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 academia.edu site. You can read it here.