Friday, November 27, 2020

The Vision (11.27.20): Be ye also patient


Image: Holly berries, Sanford, North Carolina, November 2020

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on James 5:7-10.

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh (James 5:8).

In v. 8 James exhorts: “Be ye also patient.” In v. 7 he offered the mini-parable of the patient farmer: “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth….” James is saying look to the farmer as an example of one who is longsuffering even though he does not see any immediate growth on the surface, but also, most importantly, learn from the patience of the Lord himself.

He adds a second exhortation: “stablish your hearts” (v. 8b). The verb here is sterizo, meaning to strengthen. Make strong and vigorous your hearts, the center of your affections. The Christian faith is for those who know that when they are weak, then he is strong, but the Christian life is not for the spiritually faint-hearted, for spiritual weaklings. In Christ’s parable of the sower, the seed that fell on the shallow soil did not last (Mark 4:5-6).

There are just too many difficult things one will have to encounter in this life to think that he can breeze through it all without ever exercising the spiritual disciplines that will result in the strengthening of his heart. Why are we baptized? Why do we come to the Lord’s table in the context of God’s people? Why do we read and memorize God’s word?  Why do we attend to the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures? Why do we learn the practice of prayer? It is so that we might have our hearts strengthened, so that, by God’s grace, when we face resistance, obstacles, setbacks, opposition, and suffering our hearts are strong. It is so that we might face such things and not be undone and destroyed by them, but that we might be patient even in afflictions.

Finally, James adds at the end of v. 8: “for the coming of the Lord drawth nigh.” I’ve mentioned before driving once on some back roads towards the beach in NC and passing a sign that read, “Jesus is coming soon!” The problem was that the sign was faded, the paint was peeling, and the sign board was warped. It was a mixed message at best.

But we must remember what Peter said: “one day is with the Lord like a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4).

Our job is not to know when he coming. Christ himself said that no man knows that day or that hour (Mark 13:32-33). Our job is to know that God is at work in the world and that he is coming and that in the meantime (the in-between time) we are to be found faithful, so that we are not ashamed when he does come.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Devotions for December Lord's Days 2020

I was happy to contribute an article to the new e-booklet O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Devotions for December Lord's Days 2020, published by the IRBS Theological Seminary.

My article is titled "Though You Are Little," a reflection on Micah 5:2-5a; Matthew 2:1-6 (pp. 18-31).

The e-booklet is available to be downloaded for free from the IRBS website (find it here).


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Eusebius, EH.10.8-9: Constantine: Most Mighty Victor


Note: This episode concludes this series. It is Episode 126 of 126. The series began on 2/19/19.

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 10, chapter 8-9.

Notes and Commentary:

These final two chapters in the EH describe the Emperor Constantine’s final victory over his rival Licinius to unite the Roman empire and to ensure peace and security for the Christians.

Chapter 8 describes the intrigues of Licinius against Constantine and the Christian community. Eusebius notes that although Constantine acted graciously toward Licinius, who stood second in rank to him, even giving his sister in marriage to Licinius, he rejected this good will and rebelled against Constantine. In the end, however, God proved to be Constantine’s “Friend and Protector and Guardian.”

In his rebellion, the ire of Licinius was not just aimed at Constantine but also against the Christians. Eusebius notes that Licinius first drove Christians from his palace and then deprived Christian soldiers in his army of their rank.

He also passed various unjust ordinances, including a law that forbade the humane distribution of food to those who were imprisoned. He banished or arrested various men of nobility and high-esteem. Eusebius also accuses Licinius of immorality in his abuse of many married women and unwedded girls to satisfy his “unbridled lust,” calling him a “drunken old dotard.”

In the final stages of his “madness” Licinius struck against the bishops, putting some to death, and against the churches, throwing them down “from top to bottom” or shutting them up. Some of those put to death had their bodies cut to pieces with the sword and the pieces of their body were cast in the sea as “food for fishes.” Many of the men of God fled again to the fields, deserts, glens, and mountains to escape this persecution.

Chapter 9 notes how Constantine defeated Licinius. The “humane” Emperor and his son, Crispus, stretched out “the right hand of salvation” by going into battle against “the haters of God” and quickly won the victory.

Oulton explains in a footnote: “Licinius was defeated first at Adrianople, 3 July and secondly, when he had fled to Byzantium and had been forced to cross the Straits at Chrysopolis (Scutari), September 18 or 20, 324. Shortly afterwards, Constantine had him put to death” (476-477, n. 1).

The “pictures and honours” of Licinius were disgraced, and he was “cast down prostrate.”

Constantine, the “most mighty Victor,” “recovered the East” and “formed the Roman Empire, as in the days of old, into a single, united whole.” The populace had all fear taken away and celebrated the victory with “brilliant festivals,” as “all things were filled with light.” Praise was given first to God and then to Constantine and his sons.


Eusebius ends the EH with this narrative of the triumph of Constantine over Licinius and with the peace of the Christians in the Roman Empire established. By AD 380, Christianity will be made the official religion of the Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica issued by the Emperor Theodosius. It continues to be debated today whether Constantine’s embrace and protection of the church was a blessing or detriment to the Christian movement.


Friday, November 20, 2020

In Memoriam: Barbara Nixon Clark (May 29, 1942—November 18, 2020)

Elder Jeff Clark and beloved wife, Barbara.

Well done thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matthew 25:21). 

A funeral service of worship in praise to God through Christ and with thanksgiving for the life and ministry of our sister will be held at Christ Reformed Baptist Church (2997 Courthouse Road, Louisa, Virginia 23093) on Monday, November 23, 2020 at 2:00 pm. The family will greet friends in the Fellowship Hall after the service. Interment will be private.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On Amateurs and Experts and the Text of Scripture


Last week I was asked to do a Zoom lecture to a group of staff, leaders, and deputation speakers from the Trinitarian Bible Society giving my take on the current state of academic text criticism and the current popular resurgence of interest in the TR. On the latter topic I noted the following:

Just as the Reformation was aided by the printing press, this movement has been aided by the internet (blogs, websites, FB groups, and podcasts), which has allowed advocates for the TR to put forward their message and get around the normal “gatekeepers” (seminaries, mainstream book publishers, etc.).

In other words, the TR is promoted by “amateurs” and resisted by “professionals.”

I thought of this when I listened to the recent podcast on the new biography of Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, who was also an “amateur”, working outside the professional guild, laboring in the iron works by day and doing text criticism by night (though, in his case, he worked against the TR).

One thinks as well of someone like James Snapp, Jr. who often has a knack of seeing things that the “professionals” do not. Or, consider that when we were exploring Ephesians 3:9 it was an “untrained” college student (“CC”) who kept finding texts with the TR reading and not a “trained” man with a respected doctorate.

Then, this morning I happened to be reading the little booklet by media analyst Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore (co-ordinated by Jerome Agel), The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (Bantam, 1967) [Note in the title it is “Massage,” a play on McLuhan’s better known The Medium is the Message]. The point being that the electronic media “shapes, works over, alters—massages—every instant of our lives” (148). And this was written in 1967 mainly in reference to the advent of television, but eerily predictive of the internet.

More to the point, the book has an intriguing discussion of the “amateur” in this brave new world.

It begins with a paragraph on Michael Faraday, a self-taught amateur, “who had little mathematics and no formal schooling beyond the primary grades” but who became a celebrated “experimenter who discovered the induction of electricity” and thus became “one of the great founders of modern physics” (92).

McLuhan and Fiore then add this interesting paragraph:

“Professionalism is environmental. Amateurism is anti-environmental. Professionalism merges the individual into patterns of total environment. Amateurism seeks the development of the total awareness of the individual and the critical awareness of the groundrules of society. The amateur can afford to lose. The professional tends to classify and specialize, to accept uncritically the groundrules of the environment. The groundrules provided by the mass response of his colleagues serve as a pervasive environment of which he is contentedly and unaware. The ‘expert’ is the man who stays put” (93).


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Podcast recommendation: Crawford Gribben interviews Timothy C. F. Stunt on Samuel Prideaux Tregelles


Crawford Gribben of Queens University Belfast interviews Timothy C. F. Stunt on his new book The Life and Times of Samuel Prideaux Tregelles: A Forgotten Scholar on the New Books Network podcast.

Enjoy, JTR