Friday, April 29, 2022

The Vision (4.29.22): Is not this the carpenter's son?


Image: Azaleas, North Garden, Virginia, April 2022

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 13:53-58.

Matthew 1:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

Matthew 13:53-58 describes Christ’s return to “his own country” after he finished teaching a series of seven parables (vv. 53-54). A parallel account is recorded in Luke 4:16-32 of Christ’s visit to the synagogue in Nazareth.

Matthew records a series of six questions posed that day (see vv. 54-56). The second of those was, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (v. 55a). The Greek word for carpenter is tektōn, which could mean builder or contractor. This is similar to the question recorded by Luke: “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). It shows their ignorance of his Christ’s origins (See Matthew 1:18-25).

Sometimes the greatest obstacle to evangelism is not that people do not know anything Jesus, but that they think they know him, though they know him amiss.

Spurgeon notes that they flavor their questions with “impertinent unbelief.” In addition to their ignorance of the virgin birth, “They hinted that he could not have learned much wisdom in a carpenter’s shop; and as he had not been among the rabbis to obtain a superior education, he could not really know much… He was a mere nobody… They could not listen to the talk of a mere carpenter’s son” (Matthew, 187).

Here is the way the apostle John summed up Christ’s ministry, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Even in Matthew 13 the shadow of the cross is already starting to fall over the narrative.

Christ came as a prophet without honour (Matthew 13:57). It was not just that he was rejected by the people of Nazareth, but that he was rejected also by us. We too have mixed our questions about Christ with impertinent unbelief. As John put it, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

But here is the good news, God has overcome and overwhelmed our rejection of Christ through his love for his enemies poured out on the cross.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, April 25, 2022

Jots & Tittles, Episode 1: Does 2 Kings 22-23 justify modern textual reconstruction?


I have started a new short form podcast titled Jots & Tittles. Here is the first episode.


Friday, April 22, 2022

The Vision (4.22.22): The Resurrection, Unbelief, & Hardness of Heart


Image: Evening mist on the mountain, North Garden, Virginia, April 2022.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Mark 16.

Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen (Mark 16:14).

The Holy Spirit saw fit to give to God’s people not just one inspired account of the life and ministry of Christ but four. We have a fourfold Gospel. Calvin compared the four gospels to four horses drawing forth a triumphal chariot to display the glory of Christ. The four Gospels tell the same story, but each is also unique. The climax of each is the passion narrative, the inspired account of Christ’s death on the cross and his glorious resurrection.

One unique feature of Mark’s Gospel is his focus on the initial reaction of unbelief even among the apostles after Christ’s resurrection.

The risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and she reported this to the apostles, but they “believed not” (Mark 16:11).

The risen Christ appeared to two disciples as they walked into the country, and they reported this to the apostles, “neither believed they them” (v. 13).

Finally, Mark says Christ appeared to the unbelieving eleven apostles (minus Judas, who betrayed him) themselves as they sat at meat (v. 14; cf. John 20:19). Mark tells us specifically that Christ upbraided or admonished the apostles for their unbelief (apistia) and their hardness of heart (sklerokardia), “because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (v. 14).

This is not a very flattering presentation of the apostles. It is not an airbrushed account of the life of Christ. It is not a “glamour shots” version of Christ’s life. It tells us the truth warts and all. This is one reason we know it is true. When the truth is on your side, you have nothing to hide.

Every major college in the country has its own sports broadcasting team. And the fans of the sports teams love to listen to their home team announcers make the calls of their games. Such announcers are called “homers,” because they root for the home team, no matter what. If the home team does something even halfway good, they make it sound brilliant. If the same team does something bad, they blame it on the refs.

Mark is not a “homer” for the apostles. He tells the unvarnished truth. Christ took the apostles to the verbal woodshed for their unbelief. They had been with Christ; they had heard his teaching and witnessed his miracles. He had told them he would rise again the third day, but they did not believe, till he stood before them.

Here is the amazing thing. The Lord Jesus did not abandon the apostles at this point. The God who sent the flood might well have shelved the initially unbelieving apostles. But he did not.

Instead, after duly and justly chastening them, he extended to them a commission, commanding, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15).

There is truth being told here about the apostles, but also about us. The Lord did not give up on the original disciples in the face of their unbelief. And he will not give up on any of us who are truly his own. That is comforting and encouraging.

In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ told Thomas, “because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Christ declared a beatitude upon people like us who believe in Christ and his glorious resurrection based on the witness of the apostles, though we have not yet seen him face to face.

May he overcome by his grace all vestiges of our unbelief and hardness of heart and bring us unreservedly to confess our faith in him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

WM 234: James White's Long Answer to a Short Question on Preservation


I recorded this WM on Saturday (4.16.22) and just got around to posting it today.

You can listen to the full video being partially reviewed in this WM here.

I made reference to Maurice A. Robinson's refutation of "the shortest reading is best" argument employed by JW in his essay, "The Case for Byzantine Priority."


Friday, April 15, 2022

The Vision (4.15.22): Every Scribe Instructed Unto The Kingdom Of Heaven


Image: Red bud, North Garden, Virginia, April 2022.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 13:47-52.

Then he said unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old (Matthew 13:52).

Having completed his parabolic teaching in Matthew 13, Christ asks his disciples, “Have ye understood all these things?” (v. 51).

Every good teacher knows that after you’ve given the lessons, there needs to be some instrument of evaluation. Textbooks often provide summary questions at the close of each chapter to test comprehension. Christ is probing, examining, evaluating his disciples.

Matthew reports, “They say unto him, yea Lord” (v. 51). But did they really? Probably not. The witness of the Gospels is that the disciples did not really begin to understand all things till after the cross and resurrection (see, e.g., John 2:18-22).

Christ then says that every scribe instructed (literally, discipled) “unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man who is a householder…” (v. 52).

There are several things of interest here.

To begin with, Christ compares his disciples to “scribes.” This is a rare positive use of the word scribe (grammateus). Usually, the scribes and the Pharisees are jointly listed as the chief enemies of our Lord. The Jewish scribes were experts in the law and responsible for the proper transmission of the Scriptures. Christ says here that his disciples are to be like Christian scribes, discipled in the ways of the kingdom in order properly to handle and divide God’s word and pass it on to others.

For another thing, Christ offers here yet another parable. Christian “scribes” are like a householder who brings forth of his treasure things new and old. What does this mean? Mature disciples will be able to bring forth all the things they have learned from Christ in the past alongside all the new things they are continuing to learn from him.

Spurgeon takes it as a general Christian duty: "What we understand we must teach. What we have received into our treasure we must bring forth. If the Lord has instructed us unto his kingdom, it is for the sake of others."

So, the student of Christ has learned Christ, but he is also always learning more about Christ. He never tires of adding more to the store of his knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and he never tires of sharing what he has received with others for their edification.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 14, 2022

John A. Broadus's Commentary on Matthew, the Doxology of the Lord's Prayer, and a Providential Irony

Note: Article adopted from tweets this week (@Riddle1689).

I got this copy of John Broadus's Commentary on Matthew (1886) in the mail this week. I’m preaching through Matthew on Sunday mornings and found this for only $10 on amazon.

The Broadus commentary on Matthew is a whopper. After 51 pp. of front matter, including a 43-page general series intro by A. Hovey and an author's preface, the commentary and indices extend to 610 pp.

Sad to see inroads of modern textual criticism in Broadus's Matthew Commentary (1886). Hovey's intro zealously extols Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. The Preface notes it follows "the Common English Version... but with constant comparison of the recent Anglo-American revision" (xlix).

One way that Broadus’s Matthew Commentary (1886) shows the inroads of modern textual criticism comes in its complete rejection of the authenticity of the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:13b).

Broadus writes: “The doxology to this prayer in Comm. Ver. Is beyond all question spurious and rightly omitted by Rev. Ver. We may give up the pleasing and familiar words with regret, but surely it is more important to know what the Bible really contains and really means, than to cling to something not really in the Bible, merely because it gratifies our taste, or even because it has for us some precious associations” (139).

This confident statement contra the doxology’s authenticity is, however, open to challenge (see WM 123).

Within the pages of the commentary, I discovered a colorized devotional card with the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the doxology. I found this a providential irony. Through scholars for over 150 years now have tried to convince us that the doxology is spurious, the Lord’s people keep clinging to it. Is this only to gratify their tastes, or due to “some precious associations”? Or, does it display this tenacity, because it is the inspired Word of God?


Monday, April 11, 2022

John Owen on Scripture now available in Kindle e-version


Thanks to Debbie F. my book John Owen on Scripture: Authority, Inspiration, Preservation, which includes my introductory essay on Owen's bibliology and my simplification and abridgement of Owen's two influential essays on Scripture from Volume 6 of his Collected Works, is now available in a Kindle format on (find it here).


Friday, April 08, 2022

The Vision (4.8.22): Finding Hidden Treasure & Seeking the One Pearl


Image: Pear tree blossoms, North Garden, Virginia, April 2022

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 13:44-46.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a pearl…. (Matthew 13:44).

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls…. (Matthew 13:45).

In Matthew 13:44-46 Christ tells the twin parables of hidden treasure and the merchant man seeking goodly pearls.

They describe two different ways by which the thing of greatest value (the kingdom, Christ himself) is discovered.

In the first parable, of the hidden treasure, “the kingdom of heaven is presented as an unexpected discovery” (Alfeyev, Parables, 118). “The man who bought the field, it seems, was not seeking anything in particular. He unexpectedly stumbled upon the kingdom of heaven, finding it as a treasure buried in someone else’s field” (118-119). In the second, however, it comes as “the result of a search” (118).

This seems to indicate that different people find Christ and the gospel in different ways.

Some people seem just to stumble upon him. They weren’t really looking for Christ, but they uncovered him or encountered him unexpectedly. But once they find him, they see and recognize his inherent value, and they know that everything must be given up for him.

Some, on the other hand, go out seeking “goodly pearls.” They may be, as the old country song puts it, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” But they keep looking, and one day they come across Christ, and they say, Here is the one pearl. Here in the pearl of unparalleled value, and I must spend all I have in order to have him.

They are like the ones Christ promised in Matthew 7:7-8 that if they would ask, it would be given them; if they would seek, they would find; if they would knock, the door would be opened.

It doesn’t matter how you think you found Christ. Whether you stumbled upon him, like a treasure in a field, or whether you thought you went out looking for someone like him or something like the faith connected to him, and you discovered him to be the “one” pearl of great price. It had, in fact, been he who was seeking you the whole time. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). If I might paraphrase: We found him, because he first found us.

Spurgeon notes this difference between the two parables and concludes:

“In both cases all was sold to win the prize; and so in any case, however our conversion takes place, we must give up all for Christ.; not of compulsion but willingly” (Matthew, 184).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff

Thursday, April 07, 2022

WM 233: Hixson & Solomon: "Every Bible was Someone's Bible"?





I was struck by this brief quote in the 1/3/22 Dwayne Green podcast from Pastor Elijah Hixson (of Fireside Fellowship Church, Kingston, Tenn. and Tri-State-Bible College in South Point, Ohio [the school’s doctrinal statement says it is in “the Protestant Reformed and Dispensational tradition” and its distinctives include a robust affirmation of the pre-trib rapture]):

…when a Confessional Bibliologist reads about the promises of God, they believe that it applies to the Bible in their hands, and my response to that is, yeh, [but] it also has to apply to everybody else’s Bible in their hands too. Because theology, does it only matter in one place? Or is it what’s true yesterday, today, and forever? If the promises of God are true and perfect, they are true and perfect for everybody and not just one group of people.

This recalls a version of a statement I have heard and read from evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text methodology, which essentially states that since every extant ms. of the NT was somebody’s Bible, then every variant in that ms. must be given some authoritative weight and consideration (after all, it was somebody’s Bible).

Underlying this statement is the assumption that there is no standard text of the Bible, or, at least no standard text of the Bible that can ever be fully recovered.

So, every variant reading found in the NT must be accepted as authoritative for the community that once used it.

This approach exposes an insurmountable problem, however, for those who embrace the reconstruction, empirical method. It is the problem of provenance. We simply do not know where many of these manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts comes from or what the communities that used them believed. We have no way to determine whether they were orthodox or Ebionite, Marcionite, Arian, etc. Thus, it also encounters the problem of truth. If a text does not have the proper text of the Bible, then it was not a proper Bible, even if it was “somebody’s Bible.”

It also reflects the inroad of postmodernism.

This goes back to Bart Erhman and his influential 1995 essay, “The Text as Window: New Testament Manuscripts and the Social History of Early Christianity” in Bart D. Erhman and Michael W. Holmes, Eds., The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis (Eerdmans, 1995): 361-377. Ehrman concludes that essay by saying, “Much more, however, is left to be done… as we move beyond a narrow concern for the autographs to an interest in the history of their transmission, a history that can serve as a window into the social world of early Christianity (375).

This inroad includes the perspective of D. C. Parker and his groundbreaking book The Living Text of the Gospels (Cambridge University Press, 997), in which he says there is no original, authoritative text, but the Gospels (and the NT in general) are a living text; that is to say, it consists of many texts, none of which are authoritative in comparison to any other. At one point he says that theological arguments based on the notion of a “single authoritative text” are “castles in the air” (76). He also scoffs at any idea of providential preservation as the result of “un-self-questioning conservativism” (129).

Review of Solomon’s article:

That brief statement by Hixson also brought to mind one of the articles that appear in the Myths and Mistakes book, co-edited by Hixson and Gurry.

Chapter 9 is “Myths About Transmission” (171-190) by S. Matthew Solomon [it looks like Solomon works for the corporate office of Kroger in Cincinnati, OH and also teaches at the online Luther Rice College and Seminary].

This chapter was based on Solomon’s 2014 PhD dissertation at NOBTS, “The Textual History of Philemon.”

Solomon’s chapter is about the transmission of this briefest of Paul’s letters (just 25 verses) and one of the shortest books in the Bible.

The article is based on Solomon’s painstaking attempt to collate every single extant manuscript of Philemon. He notes that this is a task that really could only have happened in the digital age.

There are several very interesting and revealing things about this article. Let me share just a few:

On the first page, MS says that one of the chief outcomes of the chapter is that it demonstrates that “more work is needed” and that the establishment of the text of the NT continues (171). Nearly 2,000 years have passed, and we still don’t have a text, even of Philemon.

He notes that of the c. 335 words in Philemon there are hundreds of places of variation in the text (see p. 172).

In the introduction, MS states, “We must remember that every single handwritten copy of the Bible was someone’s Bible—whether personal or church copies (more likely)” (172-173).

He also introduces here the idea that variants “can act as a commentary on the text of the NT” (173).

Moving on to discuss his collation he repeats again “much work remains to be done” (173).

MS notes that his collation made use of over 570 Greek mss. that include at least some part of Philemon.

Of these only 23 of the 570-plus were earlier than AD 900, and only nine were earlier than AD 700.

And of those nine, most were fragmentary, with only three providing the entire text of Philemon: 01, 02, and 06.

He notes that only 4% of extant mss. of Philemon are from before the year AD 900 and the number only climbs to 10% if one counts mss. dated to the 900s (178).

Aside: This demonstrates the futility of the whole modern reconstruction method. There is simply not enough early evidence to justify the entire enterprise.

He proceeds to note the different types of variants in Philemon, including addition and omissions, replacements, and transpositions.

MS warns that one should not downplay the number of variants. He observes, “In fact, almost every word in Philemon is included in a variation unit wherein at least one manuscript contains a textual variant” (183).

From here MS moves on to discuss his previously mentioned notion of the variants as a “textual commentary.”

Again he emphasizes, “Each of these manuscripts was someone’s Bible” (184).

He focuses on three variants in v. 6 which he calls “by far the most difficult”:

First, he discusses the question is whether it should read koinōnia or diakonia. Both TR and NA28 read koinōnia. A second question is whether the term “work [ergou]” should be added to make it “every good work.” Third, should it read “in you” (TR) or “in us” (MCT).

After the discussion of v. 6, he notes again how these variants might act as a commentary on the text and concludes that such variants “should not be jettisoned completely by scholars, pastors, and laypeople but should be seen as a part of the interpretive Technicolor tapestry of the church being woven for nearly two thousand years now” (188).

Aside: Reflect on that for a moment. Do we have an authoritative Bible that is complete? Or, do we have a mere tapestry albeit an interpretive Technicolor one) that is still being woven?

In the article’s conclusion MS does note that “It is safe to say that we have the entire initial text [Note: He does not say “autograph”]” of Philemon, except for v. 6 (“us” or “you”) and v. 11 (inclusion of a kai).

He adds:

“For these places, which reading is original really does not matter for interpretation. It does not matter because it did not matter for the early church. We cannot hold ancient manuscript culture to the same standard as our modern print culture” (189). He proceeds to insist that this does not mean we cannot have “confidence” in the text.

Aside: Did the text of the Word of God “not matter” to the early church?

In the final paragraph he reiterates: “The question of the text of the NT is not settled,” adding that the variants can be “windows into beliefs” (189).

Aside: This idea comes directly from Ehrman. Here is an oddity we have addressed before, modern evangelicals have created a cottage industry around supposedly defending the Scriptures against Ehrman, when, in fact, they have actually embraced wholeheartedly his approach to the text.

Final Thoughts:

Solomon’s chapter demonstrates the flaws of the reconstruction method. Even a short letter has hundreds of variants and few early witnesses. It cannot confidently produce a standard text. Even though, in the case of Philemon, the variants may appear minor, every part of Scripture has value and variants in other books will prove much more substantial to all.

Most importantly, we see that the “every Bible was somebody’s Bible” approach put forward by Hixson, et al. will never produce a standard, authoritative received text. Of course, we don’t need the text to be reconstructed,  if we already have it. We do have it in the TR.

Contrast the view of Gurry, Hixson, and Solomon with John Owen (1816-1883):

 “…yet, through the watchful care and providence of God, sometimes putting itself forth in miraculous instances, it [Scripture] hath been preserved unto this day, and shall be so to the consummation of all things. The event of that which was spoken by our Saviour, Matt. v. 18, doth invincibly prove the divine approbation of this book, as that doth its divine original, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.’ God’s perpetual care over the Scripture for so many ages, that not a letter of it should be utterly lost, nothing that hath the least tendency toward its end should perish, is evidence of his regard unto it."

“For my part, I cannot but judge that he that seeth not an hand of divine Providence stretched out in the preservation of this book and all that is in it, its words and syllables, for thousands of years…. doth not believe there is any such thing as providence at all.”

-John Owen (The Reason of FaithWorks, 4, 24).


John Owen (1616-1683) on Matthew 5:18: To reject the “meticulous” providential preservation of Scripture is not to believe in providence at all


“…yet, through the watchful care and providence of God, sometimes putting itself forth in miraculous instances, it [Scripture] hath been preserved unto this day, and shall be so to the consummation of all things. The event of that which was spoken by our Saviour, Matt. v. 18, doth invincibly prove the divine approbation of this book, as that doth its divine original, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.’ God’s perpetual care over the Scripture for so many ages, that not a letter of it should be utterly lost, nothing that hath the least tendency toward its end should perish, is evidence of his regard unto it."

“For my part, I cannot but judge that he that seeth not an hand of divine Providence stretched out in the preservation of this book and all that is in it, its words and syllables, for thousands of years, through all the overthrows and deluges of calamities that have befallen the world, with the weakness of the means whereby it hath been preserved, and the interest, in some ages, of all those in whose power it was to have been corrupted,—with the open opposition that hath been made unto it, doth not believe there is any such thing as providence at all.”

-John Owen (The Reason of Faith, Works, 4, 24).

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Sum of John Owen's Bibliology


Image: John Owen's gravesite, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, London, November 2021.

The Bibliology of John Owen (1616-1683):

The sum of what I am pleading for, …, is,

That as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were immediately and entirely given out by God himself, his mind being in them represented unto us without the least interveniency of such mediums and ways as are capable of giving change or alteration to the least iota or syllable; so, by his good and merciful providential dispensation, in his love to his word and church, his whole word, as first given out by him, is preserved unto us entire in the original languages; where, shining in its own beauty and lustre (as also in all translations, so far as they faithfully represent the originals), it manifests and evidences unto the consciences of men, without other foreign help or assistance, its divine original and authority (Works, 16, 349-50).

Monday, April 04, 2022

John Owen (1616-1683) on the "Meticulous" Preservation of Scripture and Matthew 5:18


John Owen, The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding The Mind of God As Revealed In His Word (Collected Works, 4, 213):

“The words of Scripture being given thus immediately from God, every apex, tittle, or iota in the whole is considerable, as that which is in effect divine wisdom, and therefore filled with sacred truth, according to their place and measure. Hence, they are all under the especial care of God, according to that promise of our Saviour, Matt v.18.... “Till heaven and earth pass, one jota or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law. That our Saviour doth here intend the writing of Scriptures then in use in the church, and assure the protection of God unto the least letter, vowel, or point of it, I have proved elsewhere [see Works, 16, 345-421]; and [God] himself in due time will reprove the profane boldness of them who, without evidence or sufficient proof, without that respect and reverence which is due unto the interest, care, providence and faithfulness of God in this matter, do assert manifold changes to have been made to the original writings of the Scripture."

Prooftexts on the "Meticulous" Preservation of Scripture


Image: North Garden, Virginia, April 2022.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

1 Samuel 3:19 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.

Jeremiah 36:32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

Psalm 12:6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalm 119:89 For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.


Friday, April 01, 2022

WM 232: Gurry on Preservation of Scripture: Kept "Mostly Pure Enough"?



The Vision (4.1.22): The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed


Image: Ground cover, North Garden, Virginia, April 2022.

Note: Devotional take from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 13:31-35.

Another parable, put he forth unto them saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field (Matthew 13:31).

This parable is striking on a prophetic and historical level. Christ is our great Prophet, Priest, and King. When Christ spoke these words, he was an itinerant teacher with what, in the world’s eyes, would have seemed a small and insignificant following. A Jewish teacher with twelve disciples. Who would have ever guessed that this movement would grow into a mighty branch, become a resting place for men and women of all nations, and that it would leaven the whole world?

Think of the humble beginnings.  A Jewish messiah in the backwater of Palestine leading a movement that ends with his crucifixion and claims by his followers of his resurrection.  His apostles were primarily a rough mix of unlearned men, fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and one brilliant former Pharisee.  Within a few decades pockets of his followers would gather in every major city of the ancient world, meeting in his name and singing songs to Christ as to God.  In Philippians 4:22 Paul can send a greeting to his fellow believers in “Caesar’s household”!

We can trace how his followers brought an end to blood sports in the Roman Empire; raised literacy through their dogged determination to read Scripture; established the world’s first hospitals, universities, and orphanages; ended slavery in the Western world; brought dignity to women; created a climate where personal, intellectual and economic freedom abounded and where science and technology blossomed.

We can trace that movement as it suffered corruption and then rebirth at the Reformation, going back to the roots of Biblical faith.

Everywhere Christ is preached there is light and truth and blessing.

Spurgeon observed:

We could not have guessed that our Lord and his twelve apostles would produce the myriad churches of Christendom. We cannot even now tell whereto a humble effort to do good may grow. We know not to what our inner life will come. It has an expanding power within it, and it will burst every bond, and grow to a thing which will cast shadow, yield fruit, and lend shelter. If the Lord has planted the incorruptible seed within, its destiny is a great one (Matthew, 179).

We might lament those today who ignorantly try to push it to the margins, but let us not lose hope.  He is still expanding his kingdom, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

 Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle