"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 3, Number 1, January 2000
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
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WISE WORDS FROM BAPTIST PASTOR JOHN LELAND (1754-1841)
"That devil, who transforms himself into an angel of light, is often preaching from these words: 'Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints' [Jude 3]. Whenever men are self-conceited enough to believe themselves infallible in judgment, and take their own opinions for tests of orthodoxy, they conclude they are doing God service, in vindicating his truth; while they are only contending for their particular tenets. By this gross mistake, the Christian world is filled with polemical divinity. I very much question whether there was ever more sophistry used among the old philosophers, than there has been among divines. I never saw a defense of a religious system, but what a great part of it was designed to explain away the apparent meaning of plain texts of scripture. System writers generally adopt a few principles, which, they say, are CERTAIN TRUTHS, and all reasoning against those principles they strive to make sophistry, and all texts that seem to withstand their scheme, they endeavor to explain away; sometimes by mending the translation of the Bible. . . .
When men are run hard to support their plan, they will appeal from scripture to the reason of things; and when reason fails them, they will fly back again to scripture; and when both disappear, they will have recourse to the UNSEARCHABLE WAYS OF GOD. There is no doubt in my mind, that the God of order acts consistently with himself; but it is a grand doubt, whether divine materials ever did, or ever will, submit to human standards. And, I think it much safer for a man to own his ignorance, and stand open to conviction, than to be too positive in asserting things that he himself may doubt of in his cool retired hours."
THE WRITINGS OF THE LATE ELDER JOHN LELAND
New York: G. W. Wood, 1845; pp. 123-4
J. B. LIGHTFOOT ON THE INCARNATION
Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889) was one the outstanding Bible scholars of the 19th century and indeed of any century. He was one of the leading translators of the English Revised New Testament (1881). His specialty was the New Testament, in particular the writings of Paul. His commentaries on several of Paul's letters, while technical, are yet highly prized by serious students of Scripture to this day. In treating Philippians 2:5-11, one of the most important New Testament texts dealing with the Person of Christ and His incarnation, Lightfoot offers an explanatory paraphrase of the passage which brings out very clearly the sense and force of the original:
"Reflect in your own minds the mind of Christ Jesus. Be humble, as He also was humble. Though existing before the worlds in the Eternal Godhead, yet He did not cling with avidity to the prerogatives of His divine majesty, did not ambitiously display His equality with God; but divested Himself of the glories of heaven, and took upon Him the nature of a servant, assuming the likeness of men. Nor was this all. Having thus appeared among men in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself yet more, and carried out His obedience even to dying. Nor did He die by common death: He was crucified, as the lowest malefactor is crucified. But as was His humility, so also was His exaltation. God raised Him to a preeminent height, and gave Him a title and a dignity far above all dignities and titles else. For to the name and majesty of Jesus all created things in heaven and earth and hell shall pay homage on bended knee; and every tongue with praise and thanksgiving shall declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, and in and for Him shall glorify God the Father."
Then in the course of his comments, Lightfoot gives a second explanatory paraphrase of vv. 6, 7, and then of the last half of v. 8:
"Though He pre-existed in the form of God, yet He did not look upon equality with God as a prize which must not slip from His grasp, but He emptied Himself, divested Himself, taking upon Him the form of a slave." (vv. 6, 7)
"I said death, but it was no common death. It was a death which involved not intense suffering only, but intense shame also: a death reserved for malefactors and slaves: a death on which the Mosaic law has uttered a curse, and which even the Gentiles consider the most foul and cruel of all punishments; which has been ever after to the Jews a stumblingblock and the Greek foolishness." (v. 8b)
J. B. Lightfoot,
ST. PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS
London: MacMillan and Co., 1908
pp. 110, 111, 113
Excerpts from A. T. Robertson's, PAUL'S JOY IN CHRIST
"Sheldon's 'In His Steps' [the source of the current WWJD fad] did not quite state the case. We are to do what Jesus wishes us to do, not always just what He did." (p. 123)
"One is reminded of Charles Lamb saying that, if Shakespeare appeared in the company of literati, they would all rise, but if Jesus came, they would all kneel." (p. 139)
A. T. Robertson
PAUL'S JOY IN CHRIST: STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970 reprint of Revell 1917 edition
"A Word about the Lamsa Version"
From time to time, someone will ask me about the Lamsa Version of the Bible. Published by Holman decades ago, it is still in print.
This translation is the work of one George Lamsa, a native of Syria. This version is based, not on any Greek text, but the Peshitta Syriac translation of the Bible, or maybe I should say, it is a revision of the KJV to bring it into conformity with the Peshitta.
The Peshitta translation was made in the fifth century A.D. for Christians in the Middle East, especially in Mesopotamia. Syriac is one of the Semitic languages (along with Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Ethiopic and others), and is a later development of Aramaic, one of the languages spoken by Jesus and the disciples in the first century (Syriac is related to Aramaic as our 20th century American English is a development of 17th century Shakespearean English). Central to the alleged value of the Lamsa version is the assertion that the Syriac text on which it is based virtually reproduces the exact original words of Jesus as He would have spoken them in Aramaic.
While it is true that occasionally the rendering of the Peshitta helps us understand more clearly the force and meaning of passages in the NT, it is a "stretch" to affirm that the Peshitta is closer to the "real" words of Jesus that the inspired Greek text of the NT. It should be pointed out that Lamsa, in general harmony with the Syrian Orthodox Church, holds to the virtual inspiration and infallibility of the Peshitta translation, akin to the Greek Orthodox Church's "canonization" of the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament, the Roman Catholic Church's claims of infallibility for Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation, and the modern KJVO movement's claims of infallibility for that version.
Lamsa himself was long-associated with Victor Paul Wierwille, the late founder of "The Way, International," an Ohio-centered cult which is Arian in doctrine (like the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Way denies the deity of Christ). I have seen reports that it was Lamsa who influenced Wierwille to adopt Arianism.
As a translation of the Peshitta into English, the Lamsa version leaves a great deal to be desired. The rendering is often inaccurate, and inconsistent, and should not be trusted implicitly by the English reader as though it faithfully reproduces in English the Peshitta, though it is correct at I John 5:7, which is absent from the Peshitta and from Lamsa's version; at I Timothy 3:16 the Peshitta follows a Greek reading at odds with the textus receptus and so does Lamsa's translation. In contrast, Lamsa strangely inserts Acts 8:37 in his translation, though that verse is not found in the Peshitta. He blundered badly at John 1:18, giving "the first-born of God," where the Syriac has "the unique one, God." A bargeful of such examples could be given.
The Peshitta and the Greek text it was based on are of interest in the area of New Testament textual criticism (the Peshitta is reported to be generally, but not always, in agreement with the Byzantine text, with some very notable departures). However, since most English readers will never learn Syriac, some other access, even if indirect, to the Peshitta must be found, namely through an English translation of the Peshitta. Unfortunately, Lamsa's version falls far short of the necessary level of reliability. In my experience, I have learned that it is never safe to rely on Lamsa's version for the reading of the text of the Peshitta without also checking the Syriac directly.
Lamsa's version is not the only English translation of the Syriac New Testament. In the19th century, a John Murdoch made an English translation of the Peshitta New Testament, the 6th edition being published in Boston and London in 1893 (see Bruce M. Metzger, THE EARLY VERSIONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977, p. 52, n. 1). I have not seen this version, but it cannot help but be more accurate than that of Lamsa.
KEY TO THE MISSIONARY PROBLEM by Andrew Murray. Fort Washington, Penn.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1979. Contemporized by Leona F. Choy. 173 pp., paperback.
Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a South African of Dutch Reformed persuasion, is noted for the numerous devotional books he penned, probably the most famous being, WITH CHRIST IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER.
Murray was invited to participate in an international conference on missions held in New York in 1900, but was unable to attend because of circumstances in South Africa (namely, the Boer War). A volume was issued in preparation for the conference, and a two-volume conference report was issued after the event. In KEY TO THE MISSIONARY PROBLEM, Murray interacts with the contents of these volumes.
Throughout, Murray shows great wisdom and spiritual insight into the problems, opportunities, and failures of missions. Though now nearly a full century after the conference and the writing of Murray's little book about the conference, instruction absolutely relevant to us today overflows on nearly every page. I found it to be as good, and as challenging, and as rebuking, as any book on missions that I have ever read. It is impossible to give a few sample quotations. The book must be quoted at length.
Get and meditate on this book.
Quotations from KEY TO THE MISSIONARY PROBLEM
"There is no greater spiritual and mysterious truth than that Christ our head is actually and entirely dependent upon the members of His body for the carrying out the plans which He, as Head, has formed. Only spiritual men, and a church in which spiritual men have influence, are capable of rightly carrying out Christ's commands." (. p. 10)
Quoting Dr. [George Frederick?] Pentecost--"To the pastor belongs the privilege and the responsibility of solving the foreign missionary problem. Until the pastors of our churches wake up to the truth of this proposition, and the foreign work becomes a passion in their hearts and consciences, our Boards may do what they can, by way of devising forward movements or organizing new methods for raising money from the churches, yet the chariot wheels of missions will drive heavily. . . . No pastor is worthy of his office who does not put himself into sympathy with the magnificent breadth of the great commission, and draw deep inspiration and zeal from its worldwide sweep. . . . The pastor is not only the instructor, but the leader of the congregation. He must not only care for their souls, but direct their activities. If there are churches that do not give and do not pray for foreign missions, it is because they have pastors who are falling short of the command of Christ. I feel almost warranted in saying that, as no congregation can long resist the enthusiastic pastor, so, on the other hand, a congregation can hardly rise above cold indifference of lack of conviction in regarding missions on the part of the pastor." (pp. 11, 12)
Quoting Dr. Cuthbert Hall--"The passion of a Christ-like love for people develops in a Christian disciple from the presence in himself of the powers and activities that reflect the mind of Christ. And what was the mind of Christ? A clear vision of what the world is and needs; a deep feeling of compassion towards the world; active effort for the world, even to giving His life a ransom for many. . . . The minister of Christ may speak with the tongues of men and of angels, may have all knowledge, may have a faith that could remove mountains, but if he does not have the passion of a Christ-like love, he does not have the Spirit of Christ, and is none of His. . . . The problem of the theological seminary [and he could have said "Bible College"] is this: not how to train an occasional individual for the foreign field, but how to kindle missionary passion in every person who passes through the school, . . . . For the sake of those who possibly have gifts for service abroad, the theological seminary should be hot with zeal for evangelization, should be charged with solemn concern for the world's condition, so that not one could live within its walls without facing for himself the sober question, Is it Christ's will for me to go forth to serve Him in the regions beyond?" (pp. 12, 13)
Quoting S. Earl Taylor--"Until our pastors are ready to back this enterprise, there will never be a missionary spirit adequate to the needs of this generation. . . .[W]e are told here and in Great Britain that the greatest obstacle in arousing the home church is the pastor, who is afraid his salary will be cut down." (p. 16)
"It is one thing for a minister to be an advocate and supporter of missions: it is another and very different thing for him to understand that missions are the chief end of the church, and therefore the chief end for which his congregation exists. It is only when this truth masters him in its spiritual power, that he will be able to give the subject of missions its true place in his ministry. . . . He must learn how to lead the congregation on to make the extension of Christ's kingdom the highest object of its corporate existence. . . . In order to carry this out, the essential power lies in a definite consecration to be filled with the Spirit and the love of Christ. . . .missionary enthusiasm must not be of the flesh but the enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit." (p. 18)
"The more earnestly we study missions in the light of the pastors' responsibility, the more we shall see that everything depends upon the personal life being wholly under the power of the love of Christ, as the constraining power of our work. With the pastor, at least, it will be found that the missionary problem is a personal problem." (pp. 18-19)
Quoting an unnamed writer--"Information is the fuel without which the fire cannot burn. Fuel is not the fire, and cannot of itself create fire; but where there is fire, fuel is indispensable to keep it burning, or to make it burn with greater intensity. An informed Church will be a transformed Church. Possibly one of the greatest factors in the development of missionary interest is the systematic study of missions.
Missionary influence is twofold. The torch we hold up for others illuminates our own path. The Church is watching, and working, and praying for immortal souls. Our representatives are out in the thickest of the battle. It is a struggle between the forces of life and death. Are we so swathed in our small environment that we do not care for news of this contest with the forces of darkness? If we are in earnest to plant the Church of Christ in the ends of the earth, let us hear the report of progress and pass it on.
Ignorance is the source of weakness in missionary effort. Know, and you will believe. Know, and you will pray. Know and you will help in the front rank." (p. 19)
"In summary, if our pastors are brought to believe that the great aim of the existence of their congregations is to make Christ known to every creature; if our people would read and take an interest in the news of the kingdom and its extension; if we could so get our Christian men and women of devotion to organize our young people so that their training in missionary service were part of their education in the love of Christ and the life of godliness; if our students could be trained in an atmosphere of missionary enthusiasm, there would be reason to hope that the work will be accomplished. Within thirty years every man and woman in the world would have the gospel brought within their reach, and actually offered to them.
Yet throughout all the addresses there is the secret admission that in all these respects there is reason for anxiety. Complaints were voiced about the lack of the missionary ideal and passion in many pastors and students, and the lack of interest by the majority of church members in missionary literature. Many, many more are needed to shepherd the young into the life of missionary devotion. These lacks prove that behind all these needs is a deeper need: There is need of a great revival of spiritual life, of truly fervent devotion to our Lord Jesus, of entire consecration to His service. It is only in a church in which this spirit of revival has at least begun, that there is any hope of any very radical change in the relation of the majority of our Christian people to mission work." (pp. 25-6)
"When the Student Volunteer Movement issued their appeal to the churches, announcing the motto they had adopted, The Evangelization of the World in this Generation, their message met with a most enthusiastic response." (p. 27) [And also much inaction. That movement and motto originated well over a century ago--over four generations, in fact--and we are numerically much further from this noble goal today than in 1900!!--ed.]
"The Moravians [a Christian group organized in he early 18th century, but with roots back to pre-Reformation Bohemia--ed.] have done more in proportion to their ability than any other body of Christians. IF members of Protestant Churches in Great Britain and America gave in like proportion, missionary contributions would aggregate a fourfold increase. IF we went out as missionaries in corresponding numbers, we would have a force of nearly 400,000 foreign workers, which is vastly more than the number of missionaries estimated as necessary to achieve the evangelization of the world in this generation. I ask the question, What has there been in connection with their work which is not reproducible? (p. 30)
"However devotedly a small part of the Church is doing its utmost, the great majority of her members are not what they should be. They do no truly desire to make Christ known to every creature as speedily as possible. This aim does not rule the spirit of the Church--she is not prepared to do her duty." (p. 33)
" 'To evangelize the world in this generation is possible,' they say, 'in view of the achievements of the Christians of the first generation. They did more to accomplish the work than has any succeeding generation. In studying the secret of what they accomplished, one is led to the conclusion that they employed no vitally important method which cannot be used today, and that they availed themselves of no power which we cannot utilize.'
The mighty power of God and His Holy Spirit are ours as well as theirs. We are heirs to all that the Church of Pentecost had: The power of His dying love in the heart; a triumphant faith in Christ; simple, bold, personal testimony; patient suffering; absolute passionate consecration; the heavenly power that overcomes the world and makes us more than conquerors through Him that loved us." (p. 35)
"As was pointed out, the Moravian Church was one of the smallest in number and poorest in means of all the churches. What it has done is proof that the whole Church, when once she rouses herself to her calling, most surely can accomplish the work. In view of the opportunities which the Church has in the open doors in every country of the world, of the enormous resources the Church possesses in the wealth of her members, in the numbers of workers over which the Church has disposal, and the faith that would send them out would, instead of weakening it, bring quickening and strength, it is absolutely within the power of the Church to bring the gospel to every creature within this generation." (p. 36) [Chiefly what the Moravians had was a spirit and practice of fervent, continued and specific prayer, including an around-the-clock prayer meeting that literally lasted for over 100 years.--ed.]
"The one universally admitted fact--that the majority of Christians care nothing and give nothing for missions, and that a large number give but little and not from the highest motives, is simply proof of the worldliness in which most Christians live." (p. 38)
"The first step in returning to God for true service and new blessing, is always confession." (p. 39)
In seeking to perform evangelistic work among the slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations in the 1700s, of the Moravians, we are told: "If it was difficult to approach the plantations to teach the slaves, the [Moravian] volunteers were ready to sell themselves as slaves to reach the poor lost souls." (p. 58)
"Let us now turn to the main object for which the story of the Moravian Church has been told. It has been appealed to as an example. It was pointed out to us that in proportion to its membership, the men it supports and sends out, the money it provides, the converts it has gathered, far exceed what any other church has done. In the first twenty years of its existence it actually sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant Church had done in 200 years." (p. 61)
Quoting Eugene Stock--"God's demand upon every one of his servants is surrender with no conditions, no terms; nothing but the yielding of our will and our life to Him to do His will in the strength of His might." (p. 78)
"Let the pastor learn and teach that all failure in caring, giving, praying and living for missions is owing to a weak, superficial spiritual life." (p. 85)
"In the New York Conference, the China Inland Mission was frequently mentioned. Under the leadership of one man of faith [viz., J. Hudson Taylor], God had, in the course of thirty years, led out 600 missionaries into the field without any guarantee of funds for their support beyond what God might give in answer to believing prayer." (p. 87)
Quoting J. Hudson Taylor--"God Himself is the great source of power. Furthermore, God's power is available power. We are a supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher from a supernatural Book. We are led by a supernatural Captain in right paths of assured victories. The risen Saviour, before He ascended on high, said to His disciples, 'Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.' Not many days after this in answer to united and continued prayer, the Holy Ghost did come upon them, and they were all filled. Praise God, He remains with us still. The power given is not a gift from the Holy Ghost. He, Himself is the power. Today, He is as truly available and as mighty in power as He was on the day of Pentecost. But has the whole Church ever, since the days before, put aside every other work and waited for Him ten days, so that power might be manifested? Has there not been a source of failure here?
We have given too much attention to methods and to machinery and to resources, and too little to the source of power--the filling with the Holy Ghost. This, I think you will agree with me, is the great weakness today, and has been the great weakness of our service in the past. Unless remedied, it will be the great weakness in the future. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. If we are not filled, we are living in disobedience and sin, and the cause of our sin is the cause of Israel's sin of old--the sin of unbelief.
It is not lost time to wait upon God." (pp. 88-9)
Quoting Taylor again--"In the study of that divine Word I learned that to obtain successful workers, what was needed was not elaborate appeals for help, but first earnest prayer to God to thrust forth laborers, and secondly the deepening of the spiritual life of the Church, so that men should be unable to stay at home. I saw that the apostolic plan was not to be concerned about ways and means, but to go and do the work, trusting in His sure word who has said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' " (p. 98)
Taylor again--"Meanwhile the awful realization was burned into my very soul that, a million a month of the unevangelized in China were dying without God. 'If you would pray for preachers,' came the dread conviction, 'they might have a chance of hearing the glorious gospel; but they are passing away without hearing, simply because you don't have enough faith to claim heralds of the Cross for them.'
The feeling of blood-guiltiness became more and more intense. Simply because I refused to ask for them, the laborers did not go out to China; and every day tens of thousands in that vast land were living and dying with no knowledge of the way of salvation." (pp. 100, 101)
"Faith cannot grow strong except by exercise. Difficulties are the proving ground of faith; they give it nourishment and strength." (p. 107)
"If we take as a basic premise that it is possible to evangelize the world in this generation--in view of the achievements of the Christians of the first generation--then it is a terrible condemnation of the Church of our day." (p. 109)
"We have said that the early church availed herself of no power which we cannot utilize. We have seen what some of these powers are. The power of separation from the world and true self-sacrifice, of intense attachment and devotion to Jesus, of love and fellowship making us one with the saints around us, of faith, and of continued prayer. These things made the disciples ready to receive the promise of the Father, and be the fit instruments for the Holy Spirit's mighty work in witnessing for Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth." (p. 119)
"The minister needs to prepare himself to successfully combat the selfishness that is content with personal salvation, the worldliness that has no idea of sacrificing all or even anything for Christ, the unbelief that measures its power to help or bless by what it feels and sees." (p. 140)
Quoting Mrs. J. H. Random--"Missions have progressed so slowly abroad because piety and prayer have been so shallow at home." (p. 148)
"The two great conditions of true prayer are an urgent sense of need and a full assurance of a supply for that need. We must bring God's children to see and feel the need. The work entrusted to them; the obligation to do it; the consequence to ourselves, to Christ, to the perishing, of neglecting it; our absolute impotence to do it in our own strength--these great truths must master us." (p. 151)
A NOTE ON MY READING FOR 1999
As usual, I kept track of my reading during the year past (chiefly as a goad to drive me on to do more), and I here give some brief accounting of it.
I read through 47 books for the year, totaling 11,694 pages (excluding indices, etc.) or about 225 pages per week. The longest book had 976 pages, the shortest, 46 (but with very small print). Eight of the 45 were re-reads of books read before (the 2nd reading in four cases, the 3rd in two, and the 4th in two--Shakespeare's MERCHANT OF VENICE and Dicken's A CHRISTMAS CAROL were the 4th timers). I actually read 5 of the 18 books on my "beginning of the year" list (and read parts of 4 more)--a higher than average achievement.
During the year, I acquired by purchase, trade or as gifts 217 books, of which I have already read 24 (I seem to be losing ground, however!). For these books, I spent $949.76 including $120 spent on a 28-volume set of the writings of the church fathers (annually, I spend nothing on hunting, fishing, golf, athletic events, fine cars, power tools, video rentals, or memorabilia). And I actually sold off a few books and gave away a few, though not nearly enough to make room for my acquisitions. They crowd the cases and spill over onto the floor and any other flat surface available.
Topically, my reading may be divided as biography--15 (including 11 religious and missionary biographies); agriculture, farming, animal husbandry, forestry, etc.--7; quotations--4; history--3; military history--1; literature--3; missions--3; theology--3; diet and health--2; and one each in politics, education, devotional, cults, ministry, and Bible translations. Of course, I read bits and pieces of many other books during the year, but these are those I read through.
And now another year begins, with another list of "want-to-reads" posted, and more unknown books to be discovered. I think an inversion of 2 Timothy 3:7 may be appropriately applied to the children of God: "We have come to the knowledge of the truth, and now are ever learning."