Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Note: My sermon Sunday morning was What hast thou done? (1 Samuel 13) on the rejection of Saul. Here is the conclusion of the message that makes use of Matthew Poole's thoughts on this passage:
There is yet one lingering spiritual question we might have in our minds about this passage. Why is God so sever with Saul? He transgresses in just one command and the Lord removes his kingdom and his prophet from him. Is this fair? It is like Moses not being allowed to enter the Promised Land, because of one act of disobedience. He was told to speak to the rock but he struck it twice, and for this he could not enter the Promised Land (see Numbers 20:8-13).
Matthew Poole pondered this in his commentary. He offers something like a catechism on this point:
Question: Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention?
Answer: First, men are very incompetent judges of God’s judgments, because they see but very little, either of the majesty of the offended God, or of the heinous nature and aggravations of the offense. For instance, men see nothing but Saul’s outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this…. Besides God clearly saw all the wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine.
Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely and that for diverse weighty reasons, as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God’s free and rich mercy for passing by their great offenses….
Do you get Poole’s point? When you read 1 Samuel 13 you should not think “How could God treat Saul like that?” But you should think, “Why has God treated me as he has? Why has he cast all my infirmities upon his Son? Why has he removed my transgressions from me as far as the East is from the West?”
So then, it is, in the end, we who say to God, "What hast thou done for us in Christ?"
Monday, May 30, 2011
An issue here is whether or not to include the personal pronoun “our” (hemon). The traditional text omits it, while the modern critical text includes it. So, the KJV (based on the traditional text) reads, “of the common salvation,” while the NASB (based on the modern text) reads “about our common salvation” and the NIV (also based on the modern text but with a dynamic equivalent twist) reads, “about the salvation we share.”
Here are the two main options:
Traditional text (codex P and the vast majority of Greek manuscripts): peri tes koinones soterias: “concerning the common salvation”
Modern critical text (p72 and codices Alexandrinus and Vaticanus, et al.): peri tes koinones hemon soterias: “concerning our common salvation”
There are, however, a number of significant variations in the texts:
Two codices (1881 and 2298) along with a few Vulgate and Bohairic manuscripts read humon soterias, making the pronoun a second person plural, so “your common salvation.”
Two other codices (1505 and 2495) read humon zoes, also making it a second person plural pronoun and changing the noun, so “your common life.”
Then, most interestingly, Codex Sinaiticus (along with codex Psi) provides the harmonizing reading, hemon soterias kai zoes, so “our common salvation and life.”
N. B.: This variation is noteworthy on several levels. First, it demonstrates again that codicies Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, though often presented as putting forward a unified alternative to the traditional text, are very often, in fact, at odds with one another. Second, this example shows that Sinaiticus can bear a tendency to harmonize and conflate variant readings. This undermines its reliability as a clear witness to the “original text.”
Here, the traditional text represents the shorter reading. It is easier to understand the scribal addition of the pronoun rather than to explain its omission. The shorter reading is typically the one preferred, according to the canons of modern criticism, except, apparently, when it supports the ecclesiological text.
Final thought on English translations:
The translation of this phrase provides an example of a place where the NKJV follows the modern critical text rather than the TR (which it usually follows). So:
Geneva Bible: “of the common salvation”;
KJV: “of the common salvation”;
NKJV: “concerning our common salvation”
Friday, May 27, 2011
I was out pruning the Bradford Pear trees that line my yard this afternoon and discovered this nest and these eggs hidden in the branches.
It reminded me of two things:
1. The work of church planting (and parenting, for that matter). Building a nest. Nurturing growth. Patient waiting for God's timing.
2. God's providential care for his saints. "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust" (Psalm 91:4).
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Image: CRBC's home education co-op group and their families took a field trip to the farm of one of our attending families in Madison to see chickens, goats, rabbits, and llamas on Friday, May 20, 2011.
Note: Daniel Houseworth is our first Ruling Elder at CRBC. We set him apart to this office on February 13, 2011.
As a CRBC elder, one of my greatest desires and fervent prayers is to see our congregation grow spiritually and numerically. However, the numerical growth is not what you are likely thinking. My immediate vision for “church growth” is to literally add to our membership roll regularly attending brothers and sisters in Christ who show no inclination to be a part of another local church.
With this desire in mind, I want to share with you part of an article I recently read in the Winter 2011 edition of The Founders Journal entitled, “The Household of God: An Introduction to the Church,” by Steven B. Cowan, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL (note: it is not yet available on the Founders Ministry website, www.founders.org). While I encourage everyone to read the entire article when it is posted online, there is one part in particular that I want to draw to your attention. In the closing section of the article, Professor Cowan writes, “For Christ’s purposes for the church to be fulfilled, for His purposes for you (emphasis added) to be fulfilled, you have to make a covenant commitment to a local church...” These particular words should resonate with those who heard Pastor Riddle’s preaching this past Lord’s Day on 1 Samuel 12 and his discussion of covenant renewal. Today, the people of God – regenerate believers – participate in a covenant renewal ceremony every time we gather for worship, and God’s covenant with His people is most prominently displayed for us when we participate together in the Lord’s Supper during our afternoon worship service.
Professor Cowan highlights the very nature of this covenant community – the local church – by examining Acts 5 and focusing on verses 12-13, “12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.” These verses follow the Holy Spirit striking down Ananias and Sapphira for their sin, and the locals clearly exhibited not just a healthy fear of divine judgment, but they understood the consequences of joining the church. Professor Cowan points out that “[w]hat we need to note here is that the church was seen as something that could be joined and this tells us that the church had a clearly defined membership. It was known who was in and who was out. But we can go further than this by looking more closely at the word ‘join’ that Luke uses in the text. The Greek word used here is kollaō [κoλλάω] and it means ‘to glue’ or ‘cement together.’”
While kollaō has a mundane usage in the New Testament (such as the reference to dust clinging to one’s shoes in Luke 10:11), this same word is used in the following passages to exhibit intimacy:
- 1 Corinthians 6:16 describes being joined in a sexual relations,
- Matthew 19:5 uses the root word to describe when a man is joined to – literally cleaves to – his wife,
- 1 Corinthians 6:17 describes our spiritual union with the Lord.
It is these latter uses that well describe the formal nature of being “cemented together” as members of a local church. Does this not fit with the building metaphor that is used throughout the New Testament, like in Ephesians 2:19-22? “19Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Professor Cowan closes the article with this admonition: “The early Christians understood their duty to be committed members of a local church, the household of God. It is important that Christians today understand this, too. To shun this duty is to shun Christ’s gift to you. To neglect church membership is to neglect your obedience to Christ. If you love Jesus, you love what he loves; and Jesus loves the church. If you are a Christian, but not a member of a local church, you should make this your first priority.”
If you are a believer and a regular attendee at CRBC or any other local church, I encourage you to take seriously the requirement to be joined to a local church. In Ephesians 5: 25 we are reminded that Christ loves the church and died for her, and the illustration used in the verse is that of a husband and wife. In that same vein I plead with you to leave the world and cleave to Christ; be joined with your fellow believers in the local church. Only then will we all covenant together in the fullest sense as we gather on the Lord’s Day to worship our triune God.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible (1611-2011), Dr. Michael Barret of Geneva Reformed Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina recently offered a lecture on "The Tradition, Text, and Translation of the KJV" that is worth hearing.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Dabney describes a typical day for Jackson in his pre-war days in Lexington (pp. 119-120):
1. Dawn: “He always rose at dawn; and his first occupation was secret prayer, followed, if the weather permitted, by a solitary walk.”
2. 7:00 am: “His family prayers were at seven o’clock, summer and winter…” Everyone in this household was required to be present, “[b]ut the absence of no one was allowed to delay the service.” Breakfast followed.
3. 8:00 am: First class at VMI.
4. 11:00 am: Classes end at VMI. Jackson returns to his study through to lunch time. “The first book which engaged his attention was the Bible, which was not merely read, but studied as a daily lesson.”
5. Afternoon (lunch to supper): “the interval was occupied by his garden, farm, or church duties.”
6. Evening: “The evening was devoted first to the mental review of the studies of the day, made without a book, and then to literary reading or conversation, until ten o’clock, P.M., when he retired.” In reading material, he “never chose works of fiction, but the classic historians and poets of the English tongue.”
Monday, May 23, 2011
I recorded another Word Magazine commentary titled: "The Overlooked Problem with Camping: Rapture Teaching." Though many have rightly criticized Camping for weird hermeneutics (numerology), rejection of the local church, and false date setting, the problem with his teaching that has received less attention is his emphasis on the "rapture" borrowed from classical dispensationalism.
I am still learning to use Audacity, the microphone I used was crackling, and I have a Spring cold. Hopefully, listeners can make it through these distractions!
Who wrote the book of Jude? The little book begins, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James….” (1:1).
I. We know three things about the author:
1. He was a Jewish man.
His name Ioudas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. Judah was the son of Jacob and father of the one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
2. He was a Jewish Christian man.
He calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.”
3. He was a Jewish Christian man directly related to a leading figure in early Christianity named James, and, thereby, to Jesus himself.
He calls himself the brother (adelphos) of James (Iakobos). The reference to James is apparently to James, the elder of Jerusalem, and prominent leader in the early church (cf. Acts 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12). Paul refers to him as “James the Lord’s brother” (adelphos; Gal 1:19).
II. There are at least seven persons identified with the name “Jude” in the NT:
1-2. In Luke 3:26 and 3:30 there are two figures listed in the genealogy of Jesus named “Juda” (from Ioudas. Note that the text of 3:26 is disputed with some reading Ioda. This reading is adopted by the modern critical text, so that modern translations render the name in 3:26 as "Joda" [so RSV/ESV, NIV, NASB]). Obviously, neither of these is the author of Jude but there appearance shows the prevalence of the name and its appearance in the family line of Jesus’ household.
3. This is the name of Judas Iscariot the disciple who betrayed Jesus. He may be excluded for consideration of the authorship of this book for obvious reasons. The typical English rendering of his name (“Jude” rather than “Judas,” though it is exactly the same in Greek, indicates a desire to distance the author from the notorious betrayer of Jesus).
4. Another of the twelve apostles has the name of Judas (or Jude). John 14:22 specifically refers to him as Judas “not Iscariot.” In the listing of the apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 he is described as Judas “of James (Iakobou).” The AV translates this as “Judas the brother of James”; the NKJV, however, as “Jude the son of James” (note the italic).
5. In Acts 9:11 there is mention of a man named Judas in Damascus who welcomed the blinded Saul into his home. There is no other known reference to this man in the NT.
6. In Acts 15:22 there is mentioned “Judas surnamed Barsabbas.” He and Silas are recognized by Luke as “chief men among the brethren” (v. 22) and “prophets” (15:32; cf. also v. 27).
7. Finally, there is a Judas (or Jude) who is listed among the brothers of Jesus in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 (translated “Judas” in the AV of Matthew and “Juda” in Mark). These would have been the half-brothers of Jesus, the children of Joseph and Mary. The order varies between Matthew and Mark. In Matthew the brothers are listed as “James, Joses, Simon, and Judas” and in Mark as “James, Joses, Juda, and Simon.” Note that James is listed first in each list either owing to his being the eldest (after Jesus) or to his later prominence among Jesus’ followers or a combination of both factors.
Now, who wrote the book of Jude? We can look to the men of this name mentioned in the NT. As noted above, we can rule out both the historical Judes of Luke 3:26, 30 and Judas Iscariot. It also seems less likely that Jude (not Iscariot) the apostle is the author. Surely, if the author were an apostle he would have noted his apostolic authority or his eyewitness testimony to Christ’s public ministry as Paul, Peter, and John do (cf. Gal 1:1; 1 Peter 1;1; 1 John 1:1-3). He speaks of the apostles as if he were not among them (cf. v. 17). Finally, it seems more likely that the apostle was the son of a man named James, rather than the brother of James. There is no compelling reason to believe that the author of this book was the obscure Judas of Damascus or Judas Barsabbas. Neither of these are associated with James. This leaves us with Jude the brother of Jesus and James as the most likely author.
The Gospels indicate that the family of Jesus did not at first acknowledge him as the Christ (cf. Mark 3:21, 31-35). John starkly records that early in his public ministry, “neither did his brethren (hoi adelphoi) believe in him” (John 7:5). After the cross and resurrection, however, things change. Luke records that when the early church gathered in Jerusalem, May and his “brethren” were among them (Acts 1:14). Paul alludes to “the brethren of the Lord” engaging in public ministry (1 Cor 9:5).
We can conclude then that Jude, the author of this letter, was a Jewish Christian minister who was the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of James of Jerusalem.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
For those interested in the current stir about Harold Camping of Family Radio and his prediction of the Rapture this Saturday (May 21), you might be interested in listening to this diaologue (not really a debate since Camping essentially ignores anything White says) between Camping and RB apologist James White on the "Iron Sharpens Iron" radio broadcast back in July 2009:
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Image: Fellowship at CRBC after morning worship last Lord's Day (May 15, 2011)
Note: Our current Lord’s Day morning sermon series at CRBC is on the life of Saul (1 Samuel 8-15). Below are my notes from the conclusions of last Sunday’s message on “The Anointing of Saul” (1 Samuel 9-11).
What Saul failed to do in the office of king, Christ has perfectly accomplished for his people.
Why did the Lord allow the office of king to be established in Israel? He did so to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one.
There are both similarities and great differences between Saul and Christ:
Saul comes from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes of Israel (1 Sam 9:21). Christ will come from the tribe of Judah, but he will be born in Bethlehem, “little among the thousands of Judah” (Micah 5:2).
Saul was a “choice young man” who stood head and shoulder above his peers (1 Sam 9:2). Christ had “no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2).
Saul seeks lost donkeys (1 Sam 9:3). Christ will come to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 15:24).
Saul was appointed by God to save his people out of the hand of the Philistines (1 Sam 9:16). Christ was appointed by God to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21).
Saul was invited to commune at the table of Samuel (1 Sam 9:25). Christ will invite his disciples to commune with him at the Lord’s table (Luke 22:19; Rev 3:20).
Saul was anointed with oil by Samuel (1 Sam 10:1). Christ was baptized in the Jordan by John and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove (Matt 3:16).
When the moment came for Saul’s appointment to the kingly task, he hid himself “among the stuff” (1 Sam 10:22). When Christ’s moment came to take on his kingly task, though all his disciples deserted him, he manfully stood his ground and offered up his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45; 14:50).
When Saul was appointed king, scoffers derided him, “How shall this man save us?” (1 Sam 10:27). When Christ went to the cross, men derided him, mocking, “He saved other; himself he cannot save” (Mark 15:31).
Saul established his kingship by defeating Nahash the Ammonite, but he left many other foes for Israel to face (1 Sam 11). Christ proved his kingship by offering up himself, once for all, a perfect atoning sacrifice for sin and defeated the world, the flesh, death, and the devil (Rom 6:10; 1 Cor 15:55-57).
Everything that Saul could not accomplish, Christ did. Everything Saul was not, Christ is.
Grace and truth, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Dabney describes Jackson’s typically self-disciplined oversight of his physical appetite and bodily health. He describes Jackson as a “valetudinarian,” but by this term he does not seem to mean that Jackson had an excessive concern for this physical health but a “regimen of body” that “contributed no little to his character for singularity” (p. 73).
He suffered from “weakness of eyes” and thus “made it a conscientious duty, as well as found it a necessity, to forgo all reading after nightfall, except the short portion of the Scriptures with which he invariably closed the day” (p. 65).
Jackson was “ever scrupulously neat” (p. 73).
He became a great “votary of cold water” p. 73).
In diet he was rigidly abstemious. Dabney observes: “It is noteworthy that, at all times, he preferred the simplest food, and that he lived absolutely without any stimulant; using neither tea, coffee, tobacco, nor wine” (p. 74). “One of his most rigid rules was, never to eat a morsel after his frugal supper” (p. 77).
On a wet and chilly night near the battlefield in 1862 he consented to a medical attendant’s urgings to take “ardent spirits” (p. 74). When he coughed and swallowed with difficulty, he was asked if he found the drink unpleasant. “No,” he said, “no, I like it; I always did; and that is the reason I never use it” (p. 74).
On another such occasion, a fellow officer who was “a temperate and God-fearing man” urged him to take some brandy and water. “No,” he said, “I am much obliged, but I never use it; I am more afraid of it than of Federal bullets” (pp. 74-75). Dabney adds, “How many a young man would have escaped the drunkard’s grave if he had acted on that manly philosophy!” (p. 75).
Jackson had little patience with those who suffered from over-indulgence. When those about him complained of headaches or other problems caused by “imprudence,” he declared, “Do as I do; govern yourself absolutely, and you will not suffer. My head never aches; if a thing disagrees with me, I never eat it” (p. 75).
Once he set a rule for personal discipline he felt morally obligated to keep it. When told that to relax his system in one instance would not bring injury, his typical response: “Perfectly true; but it would become a precedent for another and thus my rule would be broken down, and health would be injured, which would be a sin” (p. 75).
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Our Tuesday men’s group is still working our way through Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology. Yesterday we were in the chapter on the Trinity. Reymond’s approach is not to begin with elaborate theological or philosophical arguments for the Trinity. Instead, he begins with the Biblical revelation. His reason: “The evidence for the Trinity, then, since the deity and personal subsistence of the Father may be viewed as a given, is just the Biblical evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ and the personal subsistence of God the Holy Spirit” (p. 211).
Reymond, therefore, offers an extensive survey of the Biblical evidence for the deity of Christ as a proof for the Trinity. I was struck by his discussion of the presentation of Jesus in the NT as hearing and answering prayer (pp. 232-233). Jesus declares he will hear and answer the prayers of his disciples:
John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
This is “an implicit claim to deity” (p. 233). Furthermore, Reymond points to instances in the NT of prayer being addressed to Jesus (Acts 1:24; 7:59; 9:10-17; 2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16) which “bear out the literalness with which the disciples understood Jesus’ promise, and reflect the immediacy on their part of the recognition of his divinity” (p. 233).
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
"...of making many books there is no end..." (Ecclesiastes 12:12)
"...when thou comest, bring...the books, but especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13)
I enjoy reading. I often take notes on the books I read for reference in future sermons, teaching, or writings. I also write reviews and book notes on some of the books I read. I have found that this helps me remember the content of the book and understand better the positions of the author. As a ministry it serves as a way to commend good books to other readers or to warn them against poor content in others.
Some of these reviews have appeared in various print journals (including American Theological Inquiry, The Baptist Banner, The Evangelical Forum Newsletter, Faith & Mission, Interpretation, Perspectives in Religious Studies, and The Reformed Baptist Trumpet) and online blogs and websites. I am also steadily working on more reviews. Now, for example I am workng on three reviews for the next RB Trumpet and two for American Theological Inquiry.
Jeff and Anna W. have created a book review page on the CRBC website to which we are adding many of these reviews under various topics (Apologetics and Culture; Baptist Studies; Biblical Studies; Biblical Translation and Text Criticism; Biography; Calvinism and Reformed Theology; Church History; Family and Education; Ministry; Puritans; Theology; and Worship). There will soon be nearly 60 reviews and book notes of various length and depth available to read on this page, linked to their titles. Thanks to Jeff and Anna for their work. May it prove helpful to some.
I started reading John MacArthur's little book on Jude titled Beware the Pretenders (Victor, 1980) as a companion to preaching through this book on Sunday afternoons at CRBC. This was apparently written before MacArthur's Calvinistic soteriology chrystallized. As an example, at one point he writes: "When people hear the Gospel preached, they ought to receive it; they ought to obey it. But each person has a choice--he can receive Christ or reject him" (p. 12). I think that he would now nuance that kind of statement a bit to include reference to God's sovereignty in election. I am looking forward to reading the upcoming biography of MacArthur from Banner of Truth that Ian Murray has written (released at the end of this month).
At any rate, here is MacArthur's assessment of the purpose of the book of Jude:
The book of Jude is a survival manual for Christians living in times of apostasy. This often neglected book clearly sets forth the character of apostasy and apostate people. No other book gives Christians such a clear picture of how God wants them to live when they find themselves in the midst of widespread apostasy (p. 6).
Monday, May 16, 2011
I began a series of Lord’s Day afternoon expositions yesterday at CRBC on the book of Jude and was struck by a word order difference in various translations of the first verse. The book follows the ancient epistolary order of identifying first the sender and then the recipients. The issue here is the text and translation of the section of the verse that identifies the recipients of the letter by three qualities (sanctified [or “beloved” in modern critical text] , preserved, called). Most translations alter the order (called, sanctified [beloved], preserved) on grammatical grounds.
The issue here is whether Jude identifies the recipients as sanctified (hegiasmenois) or beloved (epagemenois).
The traditional text (emphasis added):
tois en theo patri hegiasmenois, kai Iesou Christo teteremenois, kletois
The modern critical text (emphasis added):
tois en theo patri egapemenois kai Iesou Christo teteremenois kletois
The traditional text is supported by P and the Majority tradition. The modern critical text is supported by the heavyweights favored by modern text critics; p72, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus. The similarity of the two words offers obvious possibilties as to how it might have been altered in scribal transmission.
The prime question here, again, is the word order. Should the order follow that of the original text (whether traditional or modern critical) or should “called” be moved to the front of the list? Does its appearance in the final place in the original text indicate special emphasis or accent that would justify making it the first item in the three part list?
Comparison of English translations:
Geneva: to them which are called and sanctified of God the Father, and reserved to Jesus Christ
AV: to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called
RSV/ESV: To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ
NIV: To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
NASB: to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:
NKJV: To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
The AV stands alone among English translations in providing a window into the original word order (cf. even the Geneva and NKJV that normally support the AV). There is no doubt that grammatically the emphasis is on the fact that the recipients are called. Should a translation reflect the original word order (AV) or the grammatical emphasis (the other English translations cited)?
Friday, May 13, 2011
Image: "The Garage" in downtown Charlottesville
I had been thinking of creating an occassional commentary on theological, doctrinal, Biblical, and cultural issues. I finally sat down yesterday and recorded an initial episode of what I am calling "Word Magazine" (though on a listen back I realize I called it "Word Commentary" in the recording).
The commentary interacts with the cover article in the May 3-9, 2011 issue of C-ville that focused on the burgeoning "Christian" arts community in Charlottesville. Here are a few links that go along with the commentary:
The C-ville article "Signs of a Crossing."
The website for The Garage, a "Christian" arts and performance space in C-ville.
Augustine's Tractate VII on 1 John (the source for the quote "Love God, and do what you want" which I take exception with in my commentary).
My family recently read through Bruce Ray’s book Celebrating the Sabbath: Finding Rest in a Restless World (P & R, 20000). The book closes with a challenge to keep the Lord’s Day Holily, Happily, Honestly, and Humbly. At one point Ray offers these convicting exhortations:
We come into our King’s presence and our spiritual family reunion tired, late, and unprepared to worship him—if we make it at all. This is not right. If we were this careless in our worldly occupations, we would soon be unemployed. If we treated our natural families and friends with such disrespect, we would soon lose them.
On almost any Sunday afternoon, you will find thousands of people crammed into some sports arena or stadium to cheer on their home team. They prepared for this event. The checked the team schedule and wrote this date on the calendar. They set aside some of their paycheck and bought the best tickets they could afford. They will go to bed at a decent hour so that on the big day they will be rested and able to enjoy the game. They will plan to drive in early so they can find good parking and not be late. Once in the stadium, they will sit for hours on uncomfortable seats or benches without complaining. They are not ashamed to be called fans (short for fanatics). They will shout and cheer and clap their hands and have a wonderful time.
But next Sunday morning, look around you. Where are the crowds to clap and cheer and praise the Lord? They’re all at home sleeping in. It was too hard to get out of bed this morning….There’s too much to do and too little time during the week, so they steal the time that God has specifically set apart for enjoying him and celebrating his works….They wonder why they do not grow spiritually. Why does God seem so distant, and the church so weak? Could it be that grace is leaking out of our earthen vessels like water through a sieve? (pp. 114-115).
May we come into the Lord’s presence this Sunday prepared and fresh with anticipation of meeting with and serving our God.
Grace and truth, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Dabney relays how Jackson once spoke with a Christian friend who asked “can one be always praying?”:
He answered that if it might be permitted to him, without suspicion of religious display he would explain by describing his own habits. He then proceeded with several parentheses, deprecating earnestly the charge of egotism, to say that, besides the stated daily seasons of secret and social prayer, he had long cultivated the habit of connecting the most trivial and customary acts of life with a silent prayer. “When we take our meals,” said he, “there is the grace. When I take a draught of water, I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter into the box at the post-office, I send a petition along with it, for God’s blessing upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop to pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents, and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my classroom, and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede to God for them. And so of every familiar act of the day.” “But,” said his friend, “do you not often forget these seasons, coming so frequently?” “No,” said he, “I have made the practice habitual to me; and I can no more forget it, than forget to drink when I am thirsty.” He added that the usage had become as delightful to him as it was regular (pp. 106-107).
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
In Life and Campaigns, Dabney present Jackson as a consummate man of prayer, both publicly and privately.
His local church in Lexington had a midweek “concert of prayer” or prayer meeting. Dabney notes, “Jackson was, of course, from the beginning, the most punctual of attendants on these meetings” (p. 90).
Jackson did not enjoy public speaking and so was initially hesitant to pray aloud in public. After his pastor had taught the congregation on the duty of public prayer, Jackson met with him to discuss the matter. He told his minister, “You…are my pastor, and the spiritual guide of the church; if you think it is my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance, and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful” (p. 91). Soon afterwards, the minister called upon Jackson to pray aloud in the weekly prayer meeting. Jackson stammered through the prayer with embarrassment, his petition being “almost as painful to his brethren as it obviously was to himself” (p. 91). Attempting to spare Jackson further embarrassment, the minister did not call again on him to pray publicly over the several weeks. When he told Jackson he wanted to spare him an uncomfortable duty, Jackson replied, “Yes…but my comfort or discomfort is not the question; if it is my duty to lead my brethren in prayer, then I must persevere in it, until I learn to do it aright; and I wish you to discard my feelings in the matter” (p. 92). Dabney concludes: “He was again called on; he succeeded in curbing his agitation in a good degree; and, after a time, became as eminent for the gift, as he was for the grace of prayer” (p. 92).
Later Dabney links Jackson’s prayer life with his steadfast belief in providence:
Hence it will be anticipated, that he who was so clear in his recognition of Providence was also eminently a man of prayer. This was one of the most striking traits of Jackson’s religious character. He prayed much, he had great faith in prayer, and took much delight in it. While his religion was the least obtrusive of all men’s, no one could know him and fail to be impressed with the regular habits of his private devotion….
This spirit of prayer was manifested by the change which it wrought in his whole manner. Everywhere else his speech was decided and curt; at the throne of grace all was different; his enunciation was soft and deliberate, and his tones mellow and supplicatory. His prayers were marked at once by profound reverence and filial confidence, and abounded much in ascriptions of praise and thanks, and the breathings of devout affections towards God…. (pp. 103-104).
Monday, May 09, 2011
I have long been a "manuscript preacher." That is, I typically write out a full manuscript for each message I preach. The writing is usually done on Saturday evening and read over early on Sunday morning before being preached in the Lord's Day service. Some preachers prefer notes and others insist, whatever one's preparation, that no notes (and certainly no manuscript) be brought into the pulpit. As I heard one old-school North Carolina preacher once say, "Better to pray it down than write it down." Al Martin's Preaching in the Holy Spirit (Reformation Heritage, 2011) cites Pierre Marcel as saying, "If the preacher is and remains dependent upon his manuscript or upon his memory, there is not just one prisoner--there are two: the preacher and the Spirit, and through the Spirit Christ" (p. 57). His point: whatever one's aids in preaching, there must be room for the spontaneous guidance of the Spirit.
Here's the text of my manuscript from yesterday's Lord's Day morning sermon The Rejected King (1 Samuel 8):
The Rejected King
1 Samuel 8
CRBC May 8, 2011
We return today to the book of 1 Samuel. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at 1 Samuel chapters 8-15. 1 Samuel can be easily divided into three major sections, each focusing on one central figure:
Chapters 1-7: Samuel;
Chapters 8-15: Saul;
Chapters 16-31: David.
We are beginning today a journey through this second section looking at the life of Saul, the first king in Israel. The story of Saul is in many ways a tragic story. Saul is a spiritual failure. We look at the life of Saul not seeking a way to follow but to avoid.
Not all the characters in the Bible are meant to be positive. Some serve as warnings. The Bible tells us about Cain to warn us not to hate and murder our brothers; it tells us about Judas to warn us not to betray Christ; it tells us about Ananias and Sapphira to warn us not to lie to the Holy Spirit. Saul, like these, is a warning sign. If I am driving down a wrong road that leads to a bridge that is out I want to see a sign that warns me not to go that way. Scripture provides one such sign in the life of Saul.
The beginning of the rise of Saul in 1 Samuel 8 comes first with the sin of the people of Israel in their spurning of the Lord and their demanding a king “like all the nations” (v. 5). In this expressed desire they were not only rejecting Samuel, God’s prophet, priest, and judge appointed for them, but they were also rejecting the Lord himself. The Lord himself is the rejected King.
There are four distinct movements in this passage:
1. The elders of Israel request a king (vv. 1-5);
2. Samuel intercedes with the Lord on behalf of the people (vv. 6-9);
3. Samuel warns the people of the folly of their request (vv. 10-18);
4. The people refuse to obey (vv. 19-22).
Let’s look at each in turn:
First, the elders of Israel request a king (vv. 1-5):
Recall the context. Remember Israel had lost the ark of God in battle with the Philistines. The Lord allowed the ark to fall into the hands of the Philistines. He then struck them with tumors (hemorrhoids!), so that they put the ark on a cart drawn by two milk cows separated from their calves that had never been yoked and it supernaturally returned the ark to Israel.
This resulted in a time of national revival (see 7:4). Now when the Philistines threaten them, the chastened people turn to Samuel at Mizpeh, and he prays for them (see 7:5, 8) and offers a sacrifice of a lamb for them (v. 9). And as he makes this offering a victory is won over Israel’s enemy (vv. 10-11). Samuel sets up the “Ebenezer” stone saying “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (v. 12).
The land enjoyed peace, and Samuel served as God’s appointed Judge over the people (see vv. 15, 17).
Sadly, we see that things will not remain peaceful. In the book of Judges there is the Judges cycle: the people sin and fall into bondage; they cry out to God; he hears them and raises up a deliverer who frees them from bondage; the people sin and fall into bondage…
Here we will see the cycle being repeated but also being broken as the office of Judge in Israel will be replaced by that of the king.
In v. 1 we read that the crisis begins with the aging of Samuel. There was a problem of succession. Samuel “made his sons judges over Israel.” The problem: Spiritual office is not conveyed by hereditary succession.
The names of Samuel’s sons were Joel and Abiah (v. 2). These were good pious, names. Joel means “Jehovah is God.” Abiah means “Jehovah is my Father.” Still a man is not made godly merely by having an outwardly godly title or appearance.
In v. 3 we learn that Samuel’s sons “walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.” Samuel is one of the godliest men in the Bible, but his sons are rotten to the core! He repeats the same sin of the house of Eli. Remember it was said of Eli’s sons that “they knew not the LORD” (1 Sam 2:12). And most damning in 1 Samuel 3:13 we read that Eli’s sons “made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” Here we have no such negative evaluation of Samuel but still his sons were vile and apparently unconverted.
Here we learn that not only is it impossible to convey spiritual office by heredity but it is also impossible to convey spiritual status by heredity. These were covenant children, were they not! No. You do not become a child of God by virtue of having a Christian parent. God has no grandchildren, only children. The prophet Ezekiel will later teach most plainly that every man stands before God on his own account (see Ezekiel 18). The Lord judges “every man according to his own ways” (Ezek 18:30).
Here we see that perhaps there was some legitimate reason for Israel to seek after a king. They feared what life would be like under Joel and Abiah.
In v. 4 the elders of Israel come to Samuel at Ramah and make their request: “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
Now there is a lot of debate among OT scholars as to what exactly Israel’s sin was. Some would say that it was sinful for them even to request a human king at all. They were under a theocracy. God was ruling over them through his appointed Judges. Some say the sin was the request for a king in and of itself.
This, however, cannot be right. Why? Because God’s law given to Moses in Deuteronomy made provision for Israel to have a human king. The key passage is Deuteronomy 17:14-20. It even predicts the appointment of the office of king:
KJV Deuteronomy 17:14 When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
But the passage also sets limits on the king. He will be a man of God’s own choosing and he must be a godly king who loves the Scriptures:
KJV Deuteronomy 17:19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
The institution of civil government is ordained of God as is the family and the church. Paul teaches believers in Romans 13 that we are to be subject to these powers, because “they are ordained of God” (v. 1).
What then is wrong with the request?
Matthew Poole notes that the request itself was not unlawful “but herein was their sin, that they desired it upon sinful grounds…and in an impetuous manner, and at an unseasonable time, and without asking leave or advice from God….”
The problem was not the request itself but the manner and the motive of the request.
First, the manner. The people of Israel had reverted back to the way they were in 1 Samuel 4 when they presumptuously brought the ark into their camp before facing the Philistines. Gone is any reference to prayer or sacrifice as at Mizpeh (chapter 7). A prayerless faith is a powerless and perverted faith. They do not ask God what he will grant, but they demand what they must have.
Second, the motive. Why do they want a king? To be “like all the nations” (v. 5). In this request they are abandoning the very unique, special, and peculiar state that God has called to which God has called. The very point of God’s election of Israel it that she would be holy, separated, and unlike the surrounding pagan nations:
KJV Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
KJV Leviticus 11:45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
KJV Numbers 23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
Israel was saying, “We want to abandon our distinct identity and be like everyone else.”
Further with regard to sin in the manner of the request, they were saying to God in effect, “We believe that a human king can do a better job of protecting, guiding, and leading us than you can.”
Dale Ralph Davis: “Their help now was not in the strong name of Yahweh but in a new form of government. It is not monarchy, but trust in monarchy that is the villain…” (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, p. 85).
Second, Samuel intercedes with the Lord on behalf of the people (vv. 6-9):
In v. 6 we have Samuel’s response: “But the thing displeased Samuel….” In Hebrew it says, “But the thing was evil in the eyes of Samuel….” Here is Samuel’s redeeming quality: “And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.” Israel had made a prayerless request. They wanted to make their demand first and pray later. But Samuel first seeks God’s face.
The Lord’s response to Samuel is twofold:
First, he says that Samuel is to hearken unto them or to heed them or to listen to them (see v. 7a). Here we get the first sense that God in his sovereignty will grant this request however ill conceived. The Lord also conveys the root of this rebellion (v. 7b): “for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should reign over them.” Rebellion against God-ordained human authority is rebellion against the Lord whether it is a child flagrantly rebelling against a parent, a church member spurning the admonitions of a minister, or a citizen resisting the magistrate.
The Lord further says that Israel is only perpetuating what has been her pattern (v. 9).
Again, in v. 10 he calls on Samuel to hearken to them, but he adds that Samuel also “protest solemnly unto them [Samuel is a Protestant!], and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.” Here we have a slight glimpse into the compassion of the Father. He never permits sinful rebellion without first warning of the consequences and calling for obedience.
Third, Samuel warns the people of the folly of their request (vv. 10-18):
Samuel is obedient to the Lord’s request (v. 10) and he relays to Israel, “This shall be the manner of the king that shall reign over you….” (v. 11a).
Notice the repletion of the phrase, “And he will take…” In our English translation it appears six times (vv. 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17). In Hebrew the verb laqah appears four times (vv. 11, 13, 14, 16); it is supplied as understood in the English translation of vv. 15 and 17.
We might say there is nothing new under the sun. Samuel warns the people of the pandora’s box that the monarchy will open.
He will take yours sons, and appoint them for himself… (vv. 11-12). There will be drafts and sons will be sent to war.
He will take your daughters (v. 13). They will not be off limits but will be conscripted into service in supply for the king.
He will take your fields (v. 14). Did we think imminent domain was a modern concept?
He will take the tenth of your seed (v. 15).
He will take your servants (v. 16).
He will take the tenth of your sheep (v. 17a).
Can you say taxes? Look at v. 17b: “And ye shall be his servants.”
Ronald Reagan famously said that the most frightening words in the English language were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Samuel might paraphrase that and say that Israel should shudder when someone says, “I’m from the monarchy and I’m here to help.”
Samuel offers a final warning in v. 18. One day you will cry out, but the Lord will not hear.
At this point we may be thinking maybe Israel will repent. Maybe she will turn and seek the Lord’s face….
Fourth, the people refuse to obey (vv. 19-22):
The sad answer comes back in v. 19: “Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel….”
They reiterate the two errors in the manner of their request in v. 20: They want to be like the nations (v. 20a) and they want their king to fight their battles (v. 20b). This despite the fact that the only way they had ever won any battle was when the Lord was on their side. Did they really need a king to fight the Egyptians at the Red Sea?
In v. 21 we see again Samuel playing the role of the mediator. Our translation says that he “rehearsed” these things “in the ear of the LORD.”
And the Lord gives the same response he had earlier given. He knew what their response would be even before he gave the warning! He tells Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”
In the providence of God, the stage is being set for the appointment of Saul to the first king in Israel. The tragedy of Saul, the failure of Saul is rooted in the sinful manner in which Israel approached the appointment of this king.
II. Practical Spiritual Applications:
1. Do we approach the Lord as Israel did?
This passage calls upon us to identify with Israel.
How often do we attempt to solve our problems without seeking the Lord’s guidance and assistance? How many prayer-less decisions do we make? How many times do we make a decision and then ask God to bless it, rather than seeking his blessing in prayer first and then making the decision.
How many times do we turn to human wisdom to solve our problems rather than turning to God? Israel believed all her problems would be solved if only she had a new king. How many believe all their problems would be solved if only they had the right job, or the right income, or the right degree, or the right spouse, or the right family, or the right counseling, or the right church?
How many times we do we, like Israel, abandon our birthright of holiness to run after the world? We can apply this personally. How important is it for you to be in step with this culture and this world? Must you dress like the world, look like the world, be entertained like the world, spend your time like the world? Are you pulled by the world to abandon purity in conversation, faithfulness in marriage, chastity before marriage, compassion for the weak, lowliness in spirit? We can apply this corporately to the church. I am weary of the church that wants to look so much like the world. When the church has the world’s entertainment, the world’s music, the world’s casual lack of reverence, the world’s crassness, it has lost the very thing that God chose it to be in the midst of this world: holy and separated unto the gospel.
To be Christians, to be a faithful church, we must be counter-cultural.
2. The Lord will sometimes in his sovereignty allow wicked requests to be granted.
Just because God allows something to happen does not mean that he approves of it. We should be thankful that God in his wisdom sometimes says, “No,” to us. Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is when he gives us over to our unsanctified desires and requests. We must be constantly immersed in the Word so as to know even what to ask and the manner in which to ask it, lest we ask amiss.
3. Like Israel of old, have we rejected the Lord’s kingship over us?
Could the Lord look at your life and say to you as he did of Israel of old, “but they have rejected me, that I should reign over them” (v. 7)?
When Jesus was here on earth he told a parable sometimes called the parable of the pounds about “a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (Luke 19:12). Jesus then added, “But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Every person who has ever rejected Christ has sent this same message. Would you not humble yourself and come under the rule of Christ?
Maybe you are a believer, but there have been areas of your life that have been in open rebellion to the dominion of Christ. Maybe in areas of person purity and integrity. In areas of discipleship and practice. In the sphere of your home and family. In the sphere of your education, work, or career. Will you not be submitted to Christ today?
Is the Lord sending his Word today to lodge a protest and a warning to you?
John Owen in Spiritual-Mindedness (Banner ed., 2009) observes:
When a wise, kind, loving parent who has made every effort to educate his child, and who has high hopes for the future of that child, finds that the child is lazy, plays truant, and enjoys bad company, how grieved that parent will be! But the heart of the Spirit of God is infinitely more loving and caring toward believers than any person can be to an only child. And when at great cost and with great care, he has nourished and brought us up as God’s adopted children, worked hard to conform us to the image of God, and then finds his work torn down and allowed to wither and fall to pieces, how grieved he must be, and how provoked he must be to turn against us and be our enemy! But yet, in his grace and mercy, he does his sad work of convicting us of our sin and ingratitude, bringing home to our hearts many fears and terrors, so that we will return to him with godly sorrow and whole hearted repentance, so that he can begin again (pp. 205-206).
O let us not grieve the heart of our dear King by rejecting his kind rule over us!
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Beloved peace; beloved human relationships; beloved wisdom and learning; beloved righteousness; beloved duties are all but rubbish compared to Christ.
--From Communion with God (Banner ed. 1991): p. 59.
--From Communion with God (Banner ed. 1991): p. 59.
Friday, May 06, 2011
When a wise, kind, loving parent who has made every effort to educate his child, and who has high hopes for the future of that child, finds that the child is lazy, plays truant, and enjoys bad company, how grieved that parent will be! But the heart of the Spirit of God is infinitely more loving and caring toward believers than any person can be to an only child. And when at great cost and with great care, he has nourished and brought us up as God’s adopted children, worked hard to conform us to the image of God, and then finds his work torn down and allowed to wither and fall to pieces, how grieved he must be, and how provoked he must be to turn against us and be our enemy! But yet, in his grace and mercy, he does his sad work of convicting us of our sin and ingratitude, bringing home to our hearts many fears and terrors, so that we will return to him with godly sorrow and whole hearted repentance, so that he can begin again.
From Spiritual-Mindedness (Banner ed., 2009): pp. 205-206.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Last Sunday in our series through the Minor Prophets or The Book of the Twelve, we looked at the book of Zechariah. This is one of those books that is hard to review in a single message. There are so many passages within it “that will preach.”
Most striking in Zechariah are the prophecies about Christ. These include:
His triumphal entry: “behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon as ass, and upon the colt of a foal of an ass” (9:9).
His betrayal: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (11:12).
His abandonment: “smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (13:7).
His crucifixion: “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (12:10).
His glorious return: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives….and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (14:4-5).
Indeed, the first Christians found in this little book a gospel narrative before any of the Gospels were written.
We do not read about Christ only in the New Testament, but we also find him in the Old Testament. B. B. Warfield once wrote that the Old Testament is “a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted” (as cited in Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, p. 207). When Christ came to earth Zechariah’s shadowy prophecies became clear.
When we read the Scriptures, both Old and New, we must be looking for Christ. As John Owen noted, “Only Christ can satisfy the soul. All other ways and things will only end in disappointment” (Communion with God, p. 51).
Grace and truth, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Image: Lexington (Virginia) Presbyterian Church
Dabney relays how Jackson came to the conviction to become a tither:
He engaged one day, with a Christian friend, in a conversation on the Hebrews’ system of religious obligations, and was much interested in the assertion that, while the tithe was no longer enjoined, by express precept, on God’s people under the new dispensation, the usage of worshipping God with stated offerings of our substance was in no way abrogated; and that the tenth was probably, in most cases, a suitable proportion to be self-imposed by Christians, for this voluntary thank-offering. After much inquiry and friendly discussion, Jackson closed the conversation. The next day, on meeting his friend, he said that he had convinced him of a duty, not hitherto as fully understood as it should have been; and, with his usual courtesy, thanked him for the benefit thus conferred. Thenceforward he scrupulously gave a tenth of his whole income to charitable uses (until he adopted a greatly enlarged ratio) [p. 90].
One wonders if Dabney himself was not the “friend.”
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
In Life and Campaigns, Dabney also stresses Jackson’s early convictions regarding the keeping of the Christian Sabbath. One evidence of this was Jackson's attitude toward the postal service, which then ran on Sundays.
In his sketch of Jackson’s pre-war life in Lexington as a teacher at VMI, Dabney observes:
His convictions of the sins committed by the Government of the United States, in the unnecessary transmission of mails, and the consequent imposition of secular labor on the Sabbath day, upon a multitude of persons, were singularly strong. His position was, that if no one would avail himself of these Sunday mails, save in cases of true and unavoidable necessity, the letters carried would be so few that the sinful custom would be speedily arrested, and the guilt and mischief prevented. Hence, he argued, that as every man is bound to do whatever is practicable and lawful for him to do, to prevent the commission of sin, he who posted or received letters on the Sabbath day, or even sent a letter that would occupy the day in travelling, was responsible for a part of the guilt. It was of no avail to reply to him, that this self-denial on the part of one Christian would not close a single post-office, nor arrest a single mail-coach in the whole country. His answer was, that unless some Christians would begin singly to practice their exact duty, and thus set the proper example, the reform would never be begun; that his responsibility was to see to it that he, at least, was not particeps criminis; and that whether others would co-operate, was their concern, not his. Hence, not only did he persistently refuse to visit the post-office on the Sabbath day, to leave or receive a letter, but he would not post a letter on Saturday or Friday, which, in regular course of transmission, must be travelling on Sunday, except in cases of highest necessity (p. 88).
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Image: Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson equestrian statue at Court House Square,
I have been reading through R. L. Dabney’s Life and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall Jackson) (Sprinkle reprint, 1983).
In the opening chapters, Dabney gives attention to the formation of Jackson’s spiritual life and habits. Jackson had no strong spiritual influences as a child. It was while serving in the Mexican War that a devout officer, Colonel Frank Taylor, became “his first official spiritual guide” (p. 55). At war’s end, Jackson was stationed at Fort Hamilton, New York where the Episcopalian garrison chaplain baptized him and admitted him to his first communion. When Jackson went to Lexington to teach at VMI, he visited the various denominational churches and settled on seeking membership in the Presbyterian Church. Though Dabney relates that Jackson was initially (like most new converts) an Arminian who had difficulty with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, he eventually became “one of the firmest though least bigoted advocates of the Calvinistic as distinguished from the Arminian scheme” (p. 85). Jackson was eventually tapped to serve as a deacon in his congregation. Dabney observes, “He was the best deacon the church had” (p. 97).
Submission to Pastoral Authority
Dabney then relays some of the characteristics of Dabney’s disciplined spiritual life. One aspect was his submission to pastoral authority. Here are a few excerpts:
The prominent trait of his mind was the sentiment of reverence directed supremely to God, as the standard of perfection, the rightful source of all authority, and the embodiment of infinite greatness. It was this sentiment, in its lower aspects, which constituted his remarkable spirit of subordination. As God’s nature and will were to him the standard of that which is right, and the fountainhead of obligation, so, whenever he found a fellow-creature clothed with the sanction of right, with legitimate authority over his conscience, he honored and obeyed him within his proper sphere, as a bearer of a delegated portion of the majesty of heaven; and his respect became a religious sentiment. Hence as a soldier no man was so prompt and exact in his military obedience; as a citizen none cherished so sacred a reverence for the law, and for the offices of its magistrates. As a Christian layman, he honored and obeyed the pastor who had care of souls; and, while there was no man so little priestridden, there was none who so punctually paid to the ministers of religion, the captains in God’s sacramental host, however humble in person and talents, deference for their work’s sake (pp. 87-88).
Thus his pastor was to him the spiritual officer, under whose ‘orders’ he was, and whom he therefore felt duty bound to obey, in all his admirable commands, for the sake of the authority and discipline of the spiritual host (p. 90).
Monday, May 02, 2011
Last Friday I was working through Mark chapter 2 with my children in their Greek class and we got into an interesting discussion regarding the translation of Mark 2:15a.
The issue here is not so much over the text [though there is significant textual variation here] but translation. The question here is the reference in Mark 2:15a to the house in which Jesus dines with tax collectors and sinners. Is it his house or is it Levi’s house?
The issue here is not so much over the text [though there is significant textual variation here] but translation. The question here is the reference in Mark 2:15a to the house in which Jesus dines with tax collectors and sinners. Is it his house or is it Levi’s house?
First, let’s look at the texts:
Traditional Text: kai egeneto en to katakeisthai auton en te oikia autou…
It is supported by codices A and C and the vast majority of manuscripts.
Modern Critical Text: kai ginetai katakeisthai auton en te oikia autou….
It is supported by p88 and codices Sinaiticus and B.
This textual variation is not addressed in the NA 27th ed. textual apparatus or in Metzger’s Textual Commentary. This is probably due to the fact that the variation makes no significant difference in the translation of the passage. Both texts would be literally rendered, “And it so happened as he was reclining in his house….”].
The primary issue with regard to translation comes with the rendering of the pronoun in the prepositional phrase en te oikia autou [literally, “in his house”]. In whose house is Jesus? Does autou refer to Jesus? Is it Jesus’ house? Or does it refer to Levi, who has just been called to follow Jesus in 2:14? The pronoun might refer to either Jesus or Levi, and the text does not clearly indicate whose house is being identified.
There might be good doctrinal and contextual reasons for arguing that the house could not be Jesus’. Matthew 8:28 and Luke 9:58 both record Jesus’s saying that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Mark, however, does not include this saying. Mark 2:1 records that when Jesus entered Capernaum he was “in the house [eis oikon].” If the pronoun refers to Jesus in Mark 2:15a it could possibly mean that he was merely in the house where he was staying or he was in the house of a relative, as opposed to a house which he owned.
Some translations are sensitive to leaving ambiguity in the translation of the text. They add the interpretation that the house where Jesus is belongs to Levi.
Here is a comparison of translations of Mark 2:15a in various English translations (bold emphasis added):
KJV: “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house….”
NASB: “And it came about that He was reclining at the table in his house….”
ESV: “And as he reclined at the table in his house…”
NIV: “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house….”
NKJV: “Now it happened, as he was dining in Levi’s house….”
The literal translations are preferred, since they faithfully maintain the ambiguity of the pronoun in the original text. The reader can ponder whether or not “in his house” refers to Jesus’ house (or the house where he was staying) or to Levi’s house. In this case the ESV is better than the NKJV [NB: Never let it be said that I have not commended an ESV reading, even if, on the whole, I believe the ESV should be rejected for devotional use and public worship]. The NKJV is better than the NIV, however, in that it, at least, places “Levi’s” in italic.