Tuesday, November 29, 2022

WM 257: What about Apostolic Succession?



What about  Apostolic Succession?

I want to examine the topic of “Apostolic Succession.”

This is a term primarily used in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but also in Anglican churches, suggesting that their tradition is a true church (or even “the true church”). because it can trace a direct line from the apostles to its own bishops/ministers.

It assumes an unbroken succession or line formed by the laying on of hands from the apostles to bishop to bishop to bishop down to the present day.

Furthermore, it contends that those outside this line of succession cannot lay claim to be true churches, because they are not the inheritors of this visible tradition.

At its root “Apostolic succession” raises the question of the authority and the essence or being (ens) of any tradition which claims to be a church.

Recall the questions of the chief priests and elders in the temple to the Lord Jesus, “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” (Matt 21:23).

Notice that the Lord Jesus did not come from either a priestly or ruling family. His authority did not come from his priestly lineage, but from his authoritative teaching as the Word made flesh.

The Founding of the Church

We turn now to the founding of the church.

See Matthew 16:13-20.

The founder is Christ. He builds his church on Peter’s confession, not on Peter himself (vv. 16-18). He promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. In other words, he promises to preserve and maintain it. He gives to Peter the keys as a representative of the apostles (v. 19). He later addresses similar teaching not to Peter alone but to all the apostles (see Matt 18:18-20).

The Foundation of the Church

In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul uses various metaphors to describe believers, noting that they are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus himself being the chief corner stone” (v. 20). Notice also his prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21 where he makes reference to glory being given to God “in the church” (v. 21).

Does built on the foundation of the apostles have any reference to an unbroken succession of bishops/minister from the apostles?

Or, does it refer to those who hold to the doctrinal and practical teaching of the apostles?


Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Note: The focus was on the apostles’ didache.

Galatians 1:But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Note: Paul said that even if he (an apostle) preached a false gospel, let him be anathema. Right teaching prevails over personal office—even of an apostle.

Colossians 2:As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Note: Establishment in the faith in key, not adherence to any apostle.

2 Timothy 2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Note: The emphasis is not merely on the fact that men be tapped who are associated with the apostle but that they be faithful teachers.

The Marks of a True Church

What make a true church to be a true church?

Does a historical claim to have bishop/ministers who were ordained in a line of succession going back to the apostles necessarily make a true church?

Or, are there some other, more central distinguishing marks of a true church?

The classic Protestant view has been that a true church bears three distinguishing marks (see Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 576-588).

1.     The true preaching of the Word (John 8:31, 32, 47; 14:23; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 9).

Berkhof: “The true preaching of the Word is the great means for maintaining the Church and enabling her to be the mother of the faithful” (577).

2.     The right administration of the sacraments (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:23-30).

Berkhof: “The sacraments never should be divorced from the Word, for they have no content of their own, but derive their content from the Word of God; they are in fact a visible preaching of the Word” (577-578).

3.     The faithful exercise of discipline (Matt 18:18; 1 Cor 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Rev 2:14, 15, 20).

Berkhof: “This is quite essential for maintaining the purity of doctrine and for guarding the holiness of the sacraments. Churches that are lax in discipline are bound to discover sooner or later within their circle an eclipse of the light of truth and an abuse of that which is holy” (578).

Apostolic Continuity

Rather than linear apostolic succession, Protestants have focused instead on spiritual apostolic succession, in continuity in teaching and practice with the apostles. A church “succeeds” the apostles not because it has a bishop/minister who can trace an unbroken line of ordination back to the apostles, but because it is consistent with the teaching and practices of the apostles as they are set forth in Scripture.

Calvin on Apostolic Succession

John Calvin addressed the issue of apostolic succession in his Institutes (see especially 4.2.1-5). Here are a few quotes:

“That is, wherever the ministry remains whole and uncorrupted, no moral faults or diseases prevent it from bearing the name ‘church’” (4.2.1).

“It therefore follows that this pretense of succession is vain unless their descendants conserve safe and uncorrupted the truth of Christ, which they have received at their fathers’ hands, and abide in it” (4.2.2).

“But especially in the organization of the church nothing is more absurd than to lodge the succession in persons alone to the exclusion of teaching” (4.2.3).

“To sum up, since the church is Christ’s Kingdom, and he reigns by his Word alone, will it not be clear to any man that those are lying words [cf. Jer. 7:4] by which the Kingdom of Christ is imagined to exist apart from his scepter (that is, his most holy Word)? (4.2.4).

“[Paul] means that apart from the Lord’s Word there is not an agreement of believers but a faction of wicked men” (4.2.5).


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Ukrainian Edition: The Doctrines of Grace: An Introduction to the Five Points of Calvinism

In 2019 our church's publishing ministry produced a short book I had written titled The Doctrines of Grace: An Introduction to the Five Points of Calvinism (print and digital editions, find it here). As the title indicates, this book is a brief and simple introduciton to the Reformed doctrine of salvation (the doctrines of grace), using the TULIP acronym.

Two years ago, Gloria Boyd, a member of our church originally from the Dominican Republic, translated the book into Spanish, and so we published a Spanish version (print and digital editions, find it here).

In the past year my friend Vadim Chepurny, Assistant Dean at the Reformed Baptist Seminary, enlisted the help of Daria Musiyenko to produce a Ukrainian version of the book.

D. Florentine, a member of our church who serves as technical editor for Trumpet Books formatted this work for publication, and it is now available on amazon. You can find it here.

We were hoping we could produce an inexpensive kindle edition (as we had done with the Spanish version) but at present amazon does not support books in the kindle format in Ukrainian. Maybe we can produce a digital edition of this version in the future.

We trust that the Lord may be pleased to use this new edition of the book in Ukrainian in any way he sees fit to magnify his glory and build his kingdom.

We are also interested in sending complimentary copies of this book to Ukrainian-speaking churches or ministries that might be interested in receiving it or using it in their labors.

If you are interested, send an email to the info.crbc (at) gmail.com.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Jots & Tittles 14: Rejoinder to Matthew Everhard on the Why I Preach Appendix



The Vision (11.25.22): Some Recent Scenes from CRBC


Image: Baby shower, balloon game (11.19.22). Can you find the expecting mom in this picture?

Image: CRBC nursing home outreach ministry crew (11.20.22)

Image: Children and youth overflow seating at the CRBC Thanksgiving gathering (11.22.22)


Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Vision (11.18.22): I will not


Image: Andrey Nikolaevich Mironov, Parable of the Two Sons, 2012

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 21:28-32.

Matthew 21: 28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented and went.

In Christ’s Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-31), Christ begins by describing the command given by the father to the first son (v. 28). Notice four things about this command:

First, the father begins by appealing to this first child as his “Son.” Sons are expected to obey and honor fathers (see the fifth commandment, Exod 20:12).

Second, he does not issue a request but a command. He does not say, Son if you have the time and you’re not too busy, would you be so kind as to go into the vineyard for me? Pretty please with sprinkle on top. No, he extends two imperatives, Go! Work!

Third, notice the urgency of the command. Not, if and when you have time. Not, by the end of the week or month. But “today.” This recalls David’s words in Psalm 95, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (vv. 7-8).

Fourth, he provides clear direction as to where the son is to go and labor (the sphere of is labor), “in my vineyard.” Any reference to a vineyard recalls those scenes from the OT, as in Isaiah 5, when the Lord presents himself as the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard as the “house of Israel.”

We then have the response of the first son (v. 29). He answers his father, “I will not.” This is a perfect representation of the exercise of man’s free will. Man has a free will. Only problem is that it is in bondage to sin, so that when God the Father commands, sinful men respond, I will not!

In this case, however, we are next told that some change overcame the first son. We are not given any reason or explanation for this change. There is no record of angst or guilt or pangs of conscience. There is just a change: “but afterward he repented…” The word here for “to repent” is not the word typically used for the turning away from sin and self and toward God (metanoeo), but another (metamelomai) that appears less frequently and is associated with a sense of regret. It is used in Matthew 27:3 to describe how unconverted Judas “repented himself” or was filled with remorse for betraying Christ.

Finally, it says, he “went” out into the vineyard to labor for his father, even though he had initially refused (v. 29).

There is something in this account of the first son that is applicable to the experience of every believer. The Father calls us and commands that we serve him. The response of every unconverted man is, I will not. Then, however, the Lord is pleased to bring about repentance and leads the child of God to respond in obedience.

Let us listen to the Father’s commands and obey him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Jots & Tittles 13: Bishop Thompson on the Canterbury Convocation (1870-1881)



Thirty Years Ago Today


From my twitter @Riddle1689:

Thirty years ago today I was ordained to the gospel ministry at age 27 by the first church I served as Pastor, Beulah Baptist Church in Lyells, Virginia. The deacons gave me this Cambridge KJV Bible.

My father J. C. Riddle preached the ordination sermon. We sang this hymn I had written to the ST. ANNE tune in the service. My mother-in-law later created this calligraphy work of the lyrics and gave it to me as a gift. It hangs in my bedroom, so I see it every day.

At this point, I had just come back from two years in Hungary. Before that there had been four years of summer ministry as a college student and three years of seminary where I served in chaplaincy and teaching in my local church.

Over these 30 years I have served three churches as pastor, moving from SBC to RB life, and planting the church I now pastor, 12 years ago.

Ministry is hard. I've seen both the best and worst of myself and others. There have been many Mondays when I wanted to quit and have a normal job. I'll never forget the man I met at the DMV counter one day who told me through tears how he used to be in the ministry.

Through it all, Christ has constantly proved himself faithful and worthy of the greatest admiration. I love him and want to serve him with my life so much more than I did 30 years ago. SDG.


Friday, November 11, 2022

The Vision (11.11.22): He hungered


Image: North Garden, Virginia, November 2022

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 21:17-27.

Matthew 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

Matthew 21:18 begins, “And he left them…” The “them” refers to the chief priests and scribes who had been “sore displeased” at his triumphal entry (v. 15).

Spurgeon noted: “Jesus loved not quibbling priests… He gave them a Scriptural answer to their enquiry, and then, knowing that further argument with them was useless, he left them. A wise example for us to follow” (Commentary on Matthew, 308).

In Bethany our Lord might well have stayed at the household of the three siblings who were his dear friends and followers: Mary of Bethany, and Martha, and Lazarus.

The next morning, he returned to the city (v. 18a). Note especially the last statement in v. 18b: “he hungered.” This provides the context for his examination of the fruitless fig tree (v. 19), but it is no incidental statement.

No part of Scripture is there by happenstance. That little statement conveys a key theological truth. It tells us about the true humanity of our Lord. He is true God and true man. As a man he experienced hunger, just as he also slept (in the storm, Matthew 8:24), and wept at the death of a friend (John 11:35). On the cross he will declare, “I thirst” (John 19:28; fulfilling Psalm 69:21).

This reminds us that Christ was not a ghost or phantom, but a real man. He had to be a true man, so that he might be our perfect substitute on the cross. As Paul declared:

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).

Aside from physical hunger, we know that Christ also had a spiritual hunger. Consider his declaration in the beatitudes: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

The apostle John tells us of a time when the disciples urged our Lord to eat, and he responded, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).

So this simple descriptive statement “he hungered”—just as he entered Jerusalem on his way to the cross—reminds us of his two natures (true God and true man) in one person and of his resolve to satisfy the divine purpose for which he had been sent.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Jots & Tittles 11: That Dan Wallace Quote and Another One


My notes:

Elijah Hixson recently posted a confusing article to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog site criticizing those who hold to the Confessional Text (including at least three authors of the Why I Preach From the Received Text anthology) for the citation of a now “infamous” statement made by Dan Wallace in the foreword to the 2019 book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism.

Let’s examine the entire paragraph from p. xii (bold added):

These two attitudes—radical skepticism and absolute certainty—must be avoided when we examine the New Testament text. We do not have now—in our critical Greek texts or any translations—exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain. But we also do not need to be overly skeptical. Where we should land between these two extremes is what this book addresses.

Hixson claims that the citation of the middle three sentences from the paragraph above (in bold) has been improperly used, because it was not shared in its proper context.

We do not have now—in our critical Greek texts or any translations—exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we would not know it. There are many, many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.

Here are two responses to Hixson’s complaint:

First, the citation of the middle three sentences in the paragraph from p. xii does not in any way misrepresent Wallace’s view but simply illustrates and articulates it. These words are not Wallace’s summary of the views of some form of “radical skepticism” (as held by scholars like Bart Erhman or D. C. Parker) which he supposedly opposes. They represent his own view. If these words were his summary of a view he opposes it would indeed have been inappropriate to use this citation out of its wider context, but this is not the case. Our critique of Wallace is, in fact, that his view does not oppose radical skepticism but embraces and promotes it. The words taken from this paragraph very effectively illustrate this fact.

Second, I would say that reading the entire paragraph from which the citation is taken only makes Wallace’s quotation even more damaging to the cause of evangelical appropriation of modern textual criticism.

Wallace says that “absolute certainty” about the text of Scripture “must be avoided.” Yes, he does make the statement, “But we also do not need to be overly skeptical.” Our critique of Wallace, however, is that his view is not some kind of mediating position between “radical skepticism” and “absolute certainty,” but that his view embraces the same kind of textual agnosticism which is characteristic of 21st century modern textual criticism. This what the citation taken from this paragraph is meant to illustrate.

With that said, let me move on to another quotation from Wallace in the same Foreword to Myths and Mistakes.

In a bid to avoid any controversy, I want to give this quotation in its proper full paragraph context.

So, here is the entire last paragraph of Wallace’s Foreword (pp. xix-xx):

As Michael Holmes has articulated and Zachary Cole attested, the New Testament manuscripts exhibit a text that is overall in excellent shape, but certainly not in impeccable shape; it manifests “microlevel fluidity and macrolevel stability [footnote 17].” What the authors of Myths and Mistakes insist on is that it is neither necessary nor even possible to demonstrate that we can recover the exact wording of the New Testament. But what we have is good enough.

Let me offer a few observations about this this quotation in its full paragraph context:

First, Wallace says he draws on an article from Michael W. Holmes (and attested by Zachary Cole’s article in Myths and Mistakes), that the currently extant manuscripts of the NT show that the text is “in excellent shape,” but not in “impeccable shape.”

Second, again using Holmes, he says the NT manifests “microlevel fluidity and macrolevel stability.” What does he mean by “macrolevel stability”? We assume he means that we have something called the NT, and it consists of some 27 books. This situation is stable. But, when we look more closely at the individual texts of those 27 books, we find “microlevel fluidity.” In other words, the texts of those books are not stable, and cannot be precisely defined. Thus, they are subject to change in various scholarly editions of the Greek NT, based on the varying opinions and conjectures of modern editors.

Third, Wallace asserts that it is not necessary to demonstrate that “we” (modern textual critics) can recover the exact wording of the NT. This means it is not necessary to recover the exact text of the NT.

Fourth, it is not possible to demonstrate that “we” (modern textual critics) can recover the exact wording of the NT. This means it is not possible using the modern empirical method of textual criticism to recover the original autogragh of the NT.

Fifth, since it is neither necessary nor even possible ever to reconstruct the original text of the NT, we should be content with what we have, which is “good enough.”


This quotation from pp. xix-xx is consistent with the better-known quotation from p. xii.

Though Wallace can state that the NT is “overall in excellent shape,” he must add that it is not in “impeccable shape.” He does not define for us which parts are in “excellent shape” and which are not in “impeccable shape.” For Wallace and other modern textual critics, the modern Greek NT is at best a close approximation of the NT, but not a definitive reconstruction of its autograph which, according to Wallace, is neither “necessary nor even possible.” It promotes, in the end, a form of textual agnosticism (“microlevel fluidity” of the text).

This is precisely what conservative Reformed Protestants find to be alarming about the evangelical embrace of modern textual criticism, and why we are suggesting that this approach be abandoned in favor of retrieval of the traditional Protestant text of the Reformation.

The authors of the anthology did not abuse Wallace by quoting his own words in their respective articles. We have not misunderstood or misrepresented Wallace. The point is that we understand him and do not agree with him.


Saturday, November 05, 2022

Szent Biblia: Varadon Facsimile

From my twitter @Riddle1689:

Brethren in Budapest gave me this beautiful and massive facsimile of the 1661 revision of the Karoli Gaspar Bible published in the Protestant stronghold of Varad in Transylvania. Blessed to have this treasure. Hope to write an article on the history of the Bible in Hungary.


Friday, November 04, 2022

The Vision (11.4.22): The Cleansing of the Temple

Image: Nearby farmhouse on the hill, North Garden, Virginia, November 2022

Note: Devotion taken from October 23, 2022 sermon on Matthew 21:12-16.

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves (Matthew 21:12).

What applications can we draw from Matthew’s account of Christ’s prophetically symbolic cleansing of the temple when he entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12-16)? Here are several things to ponder:

First, we see here the zeal of Christ for pure worship. John notes regarding the first cleansing that when the disciples reflected on this, they remembered that it was written in Psalm 69:9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

Second, we are reminded that Christ demonstrated humility in his incarnational ministry but also righteous or justified indignation at sin. We are also reminded that when he comes in glory he will come as a righteous judge (Acts 17:31).

Third, we need to examine our own hearts and see if we have fallen into the sin of those who bought and sold in the temple. Have we tried to use or manipulate religion as a means to our own ends? Have we tried to take advantage of the good will of others? Have we tried to offer what is lame before the Lord and so profaned his table (see Malachi 1:12)? If so, we are called upon to repent, to have tables overturned and wrong ways blocked by Christ (Mark 11:16).

Fourth, have we been like the chief priests and scribes? Have we been “sore displeased” with Christ and the things of Christ? If this is the case then Christ comes again to examine us. He asks, “have ye never read… ?” (Matthew 21:15-16).

Fifth and finally, will we be among those simple ones, spoken of in Psalm 8:2, from whose mouths praise in perfected unto God through the Lord Jesus Christ?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, November 03, 2022

The Reformation and the Text of the Bible Conference (English and Hungarian)


I was invited to give these three lectures at this conference at the Soli Deo Gloria Reformed Baptist Church in Budapest, Hungary on October 29, 2022.

These talks were modified versions (to allow for translation) of the three lectures I did at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in 2021.

The talks were done in English with Hungarian translation. Conference attendees included persons from Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Kenya, and South Africa. It was a blessing to participate in this conference.