Saturday, October 31, 2015

CRBC October Church Fellowship

A friend from church passed on this post on "Costume Ideas For the Church Halloween Festival" from Matthew Pierce.  Pretty Funny.

I really don't like the idea of a church "Harvest Party" as a "Christian alternative" to Halloween, but we did have our October church fellowship last evening hosted by one of our church's families.  Good time had by all.  Here are a few pics:

Image:  A place was set up to hold any new Calvinists who are still in the "cage-stage" (see this comic).

Image: A rousing game of musical chairs for the children (there was also an adult round).

Image:  There was a "photo booth" for dressing up like John Calvin.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Vision (10.29.15): Christ: Helper of the Tempted

Image:  Scene from the grounds of FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia)

Note:  This devotion is adapted from the closing application from last Sunday’s sermon on Hebrews 2:16-18.

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Here are seven practical ways that Jesus, the one who took on flesh for us, gives help to the tempted:

1.  He has given us a model and example for righteous living.  We can read through the Gospels and see how Jesus responded in all kinds of circumstances, including the betrayal and denial of his disciples and the mocking and cursing of his enemies.

2.  He gives us the Word of God in the Scriptures to help us understand our own condition, to resist the attacks of the devil, and to pursue things that are good and right.

3.  He gives us his church, the body of Christ, brothers and sisters who come alongside us in the name of Christ and who hold us accountable to the commitments that we have made to live for Christ.

4.  He gives us the indwelling Spirit and a sensitive conscience so that we never rest easy with the presence of sin in our lives.  The Christian conscience acts like a smoke detector giving off an alarm when sin smolders in our hearts.

5.  He intercedes for us.  He “ever liveth to make intercession” for his saints (Heb 7:25).

6.  He comforts us when we are defeated.  When we fall he urges us to rise again.

Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

7.  He gives us sure and precious promises. He who endures to the end shall be saved (Matt 10:22).  Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).  Listen to this beatitude:

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Matthew Poole on Christ’s help for the tempted:  “This is the most powerful preservative against despair, and the firmest ground of hope and comfort, that every believing, penitent sinner could desire or have.”

John Calvin on Christ’s help for the tempted:  “Therefore whenever any evils pass over us, let it ever occur to us, that nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt but that he is present with us as though he suffered with us.”

When we face temptation, let us remember that Jesus is able to help us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Christ: The Great Soloist

“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Hebrews 2:12).

This is a direct quote from Psalm 22:22.  Psalm 22 is one of the great passion psalms that prophesied Christ’s death on the cross.  Jesus, in fact, quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross (cf. Mark 15:34).

The citation here, however, speaks not of the cross but of Christ’s presence among his people.  The Son speaks to the Father and says he will declare God’s name to his brethren in the midst of the church (ekklesia).  It adds that he will sing praise [hymneo; a term many take as a reference to singing psalms; cf. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16] unto the Father from among the brethren.

This verse promises that when the brethren gather together Christ himself is in their midst ministering to them.  He is speaking to them.  He is leading the singing of praise to the Father.

In a book promoting the singing of psalms in worship titled Sing a New Song (read my review here), one of the authors makes reference to the citation of Psalm 22:22 in Hebrews 2:12 and adds this:

But there is an orientation toward worship called for in the Psalter that is very different from what is common in the modern church.  Often, congregations in the church today see themselves as the choir (the “performers”) singing praise to God (“the audience”).  The Psalter calls us to refine this outlook:  it teaches us to view ourselves as “a backup ensemble” singing with a great Soloist who is the primary “Performer.”  It is the Son of David who stands as “the sweet psalmist” beloved by the Father.  We, who enter into the Father’s delight in Christ, are privileged to join with Jesus in His songs as we sing the Psalms….  We need to learn, again, to sing the Psalms with Christ (pp. 109-110).

Indeed, when we sing praise to God in corporate worship we would do well to remember that Christ is our Music Minister.  He is the Great Soloist whose lead we follow.


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Vision (10.23.15): Sanctification is like warming up from the cold

Note:  This devotion is adapted from last Sunday morning’s sermon On Hebrews 2:10-15.

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:11).

Hebrews 2:11 reminds us that the God who saves is also the God who sanctifies.  It also affirms that those who are saved and those whom God sanctifies are given unity or union with Christ:  “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all one.”

Consider the act of progressive sanctification, which is referred to here.  Becoming a Christian is both something that happens all at once and something that happens little by little over time.  Justification happens all at once.  Sanctification, however, is a process that begins the moment we are saved but which is never fully accomplished in this life.  We only arrive at definitive sanctification at the final stage of life:  glorification.  And this occurs at our deaths (absent from the body and present with the Lord; 2 Cor 5:8) and, ultimately, at the end of the ages in the final resurrection (when we receive our resurrection bodies; John 5:28-29). 

I recently read a book in which the author described sanctification as like being transferred “from the icy cold into a warm room.”  He continues:

The heat is a decisive force; it cannot be reversed.  But as someone stands in front of a roaring fire or even a radiator, that person still suffers from frozen joints or from pockets of cold.  They feel the decisive heat, and know that eventually they will be warm through and through.  But it remains a steady process, even though the warm and the cold represent two kinds of forces or ‘orders of existence’ (A. Thiselton, The Living Paul, p. 12).

Indeed, becoming a Christian is like coming in from the bitter cold and slowly being warmed up, even while we still feel the chill in our bones.

May the Lord continue to warm us up in holiness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

SK # 2: Do Paul and James contradict each other on faith and works?

Ethan McG. has posted a new edition of Searched and Known.  This time he and I discuss the supposed conflict between Paul and James, Romans 4 and James 2, faith and works.

In the discussion I called attention to Calvin’s discussion on this issue in his Institutes, Book III, chapter XVII, sections 11 and 12.  Calvin argues that James and Paul are not in conflict because the same God speaks with one voice in both:

What then?  Will they drag Paul into conflict with James?  If they consider James a minister of Christ, his statement must be so understood as not to disagree with Christ speaking through Paul’s lips.

Warning:  Whereas in SK # 1 we were able to sit in the same room to record our discussion, this time I had to speak with Ethan over skype and the sound quality for my part of the conversation is pretty rough.  You can, however, hear Ethan clearly.


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Vision (10.16.15): He tasted death for every man

Here are some notes from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 2:5-9:

At the close of Hebrews 2:9, we see the wonder of the substitutionary atonement:  “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

The suffering death of Jesus was not the death of a martyr.  It was not the death of a man who merely dies for a righteous cause.  It was a death that had spiritual significance and gained a tangible reward for others.

We need to acknowledge that there have been those who have misunderstood the meaning of this final phrase.  In particular, it is argued that this final statement contradicts or refutes the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption.  When it says Christ “tasted death for every man” it is argued that this means universal atonement.

To rightly divide the Word of God here we need to consider the following:

1.  “Every man” does not mean every person without exception.

“Every man” is the translators’ rendering of one Greek adjective pantos.  Christ tasted death “for every man [hyper pantos].”   Rather than assuming that the only possible meaning of this phrase is “every person without exception,” on a purely grammatical basis it must be admitted that the meaning might just as well be “every one of God’s elect” or “every saint” or “every believer” or “every redeemed man.”

2.  If we take the universal atonement interpretation, it leads to some troubling theological conclusions.

Most significantly such a view implies universal salvation or universalism.  This “love wins” mindset is particularly popular with many in our day.   If Christ tasted death for the sins of every single person without exception then this means that every single person without exception has been saved.  This, however, is clearly not what Scripture teaches (cf. John 3:36).

Many evangelical Arminians, of course, reject universal salvation and say this verse teaches that though Christ tasted death for every single person without exception there are still those who will reject Christ.  The problem with this view is that it empties the cross of its efficacy.  According to this view, Christ did not actually save anyone on the cross.  He only potentially saved people.  If the Arminian counters that Christ did indeed die for actual sins on the cross, then it suggests the illogical and unseemly notion that there are persons in hell for whose sins Christ died, but they are still under the wrath of God.

3.  We must interpret Scripture by Scripture. 

We can only understand what Hebrews 2:9 means by looking to the whole counsel of Scripture, which would include the following:

Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

The only conclusion we can reach is that Hebrews 2:9 does not teach universal redemption or hypothetic redemption.

John Owen in his comments on this verse notes that the pantos in v. 9 refers to “all and every one of the children unto whom he was a captain of salvation” (Vol. 3, p. 322).

Thus, it is both a solemn and a joyful reminder to the saints of God of what God in Christ has done for us.  The death of Christ was a death which won freedom for every person who by the grace of God would come to repent of his sins and turn to him in saving faith.  He not only tasted physical death for the elect, but he tasted spiritual death for us.  The wrath of God for our sin was laid upon his shoulders.  By his stripes we are healed.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, October 12, 2015

Searched and Known # 1: How many men did the chief of David’s captains kill in one day (800 or 300)? Reconciling 2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:11

CRBC member Ethan McG., fresh out of college, fresh back from short term mission service in Japan, and fresh into a new tech job with a local company has started a new podcast he has titled "Searched and Known" (a quote from chapter one in the Second London Baptist Confession 1689).  He wants the focus of the podcast to be on apologetics, with each episode aimed at giving an answer to an apparent contradiction within or an objection to particular Biblical passages.

My family had supper with his family one evening last week, and after supper we sat down for a few minutes to record a conversation on 2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:11 where the issue is whether David's captain slew 800 men (2 Samuel 23:8) or 300 men (1 Chronicles 11:11).

I have uploaded SK # 1 to CRBC's sermonaudio site.  You can find it here.  Hope to add other episodes in the future.

Here also are some notes I used for the conversation:

I.  The Problem:

How do we reconcile the following two accounts?:

A.  2 Samuel 23:8:

KJV 2 Samuel 23:8 These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time.

NIV 2 Samuel 23:8 These are the names of David's mighty men: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

NAS 2 Samuel 23:8 These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was called Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain by him at one time;

NKJV 2 Samuel 23:8 These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief among the captains. He was called Adino the Eznite, because he had killed eight hundred men at one time.

B.  1 Chronicles 11:11:

KJV 1 Chronicles 11:11 And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had; Jashobeam, an Hachmonite, the chief of the captains: he lifted up his spear against three hundred slain by him at one time.

NIV 1 Chronicles 11:11 this is the list of David's mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hacmonite, was chief of the officers; he raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

NAS 1 Chronicles 11:11 And these constitute the list of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobeam, the son of a Hachmonite, the chief of the thirty; he lifted up his spear against three hundred whom he killed at one time.

NKJV 1 Chronicles 11:11 And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobeam the son of a Hachmonite, chief of the captains; he had lifted up his spear against three hundred, killed by him at one time.

II.  Wrong-headed analysis:

A.  Skeptic:  This is a simple, irreconcilable, and inexplicable “error” that undermines the authority and integrity of Scripture.

For skeptics the purpose of pointing out such passages does not come from real interest in understanding this passage but in gaining a foothold for rejecting the teaching of the Bible altogether (existence of God, the moral law, the claims of Christ, etc.).

B.  Liberal/Mainline Evangelical:  Capitulation to modern critical skepticism.


MacArthur’s Study Bible note on 2 Samuel 23:8 on the “800”:  “Probably a textual error.  1 Chronicles 11:11 has “three hundred”, the likely number (p. 463).

III.  Faithful analysis (harmonization):


1.  Those who faithfully collected the OT books were not fools.  They would have been aware of this difference but saw no appalling contradiction in incorporating both.

2.  Reasonable explanations can be found.  See the comments of Matthew Poole at 1 Samuel 23:8:  “Object. But this man is said to have slain only three hundred in 1 Chron xi.11…..”  He offers three alternatives:

a.  Refers to two different battles.

b.  He slew 300 personally and 500 more via his men, for a total of 800.

c.  Refers to two different men:  father and son.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Translation Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the ESV

I led a Bible Study last Sunday afternoon at CRBC on the Bible and homosexuality.  In the survey of Biblical passages, we looked at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and focused on the last two terms in Paul’s “vice list” in v. 9, which the KJV renders as “nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”  Lurking behind these English words are two Greek words:  malakoi (rendered “effeminate”) and arsenokoitai (rendered “abusers of themselves with mankind”).

The first of these two terms (malakoi) literally means “soft” and is understood here, thus, as “effeminate” or the one who takes the feminine role in the homosexual sex act.  The second term (arsenokoitai) is made up of the words for man and sexual intercourse, thus, is rendered here as “abusers of themselves with mankind” or one who takes the masculine role in the homosexual sex act.

We read several translations and noted the various ways modern translations used by evangelicals choose to render the two terms:

NIV (1984 ed.):  “nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” (Note how these terms interpret the corresponding Greek words as referring specifically to deviant homosexual behavior [i.e., prostitution or offense] rather than homosexual behavior per se).

NIV (2011 ed.):  "nor men who have sex with men" (a footnote rightly explains that the phrase translates "two Greek words that relate to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts").

NASB:  “nor effeminate, nor homosexuals”

NKJV:  “nor homosexuals, nor sodomites”

One person in the study had a copy of the ESV and read this version of v. 9, which renders the two distinct Greek terms with a single clause, “nor men who practice homosexuality.”

The non-literal rendering here shows the ESV to be the legitimate daughter of the RSV which also combines the two terms, though it only uses one word, “homosexuals.”  Even the NRSV departs from its mother and sibling to translate the two Greek words independently:  “male prostitutes, sodomites” (cf. NIV).

The ESV’s rendering of the two distinct Greek terms in 1 Corinthians 6:9 with an indistinct, generic phrase illustrates its tendency to offer dynamic equivalence renderings that, IMHO, do not help the reader best understand what appears in the original and reveal its weaknesses as a translation, despite all the YRRs weighing down its bandwagon.


Friday, October 09, 2015

The Vision (10.9.15): A Few Quotes on Prayer

Image:  Mushroom popping up after the recent rains.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).

In our prayer meeting this Wednesday at CRBC, I noted prayer as one of the four marks of the church in Acts 2:42.  I also shared a few quotes on prayer (below) to spur us on to this duty:

Charles Spurgeon:  “We must addict ourselves to prayer.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones:  “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.”

Matthew Henry:  “A good man is never less alone than when he is alone with God.”

Joel Beeke:  “Part of our problem is that we view prayer as an appendix to our work rather than as the first major part of our work.  If we are to live godly lives, we must pray.  If we would learn the art of sacred wrestling and holy argument with God, we must pray.  Prayer is the only way to lay hold of God.”

John Owen:  “To preach the Word and not follow it with constant prayer for its success is to disbelieve its use, to neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random.”

Hudson Taylor:  “Do not be so busy with the work of Christ that you have no strength left for prayer.”

The great Reformer Martin Luther is said to have committed three hours each day to prayer.  He once said to his colleague Melanchthon, “I must rise an hour early tomorrow, for, given all that I need to do, I must spend more time in prayer.”

May the Lord be pleased to make of us praying saints and a praying church.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Vision (10.2.15): He came from above

The past few weeks I have enjoyed reading two works by Charles R. Marsh, a longtime Brethren missionary to the people of Algeria.

The first book I read on plane trips between Kuala Lampur and Hong Kong is titled The Challenge of Islam (Scripture Union, 1980).  It is a compelling and sometimes heart rending account of Marsh’s ministry to the Muslims of Algeria, including the hardships and opposition that he and those who became believers through his ministry suffered.  This week I’ve been reading a second book by Marsh titled Share Your Faith With a Muslim (Moody Press, 1975).

One concern that Marsh offers in both books is that Christians who witness to Muslims should avoid what he calls “the comparative religions” approach to evangelism.  He observes:

In many lands Muslims still have a very superficial knowledge of their religion.  They repeat the witness to Muhammed, follow Muslim prayers, and observe the fast of Ramadan.  Remember that while we should know what Muslims believe, our aim is not to compare religions but to lead them to a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ (Share Your Faith With a Muslim, p. 6).

Marsh warns that Christians should not unwittingly instruct Muslims in the finer points of their religion (and, thereby, entrench them their beliefs) but speak to them instead of Christ!

In one chapter in Share Your Faith With a Muslim Marsh provides a helpful outline of a gospel presentation he made many times to Muslim hearers on Jesus as the Son of God.   In his discussion of the incarnation of Christ, Marsh provides this illustration to describe how Jesus “came from above” to take a human body and become a man:

Two men once fell into a deep pit.  One said to the other, “Save me from this wretched place.  Please get me out of the dirt and mud.”  The other replied:  “You idiot, how can I?  I am in the same plight as you.”  They were both in the pit, and neither could help the other.  Then they heard a voice from above calling them to grasp a rope.  The man who had not fallen into the pit was the only one who could save them.  He brought help from above.  The very best man among the prophets could not save us from the pit of sin, but Jesus did not inherit a sinful nature.  He came from above.  God sent angels to announce his birth (read Mt 1:20 and Luke 2:9).  How wonderful all this is.  Never man was born as this man. He is unique in His birth.  He is incomparable (p. 47).

The only tweak I might add to the illustration would be to note that Christ not only drops the rope into the pit but he climbs in himself and lifts us out!

May we learn to speak and live clearly and plainly for Christ, who came from above to rescue us from the pit of sin.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

NOTE:  As stated on Sunday:  Thanks to all the members and friends of CRBC who worked last weekend to make the 2015 Keach Conference a success.  Everyone pitched in to spruce up the church building, make bulletins, record sermons, cook meals, greet guests, and extend hospitality overall.  It was a great team effort!