Friday, October 26, 2018

The Vision (10.26.18): If ye love me, keep my commandments

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 14:15-21.

If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)

Note that this is a conditional statement. It is a “If this…then this…” statement. Usually, such constructions reflect a condition like, If you do this, then this will be the result. Or, if this is a reality in your life, then this will be the outcome.

But here the second part of the sentence is a command: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

We can glean at least two things from this:

First, Christ expect that his disciples will have an abiding love, affection, passion for him that will over-rule and overwhelm every other passion in their lives. Second, he expects them to be obedient to his commands.

There is, therefore, no such thing, from Christ’s perspective, as a disciple who loves him but who is unwilling to keep his commandments.

It also striking how in in both parts of this simple command, we see the underlining affirmation of the deity of Christ. By such statements Christ is making himself equal with God.

In the first part, it implies his expectation, even his demand, that his disciples will love him above all. Who can command this kind of devotion but God himself? When the Lord Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment (see Mark 12:28-31), he had quoted Deuteronomy 5:6, which reads: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

To whom is love rightly directed? To God alone. To whom does Christ say that love is rightly directed? To himself. The implication: Jesus is Lord.

In the second part, Christ speaks of his commandments. Who has the authority to give commandments? God alone. But now it is Jesus who gives commandments. The implication: Jesus is Lord.

If we love him, then we must keep his commandments.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff

Monday, October 22, 2018

Calvin on John 14:18a: I will not leave you comfortless

I will not leave you comfortless (John 14:18a).

Christ promises his disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless [Greek: orphanoi].” Some modern translations render this as, “I will not leave you as orphans.” We immediately picture a child left without the comfort, protection, and  guardianship of his parents. Here the reference is to disciples who would be like orphans without their Master and his provision of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Calvin observes:

This passage shows what men are, and what they can do, when they have been deprived of the protection of the Holy Spirit. They are orphans, exposed to every kind of fraud and injustice, incapable of governing themselves, and, in short, unable of themselves to do any thing. The only remedy for so great a defect is, if Christ governs us by his Spirit, which he promises that he will do.


Friday, October 19, 2018

The Vision (10.19.18): The Patient Ministry of Christ to His Disciples

Image: Fall berries, North Garden, Virginia, October 2018

Note: Devotion adapted from last Sunday's sermon on John 14:8-14.

The Gospel of John is unique in numerous ways. Many believe it was the last Gospel written and that John the Apostle assumed that his readers were already familiar with the accounts of the Lord Jesus in the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He was led by the Holy Spirit, therefore, to record things not recorded elsewhere.

One of the unique things that John records is the conversations which our Lord had with his disciples in the Upper Room before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

Of late in our sermon series through John, we have been looking at the sequence of four conversations which the Lord Jesus had with his followers in response to their questions and requests: Peter (13:36—14:4); Thomas (14:5-7); Philip (14:8-21); and Judas (not Iscariot) (14:22—16:16).

What is striking is the fact that these men had been with Jesus. They had been ear and eye witnesses to his ministry. They had heard his words and seen his signs (miracles). Their questions, however, show that even at this point, they still did not fully understand our Lord. So Thomas asks, “and how can we know the way?” (14:5), and Philip asks, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us [it will be enough for us]” (14:8).

When Calvin reflects on Thomas’ question he observes that “the knowledge possessed by the saints is sometimes confused.”

On Philip’s request that Christ show them the Father, Calvin comments:

It appears to be very absurd that the Apostles should offer so many objections to the Lord; for why did he speak but to inform them on that point about which Philip puts the question? Yet there is not one of their faults that is here described that may not be charged on us as well as them. We profess to be earnest in seeking God; but when he presents himself before our eyes, we are blind.

These questions provide yet another example of discipleship. It shows how that followers of Christ can be “sometimes confused,” but also how that Christ continues patiently to teach and to reveal himself more fully to us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, October 15, 2018

Calvin on "three degrees" in John 14:6

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

In Calvin’s commentary on John 14:6 he points out the significance of the three-fold description Christ offers of himself as the way, the truth, and the life, suggesting Christ speaks here of “three degrees” in the process of faith:

He lays down three degrees, as if he had said, that he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end; and hence it follows that we ought to begin with him, to continue in him, and to end in him.

So, Calvin says Christ is the beginning, the middle and the end. We begin in Christ by becoming followers of the way. We continue in Christ by abiding in the truth. And, finally, we reach our goal in Christ by receiving eternal life.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

WM 105: Full Armor Radio Interview: Text of the NT

This episode consists of an interview I did this week (10/11) with Brandon Lochridge on his Full Armor Radio podcast (visit the episode on his website here).

In this episode we discuss some of the basis issues in text criticism, why it is important, Bible translation, and the differences between the TR, Modern, and Majority texts of the Greek NT. Long time WM listeners might not find much that is new, but folk who are new to the topic might find it interesting.

Blessings, JTR

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Vision (10.12.18): In my Father's house are many mansions

Image: Marble Salon, Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, England

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 14:1-7.

In my Father’s house are many mansions; If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).

Jesus begins; “In my Father’s house are many mansions [monai pollai].” The word for “mansion” (Greek: mone) means a dwelling place, a room, or an abode.

For us, the contemporary English word “mansion” has the sense of an opulent dwelling. The point here, however, is not to say that in the Father’s house there are many opulent dwellings (thus stressing the greatness of the reward awaiting the saints—though it will be greater than we can imagine) but to stress the expansiveness of God’s grace toward many, many, many people.

The point is to say that heaven will not be sparsely populated, but that there will be an abundance of room for all kinds of men. In John 10:16, Jesus taught, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

This is an anticipation of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). There will not be just Jews, but Jews and Gentiles in the Father’s house. There will be men and women, those who were slaves and free (Gal 3:28).

Spurgeon in his Autobiography wrote:

The Father’s love is not to for a few only, but for an exceeding great company. “A great multitude, which no man can number,” will be found in Heaven. A man can reckon up to very high figures; set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers, but God and God alone can tell the multitude of His redeemed. I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the preeminence”, and I cannot conceive how he would have the preeminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise (Vol. 1, p. 171).

Spurgeon’s reference was to Revelation 7:9: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”

To say that the Father’s house has many mansions, however, is not, to affirm what is known as “universalism,” the idea that all will be saved whatever their response to Christ. John 3:36 contradicts that when it says that those who believe in him will have “everlasting life,” while those who do not believe will have “the wrath of God” abiding upon them.

Still, the Father’s house has many mansions or rooms. It is greater than we could ever ask or imagine. And this gives us hope as we make our pilgrimage through this life.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Craig A. Carter's "Thought Experiment" on the Modern Historical-Critical Method

Still working my way through Craig A. Carter’s Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition (Baker Academic, 2018) and getting closer to the end.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this book is Carter’s unrelenting critique of the sterility of the Enlightenment-influenced, modern historical-critical method of Biblical studies.

In a closing chapter, Carter offers this “thought experiment”:

Consider the following thought experiment. If astronomy ceased to use telescopes and never looked at the stars, focused all its attention on mentions of the stars in literary sources and the history of human thought about the stars, all the while entertaining an ongoing discussion of the sense in which stars could be legitimately be said to exist, with the most radical astronomers expressing doubts about the very existence of the stars in the traditional sense, and if astronomers  debated endlessly about what earthly realities the idea of “star” might be said to refer to and whether and to what extent traditional ideas about stars reflected class, gender, or racial bias—would we be justified in viewing the endeavor as “astronomy”? There might still be university departments of astronomy, learned societies at which papers were presented, journals of astronomy, conferences on topics of interest to astronomers, and doctoral programs in astronomy, but would it be astronomy? Or would it be something else operating under the name “astronomy”? And if we were persuaded to call it a science, would it really be the science we know today as “astronomy”? (p. 217).


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Binge" Listening to Credo Podcast

I've been "binge" listening of late to the Credo Podcast hosted by Dr. Matthew Barrett, associate professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, and editor of Credo Magazine.

You can listen here or find it on itunes. Episodes I've enjoyed include interviews with James Dolezal on Divine Simplicity, Michael Allen on Thomas Aquinas: Friend or Foe?, David Bentley Hart on Atheism, and Scott Swain on confessional interpretation of Scripture.

Worth listening.


Monday, October 08, 2018

Calvin on the New Commandment

Image: St. Pierre Cathedral, Geneva

From Calvin’s commentary on John 13:35-35:

            Brotherly love is, indeed, extended to strangers, for we are all of the same flesh, and are all created after the image of God; but because the image of God shines more brightly in those who have been regenerated, it is proper that the bond of love, among the disciples of Christ, should be far [closer]. In God brotherly love seeks its cause, from him it has its root, and to him it is directed. Thus, in proportion as it perceives any man to be a child of God, it embraces him with the greater warmth and affection. Besides, the mutual exercise of love cannot exist but in those who are guided by the same Spirit. It is the highest degree of brotherly love, therefore, that is here described by Christ; but we ought to believe, on the other hand, that , as the goodness of God extends to the whole world, so we ought to love all, even those who hate us.

…. Whosoever, then, desires to be truly a disciple of Christ, and to be acknowledged by God, let him form and direct his whole life to love the brethren, and let him pursue his object with diligence.


Friday, October 05, 2018

The Vision: A New Commandment (10.5.18)

Image: Fall fungi, Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 13:31-38.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).

Christ gave the new commandment to his original disciples, but it did not apply only to them. It applies to all disciples in all ages. So, Paul writes to believers in Rome: “Owe no man  any thing, but to love one another” (Rom 13:8a). In 2 John the apostle John writes to a church, which he calls “the elect lady” (2 John 1:1), with this admonition: “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 1:5). Thus, both Paul and John apply Christ’s new command not just to the original disciples but to all disciples, including ordinary believers in this age.

Jesus will later say, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

A sign that we are truly Christ’s disciples is the fact that we desire to keep his commandments, including the new commandment. Christ has given us a commandment (not a suggestion) to love one another in the same way that Christ himself has loved us. How did Christ show his love for the disciples? He laid down his life for them.

How do we obey this commandment today? I do not think one can really do this, unless he is a committed member of a local church, where he will have many opportunities for obedience to this command. It is in the church that we get to know our fellow disciples and love them in more than a hypothetical manner.

Sometimes that love is tested. The original disciples knew each well, and sometimes they had disagreements and conflicts with one another. They argued, for example, as to which of them was the greatest (cf. Mark 9:33-34).

The believers in the churches to whom John wrote also knew each other well, and they also engaged at times in conflicts that rent them asunder. In 3 John the apostle denounces an insolent man named Diotrephes who even had the audacity to expel faithful brethren from the church (see 3 John 1:9-10)!

Our obedience to this commandment is usually not tested when things are going smoothly but when we hit choppy waters.

In Galatians 5 Paul urges the saints: “by love serve one another” (v. 13), lest “ye bite and devour one another” (v. 15).

Dear brethren, let us show our love for Christ by keeping his commandments, including his new commandment to love one another.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Calvin, Ambrose, Jacob's Blessing, Justification, and the Sensus Plenior

Image: Govert Flinck, "Isaac Blessing Jacob" (1638, oil on canvas), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

In preparing to give the message at the 2018 Keach Conference, I re-read Calvin’s discussion of the doctrine of justification by faith in book 3 chapter 11 of the Institutes.

Calvin closes with an illustration of justification by Ambrose taken from the Genesis 27 account of Jacob receiving the blessing of his father Isaac while wearing the clothing of his brother Esau:

            For this reason, it seems to me that Ambrose beautifully stated an example of this righteousness in the blessing of Jacob: noting that, as he did not of himself deserve the right of the first-born, which gave out an agreeable odor [Gen 27:27], he ingratiated himself with his father, so that to his own benefit he received the blessing while impersonating another. And we in like manner hide under the precious purity of our first-born brother, Christ, so that we may be attested righteous in God’s sight. Here are the words of Ambrose: “That Isaac smelled the odor of the garments perhaps means that we are justified not by works but by faith, since the weakness of the flesh is a hindrance to works, but the brightness of faith, which merits the pardon of sins, overshadows the error of deeds.”

            And this is indeed the truth, for in order that we may appear before God’s face unto salvation we must smell sweetly with his odor, and our vices must be covered and buried by his perfection (Institutes, 3.11.23).

In reading this, I was struck not only Calvin’s drawing upon Ambrose (see Anthony N. S. Lane’s John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers [Baker, 1999]), but by his pre-critical reading of Genesis 27 and the application of it to justification. Isaac is like God the Father; Jacob is like the elect sinner; Esau’s garments are like the imputed righteousness of Christ. This sensus plenior reading of Genesis 27 is not one that modern scholars using the historical-critical method would approve, but it is a “Great Tradition” reading of the historic church (see Craig A. Carter, Interpreting Scripture in the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis [Baker Academic, 2018]) that remains spiritually satisfying.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Other People's Books

There is something about a good used book that makes it even better, in my view, than a brand new one. Sometimes it's the experience of finding it (assuming you don't order it online from Amazon,, etc.). I find entering an appropriately musty used book store, looking through the stacks, finding a title you did not know you wanted, handling the book, viewing the cover and text, and reading a few pages to be far superior to "browsing" online.

When you purchase a previously owned book, it is also sometimes interesting to discover who possessed it before you. Last week I picked up a few books from one of my favorite used book stores off the downtown mall in Charlottesville and found evidence of the previous owners.

One of those was by the French Reformed theologian Pierre Ch. Marcel titled The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, translated by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes (T & T Clark, 1953). Aside from the stamp by "Lester H. Fink" of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, it also has a bold blue stamp reading "Donald Gray Barnhouse." Barnhouse (1895-1960) was a well-known Presbyterian minister and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. I assume Mr. Fink got hold of the book after Dr. Barnhouse, but I wonder how it came into his hands. The Wikipedia article on Barnhouse notes that he lived on an 82 acre farm in Doylestown. Was Fink a neighbor who got the book as a gift or did he buy it at an estate sale?

Here is the book:

Here's a recording of a sermon by Barnhouse on "Falling into Grace":

Another find was a paperback Christology of the Later Church Fathers in the Library of Christian Classics: Icthus Edition. The inside cover reveals the distinctive signature of David Bentley Hart (b. 1965) and is dated "1991." Hart is an Eastern Orthodox philosopher and theologian, much interested in patristics, who did his PhD at UVA. I am currently reading his translation of the New Testament (Yale, 2017). Not sure how this book got in the used bookstore. Maybe he upgraded to hardback or downsized along the way. Here is the book:

Here is a lecture by Hart dismantling the "New Atheists":

So, I have now "adopted" or "borrowed" books from the libraries of Barnhouse and Hart. Who knows? Maybe the fact that these men owned them will, by some kind of osmosis, make me preach and think better.

A new copy never would have done this.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Video Lecture: Gribben on John Owen's Bible (10/1/18)

I just watched this video lecture (posted 10/1/18) from the Andrew Fuller Conference at SBTS by Crawford Gribben of Queens University, Belfast on "John Owen's Bible."

Very interesting. Among other things he notes Owen's complaints of not having access to his full library, his "biblicism," his use of the KJV (among other translations, including the Geneva Bible, the Great Bible, and his own), his involvement in an an apparently forestalled effort to revise the KJV, and his responses (both favorable and unfavorable) to Walton's Polyglot.

In the end, Gribben describes Owen's approach to the Bible as "both pre-critical and enlightened."

He notes that Owen was not bothered by the concept of anonymous authorship and that he believed that inspiration was more important than precise knowledge of authorship. This reminded me of some of the observations I made in my recent study on Calvin's Bibliology in "Calvin and Canon" and made me think that Owen was likely influenced by Calvin (and others) here.  Gribben also suggests that Owen saw the Lord's Prayer as a Matthean insertion into the Sermon on the Mount.

He ends by suggesting that more work is needed on Owen's Bibliology.

Worth watching.