Friday, September 14, 2018

The Vision (9.14.18): Washing the Disciples' Feet

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 13:1-17.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).

Christ admonishes his disciples to follow his example and wash one another’s feet.

In 1 Timothy 5:10 the apostle Paul described the godly widows in the church as those who had “washed the saints' feet.” We get some idea of what he meant by this by the other things that these women had done which he mentions in this verse, like: bringing up children, lodging strangers, relieving the afflicted, and diligently following every good work.

Consider also Paul’s admonition in Galatians 5:10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
The question we must ask: Do we wash the feet of our fellow disciples?

This might include the way conduct yourself within your marriage, as well as before your children and neighbors and extended family. It has special application, however, as to how we act toward the brethren within the church.

What does it mean to wash the feet of the disciples? Here are some things that will be part of this:

҉ We have to know the brethren. We have to love them enough to be committed to getting to know them and letting them know us. This means we have to be present, and we have to stay around.

҉ We can do good works for each other. That might encompass everything (as needed) from preparing a meal, cleaning a house, raking a yard, keeping children, giving rides, sitting by sickbeds, lending a listening ear, and countless other acts of love and service to one another.

҉ It means being forbearing and patient with one another.

҉ It means overlooking faults, not keeping records of wrongs, and trusting that love covers a multitude of sins.

҉ It means making your home a place of hospitality, and sometimes it means lodging strangers.

҉ It means praying for one another, and not just saying you will and then forgetting about it.

When we do these sorts of things (and plenty more that cannot always be named on a list), we are obeying Christ’s command and following his example. We are taking up the towel and filling the basin, so that we can have the privilege of washing the feet of the disciples, just as Christ has served us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, September 13, 2018

WM 103: Calvin and Canon

I have recorded and posted WM 103: Calvin and Canon (listen here). This episode is a version of the paper I presented back on August 27, 2018 at the 2018 International Congress on Calvin Research, held at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

I hope to edit and expand the paper for some future use, but this abbreviated reading gives a feel for the content.

Here’s how the paper begins:

In his biography of John Calvin, William J. Bousma observed, “Against the claim of the Roman church to have settled the matter, [Calvin] denied with no distress, the existence of a fixed New Testament canon.” This paper will examine Calvin’s understanding of the canon of the Christian Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments), as reflected in his various writings.

In order to grasp Calvin’s understanding of canon, we must address at least four key issues:

First: Calvin’s view of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.

Second: Calvin’s view of the so-called antilegomena of the New Testament (the works spoken against, especially 2-3 John and Revelation, but also Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude).

Third: Calvin’s understanding of the criterion of canonicity.

Fourth: Calvin’s definition not only of the proper books which should be included in the canon of the Christian Scriptures but also the texts of those books.

And here’s how it ends:

Calvin was profoundly influential in shaping and defining a distinctive Protestant and Reformed conceptions of canon.

Over against Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, he rejected the notion that canon was defined by the ecclesiastical pronouncement but affirmed that these books claimed their canonical status by virtue of their being (ontology).

In harmony with Judaism, he affirmed the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible as constituting the canon of the Old Testament.

Though he rejected the canonicity of the Apocrypha he could affirm that these works, uninspired as they are, could serve an edifying role in Christian piety. Such a perspective has been largely lost among most modern Protestants and might well be reclaimed in the contemporary church.

Over against some of his fellow Reformers, Luther included, Calvin did not, in the end, affirm a “canon within the canon” understanding of the New Testament books. He did not divide the New Testament books into ranks and, thus, gave an equal authority and status to all.

Calvin affirmed that canon was not just a matter of which books are in the Bible but also of which texts makes up those books. By affirming the Hebrew text of the Old Testament as normative, this meant he departed from Eastern Orthodoxy’s preference for the Greek LXX of the Old Testament and Roman Catholicism’s preference for the Latin Vulgate for both testaments. What is more, he affirmed a stress on the importance of the immediate inspiration of the Bible in its original languages and, I believe, affirmed that the proper text was the traditional one (the Masoretic text of the OT and the TR of the NT).

I close by returning to Bousma’s statement that Calvin “denied with no distress, the existence of a fixed New Testament canon” and conclude that this statement is inaccurate. Calvin did not deny but affirmed a clear and well-formed view on the canon of the Christian Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments.


Friday, September 07, 2018

The Vision (9.7.18): The Word of God as an Ordinary Means of Grace

Image: Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

In light of an invitation to address this topic in a conference next week, I have been giving thought of late to the theme of God’s Word as an ordinary means of grace.

Our Baptist Catechism, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, teaches (Q 94):

The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

This indicates the sense that the Word (its reading and its preaching) is an ordinance of both conversion and edification. This twofold purpose recalls Psalm 19:7 (emphasis added):

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

In his three volume Systematic Theology, the “Old Princeton” theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) devotes an extended section to the Word of God as a means of grace (see Volume III, chapter XX, pp. 466-484). At one point, he reflects on the fact that without the reading and hearing of God’s Word even a regenerate soul would be at a loss:

Even a regenerated soul without any truth before it, would be in blank darkness. It would be in the state of a regenerated infant; or in the state of an unborn infant in relation to the external world; having eyes and ears, but nothing to call its faculties of sight and hearing into exercise.

He concludes:

The Bible, therefore, is essential to the conscious existence of   the divine life in the soul and to all its rational exercises. The Christian can no more live without the Bible, than his body can live without food. The Word of God is milk and strong meat, it is as water to the thirsty, it is honey and the honeycomb (478-479).

If we are to grow in Christ, we need the “intake” of His Word. We need to read the Bible privately and to hear it read corporately. We need also to hear it taught and preached among his people.

May the Lord use his Word as a means of grace to convert souls and to make wise the simple.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Invitation: 2018 Keach Conference Coming: September 29

2018 Keach Conference

Saturday, September 29, 2018
Hosted by Christ Reformed Baptist Church
2997 Courthouse Road, Louisa, Virginia 23093

Image: Steve Clevenger preaching at the 2016 Keach Conference

The Keach Conference is an annual theology and ministry conference presented by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA). The conference is open to anyone to attend. There is no registration fee.

Conference theme: This year our focus will be on Chapter 11 “of Justification” from the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689).

Conference Schedule (Saturday, September 29):

9:00 am Morning Coffee & Registration

9:30 am Session One

Message one: Justification: The Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls (Confession 11:1-2). Speaker: Jeff Riddle, Christ RBC, Louisa.

Message two: Justification: The Application of Christ to Believers (Confession 11:3-4). Speaker: Steve Clevenger, Covenant RBC, Warrenton.

12:00 nn Complimentary lunch served on site

1:00 pm Session Two

Message three: Justification: Falling Under Fatherly Displeasure (Confession 11:5). Speaker: Van Loomis, Redeeming Grace BC, Matthews.

Message four: Justification: Old Testament Believers (Confession 11:6). Speaker: J. Ryan Davidson, Grace Baptist Chapel, Hampton

Question and Answer Session

Conference concludes by 3:30 pm to give adequate time for participants to return home and be prepared for the Lord's Day.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Vision (8.31.18): The Mystery of Belief

Image: Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:44-50.

John 12:44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

Unbelief is a mystery to the believer, because it seems so irrational. Why would anyone in his right mind ever reject Christ?

Belief, however, is an equally astonishing phenomenon. How do hardened sinners come to believe in Christ? It would be easier to grow a vegetable garden on an asphalt parking lot! And yet God does it by his grace and power.

In v. 44 we read that Jesus cried out (the Greek verb is krazo). He also had done this when he taught in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. 7:28-29, 37-38). Christ had hidden himself (v. 36), but now he makes himself known. He is like John the Baptist, a voice crying in a spiritual wilderness.

What does he cry? He who believes on me, believes not on me but the one who sent me. Here Christ speak, as the Son of God, as the second person of the Godhead, of his special relation to the Father.

He comes to make the Father known. As John the Evangelist put it in his prologue to this Gospel: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

To believe in Christ is to believe in the Father. One will not know the Father until and unless he knows the Son. We are Christians, not mere theists.

In a solar eclipse you need special glasses to look at the sun lest your eyes be damaged by looking at the sun’s glory. If we can draw an analogy, Christ is the means or Mediator by which we see the glory of the Father.

So, in v. 45 Jesus says, “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.”

Philip will later ask Jesus, “Lord, shew us the Father,” and Jesus will respond, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).

When we find Christ we need look no further. We do not need Christ and something else or someone else. We need Christ alone.

Yes, there is the mystery of unbelief. But there is also the mystery of belief. Those who believe in Christ believe in the one who sent him. Those who see Christ, see the Father.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

WM 101: Interview with a South African Reformed Minister

I am in Philadelphia attending the 2018 International Congress on Calvin Research, which is being held at Westminster Seminary. Yesterday I did  a short paper at the conference on "Calvin and Canon." There have been plenty of good sessions and I've particularly enjoyed meeting many of my fellow attendees.

Last evening I did an interview with a Pastor JFK Mulder, a Reformed minister from Durban, South Africa and have posted it as Word Magazine 101: Interview with a South African Reformed Minister (listen here). The conversation is wide-ranging from the Belgic Confession, to psalm-singing, to racial tensions in contemporary South Africa.


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Vision (8.24.18): Believe in the Light

Image: Sunrise over the Badlands, outside Wall, South Dakota, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 12:34-43.

John 12:35 Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36a While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be children of light.

When the people ask Jesus, “Who is this Son of Man?” (v. 34), Jesus replies in v. 35: “Yet a little while is the light with you….” He is speaking here about the brief remaining duration of his earthly ministry. “Walk while ye have the light….” The term “walk” refers here to conduct of life. Live carefully, thoughtfully, while you have the light with you. “…. lest darkness come upon you.” The darkness here is spiritual darkness, spiritual blindness. The Lord Jesus is saying: Learn of me while you still have me, the light, in your midst, lest you be engulfed in the darkness of unbelief and spiritual blindness.

Christ continues this teaching in v. 36. Here we notice again a stress on urgency: “While ye have light….” Again, the context here is his teaching to those present in the final days of his ministry. But there is something here that is also applicable to readers and hearers of Christ’s words in every generation. While you have this opportunity… While Christ is being place before you…. While you stand in the presence of the light….

What does he urge? “believe in the light….” It is an interesting metaphor. He calls for faith in himself. We see light. Its presence is self-evident for those with eyes to see. So too is faith in Christ.

Christ’s words to the people in his day are now directed to us in v. 36: “While ye have light….” A special opportunity is given to those who hear these words today, as it was to those men of old. We are urged to believe in the Light, to trust in Christ.

Consider Psalm 95:7b-8a: “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart….”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle