Sunday, April 30, 2017

Appreciation of God’s amazing grace

The following hymn I wrote circa 1989. It is not Watts or Wesley quality poetry, but is a sincere expression of my appreciation of God’s amazing grace. The meter pattern makes it not an easy hymn to match with a tune.

1. Oh, the love that drew me in
When I was sinking in my sin.
Oh, how sure the firm decree
Enduring all eternity.

2. Oh, the grace that called my name
As I was drowning in my shame;
Oh, how great our God must be
That He has grace for even me!

3. Oh, what mercy that God would
Bestow a look toward one no good;
Oh, beyond all grasp or thought
That I by Jesus’ blood am bought!

4. Saved by grace, Oh, wondrous sound!
How His great mercy did abound.
Saved by grace or bound for hell—
If saved by grace, then all is well.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Reverend Doctor Mess

Last week Pastor Jim attended a preachers’ conference at the High Street Baptist Church.  The lofty room turned out to be full of “doctors” – so he found as each preacher introduced himself. Quickly adjusting to the situation, Pastor Jim began to introduce himself as an “intern.” When questioned about this Jim explained, “Well, someone has to clean up the messes that doctors make!”

Pro-choice politics

A Gallup survey of combined polls on abortion shows that the views on abortion trend back and forth. Currently there is only about a 1% favor toward pro-abortion/pro-choice.

Last week I read with interest Marist Poll National Adults, based on interviews conducted December 12th through December 18th, 2016.

The question was asked, “On the issue of abortion, do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice?” Nation-wide 42% were pro-life, while 52% were pro-choice and 6% were unsure. When the detailed questions are brought out, the details get interesting.

Though 52% answered as being pro-choice, when asked, “In the long run, do you believe having an abortion improves a woman’s life or in the long run do you believe abortion does more harm than good to a woman,” only 31% thought it improved a woman’s life, while 50% thought it does more harm.

When it comes to using tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion, the majority opposes it – 28% oppose and 33% strongly oppose. Only 9% strongly support it. When it comes to using tax dollars to support abortion in other countries, 83% oppose or strongly oppose it. 30%, a plurality, believe that abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

60% of the nation-wide respondents thought those who have moral objections to abortion should not be legally required to perform or provide insurance coverage for abortions.

When asked, “Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, do you believe that, in general, or morally wrong,” 59% said they thought it was morally wrong. Interestingly, the majority of American women (59 percent) say abortion is morally wrong, the same percentage of all Americans who agree it is morally wrong.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pro-birth or Pro-death

A Catholic Nun Perfectly Explains the Major Hypocrisy of the “Pro-Life” Argument -- The linked article says that a “Catholic nun’s explanation of the term ‘pro-life’ from 2004 is resurfacing after recent antiabortion events.” Joan Chittister, a Catholic nun, made the point back then on PBS’s Now that “being against abortion doesn’t mean you’re pro-life.” Chittister stated, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

Here are some things wrong with the quote, especially as it is used to forward the cause of abortion.

What’s the opposite of pro-birth? Pro-death. While there is a wider moral scope than just being pro-birth, surely we do want to be pro-birth rather than pro-death!

Where is the proof that those who oppose abortion don’t want a child to be fed, educated, and housed? The broader conversation is not needed if we adopt the pro-death platform! None of those children will need to be fed, educated, or housed. (Many of them won’t even get a decent burial.) Is that what is wished for? Only beginning from the pro-birth position is the broader conversation of pro-life relevant.

And, yes, we do need to have that broader conversation.

My Life Wasn't Supposed To Turn Out Like This

I just read My Life Wasn't Supposed To Turn Out Like This by Stephen Altrogge. I don't know anything about Altrogge and only saw the article because my daughter linked it on Facebook. I recommend it to you for your reading. Here are a few excerpts.

"Up until two years ago, I thought I had my life pretty well mapped out...Then things took a strange turn."

"Maybe you can relate...The idyllic notions of your youth have been smashed upon the rocks of reality."

"God often takes his people on strange paths through uncharted territories."

"God took David on a path David would never have chosen for himself so that he could teach David things he could never have learned otherwise."

"The testimony of 10,000 saints is this: God knows what he is doing."

As many as, No More, No Less

As many as, No More, No Less (Acts 13: 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.)

As many as the Lord hath chose,

 So many shall believe;
Not all the power or craft of hell
 Shall one of them deceive.
Those God has foreordained to love,
 They must and shall believe;
But those who say it's man's free will
 Their very selves deceive.

Before God formed His creature, man,

 Before the birth of day,
God foreordained redemption's plan,
 And Christ the only way.

The man that goes to God in time

 Was loved ere time begun,
The Father's own eternal choice,
 Redeemed by Christ the Son.

(From Signs of the Times)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Walking with God

XXV, “For Communion with God” by Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739)

1. Alas, my God, that we should be
Such Strangers to each other!
O that as Friends we might agree,
And walk, and talk together!
Thou know’st my Soul doth dearly love
The Place of thine Abode;
No Music drops so sweet a Sound,
As those two words, My God.

2. I long not for the Fruit that grows
Within these Gardens here;
I find no sweetness in their Rose
When Jesus is not near:
Thy gracious Presence, O my Christ
Can make a Paradise;
Ah, what are all the goodly Pearls
Unto this Pearl of Price!

3. May I taste that Communion, Lord,
Thy people have with Thee?
Thy Spirit daily talks with them,
O let it talk with me!
Like Enoch, let me walk with God,
And thus walk out my Day,
Attended with the Heavenly Guards
 Upon the King’s High-way.

4. When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
O come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still;
I’m well when Thou art near.
When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
I languish for thy Sight;
Ten Thousand Suns, if thou art Strange,
Are shades instead of Light.

5. When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
For, till thou dost appear,
 I count each Moment for a Day,
Each Minute for a Year.
Come, Lord and never from me go,
This World’s a darksome Place;
I find no Pleasure here below,
When thou dost veil thy Face.

6.  There’s no such Thing as Pleasure here;
My JESUS is my All;
As Thou didst shine or disappear,
My pleasures rise and fall.
Come, spread thy Savour on my Frame,
No sweetness is so sweet;
Till I get up to sing thy Name,
Where all thy Singers meet.

English Bibles published before 1611

English Bibles published before the KJV in 1611 that can be found online:
Brief English Bible Timeline
  • 670s Parts of the Bible were translated in England as early as the 670s, AD. See The Anglo-Saxon Gospels
  • 1380s The first English language Bible manuscripts were produced by AD 1382 by John Wycliffe and others, from the Latin Vulgate.
  • 1520s William Tyndale translated the New Testament from the Greek into English by 1526.
  • 1530s Myles Coverdale in 1535 published the Coverdale Bible, the first complete Bible in English.
  • 1530s John Rogers, under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew,” published the Matthew Bible in 1537.
  • 1530s Richard Taverner issued, with some revision, and edition of the Matthew Bible circa 1539.
  • 1530s In 1539 Myles Coverdale, under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury, published the Great Bible.
  • 1560s The complete Geneva Bible was published in 1560 (also known as the “Breeches Bible”).
  • 1560s The Bishop’s Bible (a revision of the Great Bible) was introduced in 1568, superintended by Archbishop Parker.
  • 1600s The Roman Catholic Church acquiesed to the demand for English translation of the Bible and by 1609 produced the Douay-Rheims Version (the Rheims NT was available in 1582 and the complete Bible in 1609.
  • 1600s In 1611 the King James Bible was built on these foundations (excluding the Douay-Rheims), the culmination of over 200 years Bible translation work, and became the primary Bible of English-speakers for the next 300-400 years.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Johannine Comma

Probably more controversial than the last twelve verses of Mark 16 is the so-called Johannine Comma. The Johannine Comma or Comma Johanneum is a technical term used by theologians to name a clause found in 1 John 5:7-8. It is also referred to as “The Heavenly Witnesses” and “The Trinitarian Formula.” Johannine or Johanneum is an adjective meaning “of or relating to John the apostle or to his writings in the New Testament.” Comma is not used as the mark of punctuation, but rather to mean a part of a sentence or short clause (Latin, comma, commae; from Greek kómma). It is a clause much debated in Christian circles – especially between supporters of older Bible translations such as the King James Version, Reina-Valera 1960, etc., which include it, and modern translations like the New International Version, Christian Standard Bible, etc. which expunge it.

King James Version, 1 John 5:
7 For there are three that bear record | in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth | the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
New International Version, 1 John 5:
7 For there are three that testify: |_| 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
Reina-Valera 1960, 1 Juan 5:7 Porque tres son los que dan testimonio | en el cielo: el Padre, el Verbo y el Espíritu Santo; y estos tres son uno. 8 Y tres son los que dan testimonio en la tierra: | el Espíritu, el agua y la sangre; y estos tres concuerdan.
Nueva Traducción Viviente, 1 Juan 5:7 Por lo tanto, son tres los testigos |_| 8 —el Espíritu, el agua y la sangre— y los tres están de acuerdo.
Cyprian quotes it?
Circa AD 250 in Treatise 1, On the Unity of the Church Cyprian of Carthage wrote, possibly invoking the comma, “He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, I and the Father are one; and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, And these three are one.” Cyprian also wrote, “If of the Holy Spirit; since the three are one, how can the Holy Spirit be at peace with him who is the enemy either of the Son or of the Father?” in his Epistle 72 To Jubaianus, Concerning the Baptism of Heretics (circa 256).[i] Cyprian certainly references this part of John’s first epistle, but it is not a verbatim quotation of it – thereby leaving the use of it inconclusive and open to argument.

The grammatical argument
In The Johannine Comma: First John 5:6-8 Floyd Jones makes this case regarding the grammar: “If I John 5:6-8 is removed from the Greek text, the two resulting loose ends will not join together grammatically.  The Greek language has ‘gender’ in its noun endings (as do many other languages). Neuter nouns normally require neuter articles (the word ‘the’ as in ‘the blood’ is the article).  But the article in verse 8 of the shortened reading as found in the Greek that is the foundation of the new versions (verse 7 of the King James Greek text) is masculine.  Thus the new translations read ‘the Spirit (neuter), the water (neuter), and the blood (neuter): and these three (masculine!! - from the Greek article hoi) are in one.’ Consequently three neuter subjects are being treated as masculine (see below where the omitted portion is italicized).  If the ‘Comma’ is rejected it is impossible to adequately explain this irregularity.  In addition, without the ‘Comma’ verse 7 has a masculine antecedent; three neuter subjects (nouns in vs.8) do not take a masculine antecedent.  Viewing the complete passage it becomes apparent how this rule of grammar is violated when the words are omitted.”

Concluding thoughts
I am a proponent of the “Comma,” but have nevertheless found some of “our” arguments less than weighty – at least as they are presented. It is certainly possible that in AD 250 Cyprian referred to these words by John, but it is also plausible that he was interpreting it – since it is not a direct quote. The grammar argument seems sensible, but then again I’m not sure that God is required to follows our interpretation of certain rules of grammar![ii]

The con side points out that the comma was not in the earliest Greek manuscripts that are available and does not appear until the 4th century in Latin manuscripts.[iii] It also is not in the majority of Greek manuscripts.[iv] Some historians say that the comma was not used in early Trinitarian controversies, and this militates against it. Yet others claim that in the earliest controversies “these three are one” would have been accepted by both sides and would not have been a particularly pungent point. The text does seem Johannine in style. The late argument, in my opinion, is not as weighty as the minority argument.

Many of the debaters in this debate are less than kind to one another (Cf. Ephesians 4:32). The “anti-comma” side dismisses their opponents as “not scholars” and even ignoramuses, while the “pro-comma” side dismisses theirs as weak on the Trinity or liberal posers.

Following are linked articles that address the topic.

Links, Pro
Links, Con
Links, Historical (not necessarily neutral)

[i] Another translation is “since the Three are One, how can the Holy Ghost be at peace with him, who is an enemy either of the Son or the Father?” (The Epistles of S. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and Martyr, Translated by Members of the English Church, Oxford: James Parker and Co., 1868, p. 250)
[ii] And others will argue the grammar defense is incorrect. I thought I had found a clearly stated pro-argument only on the grammar of 1 John 5:7-8, but when completing this post could not find it.
[iii] They also can be selective and inconsistent in their preference of text related to age.
[iv] Of course, 1 John and 1 John 5 are not in every manuscript, either. Nevertheless this is one of the stronger points against the pro side, since we usually argue in favor of the majority reading.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Irenaeus and Mark 16

The ending of the Gospel of Mark has been a source of debate and confusion for a number of years. Some claim the last 12 verses are late and not original to Mark. It is true that some Greek manuscripts do not include this ending, and that some of them are early manuscripts. It does not follow that the ending is late and/or spurious.

Irenaeus makes a direct reference to the ending of Mark, and this reference is to the long ending! He quotes the Scripture (Mark 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God, KJV) and places the words at the end of Mark’s Gospel. This can be found in Against Heresies, with an estimated date range of AD 175-185.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 3, Ch. 10.5
“Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, which shall prepare Your way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God. Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in the spirit and power of Elias, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths before our God. For the prophets did not announce one and another God, but one and the same; under various aspects, however, and many titles. For varied and rich in attribute is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this; and I shall show [the same truth] from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God; confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your foes Your footstool. Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein.”
Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885

Shorter excerpt from a different translation:
“Again, in the end of his Gospel Mark says, So the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken unto them, was taken up into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God: confirming what is said by the Prophet, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”
Five Books of S. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Against Heresies, Translated by John Keble, London: James Parker and Co., 1872, p. 229

“It is probable that Justin Martyr, at the middle of the second century, knew this ending; in any case, Tatian, his disciple, included it in his Diatessaron.”[i] (The Text of New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, 4th Edition, by Bruce M. Metzger, Bart Ehrman, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 323)

[i] Papias and Tertullian may have also referred to it; E.g. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Ch. 2.1 “...we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead...” (Translated by Peter Holmes. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tertullian on Scriptures?

From Tertullian, De Praescriptionibus Haereticorum, or The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 36
“Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! Where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s! Where Paul wins his crown in a death like John’s where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile! See what she has learned, what taught, what fellowship has had with even (our) churches in Africa! One Lord God does she acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks in her faith. This she seals with the water (of baptism), arrays with the Holy Ghost, feeds with the Eucharist, cheers with martyrdom, and against such a discipline thus (maintained) she admits no gainsayer. This is the discipline which I no longer say foretold that heresies should come, but from which they proceeded. However, they were not of her, because they were opposed to her. Even the rough wild-olive arises from the germ of the fruitful, rich, and genuine olive; also from the seed of the mellowest and sweetest fig there springs the empty and useless wild-fig. In the same way heresies, too, come from our plant, although not of our kind; (they come) from the grain of truth, but, owing to their falsehood, they have only wild leaves to show.”
[Bold emphasis mine] Translated by Peter Holmes, From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885

Translation of parts found in The Canon of the Holy Scriptures: Examined in the Light of History by Louis Gaussen:
“How happy is this church, how happy! She knows one only God, creator of all things; a Christ Jesus born of virgin, Son of the God Creator; and a resurrection of the body. She blends the law and the prophets with the writings of evangelists and apostles; it is thence she refreshes her faith (legem et prophetas cum evangelicis et apostolicis miscet; et inde potet fidem).”[i]
Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) lived circa AD 155/160 to circa AD 230/240. Timothy David Barnes believes that “Tertullian’s extant works covered a brief period from 196 to 212.”[ii]  According to Glenn Davis at Tertullian quoted from all the books of our current New Testament except 2 Peter, James, 2 John, and 3 John;[iii] approved of as valuable but not canonical, The Shepherd of Hermas; and considered Acts of Paul heretical. “Distressed by the envy and laxity of the clergy of the Roman church,” sometime before AD 210 Tertullian joined the Montanists – a separatist Christian church with rigorous standards no longer maintained by the evolving Rome-dominated churches.

[i] The Canon of the Holy Scriptures: Examined in the Light of History, Louis Gaussen, Boston, MA: American Tract Society, 1862; contra Davis, Gaussen says Tertullian quotes from 20 books of the New Testament in his writings, p. 164; perhaps the discrepancy is explained by recent discoveries.
[ii] Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study, Timothy David Barnes, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, pp. 11-12
[iii] This is not an indication that Tertullian rejected these four epistles, but rather a statement that his extant writings contain no quotes from them.

Quotes on the Bible

"The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed." -- Patrick Henry

"We are less qualified for criticizing the Bible than for the Bible to criticize us." -- Lee R. Tillman

"I would plead with brethren to cease this constant criticism of the KJV, and simply preach and teach what the Bible says. It is sinful to destroy faith in the Word of God." -- E. L. Bynum

"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter." -- Excerpted from The New Hampshire Confession of Faith

"Instead of letting the Scripture dictate theology, [most people] let their theology dictate what the Scripture says." -- Jon Shaff

"Bible reading is an education in itself." -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Church succession demands a succession of the Bible." -- Lee R. Tillman

"Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!" -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm tired of visits, modes and forms

I'm tired of visits, modes and forms: by Isaac Watts

Baptist baptism, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

God and Evil

Isaiah 45:7 - I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Question. What is the meaning of "The LORD...creates evil" in this verse? Does God causes people to sin, based on this verse?

In this verse "evil" is set in contrast to "peace" rather than in contrast to "good". There is no problem with the word "evil" but with the connotation we put on it. We tend to "read into" biblical words the most common way we use it in our speech or writing, without comparing the full semantic range of meaning (and the context). Words gain meaning from their context. "Evil" is the most common way that the Hebrew word "rah" is translated in English (at least in the KJV & NASB) and it is used several times in Isaiah -- some times that speak of immorality or wickedness and some that speak of distress, calamity -- something "bad" happening. Isaiah 47:11, in its context, is a good example of how God brings evil, mischief and desolation upon Babylon in judgment. This evil is something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity. It stands opposite to "peace" in this verse in Isaiah. It fits the context of God's judgment described in Isaiah 45. Peace is not inherently always a moral good, and evil in the sense of moral evil is not under consideration in Isaiah's statement.

Adapting to our modern sensibilities, some, if not most, modern translations have adopted the words like "calamity" or "disaster" in place of evil. "Evil" is a better translation -- properly understood, it better encompasses the totality of all the things that are the opposite of peace.

We must understand that God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. I don't see any way that a Bible believer can avoid that conclusion. First there was nothing but God. Everything that is came from God, even if in a secondary or derivative way. God the creator is the first cause of all things, and there is nothing that exists outside his divine governance.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Preservation: Concluding thoughts

In a series of posts we have considered the question, “Is there is a doctrine of preservation of the written Scriptures taught in the Bible?” Not just, “Have the Scriptures been preserved,” but “Is there is a doctrine of preservation.” The answer to this question hinges on what the Scriptures teach, but we first considered some related matters. Though some wish to frame it so, the doctrine of preservation is not just a King James Bible debate. A belief in the doctrine of preservation is not limited to KJO, KJ-Preferred, MT or TR advocates. The historical record of this belief is sporadic or intermittent, but reveals early church fathers who believed they had and referred to inspired writings. Some confessions of faith address the matter, as well as individual Christian writers. The Bible teaches by statement, implication and necessary consequence that God has undertaken to preserve the Scriptures he inspired. The history and future of the churches of Jesus Christ, as a spiritual entity, depends on the word of God.

God promised he would make his words generally available to future believers (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29). We know the words that proceed from God because they are written and preserved (Cf. Matthew 4:4). The churches of Jesus Christ received the words of Jesus and were built upon them (Cf. Matthew 16:16-18; John 17:8; Ephesians 2:20), in turn becoming a pillar and ground of that truth, guarding and keeping the words entrusted (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 6:20-21).[i]
“In practical terms this [Ephesians 2:20] means that the church is built on the New Testament Scriptures. They are the church’s foundation documents. And just as a foundation cannot be tampered with once it has been laid and the superstructure is being built upon it, so the New Testament foundation of the church is inviolable and cannot be changed by any additions, subtractions or modifications offered by teachers who claim to be apostles or prophets today. The church stands or falls by its loyal dependence on the foundation truths which God revealed to his apostles and prophets, and which are now preserved in the New Testament Scriptures.” – The Message of Ephesians, John R. W. Stott, (The Bible Speaks Today series) Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1989, p. 107
2 Timothy 3:15-17 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God gave the Scriptures by inspiration. The first under consideration is the Old Testament, then “all scripture.” Timothy did not have the original documents of the Old Testament, but was reading copies of them – which Paul had no problem calling the Holy Scriptures. All scripture, the Old Testament already concluded and the New Testament still being written, stands as the source of everything we need for faith and practice. If these have not been preserved in some fashion, we have not what we need for faith and practice. If the churches are to teach all things Christ commanded during the time he would always be with them, then they must have access to these teachings. We must, and we believe we do! (Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

The truth in Jesus Christ makes us free, and it is mediated to us through the Scriptures:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)[ii] May we know the truth!


Nine preceding articles

[i] “…Jesus ordained the apostles to build the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). What is the foundation of the church that the apostles built? The New Testament – the record of the deeds and teachings of the apostles. The church does not need apostolic successors. The church needs the teachings of the apostles accurately recorded and preserved. And that is exactly what God has provided in His Word (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).” – Is apostolic succession biblical? - Got Questions?
[ii] The assertions about knowing God and truth through the Scriptures must be understood in the light of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the instructor in the truth.
[iii] Miscellaneous notes: Peter’s second epistle was written in order that we “may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” These words were written and preserved to us that we may obey this commandment (2 Peter 3:2). Paul’s writings are called “scripture” in the New Testament, by Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Preservation: The texts No. 3

Verses and principles relevant to the doctrine of preservation of Scripture

I. Preservation of the Bible is implicit in its nature.

God’s words are eternal and immutable (e.g. Psalm 33:11, Psalm 119:89; Matthew 24:35). Every reference to “God’s words,” “the word of God” or “the words of God” is not a reference to the written Scriptures. The clear teaching throughout the Scriptures is that “God’s words” are both eternal and immutable. When written, God’s words are not less so. We should not expect God’s written words to be subject to the same vagaries of transmission and preservation as any other book – though this is exactly what Wallace and other “anti-preservation doctrine” writers are advancing.[i]

The scriptures are inspired and inerrant. Preserved Scripture is a necessary consequence. W. W. Combs states, “…to say that preservation is the corollary of inspiration means that preservation is a doctrine that can be ‘inferred immediately’ from the ‘proved proposition’ of inspiration; preservation ‘naturally follows’ or ‘parallels’ inspiration…The purpose of inspiration was to produce γραφή (2 Tim 3:16), a written record, a deposit of divine truth for the readers, not the writer. Without preservation the purpose of inspiration would be invalidated.”[ii] If God’s presence in inspiring Scripture was significant, his presence in preserving it would not be trivial.

The scriptures are beneficial and authoritative. All authority belongs to God (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20). A necessary corollary is that God’s word is authoritative – it is a place where God has vested his authority. Or, stated another way, the Bible derives its authority from God. God has the right to set rules, command belief, and expect obedience. These are some matters he has relayed to us through his word. Further, the authoritative word has a purpose and is beneficial to mankind (e.g. Isaiah 55:10-11). Specific points of purpose and benefit will be addressed below.

II. Preservation of the Bible is necessary to its purpose.

Removing the doctrine of preservation removes the vitality from many biblical passages and limits their meaning to the moment. The abiding and enduring purpose of the Scriptures calls for abiding and enduring Scriptures. Some of those purposes are:

The scriptures testify of Jesus Christ and his salvation (John 5:39). The Bible gives or teaches the knowledge of salvation. John, the apostle, said, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13) John addresses his written scripture, and its purpose. It follows that preservation of the writing is a necessary part of God accomplishing his purpose. In his Gospel, John says that everything Jesus said and did were not written, supposing “even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” about him, “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.” (John 20:30-31; 21:25) God was not aimless in giving his words. Neither is he careless in preserving them, that they may accomplish their purpose.

The scriptures give spiritual guidance, practical and theological. The churches are exhorted to preach the gospel, baptize the believers, and teach the baptized. How shall we proceed? By the teachings of the word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105). We are to follow his steps, but we do not know his steps apart from the God-inspired written word that has been passed down to us. A purpose of giving the scriptures by inspiration was that it might stand as a standard – the standard whereby we know doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. It stands to provide a complete standard “unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It stands to reason that its preservation is necessary to fulfill that purpose.

The scriptures are a standard of judgment. God is judge and a basis of his judgment will be the words he gave (Psalm 75:7; Acts 10:42-43; 2 Timothy 4:1-2). Because he is judge, we are to preach the word. Commenting on Matthew 5:17-19 in The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Craig S. Keener writes, “In this passage Jesus also warns that teachers who undermine students’ faith in any portion of the Bible are in trouble with God. This text addresses not only obedience to the commandments but also how one teaches others (and teaches others to do the same; compare Jas 3:1).”[iii] Matthew Poole, commenting on John 12:48, writes, “Nay, the word that I have spoken shall rise up in judgment against him at the last day, and prove that he hath judged himself unworthy of everlasting life.”[iv] Like many, Poole believes the Scriptures are part of the books that stand in judgment in Revelation 20:12: “What books? The book of God’s law; the book of God’s omniscience; the book of men’s consciences. In the former is contained what all men should have done; the two latter will discover what they have thought, spake, or done in the flesh.” If the spoken words are not recorded and preserved, they afford no standard to men either to guide or judge their actions.

III. Preservation of the Bible is a necessary conclusion from its teachings.

The words of Scripture were not just written to or for the immediate recipients of its message. Over and again the Bible notes its own forward look to future generations. For example, Psalm 102:18 in “the prayer of the afflicted” is written with purpose for the generation to come. “This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.”
  • Mark 10:5 Referring to something written in the Law of Moses, Jesus said, “For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” If it is true that something written by Moses has a purpose of instructing Jews in the first century, it is a necessary conclusion that God intended to preserve what was written.
  • Romans 4:23 “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;” If Genesis 15:6 was not for the benefit of Abraham alone, but for others to whom righteousness is imputed, then it follows that God intended to preserve what was written for others to whom righteousness is imputed.
  • Romans 15:4 Paul quotes from the latter part of Psalm 69:9, then says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” If it is true that something written by David the king has a purpose of instructing Christians in Rome, it is a necessary conclusion that God intended to preserve what was written.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:10 “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” If something written by Moses about oxen was also written to instruct Christians in the first century, it is a necessary conclusion that God intended to preserve what was written.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:11 “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” If the events of the Exodus referred to were written for the admonition of Christians in Corinth, it is a necessary conclusion that God intended to preserve what was written.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” If the Lord’s supper is a perpetual ordinance of the churches “till he come” it is obligatory on God’s part to preserve the instructions of it “till he come.”
The preceding texts are exemplary of how scripture can be denuded of its force when the doctrine of preservation is abandoned.

[i] Compare Edward F. Hills: “...the New Testament textual criticism of the man who believes the doctrines of the divine inspiration and providential preservation of the Scriptures to be true ought to differ from that of the man who does not so believe.” (Hills, The King James Version Defended, Des Moines, IA: Christian Research Press, 1984, p. 3) versus W. W. Combs: “...the preservation of Scripture is not different in method from any other ancient book God has determined to preserve...” (Combs, “The Preservation of Scripture,” pp. 9-10)
[ii] Combs, pp. 27-28; Even Ed Glenny, an opponent of the doctrine of preservation, has to admit, “An obvious truth is that a document that is to be included in the canon must be preserved.” (“The Preservation of Scripture,” in The Bible Version Debate: The Perspective of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, MN: Central Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997, Chapter 5, Footnote 36)
[iii] As an editor of the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Keener is not a MT, TR or KJV partisan. Holding the Bible as a standard of judgment is not an uncommon belief among those who hold the Critical Text in esteem, and therefore it should not be charged as if it is a MT, TR or KJV argument. Keener titles his commentary on verses 17-18 “Jesus’ High View of Scripture.”
[iv] John 12:46-48 “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Unless this was only true for those who visibly saw and audibly heard Jesus during his time on earth, preservation of those words are necessary. The only way we receive not his words is through hearing them as preserved in the Bible.