Thursday, July 29, 2010
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
Someone told me after the morning service last Sunday that they enjoyed the message, but it lacked a quote from Thomas Watson. I’ll try to make up for lost ground with this article.
In commenting on the petition “Forgive us our debts” Watson notes how the pardoned sinner is made an ardent admirer of God. “Oh, that God should ever look upon me! I was a sinner, and nothing but a sinner, yet I obtained mercy!…. This causes admiration.”
Watson then offers this illustration:
A man that goes over a narrow bridge in the night and next morning sees the danger he was in, how miraculously he escaped, is filled with admiration; so when God shows a man how near he was falling into hell, how that gulf is passed, and all his sins are pardoned, he is amazed, and cries out, ‘Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth iniquity?’ That God should pardon one and pass by another—one should be taken and another left—fills the soul with wonder and astonishment.
Are you like a man who marvels at the gulf he has safely passed over? Does this not fill your heart with admiration and fuel your passion to love and serve this merciful Savior?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Highlights: We will host our first baptismal service on August 8th (note the early time). We will also have two special guest preachers in August (Rob Stovall on August 8th and Steve Clevenger on August 15th). We will be completing our verse by verse series through 1 Peter on August 22nd and our series through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) on August 29th.
10:30 AM Steadfast in the Faith (1 Peter 5:8-9)
1:00 PM The Lord’s Prayer: “As we forgive our debtors”
9:00 AM Baptism Service at Rivanna River (Darden Towe Park)
10:30 AM Guest Preacher: Pastor Rob Stovall, West Suffolk BC, Suffolk, VA
Note: There will be no afternoon service on August 8th.
10:30 AM and 1:00 PM Guest Preacher: Pastor Steve Clevenger, Covenant Reformed BC, Warrenton, VA
10:30 AM Peter’s Benediction (1 Peter 5:10-14)
1:00 PM The Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation”
10:30 AM The Ark of God and Worship (1 Chronicles 13—15)
1:00 PM The Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom”
Of the Preaching of the Word.
PREACHING of the word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him.
It is presupposed, (according to the rules for ordination,) that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaids unto divinity; by his knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the holy scriptures, having his senses and heart exercised in them above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of God's Spirit, and other gifts of edification, which (together with reading and studying of the word) he ought still to seek by prayer, and an humble heart, resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him. All which he is to make use of, and improve, in his private preparations, before he deliver in public what he hath provided.
Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion emergent; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the holy scripture, as he shall see fit.
Let the introduction to his text be brief and perspicuous, drawn from the text itself, or context, or some parallel place, or general sentence of scripture.
If the text be long, (as in histories or parables it sometimes must be,) let him give a brief sum of it; if short, a paraphrase thereof, if need be: in both, looking diligently to the scope of the text, and pointing at the chief heads and grounds of doctrine which he is to raise from it.
In analysing and dividing his text, he is to regard more the order of matter than of words; and neither to burden the memory of the hearers in the beginning with too many members of division, nor to trouble their minds with obscure terms of art.
In raising doctrines from the text, his care ought to be, First, That the matter be the truth of God. Secondly, That it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence. Thirdly, That he chiefly insist upon those doctrines which are principally intended; and make most for the edification of the hearers.
The doctrine is to be expressed in plain terms; or, if any thing in it need explication, it is to be opened, and the consequence also from the text cleared. The parallel places of scripture, confirming the doctrine, are rather to be plain and pertinent, than many, and (it need be) some what insisted upon, and applied to the purpose in hand.
The arguments or reasons are to be solid, and, as much as may be, convincing. The illustrations, of what kind soever, ought to be full of light, and such as may convey the truth into the hearer's heart with spiritual delight.
If any doubt obvious from scripture, reason, or prejudice of the hearers, seem to arise, it is very requisite to remove it, by reconciling the seeming differences, answering the reasons, and discovering and taking away the causes of prejudice and mistake. Otherwise it is not fit to detain the hearers with propounding or answering vain or wicked cavils, which, as they are endless, so the propounding and answering of them doth more hinder than promote edification.
He is not to rest in general doctrine, although never so much cleared and confirmed, but to bring it home to special use, by application to his hearers: which albeit it prove a work of great difficulty to himself, requiring much prudence, zeal, and meditation, and to the natural and corrupt man will be very unpleasant; yet he is to endeavour to perform it in such a manner, that his auditors may feel the word of God to be quick and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and that, if any unbeliever or ignorant person be present, he may have the secrets of his heart made manifest, and give glory to God.
In the use of instruction or information in the knowledge of some truth , which is a consequence from his doctrine, he may (when convenient) confirm it by a few firm arguments from the text in hand, and other places of scripture, or from the nature of that common-place in divinity, whereof that truth is a branch.
In confutation of false doctrines, he is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavour to satisfy their judgments and consciences against all objections.
In exhorting to duties, he is, as he seeth cause, to teach also the means that help to the performance of them.
In dehortation, reprehension, and publick admonition, (which require special wisdom,) let him, as there shall be cause, not only discover the nature and greatness of the sin, with the misery attending it, but also shew the danger his hearers are in to be overtaken and surprised by it, together with the remedies and best way to avoid it.
In applying comfort, whether general against all temptations, or particular against some special troubles or terrors, he is carefully to answer such objections as a troubled heart and afflicted spirit may suggest to the contrary. It is also sometimes requisite to give some notes of trial, (which is very profitable, especially when performed by able and experienced ministers, with circumspection and prudence, and the signs clearly grounded on the holy scripture,) whereby the hearers may be able to examine themselves whether they have attained those graces, and performed those duties, to which he exhorteth, or be guilty of the sin reprehended, and in danger of the judgments threatened, or are such to whom the consolations propounded do belong; that accordingly they may be quickened and excited to duty, humbled for their wants and sins, affected with their danger, and strengthened with comfort, as their condition, upon examination, shall require.
And, as he needeth not always to prosecute every doctrine which lies in his text, so is he wisely to make choice of such uses, as, by his residence and conversing with his flock, he findeth most needful and seasonable; and, amongst these, such as may most draw their souls to Christ, the fountain of light, holiness, and comfort.
This method is not prescribed as necessary for every man, or upon every text; but only recommended, as being found by experience to be very much blessed of God, and very helpful for the people's understandings and memories.
But the servant of Christ, whatever his method be, is to perform his whole ministry:
1. Painfully, not doing the work of the Lord negligently.
2. Plainly, that the meanest may understand; delivering the truth not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect; abstaining also from an unprofitable use of unknown tongues, strange phrases, and cadences of sounds and words; sparingly citing sentences of ecclesiastical or other human writers, ancient or modern, be they never so elegant.
3. Faithfully, looking at the honour of Christ, the conversion, edification, and salvation of the people, not at his own gain or glory; keeping nothing back which may promote those holy ends, giving to every one his own portion, and bearing indifferent respect unto all, without neglecting the meanest, or sparing the greatest, in their sins.
4. Wisely, framing all his doctrines, exhortations, and especially his reproofs, in such a manner as may be most likely to prevail; shewing all due respect to each man's person and place, and not mixing his own passion or bitterness.
5. Gravely, as becometh the word of God; shunning all such gesture, voice, and expressions, as may occasion the corruptions of men to despise him and his ministry.
6. With loving affection, that the people may see all coming from his godly zeal, and hearty desire to do them good. And,
7. As taught of God, and persuaded in his own heart, that all that he teacheth is the truth of Christ; and walking before his flock, as an example to them in it; earnestly, both in private and publick, recommending his labours to the blessing of God, and watchfully looking to himself, and the flock whereof the Lord hath made him overseer: So shall the doctrine of truth be preserved uncorrupt, many souls converted and built up, and himself receive manifold comforts of his labours even in this life, and afterward the crown of glory laid up for him in the world to come.
Where there are more ministers in a congregation than one, and they of different gifts, each may more especially apply himself to doctrine or exhortation, according to the gift wherein he most excelleth, and as they shall agree between themselves.
Comments and reflections: The Directory puts forward a high view of preaching as “the power of God unto salvation.” The minister should have skill ‘in the original languages.” The subject is to be “some text of Scripture.” There are numerous practical tips: the sermon outline is to be simple, expression “in plan terms,” reasoning “solid,” and illustrations “full of light.”
Special attention should be given to the final seven exhortations. The minister should preach:
1. Painfully. I can hear someone now saying that he has heard many a sermon such as this. The sense here is “painstakingly” that is with careful, assiduous study and preparation.
2. Plainly. That is without quotations from “unknown tongues.” I assume what is meant here is over-reference to the Hebrew or Greek original or to Latin phrases. He also suggests preachers avoid long quotes from “ecclesiastical or other human writers, ancient or modern, be they never so elegant.” This is a temptation particularly when you find a great quote that says just what you’d like. The sermon can begin to sound like a term paper.
5. Gravely. Note the admonition, “shunning all such gesture, voice, and expressions, as may occasion the corruptions of men to despise him and his ministry.” The minister is not to have too much affect in his voice or put on a theatrical performance.
6. With loving affection.
7. As taught by God.
These are timeless and highly useful guidelines for preaching, better stated than one might find in any modern homiletics text.
Image: An ancient manuscript with the ending of 1 Peter
A few more textual gleanings from 1 Peter 5:5-6 (after preaching last Lord's Day on “Clothed with Humility” from 1 Peter 5:5-7:
First, in v. 5 after the initial adverb homoios (“likewise”) some texts add a post-positive conjunction etc. Variations:
1. Add de: original hand of Sinaiticus, Psi
2. Add de oi: several minuscules including 33 etc.
3. Add de kai oi: various minuscules including 614
Analysis: This provides another example of a place where Sinaiticus diverges both from Vaticanus and from the received text.
Second, in v. 5 variations exist on the inclusion or omission of the participle hupotassomenoi. Variations:
1. P72 adds the preposition en before allelois;
2. The received text (including the majuscule P) reads allelois hupotassomenoi (“submitting to one another”);
3. A few minuscules (614, etc.) read allelois hupotagomen (“let us submit to one another”);
4. One codex (Psi) reads allelous agapasate (“love one another”).
5. The critical heavyweights Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus agree in omitting the participle.
Analysis: Inclusion or exclusion certainly alters translation:
AV: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility”
NKJV: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility”
NIV: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”
NASB: “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”
There is a strong external argument for keeping the participle with the imperative since this is typical of the Petrine style. The verb “to submit” is also a Petrine favorite (cf. 1 Peter 2:13, 18; 3:1; 5:5).
Third, in v. 6 after the prepositional phrase en kairo (“in due time”) some manuscripts add episkopes (making the phrase “in the time of visitation”; cf. “in the day of visitation” 1 Peter 2:12). This addition appears in Codices A, P, and Psi and in various minuscules. It is not included in the traditional text or in the Alexandrian heavyweights. Oddly, Metzger says, “After kairo the Textus Receptus adds episkopes….”; he then dismisses it as a “scribal addition derived from 2:12” (Textual Commentary, p. 696). This is odd because Scrivener’s printed version of TR does not include episcopes and translation based on the TR do not reflect its inclusion (cf. the AV which reads: “that he may exalt you in due time”). Is this an error by Metzger?
Analysis: Contrary to Metzger, this appears to be a place where the so-called “oldest and most reliable manuscripts” support the traditional reading over against variations found in other ancient sources (including Codex Alexandrinus).
Conclusions: One of the typical comments made by those who support the modern eclectic text is that there are only a handful of major textual issues in the NT (namely the pericope adulterae of John 7:53-8:11 and so called Longer Ending of Mark [Mark 16:9-20]). Comparison of the received text and the modern critical Greek text, however, reveals variations in nearly every verse in the NT. What does this mean for the stability of the text of Scripture? For its canonicity?
Monday, July 26, 2010
"The Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Practices" (winner of best name for a pastors' fraternal) has just announced that Paul Washer, itinerate minister and leader of HeartCry Missionary Society will be the speaker for its meeting on Monday, September 13, 2010 at 10:30 am at Plantation Road Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA. Washer began moving his ministry to the Christiansburg, Virginia area this summer and will be planting a church in the vicinity.
The SPBPP announcement for the September meeting says,
Bro Washer will speak in the first hour on the importance of preaching the Gospel. In the second hour he will share his ministry with us . There will be also a question and answer period.
Anyone is invited to attend this meeting.
John Thackway, Editor of the Bible League Quarterly and Pastor of Holywell Evangelical Church, gave this message on "The Doctrine of Scripture Today" at a Trinitarian Bible Society Meeting in 2003. Not only does he address theological issues related to the doctrine of the Bible, but he also describes the demise of Biblical authority in contemporary culture (references are to the UK but are easily applicable to the US) and even in the churches. Well worth a listen.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Note: This article is part of The Vision is the weekly e-newsletter of Christ Reformed Baptist Church. To be added to Vision list, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have long been intrigued by the gospel account of the healing of the Gadarene demoniac (references will be to Mark’s account in Mark 5:1-20). This man lived “among the tombs” and was possessed of an unclean spirit (v. 2). He would break the chains that were used to bind him, and no one could tame him (v. 4). Night and day he roamed the mountains and the tombs “crying out and cutting himself with stones” (v. 5). Yet when he saw Jesus he threw himself at his feet and worshipped him (v. 6).
When Jesus asked the name of the evil spirit that had set up shop in this man’s soul, he answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (v. 9). Jesus granted their pitiful request to be sent into the unclean swine, and the herd promptly “ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea” (v. 13).
The townsfolk who came out to investigate were startled to see the formerly wild man “sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid” (v. 15). They then pleaded with Jesus to leave their region (v. 17).
The most striking detail of the narrative just might be the ending. As Jesus gets in the boat to depart, the healed man “begged Him that he might be with Him” (v. 18). Jesus, however, did not permit this. Instead he offered the man a commission to stay at home: “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (v. 19).
I have heard many missionaries over the years speak of their call to leave their home culture to go to another culture to preach the gospel. This account reminds us that sometimes the call of Christ is for us to stay in our home culture. I remember once hearing a missionary in Eastern Europe tell of getting a call just after the fall of communism from an American pastor offering to come over and bring a group from his church to distribute tracts and do street evangelism. The missionary asked in return, “Tell me, have you and your church been doing this kind of work in the town where you live?” There was a long silence on the other end of the line.
Some of us will be called to go to faraway places to serve the Lord. Others of us will have much more mundane callings. Have we spoken to our friends, family members, and neighbors of what the Lord has done for us? Do they know of the Lord’s great expression of compassion for us?
The account of the Gadarene demoniac ends with this report: “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all the things that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled” (v. 20).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Of Publick Prayer before the Sermon.
AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm,) the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they, may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:
"To acknowledge our great sinfulness, First, by reason of original sin, which (beside the guilt that makes us liable to everlasting damnation) is the seed of all other sins, hath depraved and poisoned all the faculties and powers of soul and body, doth defile our best actions, and (were it not restrained, or our hearts renewed by grace) would break forth into innumerable transgressions, and greatest rebellions against the Lord that ever were committed by the vilest of the sons of men; and next, by reason of actual sins, our own sins, the sins of magistrates, of ministers, and of the whole nation, unto which we are many ways accessory: which sins of ours receive many fearful aggravations, we having broken all the commandments of the holy, just, and good law of God, doing that which is forbidden, and leaving undone what is enjoined; and that not only out of ignorance and infirmity, but also more pre sumptuously, against the light of our minds, checks of our consciences, and motions of his own Holy Spirit to the contrary, so that we have no cloak for our sins; yea, not only despising the riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, but standing out against many invitations and offers of grace in the gospel; not endeavouring, as we ought, to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, or to walk worthy of him in our lives.
To bewail our blindness of mind, hardness of heart, unbelief, impenitency, security, lukewarmness, barrenness; or not endeavouring after mortification and newness of life, nor after the exercise of godliness in the power thereof; and that the best of us have not so stedfastly walked with God, kept our garments so unspotted, nor been so zealous of his glory, and the good of others, as we ought: and to mourn over such other sins as the congregation is particularly guilty of, notwithstanding the manifold and great mercies of our God, the love of Christ, the light of the gospel, and reformation of religion, our own purposes, promises, vows, solemn covenant, and other special obligations, to the contrary.
To acknowledge and confess, that, as we are convinced of our guilt, so, out of a deep sense thereof, we judge ourselves unworthy of the smallest benefits, most worthy of God's fiercest wrath, and of all the curses of the law, and heaviest judgments inflicted upon the most rebellious sinners; and that he might most justly take his kingdom and gospel from us, plague us with all sorts of spiritual and temporal judgments in this life, and after cast us into utter darkness, in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth for evermore.
Notwithstanding all which, to draw near to the throne of grace, encouraging ourselves with hope of a gracious answer of our prayers, in the riches and all-sufficiency of that only one oblation, the satisfaction and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the right hand of his Father and our Father; and in confidence of the exceeding great and precious promises of mercy and grace in the new covenant, through the same Mediator thereof, to deprecate the heavy wrath and curse of God, which we are not able to avoid, or bear; and humbly and earnestly to supplicate for mercy, in the free and full remission of all our sins, and that only for the bitter sufferings and precious merits of that our only Saviour Jesus Christ.
That the Lord would vouchsafe to shed abroad his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; seal unto us, by the same Spirit of adoption, the full assurance of our pardon and reconciliation; comfort all that mourn in Zion, speak peace to the wounded and troubled spirit, and bind up the broken-hearted: and as for secure and presumptuous sinners, that he would open their eyes, convince their consciences, and turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they also may receive forgiveness of sin, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus.
With remission of sins through the blood of Christ, to pray for sanctification by his Spirit; the mortification of sin dwelling in and many times tyrannizing over us; the quickening of our dead spirits with the life of God in Christ; grace to fit and enable us for all duties of conversation and callings towards God and men; strength against temptations; the sanctified use of blessings and crosses; and perseverance in faith and obedience unto the end.
To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles, the fall of Antichrist, and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk; for the blessing of God upon the reformed churches, especially upon the churches and kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, now more strictly and religiously united in the Solemn National League and Covenant; and for our plantations in the remote parts of the world: more particularly for that church and kingdom whereof we are members, that therein God would establish peace and truth , the purity of all his ordinances, and the power of godliness; prevent and remove heresy, schism, profaneness, superstition, security, and unfruitfulness under the means of grace; heal all our rents and divisions, and preserve us from breach of our Solemn Covenant.
To pray for all in authority, especially for the King's Majesty; that God would make him rich in blessings, both in his person and government; establish his throne in religion and righteousness, save him from evil counsel, and make him a blessed and glorious instrument for the conservation and propagation of the gospel, for the encouragement and protection of them that do well, the terror of all that do evil, and the great good of the whole church, and of all his kingdoms; for the conversion of the Queen, the religious education of the Prince, and the rest of the royal seed; for the comforting of the afflicted Queen of Bohemia, sister to our Sovereign; and for the restitution and establishment of the illustrious Prince Charles, Elector Palatine of the Rhine, to all his dominions and dignities; for a blessing upon the High Court of Parliament, (when sitting in any of these kingdoms respectively,) the nobility, the subordinate judges and magistrates, the gentry, and all the commonality; for all pastors and teachers, that God would fill them with his Spirit, make them exemplarily holy, sober, just, peaceable, and gracious in their lives; sound, faithful, and powerful in their ministry; and follow all their labours with abundance of success and blessing; and give unto all his people pastors according to his own heart; for the universities, and all schools and religious seminaries of church and commonwealth, that they may flourish more and more in learning and piety; for the particular city or congregation, that God would pour out a blessing upon the ministry of the word, sacraments, and discipline, upon the civil government, and all the several families and persons therein; for mercy to the afflicted under any inward or outward distress; for seasonable weather, and fruitful seasons, as the time may require; for averting the judgments that we either feel or fear, or are liable unto as famine, pestilence, the sword, and such like.
And, with confidence of his mercy to his whole church, and the acceptance of our persons, through the merits and mediation of our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, to profess that it is the desire of our souls to have fellowship with God in the reverend and conscionable use of his holy ordinances; and, to that purpose, to pray earnestly for his grace and effectual assistance to the sanctification of his holy sabbath, the Lord's day, in all the duties thereof, publick and private, both to ourselves, and to all other congregations of his people, according to the riches and excellency of the gospel, this day celebrated and enjoyed.
And because we have been unprofitable hearers in times past, and now cannot of ourselves receive, as we should, the deep things of God, the mysteries of Jesus Christ, which require a spiritual discerning; to pray, that the Lord, who teacheth to profit, would graciously please to pour out the Spirit of grace, together with the outward means thereof, causing us to attain such a measure of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and, in him, of the things which belong to our peace, that we may account all things but as dross in comparison of him; and that we, tasting the first-fruits of the glory that is to be revealed, may long for a more full and perfect communion with him, that where he is, we may be also, and enjoy the fulness of those joys and pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore.
More particularly, that God would in a special manner furnish his servant (now called to dispense the bread of life unto his household) with wisdom, fidelity, zeal, and utterance, that he may divide the word of God aright, to every one his portion, in evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power; and that the Lord would circumcise the ears and hearts of the hearers, to hear, love, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls; make them as good ground to receive in the good seed of the word, and strengthen them against the temptations of Satan, the cares of the world, the hardness of their own hearts, and whatsoever else may hinder their profitable and saving hearing; that so Christ may be so formed in them, and live in them, that all their thoughts may be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and their hearts established in every good word and work for ever.
We judge this to be a convenient order, in the ordinary public prayer; yet so, as the minister may defer (as in prudence he shall think meet) some part of these petitions till after his sermon, or offer up to God some of the thanksgivings hereafter appointed, in his prayer before his sermon.
Comments and reflections: This articles stresses the importance of public prayer. It encourages not a perfunctory few words before the sermon but an extended pastoral prayer that comes before the message. This prayer might include the following:
1. Acknowledgment and confession of sin;
2. Expressions of godly sorrow over sin;
3. Appeals for sanctification;
4. Intercession for missions (“for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations”);
5. Intercession for those in civil authority;
6. Appeals for spiritual discernment;
7. Petition for right observance of the Lord’s Day, the ordinances, and ordinary means of grace;
8. Petition for the minister.
Finally, the minister is given freedom to compose his prayer “as in prudence he shall think meet” and to leave some of these elements to the prayer time following the sermon. The mere description here of the worlds of possibilities in prayer inspires it!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I ran across a few more interesting textual variations in 1 Peter 5:1-2 while preparing to preach last Lord's Day on this passage (The Duties of Elders [1 Peter 5:1-4]).
First, there are three significant variations on the beginning of v. 1:
1. The traditional text begins, presbyterous tous (“the elders”). Uncials that support this reading include Codices P and Psi.
2. Some manuscripts read presbyterous oun tous, inserting the coordinating conjunction oun (“Therefore, the elders”). This is the reading of Sinaiticus.
3. Others begin presbyterous oun, keeping the conjunction but dropping the article (“Therefore, elders”). This is the reading of p72, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus. It is the reading adopted by the modern critical Greek text.
This provides another example of divergent readings between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. In this case Sinaiticus also tends to support the traditional text by its inclusion of the article tous. The difference in translation is minor. Even some translations (like the NIV) based on the modern critical text do not bother to translate oun. The NASB and ESV, however, include the conjunction. So, the NASB, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you….” And the ESV, “So I exhort the elders among you….”
Second, in v. 1 the phrase “the sufferings of Christ” becomes “the sufferings of God” in p72 alone. This provides some evidence that the scribe who copied p72 might have had a tendency to “improve” the text or to offer “correction” according to his theological perspective. Does this change reflect the influence of patripassianism?
Third, in v. 2 there is variation on the inclusion of the participle episkopountes (“serving as overseers”). It is omitted in the original hand of Sinaiticus and in Vaticanus but included in almost all other manuscripts. Here is a case where p72 and A supports the traditional text. Metzger admits that inclusion “tallies very well with the author’s fondness for participles” but includes the word in brackets “to indicate a certain doubt that it belongs to the text” (Textual Commentary, p. 696).
Fourth, also in v. 2 there is variation on the inclusion of the prepositional phrase kata theon (“according to God”). The original hand of Sinaiticus includes the phrase, as does the modern critical Greek text. It is omitted, however, both by the traditional text and by Vaticanus. Modern translations based on the eclectic text variously render the phrase:
NIV: “as God wants you to be”
NASB : “according to the will of God”
ESV: “as God would have you”
Both the NIV and ESV choose a dynamic equivalent interpretation while the NASB keeps closer to a literal rendering.
It is interesting that in this case, the modern editors do not conclude that the shorter reading is best. Metzger speculates that the phrase was omitted “perhaps because copyists found difficulty in understanding its precise import” (Ibid).
Conclusion: This short study raises some interesting issues. First, it reveals that at times some of the manuscripts that are considered the oldest and most reliable support the traditional text (e.g., p72 and A support the traditional text in v. 2 by including episkopountes). Second, it reveals how the so-called oldest and most reliable manuscripts often do not agree with each other (e. g., Vaticanus omits kata theon in v. 2 while Sinaiticus includes it). Third, we see some possible evidence of the influence of theological views (e.g., p72’s utterly unique change of “the sufferings of Christ” to the “sufferings of God” in v. 1). One of the prime justifications put forward for departing from the traditional text has been the fact that older and more reliable manuscripts (like p72, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus) have been rediscovered. Little mention is made, however, about the fact that these manuscripts often do not agree with one another in their variation from the traditional text and that some will occasionally support the traditional text over against the others. This is one little sample of the results digging into just two verses. My guess is that we would find the same if we were to dip into any other spot in the NT.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Of Publick Reading of the Holy Scriptures.
READING of the word in the congregation, being part of the publick worship of God, (wherein we acknowledge our dependence upon him, and subjection to him,) and one mean sanctified by him for the edifying of his people, is to be performed by the pastors and teachers.
Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto.
All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.
How large a portion shall be read at once, is left to the wisdom of the minister; but it is convenient, that ordinarily one chapter of each Testament be read at every meeting; and sometimes more, where the chapters be short, or the coherence of matter requireth it.
It is requisite that all the canonical books be read over in order, that the people may be better acquainted with the whole body of the scriptures; and ordinarily, where the reading in either Testament endeth on one Lord's day, it is to begin the next.
We commend also the more frequent reading of such scriptures as he that readeth shall think best for edification of his hearers, as the book of Psalms, and such like.
When the minister who readeth shall judge it necessary to expound any part of what is read, let it not be done until the whole chapter or psalm be ended; and regard is always to be had unto the time, that neither preaching, nor other ordinances be straitened, or rendered tedious. Which rule is to be observed in all other publick performances.
Beside publick reading of the holy scriptures, every person that can read, is to be exhorted to read the scriptures privately, (and all others that cannot read, if not disabled by age, or otherwise, are likewise to be exhorted to learn to read,) and to have a Bible
Comments and reflections: This article commends the public reading of the Scriptures as an element in Christian worship (cf. 1 Tim 4:13). It indicates that such reading is the primary duty of the ministers or others considering the ministry. Readings should be “in the vulgar tongue” from “the best allowed translation.” The Directory suggests reading a chapter from both the Old and New Testaments at each worship service. In a 52 Sunday year, assuming two services per Lord’s Day, this would mean the church would read aloud 208 chapters per year. It also suggests a continuous reading through books and the repeated use of some Scriptures, particularly the Psalms. The minister might also add comments, but it is suggested that this follow the reading. Private reading is also encouraged. This is indeed an element that needs to be reclaimed. Many churches claim a belief in the authority of Scripture, but it is little read aloud publicly. How might our people grow more quickly if they were the more exposed to and even saturated in the public reading of the Word of God?
In preaching yesterday on The Duties of Elders from 1 Peter 5:1-4, I was struck by reading John Calvin's commentary on v. 4 regarding the reward that awaits elders from the Chief Shepherd:
1 Peter 5:4: "and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade."
Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest, then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy,--to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ. Thus it will be, that he, who seems to derive no encouragement from men, will assiduously go on in his labors, knowing that a great reward is prepared for him by the Lord.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Image: An evangelical church gathers in a pastor's home in India
Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their Behaviour in the Publick Worship of God.
WHEN the congregation is to meet for publick worship, the people (having before prepared their hearts thereunto) ought all to come and join therein; not absenting themselves from the publick ordinance through negligence, or upon pretence of private meetings.
Let all enter the assembly, not irreverently, but in a grave and seemly manner, taking their seats or places without adoration, or bowing themselves towards one place or other.
The congregation being assembled, the minister, after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God, is to begin with prayer.
"In all reverence and humility acknowledging the incomprehensible greatness and majesty of the Lord, (in whose presence they do then in a special manner appear,) and their own vileness and unworthiness to approach so near him, with their utter inability of themselves to so great a work; and humbly beseeching him for pardon, assistance, and acceptance, in the whole service then to be performed; and for a blessing on that particular portion of his word then to be read: And all in the name and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ."
The publick worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.
If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning, they ought not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand.
Comments and reflections: We should note the emphasis on the necessity of public worship gatherings (cf. Heb 10:25). Reverence is upheld and superstition is rejected (e.g., bowing, etc.). Worship begins with the solemn prayer of a minister of the Word of God. The worshippers are admonished to refrain from “private whisperings, conference, salutations,” etc., as well as “all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behavior.” There is nothing new under the sun. Guidance is also provided for reverent behavior by late-comers to the assembly.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Note: This article is an excerpt from the conclusion of last Sunday’s message at CRBC on “The Fiery Trial” (1 Peter 4:12-19). I read this account in the book Calvin for Today (Reformation Heritage, 2009):
In one of his ministry conferences, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in California told the story of a young Muslim woman who was converted to Christ by hearing his radio broadcasts in her homeland. She came to the Master’s College in California to study, keeping, however, her faith in Christ a secret from her family. On a return trip home she was met by the secret service agency of her nation and interrogated for over two hours.
When she finally arrived at her family’s residence she was met by an uncle who asked her, “Are you a Christian?”
She said, “Yes, I am.” He then said, “You have shamed our family and you will pay the price.” He picked up a chair, broke it over her back, then took a leg and started beating her with it. Her life was only spared when her father walked in and rescued her. Though he saved her life, he took her to the airport, put her on a plane, and told her not to come back. She flew back to California and a few days later met with Pastor MacArthur.
As they talked, MacArthur asked her, “What were you thinking as your uncle was beating you to death?” She responded, “I was thinking that this man has a religion that he would kill for, but I have a Savior I would die for.”
Do you know this Savior? Are you willing to lay down everything for him? Are you willing to suffer any hardship, any depravation that might come your way for him?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Introduction: This begins a new series through “The Directory for the Publick Worship of God.” The Directory was prepared by the Westminster divines in an effort to purify worship within the English speaking Protestant churches. It was adopted for use in Scotland on February 3, 1645. Though it did not ultimately succeed in supplanting the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England, it contains many useful insights on the conduct of corporate worship. This series will present the Preface and the 15 articles in the Directory with some comments and reflections.
IN the beginning of the blessed Reformation, our wise and pious ancestors took care to set forth an order for redress of many things, which they then, by the word, discovered to be vain erroneous, superstitious, and idolatrous, in the publick worship of God. This occasioned many godly and learned men to rejoice much in the Book of Common Prayer, at that time set forth; because the mass, and the rest of the Latin service being removed, the publick worship was celebrated in our own tongue: many of the common people also receive benefit by hearing the scriptures read in their own language, which formerly were unto them as a book that is sealed.
Howbeit, long and sad experience hath made it manifest, that the Liturgy used in the Church of England, (notwithstanding all the pains and religious intentions of the Compilers of it,) hath proved an offence, not only to many of the godly at home, but also to the reformed Churches abroad. For, not to speak of urging the reading of all the prayers, which very greatly increased the burden of it, the many unprofitable and burdensome ceremonies contained in it have occasioned much mischief, as well by disquieting the consciences of many godly ministers and people, who could not yield unto them, as by depriving them of the ordinances of God, which they might not enjoy without conforming or subscribing to those ceremonies. Sundry good Christians have been, by means thereof, kept from the Lord's table; and divers able and faithful ministers debarred from the exercise of their ministry, (to the endangering of many thousand souls, in a time of such scarcity of faithful pastors,) and spoiled of their livelihood, to the undoing of them and their families. Prelates, and their faction, have laboured to raise the estimation of it to such a height, as if there were no other worship, or way of worship of God, amongst us, but only the Service-book; to the great hinderance of the preaching of the word, and (in some places, especially of late) to the justling of it out as unnecessary, or at best, as far inferior to the reading of common prayer; which was made no better than an idol by many ignorant and superstitious people, who, pleasing themselves in their presence at that service, and their lip-labour in bearing a part in it, have thereby hardened themselves in their ignorance and carelessness of saving knowledge and true piety.
In the meantime, Papists boasted that the book was a compliance with them in a great part of their service; and so were not a little confirmed in their superstition and idolatry, expecting rather our return to them, than endeavouring the reformation of themselves: in which expectation they were of late very much encouraged, when, upon the pretended warrantableness of imposing of the former ceremonies, new ones were daily obtruded upon the Church.
Add hereunto, (which was not foreseen, but since have come to pass,) that the Liturgy hath been a great means, as on the one hand to make and increase an idle and unedifying ministry, which contented itself with set forms made to their hands by others, without putting forth themselves to exercise the gift of prayer, with which our Lord Jesus Christ pleaseth to furnish all his servants whom he calls to that office: so, on the other side, it hath been (and ever would be, if continued) a matter of endless strife and contention in the Church, and a snare both to many godly and faithful ministers, who have been persecuted and silenced upon that occasion, and to others of hopeful parts, many of which have been, and more still would be, diverted from all thoughts of the ministry to other studies; especially in these latter times, wherein God vouchsafeth to his people more and better means for the discovery of error and superstition, and for attaining of knowledge in the mysteries of godliness, and gifts in preaching and prayer.
Upon these, and many the like weighty considerations in reference to the whole book in general, and because of divers particulars contained in it; not from any love to novelty, or intention to disparage our first reformers, (of whom we are persuaded, that, were they now alive, they would join with us in this work, and whom we acknowledge as excellent instruments, raised by God, to begin the purging and building of his house, and desire they may be had of us and posterity in everlasting remembrance, with thankfulness and honour,) but that we may in some measure answer the gracious providence of God, which at this time calleth upon us for further reformation, and may satisfy our own consciences, and answer the expectation of other reformed churches, and the desires of many of the godly among ourselves, and withal give some publick testimony of our endeavours for uniformity in divine worship, which we have promised in our Solemn League and Covenant; we have, after earnest and frequent calling upon the name of God, and after much consultation, not with flesh and blood, but with his holy word, resolved to lay aside the former Liturgy, with the many rites and ceremonies formerly used in the worship of God; and have agreed upon this following Directory for all the parts of publick worship, at ordinary and extraordinary times. Wherein our care hath been to hold forth such things as are of divine institution in every ordinance; and other things we have endeavoured to set forth according to the rules of Christian prudence, agreeable to the general rules of the word of God; our meaning therein being only, that the general heads, the sense and scope of the prayers, and other parts of publick worship, being known to all, there may be a consent of all the churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God; and the ministers may be hereby directed, in their administrations, to keep like soundness in doctrine and prayer, and may, if need be, have some help and furniture, and yet so as they become not hereby slothful and negligent in stirring up the gifts of Christ in them; but that each one, by meditation, by taking heed to himself, and the flock of God committed to him, and by wise observing the ways of Divine Providence, may be careful to furnish his heart and tongue with further or other materials of prayer and exhortation, as shall be needful upon all occasions.
Comments and reflections: The Preface makes plain that the purpose of the Directory was to replace usage of the Book of Common Prayer in English speaking Protestant churches. Despite good intentions by the Protestant fathers in England, the Puritan view was that the use of the Book of Common Prayer “hath proved an offence, not only to many of the godly at home, but also to the reformed Churches abroad.” The use of the prayer book with its written prayers and set ceremonies and liturgies had both proved an offense to the consciences of godly ministers and had encouraged Roman Catholics who saw it as little different from their own liturgical forms. Furthermore, it had contributed to “an idle and unedifying ministry, which contented itself with set forms made to their hands by others, without putting forth themselves to exercise the gift of prayer.” The Puritan critique of formal, “liturgical” worship is that it fails to give emphasis to spontaneous and heartfelt expression in preaching and prayer. Instead, the Directory attempts to provide guidelines that would give unity in worship, not based on a man-made liturgy, but on the Regulative Principle. The framers conclude, “our care hath been to hold forth such things as are of divine institution in every ordinance; and other things we have endeavoured to set forth according to the rules of Christian prudence, agreeable to the general rules of the word of God.”
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Image: Codex Sinaiticus which can be viewed online here.
In preparing for last Lord’s Day’s message on 1 Peter 4:12-19 I was struck by textual issues in 1 Peter 4:14.
First, there are textual variations in the phrase “the Spirit of glory and of God.” A number of witnesses add kai dunameos after doxes reading “and the Spirit of glory and of power and of God.” This is one of those places where the so-called “oldest” manuscripts do not agree. Sinaiticus includes “and of power,” while p72, Codex Vaticanus, and numerous other witnesses support the traditional text by omitting the phrase. Metzger rejects the addition as “a homiletical supplement to the original text” (Textual Commentary, p. 695).
Second, there is a significant textual variation relating to the ending of the verse. The traditional text includes the final sentence: “On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified [kata men autous blasphemeitai, kata de humas doxazetai]” The eclectic text omits it entirely. There is valuable early support for the sentence. It appears in Codices K, L, P, Psi, most minuscules, and in various early versions (e.g., Latin, Syriac Harclean, Sahidic, Bohairic). It is also quoted in Cyprian (d. 258 AD)! It is omitted, however, in the heavyweights so prized by modern textual critics: p72, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus. Metzger admits the possibility that “the words may have been accidentally omitted because of parablepsis (etai…etai),” but commends the Committee’s “far more probable” conclusion that the sentence was added “as an explanatory gloss on the preceding reference to the spirit of glory” (Textual Commentary, p. 695).
Conclusion: Textual study of 1 Peter 4:14 provides an example of divergent readings in Sinaiticus (which includes kai dunameos) and Vaticanus (which omits it). There appears to be strong, early witnesses to the ecclesiastical text (by the early 3rd century according to the Cyprian citation) and a plausible explanation for omission (parablepsis) which argues for the inclusion of the final contested sentence as a legitimate part of the text of Scripture.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Barzillai the Gileadite:
Barzillai was a man who remained faithful and useful to David during his time of distress. He was “a very aged man, eighty years old,” and he was “a very rich man” (2 Sam 19:31). When David was in flight, Barzillai and others gave provisions to his entourage. They “brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, ‘The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness’” (17:28-29). Barzillai did not “shut up his heart” from a brother in need (cf. I John 3:17). His aid was practical and generous.
When David returned to Jerusalem he entreated his aged patron, “Come across with me, and I will provide for you while you are with me in Jerusalem” (19:33). Barzillai declines the offer, however, responding, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?” (v. 34). When David crossed over Jordan, “the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own place” (v. 39). Barzillai reminds us that one is never too old to offer timely service for the kingdom or to stand on the side of the righteous. He is a model for generosity and stewardship.
Thursday, July 08, 2010
In preaching our current Sunday afternoon series on Matthew 6:9-13 I have been aided by reading through Thomas Watson’s book, The Lord’s Prayer. In discussing the petition “Thy kingdom come,” Watson explains the importance of “the communion of saints” (i.e., fellowship among Christians) in attaining the kingdom:
If we would obtain this kingdom we must be much in the communion of saints. One coal of juniper will warm and inflame another; so, when the heart is dead and frozen, the communion of saints will help to warm it. “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another” (Mal 3: 16). “Christians should never meet,” says Mr. Boston [the Scottish minister Thomas Boston], “without speaking of their meeting together in heaven.” One Christian may be very helpful by prayer and conference to another, and give him a lift towards heaven. Old Latimer was much strengthened and comforted by hearing Mr Bilney’s confession of faith [Latimer and Bilney were Protestant martyrs under “Bloody” Mary]. We read that when Moses’ hands were heavy, and he was ready to let them fall, Aaron and Hur stayed them up (Exod 17: 12). A Christian who is ready to faint under temptation, and lets down the hands of his faith, by conversing with other Christians is strengthened and his hands are held up. A great benefit of holy conference is counsel and advice. “If a man,” says Chrysostom [Note: Chrysostom, or “the golden mouth,” was a famous preacher at Constantinople in the 4th century], “who has but one head to advise him, could make that head a hundred, he would be very wise; but a single Christian has this benefit by the communion of saints, that they are as so many heads to advise him what to do in such a case or exigency.” By Christian conference the saints can say, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” Communion of saints we have in our creed, but it is too little in our practice. Men usually travel fastest in company; so we travel fastest to heaven in the communion of saints.
May the Lord continue to use our fellowship to spur us on toward the heavenly kingdom.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Image: David in flight
Hushai the Archite:
Hushai the Archite was a man of intense loyalty and inspired cunning. In 1 Chronicles 27:33 he is called “the king’s companion.” When David prepared to flee in the face of Absalom’s treason, Hushai came out to meet him “with his robe torn and dust on his head” (2 Sam 15:32). David told the faithful Hushai that if he joined his entourage in flight he would only be a “burden” to him (v. 33), so he sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to serve as his stealth agent in Absalom’s court (v. 34). He was joined there by other David loyalists including Zadok and Abiathar the priests (v. 35). “So Hushai, David’s friend, went into the city. And Absalom came into Jerusalem” (v. 37). According to David’s plan, Hushai infiltrated Absalom’s court, became Ahithophel’s nemesis, and defeated and his counsel. The Lord would use Hushai to defeat Absalom’s rebellion and restore David to the throne.
This video is from a conference “The Text is the Issue” (I think in the 1990s) that was held at Pensacola Christian College, a fundamentalist school in Florida, on the text of Scripture. Dell Johnson, a professor at Pensacola, describes his “conversion” to the traditional from the eclectic text. Of note, here is Johnson’s observation that even in fundamentalist circles which continue to use and value the KJV, the eclectic modern critical text of the NT was largely embraced by fundamentalist academics.
More interesting, however, are the remarks by Theodore Letis. Letis was a gadfly to those in the text critical guild. He held a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh and was a credentialed textual critic. He nonetheless rejected the eclectic text, criticized modern Bible publishers (whom he often referred to as the “Bible landlords”), and argued for a return to the traditional or ecclesiastical text of Scripture. Letis’ two key works on the topic were The Ecclesiastic Text: Text Criticism, Biblical Authority and the Popular Mind (1997) and a collection of essays he edited, The Majority Text: Essays and Reviews in the Continuing Debate (1987). Letis suffered an untimely death at age 53 on June 24, 2005.
Doctrinally, in the works cited above Letis offered a critique of the evangelical doctrine of the inerrancy of the original autographs of Scripture which he traces to the Princeton giant B. B. Warfield. Letis charged Warfield with departing from the Reformation doctrine of the infallibility of the apographs, as expressed in creeds like the Westminster Confession of Faith. Rather than defend the divine preservation of the text of Scripture, Warfield pursued the restoration of the text of Scripture (meaning the attempt to reconstruct the original autographs through modern text critical study). The results for evangelicalism and the authority of Scripture, Letis said, have been disastrous.
The views presented here are often falsely associated with KJV-Onlyism. The argument, however, is not for the KJV per se but for the traditional text of Scripture (the Masoretic text of the OT and the received text of the NT) as the basis for translation into English or any other language. Many English speakers who hold to the traditional text also prefer the King James Version, in part due to its basis in the traditional original language text. The only other available English translations based on the traditional text are the Geneva Bible and the New King James Version.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Image: The deaths of Absalom and Ahithophel
Ahithophel the Gilonite had been one of David’s counselors, but he became a turncoat and went to Absalom’s side when he saw that “the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom” (2 Sam 15:12). He proved to be a petulant advisor. When things did not go his way, he ended his life by his own hand.
It must have been like a dagger to the heart when David was told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom”; David petitions, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (15:31).
Ahithophel arrived with the rebel prince in Jerusalem when David fled. He gave counsel to Absalom to take his father’s concubines so that “the hands of all who are with you will be strong” (16:21). Great deference was given to any counsel that came from this man. “Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God” (16:23). Despite the honor given him by men, the Lord would frustrate his plans and schemes. David had left behind Hushai the Archite to “defeat the counsel of Ahithophel” (15:34). Ahithophel urged Absalom to immediately pursue David and offered to lead a company of twelve thousand men himself (17:1). Hushai, however, frustrated this advice by urging delay: “The advice that Ahithophel has given is not good at this time” (17:7). Absalom sided with Hushai concluding, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel” (17:14). Behind it all was the purpose of a sovereign God: “For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom” (v. 14).
Ahithophel knew that the rebellion would fail. He had chosen the wrong side. Unable to handle a situation over which his Machiavellian advice was not followed and over which he had no control, he determines that he will at least arrange his own exit. “Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled his donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then, he put his house in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb” (17:23).
Monday, July 05, 2010
In Thomas Watson's discussion of the "Thy kingdom come" petition in The Lord's Prayer, he lists thirteen things from which believers shall be freed from when Christ's kingdom fully comes. In the eighth point ("In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all doubts and scruples"), Watson includes this picturesque line: "A Christian is like a ship at anchor, which, though safe, may sometimes be tossed upon the water."
Here's the eighth point in entirity:
In the kingdom of heaven we shall be freed from all doubts and scruples. In this life the best saint has his doubting, as the brightest star has his twinkling. If there were no doubting, there would be no unbelief. Assurance itself does not exclude all doubting. ‘Thy loving kindness is before mine eyes.’ Psa 26: 3. At another time, ‘Lord, where are thy former loving kindnesses?’ Psa 89: 49. A Christian is like a ship at anchor, which, though safe, may sometimes be tossed upon the water. Sometimes a Christian questions his interest in Christ, and his title to the promise. As these doubting eclipse a Christian’s comfort, so they bear false witness against the Spirit. But, when the saints shall come into the kingdom of heaven, there shall be no more doubting; the Christian shall then say, as Peter, ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord has sent his angel and has delivered me.’ Acts 12: 11. Now I know that I am passed from death to life, and I am got beyond all rocks, I have shot the gulf, now I am in my Saviour’s embraces for ever.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Recently in my devotional reading I was struck again by the account of the healing of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5. Naaman, you will recall, was the commander of the army of the king of Syria. The writer of Holy Scripture records, “He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper” (2 Kings 5:1). Naaman’s wife was served by a young Israelite girl who told her mistress that there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband of his disease.
Eventually Naaman traveled to visit the prophet Elisha. While the commander waited at the door to Elisha’s house, the prophet sent him a message: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean” (v. 10). Naaman, however, became furious. He had expected the prophet to come out to him, to call on his God, “and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy” (v. 11). He then asked, “Are not the rivers of Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?” (v. 12). In other words, “Why did I travel all the way here just for this?”
Naaman’s servants then gently rebuked him: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash and be clean’?” (v. 13).
Humbled, Naaman then went to the Jordan and dipped seven times as instructed. To his great joy, God miraculously healed him, “and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (v. 14).
How often are we like Naaman? We struggle with some sin sickness. We want to be delivered. We expect that the only way God might heal or deliver us would be through some extraordinary means. We want to be given some unusual and exotic assignment. We want some amazing experience. We want to see the man of God or some healing evangelist wave his hand over our hurt.
Then instead God gives us a rather ordinary prescription. Trust Christ. Read your Bible. Pray. Listen to preaching and teaching. Attend corporate worship. Sing praises. Be dipped in baptism. Sit down at the Lord’s table.
The account of Naaman reminds us that God is most often pleased to use humble, ordinary means to accomplish the greatest things in and through our lives.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: This coming Lord’s Day also happens to be the Fourth of July. What better time to come together for prayer and worship to give God thanks for the many blessings he has given us through this nation, especially the freedom to worship.
AM Ministry in the Church (1 Peter 4:7-11)
PM The Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come”
AM The Fiery Trial (1 Peter 4:12-19)
PM The Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Will Be Done”
AM The Duties of Elders (1 Peter 5:1-4)
PM The Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”
AM Clothed with Humility (1 Peter 5:5-7)
PM The Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our debts”