Sunday, September 29, 2019
Image: Congregational singing at 2019 Keach Conference
The Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia's 2019 Keach Conference was held on Saturday, September 28, 2019, hosted at Grace Baptist Chapel in Hampton, Virginia.
The 2019 theme was Chapter 12 "Of Adoption" from the Second London Baptist Confession (1689).
The audio from the four conference messages has been posted to the Grace Baptist Chapel sermonaudio.com site:
Message Two: The Liberties and Privileges of Adoption, Pastor Van Loomis, Redeeming Grace, Church, Matthews
Message Three: Chastened, Yet Never Cast Off, Pastor Steve Clevenger, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton
Message Four: Sealed to the Day of Redemption, Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Louisa
Image: Conference speakers (left to right: Loomis, Clevenger, Davidson, Riddle)
Image: Van Loomis preaching in morning session
Image: CRBCers at Keach 2019
Friday, September 27, 2019
Image: Lloyd Sprinkle, 2015.
Text received yesterday from Pastor Andy Rice of Providence Baptist Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia:
Brother Lloyd Sprinkle passed away today, September 26, 2019 at 2:40 pm. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
There will be a private funeral service and burial on Saturday.
My response to Andy:
Very sorry to hear of Lloyd’s passing. Hard to believe. A good and godly man whom I have admired, as have many others. Jackie and the Providence brethren will be in our prayers.
In God’s providence, this news comes on the eve of the Keach Conference, a meeting which Lloyd regularly attended, and where he hosted a book table with Baptist and Puritan works from Sprinkle publications.
I looked back through my blog for a few posts where Lloyd appears:
I also recorded a podcast interview (WM 42) with Lloyd in 2015, not long after he had suffered a stroke and retired from his role as founding pastor of Providence BC, which he had served for 53 years. Lloyd's Sprinkle Publications is known all over the world by theologians and historians for its reprints of Puritan, Reformed, and historical (Southern) literature.
With thanks for Lloyd’s life and ministry. To God be the glory.
I'm a fan of the BBC's "In Our Time" history podcast with host Melvyn Bragg. In each episode the host brings three scholars into his studio to discuss some historical topic.
This week's episode was on "The Rapture." Listen here. Lots of interesting info on John Nelson Darby and the origins of dispensational premillennialism. Also of interest to Reformed Baptists, one of the guest academics on this podcast was prolific scholar Crawford Gribben from Queen's University, Belfast, who is preparing a monograph on J. N. Darby and the birth of dispensationalism.
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Image: Fellowship at 2018 Keach Conference
Greetings! The 2019 Keach Conference meets this Saturday, September 28, 2019 at Grace Baptist Chapel (805 Todds Lane, Hampton, VA 23666).
It's not too late to take part! There is no cost to attend and you can register on site. Come join us for good fellowship and teaching!
9:00 am Morning Coffee & Registration
9:30 am Session One:
Message One: Introduction: The Grace of Adoption. Ryan Davidson, Pastor, Grace Baptist Chapel, Hampton.
Message Two: The Liberties and Privileges of God's Children. Van Loomis, Pastor, Redeeming Grace Church, Matthews.
12:00 noon Complimentary lunch served on site
1:00 pm Session Two:
Message Three: Chastened, Yet Never Cast Off. Steve Clevenger, Pastor, Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton.
Message Four: Sealed to the Day of Redemption. Jeff Riddle, Pastor, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Louisa.
Question and Answer Session
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History. Here is Book 4, chapters 8-9. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
In these chapters Eusebius continues the sentiment begun at the end of the previous chapter by describing the “champions” who defended the faith, especially in writing.
Chapter 8 begins with mention of Hegesippus who composed five books “giving in the simplest style of writing the unerring tradition of the apostolic preaching.”
He notes, in particular, Hegesippus’s criticism of Roman idolatry, citing a shrine set up for worship of Antinous a favorite slave of Hadrian.
Next, he recalls how Justin Martyr also criticized this idolatry in his Apology to Antoninus.
He also notes Justin’s record of the Bar-Cochba revolt and the persecution of Christians at this time. Eusebius also Justin’s conversion to the faith from Platonic philosophy, noting that this change came about by his reasoned judgment.
Furthermore, he notes Justin’s record of persecution during the time of Hadrian and how a governor Serrenius Granianus wrote to the emperor urging that Christians not be treated unjustly.
Eusebius also includes Justin’s account of Hadrian writing to Minucius Fundanus, proconsul of Asia, urging fair treatment of Christians.
In chapter 9 Eusebius cites Hadrian’s letter (from Justin), which, Eusebius says, he translated from Latin to Greek. The letter ends with the emperor telling the proconsul that if anyone brings charges against Christians “for the purpose of blackmail” to “investigate strenuously and be careful to inflict penalties adequate to the crime.”
These chapters describe the ministries of the apologists Hegesippus and Justin and the ways in which Christians responded to persecution during Hadrian’s reign. According to Eusebius the Christians were beginning to gain sympathy from the Romans at the highest levels of government. This shows how the Christian movement was growing and appearing of the radar in Roman society.
Monday, September 23, 2019
Image: Gnostic writings discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 4, chapter 7. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
In this chapter Eusebius outlines the various heretical teachings that assailed the early Christian movement.
These attacks came when the churches were shining like “brilliant lamps” throughout the whole world and as persecution waned.
He notes two heresies that arose from Menander (and Simon the Sorcerer) which were liked a double-headed snake:
First, Saturninus of Antioch, who established a school in Syria. According to Irenaeus his teaching was very much like that of Menander.
Second, Basilides of Alexandria, who established a school in Egypt and promoted “secret doctrine.” He was refuted by Agrippa Castor who says Basilides wrote 24 books, set up two persons as prophets (Bar Cabbas and Bar Coph), taught that it was permissible to eat food offered to idols and to deny the faith during persecution, and enjoined his followers, as Pythagoras did, to keep silence for five years.
In addition to these two, he also draws on Irenaeus to describe Carpocrates, whom he describes as the father of the Gnostic heresy. These promoted “magical ceremonies,” “love charms,” and other supposed spiritual experiences. They especially stressed mystical initiation rites. Many were piteously deceived and enslaved in this.
Eusebius also notes how these false movements damaged the reputation of orthodox Christians, whom he describes as being a distinct “race” (ethne). Christians were thus falsely accused of incest and of eating “wicked food.” Of the latter Lake write in a note: “The reference is to the story which was at that time told by the heathen of the Christians and has since been told among Christians of the Jews that they kill and eat small children.”
Eusebius contends, however, that these various attacks were refuted as the truth vindicate itself and shone “ever more brightly.”
He seems to say that one of the reasons for the successful refutation of heresy and false attacks was the consistency of the orthodox witness. The true church “ever held to the same points in the same way.” This perhaps anticipates the dictum of Vincent of Lérins in his Commonitorium (c. 434) that the true church is characterized by “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all [Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.”].
This chapter is important for showing the centrality of apologetics in distinguishing orthodoxy from heresy, especially Gnosticism, in the early Christian movement. Eusebius writes with confidence of the eventual triumph of the orthodox position.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Yesterday a youth in my church emailed me the following (exchange shared with permission):
I have a question. I’m reading through a little book about self-esteem, and I’m now wondering: Is self-esteem a bad thing?
On one hand, one could say that the Bible does affirm the worth and value of every human being. We were made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and this is true even after the fall (post-Gen 3) (Gen 9:6; James 3:9). In addition, the Bible says we were made a little lower than the angels, have been crowned with glory and honor, and been given dominion over the creation (see Psalm 8, esp. vv. 4-8). We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14). So, we should value every human being (ourselves included), because we are image-bearers. In the Great Commandment, Christ also said we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:33-34).
On the other hand, the Bible teaches that we are sinners, who do not seek God, cannot do good, and are in need of God's grace (cf. Romans 3:11-12, 23; 6:23; 5:8).
So, the Christian is one who both knows he is made in God's image and that he is a sinner whose only hope is Christ.
I'm not sure what book you are reading. In today's world "self-esteem" is a pop-psychological term that is not always used in a Biblical way. There are some people who do struggle with low self-esteem and need to be reminded they are made in God's image. Other people actually suffer from an over-inflated self-esteem and need to cultivate humility and lowliness. Consider verses like these:
Matthew 23:11-12: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
James 4:10: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up" (cf. 1 Peter 5:6).
Consider Christ's parable of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector) in Luke 18:9-14, followed by his teaching that one must receive the kingdom like a child (Luke 18:15-17).
Maybe Paul sums it up best in Romans 12:3 when he urges each Christian, "not think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly [seriously, honestly]."
Hope this helps. Let me know Sunday what you think.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
A friend recently texted me to say that he is doing some editorial work for a publishing company to produce a study Bible for students. He asked for a simple list of the top five questions (or types of questions) which I, as a pastor, hear from students.
Here is the list I sent him:
1. How can I be content in singleness?
2. How can I find/attract a like-minded Christian spouse?
3. How can I be in the world but not of it?
4. How can I learn orthodox doctrine and defend the faith?
5. How can I develop and practice the spiritual disciplines (prayer, meditation, Bible study, etc.)?
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Image: Marble bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (c. AD 117-138) in the British Museum, London.
This is another in this occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 4, chapters 5-6. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
In these chapters Eusebius describes the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem and the ill-fated Jewish Bar-Cochba Revolt (c. AD 132-135).
Chapter 5 begins with a discussion of the early bishops of Jerusalem. Eusebius says there were 15 bishops in the church in Jerusalem from the time of the apostles up to the siege of Jerusalem by Hadrian and that their occupancies of the office were “short-lived,” no doubt due to persecution and martyrdom. He says he has no written source for the dates of the Jerusalem bishops. He adds that the Jerusalem church was completely Jewish up to the time of Hadrian.
A list of the bishops is provided:
1. James, called the Lord’s brother
To this information on the Jerusalem church, Eusebius also gives updates on the bishops in Rome and Alexandria.
In Rome, Telesphorus succeeded Xystus.
In Alexandria, Eumenes became the sixth bishop.
Chapter 6 then describes the Jewish rebellion during Hadrian’s time led by Simon Bar-Cochba, meaning “son of a star.” Lake point out that after the failed revolt he was called Bar-Choziba, “son of a lie.”
The revolt was ruthlessly put down by Rufus, the governor of Judea, who slaughtered thousands of men, women, and children.
Eusebius says the war reached its height in the siege of a citadel called Beththera, outside Jerusalem.
After the war, Hadrian decreed that no Jew could enter the area of Jerusalem and the city was re-named Aelia, after the emperor Aelius Hadrian.
Eusebius cites as a source for the war the writings of Ariston of Pella, which are no longer extant.
He adds that after Bar-Cochba, Jerusalem was inhabited by Gentiles, where in the church, Marcus became the first Gentile bishop.
These chapters provide important information about Jews and Jewish Christians in Jerusalem during the time of Hadrian. In Jerusalem, in particular, he notes its transition from being a wholly or, at least, predominantly Jewish church to it being a Gentile church.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Another episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 4, chapters 3-4. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters mark the transition from the reign of the emperor Trajan to that of Aelius Hadrian (AD 76-138; emperor AD 117-138).
In chapter 3 mention is made of the apologist Quadratus’s defense (apologia) for the Christians presented to Hadrian. Quadratus was introduced in EH 3.37. Other tradition say he was bishop of Athens, a martyr, and among the first Christian apologists. Eusebius claims to have a copy of the apology and testifies that it gives proof of “his intellect and apostolic orthodoxy.” He cites a portion from Quadratus in which he mentions those who were cured and raised (resuscitated) from the dead by Christ and who remained alive up to his own times (cf. Matt 27:52-53?).
Mention is also made of an apology by another apologist Aristides, “a man of faith and devoted to our religion.” Other traditions say he was a philosopher of Athens.
Chapter 4 continues to chronicle the Christian leaders in Rome and Alexandria. In Rome Alexander was succeeded by Xystus, and in Alexandria, Justus succeeded Primus.
The mention of the activity of the early apologists calls attention to the fact that early Christianity was an intellectual and literary movement and that it presumed to have influence in the highest levels of Roman society (evidenced by the fact that they made direct appeals to the emperor) in the faced of persecution.
Monday, September 16, 2019
Image: Ruins of ancient Alexandria, Egypt.
Another episode has been posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 4, chapters 1-2. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
The opening chapters of book 4 outline events during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan (53-117; emperor, 98-117).
Chapter one covers the succession of bishops in Alexandria, where Primus became bishop, and Rome, where Alexander succeeded Evarestus.
Again, we see the significance of Christians in these major city centers and a concern to trace succession from the apostles.
Chapter two describes various woes suffered by the Jews during this time.
A Jewish revolt in Alexandria and throughout Egypt is described which took place in the 18th year of Trajan’s reign (c. AD 115), and while Lupus was governor of Egypt.
The Jewish leader was named Lucuas. After some initial Jewish victories, the Roman Emperor sent Marcius Turbo to Egypt to put down the rebellion, and he killed many Jews. The Emperor also ordered Lusius Quietus to “clean” the Jews out of Mesopotamia for fear they would join the revolt, and for this he was rewarded by being named governor of Judea.
Eusebius notes that these events are recorded by the Greek historians. K. Lake notes this information is found in the writings of Dio Cassius, but that he gives the Jewish leader’s name as Andreas, rather than Lucuas.
These chapters show the stabilization and growth of the Christian movement and the travails of the Jews in their homeland and in Egypt under Roman rule in the early second century. He presents Christianity as rising and Judaism as fading. The opening sentence of chapter 2 well captures this: “While the teaching of our Saviour and the church were flourishing daily and moving on to further progress the tragedy of the Jews was reaching the climax of successive woes.”
Friday, September 13, 2019
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 13.
He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him (1 Kings 13:18).
1 Kings 13 provides one of the most unusual narratives found in the Old Testament. A prophet described as “a man of God out of Judah” (v. 1) confronted the false worship promoted by King Jeroboam. As he returned home, however, this same prophet was deceived by “an old prophet in Bethel” who convinced him to disobey God’s explicit instructions to him and to turn aside for a meal.
In order to mislead the man of God the old prophet of Bethel claimed to have been visited by an angel (v. 18a). The inspired historian then adds: “But he lied unto him” (v. 18b).
We should stop and reflect on this:
First, this episode reveals the precarious nature of relying on supposed experience alone. It reminds us of the superiority of our present situation as New Covenant believers now that we have the complete Word of God written, by which to test all things.
Second, it reminds us that men can lie about their experiences and can claim false experiences in order to manipulate others.
Third, it reminds us of the importance of what we might call the “non-contradictory” principle of God’s Word. The man of God of Judah failed in that he believed that God’s Word to him had been changed or was contradicted by some “new” revelation.
The apostle Paul exhorted the churches of Galatia: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:18). In warning the Corinthians to beware “false apostles” Paul told that them that Satan can transform himself into “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:13-14).
Beware the man who says, “God told me….” Test everything, as did the Bereans, by the Word of God (Acts 17:11).
As the apostle John exhorted, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
May the Lord give us wisdom and discernment.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Image: Colonnade in the ruins of ancient Hierapolis ("holy city") near the modern town of Pamukkale in western Turkey.
A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 39. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
The focus in this chapter is on the writing of Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 60-130).
Eusebius says that Papias was the author of five treatises under the title, “Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord.” This work is no longer extant except in quotations from Eusebius and Irenaeus.
He notes that Irenaeus described Papias as “the hearer of John, who was a companion of Polycarp and one of the ancients.”
Eusebius notes, however, that Papias himself did not say he was “a hearer and eyewitness of the sacred apostles” but that he had learned from those who knew them.
He cites a passage in which Papias says he was diligent in learning from the followers of the apostles and other disciples of Jesus, mentioning Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew, but also Aristion and the presbyter (elder) John.
He quotes a controversial statement of Papias in which he says he did not consider that he would profit so much “from books” as from “the word of a living and surviving voice.”
Eusebius also notes the mention of two Johns by Papias: John the Apostle and John the Elder, suggesting the possibility that the latter, John the Elder, was the author of Revelation.
He relays other traditions, including one related to the daughters of Philip the Apostle (Confusion with Philip the Evangelist?) at Hierapolis and the raising of a corpse, as well as an account of a tradition of Justus Barsabas drinking poison but suffering no harm (cf. Mark 16:18).
He also notes “unwritten tradition” conveyed by Papias that included “some strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some more mythical accounts.”
Among these accounts he mentions the teaching of a millennial kingdom. Eusebius accuses Papias of misreading mystical and symbolic accounts of the apostles, since he was a man “of very little intelligence.” Yet, he influenced others to hold such views, including Irenaeus.
He also records Papias’s description of the evangelist Mark as “Peter’s interpreter” who recorded the apostle’s remembrances accurately but not “in order.”
Of Matthew, Papias says, the evangelist “collected the oracles in the Hebrew language [dialect], and each interpreted as best he could.” This has led to questions about whether Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic.
He adds that Papias cited from 1 John and 1 Peter.
Finally, he refers to a story of a woman “accused before the Lord of many sins” recorded in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. It has been speculated that this refers to the pericope adulterae (John 7:53—8:11) and lends credence to this as a popular Jesus tradition “floating” about in early Christianity, but this is not substantiated.
Eusebius recognizes Papias as an important early historical source but also raises questions about his reliability, especially with regard to his millennial views.
Friday, September 06, 2019
Image: Remains of the ancient city gate at Dan in Northern Israel.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 12.
And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan (1 Kings 12:30).
In Reformed theology the Regulative Principle of Worship (or RP) refers to the idea that worship should be regulated by Scripture. That is, we should not introduce any element into our worship unless we can find direct command or warrant for it in Scripture.
1 Kings 12 provides a vivid example of the violation of the RP in ancient Israel.
At that time, the Lord had decreed that he would be worshipped in one central place, the temple in Jerusalem. The building of this temple had been one of Solomon’s greatest achievements and reflected the triumph of the RP. But when the ten Northern tribes of Israel under Jeroboam broke away from Judah and Benjamin under Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, all this was undone.
Rehoboam’s took a series of ungodly actions driven by political motivation and lack of trust in God (cf. 1 Kings 12:26-27):
First, he set up a false place and object of worship: the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (vv. 28-30). This violated the second commandment by making graven images. It violated Deuteronomy in abandoning the temple in Jerusalem as the true place of worship. Notice v. 30a: “And this thing became a sin.” Worship can be sinful if it is not worship that is done in obedience to the command of God.
Second, he set up false priests (v. 31). He put men into the priesthood who were not Biblically qualified, because they were not sons of Levi.
Third, he set up a man-made holy day (vv. 32-33). He created his own feast, a pseudo holiday made in imitation of true feasts that had been ordained by God. This holy day was one “he had devised in his own heart” (v. 33).
This spiritual degeneracy and compromise eventually led to the undoing of this North Kingdom of Israel, though it would take many years to be played out.
We are left to ponder:
Have we set up false objects of worship?
Have we been driven by pragmatism, convenience, and personal preference in worship, rather than obedience?
Have we compromised on Biblical standards for church officers?
Have we created worship practices or “holy days” that we have devised in our own hearts?
May the Lord direct us to purify our worship and to regulate it according to his Word.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle