has shown good stewardship of his personal life (vv. 8, 10). Is he pious, reverent, and truthful? Note that Paul contends that a man first be “tested” before taking this office.
Finally, he must be doctrinally sound (v. 9). He must hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. Notice that unlike the Elders there is no requirement that he be apt to teach. His primary role in the church is that of service (cf. the “seven men” in Acts 6:1-7).
Having reviewed these qualifications, we might well say with Paul, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Indeed, in one sense, no one is worthy to serve in these exalted roles. Again, we learn from Paul who would say of this call to the apostleship, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not even worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Yet, Paul concluded, “I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (v. 10). Indeed, Paul records that Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The standards are exalted, men are weak, but this only magnifies our utter dependence upon the Lord for all things, including the supply of officers to teach, lead, and serve his people.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Richard Barcellos--on the Midwestern Center for Baptist Studies blog--is posting a series of irenic critiques of Tom Schreiner's recent comments on the Sabbath (see my previous post).
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Image: Fort Sumter
Below is the introduction I used for the message I preached back on 10/17 for the Homecoming services at St. John’s Bethel BC in Moncks Corner:
Yesterday my family visited Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor. As you likely well know, Fort Sumter is the site of the first shots fired in the American Civil War (or War Between the States). I learned yesterday that even after that war the fort remained a military installation for many years. In fact, it was fitted with anti-aircraft batteries during World War II to protest the city of Charleston from air attack.
Only in 1948 was the fort decommissioned and turned over from the War Department to the National Parks. Now, it is no longer a fort but only a museum and historical attraction.
Here is the lingering question today. Are you still a congregation that is an active outpost of the kingdom? Do not settle for being a religious heritage society, a museum. Be on the front lines, defending the faith, taking ground for your Commander and His noble cause.
Be a church and not a museum.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Last post on our Chareston church visits from last week:
Image: St. Philip's Episcopal Church
Images: St. Philip's cemetery holds a signer of the Constiution (Charles Pinckney) and a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Edward Rutledge).
Image: Not far away is yet another Episcopal church with a massive spire: St. Michael's.
Image: Not to outdone by St. Philip's, St. Michael's cemetery has two signers of the Constitution (Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and John Rutledge)!
Image: Finally, the First (Scots) Presbyterian Church
Llew and the children were gracious (and patient) enough to let me visit all these edifices. We were thinking of visiting the synagogue when we ran out of energy for the day. Maybe next time. The diversity and heritage of these houses of worship remind you that we are a nation of immigrants that thrives on religious liberty.
Leslie W. emailed me the other day to say that she had read an interesting post on the blog of a Christian homeschooling family in Scotland she has gotten to know online. The post had commended David Murray's sermon on creation at the recent Keach Conference!
Leslie wrote: "Can you believe it? Now, is it a small world or what? What a blessing to see the effects ... on a family across the ocean that we have learned to love through writing. The LORD be praised!"
Friday, October 22, 2010
Image: The front of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, SC.
Continuing our "church crawl" last Monday through the "Holy City," one of the highlights was visiting the First Baptist Church of Charleston which can claim to be the first Baptist church in the South. It actually began under the leadership of William Screven in Kittery, Maine. Screven and the congregation moved to South Carolina c. 1696 and acquired the plot of land on Church Street in 1699. This congregation essentially became the mother church for all Baptist congregations in the South.
In 1751 Pastor Oliver Hart led the church to join with three other Baptist congregations in the colony in organizing the Charleston Baptist Association, the first such body in the South. Richard Furman was the pastor from 1787-1825. Later pastors included Basil Manly, Sr., H. A. Tupper, and James Petigru Boyce (founder of the Southern Baptist Seminary).
Side note: We had a celebrity sighting just outside the church where we saw the actor Bill Murray (Charleston is one of his homes) waiting to pick up his child at a nearby private school.
Image: Sign outside the church building.
Image: Cornerstone plaque.
Image: Marker for the Richard Furman family vault just outside the side entrance to the sanctuary.
Image: A view of the stately sanctuary where the so-called "Charleston" tradition of Baptist worship(stately, reverent, Calvinistic) was born.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Image: Exterior of the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church in Charleston, SC.
Charleston, SC is called the "Holy City" due to the high concentration of historic churches in the downtown area. Last Monday, we walked to about seven different church buildings all within roughly a mile's span.
One of my favorite sites was the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church on the corner of Queen and Church Streets. In April of 1680 forty-five French Protestants who has escaped persecution in their homeland and immigrated to England came to Charleston. They soon founded their own church. The current building was completed in 1845 and the church is now the only existing Huguenot congregation in America.
The congregation worshipped exclusively in French until 1828 when a seven member committee translated the Huguenot Liturgy into English. They had to add a burial service to their litrugy since under French Catholic oppression Protestants had to conduct their burial services at night and in silence. The church closed and reopened several times in its history. The current pastor (a former Southern Baptist) has served since 1982 and now services are primarily in English. The church still holds one service in French each year in the spring (on a date near the anniversary of the Edict of Nantes, April 13, 1598). They also hold a solemn service each year on or near October 18 to commemorate the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Our tour guide (an Englishman!) is a member who told us the church was still distinctly Calvinistic in theology. He also said that they have a "collation" (covered dish meal) each Sunday following the morning service. This proves they're Reformed! The first song sung in each Lord's Day service is Psalm 68 in French, and the last hymn sung is "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
Sadly, the church has lost a good bit of its Protestant simplicity with an elaborate organ, memorial plaques, and chandeliers added in later years. Here are some more pictures:
Image: Plaque outside the church
Image: The narthex holds this list of American Presidents of Huguenot descent. A plaque inside the church notes George Washington's financial gifts to the congregation.
Image: Over the Entrance to the sanctuary: "Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found"
Image: And over the exit: "Be ye doers of the word not hearers only"
Note: We are giving special focus to stewardship in the month of October. The following article is written by CRBC Treasurer Daniel Houseworth.
How many of us have heard genuine believers make the following or similar statements?
- “I am under no obligation to give to the church because the New Testament says that God only wants cheerful givers.”
- “It is legalistic to say that the Bible says I am to tithe. That is an Old Testament concept and you cannot find it in the New Testament.”
- “I do give to the church, but to me the church is not just the place where I worship on Sunday; instead I like to give to many different ministries.”
In contrast with these prevailing opinions, the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, “[N]ow concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” From this passage we can derive several principles –
• Paul himself clearly “ordered” a particular collection imparting the principle that giving is obligatory not optional.
• The collection took place on the first day of the week (Sunday) imparting the principle that giving is normally to be done when the church gathers for worship.
• The collected amount was laid aside as a believer “may prosper” imparting the principle that giving is to be proportional.
• The collection occurred over time imparting the principle that giving is to be done regularly.
In addition to these principles, I would suggest that Paul’s order was built on the foundational principle of regular giving, i.e. tithing, to the local church. Note that this particular collection was to be taken from a local congregation for use elsewhere. While physical depravity and need were constants during the Apostolic era (and remain so today in many parts of the world), abject poverty was not a virtue in and of itself. Paul would not seek to deprive any local body of its own financial needs. Instead he sought to admonish the church in Corinth (and us) regarding Biblical stewardship.
For application, I would encourage each of us to do the following:
1. Continue to tithe (or start tithing) to CRBC to meet the financial needs of the congregation. This applies to members as well as regular attendees because CRBC is where we gather as brothers and sisters in Christ on the first day of the week.
2. Regularly set aside an additional amount to give to the Mercy Fund. This will allow us to meet the needs of those within our own congregation and beyond just as the church in Corinth was doing to relive the famine stricken church in Jerusalem.
3. Consider regularly giving beyond the tithe to the CRBC general fund. Surely we who have Jesus Christ, “who has become a surety of a better covenant,” (Hebrews 7:22) can exceed the basic and enduring tithe requirement established under the old covenant.
As we give our tithes and offering, we should do so out of thankfulness for the glorious salvation we have in Christ, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 5:20) for God indeed “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 2:7b). What more could cheer a man’s heart than know that he is a sinner saved by the grace of God?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Image: Sign outside St. John's Bethel BC in Moncks Corner, SC.
We just got back yesterday from a long weekend trip to the Charleston, SC area. I preached Sunday morning at St. John's Bethel Baptist Church in Moncks Corner on the occasion of their 101st Anniversary. I was converted under the preaching of the gospel and baptized in this church which my father served as pastor in the early 1970s. It was great to see many old friends from the congregation and to have my family see the area where I spent a significant part of my childhood.
Image: My family poses outside the church after services.
Image: Standing by the ferry "The Spirit of the Lowcountry" with the Ravenel Bridge spanning the Cooper River in the background.
On Saturday we took a trip into Charleston and rode the ferry out into the Charleston Harbor to visit Fort Sumpter where the first shots of the Civil War (aka WBTS) were fired.
Images: Hannah and Lydia on the ferry ride to Fort Sumter.
Image: Llew and the children outside Fort Sumter.
Image: A canon inside the fort
Image: Sunday afternoon we took a family walk though the Waterfront Park and the children enjoyed the fountain.
Image: St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston.
On Monday we took a walk through Charleston with stops at many of the churches (look for future posts), the market, Rainbow Row, the Battery, and the old slave market.
I posted today another sermon by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) titled Churches Should Exhibit the Light of the Gospel. The date and occassion for this message is not given in Fuller's Collected Works. It is obviously a pastoral installation message. The text is Revelation 2:1, and Fuller does a masterful job of challenging pastor and people to shine the light of the gospel.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Justin Taylor ran an excerpt yesterday from SBTS NT Professor Tom Schreiner's upcoming book, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law that got a lot of feedback. The excerpt was from question #37 "Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?" Schreiner's conclusion: "Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath." The discussion seems to hit at the heart of the distinction between those, like Schreiner, who are neo-evangelical Calvinists (soteriological Calvinists) and those who are Reformed. Perhaps it is the influence of dispensationalism that leads neo-evangelicals to disregard the abiding relevance of the fourth commandment (see John MacArthur's comments on the the fourth commandment in his Study Bible notes on Exodus 20). The discussion also brings to mind D. G. Hart's disavowal of the label "evangelical" in his book Deconstructing Evangelicalism.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Image: Fellowship at the Keach Conference hosted at CRBC in September.
Note: We are giving special focus to stewardship in the month of October. The following article is written by CRBC Assistant Treasurer Brian Overstreet.
It's too easy to fall into a habit of giving because that is what we're supposed to do. I'll confess that I far too often write my check for tithe and do not really put much thought into it. In fact, I thought that I was doing pretty well by not being a reluctant or grudging giver. Let's consider, however, what the Word says, "...God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). How can one in truth cheerfully give away his possessions? That's like rejoicing because you were counted worthy to suffer (Acts 5:41). It begins by knowing that our possessions are not really ours. Everything we have, even we ourselves, belong to God. We exist only by His generous and gracious provision. He is the sovereign Lord of all creation, and has purposefully positioned each one of us (no matter what one's circumstances may be) so that we can honor and glorify Him with our whole lives, with everything we say and do, and with everything he has given us.
Even if you are in difficult financial circumstances, rejoice in your giving. Jesus said of the widow who gave the two mites, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury” (Mark 12:43). We should never confuse the amount of giving with its value. If you have plenty, rejoice because the Lord has given you the opportunity to give much.
Here are a few suggestions for practical application:
• When you are paid, set aside your tithe before doing other spending (the principle of the "first fruit").
• On Saturday night, prepare your tithe and pray, thanking God that he has provided for you so abundantly that you are able to give back that amount.
• Think and pray about how the Lord will use your tithe for his kingdom work. This is something to really be excited about. God is actually using you to accomplish his kingdom work here on earth! If you meditate and pray in this way, the Lord will increase your love of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:8 goes on to say that "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." Here scripture is telling us that if we have a heart that loves to give, He will provide the ability and the opportunity to do so.
I am not writing primarily to encourage you to increase your giving, although that would be great. However, I do believe that if we are more thankful for what God has given us, as well as more prayerful and cheerful in tithing, God will then increase both the ability and fruitfulness of our giving.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Image: Ruins of the ancient baths in Ephesus
From the conclusion to last Sunday’s message, A Profile of False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3):
There was a story told among the first Christians that is recorded by Eusebius in his history of the early church (Ecclesiastical History IV.XIV). The story goes that once the apostle John was in Ephesus, and he went into the public baths. But then a man named Cerenthus, a notorious heretic and false teacher, came into the same building, and John “sprang out of the baths without bathing calling out, ‘Let us fly lest the baths fall in, since Cerenthus, the enemy of the truth is within.’”
Help us, likewise, to flee from falsehood, as we flee toward Christ, the one who is perfect Truth.
Note: This is the final article in this series through "The Directory for the Public Worship of God." Past articles can be read under the label below.
Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.
THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.
Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.
Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God's providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconvenient for Christians to meet together therein for the publick worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of publick assembling for worship among us should be continued and employed to that use.
Comment and analysis: This final installment commends the Lord’s Day as the only Christian “holiday.” The Directory, thus, sees no place for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc. Or, for that matter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, (or even) Reformation Day, etc. It also rejects superstition over the actual physical place of worship.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Again, in preaching the text 2 Peter 2:1-3 last Sunday, I spent some time dealing with Peter’s assertion that the false teachers were “denying the Lord who bought them” (v. 1).
What did Peter mean by this? There is a notorious interpretive difficulty in this verse. It is one that is often thrown in the face of Calvinists who believe both in the final perseverance of the saints and in particular redemption.
The verse presents at least two challenging questions:
First, does it teach that these false teachers were saved but they then lost their salvation? Does it teach that a believer can become an apostate?
Second, does it teach “universal redemption”? Does it teach that Christ potentially died for these false teachers and the only reason they were not saved was because they did not accept what Jesus had potentially done for them?
For the initial question, we examined the Scriptures’ plain teaching on the perseverance of the saints (cf. John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Phil 1:6; 1 Peter 3:5; and Romans 8:33-39), while also acknowledging that the Bible teaches that there will be false professors (cf. Matt 7:21 and the parable of the soils in Matt 13:1-23). The conclusion: Using the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, we can only decide that Peter is not describing genuine believers in 2 Peter 2:1 but false professors. These are not men who lost their salvation, but men who never truly had it.
For the second question, we started by examining texts that teach particular redemption (cf. Mark 10:45; John 10:14-16; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25), also noting that “universal redemption” presents some unseemly possibilities (e.g. that there are people in hell for whom Christ died on the cross).
Finally, we turned in summary to John Owen’s comments on this verse in his classic defense of particular redemption, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Banner reprint, 1959): pp. 250-252. When Owen examined this text he made the following observations:
a. The word for “Lord” here is not kurios, the name that believers give to Jesus, but despotes. This implies that these men knew Jesus to be powerful, but they did not know him as their “Lord.”
b. When Peter spoke of them being “redeemed” he might have been using that word in a way that did not imply salvation (even though he uses the verb agorazo which in the NT most often refers to salvation as redemption or ransom). The implication would be that these false teachers had benefited from knowing the teachings of Christ, perhaps by being removed from the legalism of the Jews or the paganism of the Gentiles, but they were not savingly redeemed by the blood of Christ. Schreiner accuses Owen of “special pleading” on this point (1, 2 Peter, Jude [Broadman & Holman, 2003]: p. 330).
c. Peter’s point here is that in the estimation of others they were believed to be saved. They seemed to be among the redeemed. But Owen concludes, they were in truth “saints in show—really wolves and hypocrites, of old ordained to condemnation.”
There is a minor textual variation in 2 Peter 2:2 that caught my eye in preparation for preaching the text last Sunday. The variation is largely without comment in modern critical Greek text apparati, and it is unmentioned in the marginal textual notes of the NKJV.
The Textus Receptus reads: “And many will follow their destructive ways [tais apoleiais].”
While the modern critical text reads: “Many will follow their shameful ways [tais aselgeiais].”
The issue is whether the noun should be “destruction [apoleia]” or “sensuality [aselgeia].”
External evidence: This is one of those more rare instances where the TR reading departs from the Majority Text which also reads aselgeia. The Hodges/Farstad The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text is one of the few current Greek texts to even mention the variation in its apparatus. The AV rendering of the phrase raises a question as to which text was before the 1611 translators. They rendered it: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways.” By “pernicious” did they mean “destructive” or “sensual”? A marginal note in some editions of the AV assumes it follows the TR, adding, “Or, lascivious ways, as some copies read.” It is more clear that the Geneva Bible followed the TR here, as it reads, “And many shall follow their destructions.”
Internal evidence: The strongest argument for the TR reading might be the repeated use of the word “destruction” throughout the text (cf. in v. 1: references to “destructive heresies” and “swift destruction,” and in v. 3 “their destruction does not slumber”). On the other hand, some would claim the possibility of assimilation. It might also be argued that here in the beginning Peter places the focus on the doctrinal errors of the false teachers and only later on their ethical errors (cf. 2:12-17). Thus, aselgeia would be out of place in v. 2. It might, of course, be countered that it would be proper to appear here given what will follow in vv. 12-17.
Conclusion: The evidence is inconclusive and worth further study.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I posted another reading of a sermon by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) today to sermonaudio. This one is titled, Advantages of Early Piety (Psalm 90:14). I gave it the subtitle, "An 18th Century Youth Sermon"). Indeed, Fuller apparently gave this message on what appears to be an annual gathering of the church's young people. In the message Fuller offers a powerful evangelistic plea. At one point, he reminds the youth that five of the past six funerals he had done in the church had been of those 20 years and younger. He then takes on the voice of those who have passed and speaks "from the grave" pleading with the living to trust Christ in the flower of their youth. We rarely hear a message like this at a contemporary "Youth Conference."
In preaching Sunday on 2 Peter 2:1-3, I spent a good bit of time on the interpretation of Peter’s mention that the false teachers were “denying the Lord who bought them” (v. 1). In so doing, I mentioned four principles of Scripture interpretation:
First, we never base our theology on a single text taken out of context.
Second, we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. We interpret Scripture by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
Third, we interpret Scriptures that are less clear in their meaning by Scriptures that are clearer in their meaning. We understand passages in the shade by comparing them with those in the light.
And fourth, we always assume that the Scriptures are in perfect harmony and not in conflict with one another. What we see as differences are only apparent differences. The Scriptures are clear (perspicuous), though our ability to understand them is often clouded by sin.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Of Singing of Psalms.
Note: This is a series through the Westminter "Directory for the Publick Worship of God." You can read past posts by clicking the label below.
IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.
In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.
Comment and analysis: The Directory encourages the singing of canonical psalms (cf. 1 Cor 14:26; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; James 5:13). Note that singing is corporate whether in the home or church. The voice is the instrument to be tuned. Note also that psalm singing encouraged literacy. Reformed worship was marked by simplicity. This is most clear in the musical aspects of worship. Singing consisted of canonical psalms (and perhaps other parts of inspired Scripture) without accompaniment. How would this put an end to the so-called "worship wars" if we reclaimed the practice suggested by the Directory?
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Image: Fellowship after morning worship on a recent Lord's Day at CRBC
In last Sunday morning’s service, I preached on 2 Peter 1:19-21, a classic passage on the doctrine of Scripture. I concluded the message with a three-fold application: to revere, read, and reach for the Word:
Peter’s high view of the Bible should promote a sense of reverence for the Word of God.
In his study of this passage Michael Bentley point out how other religions express reverence for the writings they consider to be sacred (Living for Christ is a Pagan World: 1 & 2 Peter Simply Explained, p. 206).
No Muslim would put a copy of the Koran on the floor or under his arm. If he places it on a bookshelf he will put it in the highest shelf in the room. When he reads it he will often place it in a stand so that he does not have to touch it overmuch.
The Sikhs have a holy book (the Guru Granth Sahib). No Sikh will read that book without first taking a bath and completely changing his clothing (usually dressing completely in white). They place this book in the center of their place of worship and when the worshippers enter they bow to their book and they sit at a level lower than their book.
If these revere uninspired books, how much more should believers revere God’s Word! Now, this does not mean that we should promote silly superstitions, but maybe it would be good to handle our copies of the Word of God with care and to take on a spirit of reverence when we listen to it being read. We show reverence for God’s word when we read it, mediate upon it, memorize it, hear it preached and taught, and carry its teachings into ever corner of our lives. Bentley: “It should be like the very breath that we breathe” (p. 206).
Another devotional story I read recently told of a man who visited a wealthy household where he was shown a large library with many beautifully bound books, filling shelves from floor to ceiling. The owner of the house joked, “I haven’t read one of them, but they sure look good, don’t they?” The visitor replied in shock to this comment: “Why you have a treasure house in this room, but you have neglected it.” Later, the man went home, however, and picking up his beautifully bound Bible he said, “Who am I to talk? Here is my ‘treasure house’ and how often do I read it?” (see Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn, How God Used a Thunderstorm and Other Devotional Stories, p. 79).
Finally, Peter says that the Scriptures are like a light shining in a dark place. Maybe you are realizing today that you have been in spiritual darkness. Your eyes have been blinded by “the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). You don’t know who God is. You don’t know who Jesus is. You don’t know who you are. You don’t know how you should live. God is holding out to you today a light for your path and a lamp for your feet. This light is not the end in and of itself, but it points us to the one who said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
I’ve been reading William Perkins’ classic Puritan work on preaching, The Art of Prophesying (first published in Latin in 1592; Banner revised ed. 1996). In his discussion of application, Perkins points to seven categories of hearers (pp. 56-63):
1. Those who are unbelievers and are both ignorant and unteachable.
The minister simply seeks to prepare them “to receive the doctrine of the Word.” “But if they remain unteachable and there is no real hope of winning them, they should simply be left.”
2. Those who are teachable, but ignorant.
Perkins suggests instruction by catechism.
3. Those who have knowledge, but have never been humbled.
The preacher seeks to arouse godly sorrow by use of “some section of the law.”
4. Those who have already been humbled.
Perkins cautions that the minister should be clear as to whether the humbling is “complete and sound,” noting, “It is important that people do not receive comfort sooner than is appropriate.” To those truly humbled, the minister teaches and offers faith and repentance and “the comforts of the gospel.”
5. Those who already believe.
To these the minister teaches: (i) the gospel; (ii) the law (as it applies to those no longer under the curse); and (iii) the ongoing battle against sin.
6. Those who have fallen back.
This requires spiritual diagnosis of the person's “spiritual status” and the application of a remedy “prescribed and applied from the gospel.”
7. Churches with both believers and unbelievers.
This is “the typical situation” in churches. “Any doctrine may be expounded to them, either from the law or from the gospel, so long as its biblical limitations and circumscriptions are observed.”
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Image: Ruins of the Agora (marketplace) in ancient Thessalonika
Last Sunday's sermon on Peter's defense of Christian eschatology in the face of the "scoffers" (see 2 Peter 3:3-4), led to a look at 2 Thessalonians 2:2 where another intriguing textual issue arises. The matter here is Paul’s eschatological reference to “the day of Christ” (traditional text). The modern critical text offers the reading, “the day of the Lord,” conforming the phrase to the typical Old Testament prophetic form.
On external grounds, this is an example where we find stark contrast. The traditional reading “the day of Christ” is supported by the majority Byzantine manuscripts while the modern critical text is supported by all the codices so highly valued by modern scholarship (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus). Perhaps for this reason (considering it to be a “slam dunk” for the eclectic text), Metzger does not even bother to discuss this variation in his Textual Commentary.
When we consider this text on internal grounds, however, the traditional reading gains traction. First, it seems very likely that Paul would have used the creative phrase “the day of Christ” as a Christo-centric twist on the prophetic motif. We can compare here his similar use of the phrase “the day of the Lord Jesus” in 2 Corinthians 1:14. In addition, it also appears plausible that scribes might have attempted to conform Paul’s words to the typical OT phrase “the day of the Lord,” familiar from the Septuagint.
Conclusion: The traditional reading might well be considered the more difficult, and therefore the more likely, here. It retains Paul’s creative Christian reinterpretation of eschatology. The day of the Lord is “the day of Christ.”
Image: VE Day Celebration
Concerning the Observation of Days of Publick Thanksgiving.
WHEN any such day is to be kept, let notice be given of it, and of the occasion thereof, some convenient time before, that the people may the better prepare themselves thereunto.
The day being come, and the congregation (after private preparations) being assembled, the minister is to begin with a word of exhortation, to stir up the people to the duty for which they are met, and with a short prayer for God's assistance and blessing, (as at other conventions for publick worship,) according to the particular occasion of their meeting.
Let him then make some pithy narration of the deliverance obtained, or mercy received, or of whatever hath occasioned that assembling of the congregation, that all may better understand it, or be minded of it, and more affected with it.
And, because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing of joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the word suitable to the present business.
Then let the minister, who is to preach, proceed to further exhortation and prayer before his sermon, with special reference to the present work: after which, let him preach upon some text of Scripture pertinent to the occasion.
The sermon ended, let him not only pray, as at other times after preaching is directed, with remembrance of the necessities of the Church, King, and State, (if before the sermon they were omitted,) but enlarge himself in due and solemn thanksgiving for former mercies and deliverances; but more especially for that which at the present calls them together to give thanks: with humble petition for the continuance and renewing of God's wonted mercies, as need shall be, and for sanctifying grace to make a right use thereof. And so, having sung another psalm, suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing, that they may have some convenient time for their repast and refreshing.
But the minister (before their dismission) is solemnly to admonish them to beware of all excess and riot, tending to gluttony or drunkenness, and much more of these sins themselves, in their eating and refreshing; and to take care that their mirth and rejoicing be not carnal, but spiritual, which may make God's praise to be glorious, and themselves humble and sober; and that both their feeding and rejoicing may render them more cheerful and enlarged, further to celebrate his praises in the midst of the congregation, when they return unto it in the remaining part of that day.
When the congregation shall be again assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing of psalms, and offering up of more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed for the morning, is to be renewed and continued, so far as the time will give leave.
At one or both of the publick meetings that day, a collection is to be made for the poor, (and in the like manner upon the day of publick humiliation,) that their loins may bless us, and rejoice the more with us. And the people are to be exhorted, at the end of the latter meeting, to spend the residue of that day in holy duties, and testifications of Christian love and charity one towards another, and of rejoicing more and more in the Lord; as becometh those who make the joy of the Lord their strength.
Comment and analysis: If there are times that call for solemn fasting and sobriety, there are also times that call for public celebration and thanksgiving to God. This is another public duty of the church. The minister provides a “pithy narration of the deliverance obtained.” The service includes prayer, the singing of appropriate psalms, and preaching. Notice that at the service’s end, the minister is to exhort the people to avoid “excess and riot.” Days of thanksgiving are not excuses for gluttony and drunkenness. The mirth and rejoicing is to be “ not carnal, but spiritual.” The poor are also to be remembered with alms. What occasions would merit such days? End of drought or famine? End of war or political turmoil? Discovery of cure for disease?
Monday, October 04, 2010
I preached Sunday from 2 Peter 1:19-21, a classic text on the doctrine of Scripture. There is a textual issue at the ending of v. 21. Here are the variations:
1. Traditional Text (Textus Receptus): “holy men of God [hagioi theou anthropoi] spoke”; the reading is supported by codices Theta, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus (which adds the definite article tou before theou), and Psi, in addition to the vast majority of all extant Greek manuscripts. In addition, this is the reading of many important early versions, including the Vulgate.
2. Codex C reads, apo theou hagioi (“holy men from God”).
3. Codex 431 reads, hoi hagioi (“the holy men”).
4. The modern critical text: “men from God [apo theou anthropoi] spoke.” This reading is supported by p72 and codex Vaticanus. It is also found in some Vulgate manuscripts and in the Syriac Heraclean.
The textual variation is then reflected in modern translations. Examples:
NKJV (following traditional text): “but holy men of God spoke as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit.”
ESV (following the modern critical text): “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Analysis: This is yet another case where the so-called earliest manuscripts present a divided witness. Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus support the traditional reading, while p72 and Vaticanus agree in omitting the adjective hagioi to describe the men who wrote the Scriptures and including the preposition apo. One could speculate, on internal grounds, as to why the change might have taken place. There could have been a simple accidental omission of the adjective “holy.” A scribe might have wanted to omit hagioi in description of the men who wrote the Bible to avoid confusion with the description of the work of the pneumatos hagiou. This could have been a change motivated by piety (even if misguided). On the darker side, there might have been an effort to downplay the Biblical authors as “holy men.” On the other hand, it is hard to understand why there would have been an effort to insert hagioi and omit apo. Metzger’s speculations regarding possible emandation or paleographical confusion are not convincing (see Textual Commentary, p. 701). In the end, there appears to be no compelling reason to abandon the traditional reading.
Friday, October 01, 2010
Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting.
Note: This series follows the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God. To read past articles in the series click the label below.
WHEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, publick solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.
A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.
Before the publick meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:
"Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God's righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requireth,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord."
In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.
Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister's observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preacheth.
Before the close of the publick duties, the minister is, in his own and the people's name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.
He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the publick duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in publick, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.
Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other publick duties of worship.
Comment and Analysis: This section deals with a public of civic duty of the church to call upon the society in which it exists to humble itself under God during times of crisis or calamity. The fast is not merely from food but also from things like lavish attire. A large portion of such a day is given over to Bible reading, preaching, psalm singing, and prayer led by the ministers who are “the mouths of the people unto God.” Besides such times as might be requested by civil authority, the Directory also provides for such times in the local congregation and even in the family.
I posted another ordination sermon by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) today. This one has the politically incorrect title The Obedience of Churches to their Pastor Explained and Enforced (Hebrews 13:17). Fuller delivered this message to the Baptist Church at Canon Street, Birmingham at the ordination of Rev. Thomas Morgan to the pastoral office on June 23, 1802. No, the pastor is certainly not to be a tyrant, but Fuller does not spare emphasis on the scriptural command for obedience to those who hold pastoral office as a key to harmony, unity, and growth in a church.