Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Note: This is part of an occassional verse by verse exposition through the book of Jude. For an archive of past commentaries, see the label "Jude Exposition" below.
Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
And so it all ends with praise. After all the polemics of Jude, after the call for earnest contending for the faith (v. 3), after the almost clinical analysis of the errors of the false teacher, and the encouragement to believers, Jude ends with a stirring benediction or doxology of praise to God.
And so this book reflects what will be the end for every saint and the end of this age. After a season of warfare and struggle and defending the faith, there comes praise.
Jude ends, “Now unto him that is able….” Praise is only properly directed to the right object. Jude’s praise begins with addressing God as the one who is able. Indeed, the God of the Bible is the only one who is able.
When Jesus told his disciples that is was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into heaven, his disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” (Matt 19:25), Jesus replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26).
Paul addresses this prayer to God: Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Think of what God is able to do:
He is able to create this world and all that is in it in the space of six days and all very good.
He is able to continue the work of creation by sustaining all that is by the word of his power.
He is able to heal the sick and open blinded eyes.
He is able to still storms.
He is able to melt hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh.
He is able to raise the dead to life.
So, Jude ends his letter with this God-centered prayer addressed, “unto him that is able…”
Next, Jude focuses on two things in particular that God is able to do related to the needs of the recipients of this letter:
1. He is able to keep you from falling.
This is a particularly reassuring prayer given the subject matter, the dangers of false teaching and apostasy. Will the recipients of this letter be ensnared in these false teachings?
The verb for “to keep” is phylasso. It means to guard, to keep under guard, to protect, to defend, to keep safe.
The phrase for “from falling” here is simply one word, an adjective aptaistos, “free from stumbling” (the first of two alpha privatives in this verse).
This is a prayer to God thanking him for his persevering grace. God not only saves sinners by grace but he keeps them saved by grace.
This benediction also illustrates the very nature of a public prayer which is both vertical (God-directed) but also horizontal (man-encouraging).
2. And to present you faultless.
Here Jude moves from praising God for perseverance to praising from for glorification.
He is able to present his saints “faultless” (amomos; without blemish; note the second alpha privative). Are they faultless? Can they live a perfect and sinless life? No. But—and this is the miracle—God is able to present them as faultless, because of Christ. Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain.
Where are they presented? “Before the presence of his glory.” Who can stand in his presence? Certainly not sinful man without the shield of Christ. A welder has to wear a mask to protect his eyes from the blinding light of the welding torch. So if we were to look upon God in his glory without a mediating filter we would be blinded and undone. We are unable. But God is able to this for us because of Christ.
Thus, rightly we do so “with exceeding joy.” Would a man be filled with joy if seconds before he was to be condemned to death he discovered the sentence had been lifted, the prison door was open, and he had been set free? Would a sick man suffering with cancer be filled with joy if the sickness left his body and he was fully healed? This then too is the spirit of those guilty and sin-sick sinners upon whom Christ has poured out his forgiving and healing mercy.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
At the last Society for the Preservation of Baptist Principles and Practices meeting in Roanoke, Lloyd Sprinkle gave out a free selection from the "Pocket Puritans" series from Banner of Truth books and I picked up several.
Last week I read the title "Binge Drinking" with selections from John Flavel and C. H. Spurgeon on the spiritual dangers of drunkenness. I was able to use a Flavel quote in Sunday's message on Nabal from 1 Samuel 25.
The Flavel selections are taken from "A Caution to Seamen: A Dissuasive against Several Horrid and Detestable Sins" from volume 5 of his Collected Works. When I read through Beeke's "Building on the Rock Series," which primarily features devotional stories from the 17th-19th centuries, in our family devotions, my children picked up on the fact that many of the conversion stories were about young men who went to sea and fell into the sins of swearing and drunkenness before coming to Christ. It was a reminder that military men, even today, are probably especially vulnerable to this temptation.
Flavel also introduces his denunciation of drinking with this interesting explanation of the dangers that minister run of offending men when they speak the truth:
"First, that if this close and plain dealing be necessary, in order to your cure, and you will be offended by it, it is better you should be offended than God. Ministers are often put upon lamentable straits, they sail between Scylla and Charybdis--the wrath of God upon one side, if we do not speak plain and home, as the necessity of the case requires, and man's wrath if we do. What shall we do in this strait? Either God or you, it seems, must be offended; and it cannot be avoided, I shall rather hazard your anger than God's, and think it more tolerable" (p. 7).
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I preached today on Nabal's Folly from 1 Samuel 25. Matthew Poole makes the following comment on the record of Nabal's death in v. 37 ["But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone."]:
He was oppressed with grief, and fainted away through the fear and horror of so great a mischief, though it was past. As one who, having in the night galloped over a narrow plank, laid upon a broken bridge, over a deep river, when in the morning he came to review it, was struck dead with the horror of the danger he was in.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Note: This is another in the occasional verse by verse series through the book of Jude. For past expositions, see the “Jude Exposition” label below.
Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
In v. 23 we have another imperative. The main verb is “save” (sozete).
As an aside, we see here another significant textual issue in this verse. Modern translations do not have one main verb ("save") but two, adding again “have mercy.” So:
NIV Jude 1:23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
NASB Jude 1:23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
The choice of translation is by no means insignificant! Again, we will prefer the traditional rendering where the main (and only) finite verb is “save.”
We acknowledge from the start that Jude did not think it was in man’s power to save, in the sense of ultimate spiritual salvation. “Salvations is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Jude either is encouraging the saints to be the instrument through which God saves others. Or, he is speaking temporally, encouraging believers to be involved in rescuing or salvaging those who are in dire spiritual and physical danger. The end, of course, would also be for the spiritual good of that person.
The call is modified by the prepositional phrase “with fear” [en phobo; with reverence, with awe].
Then there are two supporting participles.
First, “pulling them out of the fire.” This accentuate the danger of their predicament and the urgency that is called for. This is not something that can wait for a few months, weeks, days , or even hours. It cannot wait minutes or seconds. Sinners are like men who are camping and who have rolled over in their sleep into the fire. They must be awakened before they are consumed and it is too late.
There is likely an allusion here to the prophet Zechariah:
Zechariah 3:1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
We are to see unconverted sinners as like men caught in a burning house and they must be pulled out to safety.
When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was five years old, his family’s home burned down and he was rescued from the burning building. Looking back on that event Wesley often called himself “a brand plucked from the burning” when he reflected on God’s providential sparing of his physical life. No doubt, he also understood how God had plucked him out of a danger in a spiritual sense.
Second, “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” A person might be pulled from the fire but his clothing might still be blackened and reeking of smoke from that fire. The point: We are to have compassion on the lost without in any way approving of their ungodly lifestyle. Jude would have been wary of those who claim that we need to accommodate the Christian message to the culture by taking up worldly ways. No, we are to hate the garment spotted by the flesh.
We need to be very careful as well of a simplistic “God hates the sin and loves the sinner” mentality. For one thing, the Bible teaches that God not only hates sin but he also hates sinners (see, for example, Psalm 5:5: “thou hatest all workers of iniquity”). Jude exhorts believers to minister to and to rescue those sinking down in the sin.
Jude closes this little epistle with a call for discerning compassion. It is a call for believers to see themselves as instruments of God’s peace, as means of his deliverance. We are to be God’s fire-fighters, entering burning buildings and pulling out victims.
• How can a believer be used as a means of saving sinners?
• How is evangelism like pulling victims from a fire?
• How can we do evangelism with those most trapped by sin without approving of their wicked lifestyles?
Thursday, November 24, 2011
A Prayer based on Psalm 107
O Lord of mercy, and full of all benignity, who chastiseth men in diverse sorts to make them return unto thee, suffer not, O Father, that we, through our unthankfulness, forget thine inestimable benefits, and the most singular deliverances which thou hast bestowed on us from day to day; but grant, that we may continually be careful and mindful to consider all the days of our lives thy gifts incomparable, which thou ever givest to us, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
From Prayers of the Psalms: From the Scottish Psalter of 1595 (Banner of Truth, 2010): p. 116.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Scott Brown's sermon "Common Infections in Family Integrated Churches" has been featured this week on sermonaudio.com. It's a solid message pointing out some of the common problems that arise among churches that seek to be family integrated and with families that seek out family integrated churches. Well worth a listen.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Conrad Mbewe did a post on his blog last week titled, Are all elders "pastors"?" in which he argues for a distinction in the one office of elder between pastors and (ruling) elders over against the "parity" view of elders.
Note: This is an occasional, verse by verse series of expositions through the book of Jude that started in May 2007! You can read previous commentaries under the label “Jude Exposition” below. You can also listen to my sermon series through Jude here.
Jude 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
Jude had the last to say about the false teachers in v. 19. With v. 20 he turned with final exhortations to address believers. Those exhortations continue in v. 22.
The heart of this verse is a command: “have compassion” or “have mercy.”
One thing we might point out in this verse is the fact that modern translations tend to render it a little differently than do translation based on the traditional text. Compare:
NIV Jude 1:22 Be merciful to those who doubt;
NASB Jude 1:22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting;
The issue is both the translation and the case of the participle. The verb from which the participle (diakrino) comes can mean “to discern,” “to make a difference,” or “to doubt.” Is it nominative (as in the traditional text): have compassion/mercy making a difference? Or is it accusative (modern text): have compassion/mercy on those who doubt?
It might not surprise the reader to find out that I prefer the traditional rendering. Jude is calling for the believers to be compassionate. As Christians, we are to be merciful. We are to be moved by the plight of sinners. We are not to be cold and indifferent to the plight of our fellow human beings.
Nevertheless—and I think this is very consistent with what we have read throughout Jude—we are also to be discerning. Some will take compassion and mercy as a license for taking advantage of our good will. They will take the offer of divine mercy from Christ’s ambassadors as license to presume upon the grace of God.
A few years ago the evangelical blogger Tim Challies Challies defined discernment (making a difference) as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”
He then added:
“When we practice discernment, we are applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. We are attempting to understand the words of the Bible and trusting God’s Word to give clarity so we might see things as God sees them. Our goal in discernment is to do just this: to see things through God’s eyes through the Bible and thus to see things as they really are. Like wiping the steam from a mirror, we seek to remove what is opaque so we might see with God-given clarity.”
Jude exhorts his hearers to be large-hearted in extending compassion, but also to exercise discernment.
• How does a believer extend mercy or compassion?
• How has mercy been extended to us in Christ?
• What areas of the Christian life particularly call for discernment?
• How would one exercise discernment in considering marriage, in choosing a career, in choosing a church, in establishing doctrinal convictions?
Monday, November 21, 2011
Here is the closing illustration from yesterday's sermon David Spares Saul (1 Samuel 23-24), that reflected on David's sparing of Saul as an anticipation of Christ's sparing of great sinners:
One of John Bunyan’s lesser known little booklets is titled The Jerusalem Sinner Saved. It is a meditation on Luke 24:47 where Jesus tells his disciples before his ascension that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Bunyan’s question is, Why Jerusalem? That is where Christ was rejected. That is where Christ was crucified. But it was the place Christ chose for the gospel first to be preached at Pentecost. Bunyan says Jesus did this because he delights to save those who are “the greatest sinners.” At one point he imagines the objections that were given to Peter as he preached the gospel in Jerusalem:
Object. ‘But I was one of them that plotted to take away his life. May I be saved by him?’
Peter. Every one of you.
Object. ‘But I was one of them that bare false witness against him. Is there grace for me?’
Peter. For every one of you.
Object. ‘But I was one of them that cried out, Crucify him, crucify him; and desired that Barabbas the murderer might live, rather than he. What will become of me, think you?’
Peter. I am to preach repentance and remission of sins to every one of you, says Peter.
Object. ‘But I was one of them that did spit in his face when he stood before his accusers. I also was one of them that mocked him, when in anguish he hung bleeding on the tree. Is there room for me?’
Peter. For every one of you, says Peter.
Object. ‘But I was one of them that in his extremity said, Give him gall and vinegar to drink. Why may I not expect the same when anguish and guilt are upon me?’
Peter. Repent of these your wickednesses, and here is remission of sins for every one of you.
Object. ‘But I railed on him, I reviled him, I hated him, I rejoiced to see him mocked by others. Can there be hope for me?
Peter. There is for every one of you. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Bunyan adds, “Oh! What a blessed ‘every one of you,’ is here!” (pp. 19-20).
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Galatians 2:20).
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, as Christian and Hopeful make their pilgrimage, Hopeful shares with his traveling companion his testimony of salvation. Christian then asks, “but tell me particularly what effect this had upon your spirit?” Hopeful answers:
It made me see that all the world, notwithstanding all the righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father, though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of my former life, and confounded me with the sense of my own ignorance; for there never came thought into mine heart before now, that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honour and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus. Yea, I thought, that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
What has been the effect of knowing Christ upon your spirit? Has it made you see the world for what it truly is? Has it humbled you to know of God’s grace in saving sinners? Has it made you love a holy life? Has it made you long to do something for Christ? Has it made you worry less about your own comfort and more about the glory of Christ? Has it made you willing to pour out your life for the sake of Christ?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I’ve been making my way through Greg Nichols’ Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants (Solid Ground, 2011). One interesting mark of the book is that Nichols does not have a chapter on “The Covenant of Works” in the body of the text but includes this topic in an appendix as “The Adamic Covenant” (pp. 321-358). This got me thinking about how other Baptist theologians have handled this subject. Here is J. L. Dagg’s take:
As the term covenant is sometimes applied to a free promise, in which no condition is stipulated; it is proper to characterize that which was made with Adam as a covenant of works. It was a law, with a penalty affixed. “Of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17). No promise was given, that Adam would continue to enjoy the divine favor if he continued obedient; but this may be understood to be clearly implied. Whether higher favor than he then enjoyed, would have been granted on condition of his persevering in obedience through prescribed term of probation, we are not informed. We have reason to conclude, that a continuance in well-doing, would have received stronger marks of divine approbation according to its progress; and, from what we know of the power of habit, as tending to establish man in virtue or vice, (a tendency which it has, because God has so willed it) the conjecture is not improbable, that, had Adam preserved in his obedience, he would, after a time, have been confirmed in holiness. But, where the Scriptures are silent, we should not frame conjectures to make them articles of faith.
Manual of Theology (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1857): p. 145
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I just ran across Pastor Poh Boon Sing's article, The Reformed Baptist Dilemma, on the "Gospel Highway" magazine website.
The "dilemma" which Pastor Poh identifies among Reformed Baptist is a lack of clarity and unity in the area of ecclesiology. My own views on church government have been influenced by Poh's writings, especially his Keys of the Kingdom. Here is the introduction to "The Reformed Baptist Dilemma" article:
The revival of interest in Reformed teaching since the early 1960s has brought about the recovery of many important biblical doctrines. Some of these are the sovereignty of God, the sole authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the centrality and uniqueness of the local church, and the primacy of preaching. These doctrines have either been neglected or distorted among evangelicals at large. Nevertheless, these were the truths mightily owned by God in the past and loved by earlier generations of Christians.
The re-emphasis of these doctrines has brought a new lease of life for the older Calvinistic churches, and has led to the founding of newer fellowships. Numerically speaking, Presbyterians and Baptists have benefited most from this recovery of Reformed teaching. Most of the latter have not hesitated to be known as "Reformed Baptists", holding to the 1689 Particular Baptist Confession of Faith as the doctrinal basis of their churches. Reformed Baptists may claim justly that they are true heirs of the Reformation of the 16th century and the lineal descendants of the Particular Baptists of the I7th century Puritan era. After all, lineage in terms of belief is what matters, and not ecclesiastical pedigree or historical succession.
Amidst apparent growth and unity among the Reformed Baptists there have arisen differences in ecclesiology (that is, the doctrine of the church). There are also differences in other doctrines. For example, in eschatology (the doctrine of the last things), there are differences about premillennialism, postmillennialism, amillennialism, or dispensationalism. Then there are the issues of whether the moral law is still relevant for the Christian, whether the Lord's supper and church membership should be open to all. There is also the debate as to whether Reformed Baptists arose during the 17th century or were descendants of an unbroken line of "Baptists" stemming from the Anabaptists, the Waldensians, the Donatists, and all the way from the time of the apostles. Even the title "Reformed Baptist" has been called in question.
Some of these differences are relatively minor, and should not be enough to agitate or disrupt the unity of the Reformed Baptist constituency. Other matters are of greater importance. Failure to adhere to them would lead to the church concerned being frowned upon rightly not only by other Reformed Baptists but also by the wider conservative circles of churches. It is to be noted that one can hold to too little or to too much to qualify as a "Reformed Baptist". The two boundaries are not necessarily co-extensive. Where one boundary begins and the other ends is, of course, a matter of debate.
It is probable that Reformed Baptists are generally clear about soteriology (that is, the doctrine of salvation). To a man they are Calvinists, holding to the well-known "Five Points" of Calvinism, often known as the doctrines of grace. Few would hedge as a "Four-pointer" or a "Four-and-a-half-pointer".1 Nevertheless, while being clear on soteriology, there is, unhappily, no equal clarity in the realm of ecclesiology. A general acceptance of believer's baptism and the autonomy of the local church is about all that may be said with certainty about Reformed Baptist churchmanship.
Poh proceeds to present four models for church government: prelacy, presbyterianism, independency, and congregationalism. He is an advocate for the idependency model as championed by John Owen and laid out in Owen's "The True Nature of a Gospel Church." Here is how Poh summarizes his article:
1. Reformed Baptists are today faced with the problem of not being clear on ecclesiology. Instead of recovering the church polity of the early Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists have allowed themselves to be influenced by Presbytenanism and other factors.
2. Traditionally, Independency and Congregationalism have been confounded as one and the same entity. This is unfortunate. The two systems are quite different and their confusion has generated problems for not a few. Instead of thinking about three forms of church government, we should reckon upon four: Prelacy, Presbyterianism, Independency and Congregationalism.
3. Originally, the word "Congregational" meant that the visible church of Jesus Christ on earth is made up of congregations of called-out people. The word "Independent" was a derogatory term directed against those who embraced a Congregational church order. The purpose was to imply that the Congregationalists inclined to anarchy in their churches. In time a difference meaning occurred between the two words, so that "Congregational" came to mean the congregation ruling the church, while "Independent" came to indicate that the congregation is autonomous.
4. Independency arose in the separatist movements of the sixteenth century and was refined by Independents from within the ranks of Puritanism in the seventeenth century. John Owen's book, "The True Nature of a Gospel Church", was both definitive and influential for a long period.
5. The Particular Baptists practised a more consistent Independency by rejecting infant baptism and refining the principles of the system. They were in the earliest stage of their history seen to be separate from the paedobaptist Independents.
6. We need a contemporary, up-to-date, exposition of Independent principles. Until a better work is produced, the present contribution would try to meet the need of the hour. The Bible, the two confessions of the Particular Baptists, and John Owen's book, "The True Nature of a Gospel Church", will be referred to in that order of importance.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Yet another gem from John Owen, Communion with God (Banner ed.):
If they have false assurance of God’s care and promises to them, and in this false assurance they comfort themselves, then their comfort is like the dreams of a hungry man who thinks he is eating or drinking, but when he awakes, he is still hungry and thirsty. So, many will awaken in the last day and see all things clearly. In that day, they will then find that God is their enemy. They will see him laugh at their calamity. They will hear him mocking when their judgment comes on them to the full (p. 208).
Friday, November 11, 2011
When doing some reading to prepare to preach on 1 Samuel 20, I was struck by different perspectives expressed by the commentators regarding the character of David (and Jonathan). David tells Jonathan to report to Saul that he has gone to Bethlehem for a yearly sacrifice, rather than to the new moon festival, while, in fact, he is hiding in the field (vv. 5-6). Jonathan follows through on the plan and, as David hides in the field (v. 24), Jonathan reports to Saul that David asked leave to go to Bethlehem (vv. 27-29). The question is whether or not David and Jonathan are guilty of outright deception in dealing with Saul.
Dale Ralph Davis, a modern interpreter, concludes that the reader might be bothered by Jonathan and David’s ruse. He writes,
Some readers may be disturbed to see that the Bible records Jonathan’s apparent “storying” for David. That is all the text is doing: reporting what Jonathan did. It does not recommend what he did. The Bible, as so often in such cases, ignores the rub the modern reader may feel. It is important, however, to distinguish between what the Bible reports and what it recommends. It tells you that Jonathan prevaricated for David; it does not say, “Go, and do thou likewise.” The Bible is telling a story, not teaching ethics here (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart [Christian Focus, 1996]: p. 211, n. 9).
Contrast this, however, with the way one of the old path men deals with the same situation. Matthew Poole offers the following commentary on David hiding in the field in v. 24:
David hid himself, to wit, at the time appointed; for it seems probable that he went first to Beth-lehem, as he bade Jonathan tell his father, ver. 6, and thence returned to the field, when the occasion required; else we must charge him with a downright lie, which ought not to be imagined (without any apparent cause) concerning so good a man, especially in so distressed and dangerous a condition. And why should he hide himself there so long before the time when Jonathan was to come thither to inform him? Nor were there any need of appointing a certain time to meet, if David were there all the while.
The contrast reminded me of Peter Master’s comments concerning the description of the judges in Not Like Any Other Book: Interpreting the Bible (Wakeman Trust, 2004). Masters claims that many of the judges (like Samson and Jephthah) “have been horribly maligned and discredited” by modern interpreters (p. 109; see chapter 13, “Sticking Up for the Judges: A glorious range of heroes denigrated,” pp. 109-127). Would Masters say the same about the assumptions regarding the character of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20?
The Puritan William Gurnall laments the decline of psalm singing in his day (though the context indicates the issue was not merely the singing of inspired psalms per se, over against uninspired compositions, but whether singing itself is a regulated element in NT worship):
Believers sometimes slide away from cherished old principles of Scripture during unsettled times. Consider the singing of Psalms, for instance. So many have laid down this practice that I must ask if they ever enjoyed precious communion with God in the first place. Have their hearts ever danced up to God with heavenly love as they sang with their lips? How strange to hear a godly person deny this! If you ever met with God at this door of the tabernacle, Christian, did your heart grow cold before you threw away the duty of singing praises to Him?
The Christian in Complete Armour, Vol. 2 (Banner ed.): p. 32.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Last Sunday morning our sermon text was 1 Samuel chapter 20 which focuses on the relationship between Jonathan and David. In the spiritual application I traced six places in 1 Samuel 20 where the relationship between Jonathan and David anticipates the relationship between the believer and the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. Here’s a review of those six points:
1. Jonathan promised David to do whatever he desired (v. 4).
The believer promises Christ to do all the he desires and asks of us. We must be completely submitted to the will of Christ.
2. Jonathan asked of David to be shown the kindness of the Lord (vv. 14-15).
The believer seeks “the kindness of the LORD” in and through Christ.
3. Jonathan loved David (v. 17).
Believers love Christ. It is not a chore, a sacrifice, or an inconvenience to be with and serve those whom we love.
4. Jonathan’s friendship with David resulted in anger from Saul (vv. 30, 33).
The believer’s friendship with Christ will often result in misunderstanding, anger, and hostility from the world (cf. Matthew 10:34-39; John 15:18-25).
5. Saul threatened Jonathan that he would have to lose his kingdom if David gained his kingdom (v. 31)
The believer must lose “his kingdom” (authority, rule, mastery, autonomy) over his own life, so that Christ might build his own kingdom in that man’s heart (cf. Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20).
6. Jonathan asked David for an everlasting covenant (v. 42; cf. v. 23).
The believer trusts in Christ and is given eternal life (John 3:16).
May we cultivate a Jonathan-like love for the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
OK, let me continue the flow of Spurgeon and the simplicity of congregational singing in NT worship. Here is part of Spurgeon's exposition of Psalm 42:4 in The Treasury of David:
David appears to have had a peculiarly tender remembrance of the singing of the pilgrims, and assuredly it is the most delightful part of worship and that which comes nearest to the adoration of heaven. What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettinesses of a quartette, the refined niceties of a choir, or the blowing off of wind from inanimate bellows and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Here are even more thoughts from Spurgeon on singing and New Testament worship from his exposition of Psalm 33:2 in the The Treasury of David:
Praise the Lord with harp. Men need all the help they can get to stir them up to praise. This is the lesson to be gathered from the use of musical instruments under the old dispensation. Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days, when Jesus gives us spiritual manhood, we can make melody without strings and pipes. We who do not believe these things to be expedient in worship, lest they should mar its simplicity, do not affirm them to be unlawful, and if any George Herbert or Martin Luther can worship God better by the aid of well tuned instruments, who shall gainsay their right? We do not need them, they would hinder than help our praise, but if others are otherwise minded, are they not living in gospel liberty? Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best of music. No instrument like the human voice. As a help to singing the instrument is alone to be tolerated, for keys and strings do not praise the Lord. With the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. The Lord must have a full octave, for all notes are his, and all music belongs to him. Where several pieces of music are mentioned, we are taught to praise God with all the powers which we possess.
Under the “Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings” section on Psalm 33:2, Spurgeon adds the following:
Verse 2. Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Here we have the first mention of musical instruments in the Psalms. It is to be observed that the early fathers almost with one accord protest against their use in churches; as they are forbidden in the Eastern church to this day, where yet, by the consent of all, the singing is infinitely superior to anything that can be heard in the West. J. M. Neale.
Verse 2. Harp; Psaltery, etc. Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaise. Thomas Aquinas. It was only permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off from idols; but now instead of organs, we may use our own bodies to praise him withal. Chrysostom. The use of singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song. Justin Martyr.
Verse 2. (last clause). It is said that David praised God upon an instrument of ten strings; and he would never have told how many strings there were, but that without doubt he made use of them all. God hath given all of us bodies, as it were, instruments of many strings; and can we think it music good enough to strike but one string, to call upon him with our tongues only? No, no; when the still sound of the heart by holy thoughts, and the shrill sound of the tongue by holy words, and the loud sound of the hands by pious works, do all join together, that is God's concert, and the only music wherewith he is affected. Sir Richard Baker.
I had coffee this AM with my friend Greg C. and we got to talking about music and singing in worship. I told him I would re-post this intro and excerpt from Spurgeon on organs:
We are not the first generation to deal with “worship wars.” In Spurgeon’s day the newest thing was not the guitar or drum set but the organ. In the Metropolitan Tabernacle the singing of psalms and hymns was done without instrumental accompaniment. In Spurgeon’s Autobiography (the titled is a bit of a misnomer since the book was prepared by his wife and secretary after this death) we read the following comments:
When William Cuff was minister at Providence Chapel, Hackney, one of the College Conference meetings was held there. The President presided, and in the course of his speech, he pointed to the organ and said, ‘I look upon that as an innovation; and if I were here, I should want it to be an outovation, and then we would have an ovation over its departure. I was once asked to open an organ—I suppose the people wanted me to preach in connection with the introduction of the new instrument. I said that I was quite willing to open it as Simple Simon opened his mother’s bellows, to see where the wind came from, but I could not take any other part in the ceremony.’
Preaching at a chapel in the country, Mr. Spurgeon gave out Isaac Watts’ version of the 91st Psalm—
He that hath made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode;--
And then added, ‘We’ll sing it to the tune “Refuge”’. The organist leaned over from the gallery, and whispered to the preacher, “It is not in our tune book, sir.’ ‘Then it ought to be,’ answered Spurgeon; ‘no tune book is complete unless “Refuge” is in it;’ and, turning to the congregation, he said, ‘The last time I was here, you people praised God for yourselves, but now you have a machine to do the praising for you. If I can’t play “Refuge”, we’ll have it all the same, and I’ll start it myself.’
C. H. Spurgeon: Autobiography: Volume 2 (Banner, 1973): p. 441.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Another gem from John Owen, Communion with God (Banner ed.):
A believer may be in the saddest and darkest condition imaginable. Even so, the Holy Spirit is able to break through all this and bring to mind the promises of Christ. By this work, the Holy Spirit enables Christians to sit in dungeons, rejoice in flames and glory in troubles. If he brings to mind the promises of the Christ for our comfort, neither Satan nor man, neither sin nor the world, nor even death itself shall take away our comfort. Saints who have communion with the Holy Spirit know this only too well. Sometimes the heavens are black over them, and the earth trembles under them. Disasters and distresses appear which are so full of horror and darkness that they are tempted to give up in despair. So how greatly are their spirits revived when the Holy Spirit brings the words of Christ to their minds for their comfort and joy. Thus, believers are not dependent on outward circumstances for their happiness, for they have the inward and powerfully effective work of the Holy Spirit, to whom they give themselves up by faith (p. 179).
Monday, November 07, 2011
I have started a new sermon series on Sunday afternoons through Spurgeon’s Catechism (an edited version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism). In preparation I am reading Thomas Vincent’s The Shorter Catechism Explained and Proved from Scripture (first published 1674; Banner ed., 1980).
In his comments on the second question, “What rule hath God given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” Vincent lists ten ways the Scriptures can be proved to be the Word of God. The eighth of those reasons in the following (emphasis added):
Because the Scriptures were confirmed by miracles. We read of many miracles in the Scriptures, especially those which were wrought by Jesus Christ and his disciples, to confirm their doctrine, that it was from God; such as curing some who were born blind, raising the dead, calming the sea with a word, and many more. Now, these and like miracles were from the immediate hand of God; and the relation we have faithfully handed down unto us, as appeareth by the writings still amongst us, of several holy men upon them and concerning them, as also by the several copies of them (which could not be forged, and not be found out) agreeing in the same relation. And as surely as God did effect those miracles, so surely is God the author of the Scriptures, which are confirmed by them.
The thing I am struck by here is Vincent’s implied understanding of the transmission of the Scriptures. With regard to the Scripture’s “relation” of miracles which come “from the immediate hand of God” (cf. Vincent’s description of the source of miracles with the confession’s language concerning the immediate inspiration of Scripture), by the autographic hand of “several holy men” but “also by the several copies of them (which could not be forged, and not be found out)”. Note the high view of the preservation of the Word of God through the apographa and not merely the autographa. Again, contrast his view with that of modern inerrancy:
Vincent: Autographa→ faithfully preserved in apographa
Modern Inerrancy: Autographa→ corruption of apographa in transmission→ restoration of autographa by modern text critics
Friday, November 04, 2011
Note: In Lord’s Day morning worship we will continue our series on the Life of David in 1 Samuel. In afternoon worship, we will continue our series through Spurgeon’s Catechism.
AMOpening Psalm Psalm 61
Message: Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 20)
Psalm 115 (DIX)
No. 256 Break Thou the Bread of Life
No. 69 Lord, with glowing heart
Opening Psalm Psalm 62
Message: The Only Rule: The Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
Psalm 108:1-6 (FESTAL SONG)
Psalm 108:7-13 (FESTAL SONG)
No. 713 I Am Thine, O Lord
Opening Psalm Psalm 63
Message: The Massacre of God’s Ministers (1 Samuel 21-22)
No. 502 Rejoice, ye pure in heart
No. 706 Take Time to be Holy
Psalm 142 (Note tune: DUKE STREET)
Opening Psalm Psalm 64
Message: What do the Scriptures principally teach? (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Psalm 65:1-5 (WEBB)
No. 454 My Faith Looks Up to Thee
Psalm 65:6-13 (WEBB)
Opening Psalm Psalm 65
Message: David Spares Saul (1 Samuel 23-24)
No. 86 Now thank we all our God
Psalm 29 (KREMSER)
No. 705 Marvelous Grace of our Loving Lord
Message: David Spares Saul (1 Samuel 23-24)
No. 86 Now thank we all our God
Psalm 29 (KREMSER)
No. 705 Marvelous Grace of our Loving Lord
Opening Psalm Psalm 66
Message: What is God? (Exodus 3:14; John 4:24)
No. 420 Blessed Lord, in thee is refuge
Psalm 85 (ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR)
No. 204 Alleluia! Alleluia!
Opening Psalm Psalm 67
Message: Nabal’s Folly (1 Samuel 25)
No. 615 Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Psalm 143 (ST. ELIZABETH)
No. 731 And can it be
Opening Psalm Psalm 68
Message: The Trinity: God in Three Persons (Matthew 28:19-20)
No. 87 Holy, Holy, Holy
No. 421 Rock of Ages (TOPLADY)
Psalm 97 (ST. ANNE)
Thursday, November 03, 2011
I’ve been reading through John Owen’s Communion with God (Banner of Truth ed.). In this classic work, Owen describes the fellowship that believers have with the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
In one section, Owen reflects on the privileges believers have as members of the family of God. Here are a few excerpts:
The church is the ‘house of God’ (1 Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6). In the church, Christ keeps and maintains his whole family, ruling them according to his mind and will. Now who shall have any right in the house of God except his own children? We will not allow a right to any but our own children in our houses. Will God then allow any right in his house to any but his children?....
Consider the nature of God’s house. It is made up of ‘living stones’ (1 Pet 2:5). All those in this house are a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people’ (1 Pet 2:9). They are ‘saints and faithful brethren’ (Col 1:2). Every one of them is righteous (Isa 60:21). The whole fabric of the house is glorious (Isa 54:11-14)…..
Consider the privileges of that house. These privileges will not suit any others but the children of God. Is food given to a dead man? Will he grow strong by it? Will he thrive on it? The things of the family and house of God are food for living souls, and only God’s children are alive. All others are dead in trespasses and sins. Look at any of the things which saints enjoy in the family of God and you will find that not one of them are suited to unbelievers….
Only the children of God have the right and title to the things of God. They have fellowship with one another and with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. They set forth the Lord’s death till he comes again. They are entrusted with the ordinances of God’s house. And who shall deny them the enjoyment of this right, or keep them from what Christ has bought for them? And the Lord will give them hearts to make use of this privilege and not wander on the mountains, forgetting their resting place (pp. 162-163).
This week, let us consider what a blessing it is be part of God’s family, his household. Let us consider and treasure the spiritual privileges and benefits have been given to those made alive in Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Another follow up to the question of “inerrancy” and the WCF and the 2LBCF (1689):
I’ve been reading through Fred Zaspel’s The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and ran across the section on “Autographs Only” (p. 118) in which Zaspel writes:
It should be noted that Warfield’s doctrine of inspiration necessarily concerns the autographs specifically, and the copied texts only by implication and only insofar as they are accurately copied. As did the Westminster Confession of Faith, Warfield argues that while translations of Scripture may faithfully convey the Word of God, and while the text of Scripture has in God’s providence been substantially preserved in its purity, it is the original text alone that was immediately inspired of God. The human biblical authors and their writings are the focus of concern in this discussion.
The thing to be challenged here is Zaspel’s assumption that Warfield’s views were consistent with the WCF. Though the confession does indeed affirm that the OT in Hebrew and the NT in Greek were “immediately inspired,” it proceeds to affirm that these texts “by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic” (N.B.: this is quite different from Zaspel’s assertion that the confession affirms that the Word of God has been only “substantially preserved in its purity”). There is no mention in the confession of inerrant autographs that were corrupted in transmission and that now must be restored through modern critical text scholarship. No, the assumption is that the immediately inspired autographs have been providentially preserved in the apographs. The confession then proceeds to affirm that translations be made from these texts (the preserved apographs) into “the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come.”
As I’ve noted before, I think we can get a good impression of how the framers of the WCF and the 2LBCF looked at the issue of the text of Scripture by examining the writings of John Owen on Scripture in Volume 16 of his Collected Works. In “The Divine Original,” for example, Owen writes:
“It is true, we have not the autographa of Moses and the prophets, of the apostles and evangelists; but the apographa or ‘copies” which we have contain every iota in them” (pp. 300-301).
And in “Of the Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text of Scripture” he writes:
“…We add, that the whole Scripture, entire as given out from God, without any loss, is preserved in the copies of the originals yet remaining…. In them all, we say, is every letter and tittle of the word. These copies, we say, are the rule, standard, and touchstone of all translations, ancient or modern, by which they are all to be examined, tried, corrected, amended; and themselves only by themselves” (p. 357).
“Let it be remembered that the vulgar copy we use was the public possession of many generations,--that upon the invention of printing it was in actual authority throughout the world with them that used and understood that language, as far as anything appears to the contrary; let that, then, pass for the standard, which is confessedly its right and due, and we shall, God assisting, quickly see how little reason there is to pretend such varieties of readings as we are now surprised withal;” (p. 366).
We can assume that the view of the framers of the WCF and 2LBCF (1689) on Scripture was closer to Owen and, therefore, quite different from that of Warfield. Here is a summary of the contrast:
Owen/Puritan/Early Particular Baptist view:
Immediate inspiration of autographa → pure preservation in apographa
Warfield/Modern Text Critical/Chicago Statement view:
Inerrant autographa → corrupted apographa → reconstructed autographa
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Bob Gonzales of the Reformed Baptist Seminary recently wrote a post [update 2/22/14: the link to the original post by Bob Gonzales has been broken and I could not find it on the archive of his current blog; thus, readers will not have access to the post to which this article responds] suggesting that chapter one in the 2LBCF (1689) might be updated to include a reference to “inerrancy.” Reformed theologian-pastor Richard Barcellos offered several responses in the comments suggesting that the confession should not be altered. RB, in particular, calls attention to the fact that though several WCF affirming pastors championed the inerrancy movement of the 70s (e.g., J. M. Boice) they did not suggest altering their historic confession, the WCF. RB implies we should do the same. That is, affirm inerrancy but not alter the confession.
Here are some thoughts on this debate:
1. I agree with RB that the 2LBCF (1689) should not be altered to include the term “inerrancy,” but differ from him regarding the reason.
2. I believe the confession already affirms the concept of “inerrancy,” when that term is taken to mean an affirmation of the complete and total trustworthiness of the Scriptures and their freedom from error in all matters they address (including in the fields of history and science and not just in doctrinal or spiritual issues). This, in my view, is fully encompassed in the confession’s current use of the term “infallibility.”
3. In my view, however, the confession does not affirm “inerrancy” in the modern sense in which it is defined by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement, following the lead of B. B. Warfield, affirms the inerrancy of the original autographs of Scripture and does not address the providential preservation of the apographs, as in the confession. For a critique of Warfield’s construal of the inerrant autographs, see Theodore P. Letis’ The Ecclesiastical Text (The Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies, 1997). For a guide to how the framers of the WCF and the 2LBCF likely saw the nature of Scripture, see John Owen’s “Of the Divine Original of the Scripture” and “Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text” in vol. 16 of his Collected Works.
4. In addition, one might well argue that the neo-evangelical emphasis on the inerrancy of the original autographs, a la the Chicago Statement, has been a failure. For illustrations of this, see wrangling in recent years in the scholarly Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), which uses “inerrancy” as a litmus test for membership, over Clark Pinnock and Openness Theology (i.e., Pinnock claimed to affirm “inerrancy” while denying an orthodox doctrine of God and survived an attempt to remove him from ETS membership). Along these lines, Francis Beckwith was elected to the Presidency of ETS but had to abdicate after he announced he had decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. In his memoir, he stated, “I did not believe that the ETS doctrinal statement was inconsistent with my Catholic beliefs” (Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic [Brazos Press, 2009]: p. 118). We might add a note here about the more recent row over Peter Enns of Westiminster Seminary who could belong to ETS and affirm its inerrancy statement while, at the same time, denying the historical reliability of the OT (see Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the OT [Baker Academic, 2005] and the response by Greg Beale in The Erosion of Innerancy in Evangelicalism [Crossway, 2008]). Given the failure of “innerancy” to safeguard orthodoxy in evangelicalism (as illustrated by the ETS), why should this term be added to a reformed confession that is more than adequate as it is?
When Hopeful and Christian come to the Enchanted Ground in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Hopeful tells his companion, “I do now begin to grow so drowsy that I can scarcely hold up mine eyes; let us lie down here and take one nap.”
But Christian responds, “By no means … lest sleeping we never awake more.” He then asks, “Do you not remember that one of the Shepherds bid us beware of the Enchanted Ground?”
So, the pilgrims avoid disaster. Christian closes the “Enchanted Ground” scene by singing,
“When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together;
Yea, let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep ope their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if it be managed well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell.”
Indeed, how we need the “Saints’ fellowship” to keep us awake and alert as we make the pilgrimage through this life.