A fatal mistake

“Some of us are tempted to stop with doctrine, and to feel that when we have come to the end of [Romans] chapter 11, we have all we really want out of the Epistle to the Romans. That is fatal. We must take the whole of the Scripture, otherwise we shall miss its balance. And here in this whole section, as we have seen, the apostle is concerned with our practical, daily living.
Why should we be so concerned about this? One great reason is that the glory of God in His great salvation is involved. If we say that we are people who believe what we read in the first eleven chapters, and then live in a manner that is opposed to that teaching, we bring the very doctrine in which we claim to glory into disrepute. People–particularly today – are much more concerned with what we do than with what we say, so the glory of God and of His great salvation is, in a sense, in our hands and people will judge it by what they see in us. If we talk learnedly about justification, sanctification, and glorification but still live like everybody else in the world, then men and women who observe us will inevitably react by turning away from the gospel. But not only that, these truths are so interrelated and intertwined that we can never enjoy the benefits of our great salvation if we do not obey its precepts.” – D.M. Lloyd Jones, Romans 12, p 426.

Dr. David Martin Lloyd-Jones is every bit as correct today in 2017 as he was in October 1966 when these words were first spoken. In an excellent article in the blog–Towards Conservative Christianity, the author explains:

Orthodoxy is right doctrine. Orthopraxy is right actions or practice – the works or fruit that are evidence of orthodoxy in the heart. Orthopathy is right affection – ordinate affection toward God, self and the world around. Each of these exists in a mutually dependent relationship towards the others. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is the dead faith James described. Orthodoxy without orthopathy is dead formalism or even legalism. Orthopraxy without orthodoxy is undirected pragmatism or innovation. Orthopraxy without orthopathy is dead Pharisaism and hypocrisy. Orthopathy without orthodoxy is sheer enthusiasm or fanaticism. Orthopathy without orthopraxy is sentimentalism and pure emotionalism.

“Faith without works is dead being alone.” Yet, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Let no one say that we must preach grace without a call to works, for such a grace is no grace, and such a gospel, is no gospel. God’s redemptive plan redeems the entire man–body and spirit, transforming our thinking, our volition and our emotions. Let us be Holy as He is Holy. Let us not be conformed but transformed. Let us put off the old man, and put on the new. Let us be salt and light that “they may see [our] good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”

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Articles on Bible Translation, Preservation, Inspiration, Textual Criticism

In response to a good deal of confusion and contention over Bible translation I thought it helpful to address this issue. I have done so in two extended articles which I have attached to this post. The first article is titled: Where the Bible Came From–How it Came to Me– & Considerations for Choosing a Bible Translation. It beings this way:

This paper is for the person that has his heart bent on truth. Bible translation is an area where passions run deep, where bias is common, and where many have a deeply entrenched position. Yet those passions, and those biases, and those positions are not always historically and theologically well grounded. This paper has two objectives. First, it intends to present a truthful and as unbiased as possible look at where the Scriptures came from, and how God has preserved them to our day. Secondly, it intends to address the question,—“Why would someone consider changing from their traditional use of the King James Version?”, as well as the question,—“Why would they consider changing to the primary use of the English Standard Version?”. While certainly not a comprehensive treatment of the subjects, it is intended to inform the reader regarding this vital basis for our Christian faith—God’s Holy Word.

The second article was spurred when I was asked–“are there those who disagreed with the facts of my first paper, and how do I answer them?” Shortly after being asked that question I found a document on the internet by another local pastor titled Ten Reasons Why the King James Bible is the Word of Godwritten by pastor Terry Fenton. I decided to address his ten reasons and did so in A Response to: “Ten Reasons Why the King James Bible is the Word of God”. I sent a copy of my article to Pastor Fenton for his review but received no response. This article introduces itself this way

In fairly assessing any issue it is important to consider both sides, for every issue has at least two sides. This is certainly the case with the controversy surrounding English Bible translations. Conservative Bible believers hold the Bible as the sole and exclusive basis for their faith and practice. It should not be surprising then that passions run deep when discussing such an important topic. Some argue that the King James translation holds exclusive claim as being “God’s Word,” while others believe such an exclusive claim is unmerited. This subject provokes controversy when misrepresentation or miscommunication occurs, often from both sides.

In this paper it is my intention to respond to a paper written by Pastor Terry Fenton. Pastor Fenton is the pastor of Seneca Bible Baptist Church. His paper is titled Ten Reasons why the King James Bible is the Word of God. I would encourage the reader of this response to read Pastor Fenton’s article in parallel so that each perspective is communicated by its strongest advocate. From his paper it seems clear that Pastor Fenton holds the exclusive King James position. This paper intends to address Pastor Fenton’s Reasons as fairly and as clearly as possible. This will permit a reader to hear both sides of this important topic.

It is my intention in both of these articles to dispel some of the confusion regarding Bible History. It is not my intention to defame the King James Bible, or undermine its authority in any way. I have the utmost respect for its beauty, and its faithfulness to the underlying Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. God has used this translation for 400 years for His glory. However, I also believe there is a strong argument to be made for using modern translations, particularly the English Standard Version. I am glad to answer any sincere questions, and to engage in dialog, and to be taught, but I have no time for intransigent debate. I hope you find these articles informative and helpful. Grace.

Philippians 4:13 – “Him” vs “Christ”

I was recently asked why the English Standard Bible (ESV) translates Philippians 4:13 as follows: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The specific question regards the use of the pronoun “him,” which differs from the King James translation’s use of the noun “Christ.”

First, let me say that both readings resolve to the same interpretation. Reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and understanding Paul’s life as revealed in his writings, there can be no doubt Who it is that empowers him (see Eph 6:10; 1 Tim 1:12; 2 Tim 2:1; 4:17). In the context of this passage, Paul is exhorting the church to seek contentment in Christ regardless of the circumstances they may face. In v12, Paul is referring to his own life, explaining that he has learned how to be abased (brought low) and to abound, and to keep rejoicing regardless. How can he do this? He does this through the One that is strengthening him–Jesus Christ (v7). Christ is undoubtedly the One who enables such a spirit within him or any true believer. Noun or pronoun, the meaning of the passage is not changed.

Yet the question remains, “Why the difference?” The short answer is because the underlying Greek records a textual variant. If we consider the textual evidence, technically, the Greek word Χριστῷ (Christos) does not appear in any text prior to the 19th century. Now to be fair, a common abbreviation for Christos does occur, but only in revision to a earlier manuscripts and other than that, not until the 9th century.  So in reality, the first reading that included “Christ” rather than “him” is 900 years after the autograph, whereas the reading “him” has support from the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, which are some of the earliest manuscripts available.

In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition by Bruce Metzger, he writes, “In order to identify who it is that strengthens Paul, the Textus Receptus, following several of the later uncials and many minuscules, adds Χριστῷ. If the word had been present in the original text, there would have been no reason to omit it.” Gerald Hawthorne in Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 43: Philippians comments, “א2 D2 and the Majority Text add Χριστῷ, ‘Christ,’ to make clear who it is who strengthens Paul. If ‘Christ’ had been part of the original text, however, there would have been no reason to omit it, except by accident or possible haplography, i.e., unintentional omission, given the similarity of sounds in the case endings.” The notes to the New English Translation for this verse state, “Although some excellent witnesses lack explicit reference to the one strengthening Paul . . , the majority of witnesses . . . add Χριστῷ [Christos] here (thus, ‘through Christ who strengthens me’). But this kind of reading is patently secondary, and is a predictable variant. Further, the shorter reading is much harder, for it leaves the agent unspecified.” Phillip Comfort in his New Testament Text and Translation Commentary writes “The variant is clearly a scribal addition . . . intended to make it absolutely clear that it was Christ who empowered Paul (see 1 Tim 1:12). But Paul hardly had to say this. Furthermore, he may have been thinking of “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” because Paul had previously referred to him as the one who supplied all he needed.”  These four scholars, trained in textual criticism, believe the proper reading is the one that is more difficult and leaves the pronoun unresolved. From these men, and others like them who have compiled the critical texts used in translation, the pronoun has been chosen—hence the difference.

God has preserved His Word. He has done so in the totality of the manuscript evidence, as well as in faithful translations of many languages. When we are considering differences between translations, we must be sure to look at the evidence, to seek and search for truth. Simply advocating one translation as better because it conforms to our own preconceived standard does not make it so. The King James is a faithful translation and has been faithfully employed by the church for centuries. However, the English Standard Version is also a faithful translation. While it has not yet served as long as the KJV, its language is faithful to the text, yet rooted in language that contemporary readers use day to day. Both are God’s Word. Let us not provoke “doubtful disputations”—or might we say “not to quarrel over opinions.” And let us live the truth of His Word.

Recommended Reading List

I have been asked to come up with a recommended reading list. I have taken a first try at producing this this. The order is not the order I would recommend reading them just the order that they came to my mind. I would be interested in books that you think are missing or any that you see that aren’t worthy of the list.

Devotional

  1. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  2. The Holy War – John Bunyan
  3. The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges
  4. The Practice of Godliness – Jerry Bridges
  5. Desiring God – John Piper
  6. When I don’t desire God: How to fight for Joy – John Piper
  7. The Best of A.W. Tozer books 1 & 2 – edited by Warren Wiersbe
  8. Joseph: Beloved, Hated, Exalted – F.B. Meyer
  9. Valley of Vision
  10. Holiness – J.C. Ryle

Biographies & Church History

  1. Ann of Ava
  2. The 2vol Biography of Hudson Taylor by Charles Taylor (vol 1: In Early Years: Growth of a soul; vol 2: China Inland Mission: The Growth of the work of God)
  3. Mountain Rain: A Biography of James O. Fraser – Eileen Fraser Crossman
  4. To the Golden Shore
  5. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd
  6. The Three Mrs Judsons
  7. The Reformation in England – d’Aubigne
  8. Sketches from Church History – Houghton
  9. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions – Tucker

Theology

  1. Knowing God – J.I. Packer
  2. Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism
  3. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church – 9Marks
  4. Revival and Revivalism – Ian Murray
  5. Not by Chance – Layton Talbert
  6. The Gospel According to Jesus – John MacArthur
  7. Tell the Truth – Metzger
  8. Basic Theology – Ryrie

Prayer

  1. A Praying Life – Paul E. Miller
  2. The Hidden Life of Prayer – David Macintyre
  3. A Guide to Prayer – Isaac Watts
  4. A Method for Prayer – Matthew Henry

Ministry Compared with Other Professions

This from The Power of the Pulpit by Gardiner Spring.

There is an affecting anecdote related of that memorable Italian reformer, Filippo Neri, and the youthful student. ‘Filippo was living at one of the Italian Universities when a young man, whom he had know as a boy, ran up to him with a face full of delight, and told him that what he had long been wishing above all things in the world, was at length fulfilled, his parents having just given him leave to study the law; and that thereupon he had come to the law-school, and meant to spare no pains or labour in getting through his studies as quickly and as well as possible. in this way he ran on a long time; and when at last he came to stop, the holy man, who had been listening to him with great patience and kindness, said, “Well! and when you have got through your course of studies, what do you mane to do then?”

“Then I shall take my doctor’s degree,” answered the young man

“And then?” asked Filippo Neri again.

“And then, ” continued the youth, “I shall have a number of difficult  and knotty cases to manage, shall catch people’s notice by my eloquence, my zeal, my acuteness, and gain a great reputation.”

“And then?” repeated the holy man.

“And the,” replied the youth, “why then, there can’t be a question, I shall be promoted to some high office or other, besides, I shall make money and grow rich.”

“And then?” repeated Filippo.

“And then,” pursued the young lawyer-“then I shall live comfortably and honourably in health and dignity, and shall be able to look forward quietly to a happy old age.”

“And then?” added the holy man.

“And the,” said the youth–“and then–and then–then I shall die.”

‘Here Filippo lifted up his voice, and again asked, “AND THEN?” Whereupon the young man made no answer, but cast down his head, and went away. This last And then? had pierced like a flash of lightning into his soul, and he could not get quit of it. Soon after he forsook the study of the law, and gave himself up to the ministry of Christ, and spent the remainder of his days in godly words and works.’

What would be your response to this repeated “And Then?” 

The Conquest

The following is from John Bunyan’s The Holy War:

While Ill-Pause was making his speech to the towns-men, something terrible happened to Lord Innocent. It may have been an arrow shot from the camp of the giant or the stinking breath of that reacherous villain old Ill-Pause that cause him to collapse in the place where he stood. But Lord Innocent could not be brought to life again. Thus these two brave men, Captain Resistance and Lord Innocent, died. Brave men i call them, for they were the beauty and glory of Mansoul as long as they lived there. Now, not one noble spirit remained in Mansoul.

The rest of the townsfolk were like men who had found a fool’s paradise. WHen they saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eye, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, they did as old Ill-Pause adviced. THey took the fruit and ate it. And having eaten, they immediately became drunk with the nectar and opened both Ear Gate and Eye Gate.

The people of Mansoul let Diabolus in with all hsi hosts, forgetting their good King Shaddai, his law, and the judgment he had warned would come if they disobeyed.

The Power of the Pulpit

Please read this article regarding the impact of our government and society at large upon a Christian college. Then read the following excerpt from a 18th century author:

What if the pulpits of this land were put under Papal interdict? What if some cruel and tyrannical ‘Act of Uniformity’ were to exile even two thousand of her ministers? What if Papacy should procure a revocation of the charter that gives liberty of conscience, and speech, and preaching? or Atheism should pass a resolution that there is no God, and should close our churches, and bid us all speak no more in his name? Tell me, ye who rail so eloquently at God’s ministers, have you any expedient to bridge the chasm? What fountains of life have you to open in the desert, and what trees of righteousness to plant in the parched wilderness? Drain it of these waters, if you will; burn it over, if you will; and then bear in mind that on you rests the responsibility of reclaiming it. Piety sickens at such a view; humanity weeps over it. Such a land were a defiled inheritance, ‘given to salt, and that cannot be healed’. Let infidelity ever become so rife among us, and so rampant as to disrobe our ministry, and close our churches; and whatever else might be the result, proof would not be wanting that moral power had been withdrawn from the land. Let her pulpits be closed for a quarter of a century, and the result cannot be doubtful. More practical evil would flow from such a destitution, than from all other causes put together. Law would vanish with religion. No corrupt propensity would be kept under restraint; there would be no corrective, and no limit but selfishness to the depravity of the human heart. The virtuous would be driven to despair, and the vicious to the darkness and crimes of paganism. It would be a Pagan land, dark and dreamy as though the Sun of righteousness had never risen upon it. Owls would dwell there, and satyrs would dance there; and around such a dreadful cavern of iniquity, the dragons of the pit would linger and dwell as it their own habitation. And the curse of God would be upon it, as it was upon Sodom; and he would extirpate the inhabitants of it as he did the nations of Canaan. His judgments would go forth against it, and as though seven thunders uttered their voices, it would be said in haven, ‘WOE, WOE, WOE TO THE LAND THAT IS NOT THE LAND OF SABBATHS. AND CHURCHES, AND MINISTERS!”

The Power of the Pulpit by Gardiner Spring (1785-1873)