Friday, May 28, 2021

The Vision (5.28.21): The Spiritual Discipline of Prayer


Image: Rose, North Garden, Virginia, May 2021

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 6:5-15 (audio not yet available).

And when thou prayest… (Matthew 6:5).

In the opening verses of Matthew chapter 6 (vv. 1-18), Christ gives guidance for three spiritual disciplines or acts of piety to be practiced by his disciples. Those include: almsgiving (vv. 1-4); prayer (vv. 5-15); and fasting (vv. 16-18).

The second of these two disciplines is prayer. Christ begins, “And when thou prayest….” (v. 5). This reminds us of the teaching on almsgiving, “But when thou doest alms…. (v. 3).” Just as it is expected that a disciple will give alms, it is also expected that a disciple will give himself to prayer. Prayer is not optional in the Christian life. There can be no such thing as a prayerless Christian.

Prayer is both speaking to God (giving to him praise and thanksgiving; offering to him petitions, intercessions, and supplications), and it is listening to God. It is being still and knowing that he is God. It is listening as he speaks in “a still, small voice” as he did to the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 19:12).

As part of Christ’s teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, he provides his students what we call the Lord’s Prayer as a model prayer (Matt 6:9-13), a pattern which we can follow.

One commentator has referred to the Lord’s Prayer as “the compositional center” of the Sermon on the Mount (Alfeyev, Sermon on the Mount, 217). Indeed, it is nearly dead center in this sermon. There are 54 verses from the mouth of Christ coming before the Lord’s Prayer (from Matt 5:3—6:8) and 47 verses that come after it (from 6:14—7:27). We might round it to about 50 verses before the Lord’s Prayer and about 50 verses after.

Not only is the Lord’s Prayer the “compositional center” of the Sermon of the Mount (Matt 5—7), but the teaching on prayer is at the center of the teaching on piety in Matt 6:1-18 (with almsgiving coming before it and fasting after it). Something is being told us about the centrality of prayer in the Christian life.

Let us then have the attitude of the disciples who came to Christ asking, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), and let us take up the spiritual discipline of prayer.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Gospels Class Upcoming at IRBS Seminary August 3-7, 2021

Looking forward to teaching an intensive class on the Gospels for IRBS Seminary in Mansfield, Texas, Tuesday-Saturday, August 3-7, 2021.

If you live in or near the Dallas-FW area and would like to take the class face to face, I'd love to meet you in person. You can also take the class virtually. For more info visit the IRBS Seminary website. Or, the IRBS FB page.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Browsing Banner Books & Alexander on Acts 8:37

Browsing the book table at the Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference in Elizabethtown, Pa. this evening. Picked up J. A. Alexander's Acts volume in the Geneva Commentary series and glanced at his commentary on Acts 8:37 defending its authenticity.

Most modern evangelical commentaries are nearly useless when it comes to defense of the traditional text. This is why it is good to get older works (and even older ones than this Acts volume--going back even further to the Puritans and men of the Reformation) when building one's library.


Book Review: Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, The Life and Teaching of Jesus, Vol. 1:The Beginning of the Gospel


I have posted audio versions of my book review of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, The Life and Teaching of Jesus, Vol. 1: The Beginning of the Gospel (SVP, 2018).

My written review appeared in the Midwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 20, No. 1 (2021): 121-124. I have posted the pdf to my page. You can read it here.

For more on Alfeyev you can visit his personal website where you can find this recent account of his meeting with some Russian Baptist leaders. We pray that Alfeyev and other leaders in the Russian Orthodox church will not restrict the religious freedom of Protestants (including Baptists) in that great nation. You can also listen to a portion of his St. Mathew's Passion here in English.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Congrats to Grace Christian School Baseball: 2021 State VACA Champs!

It's been a while since I've done a personal post. Anyhow...

Congrats to Grace Christian School baseball for winning the VACA (Virginia Association of Christian Athletics) state tournament championship in Stuart's Draft on Saturday (5/22/21) in a heart-stopping 7-6 seventh inning walk-of win over Westover Christian Academy of Danville.

Here's a detailed article on the game from Saturday's News Virginian (Waynesboro).

Very proud of these two Riddle boys for their contributions to the win:

And very proud of the recognitions given to this young man (see this FB post from GCS Athletics):

Glad also that their older brother was able to make it back Saturday, driving from the RUF summer conference in Florida via VATech, to watch his brothers win the state VACA title for the first time since 2015 when he was on the Grace team:


Friday, May 21, 2021

The Vision (5.21.21): Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth


Image: Butterfly bush, North Garden, Virginia, May, 2021

Note: This devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 6:1-4.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).

Notice that Christ here expect that giving alms (gifts to the poor) will be a regular spiritual discipline, an act of piety, among believers.

One commentator offers this explanation of v. 3: “The meaning of this expression is that a person, having done a good deed, must forget about it as soon as possible, neither announcing it nor taking pride in it” (Alfeyev, The Sermon on the Mount, 221).

Can you imagine your right hand doing something and your right hand not knowing it? This is about self-forgetfulness. It is about doing what is right and good without even being consciously aware of what you are doing—certainly doing this not to be seen of men but to honor only the Lord.

When I read this verse, I thought of Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. When Christ tells the sheep that he was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me to drink, a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me, the sheep respond, “Lord, when saw we thee….?” (vv. 37-39). They were not even aware of the good that they had done!

To such does Christ say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world” (Matt 25:34).

So also here Christ concludes, “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (v. 4).

This verse reminds me of one of the great omni-attributes of the Lord. He is omnipotent (all powerful); omni-present (all present or present everywhere); omni-benevolent (all good); and he is omniscient (all knowing).

The godly man realizes that he does not need to do what is good and right in order to gain the recognition of men, but he is confident that the Lord sees all, knows all, and will, in the end, reward all.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Gathercole on the dating of early Greek manuscripts


Reading Simon Gathercole’s Introduction to The Apocyrphal Gospels (Penguin, 2021), and noted an interesting discussion on the dating of these documents:

“It is easiest to establish the time-frame of Greek handwriting, but this cannot be fixed more securely than within a margin of about a century. Although the discipline is currently being set on a surer footing, scholars previously have come to wildly different conclusions about such matters” (xxxii).

That got me thinking about how this statement could be applied not only to mss. of the Apocryphal Gospels, but to Greek mss. of the NT. Why are Sinaiticus and Vaticanus always assumed to be the oldest? Does their dating as the earliest simply reflect the bias of men like Westcott and Hort in the nineteenth century, perpetuated by men like Metzger in the twentieth century? According to Gathercole, the margin should extend a hundred years. These mss. might just as well be dated AD 450 as AD 350. And there appears to be no firm reason to assume they are any older than A, C, D, W, etc., unless your bias is they are “the earliest and best” mss. which we have.

Lack of certainty in dating and presuppositional bias in dating appears to be another fatal flaw in the reconstruction method.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Book Review: Albert N. Martin, Pastoral Theology, Volumes 1-2


I have posted audio versions (above) of my review of Albert N. Martin, Pastoral Theology, Volumes 1-2 (Trinity Pulpit Press, 2018).

I completed this review of the first two volumes in the Pastoral Theology trilogy and submitted it for publication in the Midwestern Journal of Theology (which supplied the second volume to me to review) before the third and final book in the series was released.

You can also read a pdf here of my written review which appeared in Midwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 20, No. 1 (2021): 124-128.

Blessings, JTR

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Vision (5.14.21): Love Your Enemies


Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 2021.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:43-48 (audio not yet posted).

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Christ here calls upon us to do what we cannot do in our own strength: to love our enemies.

Who is this for you? It need not be some enemy in a distant land. Sometimes the enemy is much closer. The rubber meets the road in how we respond not to some hypothetical enemy on the battlefield but the person who rubs us the wrong way in the living room, the office, the classroom, and, yes, even in the church house. In his book on biblical ethics, Richard B. Hays quotes from a wedding sermon he preached in which he exhorted the couple:

Your marriage is a covenant that must stand firm even if your spouse becomes a threat to your tranquility and personal fulfillment, even if the time should come when you feel that the other who shares your bed has become—for the moment, at least—your enemy.  Jesus has taught us to love our enemies (Moral Vision, 375).

We love our enemies, knowing that Christ loved us when we were still estranged from him. See Romans 5:8 which declares that God “commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In Romans 5:10 Paul adds if we were reconciled to God by the death of the Son “when we were enemies” then we will also be saved “by his life.”

Let us then love our enemies, because Christ has loved us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

2021 Kept Pure In All Ages Conference Lectures Online: Audio and Video

Image: Pastor McShaffrey speaking at the 2021 Kept Pure Conference

It was my privilege to speak at the 2021 Kept Pure In All Ages Conference at Five Solas OPC in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, alongside Pastor Christian McShaffrey on March 26-27, 2021.

Video of the lectures are now available online. You can find them here on

I have also posted audio of the lectures to Find them here and below:


Monday, May 10, 2021

Didache 4:13: Implications for the preservation and transmission of the NT?

Image: Rhododendron, North Garden, Virginia, May 2021

Didache 4:13 (M. W. Holmes trans.): "You must not forsake the Lord's commandments but must guard what you have received, neither adding nor subtracting anything [mēte prostitheis mēte aphairōn]."

Implications for early Christian views on the preservation and transmission of NT?


Saturday, May 08, 2021

WM 203: Warfield: Why Four Gospels?


Some quotes:

"He has, as it were, stationed Spirit-led men around the foot of the mountain and bidden them look and write."

"We ought to study them both separately and together. A patchwork narrative made out of the events recorded in these four precious volumes is far from being a suitable substitute for the four books themselves."

"The Gospels are not bundles of facts to be shaken apart like so many bundles of sticks, and then bound together into one greater fagot. They are rather like the several portraits which Van Dyke painted from various points of view of Charles I, that the sculptor might combine them into one rounded statue--not part by part, but as so many wholes."
-B.B. Warfield, "Why Four Gospels?" (1887)


Friday, May 07, 2021

The Vision (5.7.21): Resist Not Evil


Image: Iris, North Garden, Virginia, May 2021

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:38-42.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38-39).

I recently ran across a commentator who observed, “The world would be different today if Jesus had never delivered his Sermon on the Mount…” (Hilarion Alfeyev, The Sermon on the Mount, 175). Indeed, Christ’s words changed lives, and they changed hearts, and they are still doing so today.

In this passage Christ presents his teaching on non-retaliation against evil-doers. Some of the teaching here has become idiomatic in our language. We talk about turning the other cheek or going the extra mile.

Christ’s words here have probably done more to promote peace among individual men and to forestall violence and the exactment of revenge than any other words spoken by any man in human history. That’s what the commentator meant when he said that the world would be different today if the Lord Jesus had never delivered this sermon.

The “eye for an eye” teaching is found in at least three places in the OT (Exod 21:23-25; Lev 24:17-20; Deut 19:19-21). Interestingly enough, this is one of the few passages from the Bible that was picked up and used in the Koran. In Surah 5:45 it reads “A life for life, and eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation” (Arberry translation). The underlying principle is that the person who injures another should be penalized for his misdeed to a degree proportional to the injury he has done.

This teaching is often wrongly seen as barbaric. Gandhi, for example, famously said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only makes the world blind and toothless! But Gandhi missed this point. This law is, in fact, gracious. It is meant to limit the level of retaliation and demand that it be proportional to the crimes committed.

It provides a limit to the sinful inclination of sinful men. Before this law, men might have said: If you knock out my tooth I’ll knock out your tooth, and I’ll gouge out your eye, and I will burn down your house, and I will kill all your livestock, and then slaughter your children before your eyes, etc. See how this law was in fact good in that it limited sinful levels of disproportional retaliation. Paul said, “the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully” (1 Tim 1:8).

Christ, however, demands even more from his disciples than it seems they can possibly give: “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil” (Matt 5:39a). The point is that when the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is attacked or pressed by one who has evil intentions against him, he is not to feel that his well-being and defense depends on what he is able to do for himself.

The apostle Paul will later pick up on this theme in Romans 12 when he says things like, “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (v. 17a), “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath” (v. 19a), and “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21).

This is a call for more than we, in the flesh, are capable of doing. Christ, however, has provided us an example, especially in his passion. He endured with silence his affliction and when stricken he turned the other cheek.  He prayed for the ones who crucified him (Luke 23:24).

In the end, then, the thing we find most baffling is not the stringency or the strangeness of the ethic Christ demands from us, but the realization of what he did for us, when we evil-doers were yet sinners. He laid down his life for us!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Book Review: Tom Nettles, Ready for Reformation: Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches


I'm continuing to recycle some of my old book reviews. See above for audio versions of my review of Tom Nettles, Ready for Reformation: Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches (Broadman & Holman, 2005): 140 pp.

It was interesting to take another look at this review (written in 2006) and to consider Nettle's critique of the SBC over 15 years ago.

My written review appeared in the Evangelical Forum Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2006): 13-14. You can read a pdf of the review here on my page.