Category Archives: Moral Law

Memoir of the Rev. John Brown, Part 11

John Brown's Self-Interpreting Bible (1859)

John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible (1859)

The Character of John Brown

Among the things which obviously claim our attention in the character of Mr. Brown, we must not pass over the astonishing extent of his scholastic acquirements. Though possessed of no very considerable fund of originality, his capabilities for the acquisition of almost every species of literary knowledge was such, that he outran most of all his contemporaries, though possessing every advantage of a regular education, and that from their infancy. Ordinary attainments, whether in languages or science, could by no means satisfy the ardour of his inquisitive mind. With a memory strongly retentive, a solid and discriminating judgment, and an inflexible and persevering assiduity, with the blessing of God on his labours, he acquired and secured an uncommon share with which, from a child, he had cultivated a very particular acquaintance, so that he could repeat almost every text, and state its meaning and connexion. His feet were early turned into the paths of wisdom. Apprehended by the grace of God while his mind was yet young and tender, he made choice of his law as the rule of his life, and solemnly devoted himself to his service. In prayer, public, secret, or domestic, he overstepped the rules of almost any prescribed routine; even amid the ordinary business of life, the breathings of his soul were continually breaking forth in ejaculations of gratitude and praise, particularly while composing, or committing his discourses to memory. He possessed such an habitual evenness of temper, that hopes realized or disappointed seemed neither to elate nor greatly depress his spirits. He lived always conscious of God’s presence, and as one who had learned to lay down the sinful suspicion that men by nature have of Him. On hearing a peal of thunder he remarked, “that is the low whisper of my God.” His Christian Journal, which presents a good index of the general tone of his mind, bears this inscription, “The soul that is ever attentive to God never hears a voice that speaks not to Him; the soul, whose eye is intent on Him, never sees an atom, in which she does not discern the face of her best beloved.” He was scarcely ever seen to weep, unless it were from the impressions of divine truth on his own heart, or compassion for perishing souls. Bodily pain, or the death of relatives, he suffered without a tear; but when warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and, in Christ’s stead, entreating and beseeching them to be reconciled to God, his heart got frequently too big for utterance.

Memoir of the Rev. John Brown of Haddington

 

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Theological & Doxological Meditation #49

theological-doxological-meditations-logoSecond Commandment: Worship the Right God the Right Way

49. Q. Which is the second commandment?

A. The second commandment is,
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth:
thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:
for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
(Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10)

All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above
#4, The Trinity Hymnal (©1990)
Johann J. Schutz, 1675
Tr. by Frances E. Cox, 1864
MIT FREUDEN ZART 8.7.8.7.8.8.7.
Bohemian Brethren’s Gesangbuch, 1566

All praise to God, who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of wonders, pow’r and love, the God of our salvation!
With healing balm my soul he fills, the God who every sorrow stills.
To God all praise and glory!

What God’s almighty pow’r hath made his gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning dawn or evening shade his watchful eye ne’er sleepeth;
Within the kingdom of his might, lo, all is just and all is right.
To God all praise and glory!

I cried to him in time of need: Lord God, O hear my calling!
For death he gave me life indeed and kept my feet from falling.
For this my thanks shall endless be; O thank him, thank our God with me.
To God all praise and glory!

The Lord forsaketh not his flock, his chosen generation:
He is their refuge and their rock, their peace and their salvation.
As with a mother’s tender hand he leads his own, his chosen band.
To God all praise and glory!

Ye who confess Christ’s holy name, to God give praise and glory!
Ye who the Father’s pow’r proclaim, to God give praise and glory!
All idols underfoot be trod, the Lord is God! The Lord is God!
To God all praise and glory!

Then come before his presence now and banish fear and sadness;
To your Redeemer pay your vow and sing with joy and gladness:
Though great distress my soul befell, the Lord, my God, did all things well.
To God all praise and glory!

Tullian Brings Reformed Gospel to TBN

captain-headknowledge-contreras4

The Daily Evangel: A subliminal reminder to preach the gospel to yourself every day.

I guess it had to happen someday. Turns out it did this past summer. Megachurch pastors tend to accept invitations to places where there are TV cameras, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Tullian’s message of “radical grace” has reached the first family of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. While in many ways, this is an example of worlds colliding, I figure if Peter Lillback can accept an invitation to Glenn Beck’s TV show a few years ago with the intention of making sure the gospel is clearly communicated on his air, then why not Tullian on TBN? The world’s largest Christian television network could do a lot worse, and has built an empire on doing just that.

For those unaware, Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham and the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is a favorite among the New Calvinists and is notorious for his popularization of the Lutheranesque “law-gospel distinction” which is taken by many to his right, myself included, as repeating the mistakes of historic antinomianism in some of his rhetoric and in his application of the otherwise valid hermeneutic pioneered by the Protestant Reformer. Among Tullian’s influences are Steve Brown (RTS Orlando and Key Life) and the theologians associated with Modern Reformation magazine and The White Horse Inn radio show. While I believe Tullian when he says he affirms the Reformed teaching on the third use of the law , I also believe his critics when they say his rhetoric smacks too much of historic antinomianism (read about that here). Tullian’s intention is to minister to those burned by legalism, and I’m all for that, even if he may be pushing the envelope of Reformed theology further to the left than I think he should.

But I like Tullian in small doses. Few and far between. It has been a while since my last dose of Tullian, so I am prepared to have a good attitude about his appearance on TBN to promote his recent book One Way Love. Besides, it would be inconsistent of me to criticize him for accepting an invitation to speak on Word of Faith turf, since the seeds of Reformed theology were planted in my own mind when Michael Horton appeared on TBN to promote his very first book originally entitled Mission Accomplished (now Putting Amazing Back Into Grace) while still a student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). The difference between Horton’s and Tullian’s appearances is that the latter they post on YouTube, while the former they immediately erase, cancel the talk show that featured him, and have the host reassigned to a job behind the scenes. This reaction was due to the fact that Horton was a known critic of the Word of Faith heresy who would go on to edit The Agony of Deceit. My hope is that Tullian’s interview will likewise plant and water the seeds of Reformed theology and the true gospel of Christ among today’s regular TBN viewers.

While Tullian admits to being a one-sermon preacher, his message that Christ kept the law perfectly and earned eternal life for those who believe and so frees us to gratefully, though imperfectly, respond to his amazing grace with love toward our neighbors is one we need to be reminded of on a daily basis. In fact, it is this “preach the gospel to yourself daily” notion that motivated me to put “Daily Evangel” on the building in the background of my picture of Captain Headknowledge. We need the Evangel of the free grace of God in Christ every day, and may it spur us on to love and good works, though we’ll never do them as well as Jesus did them for us.

OPC’s Doctrine of Assurance Blamed for Bergdahl’s Religious Uncertainty

In this day when America is, for better or worse, trying to wind down its war against radical Islamist jihadists, Skidmore College Professor and Director of Religious Studies, Mary Zeiss Stange, opines in a USA Today piece that we don’t think enough today about how religion can be a source of evil as well as good. Just let that sink in for a moment. But Stange’s focus is not on radical strains of Islam. Hers is on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. You know, that “hyperconservative offshoot of the mainstream Presbyterian Church USA” which she calls “Calvinism on steroids” because it “sees the world in stark either/or terms” in which you are either “saved and bound for heaven. Or you are a sinner, treading a one-way path to the fiery pit of hell.” She characterizes the struggle to discern one’s eternal destiny as “making extraordinary demands on a sensitive young person’s conscience and conduct.” Having painted this dramatic portrait of my denomination with such colorful brush strokes, broad as they may be, she then proposes the possible diagnosis for the “chaotic mood swings” which lead to Bowe Bergdahl’s “transformation from gung-ho warrior to pacifistic deserter”: “The Orthodox Presbyterian Church compels followers to feel the inner spark of absolute certainty of one’s own God-given righteousness.” This is what we hyperconservative Calvinists on steroids call “assurance of salvation.” But Stange’s description of this teaching is overly simplistic, and with the use of the phrase “absolute certainty,” she is associating the OPC with that predominant flaws of the fundamentalist movement. In the doctrinal standard of the OPC, the Westminster Confession of Faith, we find a little more nuance in what we confess about the Bible’s teaching on assurance. Chapter 14, “Of Saving Faith,” section 3, reads,

This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Likewise, in Chapter 18, “Of the Assurance and Grace of Salvation,” the doctrine is treated more fully. Section 3 again demonstrates our allowance for degrees of assurance which may often fall far short of Stange’s portrayal of “absolute certainty.”

This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

These excerpts indicates that not all will come to “absolute certainty” regarding their assurance of salvation, but this lack of absolute certainty does not necessarily entail the absence of faith. A weak faith, maybe, but a saving faith nonetheless. Since 2012, the congregations of the OPC have been praying that Bowe Bergdahl would come to faith in Christ, if he truly does not believe, or, if he does, that the Lord would strengthen that faith, that he might grow up “to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of [Bowe’s] faith.” We are careful to point out that assurance is a goal, yet it is not a constant, unwavering quality of the genuine Christian life. For those who find this assurance of faith elusive, it is our desire to comfort, encourage, and point them again to the imputed righteousness which Christ procured by his humble, sinless life, propitiatory death and glorious resurrection in the Word of God preached, and signified and sealed to them in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each of these are ordinary means of God’s grace which can develop an assurance that is not contingent upon the strength of one’s faith, or the quality of his works. So it’s not as if those of us who believe in assurance of salvation strive to keep the heat turned up on people to make sure they get some “feeling” of certainty, or else they’re in trouble. That is mischaracterization of the doctrine of the grossest sort on the part of Professor Stange.

Yet it is just such a one-dimensional view of the doctrine of assurance which Professor Stange would have us believe makes my religion a “source of evil.” The idea that moral absolutes and the search for assurance of salvation are bad is consistent with the contemporary religious and philosophical culture in Western civilization, where secularism and relativism are the virtues of our time.  I can’t help but see the climactic light saber duel between Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, in which the latter paraphrases Jesus (and George W. Bush) by declaring the ultimate either/or proposition, “if you’re not with me, then you are my enemy,” to which the former replies, “only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

That’s right, dear reader, if you affirm the Ten Commandments, and believe that only through repentance of sin and faith in Christ can one find assurance of salvation from eternal conscious torment, then to liberals like Mary Zeiss Stange, whose kind of view is currently in favor, you have embraced the Dark Side, and your form of religious extremism is what makes people want to kill the innocent and take over the world, and it may even be what stresses our kids out when they can’t “feel” this “absolute certainty” and makes Bowe Bergdahls of them. I never cease to be amazed by the logical leaps which liberals make about orthodox Christianity. It’s positively fundamentalistic.

But Bergdahl’s woes cannot be the sole responsibility of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, because, from what I’ve read, the Bergdahl family were members of two different OPC congregations in the past, neither of which exist today. I’ve heard that it is possible that they may remain under the oversight of their regional presbytery, and Bob and Jani do retain an ongoing relationship with pastor turned missionary Phil Proctor, but the OPC does not seem to be as solely influential in the life of the Bergdahl’s, Bowe least of all, as it may appear.

Theological & Doxological Meditation #48

Theology in the First Commandment

Q. 48. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?

A. These words before me in the first commandment
teach us that God,
who seeth all things,
taketh notice of,
and is much displeased with,
the sin of having any other god (Deuteronomy 30:17-18; Psalm 44:20-21; Ezekiel 8:12) .

Jesus, Priceless Treasure
#656, Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)
Johann Franck, 1655
Tr. By Catherine Winkworth, 1863
JESU, MEINE FREUDE
Johann Crüger, 1649

Jesus, priceless treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me:
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for thee?
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb!
I will suffer naught to hide thee,
Naught I ask beside thee.

In thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Ev’ry heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me while I sing of peace.
God’s great pow’r
Guards ev’ry hour;
Earth and all its depths adore him,
Silent bow before him.

Hence, with earthly treasure!
Thou art all my pleasure,
Jesus, all my choice.
Hence, thou empty glory!
Naught to me thy story,
Told with tempting voice.
Pain or loss or shame or cross
Shall not from my Savior move me,
Since he deigns to love me.

Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate’er I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure.

Understanding Law & Gospel

On this episode of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton addresses the topic, “Understanding Law and Gospel.”

There he goes again… 🙂

WHI-1117 | Understanding Law & Gospel.

The Instrument of Faith

73. Q. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification, but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness (John 1:12; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).

Who will become a child of God? The one who is “in Christ.” Who will get “into Christ”? The one who receives Christ by faith, or, according to the original Greek, believing “into” him. John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in (literally, “into”) his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Faith which places the sinner “in Christ” is not merely an acknowledgment that there was a historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth who embarked on an itinerant ministry which lead many first century Jews to conclude that he was the Anointed One (“Christ”) proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets. Faith in Christ does begin with such knowledge, even assenting to the truthfulness of such a proposition, but it must also result in a willingness to rest on the righteousness which Christ is proclaimed in the gospel message to have earned by his flawless observance of the law of Moses which has at its heart the moral law of God, confessing that by one’s own observance of God’s law he will not be able to earn for himself the same kind of inherent righteousness. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:16:

 “yet  we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also have believed in (again, “into”) Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

So being found in Christ depends on having the righteousness of Christ which comes from God, and having the righteousness which comes from God depends on faith. In Philippians 3:9 it is written, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” So we see that when faith is imputed as righteousness, faith is not the thing that makes a person inherently righteous, but rather it is simply what the Westminster Divines call in Q&A #73 of the Larger Catechism, “an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.”

How Faith Does NOT Justify

 Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

 A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 3:28), nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

Faith is the means which God has ordained for the elect in order that he may declare them righteous in his sight. Man, unfortunately, assumes he must perform, to achieve a perfect score when it comes to keeping God’s moral law. In this assumption, he is sadly mistaken. Paul writes in Galatians 3:11,  “no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Later  in his great exposition of the gospel in his epistle to the Romans, Paul echoes this truth when he writes, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

In keeping with this Pauline distinction between faith and the law, the framers of the Westminster Standards of 1649 write in their Larger Catechism, “Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it…” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A #73). Here they write that good works are the fruit of faith, not the condition the elect must meet so God will declare them righteous in his sight (justify them). The catechism answer also denies  that the other graces that accompany faith are the way we receive God’s justifying declaration of righteousness. For example, graces such as hope, love, joy, or any others are excluded, along with good works, as the basis on which faith justifies the sinner.

In short, faith does not justify because of good works; rather, good works are the result of justification by faith alone.

How to make Joel Osteen nervous

Ask him a politically-charged question about biblical sexual morality.

It’s good that Joel was able to get what he’s bound to believe out of his mouth. He would do well to work toward not only believing these things, but also ministering these truths in the way Paul advised Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, which reads,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For the record, according to Joel Osteen, he believes that the Bible teaches the following:

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination…” (Leviticus 20:13).

“…and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error”(Romans 1:27).

“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7; cf. Gen. 19).

But this next passage shows Joel should have also qualified his initially reassuring assertion to Oprah that “I think [homosexuals] will [go to heaven].” He does clarify that “they need forgiveness of their sins,” but this was an attempt to evade putting the two together until Oprah had to pull it out of him in uncertain terms. In this, he sounds nothing like the apostle Paul, whose inspired assertion is much clearer:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Fortunately for homosexuals who repent and for Joel Osteen, Paul goes on in verse 11 to proclaim:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

It is the desire of every loving, right-minded Christian that the homosexuals should, by the grace of the Spirit of God,

  • believe the good news of forgiveness through the sinless life, atoning death and enlivening resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so be justified through faith alone…
  • repent of his sins, including the sin of homosexuality…
  • be washed clean in the waters of baptism…
  • learn to obey all that Christ taught, including his and his apostles’ teachings on sexual morality. Or, as Paul put it above “[be] sanctified.”

Short of this, the regrettable fact remains that the homosexual, as well as the sexually immoral, the idolater, the adulterer, the thief, the greedy, the drunkard, the reviler and the swindler, among other kinds of sinner, will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

“Fundamental of all true religion”

20111204-065401.jpg

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang tall the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV).

“These two commandments include the substance of the whole moral law, which is fundamental to all true religion. They include the whole natural law, which was originally written in the heart of man; the obligation of which can never be dissolved, and which all the revelations of God are founded on, and designed to enforce.”

Commentary by Rev. John Brown of Haddington from The Self-Interpreting Bible 1859.

Twenty-first Century Preservation of Ancient New Testament Manuscripts

Father Justin Introducing Saint Catherine's Monastery

In the sixth century, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian commanded the building of a Greek Orthodox monastery on Mount Sinai, at what is considered the very location where Yahweh first appeared to Moses in the burning bush, just under the site of his later appearance to the gathered nation of Israel to whom he delivered the Ten Commandments. For this reason, it is easy to see how important Mount Sinai remains as a testimony to God’s revelation of himself through his Word, not only spoken and written by his own finger in the Decalogue, but today, as it is preserved in over 1,200 complete manuscripts and thousands of fragments.

For 1,700 years, the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai has provided a home to these important sources of information regarding the transmission of the New Testament text. In the nineteenth century, the efforts of Constantine Von Tischendorf made the great Codex Sinaiticus accessible to the world of textual criticism and Biblical scholarship.

For decades, Bible scholars worked with ancient New Testament manuscripts often by use of black and white images on micro film, which has its limits in conveying their contents. “In 1975, when a treasure trove of more than 1200 manuscripts was discovered in a hidden store room, St. Catherine’s became the second largest institute in possession of ancient manuscripts, just behind the Vatican” (“A Texan at Mt. Sinai: Meet Father Justin,” CSNTM November 2011 Newsletter). Today, digital photography is increasing accessibility and deepening our understanding of these ancient records. This cutting edge work is being conducted by the work of St. Catherine monastic, Father Justin, the first non-Greek admitted into the fellowship of the ancient monastery. Born Russell Hicks, a native of El Paso, Texas, Father Justin became interested in Saint Catherine’s monastery and the monastic life as a student at the University of Texas at Austin when he read “Island of Faith in the Sinai Wilderness,” an article on the monastery published in the January, 1964 edition of National Geographic Magazine.

In 1978, Hicks was privileged to visit the monastery for two days. “He would end up spending twenty years at a monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts, before coming to St. Catherine’s Monastery. When Father Justin applied to the monastery, Archbishop Damianos broke a long-standing tradition and allowed him to make his home there; he was the first non-Greek to live at the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world, built in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian” (CSNTM Newsletter, 11/2011).

There are currently about 25 Greek Orthodox monks living in St. Catherine’s monastery. Father Justin explained that the number had previously been as low as 7 back in 1955, but renewed enthusiasm for monasticism increased their number thanks to the influence of a few charismatic elders in the intervening years.

Dr. Daniel Wallace (right) with Father Justin (left)

Father Justin is currently touring America, speaking on the monastery library he now oversees as well as the significance of all of the Sinai manuscripts to textual criticism, raising funds for the expensive work of digitally preserving the images of these ancient documents. Tuesday and Wednesday, November 8-9, 2011, Father Justin was hosted by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts at the Hope Center in Dallas, the site of this informative symposium.

Tuesday night, Father Justin spoke on “The Mission and Work of the St. Catherine’s Library,” introducing his audience to four sample manuscripts, describing their age, contents and condition, and describing the process of their digital preservation. He went into so much detail that I regret to report that I was unable to take many usable notes. I often found his soft-spoken delivery from lips rendered unreadable behind his long, gray beard difficult to hear. But there was one interesting detail I managed to retain: many of the manuscript images in Father Justin’s PowerPoint presentation often featured small portions of red text among a page of text in black ink. Justin explained that these red portions are called rubrics, using a red ink derived from the carmine of beetles. Rubrics in liturgical texts usually provided directions for priests, distinguishing it from the black text featuring responsive texts intended to be read by the congregation. Because of the older method of reproducing such manuscripts by means of black and white micro film, scholars sometimes found it necessary to travel to the location of the manuscripts themselves to view them in person in order to distinguish rubrics from responsive readings.

The Sinai manuscripts are digitally imaged by this camera.

We were also treated to a couple of interesting shots of Father Justin’s digital camera. In order to protect the fragile binding of ancient manuscripts, they are cradled so that the codex may be held open at no more than a 90 degree angle. These cameras utilize the same technology as that which sharpens fuzzy images of celestial bodies and other sights in outer space. 

In the question and answer period following his presentation, Father Justin also spoke on the dire need of better cataloging of their many manuscripts. He pointed out that the Vatican’s library of manuscripts is so much better cataloged because nuns study library science and apply this knowledge to their unique collection. This is a practice that has yet to be undertaken among the monks at Saint Catherine’s monastery. His partial chronology of efforts to catalog the Sinai manuscripts begins in 1728 when the archbishop at the time gathered the manuscripts housed in various locations in the monastery, but the variety was so diverse that his efforts were unsuccessful. In the mid-nineteenth century, more cataloging took place, but these efforts were little more than lists which did not elaborate to any extent on the contents or condition of the texts. In 1911, a complete catalog was compiled, but the quality of the information remained rudimentary compared to the Vatican library’s work. This shows us how much work remains in the processing of all the data available in the multitude of witnesses providentially preserving the transmission of the text of the New Testament.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s presentation on “The Significance of the Sinai Texts for New Testament Study.” Lord willing, a comparable review of it will follow.

Theological & Doxological Meditations #48

Theology in the First Commandment

Q. What are we specially taught by these words, before me, in the first commandment?

 A. These words, before me, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God (Deuteronomy 30:17-18; Psalm 44:20-21; Ezekiel 8:12)

Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God

#11, Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)

Psalm 72:8,11,12,18,19

Scottish Psalter, 1650 Mod.

McKEE C.M.

Spiritual

Arr. By Harry T. Burleigh, 1939

Now blessed be the Lord our God,

The God of Israel,

For he alone does wondrous works

In glory that excel.

And blessed be his glorious name

To all eternity;

The whole earth let his glory fill.

Amen, so let it be.

His wide dominion shall extend

From sea to utmost sea,

And unto earth’s remotest bounds

His peaceful rule shall be.

Yea, all the kings shall bow to him,

His rule all nations hail;

He will regard the poor man’s cry

When other helpers fail.

How to Draw Distinctions

There are a number of especially common and compelling misconceptions about the Bible which are held by the unbelieving world. One of the more popular ones is using nonmoral Old Testament laws against the eternally binding moral laws. For instance, in arguing against the Christian’s appeal to the Old Testament’s prohibition of homosexuality, many will accuse us of inconsistency since we don’t also equally observe the Mosaic Laws against eating unclean animals like shellfish, or meat with blood in it. From my standpoint as one who grew up being instructed that there are distinctions between moral, civil and ceremonial laws, it looks like those not so informed don’t know how to draw simple distinctions. But the apostle Peter once wrote about the fact that uninformed people twist Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16), so I guess it’s not uncommon for unbelievers to have such trouble with handling the Word of God correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

URCNA Associate Pastor, WSC Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, prolific author and host of The White Horse Inn radio show, Dr. Michael Horton has written an informative explanation of this distinction between Old Testament laws. He shows why and how some were typological and thus temporary, associated with the ancient Israelite theocracy until their fulfillment in the redemptive life and ministry of Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He also explains that others are eternally and universally binding on all people at all times and in all places as part of God’s way of informing the world of their common need for redemption in the same Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, since the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). After his sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, Christ has ascended to the right hand of God the Father enthroned in heaven to rule over all the nations spiritually, not geo-politically (John 18:36), through the preaching of the Law and the Gospel by calling out a people for his name (Acts 15:14) from every tongue, tribe and nation (Revelation 14:6).

In “Why Can’t I Own Canadians? Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth,” Horton writes (read the rest here):

The commands in the old covenant law (viz., Leviticus and Deuteronomy) are specific to that remarkable geo-political theocracy that foreshadowed the universal kingdom of Christ. The deliverance of Israel in the exodus anticipates a far greater exodus through the waters of death and hell in Christ. The holy wars pale in comparison with the judgment of the nations that Christ will execute at the end of the age. Even if Israel had been faithful to this covenant, Canaan would have only been a type or small-scale model of the extensiveness and intensiveness of God’s reign at the end of the age. Moses could not give God’s people rest in the land of everlasting Sabbath. As the prophets proclaim, this would only come when one greater than Moses would rescue his people and lead them victoriously into the perfect peace, love, and joy that he would win for his co-heirs.

A Case Study in Sin

The following long, tedious post is a small way of demonstrating just how comprehensively God’s law condemns the sin of man. It highlights the depth and breadth of our fallen nature that is bent on violating God’s law in every conceivable manner, and shows just how much we all, believer and unbeliever alike, deserve God’s eternal anger and torment.

 The following extensive description of what it means to keep God’s law also shows us just how thoroughly successful the Lord Jesus Christ was in keeping God’s law in every conceivable manner for his elect—those who come to believe.

 Finally, it shows the many-faceted way in which we who believe and have been forgiven for such egregious, heinous sin, can express our gratitude for the active obedience of Christ in perfectly keeping God’s law for us, and for his passive obedience in suffering the penalty of divine wrath which such deep, dark, extensive sin deserves.

 The church my family has been attending for the past year or more, has recently been going through the Heidelberg Catechism. Last Lord’s Day evening we recited, received instruction on, and discussed Lord’s Day 40, which consists of Question & Answer numbers 105-107, regarding what is required in the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.”

 Last night, the Lord showed me just how easy it is to violate the spirit of God’s command against murder. Several ladies converged on my house to carpool to a ladies meeting. One of those ladies brought her husband with her to stay with me and share a pizza and a movie while they are away. My wife and I used to attend another church with this couple, which church has a distinct reputation for hurting many of its members, and used to be a little more legalistic than it is today. In fact, in some ways, it appears to be changing into the very kind of church it used to stand against. Being a wounded former member of such a church provides many temptations to violate the spirit of God’s command against murder, namely by “dishonoring” and “hating” it in our “thoughts,” “words,” and “gestures” and “deeds,” as we neglect to “lay aside all desire of revenge.”

 This kind of sin has become such a habit for me, in particular, that it didn’t dawn on me that this was what we were doing, not even when one of the other members who were in attendance last Sunday evening during the catechism discussion walked in, and I felt compelled to jokingly explain that we were having a little fun at our former church’s expense. It didn’t dawn on me until several hours later. Hence the occasion for the following post.

 While it may appear so, this is not an exercise in self-flagellation, but, as I explained above, an amplification of the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of what the Bible teaches about what all God requires of us in the sixth commandment. May it open your eyes to the depth of your sin, the extent of Christ’s righteousness and grace, and may it guide you in expressing your loving gratitude for his free gift of righteousness which can only be received by faith in Christ.

 

Question 105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?

Answer: That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonour, hate, wound, or kill my neighbour, by myself or by another: (Matt. 5:21-22;26:52; Gen. 9:6) but that I lay aside all desire of revenge: (Eph. 4:26; Rom. 12:19; Matt. 5:25; 18:35) also, that I hurt not myself, nor wilfully expose myself to any danger. (Rom. 13:14; Col. 2:23; Matt. 4:7) Wherefore also the magistrate is armed with the sword, to prevent murder. (Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:14; Matt. 26:52; Rom. 13:4)

 

Question 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?

Answer: In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, (Pr. 14:30; Rom. 1:29) hatred, (1 John 2:9,11) anger, (James 1:20; Gal. 5:19-21) and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder. (1 John 3:15)

 

Question 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?

Answer: No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; (Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Rom. 12:10) to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, (Eph. 4:2; Gal. 6:1-2; Matt. 5:5,7,9; Rom. 12:18; Luke 6:36; 1 Peter 3:8; Col. 3:12; Rom. 12:10,15) and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; (Ex. 23:5) and that we do good, even to our enemies. (Matt. 5:44-45; Rom. 12:20-21)

 

What does God require in the sixth commandment?

 In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not dishonor my neighbor in my thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not hate my neighbor in my thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not wound my neighbor in my thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not murder my neighbor in my thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not dishonor my neighbor in my words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not hate my neighbor in my words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not wound my neighbor in my words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not murder my neighbor in my words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not dishonor my neighbor in my gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not hate my neighbor in my gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not wound my neighbor in my gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not murder my neighbor in my gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not dishonor my neighbor in my deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not hate my neighbor in my deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not wound my neighbor in my deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not murder my neighbor in my deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would dishonor my neighbor in his thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would hate my neighbor in his thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would wound my neighbor in his thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would murder my neighbor in his thoughts, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would dishonor my neighbor in his words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would hate my neighbor in his words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would wound my neighbor in his words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would murder my neighbor in his words, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would dishonor my neighbor in his gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would hate my neighbor in his gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would wound my neighbor in his gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would murder my neighbor in his gestures, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would dishonor my neighbor in his deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would hate my neighbor in his deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would wound my neighbor in his deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not be a party to another who would murder my neighbor in his deeds, but that I rather lay aside all desire of revenge;

 In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not hurt myself;

In the sixth commandment, God requires that I not willfully expose myself to any danger;

 For this reason, God has granted the right to human government alone to put murderers to death, as the just punishment of murder, and as a deterrent to murder by others.

But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?

 In forbidding murder, God teaches us that he abhors envy as the cause of murder, and that he accounts it as murder;

In forbidding murder, God teaches us that he abhors hatred as the cause of murder, and that he accounts it as murder;

In forbidding murder, God teaches us that he abhors anger as the cause of murder, and that he accounts it as murder;

In forbidding murder, God teaches us that he abhors desire of revenge as the cause of murder, and that he accounts it as murder;

But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?

 No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to show patience towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to show peace towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to show meekness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to show mercy towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to show all kindness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to prevent his hurt as much as lies in us;

No: for when God forbids envy, he commands us to to do good to our neighbor, even to our enemy;

 

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to show patience towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to show peace towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to show meekness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to show mercy towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to show all kindness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to prevent his hurt as much as lies in us;

No: for when God forbids hatred, he commands us to to do good to our neighbor, even to our enemy;

 

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to show patience towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to show peace towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to show meekness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to show mercy towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to show all kindness towards our neighbor;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to prevent his hurt as much as lies in us;

No: for when God forbids anger, he commands us to to do good to our neighbor, even to our enemy.

Theological & Doxological Meditation #45

The First Commandment: Worship the Right God

Q. Which is the first commandment?

A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).

God Is Known Among His People
(play file 066 in “T&D mp3″ sidebar widget)
#66, Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)
From Psalm 76
The Psalter 1912; alt. 1990, mod.

God is known among his people,
every mouth his praises fill;
From of old he has established
his abode onZion’s hill;
There he broke the sword and arrow,
bade the noise of war be still.

Excellent and glorious are you,
With your trophies from the fray;
You have slain the mighty warriors,
Wrapped in sleep of death are they;
When your anger once is risen,
Who can stand in that dread day?

When from heav’n your sentence sounded,
All the earth in fear was still,
While to save the meek and lowly
God in judgment wrought his will;
e’en the wrath of man shall praise you,
your designs it shall fulfill.

Vow and pay unto Jehovah,
Him your God forever own;
All men, bring your gifts before him,
Worship him, and him alone;
Mighty kings obey and fear him,
Princes bow before his throne.

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