Friday, April 16, 2021

The Vision (4.16.21): The Sin of Unjust Anger


Image: Redbud, North Garden, Virginia, April 2021

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:21-26.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill…. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…. (Matthew 5:21-22).

I think all of Christ’s hearers would have had their ears prick up at this statement. As God gave the law on Sinai, Christ now speaks the law. What is the subtle meaning? Christ speaks with divine authority.

What does Christ announce? Not only that taking life is a sin against God, but so also is unjust anger.

Notice several important things about this teaching:

First, Christ draws a moral parallel between murder and unjust anger and says that God forbids both.

Second, Christ addresses unjust anger, in particular, against a “brother.” Some take this in a universal sense—referring to all our fellow human beings. So, it is like “neighbor” in “Love thy neighbor.” But most often this term is used in reference to Christian “brothers,” fellow disciples who share a like precious faith in the Lord (cf. Matt 7:3; 18:15-17; 25:40).

Third, Christ addresses anger that arises unjustly or “without a cause.” In Greek, the phrase “without a cause” is a single adverb. Some modern translations (based on modern texts) omit that phrase, making Christ appear to say, even more rigorously, that anger in itself, whether with or without cause, is always sinful.

I think such texts and translations are incorrect. They do not take into account righteous indignation or godly anger. Christ himself demonstrated this kind of righteous indignation during his ministry, as when he drove out the money changers from the temple. Yet he never sinned in so doing. The apostle Paul, likewise, taught, “Be angry, and sin not” (Eph 4:26).

Fourth, Christ says that the person who becomes unjustly anger is guilty of the judgement, just as is the man who commits murder. This means not only the judgement of man but also, most importantly, of God himself.

Christ teaches that a man who claims to be a brother but who is constantly fussing and fuming, red in the face, looking to criticize or pick a fight, acting like a boiler ready to explode, is guilty of violating the sixth commandment. Malicious anger is the moral equivalent of murder.

From this, the Christian must flee.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, April 09, 2021

The Vision (4.9.21): But God raised him from the dead


Image: Golden Euonymous, North Garden, Virginia, April 2021.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Acts 13.

But God raised him from the dead (Acts 13:30).

In Acts 13 Luke records the sermon preached by Paul in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch.

The center of Paul’s message is the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In v. 28 Paul stresses the innocence of Christ. No legitimate “cause” was found for putting him to death: “And though no cause of death was found in him...” Pilate washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of the just person” (Matt 27:24). Even one of the thieves crucified alongside Christ recognized Christ’s innocence and was converted, telling his fellow malefactor that they were being crucified “justly” for their crimes, “but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41).

In v. 29 Paul emphasizes the fact that even the wicked actions of the men who crucified Christ served to fulfill the Scriptures: “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him….” By placing Christ on the tree (the cross) where he died and then having his body being placed in the tomb, Christ was not defeated, but Scripture was fulfilled.

Here is something that ought to comfort us in our distress. The more wicked men attempt to oppose God and harm his people, the more they fulfill his word and hasten the Lord’s ultimate victory.

It seemed that evil had triumphed. Christ had died and been placed in the tomb. Then, we come to v. 30: “But God raised him from the dead.” If there had been no crucifixion, there would have been no resurrection. If there had been no death, there would have been no life. Had there been no defeat, there would have been no victory.

Notice that Paul also stresses the resurrection appearances (v. 31: “And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem….”).

The sermon at Pisidian Antioch, follows the outline of the gospel Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: Christ’s death on the cross, his burial, his glorious resurrection, and his resurrection appearances.

This remains the standard for faithful preaching of the gospel to the present hour.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 08, 2021

WM 200: QR Article: The Coherence-Based Genealogical Method: The Newest 'New' Method


Above are audio versions of my article that appears in the Trinitarian Bible Society's Quarterly Record, Issue No. 635 (April-June, 2021): 12-19.


Friday, April 02, 2021

WM 199: Interview: Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance


The Vision: Christ's Fulfillment of the Law


Image: Forsythia, North Garden, Virginia, April 2021.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:17-20.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

There are at least five key themes in Matthew 5:17-20:

First: Christ and the Old Testament (v. 17):

When Christ says he came not to destroy the law of the prophets, one may take this as a reference to the Old Testament, which ancient Jews often divided into three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings (cf. Luke 24:44).

Christ here affirms the Old Testament as the first part of the Christian Bible. One of the earliest heresies was that of Marcion who rejected the Old Testament. Many today are “practical Marconites.” We should, however, read the Old Testament devotionally, and it should be preached in our churches.

Second: Christ and the Law (vv. 17-18):

Some Christians wrongly think that all the law is now void and null. Reformed theology teaches the threefold view of the law: the moral law, as epitomized in the Ten Commandments, is still fulling binding; the ceremonial law, is abrogated; and the civil law is expired, though the general equity of its principles might still be applied.

Paul will write that the law is “holy” (Rom 7:12). He will add: “But the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully” (1 Tim 1:8).

Third: Christ and the preservation of Scripture (v. 18):

When Christ says that not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away, he is making reference to the slightest pen stroke in the writing of Scripture.  Christ promises the plenary verbal preservation of his Word.

Fourth: Christ and the doing of the word (v. 19):

Christ here warns against those who break the least of the commandments and teach others to do the same (v. 19a). They will be called least in the kingdom. Positively he commends the one who does and teaches these commandments (v. 19b). He will be called great in the kingdom.

Fifth: Christ and the higher righteousness (v. 20):

The scribes and Pharisees are usually the “bad guys” in the Gospels, but Christ here commends them. His disciples are to have a higher righteousness than the most religious men of their day. This touches the theme of the “impossible ideal.” We cannot attain such righteousness. It must come to us from Christ (2 Cor 5:21).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Book Review: David Wenham, Did St. Paul Get Jesus Right? The Gospel According to Paul



Audio versions of my review of David Wenham, Did St. Paul Get Jesus Right? The Gospel According to Paul (Lion Hudson, 2010): 160 pp.

My written review appeared in the Reformed Baptist Trumpet, Vol. 4, No. 1-2 (2013): 11-13. You can read the pdf here.


Friday, March 26, 2021

The Vision (3.26.21): Salt and Light


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:13-16.

“Ye are the salt of the earth…. Ye are the light of the world….” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

Following the Beatitudes, Christ presents two fundamental images or metaphors for who his disciples are in the world in his Sermon on the Mount.

“Ye are the salt of the earth” (v. 13);

“Ye are the light of the world” (v. 14).

Notice that each of these are simple propositional declarations. They are not imperatives. Christ does not say, “Become salt of the earth.” or “Become the light of the world.” They are not exhortations.  Christ does not say, “You should be the salt of the earth.” r “You should be the light of the world.”

No, he declares what we already are, merely by virtue of the fact that we are believers, saved by God’s grace thought the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his disciples. It is a present reality. No matter how weak we may be spiritually, no matter how puny our numbers, if we are genuine disciples, we are already salt and light, and we already have an influence in the world out of all proportion to our meagre size and strength.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Vision (3.19.21): Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:7-12.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10).

In John 15:20 Christ told his disciples, “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

This truth has been proven over and again throughout church history.

Peter and John were arrested in the temple, beaten, and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40), to which Luke adds that they departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (v. 41).

The story continued in the protomartyr Stephen (Acts 7), and in the death of James, the first apostle to lay down his life for Christ (Acts 12:1-2).

It is there in the multiple imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, and trials of the apostle Paul (cf. 2 Cor 11:21-30).

It continued in those mentioned in Hebrews 10, who were made a “gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions (v. 33) and who “took joyfully” the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had “in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (v. 34).

Beyond the time of the apostles, it was there in early men who suffered, including Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote letters to his fellow believers in the churches as he was being carried off to Rome to be fed to the lions. Or, in Polycarp of Smyrna who refused to deny Christ when he was 86 years old and was put to death for his faithfulness.

The more the church was persecuted the more it grew. As Tertullian of Carthage put it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church.”

It continued in the sufferings of believers under various Roman emperors, including during the “Great Persecution” under Diocletian when Bibles were burned and ministers put to death.

It continued at the time of the Protestant Reformation when the “Marian martyrs” were burned at the stake for preaching the Gospel.

It was there when men like the Particular Baptist Benjamin Keach was pilloried for teaching believer’s baptism.

And when John Bunyan was put in prison for preaching outside of state sanction, making shoe-laces from his prison cell to support his family, which included a daughter who was bind.

It continued in the persecuted church in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during communism.

And it continues today among brethren all over the world who continue to suffer shame and even death for the name of Christ. In my experiences those who have suffered most for Christ are usually those who desire least to talk of this. They wish instead to speak of Christ.

If you were to visit the grounds of the little hospital in Jibla, Yemen, you’d find the graves of William Koehn (administrator of the hospital) and Dr. Martha Myers (who for over 25 years served there as an obstetrician and surgeon). They were martyred by a fanatical Muslim on December 30, 2002. On Koehn’s grave marker in crude handwritten English and Arabic it says, “God’s tool; loving husband; father to many”; and on Myers’ it simply states in broken English, “She love God” (for a picture of the grave markers, see R. W. Yarbrough’s Clash of Visions, p. 68).

Christ announces the reward for the persecuted: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 10b). In v. 12 he adds an additional promise: “for great is your reward in heaven.”

Skeptics sometimes mock believers for the hope of heaven. They call it “pie in the sky.” Marx called it an opiate for the masses.

But the hope of heaven has proven the very thing through the years that has led ordinary men and women to live in extra-ordinary ways. For many, it has been that which was needed to stiffen the spine and brace the courage when facing persecution and even death for the sake of their Lord.

Men will do much for Christ if they believe this: To die for Christ in this life is to wake with Christ in the life to come.

May we be found faithful in this generation.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review: Leland Ryken, The Legacy of the King James Bible

I posted audio versions (above) of my review of Leland Ryken, The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential Bible Translation. The review appeared in the Reformed Baptist Trumpet, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2011): 16-22. You can read a pdf of the review here.


Friday, March 12, 2021

The Vision (3.12.21): The Sermon on the Mount


Image: View of the Mount of the Beatitudes, Israel.

Note: Devotion take from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:1-6.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth and taught them… (Matthew 5:1-2).

Most would agree that in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew chapters 5-7 one finds the heart of the moral and ethical teaching of the Lord Jesus. Augustine of Hippo called it, “A perfect standard of the Christian life.”

The setting for the sermon is given in Matthew 5:1-2.

Notice first, that Christ’s teaching came as he saw the multitudes coming out to him (v. 1a).

Most of these people had been attracted to Christ due to his miraculous healing ministry (see 4:24-25). By turning to teaching, perhaps Christ was saying to them, “What good does it do if a man has a healthy body but a sick, twisted, diseased, and deformed spirit?”

Notice second, that he went up into a mountain. If you were to go to Israel today you would find a site now known as the Mount of the Beatitudes (also known as Mount Eremos) where some believe the sermon was given.

The elevated site of the teaching reflects the elevated doctrine conveyed there. Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the law of God. Christ goes up on a mountain not to receive God’s law but directly to speak it. Here is the true Lawgiver who is greater than Moses.

Notice third, that he taught them from a seated position (“when he was set”).

When we think today about public speaking (teaching or preaching), we assume the speaker is standing. But in Christ’s day authoritative teaching was often done while seated. Christ stood to read the law at the synagogue in Nazareth, and then sat to teach (cf. Luke 4:16-21). In Matthew 23, Christ denounced the scribes and the Pharisees who “sit in Moses’ seat” (v. 2). Christ speaks in this sermon with settled authority.

Notice fourth, he spoke to his disciples (see vv. 1b-2).

The Lord Jesus had just called the four fishermen to become his disciples (4:18-22). Now the multitudes followed him for healing (4:25). No doubt, not all in this crowd were authentic disciples. Many were likely among those who later “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). But his true disciples were also there (perhaps including Matthew the tax collector, who was later called; see Matt 9:9).

This teaching is for followers of Christ. It is insider communication. When we read, study, and meditate upon this sermon, we, like those first disciples, are seated at the feet of the Lord Jesus as he opens his mouth to teach us.

Lord, help us to listen.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, March 08, 2021

Caesar's last words: Et tu, Brute? or καὶ σύ, τέκνον; ?


Image: Vincenzo Camuccini, La mort de Cèsar, 1806.

I was listening to the “In Our Time” podcast on Marcus Aurelius the other day and one of the panelists made the observation that upper class Romans often preferred speaking Greek to Latin. He noted that although in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar the dictator’s final words are “Et tu, Brute?”, it is more likely that he said, καὶ σύ, τέκνον; (“You also, child?”). See this Wikipedia article.

I thought I’d add this anecdote to my repertoire when explaining why the NT was written in Greek (the lingua franca of the early Roman empirical period) rather than in Latin.


Friday, March 05, 2021

The Vision (3.5.21): The Threefold Ministry of Christ: Teaching, Preaching, Healing


Image: Ruins of a first century synagogue in Galilee (Northern Israel), discovered in 2016. Did the Lord Jesus ever teach here?

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 4:23-25.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of diseases among the people (Matthew 4:23).

First, Christ came as a teacher. He came to bring knowledge of God’s will, of God’s law, of God’s Spirit, and knowledge simply of God himself. He taught the woman at the well, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Christ was called by the title of “Teacher” throughout his ministry, both by his disciples and his detractors (cf. Matt 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 19:16; 22:16, 24, 36; 23:8; 26:18).

This is a reminder that the Christian faith involves knowledge, the mind and the intellect. Christ will teach that you should love God “with all thy mind” (Matt 22:37; cf. Rom 12:2).

One wag has said that an “open mind” is like an open mouth; if it never clamps down on something of substance it will starve to death.

Geerhardus Vos is reported to have said, “Theology is a means of grace.” God is not only pleased when we think rightly about him, but he also uses our thinking or theologizing about him as a means to prosper us spiritually.

Second, Christ came as a preacher. Matthew says he came “preaching [kerusso] the gospel of the kingdom.” Christ came as a herald of the gospel (the good news) of the kingdom (the rule and reign of God).

Mathew had already described the early preaching ministry of Christ as a call to repentance and an announcement that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (4:17; cf. 3:12).

What gospel did Christ proclaim? His death, burial, resurrection, and resurrection appearances (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-5). He preached the gospel even before he went to the cross (see Matt 16:21)!

Third, Christ came as a healer: He came “healing all manner of diseases sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”

The statement is proven out by the Gospel accounts. He healed those with leprosy, with fevers, with withered hands, with paralysis, with blindness, with issues of blood, those unable to speak, those tormented by evil spirits. He even raised men from the dead.

These miracles (and others in which he demonstrated his power over nature itself, by turning water into wine, stilling storms, walking on waves, feeding five thousand, etc.) all show or demonstrate his authority over all things.

This was Christ’s threefold ministry at his first advent, and this ministry continues in the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:27) in this present age. We are called to teach God’s Word (cf. Matt 28:20); to preach the gospel (cf. 2 Tim 4:1-5); and to be agents of his healing (cf. James 5:13-16).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, March 01, 2021

Book Review: Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels?


I have posted an audio version of my book review of Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018).

The written review appeared in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2021): 204-207. I have also posted the pdf to my site. You can read it here.


Friday, February 26, 2021

The Vision (2.26.21): The Call to Discipleship


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 4:18-22.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

We are continuing to track the life of Christ as faithfully recorded in Matthew.

We have learned of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, his rearing in Nazareth, his baptism by John, his temptation in the wilderness, and his preaching in Capernaum and throughout Galilee. Now we read of how Christ drew men to himself and called them to become his disciples.

A disciple is a student or a follower, something like an apprentice. How did you learn a trade in the first century? You followed an expert around and learned from him by watching his example and listening to his words. Many trades and professions still work that way today (from plumbers to physicians).

Christ is the master teacher, and his disciples or followers are his students. To become a believer is to enter the school of Christ and to learn from him.

Matthew 4:18-22 describes the call extended to two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, and James and John. They would be among the original Twelve apostles and would be mightily used of God. There is value in seeing the call of the men Christ sovereignly chose to be the pillars of his church.

There are also general things we learn here about discipleship that apply to any of us, who will never be apostles, about what it means to follow Christ.

First, Christ also sees us and calls us to follow him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The first disciples were ordinary fishermen. Later when the apostles preach Jesus in the temple, the authorities will take note of their boldness marveling that they were “unlearned and ignorant men” that “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Second, the call to follow is urgent and demands thoughtful yet immediate response: “And they straightway left their nets and followed him” (Matt 4:20); “And they immediately left their ship and their father, and followed him” (Matt 4:22).

Notice that they left their nets behind. Whatever our other vocation, we have a new primary vocation and that is serving Christ. For some it will be, in fact, a call to the vocational ministry, for all God’s people, however, there will be a call to be part of the great work of evangelism, drawing in the gospel net and seeing men and women come to Christ.

Notice that James and John left their father behind. Christ must have first place above all our human relations, precious though they may be.

Christ calls us to count the costs (cf. Luke 14:25-33). Don’t start a tower you can’t finish. Don’t enter a battle that you will later flee from. After counting the costs, however, one should also respond with immediacy and with joy. Let us put our hand to the plow and never look back. In the end, we will find that it will have all been worth it!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Crawford Gribben's forthcoming book: Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America (plus Discount Coupon!)


Crawford Gribben has a new book coming out in March addressing an interesting and timely topic given the current political climate for Christians in the US. The coupon above will allow you to order the hardback online for just $20! DV, I will be doing a podcast interview with Dr. Gribben on the book in early April. Look for it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

New TBS Booklet: How the Holy Bible Came To Be


My friend Christian McShaffrey, Pastor of Five Solas (OPC) in Reedsburg, WI has written a new article/booklet that has been produced by the Trinitarian Bible Society, titled How the Holy Bible Came To Be. You can read a pdf of it here for free.

This will be an excellent resource for anyone to be introduced to "Believing Bibliology", especially children and youth.

I hope to have Christian soon as a guest on the WM podcast to discuss this resource.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Book Review: Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone


I have posted the audio version of my review of Jennifer Knust and Tommy Wasserman, To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story, in Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2021): 195-198. I have also posted the written review to (read it here).


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Chadwick on the origins of the term "pagan": "rustic" or "civilian"?


Image: Hercules and Athena, fresco, c. AD 350. Catacomb della Via Latina, Rome.

It has been my usual custom when teaching about early Christianity and making a reference to non-Christians as “pagans” to take a second to explain that this term comes from the Latin word paganus, meaning a rustic or country-dweller and that this term had come to refer to non-Christians after the faith spread to the cities and towns of the ancient world, and the only ones who still practiced the old pre-Christian religions were those who lived in the unreached countryside.

Recently, however, when reading Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church (Pelican, 1967, Penguin reprint 1990) I came across this footnote on the word “pagan” (p. 152):

“The term ‘paganus’ to describe a non-Christian first appears in two Latin inscriptions of the early fourth century. It remained a colloquialism, and did not penetrate Bible or liturgy. In secular usage it had two meanings (1) ‘rustic’, and (2) ‘civilian’ as opposed to military. Orosius … writing in 417 thought the Christian usage explained by the fact that the countryside was still heathen after the towns had become Christian. But this was not the situation as early as 300. Therefore the correct explanation is probably that the ‘pagans’ were those who had not by baptism become soldiers of Christ and so were non-combatants in the conflict with the evil powers. In the East the Christian word for non-Christians was ‘Hellene’.”


Friday, February 19, 2021

The Vision (2.19.21): The Preaching Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ


Image: Ruins of the ancient synagogue of Capernaum. Matthew 4:13: "And leaving Nazareth he came and dwelt in Capernaum...."

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).

Matthew begins his account of Christ’s public ministry by placing the spotlight on the Lord Jesus as a preacher.

His ministry did not begin with the performing of miracles, signs and wonders, though he had the power and authority to do such things.

It did not come with him leading a political movement. Thus, the Lord Jesus will say to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

It did not come with him establishing an army. Later in Matthew, when the Lord Jesus is arrested and Peter draws a sword to defend him, Christ will say to Peter, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matt 26:52).

He did not come as a community organizer, trying to make things just a little bit better for everyone.

He did not come as a social worker, as a psychologist, or as a counselor, saying, “Let me help to soothe your troubled mind.”

He came as a preacher. He came to exercise the ministry of the Word. To proclaim God’s Word has it had been revealed to man. What was the content of his preaching as Matthew summarizes it?

His first word was, “Repent….”

Christ’s first word to men was not, “You are OK just the way you are, and you need to just love yourself and live your best life now.” No, his first word was that you need to change. You need a change of heart that leads to a change of mind and life.

His second word was, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The rule and reign of God is present now in me and my ministry. He will tell his disciples in Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is within you.” Heaven has broken into earth, awaiting the day when God will be all in all.

You will notice that the Christ’s preaching seems to be exactly what John preached (cf. Matt 3:1-2). The difference is that John was the opening act and Christ was the main event. John said he baptized with water unto repentance, but Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire (3:11). Christ would tell men not only to repent of their sin, but also to believe in him. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Christ still preaches to men through his Word and the ministry of his servants, calling upon them to repent and to believe in him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Book Review: Three Modern Versions: Critical Assessment of the NIV, ESV, and NKJV

I have posted an audio version of my review of Alan J. Macgregor, Three Modern Versions: A Critical Assessment of the NIV, ESV, and NKJV (Bible League, 2004): 126 pp.

My written review appeared in the Reformed Baptist Trumpet, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2011): 15-19. You can find a pdf of the review here on my page.


Friday, February 12, 2021

The Vision (2.12.21): Spiritual Applications from the Temptation


Image: Snow covered blueberry bush, North Garden, Virginia, February 12, 2021

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 4:1-11.

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1).

There is much to learn in the inspired account of Christ’s temptation (Matt 4:1-11). Most importantly, we learn about our Lord; we also learn about Satan and his devices; and we learn about our defenses against Satan.

First, we learn how Christ was tempted, not succumbing to temptation, but he triumphed over it through obedience.

In this he not only proved himself to be one who knows our frame, who knows what it is to suffer all manner of temptation, but he also provided us a model for overcoming temptation by obedience.

Consider Hebrews 4:15: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Second, we learn about the devices of Satan.

He is like a roaring and prowling lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He attempts to strike at us when we are most weak and vulnerable, especially when we are alone and in the wilderness. He tries to deceive us by twisting God’s Word and casting doubt on his propositions and promises to us. He will appeal to our desire to satisfy our physical appetites, to have peace and security, and to have power and prosperity. He will twist the Word of God and try to justify our sin by adding a veneer of piety and religiosity. He will even quote Scripture to serve his own ends. He will masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).

Third, we learn how to resist and defeat Satan by following the model of Christ.

Our first defense is listening to the voice of God and not the voice of Satan. We follow God’s commands, not Satan’s suggestions.

Every temptation is not only an opportunity to fall into sin, but also an opportunity to stand firm in obedience. The man who lifts weights builds up his muscle by resisting and pushing away the weight. So spiritual strength comes by resistance. See James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

We need also avail ourselves of the armory of God’s Word. When Paul lists the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6:17 the last thing he commends is taking up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” We need to hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against him.

Some of you have heard me suggest the idea of taking one simple verse and using it as an "arrow verse" to repeat and pray when you are feeling attacked and overwhelmed. Shooting out a Scripture arrow from your lips or heart can help in times of trouble.

For fear and anxiety, one might use Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

For struggles with lust, Psalm 101:3: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.”

For struggles with unresolved anger, Ephesians 4:26: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

For struggles with pride, Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

You can build up your own arsenal, your own reserve of scriptural resources, that might become a means of grace for your sanctification.

Finally, we are reminded that God allowed the temptation of our Lord, and he will allow us to suffer this as well. But he also gave deliverance, and respite, and he gave his angels to minister to him (Matt 4:11). We can also be sure he will do the same for us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Book Review: John Keith Davies, The Local Church: A Living Body


I have posted the audio of my book review of John Keith Davies, The Local Church: A Living Body (Evangelical Press, 2001).

I have also posted my written review which appeared in the Evangelical Forum Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2004): 11-12. Read it here on


Friday, February 05, 2021

The Vision (2.5.21): Spiritual Applications from the Baptism of Christ


Image: Modern view of the Jordan River, Israel

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 3:13-17 (audio not yet uploaded).

Matthew 3:16 And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Here are some spiritual applications we might draw from the baptism of Christ Matthew 3:13-17:

First, we should reflect on John’s protest that he was unworthy to baptize the Lord (Matt 3:14).

John was given a task by the Lord for which he did not believe that he was adequate. John, a sinner, was commanded to baptize the sinless one.

One thinks of the apostle Paul who had persecuted the church of God and who was then appointed to be an apostle. In 2 Corinthians 2:16 Paul wrote, “And who is sufficient for these things?”

We are not worthy to bear his shoes! He still gives unholy men, holy tasks. John was not fit to baptize Christ but God himself demanded it “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15).

What is your protest and how is the Lord overcoming it?

Second, we are reminded that our lives are hid in the sinless life of Christ.

Christ did not need to confess sin, for he had none. He did not need to repent of sin, for he had none. Yet, he submitted himself to baptism.

John Calvin said that Christ was baptized to assure believers “that they are ingrafted into his body,” buried with him in baptism that we may walk with him in newness of life (see Rom 6:3-4).

Calvin adds: “The general reason why Christ received baptism was, that he might render full obedience to the Father; and the special reason was that he might consecrate baptism in his own body, that we might have it in common with him.”

Third, we are reminded of the example of Christ.

As Christ was submitted to baptism by John, so we, if we are his followers, should be submitted to baptism (see Matt 28:19-20).

Matthew Poole notes that we learn from Christ’s example that no man is to have contempt for baptism or to neglect it.

Fourth, we are reminded of the Trinity as revealed truth.

We find several places in the Scripture where the one true God is plainly spoken of as Father, Son (or Word), and Spirit:

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

1 John 5: 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

But here in the baptism of the Lord Jesus we see the triune God displayed in narrative:

The Father looks on from heaven with pleasure and speaks.

The Spirit descends, as a dove, and rests on Christ.

The incarnate Son of God is there in the water, in obedience to the Father, fulfilling all righteousness.

So, we can say with the ancient hymn, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”