Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Vision (12.25.14): The Remnants of Christianity

I recently read James D. Watson’s memoir titled The Double Helix (Mentor, 1968).  It is his personal account of how he and Francis Crick (with the help of others) discovered the mystery of DNA structure in the early 1950s, an achievement for which Watson and Crick (along with Maurice Wilkins) later won the Nobel Prize in 1962.  The book provides insights into the sometimes petty rivalries and personal competition that led to the momentous discovery.  At one point Watson notes that “in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid” (pp. 18-19).

Watson makes plain in the book his disdain for traditional Christianity.  His colleague Crick was also an avowed humanist who, later in his career, put forward the theory that life on earth was transmitted here by aliens from another world through a process he called “directed panspermia.”  This brings to mind Chesterton’s quip that when men stop believing in the Biblical God, the problem is not that they believe in nothing but that they are prone to believe anything.

At another point in Watson’s memoir he describes one Christmas at Cambridge when Crick gave him a chemistry book as a gift which later proved helpful to him in his research.  He observed:  “The remnants of Christianity were indeed useful” (p. 70).

That single line got me thinking.  Most people who will “celebrate” Christmas this week will not do so from a pure religious motivation.  In fact, from a Reformed perspective, we have our own critique of Christmas as a man-made “holy day” which confuses the Biblical command of weekly Lord’s Day worship.  When I read Watson’s statement, however, I wondered how many enlightened moderns likewise view Christmas as a useful remnant of a dying (or dead) Western religion.  It provides a useful excuse for resting from work, for giving gifts, for singing sentimental songs, for marking the Winter Solstice.

Watson is right to some degree.  Authentic Christianity and authentic Christians are indeed a “remnant.”  He is wrong, however, if he thinks it an outdated and lifeless relic.  In the midst of this season, believers can think of Christ, as we should every moment, every day, and every week.  We can remember his existence in glory from all eternity with the Father and the Spirit before his incarnation, his birth, his life, his, death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his second coming.  We can remember (contrary to Crick’s theory) that “all things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle   

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Vision (12.18.14): Give us this day our daily bread

Note:  Here are some abbreviated notes from the Sunday School Lesson back on November 30th on the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer:  “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

1.  Give:

We begin with the verb of petition “Give….”  This is not a demand and certainly not a command or ultimatum issued to God, even though the second person imperative verb (dos) is used, but a request.  It has more the sense: Lord, would you please remember to give or to provide for us that for which we are in need?

2.  Us:

This reminds us that this is a corporate prayer.  We are to pray not only for ourselves, or for our own family, but corporately for all, and especially for those of the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

3.  Our daily bread:

Thomas Vincent defines “daily bread” as meaning “all outward provision for our daily sustenance.”  So, what is meant by this is not merely food but it is representative of all our material and physical needs.  Our daily bread, thus, includes the food we put on the table, the clothing we wear, the shoes on our feet, the shelter in which we live, the heat and air that provides comfort, the cars we drive, etc.

 Thomas Watson:  “Oh, if God gives all, our eye-sight, our food, our clothing, let us sacrifice the chief praise to him.”

4.  This day:

The adverb here semeron literally means “today.” The idea here is that we need to ask day by day for God’s provision.  Consider that when the Israelites were in the wilderness, God provided for them just enough for each day, no more and no less (cf. Exodus 16:14-30).

When Elijah was fed by ravens by the brook Cherith by the Jordan, the ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and every evening (1 Kings 17:6).

Consider Jesus’ parable of the barn builder in Luke 12:13-21 and the teaching that follows in vv. 22-31.

This is not to say that the God forbids industry and saving (cf. Proverbs 24:27; 31:13-22, 27; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).
Indeed, what is warned against here is not industry or prosperity per se, but any striving that might tempt us to think we have received merely by our own efforts.  We are dependent upon the Lord day by day, every today, for his provision.

Thomas Watson:  “What is it to have food and want grace?  What is it to have the back clothed and the soul naked? ….  O therefore let us be earnest for spiritual mercies!  Lord, not only feed me, but sanctify me; give me rather a heart full of grace, than a house full of gold.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Text Note: Luke 24:52

Image:  The ending of Luke (note the closing title: euangelion kata Loukan) and the beginning of John (note the opening title: euangelion kata Ioanen) in p75 (c. 175 AD).  Note the beginning of Luke 24:52 c. the middle of the third line from the top:  kai autoi proskynesantes auton.....

Image:  Close-up of the ending of Luke 24 in Codex Alexandrinus (5th century AD).  Notice c. the middle of the sixth line up from the bottom the beginning of v. 52:  kai autoi proskynesantes auton....

Image:  An even closer look at part of Luke 24:52 in Codex A.  The third line from the top shows the beginning of the word proskynesantes starting with proskyne before it breaks off as the line comes to the column boundary and continues on the next line (out of screen).

The issue:

I wrote last week about the phrase “and they worshipped him [proskynesantes auton]” in Luke 24:52 and its omission in the original 1971 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [restored in the 1995 updated edition].


 KJV Luke 24:52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

NIV  Luke 24:52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

NASB (1971)  Luke 24:52 And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

NASB (1995)  Luke 24:52:  And they, after worshipping him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,     

NKJV  Luke 24:52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

External Evidence:

Inclusion of the phrase is supported by the most ancient manuscripts and by the vast majority of manuscripts including p75, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus, etc.

It is omitted, however, in the so-called Western tradition including Codex D, the Old Latin, and the Syriac Sinaiticus manuscript.

Internal Evidence:

Metzger in his Textual Commentary (second ed.) gives inclusion of the phrase a “B” grade.  He notes that a minority of the UBS committee favored its omission.  The majority, however, believed it had been omitted either accidentally by parablepsis or “perhaps deliberately” so as “to accord better with the shorter reading in v. 51” (p. 163).  He does not address the possibility of early omission due to theological reasons (i.e., Jesus is being worshipped by the apostles).


This variant is an example of what Westcott and Hort called a “Western non-interpolation.”  This somewhat tortured phrase was one invented by Westcott and Hort to describe several places, primarily in the last three chapters of Luke, where the normally full Western text omits various phrases which the vast majority, including the ancient Alexandrian uncials so highly prized by modern scholars, include (see Westcott and Hort’s Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, pp. 175-177).  In Westcott and Hort’s Greek NT, the phrase proskynesantes auton is placed in double brackets at Luke 24:52 to express serious doubt as to its authenticity.  The American Standard Version of 1901 included the phrase in its translation but added the note: “Some ancient authorities omit worshipped him….”  The NASB (1971), based on the ASV, made the bold move of omitting the phrase altogether. It returned in the 1995 updated edition, however, perhaps due to the discovery in 1955-56 and publishing of the Bodmer papyri, including p75 which includes the phrase.  Indeed, this would be an example of a papyri find supporting the traditional text.

In my view, there is absolutely no convincing argument in favor of omitting “And they worshipped him” from Luke 24:52.  This is an interesting example of two things:

(1) The way in which the ending of Luke’s Gospel is a particular battleground with regard to establishing the text of Scripture;

(2) The way in which what is in vogue among text critics in one generation (e. g., Westcott and Hort’s “Western non-interpolations”) can be as quickly discarded in the next.  There is, therefore, good reason to abide with the traditional text and not to allow the text to be subject to the shifting winds of each scholarly generation.

Note:  This is not to say that all modern textual scholars have abandoned Westcott and Hort’s take on Luke 24:52.  In The Living Text of the Gospels D. C. Parker acknowledges that the phrase “Western non-interpolation” is an example of “remarkably turgid prose” (p. 149).  However, he still prefers the “shorter text” at Luke 24:52 (p. 172).


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Vision (12.11.14): And they worshipped him

Note:  Here are some notes on Luke 24:52 from last Sunday’s message:

In Luke 24:52, after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, we have the striking statement about the apostles:  “And they worshipped him…”

This verse is one of extreme embarrassment for those who deny the deity of Jesus.  It might come as no surprise to learn that a few scribes even attempted to remove this phrase from the text of Luke.  It was even omitted in the original 1971 New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation of Luke 24:52 [but restored in the 1995 Updated Edition].  The verb proskyneo translated as “worship” here can simply mean to bow down or honor a human being.  But its predominant meaning is to bend the knee or bow low as an act of worship before God.  It thus is proper to use the English verb “to worship,” which means to ascribe “worth” to God, because he is worthy.

Luke certainly uses this verb [proskyneo] in just this sense in his writings.  Compare:

The verb is used only two other times in the Gospel of Luke, aside from its use in Luke 24:52:

In Luke 4:7, in the temptation narrative, Luke records that Satan told Jesus, “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

And in Luke 4:8, Jesus replied, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

In Acts (also written by Luke), the verb is used four times.  In three of those the meaning is clearly worship:

In Acts 7:43, Luke records Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom in which he rebuked his fellow Israelites for forming idols, “which ye made to worship them.”

In Acts 8:27 he says of the Ethiopian Eunuch:  he “had come to Jerusalem for to worship.”

In Acts 24:11, when Paul is on trial before Felix, he describes the circumstances of his arrest by saying, “for I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.”

The only place where the verb is used to mean simply to bow or give honor to someone other than to God (or to gods) is in Acts 10:25 where it says when Cornelius met Peter he “fell down at his feet and worshipped him.”  Even this may reflect Cornelius’ pre-conversion confusion as to whom should be worshipped, not the messenger but him who sent him.

So, you do the math on this one.  Aside from Luke 24:52, the verb proskyneo is used six times in Luke’s writings and in five of those six the unambiguous meaning is not the sense of to give honor to another creature but the sense of to worship God.

What then must we conclude that Luke meant in Luke 24:52?  The disciples worshipped Jesus as their Lord and their God.

Let that settle in for a moment.  These Jewish apostles were bending the knee in worship to Jesus.  If they did not believe that Jesus was equal in essence, power, and glory with God the Father then what they were doing was blasphemy, a violation of the first commandment.  But they saw it as the absolutely right thing to do.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

100 Sermons on the Gospel of Luke

Last Sunday morning at CRBC I preached a sermon on the last four verses of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 24:50-53), the 100th message in a sermon series through the Gospel of Luke.  The series (all 100 messages here) began on June 3, 2012 with a message on Luke 1:1-4, titled “Those things most surely believed among us.” There were a few breaks along the way, including a parallel series through Galatians.

I still believe that systematic expositional preaching of the Scriptures is the key means both for evangelizing and for discipleship.  I was recently encouraged when a CRBC-er who began regular attendance about the time we started this series, noted his appreciation for the familiarity he now has with Luke’s Gospel and how it has helped him understand Christ and the faith better. SDG.

At the start of the last message I called attention to how Luke began in the introduction (Luke 1:1-4) by stating that he wrote this Gospel in order to reinforce in “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3) and in all his hearers “the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:4).  Whereas John seems to state that the purpose of his Gospel was evangelism (cf. John 20:31:  “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”), Luke seems to have as his original purpose discipleship. That said, there is no doubt that in the larger purpose of God, both John and Luke (and all the Gospels) have proven useful both for evangelism and for discipleship.

Luke begins with angels and shepherds worshipping at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14, 20), and it ends with the apostles worshipping him at his ascension (Luke 24:52:  “And they worshipped him…”).  From beginning to end it summons its hearers to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.     

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Building a Family Library

Note:  I gave a Sunday School lesson at CRBC last Lord's Day on "Building a Family Library" which included book notes on two recently published books:  A Theology of the Family (NFIC, 2014) and The KJV Study Bible (Reformation Heritage, 2014).

Building a Family Library

My purpose is simple today:  I want to encourage you to build a family library, a collection of books that can serve as a resource for you and your family with regard to Biblical and spiritual matters.

These might include:

·        Several copies of the Bible, including copies in various translations for personal study and comparison.

·        A copy of the Second London Baptist Confession (1689) and the Baptist Catechism (or Spurgeon’s Catechism).

·        A Bible concordance (a book which lists each word [if exhaustive] used in a particular Bible translation).  Examples:  Strong’s Concordance; Cruden’s Concordance.

·        A sound Bible dictionary.  There are many on the market, but be careful to choose one that is both scholarly and which upholds a traditional Christian viewpoint.  Examples:   Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Smith’s Bible Dictionary.

·        A good, traditional, one-volume commentary.  I suggest two:  Matthew Henry’s Commentary and Matthew Poole’s Commentary.

·        A Systematic Theology:  This is not so easy.  I’d suggest Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology or Loiuis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology.  Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is easy to read but one must be careful with several of his positions (like on continuationism).   Another contemporary work to consider:  A Puritan Theology:  Doctrine for Life.  Among older works:  Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and John Gill’s A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity.

·        Good Christian biographies.  These might include works like Spurgeon’s two-volume Autobiography.  I also suggest you read any of the biographies produced by Iain Murray including his two volume biography of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his single volume on the life of Jonathan Edwards.  This a good entry way to church history.

·        Devotional works.  Every home should have a copy of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (or the illustrated children’s version Dangerous Journey).  For younger children I’d suggest the five volume paperback collection “Building on the Rock” series.

Some further thoughts:

·        Books or digital?  You can get most of these resources in digital format, but I’d suggest the value of the book format.  It is a technology not dependent on electricity or batteries.  Digital technology changes, but books stay the same.

·        Choose sound authors.  Usually it is better to read the older men than newer men.  Read those whose ideas have stood the test of time.

·        Choose books from proved and solid publishers rather than many popular, evangelical publishers.  These would include:  Banner of Truth, Reformation Heritage Publishers, Solid Ground Books, Sprinkle Publications.  I’d also suggest looking at for cheaper titles.

·        Consider giving good books as gifts on special occasions like Christmas and birthdays.

Book Note:  A Theology of the Family (NCFIC, 2014)

This is a handsome, sturdy volume co-edited by Jeff Pollard and Scott Brown.  It is actually a collection of articles, largely written by solid men from the past on various topics with the articles gleaned from The Free Grace Broadcaster, a publication of Chapel Library.

Book Note:  Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (Reformation Heritage, 2014)

The first study Bible (a Bible with interpretive notes includes alongside the text of Scripture) was the Geneva Bible (1560).  In modern times, there has been a proliferation of study Bibles aimed at various niches.

This KJV Study Bible is a welcomed resource for two reasons:  (1) It makes use of the venerable KJV; (2)  It is written from a Reformed theological perspective.

Here are seven things I like about it:

1.  It includes introductions to each section of the Bible (OT:  Law, Historical books, etc.; NT:  Gospels, Acts, Paul’s writings, etc.) as well as each book, and these provide a good summary of traditional Christian views on authorship, history, and dating.   It is grounded more in traditional Christian interpretation rather than in modern skeptical scholarship.

2.  I like the format, including the way it has the notes below the text of Scripture.  In those notes it provides paragraph headings, to help you understand the content and narrative flow, but these are not imposed within the printing of the text itself.  This helps avoid confusion.

3.  The notes include “Thoughts for Personal/Family Worship” for each chapter.  This is ideal for use in personal and family devotions.  This Bible is for experiential use (see p. xi).

4.  There is a separate “Study Helps” section that is set apart from the text of the Bible as an appendix rather than having copious amounts of material interspersed within the text.

The Study Helps include a series of sound, practical articles that will prove very helpful for person devotion and study.  This is a great tool for discipleship.  Review titles and look in particular at the article, “Using Leisure Time Well” (p. 1935).

5. It includes a century by century survey of church history written by Sinclair Ferguson (p. 1943).  Here is a mini-Church History.

6.  It includes basic creeds and confessions from the ancient Christian and Reformed tradition (p. 1965).  Hopefully, there will be a Baptist edition at some point.

7. It includes other very helpful resources, like:  Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan (p. 2095), a helpful table for Biblical weights and measures (p. 2107), and a select Bible concordance (p. 2111).

Conclusion:  In this one volume you have several of the things we noted above (concordance, dictionary, systematic theology, church history, devotional resources).  So, if you want to begin building a library I would suggest the KJV Study Bible as a good place to start your foundation.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Word Magazine No. 32: John Piper on the Pericope Adulterae. Part 2: Can we preach from (supposedly) uninspired texts?

I recorded WM # 32 today.  This is part two of my review of John Piper's 2012 sermon "Neither Do I Condemn You" on the woman caught in adultery passage (John 7:53--8:11).

In part one I outlined and responded to Piper's six reasons for rejecting the authenticity of the PA. In part two, I moved on to evaluate Piper's argument that though the PA is not an authentic part of John it is probably an event that really happened. Therefore, he justifies preaching from the text not as the basis of the truth but as pointing to the truth. As Piper puts it, “It’s true.  It’s a true story….  whether it happened or whether it belongs in this Gospel” (start listening c. the 36:31 mark).

In my view, this approach is both unwise and even dangerous.  If we might preach from (supposedly) uninspired texts (like the PA) why not preach from the Gospel of Thomas or the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, since an argument might be marshaled that despite the fact that these books are not canonical they might contain authentic sayings or deeds of Jesus (as some scholars like Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar and Bart Ehrman, among others, have argued)?  Can we then preach from these texts also not as the basis of truth but as pointing to truth? If not, why not?

Oddly enough, Piper realizes that his approach will likely be perceived by the average Christian in the pew as undermining the stability and authority of the Bible. The most ironic line in the sermon is when he realizes his hearers will take his suggestion that the PA is not part of John as "a gut punch"  adding "That's a downer!" (listen at the 22:58 mark).  Still, he persists in attempting to justify the modern critical text's judgment that the PA is not part of Scripture, concluding, as well, that it can be preached not as truth itself but merely as a "pointer" to truth.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Vision (12.4.14): Five Notes from Luke 24:47 on the Great Commission

Note:  Last Sunday morning, we took another look at the “Great Commission” in Luke, dwelling especially on Luke 24:47.  Here are some sermon notes on the exposition of this verse:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

Every word or phrase in this verse has been providentially chosen and should be meditated upon and pondered.

Notice first the emphasis on the means for carrying out the Great Commission.  The means is preaching, the man of God standing to proclaim God’s truth about Christ from God’s Word (cf. Rom 10:14-15, 17; 1 Cor 1:21).

Notice second the content of the proclamation:  “repentance [metanoia:  change of heart, change of way, turning from sin] and remission [aphesis:  cancellation, release (as of prisoners)] of sins.”

The joining of these two terms is not accidental.  True preaching must balance these two things.  It must demand repentance and announced forgiveness.  Neglect one for the other and preaching gets out of balance.  Preach repentance without simultaneously announcing forgiveness and you get legalistic preaching which accentuates awareness of sin and piles up guilt, but it never offers relief.  Preach forgiveness without simultaneously demanding repentance and you get licentious preaching, “cheap grace” preaching.  This kind of preaching likes to dwell on “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” but omits “go and sin no more” (John 7:53—8:11).

Notice third the manner of the proclamation:  “in his name.”  Jesus speaks of himself here in the third person as the Messiah, as the Christ.  This has at least two explicit applications.

First, Great Commission preaching is to be done explicitly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is a place for mercy ministry and compassion ministry to be undertaken by Christians.  Building schools and hospitals, teaching the minds and feeding the bodies of men, may have some place in Christian service as we do good to all men (cf. Gal 6:10).  But these things are not to be done as a replacement for or as a substitute for explicit preaching in the name of the crucified Christ.  The Asian missionary K. P. Yohannan has noted that men can go to hell with better educated minds and healthier bodies.  Indeed, as Jesus taught, What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul (Matt 16:26)?

Second, Great Commission preaching is to be done under the authority of Jesus.  Preaching in the name of Jesus means preaching under the authority of Jesus. This means that Great Commission preaching is to be preaching that is consistent with the doctrine which Jesus taught and the methods which Jesus practiced.  Jesus did not preach, for example, a health and wealth gospel.  Someone may go out and preach that gospel and might even gather a large crowd of hearers.  But if his doctrine is inconsistent with the doctrine of Jesus, he is not preaching in the name of Jesus or under the authority of Jesus.  He is, instead, preaching in his own name and under his own authority.

Notice fourth the audience for Great Commission preaching:  “among all nations [the Greek word is ethnos, the root for our English word “ethnic”].”  Here is where the Lukan Great Commission sounds like that recorded by Matthew in Matthew 28:19-20:  “Go and teach all nations….”  This furthers the announcement made by the angel to the shepherds at Christ’s birth:  “Fear not:  for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).  The nation watched this week those scenes of destruction in Ferguson, Missouri as vivid examples of sin which overflows from ethnic division and rivalry.  There is only one solution for ethnic division and that it the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Christian message is not universalism (all men will be saved regardless of their response to Christ) but it is universal (it is directed to all men).

Notice, finally, the last thing Jesus says here in v. 47 is that it is to take place “beginning at Jerusalem.”  This is made even clearer in the instructions which Jesus gives in Luke 24:49.  When we turn over to Acts chapters 1-2 we see the working out of the plan Jesus unveils as the Spirit is poured out on the first disciples at Pentecost.  Leon Morris notes the significance of this command:  “The disciples are not to attempt the task of evangelism with their own meager resources, but are to await the coming of the Spirit” (Luke, p. 343).  We might conclude then that this last phrase addresses the resources upon which the disciples were to rely in pursuing the Great Commission.

Think back on v. 47:  The disciples were to use the right means (preaching), in proclaiming the right content (repentance and remission of sins), in the right manner (in his name), to the right audience (all nations), with the right resources (God’s power given through the Holy Spirit and not our own power).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle    

Head Coverings, Gender Confusion, and Authority: Some Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Note:  We recently spent several Sunday School lessons at CRBC discussing various issues related to the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 (none of which were audio recorded).  Below is an outline of the material I presented in the final session on November 23, 2014:

I.  Eight Points on Interpretation:

1.  Paul writes to remind the Corinthians to follow his example and teaching and to keep his authoritative ordinances (vv. 1-2).

2.  There has been a breakdown of order in understanding the distinctive roles of men and women, which reflect the relationship between Christ and the church (v. 3; cf. Eph 5).

3.  This breakdown has been manifested in the public worship assemblies, particularly in the exercise of prayer and prophesying (see vv. 4-6).  Both men and women prayed and prophesied in the church, but this had been done in such as way as to abandon the distinctions between gender roles.  This was demonstrated in the abandonment of culturally normative ways for men and women to be distinguished one from another.  Men were covering their heads (like women) and women were uncovering their heads (like men).  Compare:

KJV Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Note:  Prophesying was an extra-ordinary spiritual gift manifested in the early church and exercised by both men and women (cf. Acts 2:17; 19:6; 21:9).  One did not have to fill the office of prophet in order to prophesy.  With the close of the apostolic age, this gift has ceased.

4.  Paul roots the distinction in roles between men and women as part of the pre-fall order, placing particular emphasis on the fact that the creation of the first man preceded the creation of the first woman, emphasizing a special role of leadership and responsibility for men (vv. 7-9; cf. 1 Tim 1:9-15).

5.  Paul thus concludes that a woman ought to have “power (exousia—authority) on her head” (v. 10).  Notice, he does not require an article of clothing as a covering but “power” or authority over her.  Notice also that he gives as reason “because of the angels.”  What does this mean?  Is it a reminder that that some rebellious angels also once rebelled against the established created order?  Compare:

KJV Jude 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

6.  Paul corrects any misunderstanding that might arise among men which could lead to chauvinistic views toward women based on the teaching of male priority (vv. 11-12).  Focus should be given to the last phrase: “but all things of God” (v. 12).  All comes from God, and all are under God.

7.  Paul appeals to “nature” itself as proof of the gender distinction (vv. 13-15).

8.  Finally, he appeals to this as the normative practice of the apostolic churches (v. 16; cf. 14:33).

II.  Seven Practical Lessons:

1.  Gender distinctions are not to be ignored in the life of believers and in the church.

2.  Men and women are spiritually equal, and yet they have different roles to play in life and in the church.

3.  Men and women should follow culturally appropriate norms that distinguish between the genders in dress and actions.

4.  Men and women may both participate in the life of church and in the worship of the church as spiritual equals, but they must do so within the order that God has ordained.

5.  Women, in particular, must not attempt to usurp the place of men (cf. Gen 3:16), either within the home or within the church.

6.  This passage does not specifically require the wearing of headcoverings as articles of clothing or dress (see especially v. 10).

7. Rather, it requires an inner disposition of humility and submission that cannot be so easily observed (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-7).

Friday, November 28, 2014

Text Note: Luke 24:42

The Issue:

The question here is whether or not the phrase “and of a honeycomb [kai apo melissiou keriou]” should be included.  The traditional text includes the phrase, while the modern critical text omits it.  Compare (emphasis added):

KJV Luke 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

NIV Luke 24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by the following Greek manuscripts:  K, N, Gamma, Delta, Psi, family 1, 33, 565, 700, 892, 1241, 1424, and Lectionary 2211.  It also is the reading if the majority of extant Greek manuscripts.  In addition, the close alternate traditional reading with the final noun in the accusative rather than the genitive case [kai apo melissiou kerion] is found in Theta, family 13, and Lectionary 844.

As for the versions, it appears in the Vulgate and some Old Latin mss., the Syriac (Curetonian, Peshitta, Harklean * *).  In addition, the reading is found in the Church Fathers Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius of Contantia.

The modern critical text, on the other hand, is supported by the following seven Greek manuscripts: p75, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, D, L, W, and 579.   It is also found in the following versions:  Latin manuscript e (5th century), Syriac Sinaiticus, Coptic Sahidic, and some Coptic Bohairic.  It is also the reading found in Clement of Alexandria.

Internal evidence:

In his Textual Commentary, Metzger concludes that the witnesses for the traditional text, occurring in the “later manuscripts,” are “an obvious interpolation, for it is not likely that they would have fallen out of so many of the best representatives of the earlier text-types” (pp. 187-188).  He then adds the speculation that the phrase might have been included due to the use of honey “in parts of the ancient church” in its Eucharistic and baptismal liturgy, adding, “copyists may have added the reference here in order to provide scriptural sanction for liturgical practices” (p. 188).  Again, Metzger is a master of introducing speculative possibilities which “may” have happened and which justify the editorial decisions of the modern critical text.

There are, however, at least two other credible possibilities:

First, the omission could have occurred due to an unintentional parablepsis as the eye of the copyist skipped from the kai of the opening phrase in question to the kai which begins b. 43:  kai labon enopion auton ephagen (“And taking before them he ate”).

Second, the omission might have occurred due to the unique mention of honey.  This might have come from docetic tendencies to minimize the risen Jesus’ eating of food or from an effort to harmonize the text with John 21:9, 13, which describes the risen Jesus eating fish and bread, but not honey.  One might also turn Metzger’s speculation on its ear and suggest the phrase was removed by those in the ancient church who did not use honey in their Eucharistic and baptismal liturgy.


The phrase “and of honey” is omitted in seven Greek manuscripts, including codex A, which typically supports the Majority reading.  It clearly has origins in ancient times, however, and became the dominant reading in the Greek manuscripts and in the versions.

There is no conclusive, non-speculative internal evidence that rules out inclusion and many reasonable, though speculative, reasons to explain how and why omission might have occurred.

The fuller reading of Luke 24:42 was accepted as the authoritative reading of the traditional text, as reflected in its appearance in the majority of Greek manuscripts.  There is no compelling or convincing reason to remove it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Vision (11.27.14): Happy Thanksgiving!

Image: CRBC Leaf Raking at Bells Grove in Louisa (11.22.14)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New "Reformed Baptist Trumpet" (Vol 5. No. 3) is now available online

The latest edition of the Reformed Baptist Trumpet (Vol. 5. No. 3), the quarterly e-journal of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia has been posted online.

In this issue:

  • Jim Savastio's article "The Glory of the Mediator" (pp. 3-9).
  • W. Gary Crampton's article "The Knowledge of God" [chapter one from his book The Bible:  God's Word] (pp. 10-15).
  • A Review of John D. Currid's Against the Gods by Jeffrey T. Riddle (pp. 15-18).
  • An excerpt from Benjamin Keach's sermon "The Blessedness of Christ's Sheep" (pp. 18-22).
This issue and past issues can also be found online at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia website.

Grace and peace, Jeff Riddle RBT Editor

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Vision (11.20.14): Why did Christ not have to undergo eternal suffering?

Several weeks ago after I preached from Luke 24:1-12 on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, someone in the congregation approached me with an intriguing question.  Here is a summary of her question:

The Bible teaches that the unsaved who die apart from saving faith in Christ are under the wrath of God for eternity in hell.  If Jesus stood in our place and died for our sins, why did he not have to undergo eternal suffering?  Why was the duration of his suffering under the wrath of God limited in time?

The response I gave in the moment to this question went something like this (with Scripture proofs):

Yes, the Bible does indeed teach that those who die apart from saving faith in Christ are under the wrath of God for eternity in hell.  See, for example:

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.

Matthew 25: 41:  Then he shall say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

It further teaches, however, that Jesus’ suffering on the cross and his sacrificial death, though of a limited duration, made perfect atonement for those who would be saved.  See, for example:

Romans 5:8-9:  8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

1 Corinthians 15:3:  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Hebrews 10:12:  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

The resurrection of Jesus is evidence of the fact that God the Father was satisfied by the suffering and death of Jesus for sinners.  God the Father accepted the perfect atoning work of Christ and vindicated him by raising him from the dead.  See, for example:

Acts 2:23-24:  23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24  Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Romans 1:3-4:  3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

1 Thessalonians 1:10:  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

We must also remember that Jesus was no ordinary man but the God-man and the Second Adam who, in himself, knew no sin but was made sin for us (see 2 Cor 5:21).  He could satisfy God’s righteous wrath through suffering of limited temporal duration which a sinful, unregenerate man, apart from Christ, can never satisfy even in suffering for an unlimited, eternal duration.

This question also sent me to look through some of my books on systematic theology.  I discovered that not every systematic theology addresses this question, but I did find a few who did.  Here are some insights into how others have addressed this question:

The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs (c. 1600-1646) addresses this issue in his treatise titled Hope, as seen in this passage:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cause of true lively hope in the hearts of the saints.  By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God has declared that He is fully satisfied for the sins of man, and that the work of redemption is fully wrought out; otherwise Christ must have been held in the prison of the grave forever.

The Calvinistic Baptist pastor John Gill (1697-1771) addresses the question in his A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1767-1770; The Baptist Standard Bearer reprint, 2007) under his discussion of the passive obedience of Christ.  He concludes with these words:

Eternity is not of the essence of punishment; and only takes place when the person punished cannot bear the whole at once; and being finite, as sinful man is, cannot make satisfaction to the infinite Majesty of God, injured by sin, the demerit of which is infinite punishment : and as that cannot be borne at once by a finite creature, it is continued ad infinitum; but Christ being an infinite Person was able to bear the whole at once; and the infinity of his Person, abundantly compensates for the eternity of the punishment (p. 404).

In his Systematic Theology (original 1938; Eerdmans New Combined Edition, 1996), Louis Berkhof addresses the question under his overall discussion of Christ’s “State of Humiliation.”  Following the Heidelberg Catechism, he notes that Christ’s sufferings began during his earthly life.  He then observes:

These sufferings were followed by his death on the cross.  But this was not all; He was subject not only to physical, but also to eternal death, though He bore this intensively and not extensively, when He agonized in the garden and when He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  In a short period of time He bore the infinite wrath against sin to the very end and came out victoriously.  This was possible for Him only because of His exalted nature (p. 339).

Contemporary New Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem also provides an extended discussion of this question in his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in his chapter on the Atonement.  Under the heading, “Not Eternal Suffering but Complete Payment,” Grudem begins:

If we had to pay the penalty for our own sins, we would have to suffer eternally in separation from God.  However, Jesus did not suffer eternally.  There are two reasons for this difference:  (a) If we suffered for our own sins, we would never be able to make ourselves right with God again.  There would be no hope because there would be no way to live again and earn perfect righteousness before God, and there would be no way to undo our sinful nature and make it right before God.  Moreover, we would continue to exist as sinners who would not suffer with pure hearts of righteousness before God, but would suffer with resentment and bitterness against God, thus continually compounding our sin.  (b) Jesus was able to bear all the wrath of God against our sin and to bear it to the end. No mere man could ever have done this, but by virtue of the union of divine and human natures in himself, Jesus was able to bear all the wrath of God against sin and to bear it to the end (pp. 577-578).

In the end we must confess that we will never be able to touch the bottom of the depths of what God has accomplished for us in Christ.  Still, it is worth the effort to meditate on how in a limited amount of time Christ took our eternal punishment upon himself.  We can thus say with Paul, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle