Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Brief Bio: Eusebius of Caesarea (New Audio Series through Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History)

I am beginning a new occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History (EH).I plan to read consecutively through the ten books, chapter by chapter, one chapter at a time. At the end of each chapter’s reading, I will offer a few observations on that chapter.

I have posted the first installment to sermonaudio.com, in which I present a brief biography of Eusebius. You can listen to here.

Here are my notes:

Who was Eusebius of Caesarea?

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-340) was an influential bishop, writer, and historian, who has been called the “Father of Church History.”

A biography of his life was written by Ascius, his successor as bishop of Caesarea, but it is no longer extant.

Eusebius was born in Palestine c. 260. His parents and place of birth are unknown.

He is often referred to as Eusebius of Pamphilius. This recognizes his close relationship with Pamphilius, a noted presbyter in Caesarea, a student of Origen and founder of a large library at Caesarea. Eusebius may have been the son, nephew, friend, or servant of Pamphilius (Lake, x).

Eusebius fled to Egypt and was imprisoned there in 309, during the Diocletian persecution, which lasted c. 303-313. His mentor Pamphilius died as a martyr in 309.
He became bishop of Caesarea c. 315.

He was present at the Council of Nicea in 325 and served as “chief theological adviser to Constantine” (Lake, xi).

He was suspected of Arian tendencies, but he sided with the majority against Arius at Nicea as part of the “moderate” party. Still, he was a lifelong critic and opponent of the Athanasian party.

In 331 he was invited to become bishop of Antioch but refused the offer.

His patron Constantine died in 337. Eusebius then died on May 30 of either 339 or 340.

Though influential in church and politics “his literary achievements are his chief claim to fame” (Lake, xiii). Nevertheless his literary style has been described as “poor” (see Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 481).

Among his many publications were Martyrs of Palestine (an account of the Diocletian persecution), Life of Pamphilius, Life of Constantine, Defense of Origen (with Pamphilius), Chronichon (a universal history with a table of dates), Onomasticon (on Bible names and topography), Preparation for the Gospel and Demonstration of the Gospel (apologetic works), as well as commentaries on Psalms and Isaiah. His greatest work, however, was his Ecclesiastical History or Church History in ten books, which tells the story of the Christian movement from the age of the apostles up to Eusebius’s own times. This is among the most important resources for understanding the early years of Christianity and earned Eusebius the title of being the “Father of Church History.” It is especially valuable, because the author draws upon much earlier sources and materials. It was likely produced in several editions as more material was added, with the work reaching its final form c. 323.

Lake points out that one manuscript of the EH adds this note:

“Beware reader, of being caught by the heretical tendency of the writer, for though this present book is peculiarly valuable as history, nevertheless though in some places he speaks unconditionally concerning God and attributes divinity in him, and here to some his opinions seem sound, yet in others he speaks of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and everywhere represents the Son subordinate and secondary and the servant of the Father, for he was an Arian and guardedly manifests his opinions.”

Lake nevertheless observes, “In some ways he was the last and greatest of the Apologists….” (xvi).


Kirsopp Lake, “Introduction” to Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1, Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press, First published, 1926): ix-lvi).

“Eusebius” in F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, Eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford, 1983): 481.

D. J. Bingham and C. A. Graham, “Eusebius of Caesarea” in Donald K. McKim, Ed. Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (IVP Academic, 2007): 421-426).


Monday, February 18, 2019

Calvin, Barabbas, and the RP?

Image: Poster from the Swedish film Barabbas (1953)

I was preaching yesterday on John 18:28-40, including John’s brief (in comparison to the Synoptics) account of the release of Barabbas in vv. 39-40. In my parallel reading of Calvin’s commentary on the passage, I was struck by how Calvin somehow pulls an application from these verses related to the Regulative Principle (RP).

Calvin notes that the custom of releasing a prisoner during the Passover “was done, no doubt, in order the honour the sacredness of the day, but was, in reality, nothing else than a shameful profanation of it.” He cites Proverbs 17:15 as declaring that the guilty are an abomination before God.

Calvin then exhorts:

“Let us learn by this example, that nothing is more ridiculous, than to attempt to serve God by our inventions; for, as soon as men begin to follow their own imaginations, there will be no end till, by falling into some of the most absurd fooleries, they openly insult God. The rule of the worship of God, therefore, ought to be taken from nothing else than from his own appointment.”

This reminds me of the title of the G. K. Beale edited book, The Right Doctrine from theWrong Texts? Though the Barabbas account is related to an extra-biblical Passover tradition, it’s hard to believe that implications for the RP were part of the authorial intent in John 18. I’ve noticed this kind of thing in several other places in Calvin’s commentaries and probably reflects what was often and uppermost in his mind during the course of his reforming ministry.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

WM 117: Conjectural Emendation, White, Beza, and Rev 16:5

Image: Beza Street, Geneva, Switzerland

I just posted WM 117: Conjectural Emendation, White, Beza, and Rev 16:5 (listen here). My notes are below:


I wanted to do a follow up to recent discussion in WMs 114 and 115 spurred by comments made by JW in his “lecture” on the TR, aka twitter exchange review on Revelation 16:5 and the supposed conjecture made there by T. Beza in his 1598 Greek text.

I noted I was struck by JW’s statement that he rejected any conjectural emendations in the NT. Around the 52:34 mark he says:

I reject all conjectural emendations. I do not believer there is any need for conjectural emendations whatsoever…. CBGM has introduced conjectural emendations. I reject it.

This seemed to me to be inconsistent, since it is essential and foundational to the methodological approach of modern text criticism, based as it is on the assumption that the text of Scripture has been hopelessly corrupted in the course of its transmission and now must be reconstructed by modern scholars. See the classic subtitle of Metzger’s classic The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (first edition, 1968).

Part One: Survey of comments on conjectural emendation in modern text critical works:

B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament Greek in the Original (1882; Hendricksen reprint, 1988):

From Part II The Methods of Textual Criticism (pp. 19-72); ,Section VI Criticism as Dealing with Errors Antecedent to Existing Texts (pp. 66-72; paragraphs 85-95):

Section VI is broken into two Parts: Part A 85-92 Primitive errors; Part B 93-95 Removal of primitive errors by conjecture:

“The utmost result that can be obtained under this condition [i.e., given the existence of textual variants] is the discovery of what is relatively original: whether the readings thus relatively original were also the readings of the autograph is another question which can never be answered in the affirmative with absolute decision except where the autograph itself is extant, but which admits of approximate answers varying enormously in certainty according to the nature of the documentary evidence for the text generally” (p. 66, par. 85).

“In discussing the corruption of texts antecedent to extant documents, the forms in which it presents itself, and the nature of the critical process by which it is affirmed, we have reserved till last a brief notice of the critical process which endeavors to remedy it, that is, Conjectural Emendation…. The evidence of corruption is often irresistible, imposing on an editor the duty of indicating the presumed unsoundness of the text, although he may be wholly unable to propose any endurable way of correcting it, or have to offer only suggestions in which he can place full confidence” (p. 71, par. 93).

“The place of Conjectural Emendation in the textual criticism of the New Testament is however so inconsiderable that we should have hesitated to say even this much about it…..” (p. 72, par. 95).

From Part III Application of Principles of Criticism to the Text of the New Testament (pp. 73-287); Chapter IV Substantial Integrity of the Purest Transmitted Text (pp. 271-287, paragraphs 356-374):

“The way has now been cleared for the final question,—Is it or is it not reasonable to expect that in any considerable number of cases the true reading has now perished? Have we a right to assume that the true reading always exists somewhere among existing documents? The question is often foreclosed on one or both of two grounds which in our judgment are quite irrelevant. First, some think it incredible that any true words of Scripture have perished. In reply it is a sufficient argumentum ad hominem to point to the existence of various readings, forming part of the various texts accepted for long ages, and the frequent difficulty of deciding between them, even though we say nothing of difficulties of interpretation: on any view many important churches for long ages have had only an approximately pure New Testament, so that we have no right to treat it as antecedently incredible that only an approximately pure New Testament should be attainable now, or even in all future time. For ourselves we dare not introduce considerations which could not reasonably be applied to other ancient texts, supposing them to have documentary attestation of equal amount, variety, and antiquity. Secondly, the folly and frivolity of once popular conjectures have led to a wholesome reaction against looking beyond documentary tradition….” (pp. 276-277; par. 361).

“It will not be out of place to add here a distinct expression of our belief that even among the numerous unquestionably spurious readings of the New Testament there are no signs of deliberate falsification of the text for dogmatic purposes” (p. 282; par. 369).
“The text of this edition of course makes no pretension to be more than an approximation of the purest text that might be formed from existing materials.” (p. 284; par. 371).

“There is no royal road to the ascertainment of the true texts of ancient writings” (p. 286; par. 373).

Benjamin B. Warfield, An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Third Edition (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1886):

From Chapter Three: The Praxis of Criticism (pp. 182-201):

“Before we close our discussion of the praxis of criticism, therefore, we must explicitly recognize the legitimacy and duty of examining the text of the whole New Testament with the most scrupulous care, with a view to discovering whether its transmission has been perfect; and of appealing to internal evidence to suggest and settle for us the true text in all cases of variation where the evidence is hopelessly in conflict, and in all cases where, the absence of variation, an examination of the text has resulted in leading us to suspect corruption….  The technical name given to this extension of criticism is ‘conjectural emendation,’ which is meant to describe it as a process which suggests the emendation which the text is shown either by the presence of irreconcilable variations or by internal considerations to need, from the conjecture of the mind, working on internal hints… (p. 207; see pp. 207-210).

Bruce Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Fourth Edition (Oxford University Press, 1964, 1968, 1992, 2005):

From Chapter Six “Modern Methods of Textual Criticism” (205-249):

“The method of textual criticism that has been generally practiced by editors of classical Greek and Latin texts involves two main processes, recension and emendation. Recension is the selection, after examination of all available material, of the most trustworthy evidence on which to base a text. Emendation is the attempt to eliminate the errors that are found even in the best manuscripts” (205).

An extended discussion of “Conjectural Emendation” is found on pp. 226-231:

“The classical method of textual criticism regularly involves, as was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the exercise of conjectural emendation. If the only reading, or each of several variant readings, that the document supply is impossible or incomprehensible, the editor’s only remaining resource is to conjecture what the original reading must have been” (226-227).

“In their edition of the Greek New Testament, Westcott and Hort marked with obeli about 60 passages that they (or one of them) suspected involve a “primitive error,” that is an error older than the extant witnesses, for the removal of which one is confined to conjectural emendation” (229).

“One must admit the theoretical legitimacy of applying to the New Testament a process that has so often been found essential in the restoration of the right text in classical authors. But the amount of evidence for the text of the New Testament, whether derived from manuscripts, early versions, or patristic quotations, is so much greater than that available for any ancient classical author that the necessity of resorting to emendation is reduced to the smallest dimensions” (230).

Howard Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, Revised Edition (1964, 1995):

“If examining the available MSS (manuscripts) fails to indicate satisfactorily the original text of a certain word or phrase, a scholar may resort to an ‘educated guess’ known as a conjectural emendation. In the case of literature where there are only a few extant MSS this procedure may sometimes be necessary. When a larger number of MSS are available, as in the case of the New Testament, conjecture is less often, if ever, necessary, and tends to become what Kenyon called, ‘a process precarious in the extreme, and seldom allowing anyone but the guesser to feel confidence in the truth of its results’” (5).

Part Two: Historical questions about pre-modern use of conjectural emendations:

Clearly, conjectural emendation is a standard aspect of modern text criticism as it has been typically practiced.

My question, however, is when the making of conjectural emendations, as practiced, by modern text critics, became an accepted part of text criticism. Was this something that would have been done in pre-modern era? I recently ran across a possible example of a conjecture in Calvin’s commentary on John 18:1 where he questions what the proper article should be for the noun kedrōn. Would Beza have ventured to make a pure conjecture?

What does Erasmus tell us?

To get a sense of the importance of having a Greek manuscript to support a reading, and thus not having to rely on a bare conjecture, recall the controversy over Erasmus’s omission of the CJ in the first two editions of his TR (1516, 1519). Erasmus (1466-1536) was criticized for this omission by the Protestant Edward Lee of England and the RC Jacobus Stunica of Spain. Why had Erasmus not included it in those early edition? Because it did not appear in the Greek manuscripts he consulted in preparing them. Grantley McDonald observes, “Had he found one Greek manuscript with the comma, he certainly would have added the missing phrase from that one textual witness, but since that had not happened, he had no choice, but to indicate that the comma was absent from the Greek manuscripts available to him” (Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe, 19). NB: This is not to affirm the legendary “rash wager” anecdote! The point is to say that Erasmus wanted to base his text on an extant Greek manuscript, and he eventually restored the CJ in the third edition of his TR (1522) when he was satisfied that he had found it.

What did Beza really say about Revelation 16:5?

The question now is what would have been the scholarly approach of Theodore Beza (1519-1605)? Would he have held a position closer to Erasmus (Greek ms. needed to support text) or Westcott & Hort (pure conjectural emendation justified in rare and extreme cases)?

Modern writers seem to assume that Beza made a pure conjectural emendation at Revelation 16:5 in preferring the reading ho esomenos, rather than ho hosios. It is so identified by Hills in The King James Version Defended (208).

Let’s return, however, to his Latin notes on Revelation 16:5 in his 1598 NT, and to this key sentence:

How is it be translated? What did Beza mean?

James White, like Hills, takes the reference as referring to a conjectural emendation. He quotes part of the sentence untranslated:

“So why does the KJV read ‘and shalt be’? Because John Calvin’s successor at Geneva, Theodore Beza, conjectured that [sic] the original reading differently. To use his words, ‘ex vetusto bonae fidei manuscripto codice restitui.’ Beza believed that there was sufficient similarity between the Greek terms hosios and esomenos (the future form, ‘shall be’) to allow him to make the change to harmonize the text with other such language in Revelation. But he had no manuscript evidence in support of his conjecture” (The King James Only Controversy, 2009: 237).

That Beza made a conjecture here is also assumed by the KJV today article on Beza and Revelation 16:5, which translates this sentence:

“And so without doubting the genuine writing in this ancient manuscript, I faithfully restored in the good book what was certainly there, ‘ο εσομενος.”

Is this translation correct? It does not appear so to me. Here again is the sentence and a breakdown of the words:

Itaque ambigere non possum quin germana sit scriptura quam ex vetusto bonae fidei manuscripto codice restitui, nempe ο εσομενος.

Translation notes:

Itaque: adverb: therefore
Ambigere: verb, present active infinitive, from ambigo: to doubt
Non possum: negative particle + verb, present active indicative, first person, singular, possum: I am not able
Quin: combination of the pronoun qui and the negative suffix ne: quine; in subordinate clauses with subjunctive verb and after negative verbs of doubting: “but that”
Germana: adjective, nominative feminine singular, modifying scriptura
Sit: verb, present active subjunctive, third person singular, from esse: It should be
Scriptura: noun, nominative feminine singular, from scriptura: writing, piece of writing, or “reading”
Quam: comparative adverb: as
Ex: preposition: out of, takes object in the ablative case
Vetusto: adj., masculine ablative singular, vetustus, -a, -um, here modifying codice: ancient
Bonae: adjective, genitive feminine singular, bonus, -a, -um, here modifying fidei: good
Fidei: noun, genitive feminine singular, fides, fidei: trust
Manuscripto: adjective, masculine ablative singular, manuscriptus, -a, -um, modifying codice: manuscript or hand-written
Codice: noun, masculine ablative singular, object of the preposition ex: codex or book
Restitui: Verb, Perfect Active Indicative, first person singular, from restituo: I restore
Nempe: adverb: truly, certainly, to be sure

So, here is the Latin again and a translation:

Itaque ambigere non possum quin germana sit scriptura quam ex vetusto bonae fidei manuscripto codice restitui, nempe ο εσομενος.

“Therefore, I am not able to doubt but that the true reading should be as I have restored it from an ancient manuscript [hand-written] codex of good faith, truly ο εσομενος.

The implication: Beza did not simply make a pure conjecture, but he had taken this reading ex vetusto bonae fidei manuscripto codice, “from an ancient manuscript [hand-written Greek] codex.” What was this codex? We do not know, but this challenges the whole notion that Beza’s text at Revelation 16:5 was merely a hypothetical conjecture.


First, conjectural emendation is a necessary aspect of the reconstructionist modern historical critical method. It is based on the notion that the “true text” is irretrievably lost and can, therefore, at points, only be hypothetically approximated. To affirm the use of that method and then to reject the use of such conjectures is inconsistent.

Second, based on Beza’s notes, a question might be raised as to whether his reading at Revelation 16:5 was, in fact, a true conjectural emendation.


Friday, February 15, 2019

The Vision (2.15.19): And in secret have I said nothing

Image: CRBC Church Fellowship (2.8.19)
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 18:15-27.
Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing (John 18:20).
When Christ was brought before Annas, John reports: “The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine [didache, teaching] (John 18:19).
Christ responds that he spoke “openly to the world” (v. 20). Notice the last line: “and in secret have I said nothing.” This is a reminder of the transparency of Christ. Nothing was hidden. Everything about his life and ministry had been open to public scrutiny.
One of the heresies that infected early Christianity was called Gnosticism, from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” The Gnostics taught that only they had secret knowledge from the Lord Jesus that had not been shared with others, in contradiction to Christ’s own words. An early form of this heresy may be hinted at in 1 Timothy 6:20 when Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [gnosis, knowledge] falsely so called.”
This summer on our family vacation trip out West we drove through Salt Lake City and stopped to walk through downtown to see the Mormon “temple,” where outsiders are not allowed to enter to see the secret rituals conducted within. Again, Christ’s teaching is contradicted.
I’ve heard of supposedly evangelical churches that do not openly advertise their meetings or offer an open invitation to any to come to their services. This contradicts Christ’s example. The only exception to this might be when the church is exposed to persecution, but that is hardly a problem in our present society.
Beware any group that claims to be Christian, but which wraps its meetings, its teachings, and its practices in secrecy. Such do not have the aroma of Christ. Cults are based on secrets; Christ on transparency.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Allen and Swain on solo Scriptura as "a bastard child nursed at the breast of modern rationalism and individualism"

Last week, I finished reading Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain’s Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2015). I was struck by this quote on the distinction between sola Scriptura and solo Scriptura:

Indeed, sola Scriptura has served for some moderns as a banner for private judgement and against catholicity. In so doing, however, churches and Christians have turned from sola Scriptura to solo Scriptura, a bastard child nursed at the breast of modern rationalism and individualism. Even the Reformational doctrine of perspicuity has been transformed in much popular Christianity and some scholarly reflection as well to function as the theological equivalent of philosophical objectivity, namely, the belief that any honest observer can, by use of appropriate measures, always gain the appropriate interpretation of a Biblical text. Yet this is a far cry from the confession of Scripture’s clarity in the early Reformed movement or even in its expression in the post-Reformation dogmatics of the Reformed churches. On top of this type of mutation, we regularly encounter uses of the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” that ignore or minimize the role of church officers as well as the principle of sola Scriptura to affirm a lived practice of “no creed but the Bible.” Right or not, then, many people embrace sola Scriptura, thinking that they are embracing individualism, anti-traditionalism, and/or rationalism. Similarly, right or wrong, many critique sola Scriptura as one or more of these three things (85).


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Reflection on Philippians 2:25: Was Epaphroditus an Apostle?

Here’s another reflection spurred by reading D. B. Hart’s translation of the NT (Yale, 2017). He renders Philippians 2:25: “But I deemed it necessary to send you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, as well as your Apostle and attendant to my needs”. I was struck by the description here of Epaphroditus as an “Apostle” (and capitalized at that). The underlying Greek noun is, in fact, apostolos, though the Geneva Bible and KJV renders it as “messenger,” no doubt wanting to distinguish the use of the term here from its usage in reference to the twelve apostles and Paul. Interestingly enough, Tyndale also rendered the noun here as “apostle” (but with a lower case “a”).

The term apostolos has various meanings in the NT, including these four:

First, it can refer to the twelve apostles (cf. cf. Matt 10:2; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:20) and to Paul (cf. 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:1) as extraordinary officers and the founders of the Christian movement on Christ the chief cornerstone.

Second, it can refer to special disciples who were not the twelve apostles or Paul. These served as distinguished church emissaries (messengers) and assistants to the apostles. The term apostolos is used in Acts 14:4, 14 in reference to both Paul and Barnabas. 2 Corinthians 8:23 makes reference to Titus as being among the apostoloi ekklēsiōn, as Tyndale, Geneva, and KJV all render it, “the messengers of the churches [Tyndale: congregations],” again making a distinction here from the twelve apostles and Paul.

Some also see Andronicus and Junia in Romans 16:7 in this category, if not in the first. Eldon Jay Epp, among others, has even argued that Junia was the first woman apostle (see here). Paul’s point, however, is not to say that Andronicus and Junia were apostles but that their ministry was recognized by the apostles, so the KJV rightly describes them as being “of note among the apostles.”

Third, it can simply refer to one who is sent. The only appearance of the word apostolos in John’s Gospel is found in John 13:16 and reflects this sense. The KJV renders John 13:16b: “neither he that is sent [apostolos] greater than he that sent him.” D. B Hart here uses “messenger”: “nor is a messenger superior to the one sending him.”

It is intriguing that John knows and makes use of the term “the twelve” (cf. John 6:67, 70-71; 20:24), but does not use the term apostoloi in reference to the twelve, as in the other Gospels (again, cf. Matt 10:2; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13).

Fourth, it is used as a title in reference to Jesus in Hebrews 3:1: “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (KJV).

So, what did Paul mean when he called Epaphroditus an apostolos? The usage here fits best category two above, so that Epaphroditus was, like Barnabas, Titus, and other “messengers of the churches” an esteemed emissary and apostolic helper but not one of the twelve or a “special” apostle like Paul.

It is also interesting how the early particular Baptists used the term “messenger,” taken from the Tyndale-KJV tradition to refer to the representatives of “churches holding communion together” (2LBCF-1689 26:15).


Friday, February 08, 2019

The Vision (2.8.19): Whom seek ye?

Image: Contemporary scene from the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. 
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 18:1-14.

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? (John 18:4).
John records that Jesus asked the mob who came to lay hands upon him: “Whom seek ye?”  This is a question pregnant with meaning. Christ is always asking men this question, Whom seek ye? And he is especially asking it of those who misunderstand him, threaten him, hate him, deny him, and want to do away with him once for all.
They answered in v. 5: “Jesus of Nazareth.” This speaks to his identity as a man. Notice they do not say, “We seek the Lord Jesus Christ.” They just want the man.
And what does Jesus say in response? “I am he.” Ego eimi. This echoes the seven “I am” sayings of John (cf. 6:35; 8:12; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1) and the Lord’s revelation of himself from the burning bush as the great “I AM” in Exodus 3:14.
Notice also the description of Judas in v. 5b: “And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.” This is a stark picture of the unregenerate man. He stands with those who see Jesus only as an ordinary man, and who want to remove him from sight and put him away.
Despite this, John reveals a fascinating detail in v. 6. The moment Christ declared himself to be “I am” those who came to arrest him involuntarily “went backward and fell to the ground.” Even they recognized his true identity as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Their actions are an anticipation of what will happen at the end of the ages, described by Paul in the Christ Hymn (see Phil 2:9-11), when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Calvin observed: “We may infer from this how dreadful and how alarming to the wicked the voice of Christ will be, when he shall ascend his throne to judge the world.”
Christ is still asking men, Whom seek ye? Will we gladly bend the knee in faith before him now, or only with fear and dread at the end of the ages?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, February 01, 2019

The Vision (2.1.19): That they may be made perfect in one

Image: Winter sunset, North Garden, Virginia, January 2019
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 17:20-26.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:23).
In Christ’s High Priestly Prayer the Lord Jesus prays for the unity of his future disciples. The prayer continues in v. 23 with Christ saying, “I in them….” Christ dwells within believers. How does he do this? By means of the Spirit. Compare:
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Christ continues: “and thou in me.” The Father was in the incarnate Christ so that he might make the Father known (cf. John 1:8; 14:9).
Think of it: If the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us, then this means that the Father is in us, through the Son.
What is the goal? “That they may be made perfect [teleo: to be mature] in one.” (v. 23b).
He adds another purpose at the end of v. 23: witness to the world: “and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved me, as thou hast loved me” (cf. v. 21).  That last part is a reminder that the only way sinful yet redeemed men share in the love of the Father is by being united to his beloved Son. A perfect God must have a perfect object of his love. He may only rightly love himself. Thus, we are loved only because we are in Christ, and we can only have true unity if we are in Christ.
May the Lord make us perfect in one.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle