Friday, December 06, 2019

The Vision (12.6.19): The Word of God destroys the man who defies it.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 22:3-53 (audio not yet posted).

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness….” (1 Kings 22:34a).

Old Testament scholar Dale Ralph Davis describes the theme of this chapter as “the word of God destroys the man who defies it” (1 Kings, 311).

As King Ahab went into battle, he took off his royal robes in order to hide his identity and not draw the attention of the Syrians. This illustrates his cunning, his shrewdness. He had fooled the army of the Syrians. There was someone, however, whom he had not fooled. There was someone who knew his identity, better than any facial recognition system or DNA test. Someone who knew his location, with greater precision than any GPS could provide. Someone who, in fact, knew every inch of his body and even where there was a tiny gap of vulnerability where one piece of his armor was joined to another.

Christ encouraged his disciples by telling them that the very hairs of their head were all numbered (Matt 10:30). That is comforting to know, but also frightening. He knows us and we cannot hide from him.

Notice in v. 34a, “And a certain man drew a bow at a venture….” It was just a random, unnamed man, who became the instrument of the Lord’s judgement upon Ahab. He drew his bow “at a venture.” We might say, “by chance.” He was not even aiming, but behind the human archer, there was a Divine Archer, who would guide that missile. And it smote the king of Israel “between the joint of the harness.” It land just at the tiny point of weakness.

If you are familiar with Greek mythology this account might bring to mind the death of the hero Achilles. As an infant, he had supposedly been dipped into the river Styx by his mother Thetis, giving him invulnerability over his whole body, except at the heel where he had been held to be dipped. Then, in battle an arrow fatally struck him in his “Achilles’ heel.” Sometimes even the pagans could grope however blindly toward recognition of the guiding hand of divine providence.

Was it dumb luck that Ahab was struck? No, it was the hand of a providential God. The Lord was bringing his temporal judgement to bear upon Ahab for all his sin and idolatry, and for all the spiritual misery he had brought upon his nation and people. There are no accidents in this life.

1 Kings ends with a warning. Men will either obey the Word of God or they will be crushed by it. Consider Christ’s words in Matthew 21:44, “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”

Will you be like the many that go to destruction, or the few who find life in Christ?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, December 05, 2019

WM 144: Taylor DeSoto Guest Lecture on TR @ Phoenix Seminary

WM 144: Taylor DeSoto Guest Lecture on TR @Phoenix Seminary is posted. Listen here.

My friend Taylor DeSoto, associate pastor at Agros Reformed Baptist Church in Phoenix, AZ, was invited to give a guest lecture on his view of the TR in a ThM class on text criticism (on 12.4.19) at Phoenix Seminary, taught by Dr. Peter Gurry. Taylor does a very able job of speaking about the Confessional Text position and addressing questions, including the "Which TR?" challenge. Thanks to Dr. Gurry for his invitation to hear directly from a TR advocate.

This presentation is also available in video format here on


Book Note: Gregory of Nyssa on The Life of Moses: Part 3

More from Gregory of Nyssa's allegorical interpretation in The Life of Moses:

On the tables of stone, Gregory asserts that “the spiritual sense agrees with the literal account” (100). On the restoration of the broken tables, he asserts that God is “the restorer of our broken nature” who has “restored the broken table of our nature to its original beauty” (100).

On God’s meeting Moses face to face, he observes, “If these things are looked at literally, not only will the understanding of those who seek God be dim, but their concept of him will also be inappropriate” (101).

Gregory’s Neoplatonism is seen throughout.

The “ardent lover of beauty” longs “to be filled with the very stamp of the archetype” (104). He longs “to enjoy the Beauty not in mirrors and reflections, but face-to-face” (104).

“True being is true life” (105).

“This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him” (106).

The ascent to God “is both a standing still and a moving”; it “takes place by means of standing. I mean by this that the firmer and more immovable one remains in the Good, the more he progresses in the course of virtue” (107-108).

“He who finds any good finds it in Christ, who contains all good” (109).

In discussing the envy of men against Moses, Gregory observes: “Envy is the passion which causes evil, the father of death, the first entrance of sin, the root of wickedness, the birth of sorrow, the mother of misfortune, the basis of disobedience, the beginning of shame” (111).

He adds: “Envy is the death-dealing sting, the hidden weapon, the sickness of nature, the bitter poison, the self-willed emaciation, the bitter dart, the nail of the soul, the fire in the heart, the flame burning on the inside” (111-112).

“Envy is grieved at the good deeds of men and takes advantage of their misfortunes” (112).

When envied, Moses “did not rush to defend himself against those who caused him sorrow” (113).

To be continued….

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

WM 143: Devotion for Ministers on 1 Corinthians 4

I have posted WM 143: Devotion for Ministers on 1 Corinthians 4. Listen here.

I was asked to give this devotion at a Reformed Baptist Pastoral Fraternal that met on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 in a pastor's home in Staunton, Virginia.

The devotion drew upon three points from 1 Corinthians 4:

1. Ministers as "stewards of the mysteries of God" (vv. 1-2);

2. The universality of the ministry as Paul taught "every where in every church" (v. 17);

3. The authority of the ministry ("shall I come unto you with a rod?") (v. 21).

Good time of discussion, fellowship, and prayer after the devotion, plus an excellent lunch provided by our host.

This fraternal yesterday was in the western part of Virginia (Staunton). Today I also had the pleasure of attending another fraternal of Reformed Baptist pastors that met in the eastern part of the state (in Sandston). Thankful for fellowship among ministers.


Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Kept Pure in All Ages Conference: March 27-28, 2020 @ Five Solas Church, Reedsburg, Wisconsin

I am looking forward to speaking at the upcoming "Kept Pure in All Ages" conference at Five Points Church (OPC) in Reedsburg, Wisconsin on Friday-Saturday, March 27-28, 2020.

If you have an interest in the Confessional Text movement and live in the Midwest region (or anywhere else, for that matter), I hope you will consider attending and supporting this event, especially if you were not able to attend the Text and Canon Conference in Atlanta but were encouraged by listening to the messages. I will be preparing new messages for this conference that will hopefully reinforce and expand upon many of the themes covered in Atlanta.

Host Pastor and conference co-speaker Christian McShaffrey is the creator of the TR-Friendly Church Directory. He sent out this announcement for the conference today:

You are cordially invited to the first annual “Kept Pure in All Ages” conference on the text of Holy Scripture. Here are the details:
Begins: March 27, 2020 at 6:30 p.m.

Ends: March 28, 2020 at 12:00 m. *

Place: Five Solas Church (Reedsburg, WI)

Speaker: Dr. Jeffrey T. Riddle

Cost: Free

This conference will issue an earnest-but-brotherly call to return to the classical Protestant view of the Biblical text of scripture which led our fathers in the faith to receive the Textus Receptus as the authentic Word of God; especially in light of the radical changes that are coming to both the Greek NT text and our English translations.

To learn more about the conference and lodging options, or to RSVP, you may visit the conference website by clicking here.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to assist in some way, here are a couple options:

1. Share this announcement via Social Media so that others are aware of it.

2. Sponsor the event so we can cover the travel expenses of students and Pastors and/or offer them free books.

Thank you for your interest in the authentic text of scripture and we do hope to see you at the conference.


Christian M. McShaffrey
Pastor of Five Solas Church (OPC)
Administrator of the TR-friendly Directory
(608) 524-5856

* Those who wish to stay for the entire weekend will also benefit from an informal Q&A session with Dr. Riddle after lunch on Saturday and fellowship with the saints at Five Solas Church on Sunday morning.

Book Note: Gregory of Nyssa's The Life of Moses: Part 2

More from Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses:

Gregory sees the death of the firstborn in Egypt as teaching “when through virtue one comes to grips with any evil, he must completely destroy the first beginnings of evil” (57).

Here he draws on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5 on anger/murder and lust/adultery, noting Christ here commands us “to abolish lust and anger and to have no more fear of the stain of adultery or the guilt of murder” (57). He adds: “Take for an example a snake: when one crushes his head, he kills the rest of the body at the same time” (57).

He sees the soul as divided into “the rational, the appetitive, and the spirited” (58; cf. 66).

Gregory’s allegorical style is on full display in his description of the departure from Egypt:

The thorns of this life are sins; the shoes “the self-controlled and austere life”; the tunic “the full enjoyment and pursuits of this life”; the belt “reason” and “prudence”; the staff “the message of hope”; the food “warm and fervent faith”; etc.

Gregory’s method: “The loftier meaning is therefore more fitting than the obvious one” (63).

On the crossing of the Red Sea: The army of Egypt represents “the passions of the soul”; the stone from the sling, “reviling”; the spear point, “the spirited impulse”; the horses, “the passion for pleasures”; etc.

The meaning: “Since the passions naturally pursue our nature, we must put to death in the water both the base movements of the mind and the acts which issue from them” (67).

In baptism one drowns “the whole Egyptian person” and emerges alone “dragging nothing foreign in our subsequent life” (67). Those who receive baptism in ignorance, “bring along the Egyptian army, which still lives with them in their doings” (68).

“For uncontrolled passion is a fierce and raging master to the servile reasoning” (68).

If there are negative allegories in Gregory, there are also positive. The wood placed in the bitter water to make it sweet represents the cross. To throw the wood in the water is to receive “the mystery of the resurrection” which begins with the wood. Gregory adds as an aside: “(you of course understand ‘the cross’ when you hear ‘wood’)” (69).

The springs in the wilderness are the twelve disciples and the seventy date palms, the other appointed apostles. The campsite are the virtues.

Before taking the manna, one has to empty “the sack of his soul of all evil nourishment prepared by the Egyptians” (71).

When Moses held his hands aloft, it signified “the contemplation of the law with lofty insights” but when he let his hands hang to earth it meant “the lowly literal exposition and observance of the Law” (75).

“He who would approach the knowledge of things sublime must first purify his manner of life from all sensual and irrational emotion” (78).

The tabernacle is Christ. The skin dyed red used to decorate the tabernacle represent the mortification of sinful flesh and “the ascetic way of life” (89). “This teaches that grace, which flourishes through the Spirit, is not found in men unless they first make themselves dead to sin” (89).

The priestly vestments represent the virtuous adornments of the soul. The golden bells are “the brilliance of good works” (91).

The “philosophical life” may be “outwardly austere and unpleasant”, yet it is “full of good hopes when it ripens” (92).

“The head adorned with the diadem signifies the crown reserved for those who have lived well” (94).

To be continued…

Monday, December 02, 2019

Book Note: Gregory of Nyssa's The Life of Moses: Part 1

Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, trans. by Agraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson (HarperCollins, 1978, 2006).

I finished reading Gregory of Nyssa’s The Life of Moses last week.

Here are a few notes:

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 394) was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers, along with his older brother Basil of Caesarea and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus. He was bishop of Nyssa from 372-376, until deposed under the charge of maladministration, but was later reinstated to resume his office from 378 to his death.

Gregory was a Neoplatonist, a Trinitarian theologian, and an allegorical interpreter of Scripture (in the tradition of Origen).

The Life of Moses is a devotional work based on the Biblical account of Moses. It consists of two parts:

Book one is a brief historical sketch of the life of Moses.

Book two is a mystical contemplation of the life of Moses. Gregory takes the life of Moses as a model of how one attains to the virtuous life.

Gregory’s approach is evident from the opening reflection in book two on Moses’s birth and childhood. He seeks the “real intention” of the narrative, which is the “austerity and intensity of virtue” as represented in “the male birth” (32). We “give birth to ourselves” by “molding ourselves to the teaching of virtue or vice” (32). Thus, the “rational faculties” are the “parents of virtue” (33). The ark in which Moses was placed represents education in virtue. The king’s daughter who discovers Moses represents “profane philosophy”, while the “natural mother” offers “the nourishment of the Church’s milk.” The conflict between the Egyptians and Hebrews is that between idolatry and “true religion” (35). Thus, “The victory of true religion is the death and destruction of idolatry” (36).

It is not always easy to anticipate the allegories Gregory will draw.

According to Gregory, the burning bush represents the Virgin Mary whose “virginity was not withered by giving birth” (37).

The transformation of Moses’s hand and his rod changing into a snake represent the incarnation (39).

For Gregory the “literal account” must give way to an “elevated understanding” (45).

Moses’s public ministry teaches that one who has “not equipped himself” by “spiritual training” should not “presume to speak among the people” (46).

Making bricks without straw reflects the insatiable “appetitive part of the soul” (47).

Man’s free will is stressed by Gregory, often contrary to Paul’s anthropology. Of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, he writes: “It lies within each person’s power to make this choice” (51).

He later adds, “we men have in ourselves, in our own nature and by our own choice, the causes of light or of darkness, since we place ourselves in whichever sphere we wish to be” (53).

Gregory offers a form of a “free will” defense of the existence of evil when he writes, “it is evident that nothing evil can come into existence apart from our free choice” (56).

To be continued….