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.”


Monday, February 01, 2021

Book Review: Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek, Byzantine Textform 2005


I have posted audio versions (above) of my review of Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek, Byzantine Textform 2005, from Evangelical Forum Newsletter, Vol. 5., No. 2 (2008): 38-39.

I have also posted the written review to my page (read it here).

Note: Evangelical Forum Newsletter was a periodical of the Evangelical Forum, which I served as Editor from 2003-2009. I am hoping to re-post some of my book reviews that appeared in the EFN in coming months. 

Another Note: Since this review appeared, there have been two new editions of Robinson and Pierpont's The New Testament in the Original Greek. Byzantine Textform: The 2005/2010 Edition and the 2018 Edition.