Saturday, July 28, 2018

WM 100: Rejoinder to Mark Ward: 3 Ways to Engage Modern Translation Onlyism

I have recorded and uploaded WM 100: Rejoinder to Mark Ward: 3 Ways to Engage Modern Translation Onlyism (listen here).

A friend called my attention to an article posted to the Gospel Coalition site this week (July 26, 2018), by Mark Ward and titled “3 Ways to Graciously Engage KJV-Only Believers” (read it here).

The article's author is Mark Ward (PhD Bob Jones University) an academic editor at Lexham Press and the author of Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (Lexham Press).

WM 100 offers a review and critique of the article and closes with a suggestion of three ways to respond to those who suggest Christians should only use modern translations. Here are my notes for those three suggestions:

First: If they are willing to listen and understand, help them to understand the difference between a truly heretical KJV-Onlyist position and a KJV preferentialist position. Help them also to understand those who are Majority Text advocates and Confessional Text advocates. Help them to understand that it is not helpful or charitable to confuse these categories into a mishmash.

Second: Talk about a confessional view of text criticism. Walk them through WCF/2LBCF 1:8. Explain the historical roots of modern text criticism in the Enlightenment. Explain the difference between a reconstructionist view of the text and a preservationist view of the text. Explain how post-modern text criticism is no longer even interested in finding the original text and no one really knows what future editions of the modern critical text (and thus modern translations) will even look like.

Third: Talk about how important the KJV is as a treasure not only for the Protestant Christian English-speaking world, but for all of Western civilization. Suggest that rather than dumbing down the liturgical language of the church we should be lifting it up. Ask them why the KJV is loved in the English department but villainized in the religion department. Suggest they read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death or T. S. Eliot’s review of the New English Bible (listen here). Explain that using the KJV might just be one small way in which we might swim against the tide of this world.


Friday, July 27, 2018

The Vision (7.27.18): Extravagant Devotion to Christ

Image: Butterfly bush, North Garden, Virginia, July 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:1-9.

John 12:7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Here is Christ’s rebuke when Judas complains of Mary pouring out the costly spikenard to anoint the Lord Jesus:

First, he says, “Let her alone” (v. 7a). Leave her be. Do not criticize her for her expression of piety and devotion to me. Is it not striking that Christ defends his worshipping church? The Chief Shepherd protects his sheep from insult and injury.

Second, he says, “against the day of my burying hath she kept this” (v. 7b). Caiphas the high priest had just given a prophecy of Christ’s death that he did not really understand (see 11:50-52). Now, we have Mary taking an action that is bigger than she understands. In pouring out this spikenard she anticipates the day of Christ’s death and the anointing of his body for burial. She is honoring, without knowing it, the crucified Christ.

Third, he says, “For the poor always ye have with you….” (v. 8). Jesus is not, of course, disavowing proper aid to the poor and needy. This is part of loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is a Christian duty to “do good unto all men” (Gal 6:10).

Christ is citing here Deuteronomy 15:11 which begins, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land,” but that same verse proceeds to say, “therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in the land.”

Christ is saying, yes, in this evil age there will always be the poor and there will always be the duty to minister to them; there will always be the duty to do good to all men, but that is not at counter purposes to devotion to me. These men had the incarnate Lord before them, in the flesh, before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. What was called for was not some duplicitous fake-concern for the poor but the present honoring of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There will always be those we can help—till Christ comes again. But we are not to use that high-minded excuse for failure to do the one thing that is needful, to choose the good part, like Mary of Bethany to display honor, thanksgiving, and extravagant devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Vision: The Scale and the Scope of Christ's Death

Image: Ripening blueberries, North Garden, Virginia, July 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 11:47-57.

John 11:50 Nor consider that it is expedient that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Christ should die for that nation. 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

In John 11:50, Caiphas the high priest offers an unwitting prophecy about Christ: “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

What did he mean by that? He was suggesting that Jesus be offered up as a sacrificial lamb, as a scapegoat. We’ll place the blame on him and let him pay the price, so that our freedom can be preserved. It will be a good and to the benefit of many to put this man to death.

We then have the apostle John’s inspired interpretation of Caiphas’ words in vv. 51-52.
John first notes in v. 51 that Caiphas spoke “not of himself.” The sense here is that he was speaking under the Spirit’s direction, even though he did not understand what he was really saying. Calvin says, “a higher impulse guided his tongue.” God can speak even through ungodly men, as he did through Balaam of old (see Numbers 22—23).
John declares the substance of Caiphas’s words: “he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (v. 51b). He did not know it, but Caiphas had prophesied the penal substitutionary death of Christ.

Notice John’s further interpretation in v. 52. The death of Jesus will not be “for that nation only, but that he also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”

John makes clear that Caiphas comprehended neither the scale nor the scope of the benefits of this one man’s death for the many. First on scale: Christ’s death would not merely bring temporal political liberty, but everlasting spiritual liberty. Second, on scope: Christ death would not just be a benefit for Jews in Judea but also for those Jews “scattered abroad” and even for the Gentiles (v. 52).

Calvin says we may infer from John’s words, “that the human race is scattered and estranged from God, until the children of God are assembled under Christ their head.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, July 16, 2018

WM 99: Cyril of Alexandria

I have recorded and posted WM 99: Cyril of Alexandria. You can listen here.

Here are my notes for this episode:

St. Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ, trans. and introduction by John Anthony McGuckin (St. Vladimir’s Press, 1995): 151 pp.

Life of Cyril of Alexandria:

Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) was the nephew of Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria from 385-412. Upon the death of Theophilus in 412, Cyril, at age 34, became his uncle’s successor. He clashed with Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople over the unity of the person of Christ and the orthodoxy of the title theotokos (“God-bearer”) for Mary, which Cyril supported and Nestorius opposed. This led to the second ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431, which upheld Cyril’s views and denounced those of Nestorius. Philip Jenkins says Cyril was both “a brilliant thinker” and “an obnoxious bully” (Jesus Wars, p. 58). One of the darkest marks against him in Alexandria was his role in the death of a noted pagan woman philosopher named Hypatia in 415. He also used his political power and muscle to depose Nestorius and send him into exile.

His stress on the one person of Christ was distorted by Dioscuros, his successor at Alexandria, in the so-called “Gangster Synod” or “Robbers’ Council” at Ephesus in 449 which declared one nature of Christ. This “one nature” view (or the monophysite view, from the Greek physis, nature) had been championed by Eutyches (c. 375-454). David Bentley Hart summaries this view: “in the Incarnation, Christ’s humanity was wholly assumed into his divinity” (The Story of Christianity, 126). This meeting was dubbed the second council of Ephesus but due to its errant christology it is not accepted by the orthodox among the great early ecumenical councils. In later church councils, most notably at Chalcedon in 451, a more balanced and well-defined orthodox Christology was articulated which declared Christ to be one person with two natures (true man and true God; the diophysite view). The monophysite view, however, continued and continues to be held in the so-called “Oriental” churches (the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Church, the Syrian Jacobite Church, and the Armenian Church).

This orthodox Christology, is reflected in the Protestant confessions of the Reformation era, including the Second London Baptist Confession (1689). Compare confession 10:2:

Paragraph 2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it,9 yet without sin;10 being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures;11 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.12
9 John 1:14; Gal. 4;4 
10 Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17, 4:15 
11 Matt. 1:22, 23 
12 Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5

Cyril’s book On the Unity of Christ (Greek title: Ho heis ho Christos) was composed toward the end of his life and long after the conflict with Nestorius. It reflects Cyril’s mature views on Christology. The book uses a hypothetical dialogue format with questions on Christology posed and answered.

See this post on how the reflections of Cyril likely influenced WCF/2LBCF (1689) 10:3.

Citations below are from the edition translated and introduced by John Anthony McGuckin and printed in the “Popular Patristics Series” from St. Vladimir’s Press.

Here are a few citations:

On the incarnation:

“It follows, therefore, that He Who Is, The One Who Exists, is necessarily born of the flesh, taking all that is ours into himself so that all is born of the flesh, that is us corruptible and perishing beings, might rest in him. In short, he took what was ours to be his very own so that we might have all that was his” (p. 59).

“For God was in humanity. He who was above all creation was in our human condition; the invisible one was made visible in the flesh; he who is from the heavens and from on high was in the likeness of earthly things; the immaterial one could be touched; he who is free in his own nature came in the form of a slave; he who blesses all creation became accursed; he who is all righteousness was numbered among transgressors; life itself came in the appearance of death” (p. 61).

On Christ’s rational soul:

“We must admit, of course, that the body which he united to himself was endowed with the rational soul, for the Word, who is God, would hardly neglect our final part, the soul, and have regard only for the earthly body. Quite clearly in all wisdom he provided for both the soul and the body” (p. 64).

On the term theotokos:

“…if our opponents insist that the holy virgin must never be called The Mother of God, but Mother of Christ instead, then their blasphemy is patent, for they are denying that Christ is really God and Son” (p. 64).

On the authority of Scripture:

“Come, let us investigate the divine and sacred scripture and let us seek the solution there” (p. 72).

On the hypostatic union:

“How wicked they are, then, when they divide in two the one true and natural Son incarnated and made man, and when they reject the union and call it a conjunction” (pp. 73-74).

“Well, Godhead is one thing, and manhood is another thing, considered in the perspective of their respective and intrinsic beings, but in the case of Christ they came together in a mysterious union without confusion or change. The manner of this union is entirely beyond conception” (p. 77).

“My friend, if anyone says then when we speak of the single nature of God the Word incarnate and made man we imply that a confusion or mixture has occurred, then they are talking utter rubbish” (79).

“It was not impossible to God, in his loving-kindness, to make himself capable of bearing the limitations of the manhood” (p. 79).

“He lived as a man with earthly beings, and came in our likeness, but he was not subject to sin like us, but was far beyond the knowledge of any transgression. The same was at once God and man” (p. 89).

On the unity of Christ:

“…if someone has another added to him he cannot be considered one. How could he be? He would be one plus one, or rather one plus something different, and without question this makes two” (p. 91).

On the incarnation and divine impassibility:

“In his own nature he certainly suffers nothing, for as God he is bodiless and lies entirely outside suffering” (p. 121).

“The Word remained what he was even when he became flesh, so that he who is over all, and yet came among all through his humanity, should keep in himself his transcendence of all and remain above all the limitations of the creation” (p. 129).

“He suffers in his own flesh, and not the nature of the Godhead” (p. 130).

“No, as I have said, he ought to be conceived of as suffering in his own flesh, although not suffering in any way like this in the Godhead” (p. 130).


Cyril of Alexandria was certainly not a perfect man. He was a very flawed man, in the providence of God he was used to articulate an orthodox view of Christology, especially by stressing the oneness of Christ. Though some of his views were distorted by Eutyches and the monophysites, that too was, in God’s providence, corrected. We are less familiar with Cyril but we see his views reflected in our Protestant orthodox confessions.


Friday, July 13, 2018

The Vision (7.13.18): Jesus Wept

Image: Tiger lilies, North Garden, Virginia, July 2018.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 11:32-46.

John 11:35: Jesus wept.

Here we have another well-loved description of the compassion of our Lord: “Jesus wept.”

We sometimes refer to this as the shortest verse in the Bible—the one that most can recite from memory, along with John 3:16. Of course, the verse divisions were not original but were only added in the age of the printed editions.

In the original Greek there are three Greek words here in 16 Greek letters. In truth 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray without ceasing, has only two Greek words but in 22 Greek letters.

What is striking is not only the brevity of the verse but what it describes: the shedding of tears by the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is striking because it reveals his true humanity, and so it should be placed alongside others that do the same, whether Luke 2:52, which says “he increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”, or Mark 4:38 that says he was “asleep on a pillow” while crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, or John 19:28, which says that while on the cross the Lord Jesus said, “I thirst.” As a true man Christ grew in wisdom and stature; Christ slept, Christ thirsted and hungered. And as a true man, Christ wept when he contemplated not only the death of Lazarus, the pain and grief of those who knew and loved him, but also the sin and misery of the whole world.

Christ was indeed, a true man. Compare Hebrews 2:14-16 which declares that Christ took not on the nature of angels but “the seed of Abraham.”

There is a sense in which it is right to speak of God’s tears, just as it is also right to speak of “God’s blood,” as in God having purchased the church “with his own blood” (so Paul in Acts 20:28 the Ephesian elders).

But we also know that we need to be careful with our words, remembering that Christ is both true man and true God. And that with God there is no shadow of turning; there is no loss; there is no body, parts, or passions.

As Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) put it in On the Unity of Christ: “He suffers in his own flesh, and not the nature of the Godhead” (p. 130).

Christ, as a true man and a true friend, wept over the death of Lazarus.

I often like to cite John 11:35 when I conduct a funeral service and to say that by his tears Christ gave a blessing to all of our expressions of grief. Christianity is not stoicism. We need not strive to be unmoved by the difficult circumstances of life, but to meet them with the appropriate expression of our passions, knowing that we have one who cares for us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Theological Schizophrenia

At the close of WM 98 I offered two conflicting quotes from the Preface and Acknowledgements to Craig A Carter’s Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (Baker, 2018), a book I have just begun to read.

First, in the Preface Carter says,

My hope is to overcome the Enlightenment by showing that the Enlightenment movement of “higher criticism” is a dead end, a sideshow, a deviation from orthodoxy, and a movement that is now in the late stages of self-destruction (xviii).

Then, in the Acknowledgements, Carter says,

All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted. I use, recommend, and thank God for the ESV Study Bible, which is a marvelous tool for anyone wanting to study God’s Word today (xx).

The contradiction: On one hand Carter (rightly) challenges the Enlightenment influenced modern historical-critical method. On the other hand, however, he chooses to make use of a translation that is the fruit of the Enlightenment deconstruction of the Biblical text (the ESV coming in a direct line from the English Revised Version of 1885, based on Wescott and Hort’s 1881 Greek NT). How is it that conservative and orthodox men can rightly critique the problems with modern theology in areas like the classical theism, but neglect to see those same problems in text criticism?


Monday, July 09, 2018

WM 98: The Ending of Mark, Syriac, and Metzger

I have posted WM 98: The Ending of Mark, Syriac, and Meztger (listen here).

Here are my notes from this episode:

In this episode of WM I want to return again to the ending of Mark.

I did a paper presentation on this topic (“The Ending of Mark as a Canonical Crisis”) which was published earlier this year as an article in the PRJ (find it here).

I continue to hear from folk who read that article and who have been encouraged or influenced by it.

I recently received, for example, a note from a brother in SE Asia:

Dr. Jeff thank you very for this article that you had uploaded, I had watched your interview in youtube Meggido radio about the Greek text of the New Testament. and it help me a lot to get rid of my confusion regarding which Greek text is more accurate or "godly." there are many explanations that I've heard in both sides (TR and CT), that really got me into confusion. I went to a seminary, before still not finished, and my Profs. told us about textual criticism, and it's hard for me to accept every thing that they are saying, He even told us that the book of Ephesians was not been written by Paul? 

Dr. Gurry’s feedback: Why no reference in my Ending of Mark article to the Sinaitic Syriac?

I wanted to return to another feedback that I got just after the article came out. This was feedback that came from Dr. Peter Gurry of Phoenix Seminary. Dr. Gurry does not believe Mark 16:9-20 is original, but he does believe it is inspired and should be part of the canonical text of Mark (the same position as Metzger; oddly enough, John MacArthur has a more radical position on Mark’s ending than Metzger!).

Here is Gurry’s feedback:

I noticed there is no mention of the Sinaitic Syriac. Was this intentional? Its text is, per Metzger, as early as late 2nd/early 3rd century and it lacks the Longer Ending. This is a problem for you claim on p. 39 that there is no “inkling of controversy” in this period. I note this manuscript is also missing from the extended quote of Lunn at the end. I also noticed there was no mention of the Sahidic Coptic or 308 cited in NA28.

And here was my response to this (which I posted, along with his question and with his permission in a blog post):

My main focus was to survey the Greek mss. evidence for the traditional ending, so I did not give much focus to the versional evidence, which is extremely scanty pre-300.

If I revise the paper I will try to add something on the Sinaitic Syriac. Of this, notice two things:

1.    Metzger/Ehrman say the work was copied in the fourth century (so it would be post-300), though they speculate that it preserves “the form of the text” from the “beginning of the third century” (p. 96). No footnote or source is cited.  This seems speculative to me at best, so I did not include this as a sure pre-300 witness to the ending of Mark.

2.    Metzger/Ehrman also note that the Sinaitic Syriac (a palimpsest) was not discovered at St. Catherine’s on Mt. Sinai till 1892 (p. 96). This means that it had no bearing in WH’s decision to end Mark at Mark 16:8 in their 1881 Greek NT. This decision by WH was based on the evidence of Sinaiticus and Vatincanus, not the Sinaitic Syriac.

As for the Sahidic Coptic, the NA28 apparatus notes two or more mss. ending at 16:8 but does not identify or date them. In the discussion in Metzger/Ehrman no specific Sahidic mss. are cited which are pre-300 (see pp. 110-112).

As for 304 (I assume this is what you meant rather than 308) my understanding, drawn from J. Snapp, was that the ending of this ms. is damaged, so that it is not a valid witness for the ending. Also, according to the NA28 it is dated to the XII century so it is not relevant for the pre-300 discussion.

I tried to stress my overall focus on the Greek mss. in the first line of the second paragraph on p. 35 when I wrote (emphasis added): “Upon examination of the early Greek manuscript evidence for the ending of Mark, one can tentatively suggest at least three distinct periods or phases in the early transmission of the ending of Mark.”

On p. 39 I made this statement regarding the pre-300 evidence for the ending of Mark: “If we had only the evidence from this period we would hardly have any inkling of controversy over the text of Mark, but would assume the Traditional Ending as the undisputed conclusion of the second Gospel.” In light of the evidence, I think this statement is accurate. We do not, for example, have any patristic evidence of any dispute about the ending, which we do find (in Eusebius, et al) post-300.

Review: Three periods in the transmission of Mark’s ending:

So, I wanted to go back to this conversation. In my article I suggest three distinct periods in the transmission of Mark’s ending:

First: The emergence period (from the writing of Mark to c. AD 300).

Second: The disputed period (from c. AD 300-500).

Third: The consensus period (from c. AD 500-1900).

Finally, the paper essentially suggests a fourth period, the current era, in which the consensus is being challenged.

Those who challenge the traditional ending of Mark realize that one of the weaknesses of their position is that there is no clear pre-300 evidence for their position. There is no papyri evidence and no patristic evidence (and the patristic evidence is in favor of the “longer ending”).

This is why they seem to be willing to stretch the versional evidence as far as they think it will go, including speculating that the Sinaitic Syriac ms., though dated to the fourth century, actually goes back to, as Gurry puts it, to the “late 2nd/early 3rd century.”

This assessment seems to rest on a shaky foundation.

The NA28 on the Syriac evidence for Mark’s Ending:

Let’s look first at the Syriac evidence as noted in the apparatus of the NA28:

The traditional ending is found in three Syriac traditions:

The Curetonian Syriac (a single ms.);

The Peshitta Syriac (Vulgate Syriac);

The Harclean Syriac (an edition issued in 616 by Thomas of Harkel [Harclea]).

It is absent in one Syriac tradition:

The Sinaitic Syriac (a single ms.)

Metzger/Ehrman on the Syriac NT:

Now, let’s look at Metzger/Ehrman’s discussion of the Syriac NT (see pp. 96-100):

They note “five different Syriac versions of all or part of the NT” (p. 96), from oldest to youngest:

The Old Syriac, the Peshitta, the Philoxenian (dated to 508), the Harklean (dated to 616), and the Palestinian.

Note: Metzger/Ehrman: “One of the most confused and confusing tangles of textual criticism involves the unraveling of the Philoxenian and/or Harklean versions….” (p. 99).

Of the Old Syriac, they note that this is “preserved today in two manuscripts” (p. 96).

The first is the Curetonian Syriac, a parchment ms. in the British library, edited by William Cureton in 1858. Again this includes the traditional ending.

The second is the Sinaitic Syriac “a palimpsest manuscript that Agnes Smith Lewis discovered in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai in 1892” (p. 96).

Question: Could it have been translated from Codex Sinaiticus or a related ms?

The description that follows is vintage Metzger:

He begins, “Though these manuscripts were copied in about the fifth and fourth centuries respectively….” Note: He dates the Curetonian to the fifth century and the Sinaitic to the fourth but gives no reason, explanation, or supporting footnote for this dating. Does this reflect his bias that the earliest must be the one that omits the traditional ending? If so, then his argument is circular.

He continues, “…the form of the text that they preserve dates from the close of the second or beginning of the third century.” Note: Again, no reason, explanation, or supporting footnote is given. How is this anything more than speculation?

And he adds: “When the two manuscripts are compared, it is seen that the Sinaitic Syriac represents a slightly earlier form of text than does the Curetonian, even though in some places it may have corruptions that the Curetonian has escaped” (p. 97). Note: Again, no reason, explanation, or supporting footnote is given. We are apparently expected to accept the word of the expert. But has he drawn this conclusion based upon his own presuppositions? Example:

Mark 16:9-20 is late.
The Curetonian Syriac has Mark 16:9-20.
Therefore, the Curetonian Syriac must be late.

The first proposition, however, is only assumed and never proven.


First: One should be very careful when reading Metzger’s presentation of the data and his analysis of it. One should ask questions about how Metzger’s presuppositions about the text and how this shapes his speculations about the evidence and its significance.

Second: One should be aware that those who reject the traditional ending of Mark may be willing to stretch the versional evidence to support their conclusions.

Third: If one who rejects the traditional ending of Mark gives as a reason its absence in the Syriac, one should respond that it is missing in only one Syriac ms, the Sinaitic Syriac. Considering it came from St. Catherine’s it may have been translated from Codex Sinaiticus or a ms. like it. Even if dated to the fourth century, it would be post-300. The only other “Old Syriac” ms., the Curetonian, does, in fact, include the traditional ending of Mark.

Fourth: The traditional ending of Mark clearly became widely accepted in the Syriac tradition, as evidenced by its inclusion in the Syriac Peshitta of which, according to Metzger and Ehrman we have over 350 mss, “several of which date from the fifth and sixth centuries” (p. 98). Note: This inclusion is also of interest canonically, given that the Syriac Peshitta only included 22 books (excluding 2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, and Revelation) (see Metzger/Ehrman, p. 98).

Fifth: Far from arguing against the antiquity of the traditional ending of Mark, the evidence from the Syriac actually offers strong support for it.


Friday, July 06, 2018

The Vision (7.6.18): Of Man's Free Will in the State of Glory

Note: This devotion was taken from the Sunday afternoon sermon on Sunday, June 24.

This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only (Second London Baptist Confession 9:5).

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

We are reminded here that there will be no sin in heaven. Our inclination to sin will be taken away. The redeemed man in the glorified state will not be able to sin.

Thomas Boston in his classic work Human Nature in Its Fourfold State reflects on this:

The dominion of the saints will be a dominion far exceeding that of the greatest monarch who ever was on earth.  They will be absolute masters over sin, which had the dominion over them.  They will have complete rule over their own spirits; an entire management of all their affections and inclinations, which now create them so much molestation…. (p. 434).

They shall be free from temptation:  Satan can have no access to tempt them any more, by himself or his agents (p. 437).

Boston continues:

Absolute innocence shall then be restored, and every appearance of sin banished from this kingdom.  The guilt of sin, and the reigning power of it are even now taken away in the saints; nevertheless, sin dwells in them (Rom 7:20).  But then it shall be no more in them:  the corrupt nature will be quite removed; the root of bitterness will be plucked up, and no vestiges of it left in their souls:  their nature shall be altogether pure and sinless.  There shall be no darkness in their minds, but the understanding of every saint, when he comes to his kingdom, will be as a globe of pure and unmixed light (pp. 437-438).

Consider the things that you struggle with now, things perhaps that torment your conscience. The believer will one day be completely free from such things.

And this will be “immutably” done (see confession 9:5). Nothing will be able to alter this blessed state. Just as the Lord preserves the saints in the faith in this life, he will preserve their perfect sanctity in glory. And no one will complain that his “free will” has been violated!

Again Boston:

His gracious presence makes a mighty change upon the saints in this world:  His glorious presence in heaven, then, must needs raise their graces to perfection, and elevate their capacities.  The saints experience that the presence of God, now with them in His grace, can make a little heaven of a sort of hell.  How great then must the glory of heaven be, by His presence there in His glory!  If a candle, in some sort, beautifies a cottage or prison, how will the shining sun beautify a palace or paradise! (pp. 450-451).

The glorious presence of God in heaven, will put a glory in the saints themselves (p. 451).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle