Saturday, December 29, 2012

Even more thoughts on Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount" and Luke's "Sermon in the Plain"

As I continue to preach through Luke’s Sermon in the Plain (Luke 6), I am still pondering the propriety of taking Luke’s account as an abbreviated doublet of the material in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7) [see this previous post].  My tendency, again, is to see these as records of two independent sermons and not the same event.

The McArthur Study Bible provides an example of an evangelical interpretation which argues that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon in the Plain are two presentations of the same event.  It acknowledges, “It is possible … that Jesus simply preached the same sermon on more than one occasion.”  Yet it concludes:

It appears more likely, however, that these are variant accounts of the same event.  Luke’s version is abbreviated somewhat, because he omitted sections from the sermon that are uniquely Jewish (particularly Christ’s exposition of the law).  Aside from that, the two sermons follow exactly the same flow of thought beginning with the Beatitudes and ending with the parable about building on the rock.  Differences in wording between the two accounts are undoubtedly owing to the fact that the sermon was originally delivered in Aramaic.  Luke and Matthew translate into Gr. with slight variances.  Of course, both translations are equally inspired and authoritative (p. 1524).

The problem with this approach is simply that the differences between the two sermons are much more than “slight variances” resulting from translation from Aramaic to Greek.  For example, Matthew has eight (or nine) beatitudes (Matthew 5) and no woes, while Luke has four beatitudes and four corresponding woes (Luke 6).

I am more inclined toward the interpretation of Matthew Poole in his Luke commentary.  Poole begins, “There are many that think what Luke hath in these verses, and so the end of the chapter, is but a shorter epitome of what Luke hath in his 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters, and that both Matthew and Luke mean the same sermon preached at the same time.”  He cites two points in favor of this opinion:  (1) Matthew says that Jesus was teaching on a mountain, and Luke’s description can be taken as reference to a mountain plain; (2) There is much overlap in content.

Nevertheless, Poole concludes, “I can hardly be of that mind.”  He cites the following reasons:

(1)  He judges Luke’s reference to the plain is not the same setting as Matthew.


(2)   The description of the audience for the sermon in Luke (see 6:17) is distinct and indicates a unique setting.


(3)   “Principally, from the great differences in the relations of Matthew and Luke.”

These include:  (a) many large discourses in Matthew are not covered by Luke (e.g. Christ “true interpretation of the law” and his teaching about alms, prayer, fasting in Matthew 6); and (b) differences in the beatitudes (and woes) section.

Poole concludes:  “Leaving therefore all to their own judgments, I see no reason to think that this discourse was but a short copy of the same discourse, referring to the same time and company.”


Friday, December 28, 2012

John Carroll on the text of Luke's Gospel

I recently began reading through John Carroll’s Luke:  A Commentary in the New Testament Library series (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012).  This volume represents a state of the art commentary from a mainline Protestant, mainstream academic perspective.

In the Introduction, Carroll offers a helpful survey of the textual witnesses to Luke (see pp. 14-15).  Here is a summary of Carroll’s discussion of the Greek textual witnesses to Luke from earliest to latest, according to the most recent findings of modern scholarship:

1.      There are five third-century papyrus manuscripts:

p4                   portions of chapters 1-6;

p45                 portions of chapters 6-7 and 9-14;

p69                 fragments of chapter 22 (vv. 41, 45-48, 58-61);

p111              a small section of chapters 17 (vv. 11-13, 22-23) in fragmentary form;

p75                 portions of each chapter in chapters 3-18 [including 9:4—17:15] and also 22:4—24:53 in toto.

2.      The earliest uncial witness to Luke is 0171 (c. 300 A. D.) which contains 22:44-56, 61-64.


3.      There are five uncial manuscripts from the fourth and fifth centuries that offer complete attestation to Luke:

Sinaiticus (Aleph)

Alexandrinus (A)

Vaticanus (B)

Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D)

Washingtoniensis (W)

4.      There are two important uncials that offer partial witness to the text of Luke:

Ephraemi Syri Rescriptus (C, fifth century)

Zacynthius (xi, sixth century)

5.      There are several other later uncials that offer a complete witness to Luke:

Regius (L, eighth century)

Coridethianus (Theta, ninth century)

Athous Lavrensis (Psi, eighth-ninth century)

6.      Important minuscule witnesses:




family 1 and family 13 [Ferrar group]

This discussion might help in the interpretation and understanding of some of the earlier textual notes from Luke posted on this blog (and future ones).

Carroll notes that his translation and commentary on Luke has chosen to follow the shorter “Western text,” favoring especially the witness of Codex D, with its so-called “Western non-interpolations.”

Striking is Carroll’s conclusion:

Nevertheless, I recognize that the “Luke” known to many readers of the Gospel, both ancient and modern, has included the longer form of the text.  In the absence of the earliest text as composed by Luke (a state of affairs that will never be remedied), any text that is presented as a basis for interpretation will be an artificial construct and thus only approximate a complex textual reality that was fluid for some centuries and therefore cannot be captured with precision (p. 15).

Carroll’s statement does indeed reflect the current state of modern text criticism which has abandoned any hope of constructing an authoritative “original” text but instead is content to speak of multiform “texts” of Scripture, each holding a weight of significance in its own right.  Indeed, from this perspective, any such text is merely "an artificial construct."  It is clear that modern evangelicals are following a path toward this same conclusion (as reflected in the textual decisions of various evangelical English Bible translation; e. g., see the text notes on Mark 16:9-20 in the ESV).  The question is whether or not traditional, confessional Christians will also follow this path or hold out in defense of the traditional, consensus text of the Reformation.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Vision (12/27/12): Love Your Enemies

We are entering the New Year at CRBC by continuing to work our way through Luke’s account of The Sermon in the Plain (Luke 6:17).  Last Sunday we meditated on Jesus’ command to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36).  Here are some notes from the exposition of Luke 6:27-28:

Luke 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

How are Christians to love their enemies? Jesus offers three practical commands:

First:  Do good to them which hate you (v. 27b).

Here Jesus urges the returning of bad actions with good deeds.  Note the extreme force of the language.  Jesus is not saying, “Do good to those who do good to you,” or “Do good to those who like you,” or even “Do good to those who mildly dislike you and do you no good,” but “Do good to those who hate (miseo) you and [the implication is] who do bad things to you.”   This is strong language.  Most of us have a hard enough time doing good to those who love us and who seek our good, much less to those who hate us and who act against us.

Second:  Bless (eulogeo) them that curse you (v. 28a).

Here Jesus urges the returning of bad words with good words.  In Biblical times there was much more a sense of the power of words.  To give someone a blessing was to convey spiritual and even material riches upon that person.  Consider Isaac’s blessing of Jacob.  Likewise, to offer someone a curse was a powerful detriment.  See Balaam’s effort to curse Israel.  It conveyed spiritual and material deprivation upon the person who was cursed.  Wrap your mind now around what Jesus is telling his disciples.  When men use their words to curse you, you are to respond by speaking words of blessing to them.

Third:  Pray for them which despitefully use you (v. 28b).

Here we move from actions (v. 27b), to words (v. 28a), to intercession (v. 28b).  The response of Christians to those who intercede with others to do them harm is to be that they are to intercede for them with the Father.   Have you ever discovered that someone who dislikes you has gone to someone else (a family member, a co-worker, a church member) for the purpose of speaking ill of you, spreading unfounded gossip, or maliciously attacking you?  Jesus is saying that when you hear someone has been interceding against you (despitefully using you) your response should be to fall on your knees and to intercede with the Father for the good of that person.  Pray for them.

I am not saying that this is easy to do.  Jesus never promised that following him would be easy, but he did promise that it would be the most rewarding thing we might ever do.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Season's Greetings from the Riddle Family

We are thankful for the Lord's many blessings to our family over the past year.  Our cup overflows.  May the Lord richly bless you beyond what you ask or imagine through Christ!
-Jeff and Llewellyn Riddle and Family


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Are Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount" and Luke's "Sermon in the Plain" the same?

Last Sunday, I began preaching through Luke's record of Jesus' sermon "in the plain" (Luke 6:17-49).  One question that arises is the relationship of this teaching and the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5--7.  Here are some of my notes on that question: 
Here begins the so-called Lukan version of the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:17-49; paralleled in Matthew 5—7).  One of the key interpretive questions is whether Matthew and Luke are describing the same message from Jesus on the same occassion.  They follow a similar pattern.  Both begin with beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12//Luke 6:20-26) and end with the parable of the building on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27//Luke 6:47-49).  But there are also significant differences.  Matthew’s sermon is much longer and the wording of the two sermons is not always the same. It appears to be just as plausible that Jesus taught many of the same types of messages on multiple occasions, and so Matthew and Luke’s records might well reflect two different presentations of Christ’s teaching on two distinct occasions.
One of the things that skeptics sometimes seize upon is Luke’s mention that Jesus gave this teaching “in the plain” (Luke 6:17) in contrast to Matthew 5:1 which says, “he went up into a mountain.”  Again, these might be two different contexts, but even if they are the same, this is not a contradiction.  Luke might simply mean that Jesus went to a level place on the mountain (v. 17 reads epi topou pedinou, literally upon a level place).  Some likewise seize upon Luke’s mention of Jesus having “stood” (histemi) there (v. 17) as opposed to Matthew 5:1’s reference to his giving the sermon on the mount while sitting (kathizo).  But the verb in Luke 6:17 can simply mean to stop or to settle and may not be referring to a standing posture.  Again, this is not necessarily a contradiction.
Here’s the thing:  If you go looking for supposed errors you usually find them; if, however, you go looking for agreement and harmony you can find that in abundance.
In Luke 6:20 Jesus begins his teaching with four beatitudes (vv. 20-23).  I am inclined to think that the sermon Luke records is not the same as the one Matthew records.  Here are some reasons:
(1) Matthew has eight beatitudes and Luke has only four;
(2) Matthew’s wording is different:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit” rather than Luke’s simpler “blessed are ye poor”;
(3) Matthew’s beatitudes are in the third person (e.g., "Blessed are the poor in spirit" [Matthew 5:3a]) while Luke’s are in the second person (e.g., "Blessed be ye poor" [Luke 6:20]); and
(4) Luke also has four “woes” (vv. 24-26) which Matthew does not record.
Unless we are willing to forfeit any semblance of the historical reliability and verbal accuracy of the canonical Gospels, we must conclude that Jesus delivered similar messages on various occassions.  The material in Luke 6 and Matthew 5--7 was part of the basic discipleship teaching of Jesus to his followers.  Matthew accurately records a summary of Christ's teaching on one occassion, Luke another.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Vision (12/20/12): A Look Back on 2012 at CRBC

This is the time of the year when many look back to reflect on the year past.  Here are just a few highlights from 2012 at CRBC:


·        We moved to our new location at the Covenant Lower School on February 5.

·        We hosted a weekend Creation and Faith Conference with Dr. Andy McIntosh on February 11-12.



·        CRBC Ladies enjoyed an outing to Richmond on March 10.


·        We hosted our third annual Puritan Vacation Bible School for children (2012 topic:  The Life of Moses), July 23-25.



·        We celebrated the ordinance of baptism at the Rivanna River on August 19.



·        The eleventh annual Keach Conference  was hosted at CRBC September 29-30.

We look forward to seeing how the Lord will work within our body in 2013!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Evangelism Series (Part Six): Personal Work

It’s been on the blog shelf for a while, but I thought I’d add another installment to the ongoing “Evangelism Series" (for past posts in this series click the label below).  So far, we have seen that the Biblical terms for evangelism (euangelizo and kerusso euangelion) relate specifically to the public proclamation of the gospel (see parts two, three, and four).  Furthermore, Jesus was engaged in the task of preaching the gospel (evangelizing), and he gave this responsibility to the apostles as extraordinary officers, then to ordinary officers, such as elders, pastors, and teachers.

Personal Work

Again, in the vast majority of cases, the work of evangelism (i.e., preaching the gospel) is done publically and corporately.  There are also, however, Biblical examples of evangelizing that is done privately and personally.  The old path men used to refer to this as the minister’s “personal work.”  For a more recent description of this task, see Fred Malone’s chapter, “Do Personal Work” in Tom Ascol, Ed. Dear Timothy:  Letters on Pastoral Ministry (Founders, 2004):   pp. 169-181.  Though personal work might refer to private teaching, instruction, admonition, counseling, prayer, or discipleship with a particular individual or small group of individuals (like a family), when the ministers engages in personal work with nonbelievers his primary objective is to evangelize them.

The model for personal work is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ himself.  Examples abound in the canonical Gospels.  To name but a few, Jesus engages in personal work in his conversations with Nicodemus (John 3), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), and the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18: 18-23).  The latter of these examples is a reminder that not everyone who hears the gospel, even from Jesus himself, will be converted.

Examples from Acts

This model is then followed by the apostles.  In Acts, in particular, not only do the apostles publically preach the gospel, but they also engage in personal conversations, dialogues, and reasoning sessions in which the gospel is proclaimed.

Here are three examples of personal work in Acts:

1.      Philip the Evangelist and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8):

The Spirit directs Philip to approach the Ethiopian as he rides along in his chariot, reading from the book of Isaiah.  Philip asks, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (v. 30).  The man responds, “How can I except some man should guide (hodegeo:  to lead, guide) me?”  He then invites Philip to come up and sit with him and to be his guide in interpreting the Scriptures.  When the Eunuch asks, in particular, about the identity of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, Luke records, “Then Philip opened his mouth and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (v. 35).  This is the only explicit NT example of preaching (euangelizo) in a private setting.  Given the important governmental role of the Ethiopian Eunuch (see v. 27 which says he “had the charge of all her treasure”), however, it is likely that he was accompanied by an entourage of some sort who also would have heard Philip’s preaching.  In other words, this may not necessarily have been an isolated one-on-one conversation.

This encounter also provides a prototypical example of examination and confession of those who might present themselves for baptism in v. 37 (appearing in the traditional text but omitted in the modern critical text).  When the Eunuch requests baptism, Philip responds, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”  To which, the Eunuch responds, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  Here is a model confession.

2.      Paul the Apostle and Silas, his apostolic associate (also indentified as a prophet in Acts 15:32), and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16):

Paul and Silas have been praying and singing praises to God in the hearing of their fellow prisoners and, no doubt, the jailer, as well (v. 25).  When an earthquake miraculously opens the prison door and loosens the bonds of the inmates, the jailer is ready to take his own life until Paul intervenes, saying, “Do thyself no harm:  for we are all here” (v. 28).

With trembling, the jailer brings a light and falls down before Paul and Silas (v. 29), asking them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30).  They respond, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (v. 31).

3.      Paul the Apostle before Agrippa and Bernice (Acts 25—26):

Though technically this passage might better be called an example of witness bearing when under trial, it also offers a compelling description of evangelistic personal work.  Paul is brought by the Roman governor Festus to be examined by King Herod Agrippa and Bernice (cf. 25:13-14, 22-23).  Paul addresses the court audience, recounting the circumstances of his conversion to Christ, his calling to become an apostle, and his arrest in Jerusalem (see 26:1-21).  Near the close of his speech, Paul offers a Christian interpretation of the Scriptures “that Christ should suffer and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (26:23).  Festus dismisses him by saying, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (v. 24).  Paul, however, ignores Festus and makes a direct appeal to the conscience of Festus.  He declares that he is not mad but that he speaks “words of truth and soberness” (v. 25).  Most striking is his direct appeal to Agrippa, as Paul calls him (out) by name:  “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know that thou believest” (v. 27).  To which Agrippa responds:  “Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian” (v. 28).

Evangelism scripts

When reflecting on these examples, one begins to get the sense that Luke has recorded these, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to provide something like model scripts to be followed, as well as adjusted and adapted to shifting circumstances, in evangelistic conversations.

As the minister engages in a private Bible study with a willing inquirer he can follow the model of Philip by asking, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He can then preach the Jesus of the Bible to the inquirer, proclaiming him as the fulfillment of OT scriptural prophecy.

As the minister examines a new convert who desires baptism, he can say with Philip, “If you believe with all your heart you may.”  And he can listen for a confession that lines up with that of the Ethiopian:  “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

As the minister counsels the despondent seeker who asks despairingly, “What must I do to be saved?” he might respond as did Paul and Silas to the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As the minister meets with one willing to hear a witness for Christ, though with skepticism and perhaps even hostility, he may probe that person’s conscience, by saying, as Paul did to Agrippa, “I know that you believe the Bible is an inspired book?  Will you not believe what the Bible says to you about Jesus?”

The book of Acts, indeed, provides the most profitable training manual for the personal work of the minister in evangelism.

Personal Work or Personal Evangelism?

There is yet another question to be asked here:  Who is depicted in the NT (Acts, in particular) as engaged in these private evangelistic encounters?  As with public proclamation, the model practitioners of personal work are church offers (i.e., Philip the Evangelist, Paul the Apostle, Silas the apostolic associate and Prophet).  This seems to be a factor that is overlooked in much of the modern revivalistic-influenced construal of “personal evangelism” which universalizes and democratizes the duties and responsibilities of the Christian life.

Even some who would agree that public preaching of the gospel should only be undertaken by designated church officers (God called and church approved) insist that a somewhat looser standard is in place with regard to informal or private communication (i.e., “preaching”) of the gospel.  An obvious logical challenge to this approach, however, would be simply to ask whether the size of the audience (whether a congregation of a 1000 people, a gathering of 100 people, a home Bible study of 25 people, a private family counseling session with 5 people, or an evangelistic conversation with 1 person) makes any difference in the standards for who is Biblically sanctioned to preach the gospel (evangelize).  One might also ask where such a distinction is taught or modeled in Scripture?  When James wrote, “My brethren, be not many masters (didaskaloi:  teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 4:1), was he referring only to a prohibition against all Christians being “formal” public teachers or is his warning also germane to those who would undertake “informal” private teaching who are not church officers?         

My inclination would be to conclude that the examples cited above from Acts are most applicable to the personal work of church officers as opposed to generic models of what is today called “personal evangelism.”  This takes us back to one of our original lines of questioning (now expanded):  If evangelism is primarily presented in the Bible as done through preaching and the personal work of ministers, what then is the general duty of all believers in evangelism?  In fact, I do believe that evangelism is the duty of the whole church (and not just the ministers alone).  Hopefully, we will eventually come to expand and explain this point in this series.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Text Note: Luke 6:1

The issue:

The main question here is the whether the verse should include the adjective deuteroprotos in modification of the noun “sabbath.”  The traditional text includes the word and the modern critical text omits it.  A comparison of English translations reflects this textual difference:

AV (following the traditional text):  “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first [egeneto de ev sabbato deuteroproto]….”

RSV/ESV (following the modern critical text):  “On a sabbath [egeneto de en sabbato]….”

So, did Luke specifically say that when Jesus and his disciples walked through the grain fields it was “the second sabbath after the first,” or did he more generically say that this event happened “on a sabbath”?

External evidence:

Again, the textual evidence follows similar lines as we have seen in previous studies of textual matters in the opening chapters of Luke.

The traditional reading is supported by codices Alexandrinus, C, D, R, Theta, Psi, family 13 (with negligible variations), and the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts.  It also appears in the Old Latin and Syriac Harclean versions.  In addition it appears in Epiphanius of Constantia (d. 403 A. D.).

The modern critical reading is supported by p4, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, L, W, family 1, 33, and 1241.  Among the versions it appears in some Old Latin manuscripts and the Syriac Peshitta.

Internal evidence:

The inclusion of deuteroproto is obviously the more difficult reading.  Modern commentators are still unsure as to its precise meaning.  One can easily see how scribes might have desired to omit the word in order to make the sense more readily intelligible.  We can see reasons why it might have been omitted, but an explanation as to why it might have been added if not original is much cloudier.

Nevertheless, the modern critical text omits the disputed word, while the UBS Committee gave their text here only a “C” rating.  Metzger’s note in his Textual Commentary indicates the committee’s division and defends its decision despite the obvious methodological contradiction.  Metzger states:

In the opinion of a majority of the Committee, although sabbato deuteroproto is certainly the more difficult reading, it must not for that reason be adopted.  The word deuteroprotos occurs nowhere else, and appears to be a vox nulla that arose accidentally through a transcriptional blunder (p. 139).

This statement, however, smacks of special pleading.  In the absence of any hard evidence, the accusation of a “transcriptional blunder” in including the word might just as well lead one to speculate that such a blunder occurred in excluding the word.  Perhaps in acknowledgement of the weakness of the argument here, Metzger adds this parenthetical note:

(Perhaps some copyist introduced proto as a correlative of en hetero sabbato in ver. 6, and a second copyist, in view of 4:31, deuteron, deleting proto by using dots over the letters—which was the customary way of cancelling a word.  A subsequent transcriber, not noticing the dots, mistakenly combined the two words into one, which he introduced into the text.) (p. 139).

The operative word to consider in this ingenious explanation is the first word, “Perhaps.”  This explanation is a pure speculation.  There is no extant text with proto written in the margin as an accommodation to Luke 4:31; 6:6, nor is there an extant text with two dots over proto and deuteron added!  It is a fascinating speculation, but it remains only what it is—a speculation.

This variant appears to be an egregious example of the modern critical text’s tendency to follow the reading of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (a la the pioneering Westcott and Hort), even when that reading violates the so-called “canons” of modern text criticism.


The traditional text of Luke 6:1 (including deuteroprotos) has ancient and widespread textual support.  It is the more difficult reading.  There is a reasonable explanation as to why some scribes might have intentionally attempted to omit it.  It was difficult to understand (see this previous post), and scribes might have attempted to harmonize v. 1 with v. 6 which begins, “And it came to pass also on another sabbath [egeneto de en hetero sabbato]….”  It is much harder to understand why any scribe would have included the word if it were not part of the original (Metzger’s creative attempt to do so notwithstanding).  The traditional reading, therefore, is to be preferred.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What is "the second sabbath after the first" (Luke 6:1)?

Note:  In preaching Sunday before last on Luke 6:1-11, I was intrigued by Luke's reference to "the second sabbath after the first."  Here are some notes from the exposition:
We begin in v. 1:  “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went throught the corn fields....”  And we come immediately to a notorious place of difficulty in translation and interpretation of the text.  The question is what is meant by “the second Sabbath after the first” (in Greek there appears the adjective deuteroprotos, a term that appears only here in all the NT).  One interpreter notes that there are at least half a score different interpretations of what Luke meant by this and, in the end, no one really knows for sure precisely what he meant (see Godet, pp. 183-184).  In the modern critical text the word is simply omitted--probably because it was so difficult to interpret—and so it does not even appear in modern translations.
The best answer is that this “second Sabbath after the first” refers to some “technical expression of the Jewish calendar” (as cited by Geldenhuys, Luke, p. 201).  It might, for example, mean the second Sabbath after the Passover had taken place.  The only thing we can really be sure about is that it was not essential that we know the precise meaning of this calendar term, though it was God’s perfect will for this term to appear in the text.
One commentator suggests that it is a mark of “the originality and antiquity of [Luke’s] sources of information” (Godet, p. 183).  If this did not come from Luke’s source (perhaps an eyewitness) it is not something that he would have invented.
Another possibility is that it suggests from the beginning the penchant of some of the Jewish spiritual leaders—like the Pharisees—to introduce extra-biblical customs and practices, including the designation of Sabbaths in terms that did not come from clear Biblical mandate.  The Sabbath is mentioned in the OT, but not the “second Sabbath after the first.”  There is, then, foreshadowing of the conflict which is to come over the Sabbath and extra-biblical strictures attached to it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Vision (12/13/12): Lord also of the sabbath

Here are some notes to the concluding applications from last Sunday’s sermon from Luke 6:1-11:


What do we glean from the two Sabbaths in Luke 6:1-11?


1.       Jesus did not teach the abrogation of or doing away with the moral law of God, including the Sabbath.


Notice that Jesus did not in any way shape or form do away with the Sabbath.   In v. 6, in particular, even after his confrontation with judgmental Pharisees, observe how Jesus is back in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  This tells us that there are still Ten Commandments in the moral law of God.  God has ordained that in his universe one day in seven in to be given over to rest in him and worship of him.  It has been this way since the creation.  Human beings function best when one day in seven is given over to the God and the things of God.  The Sabbath is designed to give glory to God and blessing to man.  We ignore this aspect of God’s law to our peril.


There’s a bluegrass song by Ricky Skaggs called “A Simple Life” where the chorus says, “A simple life is the life for me, a man and a wife and a family, and the Lord up above he knows I’m trying to live a simple life in a difficult time.”  One of the verses says, “I work six days and I rest for one, ‘cause the old rat race ain’t never been won.” That song gets it right.


2.       Jesus taught the centrality of Biblical obedience to the law of God, including the fourth commandment.


The problem with the Pharisees was that in their zeal to keep the law they went beyond what was written and introduced extra-biblical, man-made rules. The danger is that we can do the same.  There is a warning against that in this passage.


3.       Jesus taught the positive rather than the negative aspects of obedience to God’s law, including the keeping of the sabbath (see especially v. 9).


Perhaps the best evaluative question to ask is not, “What must I avoid that is wrong?” but “What may I do that is right and pleasing to God?”


With regard to the Sabbath, we can hardly improve on the wisdom of the Puritan fathers who in the catechism ask, “How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?” and answer:


The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.


Notice, by the way, that the two exceptions:  necessity and mercy derive from our passage.  To eat is a necessity and so it is lawful to eat on the Sabbath and to do anything else that is necessary for life and well being.  To help another human being or creature as an act of mercy is likewise lawful on the Sabbath.


4.       Jesus declared himself to be equal with God.


We see this in the declaration of v. 5:  “And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.”  Who created the world including the Sabbath as a creation ordinance?  The God of the Bible.  So what is Jesus saying when he declares that he is Lord also of the Sabbath?  He is declaring himself to be equal in essence, power, and glory with the Father.   He is the one who made men’s hands, and he is the one who can restore them when they are twisted and withered (vv. 6-10).  He is the one who made men’s hearts and men’s lives, and he can restore them when they are twisted and withered.


There are only two responses to that.  Either we believe and obey or we react with an irrational fury, a madness that drives us even further from him (v. 11).  How will you respond?


Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle