Unfit for Service?

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Apathy towards the Gospel?

Why are so many Christians, including myself, not as energetic in spreading the Gospel as we should be?

Why are we so uncaring?

Why do we not maneuver conversations with co-workers, friends and family to spiritual matters once in a while?

Why, instead, do we conspicuously try to avoid these topics?

Perhaps, as Lewis Chafer suggests, we’re simply not right with God:

. . . this Divine burden for the lost is a very uncommon experience among believers to-day ; and the solution of this problem is found in the last step that marks the movements of the ” power of God unto salvation.” The difficulty lies with the defilement of the priests before God who do not and cannot, because of their own unfitness, experience the love of God for others, or prevail with God in the holy place. [1]

Under the Mosaic Law, the priest could not approach God in an impure state, else he would be struck dead.  Peter applied this privilege, and responsibility, to Christians in this dispensation:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

New Testament believers are each individual priests before God, blessed with the privilege of approaching God on our own, without a human intercessor. How seriously are we taking our responsibility to be holy? Is unconfessed and unrepentant sin a trivial, laughing matter in our lives? It shouldn’t be; an Old Testament priest would have been killed for such a permissive attitude towards God’s holiness. Perhaps if we get our own spiritual house in order, we will each experience the zeal for personal evangelism we should have.

[1] Lewis S. Chafer, True Evangelism (New York, NY: Gospel Publishing House, 1911), 130.

Is Jesus Christ God? (Pt. 1)

To answer this question, we’ll have to start by discussing what the Trinity is. Here is a brief definition:

Within the one Being that is God, there exists three eternally co-equal and co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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The Trinity!

We do not worship three Gods; we worship one God. Each Person of the Godhead is fully God, not ⅓ God. It is so important that we understand who the God we worship is. The Trinity is one of the more misunderstood doctrines of the Christian faith; all Christians would affirm it but not too many people would really understand what it means.

Notice how carefully worded the definition above is; every single word matters. There is a reason why I stress that (1) there is one Being, (2) existing in three Persons and that these Persons are each (3) co-equal and (4) co-eternal. This will become clear in the next blog article, where I briefly explain some of the heresies through the ages, particularly the various forms of monarchism and Arianism in the 2nd-3rd centuries. These are not just dusty, old “issues” fought over by a bunch of dead men – they go to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Here is a short, orthodox definition of the Trinity:

One Being or Essence (Deut 6:4; Jas 2:19)

He is not three Gods – He is One God.  We must be very careful to emphasize that we do not worship three separate Gods. The distinction between the one “being” or “essence” and the three “Persons” of this one Being are only our pitiful attempts to express the inexpressible. The term “essence” is not an explicitly Biblical term, but a secular phrase which attempts to capture the concept. It is not a sacred term, but as John Frame noted, it is doubtful a better term will be found.[1]
This is not merely a partnership, whereby each member of the Godhead can sign official paperwork in the name of the firm; there is one Being consisting of three distinct Persons – each one is fully divine.

The fundamental sticking point with men who hold heretical views is this; they rightly conclude the Old Testament teaches monotheism (Deut 6:4), but then therefore assume that the New Testament cannot teach that Christ is also God. Christological heresies begin with this basic presupposition. The distinction between (1) the one Being comprised of (2) three co-equal and co-eternal, separate Persons will be made clear in our look at the Gospel of John, below. The Trinity isn’t a doctrine that can be merely explained; it must be illustrated directly from Scripture to capture the full effect.

Three Persons

Each person has a very specific role in the unity of the Godhead, and is conscious of His specific role. For example, the Father sent Christ (Jn 5:22-24). Christ, as an independent Person of the Godhead, seeks only to do the will of His Father (Jn 6:35-40). The Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son (Jn 14:15-17; 15:26-27). Each Person of the Godhead is addressed as separate, specific Persons with distinct roles, which will be seen shortly.

Just as with the term “Being,” the word “Persons” is an attempt to express Scriptural truth. It defeats the notion of modalism, where Father, Son and Spirit are merely different manifestations or modes of the one God. The word “Person” immediately brings to mind a separate, individual identity. I am different than you; we are different people. Likewise, Father, Son and Spirit are completely different Persons who comprise the one Being that is God. They must not be conflated or mistaken for one another; they are different People.

There is no inferiority of status; the Father is not #1, the Son #2 and the Spirit #3. Each Person is co-equal and co-eternal; they are each equal in dignity and have each existed eternally – there was never a time when the three Persons of the Godhead did not exist. 

Why Should You Care?

So, why should we care about this doctrine? Can’t we get along just fine without really grasping what the Trinity is all about? Consider this very brief statement by a Unitarian theologian; Unitarians deny the deity of Christ in a manner similiar to Arians. Theirs is a heretical, dangerous position:

Here are several reasons why an understanding of our God is so vital for our faith:

Because He is the God We Serve! 

The God the Father always works through God the Son, and the Son does His work in human hearts only through the God the Holy Spirit.[2] Revelation cannot happen without the triune Godhead. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). We can see that men are saved only by Christ and recorded divine revelation from God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

It is How We’re Saved!

God the Father planned redemption in eternity past (Eph 1:3-5), God the Son is the means of that salvation (Eph 1:9-10) and the God the Holy Spirit effectually calls sinners to repentance. The Christian Savior simply must be Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It Makes Us Christians!

The triune Godhead is the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity.[3] No false religion can compare to it; it is novel and absolutely unique. It is what makes a Christian a Christian! “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isa 40:18).

It’s How We Worship!

Christian worship is inherently Trinitarian, whether one even realizes or acknowledges it. Paul opens his epistle to the Ephesians by acknowledging the triune Godhead; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” (Eph 1:3). Even in prayer, man “comes to God the Father, pleading the name of Christ, and is taught how to pray aright by the Holy Spirit.”[4]

Growth in Christ

God chose all who believe in Him from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) to be saved by the work of Christ (Eph 1:7-10) and be sanctified by the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Unity

There is an unfathomable unity of purpose among the persons of the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are never in conflict and each works with the other towards one unified, common purpose.

Walking Through the Gospel of John

For sake of time, we’ll take a brief walk (or perhaps sprint!) through key passages in the Gospel of John. I could spend much more time here, and John’s Gospel deserves more time. Do that extra study on your own and think deeply about the testimony of Scripture on this matter. Hopefully, the brief discussion here will make matters plain to you!

Prologue of John (1:1-18):

  • Christ and God are co-equal and co-eternal (v.1)
  • Christ and God are co-eternal (v.2)
  • Christ was the active Person of the Godhead in Creation (v.3)
  • Christ is our means of salvation, and this makes sense because He is God! Consider both the unity of purpose and the separate, distinct roles of each Person of the Godhead in effectually bringing about salvation of sinful men:
    • God the Father planned salvation in eternity past and predestinated those who believe for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will (Eph 1:4-5)
    • God the Son died in our place for our sins, as a substitutionary sacrifice. The Father laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:6).
    • God the Spirit effectually applies the benefits of Christ’s death to us when we believe (Eze 36:25-27).
  • Christ, who is co-equal and co-eternal, was “made flesh and dwelt among us.” He wasn’t a created creature or a different “mode” of God.
  • Christ makes the Father known to us; he is the perfect revelation of the Father, the radiance of His glory and teh exact imprint of His nature (Heb 1:3). This is why Christ can tell the Jews, “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him,” (Jn 14:7).  

Christ’s Claims to Be God (Jn 5:1-18):

  • The Pharisees demanded to know why Christ was doing works on the Sabbath; as if a man carrying his bed was really a violation of the Sabbath according to the Old Testament!
  • “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” (John 5:16-17).
    • Christ’s message is very simple. God works on the Sabbath. Christ says God is His Father, therefore He too can work on the Sabbath!
  • The Jews, by their reaction to this saying, understood Christ was claiming to be co-equal with the Father:
    • Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

 Christ is Separate from God:

  • John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
  • John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

 Christ is God’s Revelation to Men (Jn 6:22-29):

  • The Jews seek Christ after He feeds the 5,000 (v.22-25).
  • They sought Him for the wrong reasons (v.26)
  • They must not work for perishable bread, but for the Bread of Life – Christ (v.27)
    • Only He can give this bread to them
    • God has set His seal on the Son
  • The only “work” they must do to receive the Bread of Life is believe on Christ (v.28-29). He is the very revelation of God to men.

All Three Persons of Godhead Active in Salvation (Jn 6:35-51):

  • “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day,” (John 6:44). Consider this very important verse (I beg everybody to read the entire context, and consider the implications for election, effectual calling and preservation) and follow the train of thought here:
    • A man must receive Christ for salvation
    • No man can come to Christ on his own
    • The Father sent Christ
    • A man is drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit (Eze 36:26-27; Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5)
    • The Holy Spirit does the will of the Father when He draws a sinner to Himself!

The Jews Accuse Christ of Blasphemy – Proving He Presented Himself as God:

  • Christ is separate from the Father, yet co-eternal with the Father
    • Jn 8:31-59
      • John 8:57-59 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
      • Why did the Jews seek to kill Jesus? It was clearly because they understood Him to be claiming to be God. Whatever odd interpretation men might come up with today; Christ’s original audience understood Him perfectly well.
    • Jn 10:22-42
      • John 10:25-31 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
      • Once again, consider why the Jews sought to slay Jesus – He claimed to be God!
  • Christ executed because of alleged blasphemy
    • Jn 19:1-16
      • Jn 19:4-7 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
      • The very reason why Christ was executed was because He claimed to be God; this was the basis of the Jews’ complaint to Pilate.

 Christ Accepts Worship – Which a Creature Cannot Do!

  • John 20:26-28 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

We’ll examine some 2nd and 3rd century heresies in the next post.


[1] John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 697.

[2] Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1979), 350.

[3] Ware, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 15-16.

[4] Strong, Systematic, 349.

Was Codex Sinaiticus Really Found in the Trash?

Titus, 2:9 - 3:15 / Philemon, 1:1 - 1:10
Titus, 2:9 – 3:15 / Philemon, 1:1 – 1:10

When considering the issue of the preservation of the Scriptures, sadly, tempers will sometimes become heated as heretofore sacred theories are challenged on Biblical and historical grounds. I haven’t “officially” begun my series on the subject, but I wanted to jump start it once more by correcting a piece of Christian folklore you may have heard about an important manuscript copy we possess – Codex Sinaiticus.

This document is the oldest complete copy of the New Testament we have. It specifically contains “parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas.”[1]

The folklore story is that this precious document was found in a trashcan, soon to be burned in the fire. How ridiculous, the legend goes, to believe God would preserve His word in a document which was regarded as nothing more than trash!

Here is a typical argument in this vein from a proponent:[2]

Question: Was the Sinaiticus Codex actually rescued from a wastepaper basket? What is your evidence for this?

Answer: Yes, it was. It was deposited with lots of other paper, in the desire to burn it and bring warmth to the monastery. This story comes from many sources, including someone who knew the facts and examined the evidence for himself, and Tischendorf, the man who acquired the Sinaiticus. There are many sources for the Sinaiticus story, that it was found after being deposited in a kindling bin at St. Catherine’s monastery. Please remember: it gets COLD in monasteries! They needed to burn whatever they had to make themselves warm.

I have no desire to get involved in a protracted, heated discussion on text types or textual criticism. I have very modest goals with this post – to allow Constantine Tischendorf himself to give his own account of how he discovered the manuscript. Bottom line – it was not discovered in the trash.

While visiting the a monastery in search of old manuscript copies of the New Testament, Tischendorf saw old, mouldered and useless leaves from the manuscript about to be burnt. He showed enthusiastic interest in them and the monks became suspicious, allowing him to cart off some 45 of the leaves but refusing to tell him anything about where they came from. Some years later, on a third visit to the monetary, Tischendorf was shown the complete manuscript. It had been carefully wrapped in cloth and kept in a monk’s room.

Don’t take my word for it – read Tischendorf’s own words, in context, on the matter. Those who disagree with the plain historical record of the man who found the document are in clear error. They must reckon with Tischendorf’s own account. I pray that they do so: [3]

Excerpt from Tischendorf’s Own Account

tischendorfI here pass over in silence the interesting details of my travels—my audience with the pope, Gregory XVI., in May, 1843—my intercourse with Cardinal Mezzofanti, that surprising and celebrated linguist—and I come to the result of my journey to the East. It was in April, 1844, that I embarked at Leghorn for Egypt. The desire which I felt to discover some precious remains of any manuscripts, more especially Biblical, of a date 28which would carry us back to the early times of Christianity, was realized beyond my expectations. It was at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the convent of St. Catherine, that I discovered the pearl of all my researches. In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like this, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-five sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire. But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed, had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript. I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way.

On my return to Saxony there were men of learning who at once appreciated the value of the treasure which I brought back with me. I did not divulge the name of the place where I had found it, in the hopes of returning and recovering the rest of the manuscript. I handed up to the Saxon government my rich collection of oriental manuscripts in return for the payment of all my travelling expenses. I deposited in the library of the university of Leipzig, in the shape of a collection which bears my name, fifty manuscripts, some of which are very rare and interesting. I did the same with the Sinaitic fragments, to which I gave the name of Codex Frederick Augustus, in acknowledgment of the patronage given to me by the king of Saxony; and I published them in Saxony in a sumptuous edition, in which each letter and stroke was exactly reproduced by the aid of lithography.

But these home labors upon the manuscripts which I had already safely garnered, did not allow me to forget the distant treasure which I had discovered. I made use of an influential friend, who then resided at the court of the viceroy of Egypt, to carry on negotiations for procuring the rest of the manuscript. But his attempts were, unfortunately, not successful. “The monks of the convent,” he wrote to me to say, “have, since your departure, learned the value of these sheets of parchment, and will not part with them at any price.”

I resolved, therefore, to return to the East to copy this priceless manuscript. Having set out from, Leipzig in January, 1853, I embarked at Trieste for Egypt, and in the month of February I stood, for the second time, in the convent of Sinai. This second journey was more successful even than the first, from the discoveries that I made of rare Biblical manuscripts; but I was not able to discover any further traces of the treasure of 1844. I forget: I found in a roll of papers a little fragment which, written over on both sides, contained eleven short lines of the first book of Moses, which convinced me that the manuscript originally contained the entire Old Testament, but that the greater part had been long since destroyed.

On my return I reproduced in the first volume of a collection of ancient Christian documents the page of the Sinaitic manuscript which I had transcribed in 1844, without divulging the secret of where I had found it. I confined myself to the statement that I claimed the distinction of having discovered other documents—no matter whether published in Berlin or Oxford—as I assumed that some learned travellers who had visited the convent after me had managed to carry them off.

The question now arose how to turn to use these discoveries. Not to mention a second journey which I made to Paris in 1849, I went through Germany, Switzerland, and England, devoting several years of unceasing labor to a seventh edition of my New Testament. But I felt myself more and more urged to recommence my researches in the East. Several motives, and more especially the deep reverence of all Eastern monasteries for the emperor of Russia, led me, in the autumn of 1856, to submit to the Russian government a plan of a journey for making systematic researches in the East. This proposal only aroused a jealous and fanatical opposition in St. Petersburg. People were astonished that a foreigner and a Protestant should presume to ask the support of the emperor of the Greek and orthodox church for a mission to the East. But the good cause triumphed. The interest which my proposal excited, even within the imperial circle, inclined the emperor in my favor. It obtained his approval in the month of September, 1858, and the funds which I asked for were placed at my disposal. Three months subsequently my seventh edition of the New Testament, which had cost me three years of incessant labor, appeared, and in the commencement of January, 1859, I again set sail for the East.

I cannot here refrain from mentioning the peculiar satisfaction I had experienced a little before this. A learned Englishman, one of my friends, had been sent into the East by his government to discover and purchase old Greek manuscripts, and spared no cost in obtaining them. I had cause to fear, especially for my pearl of the convent of St. Catherine; but I heard that he had not succeeded in acquiring any thing, and had not even gone as far as Sinai; “for,” as he said in his official report, “after the visit of such an antiquarian and critic as Dr. Tischendorf, I could not expect any success.” I saw by this how well advised I had been to reveal to no one my secret of 1844.

By the end of the month of January I had reached the convent of Mount Sinai. The mission with which I was intrusted entitled me to expect every consideration and attention. The prior, on saluting me, expressed a wish that I might succeed in discovering fresh supports for the truth. His kind expression of good will was verified even beyond his expectations.

After having devoted a few days in turning over the manuscripts of the convent, not without alighting here and there on some precious parchment or other, I told my Bedouins, on the 4th of February, to hold themselves in readiness to set out with their dromedaries for Cairo on the 7th, when an entirely unexpected circumstance carried me at once to the goal of all my desires. On the afternoon of this day, I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighborhood, and as we returned towards sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he said, “And I too have read a Septuagint, i. e., a copy of the Greek translation made by the Seventy;” and so saying, he took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Pastor of Hermas. Full of joy, which this time I had the self-command to conceal from the steward and the rest of the community, I asked, as if in a careless way, for permission to take the manuscript into my sleeping-chamber, to look over it more at leisure. There by myself, I could give way to the transport of joy which I felt. I knew that I held in my hand the most precious Biblical treasure in existence—a document whose age and importance exceeded that of all the manuscripts which I had ever examined during twenty years’ study of the subject. I cannot now, I confess, recall all the emotions which I felt in that exciting moment, with such a diamond in my possession. Though my lamp was dim and the night cold, I sat down at once to transcribe the Epistle of Barnabas. For two centuries search has been made in vain for the original Greek of the first part of this epistle, which has been only known through a very faulty Latin translation. And yet this letter, from the end of the second down to the beginning of the fourth century, had an extensive authority, since many Christians assigned to it and to the Pastor of Hermas a place side by side with the inspired writings of the New Testament. This was the very reason why these two writings were both thus bound up with the Sinaitic Bible, the transcription of which is to be referred to the first half of the fourth century, and about the time of the first Christian emperor.

Early on the 5th of February, I called upon the steward, and asked permission to take the manuscript with me to Cairo, to have it there transcribed from cover to cover; but the prior had set out only two days before also for Cairo, on his way to Constantinople, to attend at the election of a new archbishop, and one of the monks would not give his consent to my request. What was then to be done? My plans were quickly decided. On the 7th, at sunrise, I took a hasty farewell of the monks, in hopes of reaching Cairo in time to get the prior’s consent. Every mark of attention was shown me on setting out. The Russian flag was hoisted from the convent walls, while the hillsides rang with the echoes of a parting salute, and the most distinguished members of the order escorted me on my way as far as the plain. The following Sunday I reached Cairo, where I was received with the same marks of good-will. The prior, who had not yet set out, at once gave his consent to my request, and also gave instructions to a Bedouin to go and fetch the manuscript with all speed. Mounted on his camel, in nine days he went from Cairo to Sinai and back, and on the 24th of February the priceless treasure was again in my hands. The time was now come at once boldly and without delay to set to work to a task of transcribing no less than a hundred and ten thousand lines, of which a great many were difficult to read, either on account of later corrections or through the ink having faded, and that in a climate where the thermometer, during March, April, and May, is never below 77º Fahrenheit in the shade. No one can say what this cost me in fatigue and exhaustion.

The relation in which I stood to the monastery gave me the opportunity of suggesting to the monks the thought of presenting the original to the emperor of Russia, as the natural protector of the Greek orthodox faith. The proposal was favorably entertained, but an unexpected obstacle arose to prevent its being acted upon. The new archbishop, unanimously elected during Easter week, and whose right it was to give a final decision in such matters, was not yet consecrated, or his nomination even accepted by the Sublime Porte. And while they were waiting for this double solemnity, the patriarch of Jerusalem protested so vigorously against the election, that a three months’ delay must intervene before the election could be ratified and the new archbishop installed. Seeing this, I resolved to set out for Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Just at this time the grand-duke Constantine of Russia, who had taken the deepest interest in my labors, arrived at Jaffa. I accompanied him to Jerusalem. I visited the ancient libraries of the holy city, that of the monastery of Saint Saba, on the shores of the Dead sea, and then those of Beyrout, Ladikia, Smyrna, and Patmos. These fresh researches were attended with the most happy results. At the time desired I returned to Cairo; but here, instead of success, only met with a fresh disappointment. The patriarch of Jerusalem still kept up his opposition; and as he carried it to the most extreme lengths, the five representatives of the convent had to remain at Constantinople, where they sought in vain for an interview with the sultan, to press their rights. Under these circumstances, the monks of Mount Sinai, although willing to do so, were unable to carry out my suggestion.

In this embarrassing state of affairs, the archbishop and his friends entreated me to use my influence on behalf of the convent. I therefore set out at once for Constantinople, with a view of there supporting the case of the five representatives. The prince Lobanow, Russian ambassador to Turkey, received me with the greatest good-will; and as he offered me hospitality in his country-house on the shores of the Bosphorus, I was able the better to attend to the negotiations which had brought me there. But our irreconcilable enemy, the influential and obstinate patriarch of Jerusalem, still had the upper hand. The archbishop was then advised to appeal himself in person to the patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops, and this plan succeeded; for before the end of the year the right of the convent was recognized, and we gained our cause. I myself brought back the news of our success to Cairo, and with it I also brought my own special request, backed with the support of Prince Lobanow.

On the 27th of September I returned to Cairo. The monks and archbishops then warmly expressed their thanks for my zealous efforts in their cause; and the following day I received from them, under the form of a loan, the Sinaitic Bible, to carry it to St. Petersburg, and there to have it copied as accurately as possible.

I set out for Egypt early in October, and on the 19th of November I presented to their imperial majesties, in the Winter Palace at Tsarkoe-Selo, my rich collection of old Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, and other manuscripts, in the middle of which the Sinaitic Bible shone like a crown. I then took the opportunity of submitting to the emperor Alexander II. a proposal of making an edition of this Bible worthy of the work and of the emperor himself, and which should be regarded as one of the greatest undertakings in critical and Biblical study.

I did not feel free to accept the brilliant offers that were made to me to settle finally, or even for a few years, in the Russian capital. It was at Leipzig, therefore, at the end of three years, and after three journeys to St. Petersburg, that I was able to carry to completion the laborious task of producing a fac-simile copy of this codex in four folio volumes.

In the month of October, 1862, I repaired to St. Petersburg to present this edition to their majesties. The emperor, who had liberally provided for the cost, and who approved the proposal of this superb manuscript appearing on the celebration of the Millenary Jubilee of the Russian monarchy, has distributed impressions of it throughout the Christian world; which, without distinction of creed, have expressed their recognition of its value. Even the pope, in an autograph letter, has sent to the editor his congratulations and admiration. It is only a few months ago that the two most celebrated universities of England, Cambridge and Oxford, desired to show me honor by conferring on me their highest academic degree. “I would rather,” said an old man, himself of the highest distinction for learning—“I would rather have discovered this Sinaitic manuscript than the Koh-i-noor of the queen of England.”

But that which I think more highly of than all these flattering distinctions is, the conviction that Providence has given to our age, in which attacks on Christianity are so common, the Sinaitic Bible, to be to us a full and clear light as to what is the word written by God, and to assist us in defending the truth by establishing its authentic form.


[1] Constantine Tischendorf, When Were Our Gospels Written? An Argument by Constantine Tischendorf with a Narrative Discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript (New York, NY: American Tract Society, 1866), 34. Retrieved electronically from the Christian Classics Etheral Library (CCEL) –  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/tischendorf/gospels.ii.iii.html.

[2] David W. Daniels, “Bible Versions: Your Questions Answered” (Ontario, CA: Chick, 2002). Retrieved electronically from http://www.chick.com/ask/articles/wastebasket.asp. Interestingly, this author discounts Constantine Tischendorf’s own testimony of how he discovered the manuscript and relies upon the second-hand account of another man instead!

[3] This is not even Tischendorf’s full account. There is a larger back-story where he recounts his travels around Europe and the East on a quest for New Testament manuscripts. I didn’t include that here. Feel free to visit the link in the previous footnote and read the entire matter for yourself.

An Embarrassment of Riches – The Reliability of the New Testament

I’ll be starting a series on the preservation of the scriptures soon. In preparation for this, I thought I’d share this neat infographic with you. The bottom line is that we have a huge amount of copies of the New Testament. It is by far the most well-attested book from all of antiquity. This series will focus on God’s providential preservation of His word for His people. In the meantime, this picture illustrates just how many copies of the various New Testament documents we have in comparison to copies of other ancient works.

Find other outstanding infographics at Visual Unit.

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Why You Can Rely on the Canon

This is a short interview with Dr. Michael Kruger, author of Canon Revisited, a wonderful book I recommend. He also maintains a very helpful website, Canon Fodder. In this video, Dr. Kruger briefly discusses why Christians can trust the books of the New Testament.  It’s only 8:00 long, so watch it if you have a moment or two . . .

Discerning God’s Will for Our Lives

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This message is directly specifically at teenagers, but just for kicks, I’ll post it here anyway! It was preached for teen Sunday School at my church this morning. 

There are three basic, looming decisions facing any Christian teenager as their high school days come to a close and they face the prospect of escaping from home (at last!) and starting life on their own.

  • Am I a Christian? Do I live out my own faith or have I just been borrowing from my parents?
  • What career will I choose?
  • Who and when will I get married?

For a Christian teenager seeking to be true to God, each of these life-altering decisions are (hopefully) seen in the context of what God’s will for his life is. Questions such as these will naturally swirl through the mind:

  • What God want me to do?
  • Should I go to college? Which college?
  • Who does God have for me to marry?
  • Will I ever get married? 

We all probably remember wrestling with these issues in our own lives. In this lesson, I take a brief look at what a passage of Scripture has to say about (1) God’s universal will for every Christian and (2) discerning God’s will for our individual lives. The important takeaway is this:

  1. God’s specific will for our lives is predicated on His universal will for Christians. Basically, if we aren’t interested in fulfilling our most basic responsibility as Christians and walking worthy of God, then we’re wasting our time praying to God and asking for guidance and help on specific issues. First things first, after all!
  2. God does not reveal His specific will for our lives in a comprehensive, direct revelation. We frequently can only see God’s providential hand in our lives after the fact, years later, as we look back on life events. He does not provide us with a PDF instruction booklet outlining His specific plan for our lives! We have to make important decisions day by day as we (1) search the Scriptures, (2) pray earnestly for guidance, (3) weigh the counsel of other Christians we respect and finally (4) simply doing what we believe is best in light of all these factors. God will work through these situations to work things together for good.

We may not always appreciate or like what God has in store for us! However, if we can truly call ourselves children of God who have repented of our sins and trusted in Christ as Savior, we can trust God and live by faith as we await His glorious return!

I honestly wish I had much more time to flesh this out. Hopefully it was a blessing to our teens in church, and perhaps even to you. The Gospel of Mark continues next week.

Sermon notes

Sufficiency of the Scriptures (Part #1)

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A critical issue in our increasingly post-modern times is the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Both Roman Catholics with their sacred tradition and Charismatics with their emphasis on continuing revelation via the Holy Spirit give lip-service to the Holy Scriptures. However, to these groups, the Scriptures are not the sole authority for Christian faith and life. This is a significant dividing line, one with profound theological ramifications. Consider the results of a 1980 Gallup poll which sought to determine Christian’s opinions on religious authority. The question was, “If you, yourself, were testing your religious beliefs, which ONE of these four religious authorities would you turn to first?” The results are sobering, even more so when one acknowledges the statistics are 33 years old:[1]

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The sufficiency of the Scriptures has fallen upon hard times. This series will examine what Scripture itself has to say on the matter. First, some brief statements from both orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics on the sufficiency of Scripture will be provided to set the stage, so to speak. Second, a biblical theology of books by several New Testament writers will be presented and their particular views on the sufficiency of Scripture analyzed in context. Third, an exposition will be presented on several critical passages relating to the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Fourth, the distinctly Baptist (and biblical) position of the New Testament being the sole authority for church polity is presented. Fifth, conclusions will be drawn. It will be demonstrated that the Scriptures alone are the only infallible authority for Christian faith and life.

Brief Statements

The objective principle of Protestantism maintains that the Bible, as the inspired record of revelation, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.[2]

Scripture alone is the inerrant, infallible record of God’s revelation to mankind. But Scripture is more than the record of God’s revelation; it is itself the only infallible, inspired revelation from God that exists today. This is not to say that Scripture is equivalent to the sum total of all revelation that God has been pleased to disclose (Jn 20:30-31; 21:25). But it is to say that Scripture alone constitutes and conveys all that is necessary for God’s glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.[3]

The Reformers did recognize a Christian tradition, but only a Christian tradition based on, and derived from, Scripture, and not one that equaled or even surpassed it in authority.[4]

Roman Catholic theologians recognize two well-springs of divine authority; Scripture and Tradition.

Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal . . . Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal feelings of devotion and reverence.[5]

James Cardinal Gibbons, a 19th century Catholic theologian, wrote:[6]

Now, the Scripture is the great depository of the Word of God. Therefore, the Church is the divinely appointed Custodian and Interpreter of the Bible. For, her office of infallible Guide were superfluous if each individual could interpret the Bible for himself.

The Catholic Church correctly teaches that our Lord and His Apostles included certain important duties of religion which are not recorded by the inspired writers (Jn 21:25) . . . We must conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer; because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation.

The next post will be a biblical theology of several books of the New Testament on the matter.


[1] Mike Willis, “The Unread Bible,” Truth Magazine, May 1, 1980, 291-292. http://www.truthmagazine.com/the-unread-bible.

[2] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7 vols. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2011), 7:16.

[3] David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, 3 vols. (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Truth, 2001), 1:43.

[4] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, combined ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 169.

[5] Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery, O.P., general editor (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1980), 754-755. Quoted in King, Holy Scripture, 50.

[6] James C. Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, ch. 2. http://www.cathcorn.org/foof/8.html

The Necessity of Theology

It is all too common for preachers, especially some of my brethren in fundamental Baptist circles, to ridicule learning and diligent study of theology. The concept of Seminary is sneered at by some of these men. “You don’t need all that higher learning,” they scoff. “You just need the word of God!”

Charles Spurgeon had a few words for those who, in his day, echoed similar sentiments:

Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it. Many preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they make. It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving him from gross blunders. Nowadays, we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry “Eureka! Eureka!” as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond, but a piece of broken glass.… Let us be thoroughly well acquainted with the great doctrines of the Word of God.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1945), 196.

Nominal Christianity?

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The phenomena of “cultural Christianity” is not a new one. The label “carnal Christian” has been bandied about regularly in literature and in the blogosphere. Christians of every theological stripe know “carnal” or “cultural” Christians. Pick whichever label you like best, or even invent your own – you know these people. They claim repentance from sin and salvation through Christ alone. They come to church more or less regularly . . . sort of! They sit more or less attentively in the pews and may even tithe faithfully. They go through the motions. And yet . . . there is no discernable joy of Christ in their lives. There is no growth. To borrow a phrase from Paul Tripp (2008), there is a “gospel gap” in their lives. Their FaceBook pages abound with worldliness; perhaps you’ve even secretly hid them from your news feed! Their children walk and talk like everybody else. There is no concept of separation, holiness or imitation of God in their lives. They are indistinguishable from normal, everyday, unsaved “good people.”

These folks are legion. Some are undoubtedly saved, others are undoubtedly not. I’m not interested in debating that issue right now. What is significant is that too many Christians have little conception of who Christ is, what they were saved from and what their calling as Christians is. We’ll look at what Paul had to say on this very matter:

We Were Once Dead (Eph 2:1-3)

Christians sometimes seem to lose sense of both (1) what they were saved from and, (2) the grace of God in performing this marvelous work. We lose focus on the gift of salvation and our attentions turn inward, to temporal matters. Paul, writing to the faithful saints at Ephesus (Eph 2:1), emphasized the grace of God in salvation in very powerful, stark terms.

Christians were once dead in the trespasses and sins they walked in (Eph 2:1-2). This is a spiritual death, a sinful nature we all inherited from Adam (Rom 5:12). In this sinful state, there is absolutely nothing meritorious in us that God can find pleasure in or accept as grounds for salvation.

“Now in this dreadful disordered condition, are all of us brought into the world: for as the root is, such must the branches be. Accordingly we are told, “That Adam beget a son in his own likeness;” or, with the same corrupt nature which he himself had, after he had eaten the forbidden fruit. And experience as well as scripture proves, that we also are altogether born in sin and corruption; and therefore incapable, whilst in such a state, to hole communion with God. For as light cannot have communion with darkness, so God can have no communion with such polluted sons of Belial,” (Whitefield).

Paul went on to describe the nature of this spiritual death, observing that we followed the “course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” (Eph 2:2). We were completely different prior to salvation by Christ. We served a different master, as it were, and that master was Satan. We once lived as “sons of disobedience,” mimicking the ways of our former master.

“. . . carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” (Eph 2:3).

We were by nature the children of wrath (see also Jn 3:36). Paul paints a very frank picture of a Christian’s former state. “These verses picture the hopeless unbeliever as a part of the world system, controlled by Satan, indulging the flesh, and destined to experience God’s wrath,” (Constable, 2013, 28). This is what we were saved from and, moreover, it is what we deserve. God was not obligated to save anybody. He chose to.

We are transferred from the realm of Satan to the realm of God upon repentance of our sins and saving faith in Christ. We did belong to Satan but now belong to God. The chain which once bound us to sin has been broken!

Now We Are Alive! (Eph 2:4-9)

God is rich in mercy because of the “great love” He has for us. Even while we were yet dead in our trespasses and sins, He made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4-5). The initiative here is clearly with God, underscoring our complete inability to come to Him on our own or claim merit in any fashion. We are saved by grace, or unmerited favor (Eph 2:5). He has given us heavenly citizenship (Eph 2:6). This was done so that, in the coming ages, He might demonstrate the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7). The supreme demonstration of this grace is salvation, which is “not your own doing” (Eph 2:8). Paul wrote that this salvation was “not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” (Eph 2:9). The entire thrust of this passage is the surpassing grace of God in salvation.

What’s the Point? (Eph 2:10)

We were saved for a purpose, not to glory in our own election and while away our lives in idleness. This is the root of the issue with nominal Christians – they claim but Christ but display no urgency to live for Him in any discernable way! There is no power of the Gospel in their lives. It is merely a cultural thing.

I like baseball. I like the Blackhawks. I like CSI: New York. I’m a Christian. God Bless America.

Too many Christians have lost any real sense of what it actually means to be a Christian. They have no Christian identity. How different this is from what Paul wrote:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Eph 2:10).

Christians who have been saved in ages past, are being saved today and will be saved tomorrow are His workmanship. This election to salvation is not a call to privilege but a choosing of service to God (Rom 12:1-2). We were created in Christ Jesus specifically for good works. There is no way to get around this statement from Paul. A fervent desire to serve the Lord should be the practical outworking and fruit of our salvation. If we Christians can wrap our heads around this fact, then Paul’s call to present ourselves as “living sacrifices” takes on a whole new significance. It should change our lives. It should compel us to serve Christ in whichever way we can, in accordance with the various talents, gifts and abilities He has seen fit to bestow upon us. Too many Christians are not fulfilling their calling but are on spiritual autopilot.

We know these people. They are our friends and neighbors. They worship together with us in church. Perhaps they were once living for the Lord, but have fallen on hard times. Maybe they were always nominal and tentative in their faith. Regardless of the circumstance, we have a duty to exhort and encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith, stirring them up to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25). God is not pleased by lukewarm Christians (Rev 3:16).

We all need to grasp what the “grace of God” really means, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age as we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:12-13). There is no place in our lives for a complacent Christianity. Let us resolve to not allow this complacency and nominalism to characterize our own lives, and to encourage and exhort our brethren to not allow it to come to pass in theirs either.

“Hail, happy saints! For your heaven is begun on earth: you have already received the first fruits of the Spirit, and are patiently waiting till that blessed change come, when your harvest shall be complete. I see and admire you, though, alas! at so great a distance from you: your life, I know, is hid with Christ in God. You have comforts, you have meat to eat, which a sinful, carnal, ridiculing world knows nothing of. Christ’s yoke is not become easy to you, and his burden light. You have passed through the pangs of the new birth, and now rejoice that Christ Jesus is spiritually formed in your hearts. You know what it is to dwell in Christ, and Christ in you. Like Jacob’s ladder, although your bodies are on earth, yet your souls and hearts are in heaven: and by your faith and constant recollection, like the blessed angels, you do always behold the face of your Father which is in heaven,” (Whitefield).

Works Cited:

Constable, Thomas. Ephesians. Dallas: Soniclight, 2013.

Whitefield, George. Marks of Having Received the Holy Ghost. Sermon. Retrieved from http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=/documents/Whitefield/WITF_042.html.

Tripp, Paul D. and Timothy Lane. How People Change. Greensboro: New Growth, 2008.