Wednesday, February 29, 2012

John Murray on believers before the "bema" seat of Christ

I preached Sunday on We are the Lord’s (Romans 14:7-12) and was struck in particular by Paul’s statement in v. 10: “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat [bema] of Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bema] of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”).

In his Romans commentary, John Murray stresses the fact that Paul teaches that believers (and not just unbelievers) will have their actions judged by Christ:

These two texts [Rom 14:10; 1 Cor 5:20] therefore place beyond all dispute the certainty of future judgment for believers. It is only by deflection from biblical patterns of thought that doubt could be entertained or the consciousness of the believer fail to be conditioned by it. Furthermore, this judgment is not merely of persons. It is of the behaviour of believers Paul is speaking here and it is for the correction of wrong behavior that the fact of God’s future judgment is adduced. Conduct is to be judged…. The judgment embraces not only all persons but also all deeds (p. 184).

He later continues:

Reluctance to entertain the reality of this universal and all-inclusive judgment springs from preoccupation with what is conceived to be the comfort and joy of believers at the coming of Christ rather than with the interests and demands of God’s justice (p. 185).

But he then adds:

And it should not be forgotten that, although God will bring evil as well as good into judgment, there will be no abatement of the believer’s joy, because it is in the perspective of this full disclosure that the vindication of God’s glory in his salvation will be fully manifest. It is only in the light of this manifestation that the believer’s joy could be complete (p. 185).


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Text Note: Romans 14:9

The issue:

One can easily see the difference between the traditional and modern texts of Romans 14:9 by comparing translations of the verse based on each respective text:

Translations from Traditional text:

KJV Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

NKJV Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Translations from Modern text:

NIV Romans 14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

NASB Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

In the traditional text Christ is said to have done three things: died, rose, and revived [kai apethane kai aneste kai anezesen]; in the modern critical text, only two: died and returned to life [apethanen kai ezesen]. The traditional text links these three verbs with a threefold use of the conjunction kai. The modern text has only one kai linking the two verbs. There are other minor variations, like whether the final verb should be from anazao (traditional) or simply zao (modern).

External evidence:

Support for the traditional text includes Psi, 0209, and 33, in addition to the vast majority of extant manuscripts. It is also attested in the Latin of Irenaeus.

Support for the modern text includes the original hand of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus.

Internal evidence:

Metzger assumes that the traditional reading came about through assimilation to 1 Thessalonians 4:14 which reads, “Jesus died and rose again” (Textual Commentary, p. 531). This is, of course, a speculation and rests on no hard evidence. If the three-fold kai is original in the verse, one might just as well speculate that the kai aneste could have dropped out due to parablepsis. One might also add that the traditional text provides a more difficult reading since it offers a unique description of Christ’s accomplishments (died, rose, revived [lived again]), without parallel in the NT. If it was not original, why would it have been inserted to expand the verse?


I see no compelling reason to abandon the traditional reading, affirmed by the vast majority of manuscripts and gaining the widest use among churches in the history of the Christian movement.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two are better than one

Note:  Llewelyn and I had the privilege attending the "Sweethearts' Banquet" at Emmanuel Baptist Church of Verona last Friday evening, where I gave the devotional on "Two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  Here are my notes:

The book of Ecclesiastes comes from the pen of Solomon, who calls himself “the Preacher” (Hebrew Qoheleth; see 1:1).

The passage we look at tonight begins, “Two are better than one….” It is often applied to the marriage relationship. We might first ask if this is what Solomon is addressing in context. Could he be speaking about national life, telling the people that there is strength in numbers? The appropriateness of applying this passage to home life, however, is supported by context, particularly by 4:6: “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”

Solomon first describes what we might call the economic benefits of marriage: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (v. 9).Two people can generally complete a task faster than one working alone, whether it is painting a room, preparing a meal, or raking a yard. Contemporary sociologists confirm this truth by telling us that persons who are married generally are more financially stable and prosperous than those who are unmarried.

Next, Solomon describes the social benefits of marriage. If one falls down, he has his partner to pick him up: “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (v. 10). So, marriage adds to our security and health.

It even insures that we have heat. Think of the weight of this verse in a culture without central heating: “Again, if two lie down together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” (v. 11).

Next, Solomon suggests that marriage is good for defense: “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him” (v. 12a).

Finally Solomon adds, “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (v. 12b). I think Solomon is describing the way a marriage relationship is strengthened when the Lord blesses the union with children. The two become three. The familial bond is strengthened, the marriage enriched.

As I reflected on this passage I thought of at least seven practical benefits and blessings of marriage:

1. Those who are married can share in the managing of the home and in the division of labor. We do not have to do everything ourselves. This is particularly true in the area of raising children. We have someone to help us.

2. If you are married you have someone to care for you when you are sick.

3. If you are married you have someone to give you practical help. Example: If you have to drop your car off at the mechanic you have someone to pick you up.

4. If you are married you have someone with whom you can share good news.

5. If you are married you have someone with whom you can share bad news. You have someone to console you.

6. If you are married you have someone to counsel you. A wife, for example, is a tremendous blessing to a man if she is willing to hold up a mirror to him and let him see himself as he is.

7. The married have someone to be with. You have someone to share a meal with, to converse with, to sit by on the pew in worship.

These sorts of things are implied in Solomon’s simple declaration that two are better than one.

As a side note, we might mention that this meditation should also remind us as believers of our duties to the widows and widowers. We here tonight are married. We have our spouses. But one day, many of us will lose these partners to death and we will be alone. Consider how our widows and widowers might be suffering who have already experienced this loss. Consider also our other single people in the church, who might be yearning to find a marriage partner. Contemplation of our blessing should also motivate us to minister to the widows and to the single.

I want to close by meditating on one final blessing of marriage, one other way in which two are better than one. A godly spouse is a providential provision of the Lord for our discipleship. You probably did not know how selfish you really were until you got married and had to begin living not only for yourself but also for another. Then, if God blesses you with children, you experience dying to self 2.0. You cannot reason with the infant who wakes you crying at midnight to let you sleep a few more hours. No, you have to get up and serve that child. Marriage and family is a workshop of discipleship. In marriage and family, we learn to die to ourselves. One of the greatest benefits of marriage is that it helps us to learn how to die to ourselves so that we can lives to Christ. We are learning to deny ourselves and to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Did you ever consider that if God allows your marriage to last long enough, your spouse will probably have the biggest spiritual impact on you than anyone else. My wife and I have been married for 24 years. We were married when we were both 22. We now have been married for a longer period of time than we were single. I spent 18 years in my parent’s household, but I have now spent more time than that in a household with my wife. She will probably have a deeper formative influence on my spiritual life even than my parents. God has provided her for my spiritual good.

The Puritan John Flavel acknowledges how God directs our marriages for our spiritual good in his book The Mystery of Providence:

“There is very much of Providence seen in appointing the parties for each other. In this the Lord often goes beyond our thoughts and plans; yea, and often crosses men’s desires and designs to their great advantage. Not what they expect, but what His infinite wisdom judges best and most beneficial for them takes place. Hence it is that probabilities are so often dashed, and things remote and utterly improbable are brought about, in very strange and unaccountable methods of Providence” (p. 82).

Indeed, consider how God has given you the wife or husband that you have in ordr to work toward your spiritual good.  Consider how he has given you your life partner to more nearly conform you to the image of Christ.  Two are better than one.

Friday, February 24, 2012

John Owen on the church's duty of evangelism

The ordinary means of conversion is left unto the church, and its duty is to attend unto it; yea, one of the principle ends of the institution and preservation of churches is the conversion of souls, and when there are no more to be converted, there shall be no more church on the earth. To enlarge the kingdom of Christ, to diffuse the light and savour of the gospel, to be subservient unto the calling of the elect, or gathering all the sheep of Christ into his fold, are things that God designs by his churches in this world.

From John Owen, The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Vision (2/23/12): Consider how near you are to the change of your condition

I have been blessed of late by reading John Flavel’s classic The Mystery of Providence (Banner; first published 1678; Banner ed.1963). In good Puritan fashion the book is an extended meditation on a single verse: “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me” (Psalm 57:2).

At one point, Flavel reminds his fellow saints that all the circumstances of this present life must be viewed through the lens of the life that is yet to come:

Consider how near you are to the change of your condition. Have but a little patience, and all will be as well with you as your hearts can desire. It is no small comfort to the saints that the world is the worst place that they shall ever be in; things will get better every day with them. If the traveler has spent all his money, yet it does not much trouble him if he knows himself to be within a few miles of his own home. If there are no candles in the house, we do not much trouble over it if we are sure it is almost break of day; for then there will be no use for them. This is the case with us; ‘for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed’ (Rom 13:11) (p. 138).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Barcellos reviews Malcolm Watts' "What is a Reformed Church?"

California RB church planter Richard Barcellos has written an insightful review of Malcolm Watts' What is a Reformed Church? (Reformation Heritage, 2011).

He has also posted one correction from Pastor Watts.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flavel: "O, it is no common mercy to descend from pious parents."

I have been greatly blessed in reading John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence. It’s one of those books that as you read you think, “Why didn’t I discover and read this book before now?” The "Paperback Puritan" version from Banner is very easy to read (more like reading Thomas Watson than John Owen). I highly commend it. Here’s another nugget as Flavel reflects on the blessing of Providence toward those born to Christian parents:

O, it is no common mercy to descend from pious parents (p. 54).

And was it not a special favour to us to have parents that went before us as patterns of holiness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their examples? They could say to us: ‘those things ye have heard and seen in me, do’ (Phil 4:9); and ‘be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ’ (1 Cor 11:1). The parents’ life is the child’s copy. O, it is no common mercy to have a fair copy set before us, especially in the moulding age; we saw what they did, as well as heard what they said. It was Abraham’s commendation, ‘that he commanded his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord.’ And such mercies some of us have also had (p. 55).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The sinful tendencies of the strong and the weak in Romans 14:3: "the smile of disdainful contempt" and "the frown of condemnatory judgment"

In preaching last Sunday on Romans 14:1-6, I was struck by Paul's exhortation to both "the strong" and "the weak" in v. 3:

"Let not him that eateth [the strong] despise him that eateth not [the weak]; and let not him which eateth not [the weak] judge him that eateth [the strong]...."

Paul points here to two different sinful tendencies for the strong and the weak:

First, the sinful tendency of the strong toward to weak is one of despising (exoutheneo: to treat with contempt or to look down upon). The strong tend to say or think about their weaker brethren: "Can you believe how uptight, narrow, or legalistic that weak brother is?"

Second, the sinful tendency of the weak toward the strong is one of judging (krino). The weak tend to say or think about their stronger brethren: "Can you believe how liberal, slack, lacking conviction that strong brother is?"

Murray notes: “Both are condemned with equal vigor.” He continues, “In actual practice these vices appear respectively in the smile of disdainful contempt and in the frown of condemnatory judgment" (Romans, Vol. 2, p. 175).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Does Romans 14:5 have to do with Christian Sabbath observance?

I preached yesterday on Avoiding Doubtful Disputations, beginning an extended exposition of Romans 14:1—15:13 on the subject of Christian liberty and conscience.

I noted that Paul begins with a thematic statement (v. 1), followed by two examples: eating meat (vv. 2-4) and esteeming days (vv. 5-6). One question of interpretation is what Paul means by esteeming days. Does this refer to particular aspects of observance of the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath? Or does it refer to the esteeming of other Jewish holy days, particularly by some Jewish Christians (cf. Gal 4:9-11; Col 2:16-17)?

In his exposition of Romans 14:5-6 titled “Holy Days or Holy People?” (Romans, Vol. 4, pp. 1739-45), James M. Boice rejects the Westminster Confession position on the fourth commandment, citing this passage to justify his stance. He notes that his position had brought him into conflict with others in his PCA denomination where, he says, “there are people who would like to get pastors like me excluded, because we think this is a nonessential matter on which the Westminster Confession of Faith simply has gone beyond what ought to be required of anyone” (p. 1741). Boice claims that his position is more in line with Calvin than the Puritans. He adds that “an emphasis on Sabbath-keeping leads easily to legalism” and concludes, “Even today, people who insist on a strict Sabbath tend to be legalistic in other matters also” (p. 1742). Nevertheless, he also admits that “observing the Lord’s Day freely can lead to libertinism” (p. 1743).

Sadly, Boice’s exposition of the passage is lacking in close exegesis of the verses. It is also noteworthy that in this section, Boice makes no reference to John Murray’s commentary, which in other sections he typically freely cites with approval. Boice clearly avoids Murray, because Murray’s careful exegesis upends Boice’s position.

Murray devotes an Appendix to the topic in his commentary titled “Romans 14:5 and the Weekly Sabbath” (Romans, Vol. 2, pp. 257-259). Here is Murray’s succinct conclusion:

“To place the Lord’s day and the weekly Sabbath in the same category [i.e., as the ceremonial holy days of the Levitical institution clearly abrogated in the NT] is not only beyond the warrant of exegetical requirements but brings us into conflict with principles that are embedded in the total witness of Scripture. An interpretation that involves such contradiction cannot be adopted. Thus the abiding sanctity of each recurring seventh day as the memorial of God’s rest in creation and of Christ’s exaltation in his resurrection is not to be regarded as in any way impaired by Romans 14:5” (p. 259).

My exposition agreed with Murray.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Malcolm Watts on Reformed Church Evangelism

The church must never lose its sense of calling. As the Lord’s people, we are not to remain within the walls of our buildings, comforting ourselves with the Scriptures and glorying in the doctrines of grace. We must always be mindful of the fact that outside, there are thousands of Christless and hopeless souls. Surely, we have a responsibility to tell them of God’s salvation. What could we do? We could hold open-air services. We could distribute Christian tracts. We could gather children for Christian instruction. We could use all lawful means to save the lost. A church that ceases to evangelize in not obedient to God’s Word, and it is certainly not Reformed.

From Malcolm Watts, What is a Reformed Church?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dr. Gary Crampton Preaching at CRBC on March 18, 2012

Dr. Gary Crampton, an Elder at The Reformed Baptist Church of Richmond, will be preaching in the 10:30 AM worship service at CRBC on Sunday, March 18th.  Dr. Crampton is a gifted Reformed pastor and scholar who has authored a number of books including, What the Puritans Taught (Soli Deo Gloria, 2003), Meet Jonathan Edwards (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004), and From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism (RBAC 2010).  This last work on baptism is noteworthy, since Dr. Crampton served as a Presbyterian minister before coming to Baptist convictions (look here for an audio review).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Vision (2/16/12): Christian Liberty and Romans 14

This Sunday morning at CRBC we will be turning the corner in our current Romans series into chapter 14. Some have rightly called Romans the “Constitution” of the Christian faith. Romans 14 addresses the important issues of Christian liberty and Christian conscience. What am I free to believe and to practice as Christian? What if I disagree with the convictions of others? How can I have firm convictions without being compromised, judgmental, or legalistic? What responsibility do I have toward those who are “weak in the faith”? Why should I avoid placing a “stumbling block” in my brother’s way? What is a “stumbling block” anyway? We will be asking and seeking answers for these questions and others in the weeks to come.

I look forward to listening with you to God’s Word this Sunday.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Horton on Repentance, etc.

I’m still working my way through Horton’s The Christian Faith. I was struck by several things in Horton’s discussion of repentance (pp. 577-580). He is clear to distinguish between repentance itself and “fruit in keeping with repentance.” Repentance is “always partial, weak, and incomplete in this life. Nor is it a one time act” (p. 579). Repentance is, in fact, “a perpetual cycle that defines the Christian life.”

After discussing the Roman Catholic confusion of repentance “with a system of penance,” Horton makes this observation:

However, powerful currents within Protestantism (especially in more Arminian versions) have taught that God’s forgiveness and justification are conditioned on the degree of earnestness of their repentance and on new obedience. Even in broader evangelical circles, some Christians struggle to the point of despair over whether the quality and degree of their repentance is adequate to be forgiven, as if repentance were the ground of forgiveness and the former could be measured by the intensity of emotion and resolve (p. 579).

I was struck by this statement, since it rang true of some things I have experienced in broad evangelical church life, where expression of outward emotion are often considered a required standard for measuring genuine repentance (or just about any other spiritual experience). Horton correctively responds that “it is not our tears but Christ’s blood that satisfies God’s judgment and establishes peace with God (Ro 5:1, 8-11).”

Horton’s downplaying of “intensity of emotion” reminded me of this post last month from D. G. Hart regarding John Piper. I especially liked this statement in the comments section:  "So much of what Piper says feels like a command to have his personality."  Maybe I’m going all “Escondido” on this point, but it strikes a chord.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flavel: "by what weak and improbable instruments"

Here's another nugget from John Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence on the surprising means God used to begin and spread the Christian movement:

On the contrary, how successful have weak and contemptible means been made for the good of the Church! Thus in the first planting of Christianity in the world, by what weak and improbable instruments was it done! Christ did not choose the eloquent orators, or men of authority in the courts of kings and emperors, but twelve poor artisans and fishermen; and these not sent together in a troop, but some to take one country to conquer it, and some another. The most ridiculous course, in appearance, for such a design as could be imagined, and yet how short a time was the Gospel spread and the Churches planted by them in the several kingdoms of the world! (pp. 33-34).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"God Bless Everyone: No Exceptions" Really?

Charlottesville is a big bumper sticker town.  One new bumper sticker I've noticed lately says, "God bless everyone, No Exceptions."  A close cousin says, "God bless the whole world, No exceptions."  So when I read this I was wondering what exactly I'm supposed to think.  Does God bless everyone?  Yes, he does.  "The LORD is good to all" (Psalm 145:9).  He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45).  The message seems to be aimed at some group (Christians?) who, it is assumed, do not want God to bless all men.  This certainly would not be Christians, since Scripture itself commands that believers pray for all men (1 Tim 2:1).  Perhaps the point of the message is that God should bless (approve of?) all men regardless of who they are or what they do.  Really?  That sounds good until you begin to think about it a little further.  Do we really want God to bless child molesters in their child molesting? Rapists in the raping?  Murderers in their murdering?  Robbers in their robbing?  Maimers in their maiming?  Drug dealers in their drug dealing?  Do we really want a holy God to bless all men and all their activities?  Or do we want him to be their Judge?       

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flavel: "tools of all sorts in the shop of Providence"

I'm reading John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence (orig. 1678; Banner 1963).  Here's one choice nugget:
Even in viewing the accurate structure of the body of a man, the figure, position, and mutual relationships of the several members and vessels has convinced some, and is sufficient to convince all, that it is the work of divine wisdom and power; in like manner, if the admirable adaptation of the means and instruments employed for mercy to the people of God are carefully considered, who can but confess that there are some tools of all sorts and sizes in the shop of Providence, so there is a most skillful hand that uses them, and that they could no more produce such effects of themselves than the axe, saw, or chisel can carve or cut a rough log into a beautiful figure without the hand of a skillful artificer (p. 32).

Scenes from Weekend Creation and Faith Conference at CRBC

Image:  Dr. McIntosh speaking in the Saturday (2/11) session.

CRBC hosted Dr. Andy McIntosh over the weekend (Saturday-Sunday) for a two-session conference on Creation and Faith.  The messages are now posted online:

Here are a few scenes from the Saturday Session:

Images:  Dr. McIntosh interacts with attendees.

Images:  Fellowship.

Images:  Refreshments.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Video Review: "KJB: The Book That Changed the World"

My family watched the video KJB:  The Book that Changed the World (Lionsgate, 2011) last evening.  It is an engaging film, lasting about 90 minutes, combining documentary style explanation, dramatic vignettes, and commentary from historians (including a few brief cameos from Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary).

The film is carried by the narration of actor John Rhys-Davies, perhaps best known for his role as Gimli the Dwarf in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films.  His resonate voice and passion for the subject holds the viewer's attention.

In the documentary sections, visits are made to key locations in the formation of the KJB, including the Church of the Holy Rude in Scotland, where James was made king,  and the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster, where one of the translation teams labored.

In the dramatic portions, King James is given a more positive portrayal than is usual.  His marriage to Anne of Denmark is emphasized, rather than speculations about his sexual depravity.  Some of the best scenes are those of the Hampton Court Conference where he coursely chides both the Bishops and the Puritans, but finally accepts the suggestion of the Puritans to create a new Bible translation.  The thesis of the video is that James did this in an effort to unify these factions within the English church.  The video closes by emphasizing the fact that no ornate monument was left to James in Westminster Abbey, but the KJB is the lasting monument of his reign.

If you get the video (by purchase or Netlflix) , I would especially encourage you to watch the interview with John Rys-Davies in the special features.  We enjoyed this at least as much as the film itself.  Rys-Davies has a real love and passion for the KJV.  He answers questions about whether the KJV is still relevant today and forthrightly declares that Christianity is superior among the world's religions, noting that only among Christians did the move to abolition slavery triumph.  When asked whether he is himself a Christian, he demurs, but it seems obvious he is at least spiritually struggling with the demands of Scripture.  One of his final comments:  "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD....Damn it! [BTW, this is the only expletive in the film]"


Friday, February 10, 2012

Horton responds to Frame's "The Escondido Theology"

I am in the process of reading Michael Horton's systematic theology, The Christian Faith (Zondervan., 2011) in hopes of writing a review for the the next RB Trumpet. Horton published a blog post today titled Responding to John Frame's "The Escondido Theology."  Frame has been harshly critical of Horton and others at Westminster West (hence the "Escondido"), particularly with regard to what has been branded "two kingdom" theology.  Frame wrote a withering review of Horton's book Christ-less Christianity and has now published a book length critique of Horton and others, the aforementioned The Escondido Theology:  A Reformed Response to Two-Kingdom Theology.  You can also listen to this audio interview with Frame on this topic on Kevin Swanson's Generations Radio program, read this statement from Westminster West, and this post by D. G. Hart to get a feel for this intra-Reformed dispute.


Vincent: Three Ways the Will May Be Free

I have been helped throughout our current Sunday afternoon Spurgeon catechism sermon series by parallel reading of Thomas Vincent’s The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture. Here is part of Vincent’s reflection on our first parents “being left to the freedom of their own will,” in which he describes three ways the will may be said to be free:

Q: How many ways may the will be said to be free?

A: The will may be said to be free in three ways.

1. When the will is free only to do good; when the will is not compelled or forced, but freely chooseth only such things are as good. Thus, the will of God (to speak after the manner of men) is free only to do good; he can neither do nor will any thing that is evil. Such also is the freedom of the wills of angels, and such will be the freedom of all the glorified saints in heaven; there neither is, nor will be, any inclination of the will unto any evil thing for ever, and yet good will be of free choice.

2. The will may be said to be free only unto evil, when the will is not contrained, but freely chooseth such things as are evil and sinful. Thus, the will of the devil is free only unto sin; and thus the wills of all the children of men in the world, whilst in a state of nature, are free only unto sin.

3. The will may be said to free both unto good and evil, when it sometimes chooseth that which is good, and sometimes chooseth that which is evil. Such is the freedom of the wills of all regenerate persons, who have in some measure recovered the image of God; they choose good freely, through a principle of grace wrought in them by the Spirit; yet, through the remainder of corruption, at some times their wills are inclined to that which is sinful.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Vision (2/9/12): Binning: Five Practical Marks of Christian Love

Note: Last Sunday’s message at CRBC was on Love is the fulfillment of the law from Romans 13:8-10. Here are some of the notes from the message’s conclusion:

Hugh Binning was one of the Scottish Puritans. He was born in 1627, the son of a wealthy landowner. As a young man Binning felt a call to the ministry. Sadly, he died in 1653 at the age of 26, but he left behind a classic little work titled, “Treatise on Christian love.” Binning had been involved in some very contentious religious disputes in the Scottish church, and he wrote this little book to encourage a loving spirit even, and especially, in times of dispute. This book has been reprinted in the Puritan paperback series under the title Christian Love (Banner, 2004). As I considered our text today I pulled this book off my shelf looking for practical application.

Here are five practical suggestions which Binning outlines toward the end of his treatise, to help the believer to pursue charity or love (see pp. 49-60):

1. A charitable man meditates on Scripture like 1 Thessalonians 3:12 which urges believers to “abound in love … for all men.”

By praying for all men, the Christian is “a mouth of mankind.”
2. Charity avoids offense and lives honestly in the sight of all men.

True Christianity is not “self-addicted.” Grace restores our humanity. We no longer live like wild, selfish beasts. Grace restores our reason and our affections for the things of God.

3. Charity follows peace with all men as much as possible (Rom 12:18).

In speaking about the church, in particular, Binning notes that if we have peace but not purity, then we are nothing but carnal. However, he adds, we can have purity but lack peace: “Where there is purity of truth, but accompanied with envying, bitter strife, rigid judging, wrangling, and such like; then it is defiled, and corrupted by the intermixture of vile and base affections, ascending out of the dunghill of the flesh.”
4. Charity in its conversation and discourse is without judging and censuring.

Binning says, “great censurers are often the greatest hypocrites.” He adds, “I would think one great help to amend this would be to abate much from the superfluity and multitude of discourses upon others. In the multitude of words there wants not sin, and in the multitude of discourses upon other men there cannot miss the sin of rash judging.”
5. Charity is not a tale-bearer

Binning gives most attention to this final point. He notes, “Another man’s good name is as a pledge laid down in our hand, which every man would faithfully restore, and take heed how he lose it or alienate it by backbiting. Some would have nothing to say if they had not others’ faults and frailties to declaim upon.”

He adds that tale-bearing is “a kind of murder” and “a seminary of contention and strife among brethren.” “It is the oil to feed the flame of alienation.”

He continues, “Truly evil speaking of our brethren, though it may be true, yet it proceeds out of abundance of these in the heart: guile, hypocrisy, and envy. While we catch at a name of piety from censuring others, and build our own reputation upon the ruins of another’s good name, hypocrisy and envy are too predominant. If we would indeed grow in grace by the Word, and taste more how gracious the Lord is, we must lay these aside, and become as little children, without guile and without gall.”

Binning notes that we have a duty not to receive tale-bearing, for, he says, “If we do discountenance it, backbiters will be discouraged to open their packs of news and reports.” He adds, “To join with the teller is to complete the evil report; for if there were no receiver, there would be no teller, no tale-bearer.” And, “Covering faults Christianly will make a stranger a friend, but repeating and blazing of them, will make a friend not only a stranger but an enemy.”

He closes, “But to look too narrowly to every step, and to write up a register of men’s mere frailties, especially so as to publish them to the world: that is inconsistent with the rule of love. And truly, it is a token of one destitute of wisdom to despise his neighbor; but a man of understanding will hold his peace. He that has most defects himself will find most in others, and strive to vilify them one way or other; but a wise man can pass by frailties, yea, offences done to him, and be silent (Prov 11:12).”

May the Lord grant us the grace to “owe no man any thing, but to love one another” (Romans 13:8).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Delegate Rob Bell "Tebowing"

Today's Daily Progress had this picture of Albemarle delegate Rob Bell mock "Tebowing" after the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday passed the so-called "Tebow bill" he sponsored allowing home schoolers to participate on public school sports teams in Virginia.  The bill passed the house 59-39 despite vociferous opposition from the public education establishment.  The bill next goes to the Virginia Senate where Republicans hold the narrowest 20-19 advantage, but it is questionable whether all the Republicans will vote for the bill.  Even if it passes there is a question as to what will happen on the local level with School Boards and individual schools and coaches.  What a difference it makes, however, when Republicans (whatever their problems and BTW, I am not a Republican but an Independent) hold control of the house of delegates, the senate, and the governor's office.  Lots of other important social issues are being addressed in this session of the General Assembly, including issues related to abortion and adoption.

A reminder to heed Paul's exhortation to pray "for all that are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:2).


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Further Reflections: The order of the commandments in Romans 13:9

Here are some further reflections on Paul’s listing of commandments in Romans 13:9, drawn from study for last Sunday’s sermon. Of note is the question of the order of the commandments. The traditional text of Romans 13:9 lists five commandments, with the prohibition against adultery ahead of that of murder: “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

The traditional order of the commandments in the second table of the law drawn from the Hebrew texts of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are as follows:

(5). Honor thy father and mother.

(6). Thou shalt not kill.

(7). Thou shalt not commit adultery.

(8). Thou shalt not steal.

(9). Thou shalt not bear false witness.

(10). Thou shalt not covet.

We can use this order as our basis for comparison with the LXX which alters it.

So, the LXX of Exodus 20 has the following order: 5, 7, 8, 6, 9, 10.

While the LXX of Deuteronomy 5 has this order: 5, 7, 6, 8, 9, 10.

Was Paul following the LXX order of Deuteronomy 5 in his list of commandments in Romans 13:9 as “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13)? Was it simply an ad hoc listing (cf. Rom 2:21-23)?

It is also interesting to compare other listings of the commandments in the NT:

Mathew 5:

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7), Jesus begins his interpretation and expansion of the commandments with the sixth, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill….” (Matt 5:21) and proceeds to the seventh, “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Matth 5:27). This follows the traditional Hebrew order.

Matthew 19/Mark 10/Luke 18:

In Matthew 19, Jesus is asked by the “young man” who came to him about which commandments he needed to keep to have “eternal life” (vv. 16-22). Jesus responds, “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (vv. 18-19). The order is 6, 7, 8, 9, 5, plus the citation of Leviticus 19:8.

In the apparent parallel in Mark 10, Jesus responds, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother” (v. 19). Here the order is 7, 6, 8, 9, the additional prohibition against defrauding [apostereo, rather epithumeo, “to covet,” but perhaps a reference to the 10th commandment?], 5.

In Luke 18 in his conversation with the “certain ruler,” Jesus says, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother” (v. 20). Here the order is 7, 6, 8, 9, 5.

For now I will bypass questions about the “synoptic problem,” inerrancy, and the ipsissima verba of Christ in favor of queries about the order of the commandments. It might be observed that the more Jewish Matthew follows the Hebrew order (as also in Matt 5) with murder before adultery, whereas Mark and Luke follow the LXX order with adultery before murder. All agree in placing the 5th commandment last. In comparison to Paul in Romans 13:9 this might indicate that the fifth was associated with the first table rather than the second.

James 2:

In James 2:11 we read, “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also Do not kill.” Here adultery is cited before murder, but this might not indicate anything about James' understanding of the order of the commandments.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A begruding nod to some humorous videos

OK, so I am not crazy about encouraging anyone to click onto videos, but when I visited D. G. Hart's Old Life blog site to catch up on his posts, he had featured these two videos, and I thought they were both pretty funny:

1.  Hitler rants about missing early bird registration at T4G:

2.  Stuff (Liberal) Presbyterian Seminarians Say:

Four observations on Romans 13:9

Note:  In preaching on Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10), I offered four observations about Paul's list of commandments in v. 9:

KJV Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Notice at least four interesting things about this list:

1. Paul skips the commandments in the first table of the law, dealing with man’s attitude toward God, and only lists commandments from the second table of the law, dealing with man’s attitude toward his fellow man. Does this mean that Paul rejects the first table? No. But here, in context, he is dealing with the Christian’s duty to his fellow man, so he only needs to cite the second table.

2. Paul does not mention the fifth commandment about honoring father and mother. Matthew Poole explains that some say this was because the Jews made honoring parents part of the first table of the law, while others say Paul felt no obligation to repeat this commandment because it was already encompassed in what he said in 13:1 about submission to those in authority.

3. This is a place where your translation matters. Modern translations list only 4 commandments, omitting “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” though this is the reading of the traditional text and it is even supported by Codex Sinaiticus.

4. Notice the order of the commandments. The prohibition of adultery is listed before that of murder. Again, Poole is helpful. He says Paul did this either because the sin of adultery was so common among the Romans that Paul wanted to give it emphasis or because he was following the LXX translation of the OT (in Exodus 20 both adultery and stealing are listed before murder and in Deuteronomy 5 adultery is listed before murder). The other possibility is just that Paul was citing from memory and the important thing is not the order but just the fact that he lists those commandments about the believer’s duty to his fellow man.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Text Note: Romans 13:9

Note:  In preparing to preach yesterday on Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10), I came across this textual issue in Romans 13:9:

The issue:

How many commandments does Paul list in Romans 13:9? In the traditional text there are five commandments (the last five of the second table of the ten commandments, with the prohibition against adultery appearing first). The modern critical text, however, has only four commandments, omitting, “Thou shalt not bear false witness (ou pseudomartyreseis).”

Compare translations based on the traditional (e.g., KJV) and modern-critical (e.g., RSV) texts (emphasis added):

KJV Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

RSV: Romans 13:9: The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by various ancient witnesses, including P, Psi, 048, and the vast majority of manuscripts. Most notably, it is supported by Codex Sinaiticus, the manuscript so often favored by modern text critics.

The modern-critical text is supported by p46, A, and Codex Vaticanus, among others.

Again, of note is the fact that Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not agree in their readings.

Internal evidence:

Metzger argues that “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is an “insert” in that came about “under influence of Ex 20:15-17 and Dt 5:19-21” (Textual Commentary, p. 529). He also notes concerning the list of commandments, “in the course of transmission other readings arose in various witnesses through omission (perhaps because of homoteleuton) or rearrangement of the order of the commandments (the chief manuscripts of the Septuagint vary among themselves and from the Hebrew)” (p. 529).

Given the listing of commandments with similar beginnings (ou, “not”) and similar endings (a series of verbs ending in the second person singular –eis), one can easily imagine how a commandment might have been omitted by parablepsis.


The traditional reading has ancient and majority attestation. A reasonable explanation is readily supplied as to how scribal omission might have taken place by parablepsis. It makes perfect sense to think that Paul would have been more likely to list all five of the latter commandments from the ten commandments, rather than inexplicably to omit the ninth commandment. There is no reason to abandon the traditional text.


Friday, February 03, 2012

CRBC Worship February 2012

Note:  Lord willing, we will continue our Romans series in Sunday morning worship.  In Sunday afternoon worship we will continue our Spurgeon Baptist Catechism series with a guest speaker on February 12th and a special message by Pastor Riddle on “What is a Reformed Church?” on February 26th.

February 5


Opening Psalm Psalm 87

Message: Love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8-10)

Psalm 104:1-12 (LYONS)

No. 500 He Leadeth Me

No. 453 O the deep, deep love of Jesus


Opening Psalm Psalm 88

Message: The Fall of Man (Genesis 3:6-8; Ecclesiastes 7:29)

Psalm 104:13-23 (LYONS)

No. 690 Jesus paid it all

No. xv Gloria Patri

February 12


Opening Psalm Psalm 89

Message: Knowing the time (Romans 13:11-14)


Psalm 143 (ST. ELIZABETH)

No. 460 Love Divine, All Loves Excelling


Opening Psalm Psalm 90

Message: Creation, God’s Timeline, and the Gospel

Guest speaker: Dr. Andy McIntosh

Psalm 104:24-35 (LYONS)

No. 120 O Christ, our hope (note tune: MARTYRDOM)

February 19


Opening Psalm Psalm 91

Message: Avoiding doubtful disputations (Romans 14:1-6)

No. 239 Psalm 50:1-6

Psalm 18:1-13 (SWEET HOUR)

No. 439 Jesus, thy blood and righteousness


Opening Psalm Psalm 92

Message: What is sin? (1 John 3:4)

Psalm 141 (CANONBURY)


No. 432 Jesus! What a Friend for sinners!

February 26


Opening Psalm Psalm 93

Message: No one lives to himself (Romans 14:7-12)

No. 765 My heart is firmly fixed (from Psalm 108)

Psalm 18:14-26 (SWEET HOUR)

No. 6 All ye that fear Jehovah’s Name


Opening Psalm Psalm 94

Message: What is a Reformed Church?

Psalm 46 (MATERNA)

No. 271 How sweet and awful

No. 111 Thy might sets fast the mountains

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Vision (2/2/12): The Anecdote to Contemporary Boredom

We live in a fast paced world of seemingly endless increasing complexity. Sometimes just for fun, Llewellyn and I will mesmerize our children by telling them about what things were like “in the old days.” We did not have cells phones and could not be reached at every moment of the day. If your car broke down you had to find a pay phone and make a call home (hoping someone would be there on the other end to actually answer). We did not have digital recording devises and players, so we could not listen to music (or sermons!) constantly. There were only three or four television channels, and the only time you could see a program was if you watched it at the time it was broadcast. If you missed it, you missed it, and you couldn’t see it till (or if) it was ever broadcast again. There were no VCRs, no DVDs, and no digital streaming of every form of entertainment imaginable. When you took pictures with your camera, you had to send the film away to be developed and you might not get it back for weeks to see the images you had snapped. When someone went “overseas” to visit another country or even if he moved to another state, you could not easily communicate with him usually for weeks or months on end, and then only by sending letters or packages. There was no email and no video links. The only “social networks” you might enjoy were to be found in family gatherings, churches, etc. You could not anonymously find out almost anything about almost anybody. There were no search engines. If you wanted to know something you looked it up in an encyclopedia or searched for a book in the library on card catalogue, and even then you might not find it. You just had to be content to be in the dark sometimes about some things.

The thing that strikes me most about all the changes in information, communication, and entertainment is the fact that the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same. People still get bored and anxious with life. It all seems vain. Clicking one more video, making one more post, exploring one more link doesn’t make things better. We just get bored faster.

This is, in fact, the same predicament that Solomon faced in his day, when he wrote:

KJV Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. 2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? 3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. 4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: 7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. 9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

In the end, Solomon affirms that man’s life only makes sense when he walks the path of wisdom, fearing God and keeping his commandments (Ecc 12:13). Indeed, the only answer for man’s boredom and longing is the wisdom of God. And that wisdom has now been made manifest in the person of the Lord Jesus who is “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

The thing that we as a Biblical church have to offer a bored and anxious world is not another brief thrill, factoid, or entertainment program. In preaching the gospel of Christ we have the thing they don’t even know they need and long for. As Peter told Jesus, “Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Covenant of Life

Note:  Here are my notes from last Sunday afternoon's message on The Covenant of Life in the Spurgeon Catechism Series:

We continue our study of Spurgeon’s Baptist catechism with question 12:

Question 12: What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the state wherein he was created?

A: When God had created man, He entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.

This question moves us beyond God’s general providence in his “governing all His creatures and all their actions” to address God’s special providence in what it calls “the covenant of life.” Note that this phrase, “the covenant of life,” comes verbatim, as does the rest of the question, from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In the Baptist Catechism it is changed to “the covenant of works.”

Indeed, the covenant of life and the covenant of works are the same thing. In recent days it has also been referred to as “the covenant of creation.”

This question introduces the basis for Biblical covenant theology. Covenant theology says that before creation there was within God’s own triune self a covenant of redemption in which there was agreement that the Father would send the Son, the Son would accomplish redemption, and Spirit would apply redemption.

Then after creation, God enters into two primary covenants with humanity: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

Thomas Vincent defines a covenant as “a mutual agreement and engagement between two or more parties, to give our do something.” In the covenant that God enters into with humanity, of course, God and man do not come to this covenant as equals. The Lord comes as the great king who has a right to demand as he wishes. Humanity comes to God as his vassals who have no right to demand anything from their King.

The Scriptural basis for the covenant of life is found in Genesis 2:15-17:

KJV Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

First, we need to note the timing of this covenant. It takes place “When God had created man.”

Second, we need to consider man’s condition when he entered into this covenant. This covenant takes place before the fall of Genesis 3. Man was in a state of innocency. He had committed no sin. His will was not yet tarnished. Thomas Boston: “There was not a wrong pin in the tabernacle of human nature, when God set it up, however shattered it is now” (p. 44).

Third, we need to note the stipulations of this covenant. Man is placed in the garden and given the command “to dress it and to keep it” (v. 15). He is given the freedom to eat of every tree of the garden (v. 16). He is only forbidden to eat of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v. 17). The catechism notes that the condition is that of “perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Fourth, we need to note the promises of this covenant. Positively, we call it the covenant of life, but that is an inference because the Scriptural promise chooses not to speak positively of the promise of life for obedience (which is implied) but, rather, of the promise of death for disobedience: “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (v. 17). As the catechism notes, the covenant is made, “upon pain of death.”

What is the death that is promised as the penalty? Vincent notes that it is temporal (physical death), spiritual, and eternal:

KJV Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

We might ponder, What would have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned? The implication is that they would never have experienced death. They would have enjoyed life without death and decay.

Augustine said that before the fall man was able not to sin (posse non peccare);

After the fall he was not able not to sin (non posse non peccare);

And in glory, the saints will be not able to sin (non posse peccare).

The Biblical perspective is that all humanity was there in the loins of Adam and when he sinned we all. We are sinners because of the sin of our first parents. As the old adage puts it, “We are not sinners, because we sin; we sin, because we are sinners.” Thomas Watson: “His teeth [Adam’s mouth] watered at the apple, and ever since it has made our eyes water” (p. 131). And we must admit that were we in the same state we too would have made the same sinful choices. As Hosea put it, “But they like men have transgressed the covenant” (Hosea 6:7). We bear the guilt of Adam’s first sin, we commit our own actual transgressions.

Thomas Boston notes that when we consider the heights from which man in his primitive glory has fallen it should bring us to tears:

Here was a stately building; man carved like a fair palace, but now lying in ashes: let us stand and look on the ruins and drop a tear…. Could we avoid weeping if we saw our country ruined and turned by the enemy into a wilderness? If we saw our houses on fire, and our property perishing in the flames? But all this comes far short of the dismal sight—man fallen as a star from heaven (Human Nature, p. 55).

Some object that the covenant of works would be based on works righteousness and not on grace, because a demand is made for perfect obedience. The Christian response would be that God always has demanded perfect obedience. He demanded it from Adam and Even and they were not able to fulfill it.

So, God created the second covenant and that is the new covenant. In the new covenant he promises to give life to those who have sinned not through their perfect obedience but through the perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians have long seen the anticipation of the new covenant in Genesis 3:15 which describes how one from the seed of woman bruise the head of Satan even as Satan would bruise his heel.

Thomas Watson notes that one of the spiritual uses of the covenant of works is that it should prod us to want to be joined to the new covenant:

Let us labor by faith to get into the second covenant of grace, and then the curse of the first covenant will be taken away by Christ. If we once get to be heirs of the covenant of grace, we are in a better state than before. Adam stood on his own legs, and therefore he fell; we stand in the strength of Christ. Under the first covenant,, the justice of God, an avenger of blood, pursues us; but if we get into the second covenant we are in the city of refuge, we are safe, and the justice of God is pacified toward us (p. 132).