Monday, March 01, 2021

Book Review: Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels?


I have posted an audio version of my book review of Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018).

The written review appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2021): 204-207. I have also posted the pdf to my site. You can read it here.


Friday, February 26, 2021

The Vision (2.26.21): The Call to Discipleship


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 4:18-22.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

We are continuing to track the life of Christ as faithfully recorded in Matthew.

We have learned of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, his rearing in Nazareth, his baptism by John, his temptation in the wilderness, and his preaching in Capernaum and throughout Galilee. Now we read of how Christ drew men to himself and called them to become his disciples.

A disciple is a student or a follower, something like an apprentice. How did you learn a trade in the first century? You followed an expert around and learned from him by watching his example and listening to his words. Many trades and professions still work that way today (from plumbers to physicians).

Christ is the master teacher, and his disciples or followers are his students. To become a believer is to enter the school of Christ and to learn from him.

Matthew 4:18-22 describes the call extended to two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, and James and John. They would be among the original Twelve apostles and would be mightily used of God. There is value in seeing the call of the men Christ sovereignly chose to be the pillars of his church.

There are also general things we learn here about discipleship that apply to any of us, who will never be apostles, about what it means to follow Christ.

First, Christ also sees us and calls us to follow him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The first disciples were ordinary fishermen. Later when the apostles preach Jesus in the temple, the authorities will take note of their boldness marveling that they were “unlearned and ignorant men” that “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Second, the call to follow is urgent and demands thoughtful yet immediate response: “And they straightway left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:20); “And they immediately left their ship and their father, and followed him” (Matt 4:22).

Notice that they left their nets behind. Whatever our other vocation, we have a new primary vocation and that is serving Christ. For some it will be, in fact, a call to the vocational ministry, for all God’s people, however, there will be a call to be part of the great work of evangelism, drawing in the gospel net and seeing men and women come to Christ.

Notice that James and John left their father behind. Christ must have first place above all our human relations, precious though they may be.

Christ calls us to count the costs (cf. Luke 14:25-33). Don’t start a tower you can’t finish. Don’t enter a battle that you will later flee from. After counting the costs, however, one should also respond with immediacy and with joy. Let us put our hand to the plow and never look back. In the end, we will find that it will have all been worth it!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Crawford Gribben's forthcoming book: Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America (plus Discount Coupon!)


Crawford Gribben has a new book coming out in March addressing an interesting and timely topic given the current political climate for Christians in the US. The coupon above will allow you to order the hardback online for just $20! DV, I will be doing a podcast interview with Dr. Gribben on the book in early April. Look for it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

New TBS Booklet: How the Holy Bible Came To Be


My friend Christian McShaffrey, Pastor of Five Solas (OPC) in Reedsburg, WI has written a new article/booklet that has been produced by the Trinitarian Bible Society, titled How the Holy Bible Came To Be. You can read a pdf of it here for free.

This will be an excellent resource for anyone to be introduced to "Believing Bibliology", especially children and youth.

I hope to have Christian soon as a guest on the WM podcast to discuss this resource.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Book Review: Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone


I have posted the audio version of my review of Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story, in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2021): 195-198. I have also posted the written review to (read it here).


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Chadwick on the origins of the term "pagan": "rustic" or "civilian"?


Image: Hercules and Athena, fresco, c. AD 350. Catacomb della Via Latina, Rome.

It has been my usual custom when teaching about early Christianity and making a reference to non-Christians as “pagans” to take a second to explain that this term comes from the Latin word paganus, meaning a rustic or country-dweller and that this term had come to refer to non-Christians after the faith spread to the cities and towns of the ancient world, and the only ones who still practiced the old pre-Christian religions were those who lived in the unreached countryside.

Recently, however, when reading Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church (Pelican, 1967, Penguin reprint 1990) I came across this footnote on the word “pagan” (p. 152):

“The term ‘paganus’ to describe a non-Christian first appears in two Latin inscriptions of the early fourth century. It remained a colloquialism, and did not penetrate Bible or liturgy. In secular usage it had two meanings (1) ‘rustic’, and (2) ‘civilian’ as opposed to military. Orosius … writing in 417 thought the Christian usage explained by the fact that the countryside was still heathen after the towns had become Christian. But this was not the situation as early as 300. Therefore the correct explanation is probably that the ‘pagans’ were those who had not by baptism become soldiers of Christ and so were non-combatants in the conflict with the evil powers. In the East the Christian word for non-Christians was ‘Hellene’.”


Friday, February 19, 2021

The Vision (2.19.21): The Preaching Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ


Image: Ruins of the ancient synagogue of Capernaum. Matthew 4:13: "And leaving Nazareth he came and dwelt in Capernaum...."

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).

Matthew begins his account of Christ’s public ministry by placing the spotlight on the Lord Jesus as a preacher.

His ministry did not begin with the performing of miracles, signs and wonders, though he had the power and authority to do such things.

It did not come with him leading a political movement. Thus, the Lord Jesus will say to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

It did not come with him establishing an army. Later in Matthew, when the Lord Jesus is arrested and Peter draws a sword to defend him, Christ will say to Peter, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt 26:52).

He did not come as a community organizer, trying to make things just a little bit better for everyone.

He did not come as a social worker, as a psychologist, or as a counselor, saying, “Let me help to soothe your troubled mind.”

He came as a preacher. He came to exercise the ministry of the Word. To proclaim God’s Word has it had been revealed to man. What was the content of his preaching as Matthew summarizes it?

His first word was, “Repent….”

Christ’s first word to men was not, “You are OK just the way you are, and you need to just love yourself and live your best life now.” No, his first word was that you need to change. You need a change of heart that leads to a change of mind and life.

His second word was, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The rule and reign of God is present now in me and my ministry. He will tell his disciples in Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is within you.” Heaven has broken into earth, awaiting the day when God will be all in all.

You will notice that the Christ’s preaching seems to be exactly what John preached (cf. Matt 3:1-2). The difference is that John was the opening act and Christ was the main event. John said he baptized with water unto repentance, but Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire (3:11). Christ would tell men not only to repent of their sin, but also to believe in him. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Christ still preaches to men through his Word and the ministry of his servants, calling upon them to repent and to believe in him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle