Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Vision (9/27/12): Words fitly spoken

I remember when I was going through missionary training, before leaving for service in Hungary, that one of my fellow missionary trainees kept a notebook filled with quotes.  Whenever he heard or read a good quote, he would jot it down in this notebook, where he could read and re-read it.  Some of the quotes he wrote on index cards and hung on his walls.  Long ago Solomon recorded, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

Every time I read any of the old Puritans I am struck by their ability to turn a memorable phrase.  Indeed, to write them all down would fill many a notebook.  I recently finished reading one of the newest “Puritan paperbacks” from Banner of Truth, titled Sermons of the Great Ejection.  In 1662 many of the finest preachers in Britain were turned out of their pulpits after the monarchy was restored.  This book is a collection of some of the final or farewell sermons preached by these men as their pulpits were denied them.  Some were expelled never to preach publically again.  Sermons of the Great Ejection was first published by the Banner of Truth in 1962 on the 300th anniversary of “The Great Ejection.”  The 2012 reprint marks the 350th anniversary.
Here are a few quotes gleaned from the book that my friend might have jotted down in his notebook:

“There is no way in the world to hold on together like suffering, for the gospel really gets more advantage by the holy, humble sufferings of one gracious saint, simply for the word of righteousness, than by ten thousand arguments used against heretics and false worship” (John Collins, p. 78).

“Do not turn your backs on Christ; the worst of Christ is better than the best of the world” (Thomas Brooks, p. 48).

“Should there be a thousand devils, yet all those devils are in one chain, and the end of that chain is in the hand of one God” (Thomas Lye, p. 116).

“The man that is most busy in censuring others is always least employed in examining himself” (Thomas Lye, p. 117).

“The rod of God upon a saint is only God’s pencil, by which he draws his image in more lively fashion on the soul.  God never strikes the strings of his viol but to make the music sweeter.  Thus it is well with the righteous” (Thomas Watson, p. 144).

“Be as much afraid of a painted holiness as you would be afraid of going to a painted heaven” (Thomas Watson, p. 168).

“Christ’s doves should flock together….  Conference sometimes may do as much good as preaching” (Thomas Watson, p. 169).

“Keep yourselves from idols and take heed of superstition; that is the gentleman-usher to popery” (Thomas Watson, p. 173).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Sons of the Cross"

I closed last Sunday's sermon on Crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:17-21) by making reference to a blog article I had read which reported that Muslims in Egypt often disparingly call Christians "sons of the cross" and how we should see that term as one of honor rather than shame.  The article was from R. Scott Clark's revived Heidelblog for those who'd like to read his original post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Carl Trueman on "The Creedal Imperative"

Carl Trueman will be speaking at the 2012 Keach Conference in Charlottesville this weekend.  Here's a video of him discussing his most recent book, The Creedal Imperative (Crossway, September 2012):


Reflections on the indwelling Christ (Galatians 2:20)

Here's another snippet from my notes from last Sunday's sermon, in which we reflected on Paul's teaching of the indwelling Christ in Galatians 2:20:
Paul also describes in v. 20 the indwelling presence of Christ in the life of the believer.  As he says, “nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God….”
If you are a believer this means Christ is living in you. This has some valuable practical outcomes:
For one thing, the fact that Christ is living in you spiritually should make you want to stay far away from that which is sinful and evil.  Would you want to bring the pure Christ who dwells in you into contact with anything that is vile and evil?  In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul warns the believers there about the sin of fornication, sexual impurity, and he says this:
KJV 1 Corinthians 6:15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
For another, positively, the indwelling Christ will draw you to that which is altogether good, noble, just and edifying.  The great positive aid to our practical sanctification is the fact that Christ lives in us.
And for yet another, the indwelling spirit of Christ in us immediately finds fellowship and kinship with our fellow believers, as like call to like and deep calls to deep.  The spirit of Christ in us resonates with the spirit of Christ indwelling the lives of our fellow saints.  This is why Christians can enjoy a special and usually immediate affinity with one another.

Monday, September 24, 2012

John Brown on Galatians 2:20: "He is the soul of my soul, the life of my life."

I used this quote from John Brown on Galatians 2:20 ("I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me....") in last Sunday's sermon:
Christ died, and in him I died; Christ revived and in him I revived.  I am a dead man with regard to the law, but I am a living man in regard to Christ.  The law has killed me, and by doing so, it has set me free from itself.  I have no more to do with the law.  The life I have now is not the life of a man under the law, but the life of a man delivered from the law; having died and risen again with Christ Jesus, Christ’s righteousness justifies me, Christ’s spirit animates me.  My relations to God are his relations.  The influences under which I live are the influences under which he lives.  Christ’s views are my views; Christ’s feelings are my feelings.  He is the soul of my soul, the life of my life.  My state, my sentiments, my feelings, my conduct are all Christian (p. 97).

Friday, September 21, 2012

On finding a used R. L. Allan Long Primer Bible

Back when I visited Ron Young, Sr. he showed me his R. L. Allan & Son (a family owned bindery in Glasgow, Scotland since 1863) Long Primer KJV.  Then, when a brother Pastor visited CRBC from Orlando this summer, he also brought along his R. L. Allan Long Primer.  These are beautiful books.  They have rich, supple covers and are printed on strong India paper.  With my eyes weakening, I particularly like the large, readable font size.  For more on Allan Bibles look here.
Most folk who know me know I like to visit used bookstores. I usually enjoy buying a used book more than a new one.  So, this week I go into one of my favorite used bookstores in C-ville (Daedalus Bookshop off the Downtown Mall), looking for a used copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs for Sam and Lydia to read for a school assigment, when what do I run across but a black R. L. Allan & Son Long Primer, Oxford Edition.  It had some highlighting in a few chapters in Genesis, Exodus, and Galatians and a child had gotten hold of it and scribbled in pencil on the front and back notes pages.  The cover is "Persian Morocco" and not the more high dollar "Highland Goatskin," and the red and gold gilt edges are faded, but what a beautiful copy of the Bible.  I purchased it for $8 and took it home to scrub the cover and erase the pencil markings.  It now doesn't look half bad and handles like it could be a good preaching Bible.  Here are a few more pics:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Vison (9/20/12): Thoughts on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith

Image:  Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) buttons for participants in the upcoming Keach Conference.  Keach defended the Biblical doctrine of justification in works like The Marrow of True Justification.
Note:  The notes below are adapted from the exposition of Galatians 2:16 in last Sunday’s sermon.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16).

The Protestant reformer Martin Luther called the doctrine of justification by faith “the article on which the church either stands or falls.”  Many hold the book of Galatians so dear, because, along with the book of Romans, it presents this great doctrine with such clarity.

Notice, in particular, that Paul draws a contrast in v. 16 between being “justified by the works of the law” and being justified “by the faith of Jesus Christ.”  The contrast is between two suggested means for achieving justification, a right standing with God.

The first is justification by the works of the law.  This refers to efforts to keep in full and without fault all God’s laws and commands.  The person who appeals to this means believes he will be justified by being a good person, or by living an exemplary moral life, or by meticulously following the teachings of his religion.

The second, in contrast, is being justified “by the faith of Jesus Christ.” There has been a debate among some grammarians as to whether the “of Jesus Christ” here is an objective genitive (by faith in Jesus Christ as the object) or a subjective genitive (by Jesus Christ’s faithfulness).  I think the traditional assumption that Paul intended an objective genitive is proved by his adding in v. 16, “even we have believed in Jesus Christ.”

The sense here is that one is justified in God’s sight the instant he believes and trusts in Christ and Christ alone for salvation, fully abandoning and renouncing any false hopes that he will be justified by his works.  There are some things in the Christian life that are gradual and incremental, like progressive sanctification.  There are other things, however, that are punctiliar.  They happen at a definite point and nothing can ever alter this reality.  The Bible teaches that the moment a person trusts in Christ he is justified in God’s sight.  Nothing or no one can ever take that away from him.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

We need to be clear on another point here.  Faith is the means God uses to justify sinners; it is not the cause for his justification of sinners.  The doctrine Scripturally stated is justification by faith, not justification because of faith.

There is a clear grammatical reason for this.  In v. 16 when Paul says “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” he uses the preposition dia in the phrase “by faith.”  Dia can mean “because.”  When it has this meaning its object is in the accusative case.  But when its object is in the genitive case it has an instrumental meaning.  Here is it dia pisteos (with the noun faith, pistis, in the gentive case).  Our justification is not because we believe. It is the means God sovereignly uses to bring about our justification.  The point:  God even gives us our faith itself.  When we say that salvation is all of grace, we do mean all!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Song of the Week: Psalm 98

I am not a fan of the theological views of Doug Wilson, but his church (Christ Church of Moscow, Idaho) does have some good psalm singing videos posted.  Here is Psalm 98 to the DESERT tune:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eleventh Annual Keach Conference Coming (9/28-29)

Image:  Fellowship at the 2010 Keach Conference
We are getting ready for the 2012 Keach Conference (look here for more info and to pre-register online) which will be hosted this year by Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Charlottesville (meeting at the Covenant Lower School).  This year's theme will be "Of the Fall of Man, Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof" (chapter 6 in the Second London Confession) and the speakers will include Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, PA; Lloyd Sprinkle of Providence BC, Harrisonburg, VA; and Bryan Wheeler of Emmanuel BC, Verona, VA.  This will be our 11th annual meeting.  The last few years we have listed information in the program from past conferences (see below).  The list indicates that we have been blessed with some wonderful past gatherings.  It also shows the development of the conference and the sharper confessional definition that has developed over the last decade, as the conference moved from Biblical conservatives in moderate SBC Virginia, to soteriological Calvinists, to confessional Reformed Baptists.
Keach Conference*

Past Keynote Speakers (meeting date and site)


Dr. Calvin Frett, Pastor in Residence Ministry

(Thurs., November 8, First Baptist Church, Virginia Beach)


Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

(Wed., November 12, All Saints Presbyterian Church, Richmond)


Dr. Greg Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

(Mon., November 8, Plantation Road Baptist Church, Roanoke)


Dr. Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

Dr. Tom Nettles, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

(Wed., November 9, Good News Baptist Church, Alexandria)


Dr. Andrew Davis, First Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina

Dr. Tom Nettles, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

(Wed., November 8, Green Run Baptist Church, Virginia Beach)


Pastor Greg Barkman, Beacon Baptist Church, Burlington, North Caroliina

Dr. Michael Haykin, Toronto Baptist Seminary, Toronto, Canada

Theme: “Of the Holy Scriptures”

(Fri.-Sat., October 5-6, 2007, Jefferson Park Baptist Church, Charlottesville)


Dr. Joseph Pipa, Jr., President, Greenville Presbyterian Seminary, Greenville, South Carolina.

Dr. Bruce Ware, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Theme: “Of God and Of the Holy Trinity”

(Fri.-Sat., September 26-27, 2008, Jefferson Park Baptist Church, Charlottesville)


Dr. Derek Thomas, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi

Pastor Conrad Mbewe, Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia

Theme: “Of God’s Decrees”

(Fri.-Sat., September 24-25, 2009, Jefferson Park Baptist Church, Charlottesville)


Tom Ascol, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida, and Director of the Founders Ministry (

Dr. David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Theme: “Of Creation”
(Fri.-Sat., September 24-25, 2009, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville)

Dr. Joel Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Pastor Malcolm Watts, Emmanuel Church, Salisbury, England
Theme:  “Of Divine Providence”
(Fri.-Sat., September 30—October 1, 2011, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton)

*From 2002-2009, the conference was known as “The Evangelical Forum.”  It was renamed “The Keach Conference” in 2010.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The "just-as-if" in Justification

In last Sunday's sermon on Galatians 2:11-16, I had the opportunity to reflect on the doctrine of justification by faith, which, as Luther said, is the article on which the church either stands or falls.  In the message I cited the Heidelberg Catechism:
Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
I was struck, in particular, by the line which states that the justified man stands, "as if I never had had, nor committed any sin."  When the Father looks at the justified sinner, he sees only the righteous life of the Son which has been imputed to the redeemed (2 Cor 5:21).  The old adage rings true.  Justification means it is "just-as-if" the saint had never sinned.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


A friend pointed me to a blog post last Thursday (9/13/12) on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog announcing the impending release of the Nestle-Aland twenty-eighth edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28) by the German Bible Society.  This new version will represent the state of the art in modern text criticism of the NT.  In a video announcing the new release Dr. Holger Strutwolf primarily addresses changes that will be made to the critical apparatus in the new edition that aim at making the presentation simpler and more user friendly.  The apparatus in past editions are models in sharing loads of information in a small space.  It is also noteworthy that he mentions the aims of the new edition to be both "the reconstruction of the original text and the reconstruction of the textual history of the Greek NT."  I will be interested to see the adjustments that have been made here.  More importantly, it will be interesting to see what changes have been made in this new edition to the text of the NT itself.  The NA28 will serve as the standard academic text used in higher education, and it will likely be the text followed in most future translations of the New Testament into various modern languages, including English.

The new NA28th edition also brings to light some of the significant problems/questions that exist for those who have embraced the modern critical text.  Here are a two:

First, all current modern translations based on previous editions of the modern critical text (the NA27) will now be outdated and will need either to be replaced or updated.  Though this might be a boon for publishers who can hawk new and improved editions of their modern translations, the results for how the stability and reliability of Scripture is viewed is less certain.

Second, it reminds us that those who rely on the most recent modern critical edition of the NT (ministers, churches, ministries, schools, etc.) are dependent on essentially secular academic organizations (like the German Bible Society) which are bound by no confessional or ecclesiastical responsibilities.  This is especially ironic for otherwise conservative and evangelical types who would vociferously denounce liberal theology but who somehow believe that an exception should be made in the area of text criticism or that it is essentially neutral territory  and that secular and liberal theologians can be trusted to preserve the standard text of Scripture used by faithful Christians.

One of the great practical advantages of embracing the received text as standardized in the Reformation era is the fact that one is freed from constant updating and tinkering with the NT text. Rest assured this will not be the end.  A few years down the road there will also be a NA29.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Vision (9/13/12): Spurgeon: "In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach."

In our afternoon “Sunday School” lesson last Lord’s Day I shared this quote from C. H. Spurgeon’s “Address to Open-air Preachers” on the primacy of preaching as a means of doing Biblical evangelism (in The Soul Winner [Pilgrim Publications]:  pp. 188-189):

And, first, we must work at our preaching. You are not getting distrustful of the use of preaching, are you? ("No.") I hope you do not weary of it, though you certainly sometimes must weary in it. Go on with your preaching. Cobbler, stick to your last; preacher, stick to your preaching. In the great day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything beside, do not let it throw your preaching into the background. In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach.

Believe in preaching the love of Christ, believe in preaching the atoning sacrifice, believe in preaching the new birth, believe in preaching the whole counsel of God. The old hammer of the gospel will still break the rock in pieces; the ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude. Try nothing new, but go on with preaching, and if we all preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the results of preaching will astound us. Why, there is no end after all to the power of the tongue! Look at the power of a bad tongue, what great mischief it can do; and shall not God put more power into a good tongue, if we will but use it aright? Look at the power of fire, a single spark might give a city to the flames; even so, the Spirit of God being with us, we need not calculate how much, or what we can do: there is no calculating the potentialities of a flame, and there is no end to the possibilities of divine truth spoken with the enthusiasm which is born of the Spirit of God. Have great hope yet, brothers, have great hope yet, despite yon shameless midnight streets, despite yon flaming gin-palaces at the corner of every street, despite the wickedness of the rich, despite the ignorance of the poor. Go on; go on; go on; in God's name go on, for if the preaching of the gospel does not save men, nothing will. If the Lord's own way of mercy fails, then hang the skies in mourning, and blot out the sun in everlasting midnight, for there remaineth nothing before our race but the blackness of darkness. Salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus is the ultimatum of God. Rejoice that it cannot fail. Let us believe without reserve, and then go straight ahead with the preaching of the Word.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eta Linnemann's rejection of the Historical-Critical Method

Image:  Eta Linnemann (1926-2009)

One of my pet projects this year has been reviewing and studying the rise of the historical-critical method in Biblical studies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Along these lines, I have long been intrigued by the testimony of German New Testament scholar Eta Linnemann (1926-2009) who was trained in higher criticism, studying with top scholars like Rudolph Bultmann, but later rejected it after experiencing an evangelical conversion.  Linnemann went on to  serve as a missionary in Indonesia, and she also wrote an insightful critique of the historical-critical method in which she had been so steeped before her conversion.  This critique first appeared in German as Wissenschaft oder Meinung? In 1986 and was translated and published in English as Historical Criticism of the Bible:  Methodology or Ideology (Baker, 1990).  In the Introduction to the critique, Linnemann reviews some of her testimony, including how she began to be disillusioned by the historical-critical method and its skeptical approach to Scripture and faith.  Though these were the beginnings of God’s grace in her life she notes:

At first, however, what I realized led me into profound disillusionment.  I reacted by drifting toward addictions which might dull my misery.  I became enslaved to watching television and fell into an increasing state of alcohol dependence (p. 18).

Eventually, Linnemann states that God led her to “vibrant Christians who knew Jesus personally as Lord and Savior” and “By God’s grace and love I entrusted my life to Jesus” (p. 18).  Her life changed dramatically:

My destructive addictions were replaced by a hunger and thirst for his Word and for fellowship with Christians.  I was able to recognize sin clearly as sin rather than merely make excuses for it as was my previous habit.  I can still remember the delicious joy I felt when for the first time black was once more black and white was once more white; the two ceased to pool together as indistinguishable gray” (p. 18).

Later, she faced a dilemma:  “Would I continue to control the Bible by my intellect, or would I allow my thinking to be transformed by the Holy Spirit?” (p. 19).  This led her to an unswerving commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture:  “I recognized, first mentally, but then in a vital, experiential way, that Holy Scripture is inspired” (p. 20).  She also acknowledged “that my former perverse teaching was sin” (p. 20).

In the powerful closing paragraph of this Introduction, Linnemman concludes, “That is why I say ‘No!’ to historical-critical theology.  I regard everything that I taught and wrote before I entrusted my life to Jesus as refuse.  After reviewing her previous scholarly books and journal articles, Linnemann adds:  “Whatever of these writings I had in my possession I threw into the trash with my own hands in 1978.  I ask you sincerely to do the same with any of them you may have on your bookshelf” (p. 20).

You can read also read online a transcript of a testimony Linneman gave in 2001 at a California church and a 1997 scholarly article by Robert W. Yarbrough (who translated Historical Criticism of the Bible) from the Master’s Seminary Journal titled Eta Linnemann:  Friend or Foe of Scholarship?  Linnemann should be read with discernment given that she apparently became involved with a charismatic, non-confessional church group.  Still, her critique of historical-critical methodology is invaluable.

Linnemann also challenged other results of modern scholarship including the theory of a “Q” source and Markan priority among the Synoptic Gospels (see Is There a Synoptic Problem?  Rethinking the Literary Dependence of the First Three Gospels [Baker, 1992]).  For those who know German, you can also find several lectures by Linnemann on various topics on YouTube.  Here are three (Biography of Eta Linnemann; What is the foundation of "historical-critical" theology?; and Who wrote Hebrews?) :


Though it appears Linnemann died before turning her attention to a critique of modern text and translation criticism, one wonders what conclusions she might have reached.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Luther's call to follow the "stubbornness" of the apostle Paul

Here is a quote from Luther on the model of  inspired tenacity given by the apostle Paul which I used in last Sunday's sermon on Galatians 2:1-10:

Let us learn this kind of stubbornness from the apostle. We will suffer our goods to be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have, but the gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never suffer to be wrested from us:  and cursed be that humility that here abaseth and submitteth itself; nay, rather let every Christian be proud and spare not, except he will deny Christ.  Wherefore, God assisting me, my forehead shall be harder than all men’s foreheads. Here I take my motto, “Credo nulli.”  I will give place to none.  I am, and ever will be, stout and stern, and will not give one inch to any creature.  Charity giveth place, “for it suffereth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things:” but faith giveth no place (as cited in John Brown, Galatians, p. 76).

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Song of the Week: "There is a Meetin' Here Tonight"

I heard this song performed by Cantus on "Prairie Home Companion" Saturday evening, and it has been stuck in my head ever since.  Something to hum on my way to prayer meeting this Wednesday.  Enjoy!


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Who is "James" in Galatians 1:19?

Note:  One more reflection drawn from last Sunday's sermon on Galatians 1:18-24:
"But the other apostles, saw I none, save James the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:19).
Who is this "James" in v. 19?
Is this James the apostle, the son of Zebedee and physical brother of John?  If so, the use of the term “brother of the Lord” would mean “spiritual brother.”
Is it the apostle known as James the son of Alpheus, who was, says John Brown, “our Lord’s cousin”?  Thus “brother” would refer to their near kinship.  Calvin held this view.
Or, is this James, the elder at Jerusalem, and half-brother of Jesus (cf. Mark 6:3; Jude 1:1)?  Is he called an apostle here not in the sense of being one of the Twelve but in the sense of being one specially “sent out” by God (“apostle” coming from the verb apostello, to send out), in the way that Barnabas (also not one of the twelve) is called an “apostle” in Acts 14:4?  When Paul recounts the resurrection appearances of Jesus he notes that Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve, then the 500 brothers, and “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles” (1 Cor 15:7).
Again, Paul’s point here is that his knowledge of the pure gospel was not dependent on his visits with Peter and James in Jerusalem but that it was consistent with them.  Paul had harmonious fellowship with the men at Jerusalem.  Contrary to what Paul’s opponents in Galatia were saying, Paul and Peter and James preached the same gospel.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Vision (9/6/12): And they glorified God in me (Galatians 1:24).

Thus far in our Sunday morning Galatians sermon series we have been expositing the opening chapters in which Paul provides the autobiographical account of how the Lord turned him from a would-be-destroyer of the gospel to a preacher of the gospel.  In Galatians 1:24 Paul notes the response of his fellow believers to his conversion:  “And they glorified God in me.”  Below is part of the Scottish minister John Brown’s 1853 commentary on that verse (with quotes from Barnes and Perkins):

Well they might; and so may—so ought—we.  Divine grace never had a more glorious trophy, Christianity never made, in one individual, so important an acquisition.  “We may still glorify and praise God for the grace manifested in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  What does not the world owe to him!  What do we not owe him!  No man did so much in establishing the Christian religion as he did; no one among the apostles was the means of converting and saving so many souls; no one has left so many and so valuable writings for the edification of the church.  To him we owe the invaluable epistles—so full of truth, and eloquence, and promises, and consolations—on one of which we are commenting; and to him the church owes, some of its most elevated and ennobling views of the nature of the Christian doctrine and duty.  After the lapse, therefore of eighteen hundred years, we should not cease to glorify God for the conversion of this wonderful man, and should feel that we have cause of thankfulness that He changed the infuriated persecutor to a holy and devoted apostle.”  “Here we see what is the right way of honouring the saints, and that is to glorify God in them and for them.  As for religious worship of adoration and invocation, it is proper to God, and the saints desire it not” (p. 68).

Indeed, we still marvel over and give glory to God for Paul’s conversion and for the conversion of countless other lesser known former enemies who have become God’s friends through Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Three gleanings from Galatians 1:22

Note:  Here are some more expositional notes from last Sunday's sermon on Galatians 1:18-24 with three gleanings drawn from Galatians 1:22: 
In Galatians 1:22 Paul proceeds to note that due to this abrupt departure after a mere 15 days in Jerusalem, limited to interaction with Peter and James, he was “unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which are in Christ.”  The polemical point again:  he had no opportunity to have the pure gospel he had received from Christ to be adulterated by the influence of anyone in Judea, because he was not there long enough to know them.
This verse has some significant peripheral teachings.  I will point to three:
First, it implies in passing the face to face fellowship that should be enjoyed in churches.  Paul did not know the churches “by face” (the KJV provides a good literal rendering of the Greek here).  Had Paul not been run out of town he would have expected to have had this kind of intimate fellowship with the brethren.  These assemblies were not anonymous gatherings, but the brethren knew each other by face and name and story.  This kind of fellowship cannot be created by getting people in the same room in three locations to watch a celebrity preacher on a screen.
Second, we have the plural “churches” again.  Paul writes to “churches of Galatia” (1:2).  Here he refers to “the churches of Judea.”  He can use in the span of a few verses the word “church” to refer to the universal body of Christ (as in v. 13) and the word “churches” to refer to visible local assemblies.  The implication:  Everyone who is in the church universal ought to be in one of the churches visible.  Notice also how Paul thinks of churches in common geographical areas as sharing a kinship.  In Acts 15 the church at Antioch will appeal to the church at Jerusalem for counsel on disputed teaching.  The implication is that churches ought to have fellowship with sister churches in close geographical proximity to them.  In our day, some stress the autonomy and independence of the local church to the exclusion of the Scriptural emphasis upon inter-related churches.  American individualism is projected onto the local church, and the Scriptural pattern is ignored.
Third, Paul notes that these churches were “in Christ.”  This is one of Paul’s favorite expressions.  Churches are in the sphere of Christ. They are enveloped by Christ.  They have union with Christ, because they are made up of individuals who are in union with Christ.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Galatians 1:20 and the Truthfulness of Scripture

In preaching last Sunday on Preaching the faith he once destroyed (Galatians 1:18-24), I was struck by Paul's appeal to the truthfulfullness and integrity of his written testimony and the wider implications of this verse for the truth and integrity of all Scripture.  Here are my notes from the exposition of this verse:
“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not" (Galatians 1:20).
This verse tells us that the apostle Paul was being accused by these rogues in Galatia of being a liar.  Paul the apostle is having to defend himself against the charge of being a deceiver.  That is a rather difficult charge to defend oneself against.  “Are you a liar and deceiver?”  If you answer with an emphatic, “No,” such rogues can simply announce, “See, I told you so!”
Still, Paul appeals to anyone with working rational and spiritual capacity to heed this emphatic defense of the integrity of his testimony.
It is interesting to note that one could take v. 20 beyond the meaning it has for its specific context and apply it first to everything that Paul will write in this epistle, second to everything that he will write that will become part of the NT, and third to everything that the Holy Spirit of God has breathed out in all the Scriptures.  Paul was a sinner, and he could bear false witness.  In fact, before his conversion he bore false witness about Christ and his followers.  But, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his fallible traits as a man were overshadowed by the infallible guidance of that same Spirit.
Paul in his writings does not lie; the Scriptures do not lie, because God does not lie.  The verse to lay alongside this one is Titus 2:2 which says God, who “cannot lie.”  This verse then becomes a testimony to the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture.
This is why we believe that God made the world in six days and all very good, no matter how the philosophy of modern evolution rages against it.
This is why we believe that God created marriage as a one-flesh covenant union between one man and one woman that lasts a lifetime, no matter how many try to alter this definition.
This is why we believe that Jesus in the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes the Father except by him, no matter how men might rail against such exclusive claims.
This is why we believe that Jesus will come again to judge the world in righteousness as the man God has appointed for that task, no matter how scoffers might mock our hope.
And we could go on and on….
Why?  Because the written Scriptures (note the emphasis on the inscripturated word) do not lie!
When Dr. Crampton preached for us back in July he offered a critique of the slogan:  “God said it; I believe it; and that settles it” by saying that it ought instead to say, “God said it; that settles it; and I believe it.”
Biblical Christianity requires faith.  And foundational to faith in Christ is faith in the Scriptures as the infallible written witness to Christ.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Text Note: Galatians 1:18: "Peter" or "Cephas"?

The issue:

Did Paul write that he went up to Jerusalem to see “Peter” (Petros) or “Cephas” (Kephas)?  The traditional text reads “Peter,” while the modern critical text prefers the Aramaic form of Peter’s name, “Cephas.”

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by a corrected hand of Sinaiticus and the codices D, F, G, Psi, K, L, P, and the vast majority of minuscules, in addition to the entire Latin tradition and the Syriac Harklean.

The modern critical text is supported by p46, p51, the original hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus, among other codices.  It is also found in various Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

Internal evidence:

Metzger takes the Aramaic name as the original which was substituted for “the more familiar Greek name Petros” (Textual Commentary, p. 591).

Examination of the rest of Galatians reveals that textual variations between “Peter” and “Cephas” are not limited to 1:18.  The issue resurfaces in 2:9, 11, and 14.

In 2:11 and 2:14, the Textus Receptus also reads “Peter” and the modern critical text “Cephas,” supported by essentially the same external evidence as found in 1:18.

Of particular interest, however, is the reading found in 2:9, where the traditional text agrees with the modern critical text in reading “Cephas,” not “Peter.”  Thus, the modern critical heavyweights Sinaiticus and Vaticanus support the Majority text here.  As Metzger points out, there are, indeed, some witnesses, “chiefly Western,” which read “Peter” rather than “Cephas” in 2:9. These include p46 and the codices D, F, G, K, and L (Textual Commentary, p. 592), but this was not the reading adopted by the traditional text.  Some of the manuscripts (D, F, G, etc.) not only read “Peter” but also place his name first in the list (i.e., “Peter and James and John”).


First, we would acknowledge that the reading of the apostle’s name as “Peter” or “Cephas” does not affect any vital point of doctrine.  The modern critical reading is based primarily on the weight of external evidence and an a priori assumption that the readings of certain texts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) be given priority.

Second, the assumption that the traditional text substituted “Peter” for “Cephas” in 1:18; 2:11, 14 remains only a speculation.  Is it not equally possible that the manuscripts which serve as the basis for the modern critical text substituted “Cephas” for “Peter” for some unknown reason?  Perhaps they wanted to give emphasis to Peter’s Jewishness by referring to him by his Aramaic name, or they simply wanted to harmonize the references (but cf. 2:7, the only place where even the modern critical text reads “Peter” rather than “Cephas”).

Third, the fact that the traditional text reads “Cephas” rather than “Peter” in 2:9 would seem to undermine the theory that the traditional text systematically substituted “Peter” for “Cephas.”  If this had been the tendency of the received text, why was 2:9 overlooked, especially when some manuscripts obviously did alter the text (and no less than p46 at that!)?

Is it not just as plausible to assume that the variation in uses of “Peter” and “Cephas” in Galatians reflects the original hand of Paul?  Indeed, in Galatians 2:7 Paul refers to the apostle as “Peter” in a text that suffers from no textual dispute.  Thus, the traditional reading(s) might well be defended as authentic.