Monday, December 04, 2023

Book Review: John P. Thackway, Ed., Valiant for the Truth: The collected writings of Bishop D. A. Thompson

 



JTR

Audio: The Translators to the Reader.Part 9: The unwillingness of our chief adversaries that the Scriptures should be divulged in the mother tongue, etc.

 


Part 9 attacks the Roman church's opposition to vernacular Bible translations:

"So much are they afraid of the light of the Scripture... that they will not trust the people with it...."

JTR

Coming in 2024: New Edition of Gospel Church Government



Grace Publications Trust will be releasing  a new edition of my book Gospel Church Government in 2024 in the series "Grace Essentials." The first edition was published in 2012 but has been out of print for several years.

This book is a simplification and abridgement of John Owen's classic work on ecclesiology, titled The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government found in Vol. 16 of his Collected Works.

Since it went out of print, I have occasionally heard from folk seeing to find it, so I am glad it will be available once again. 

JTR

Saturday, December 02, 2023

JIRBS 2023 Article: Retrieving the Bibliology of John Owen

 


The 2023 Journal of International Reformed Baptist Seminary (JIRBS) has been released. I contributed an article titled, "Retrieving the Bibliology of John Owen" (pp. 19-55).

The journal is published and distributed by Broken Wharfe and can be purchased at their website or here on amazon.




JTR



Which makes your life better?

From my Twitter/X @Riddle1689:


Yesterday, for some reason, I started humming a hymn I had sung in my church in Hungary c. 30 years ago. I got down my Hungarian hymnal, A Hit Hangjai ("The Sounds of Faith"), from the shelf to look up the hymn.

Inside the front cover of my Hungarian hymnal I found a few photos I had taken maybe c. 1991 or 1992. I think these were taken in the marketplace near my apartment in Pesterzs├ębet.



Another photo was this Ikea ad (on the left side of this billboard) in Budapest, again c. 1991, ubiquitous at the time. The Swedish home goods store, new to post-communist Hungary, offered a choice. On the left is Marx's Das Kapital. On the right the Ikea catalogue. The caption, "Which makes your life better?"


I used that ad in several sermons at the time, suggesting there needed to be another book added to the picture, the Bible. And then the same question needed to be posed: Which makes your life better? Not a book of politics, nor a book of materialism, but the book of God.

JTR






Friday, December 01, 2023

The Vision (12.1.23): Noah was a just man

 

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 6:9-22.

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9).

In Genesis 6:9 there are three descriptions of Noah, the man who “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8):

First, “Noah was a just (or righteous) man.”

He was a godly man in an ungodly generation. This will be a hallmark description of Noah. Twice in the book of the prophet Ezekiel Noah is listed alongside Daniel and Job as men outstanding for their righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

Paul, in the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11 will write, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (v. 7).

How indeed is one made righteous or justified in God’s sight? It is by faith. As the apostle Paul will put it in Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It will later be said of Abraham that he believed in the LORD and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). And yet even before Abraham there was Noah. Not only is he described in Scripture as being a just man, but he is also described by Peter as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5).

Second, Noah was “perfect in his generations.” This did not mean morally perfect or sinless, because all mankind after Adam born by ordinary generation has inherited a sin nature from him and committed actual transgressions. The KJV offers an alternative translation for the word “perfect” as “upright.” What this tells us is that though Noah had remaining corruption within, he was yet the most upright man of his generation.

Third, “Noah walked with God." This recalls the description of godly Enoch (Genesis 5:24). Noah enjoyed a level of deep communion and fellowship with his Creator. He was a spiritually minded man, a man who was not a spiritual hypocrite, but one who intimately knew the LORD.

It was this man whom the LORD set apart to build the ark, to save a remnant, to accomplish a life-preserving mission, “to keep them alive” (Genesis 6:20).

Noah was the greatest man of his day, but he was still a fallen man.

In the fullness of time, there came one greater than Noah, the Lord Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross Luke tells us there was a centurion there who when he “saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47).

The apostle Paul said God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that “we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The apostle Peter said that he “once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

This one who is greater than Noah has raised up an ark in our day that saves men  not only from temporary destruction but from eternal destruction, and you enter into this ark, which is Christ himself, only by faith in him.

So, let us believe, and let us be saved.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Monday, November 27, 2023

Audio: The Translators to the Reader.Part 6: The Translation of the Old Testament out of Hebrew into Greek

 


In section 6 of the KJV Preface, a robust Protestant view of Greek translations of the OT, including the LXX, is set forward. It provides much needed clarification for our day.

JTR

Friday, November 24, 2023

Audio: The Translators to the Reader.Part 4: The praise of the Holy Scriptures

 


JTR

Note: Great insights in this section into Protestant Bibliology.

Audio: The Translators to the Reader.Part 2: The highest personages have been calumniated

 


JTR

Note: Parts One and Three are posted here. I forgot to post this episode to the blog when it was first recorded.

The Vision (11.24.23): But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD

 


Image: Noah icon, sixteenth century, Mt. Athos, Greece.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 6:1-8.

Genesis 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

In light of the fact that “the wickedness of man was great” (Genesis 6:5), the LORD made a solemn declaration of his intent utterly to destroy “man whom I have created” (v. 7a). Note that this destruction would entail “both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air” (v. 7b). All creation must pay the price for man’s sin! Again, we hear that God “repented” (cf. v. 6), meaning that he was grieved, disturbed at the mess fallen humanity had made of the world he once looked upon and declared to be very good (Genesis 1:31).

Imagine if you took the time to build something or prepare something of great value. And then one rogue actor came in and, in a few moments, destroyed all that you had so carefully made. It is so much easier to destroy than it is to create and build!

What a terrible state things were in! God would have been completely justified to do just as he here declared.

The breaking light comes, however, in v. 8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” This is one of the great “adversative conjunctions” statements in the Bible. Think of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Or, of Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy….”

Notice it says that Noah found grace. It does not say that Noah earned grace, or that he deserved grace, or that he won grace, or that he merited grace. No, he found it, which means he was given it by God. God’s response to man’s sin was grace!

God’s promise of the gospel in Genesis 3:15 would not fail.

We are reminded here of how God works. When he came to us and looked upon us and saw our sinful state, he might well have snuffed us out, as he might have the whole world in the days of Noah. And yet he gave grace.

The story is told of a mother of many children who had one of them sneak off and get into an oil barrel. When she found the wayward child, after much searching, he was covered head to toe in black goo. She exclaimed, “Lord, it’d just about be easier to have another one than it would be to clean you up!”

The Lord did not give us over to what we deserved. He saved us, and he is cleaning us up. We found grace in his eyes through Christ.

All praise, glory, and honor be to him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, November 17, 2023

The Vision (11.17.23): And Enoch walked with God

 


Image: Elijah and Enoch, 17th century icon, Historic Museum, Sanok, Poland


Note: Devotion is taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 5.

"And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).

Genesis 5 presents us with “the book of the generations of Adam” through the line of Seth (v. 1).

One name that stands out is Enoch the seventh in this line (cf. Jude 1:14-15). The name Enoch means “dedication” or “consecration.” This was also the name of Cain’s son, after whom he named the city he had built (4:17).

The distinctive thing about Enoch is first noted in v. 22: “And Enoch walked with God.” He did not just live, but he walked with God. He had not only natural life, but also spiritual life.

The language of walking with God is figurative for one who shares in an intimate communion with God. Enoch was a peculiarly godly man, a spiritual giant among the men of his times.

Matthew Henry explains that “to walk with God” means, “to set Him before us, and to act as if we were always under His eye… It is to make God’s word our rule and His glory our end in all our actions. It is to make it our constant care and endeavor in everything to please God, and in nothing to offend him.”

Matthew Poole said of Enoch: "He lived as one whose eye was continually upon God; whose care and constant course and business it was to please God, and to imitate him, and to maintain acquaintance and communion with him; as one devoted to God's service and wholly governed by his will. He walked not with men of that wicked age, or as they walked, but being a prophet and preacher…. with great zeal and courage he protected and preached against their evil practices, and boldly owned God and his ways in the midst of them.”

The description of every other man in the line of Adam ends with the statement, “and he died,” but it does not say this of Enoch. Instead, we read in v. 24: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

The meaning of what happened to Enoch is explained in Hebrews 11:5, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”

Enoch was, thus, one of the two men who are mentioned in the OT who did not taste death but were taken by God before experiencing its pain and terror. The other was the prophet Elijah (see 2 Kings 11:11-12). The theologians call this experience an apotheosis.

This account gives hope to all of us, who, like Enoch, have remaining corruptions within us, that we may still seek holiness of life and communion with God as did righteous Enoch.

As Paul exhorted believers in Colossians 2:6, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.”

So, let us join ourselves to Christ and walk in him.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Audio: The Translators to the Reader.Part 1: The best things have been calumniated

 


My audio series reading through the preface to the AV (1611) continues.

JTR

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Audio: The Epistle Dedicatory to the King James Version

 


I have started a new audio series that I will be posting to sermonaudio of reading through the prefatory material to the KJV. Here is "The Epistle Dedicatory." Next, I hope to read through the fifteen sections in the preface, "The Translators to the Reader."

JTR

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Vision (11.10.23): The Line of Cain or the Line of Seth?

 


Image: Lamech, Mosaic, 12th-13th century, Monreale, Sicily.

Note: Devotional based on last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 4:16-26.

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17).

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call on the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:26).

In Genesis 4, two distinct lines are traced. One is the line of Cain (vv. 16-24), who was “of that wicked one” (1 John 3:12), and the other is the line of Seth (vv. 25-26).

We are left to ponder: Are we part of the line of Cain or the line of Seth? Do we take the broad way to destruction or the narrow way to life (Matthew 7:13-14)?

Will we build our city (our empire), as did Cain (v. 17) trying to make a name or leave a legacy for ourselves?

Will we lead a life with only secular strivings, as did those in Cain’s line, even if we do become skilled at amassing cattle, making music, or becoming a skilled artisan (vv. 19-22), but doing it all apart from any relationship with Christ?

Will we only be able to give our children a material inheritance when we leave this earth, or will we leave them something more?

Will we cast aside the original good design of God, as Cain’s descendent Lamech did when he took two wives (v. 19; contra Genesis 2:24)?

Will we live to have men fear us, as did Lamech (v. 24), vowing to pay back any slight with seventy-seven times the force, breathing out threats, and boasting, living by the creed, “Mess with the best and get burned like the rest”?

Or will we go the way of Seth and be weak and humble before the LORD, asking him to remember that we are but dust.

Will we call upon the name of the LORD (v. 26), seeing the worship of God as the true end of man, and will we pass this truth on to our children and grandchildren?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, November 03, 2023

The Vision (11.3.23): What hast thou done?

 


Note: Devotional based on last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 4:1-15.

And [the LORD] said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground (Genesis 4:10).

We see the same pattern here as in Genesis 3. Just as God came and walked in the cool of the day and found out Adam’s sin, so he comes and finds out Cain’s sin.

We can run from God, but we cannot hide. As Moses said to the Israelites in Numbers 32:23, “and be sure your sin will find you out.”

To Adam God said, “Where art thou?” (3:9). To Cain he says, “Where is Abel thy brother?” (4:9).

If Genesis 3 shows the breaking of the first table of the law (man’s duty to God), Genesis 4 shows the breaking of the second table of the law (man’s duty to his fellow man). We are all, in truth, guilty of trespassing both!

Cain famously replies, trying to hide his sin, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (v. 9b). John Currid writes:

This is a figure of speech used here to emphasize a sense of indignant refusal. What a bold, defiant, and rebellious response! Instead of fearing God, Cain questions him. The irony is that the true answer is positive: one is indeed to keep one’s brother (Genesis, Vol. 1, 147).

This same commentator notes that seven times in this passage, Abel is referred to as “brother” (vv. 2, 8, 9, 10, 11), but the term is never used of Cain (147).

The LORD then confronts Cain with another question in v. 10a: “What hast thou done?” This is similar to God’s question of Eve in Genesis 3:13, “What is it thou hast done?” Is God ignorant of what has happened? Of course not. He does not ask to furnish his own knowledge but to prick the conscience of the transgressor.

 This is the question of a righteous God to sinful man, “What hast thou done?” He continues to ask this question of each of us, pushing us to the end of ourselves so that we might find refuge in Christ alone.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Vision (10.27.23): And there shall be no more curse

 


Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 3:15-24.

“cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Genesis 3:17)

“and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

“and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life” (Revelation 22:2).

“and there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3).

Genesis 3:14-24 details the “curse” that comes upon all creation due to the fall of our first parents. Here are some gleanings we might take from this passage:

Sin has consequences. There were consequences for Adam’s sin that we bear in our bodies and minds to this very day. We need also remember there will be consequences for our actual transgressions as well.

The good and beautiful design that God made for man and woman in the institution of marriage has been damaged and tarnished by sin.

We need to examine ourselves: What sinful tendencies have I demonstrated and how, by God’s grace, might I fight this corruption so as to live in such a way as is fitting of a follower of Christ?

When Christ was asked by the Pharisees why Moses allowed a “writing of divorcement” (Matthew 19:7), Christ responded by saying he only did this because of the hardness of their hearts. He then added, “but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). The standard for Christians is not Genesis 3, but Genesis 1-2.

By the grace of God and the love of Christ, let us stive to restore what has been tarnished.

Because of Adam’s sin we all know our mortality. The way to the tree of life has been blocked. Yet Christ promised life, abundant life, which begins in the here-and-now for all who trust in him, and extends beyond this life to eternal life (John 10:10, 28). See the classic declaration in 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.

Through Christ, the second Adam, a new way of access has been made to the tree of life. By the tree of death (the cross), we may eat of the tree of life.

If we turn from the first book of the Bible (Genesis) to the last (Revelation) we read of John’s vision of “a pure river of water of life” which proceeds “out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). John tells us that on both sides of the river there is “the tree of life” (v. 2), adding, “And there shall be no more curse” (v. 3).

Because of Christ, there is a land that awaits the saints of God, where we might eat again of the tree of life, and where there shall be no more curse.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, October 20, 2023

WM 294: 200+ Changes Coming to the Greek NT

 



JTR

The Vision (10.20.23): Where art thou?

 


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 3:8-15.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (Genesis 3:9).

As we read the account of the LORD God’s confrontation with the first man and the first woman after they had fallen by sinning against God and by eating the forbidden fruit, we are meant to sympathize with our first parents. We should be moved to acknowledge that we too have fallen, that we are naked, exposed before a holy God, and we have only tried to hide ourselves from him, as did they.

Yet the LORD God comes to us even today, even also had come to them, with the voice of his Word. He seeks us. He confronts us, and he places us under a spiritual investigation or interrogation. He asks us questions, not because he is ignorant of the answers, but because he is probing our conscience. So, he asks:

Where art thou? (v. 9).

Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded that thou shouldest not eat? (v. 11).

What is this that thou hast done? (v. 13).

Will we cast or shift blame, as did the first man and woman, or will we acknowledge and confess our faults (1 John 1:9)?

Will we also come to know the one about whom God himself spoke in Genesis 3:15, in that first prophecy of the Gospel. God himself acting as the Prophet declared that from the seed of woman shall come one who will crush Satan’s head through Satan shall bruise his heel (Isaiah 53:5: “he was bruised for our iniquities”).

In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he will describe the Lord Christ in this way:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

And in Galatians 3:13 Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ “was made a curse for us.” He is the only hope for fallen men.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Vision (10.13.23): Satan's Tactics

 


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 3:1-7:

Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan, “the great dragon” and “the old serpent” (Revelation 12:9), tempts the first man and woman to disobey God’s command and to eat the forbidden fruit.

We learn here of his devises and tactics, which include twisting God’s words, telling lies (see John 8:44 where Christ called him, “a liar and the father of it”), making false promises, and appealing to man’s pride.

Satan here pitches sin as a kind of “enlightenment,” the opening of one’s eyes. This lie strikes at an ancient weakness in man to desire to throw off the one true God and make himself to be a god. He wants to rule his own life, to make up his own rules.

Satan even pitches sin as some kind of moral achievement. Man can know good and evil. But man in the state of innocence knew only the good and was not tainted even by the knowledge of evil. It was not an improvement for man to know evil, as Satan falsely suggested, but a degradation.

Satan is like a conman, a snake-oil salesman, a flim-flam artist. He uses the old bait and switch method:

He promises enlightenment and gives spiritual blindness.

He promises freedom and gives bondage.

He promises wisdom and gives foolishness.

He promises warmth and gives icy coldness.

He promises community and gives loneliness (I bet the prodigal had loads of friends in the far country till the money ran out!).

He promises satisfaction and gives starvation.

He promises drink and gives a parched throat.

He promises wealth and gives poverty.

He promises life and gives death.

He promises a party and delivers a funeral.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Word Magazine 293: Article Review: Dirk Jongking on Text and Theology



JTR

Friday, October 06, 2023

The Vision (10.6.23): The Creation of Woman

 



Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Genesis 2:18-25 in our Genesis series.

Genesis 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man.

The LORD God did not leave man in the state of loneliness or incompletion, determining to make woman as the perfect companion and complement to man.

He does this through an act of what one might call “spiritual surgery.” He causes the man to fall into a deep sleep, and took from his side a rib, closing up the flesh (v. 21). Then from this rib he made the first woman (v. 22a).

There has been much attention given over the years as to the reasons for the creation of the woman in this way, though it must mostly remain speculative, since no clear inspired explanations are given.

The Puritan commentator Matthew Henry famously observed,

… woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side, to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

He later adds a much more allegorical Christ-centered interpretation, writing:

Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself.

Notice then in v. 22b how the LORD God brings the woman to the man. Here is his presentation of this special gift to Adam.

Maybe as a parent you have sometimes gotten a special gift for your child, perhaps at a birthday or Christmas. You made or got for him something you know that he will really love and delight to see and have. You may have become almost more excited to see him get the gift than he was to receive it. We can imagine God as like that here.

One commentator notes, “God is like a father who presents his son with a valuable gift that is bound to please him and be cherished by him. ‘See, he says, what I have prepared for you’” (Currid, Genesis, 112).

Woman was indeed a good gift given to man to complete the creation of God’s special image bearers.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

2023 Keach Conference: Audio and Images

 


Images: Keach steering committee and speakers, l to r: Jeff Riddle, Steve Clevenger, Geoffrey Thomas, Ben Scofield, Ryan Davidson, and Van Loomis

Audio for messages 1-3 and the Q & A:
















Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Orientation to the 2023 Keach Conference

 


Note: It was my privilege to present an opening "Orientation" to the 2023 Keach Conference, the annual ministry and theology conference hosted by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA) and held last Saturday (9.30.23) in Warrenton:

Dear friends in Christ,

Let me extend a warm welcome to you to the 2023 annual meeting of the Keach Conference. I extend this greeting on behalf of the steering committee of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia.

This is now the 22nd consecutive fall (or autumn for our UK guests) in which we have had a meeting like this one, devoted to Biblical teaching and Christian fellowship among confessional Reformed Baptists in the Commonwealth of Virginia, having first met in 2002 in Virginia Beach. And, yes, we even met in person in 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic.

Our meeting has changed over the years. It started out as a small gathering of pastors only and used to be called the Evangelical Forum.

In 2010, in our ninth consecutive annual meeting, reflecting our desire to be identified with historic confessional Particular Baptists, we officially changed the name of this gathering to the Keach Conference, in honor of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704), a diligent pastor and an original signer of our confession.

In a recent text group conversation among those on the steering committee, we entertained other possible names (tongue-in-cheek) for the Conference. These included:

“G-Keach”

“Together for Keach”

“The Keach Coalition”

“The Banner of Keach”

And, in homage to the Acts 29 Network, “Baptists 1690.”

For now, however, we determined it was best that we stick with the name Keach Conference. Stay tuned for any future updates and developments.

In 2007, in our sixth consecutive annual meeting, we began a series through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1677, 1689), devoting each annual gathering to a consecutive consideration of one of its 32 chapters.

This is the fourth time since we started that journey through the confession that we have been blessed to hold our annual meeting here in Warrenton, hosted by the brethren at Covenant RBC.

In 2011, when we met here our theme was chapter 5 “Of Divine Providence” and our speakers were Dr. Joel Beeke of Puritan Reformed Seminary and Pastor Malcolm Watts from Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Salisbury, England.

In 2014, when we met here again our theme was chapter 8 “Of Christ the Mediator” and our speakers were Pastor Jim Savastio of the Reformed BC of Louisville, Kentucky and Pastor Earl Blackburn of Heritage Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana.

In 2017, when we met here yet again our theme was chapter 26 “Of the Church” and our speaker was Pastor Poh Boon Sing of the Damansara RBC in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia (going out of order that year based on the expertise of our speaker).

And this year, in 2023, meeting again in Warrenton, Lord willing, we will continue this series by examining chapter 16 “Of Good Works.” And we will have the privilege of listening to two faithful ministers of God’s Word, Ben Scofield of the West Suffolk Reformed Baptist Church, Suffolk, Virginia and Geoffrey Thomas, retired pastor after over 50 years of service at the Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales. As Pastor Thomas put it in his recent autobiography, reflecting on his retirement, “I never had a call to another church. Alfred Place was stuck with me!” (In the Shadow of the Rock, 322).

I might note that though this is Pastor Thomas’s first visit with us at the Keach Conference, we have already, in fact, in God’s Providence, benefited from his ministry in that our 2009 speaker, the respected Presbyterian pastor and scholar Derek Thomas (no family relation), was converted while a university student, attending Alfred Place, and sitting under Geoff Thomas’s preaching.

Back to our topic “Of Good Works,” for we Calvinists most of our Bibles fall almost on their own from constant turning to Ephesians 2:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

But today we are reminded that we must also proceed to v. 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Calvin himself in his Institutes wrote about the duplex gratia, or “double grace” of salvation including both justification and sanctification (3.11.1).

Alister McGrath in his biography of Calvin suggested that this emphasis manifested itself as a distinctive component of Reformed theology and practical piety, shaping everything from assurance of salvation to the Protestant work ethic and the rise of capitalism. McGrath says of Calvin’s thought,

God’s grace was an unconditional gift, prior to and independent of any human work or merit. Nevertheless, grace possessed a transformational dimension, an ability to work within its recipient. To receive grace was to be renewed by grace… Good works were seen as the outward and visible sign of the presence and activity of grace within the believer (A Life of John Calvin, 239).

There is much indeed in this chapter worthy of thoughtful and prayerful consideration.

By taking on chapter 16, this will mark the halfway point through the series. At this rate, God willing, we will finish just 16 short years from now in 2039.

We trust that by God’s grace we will profit from the teaching and fellowship today. Let me close with another brief quotation from Pastor Thomas’ autobiography as he reflected on his student days at Westminster Seminary while he was sitting under the teaching of perhaps the most esteemed Protestant seminary faculty ever assembled (from John Murray to Cornelius Van Til). Thomas writes:

Seminaries are a lot like conferences. The messages or lectures are the bonus, while the people who teach, to whom you have personal access, and particularly the men with whom you study and eat and pray and talk and argue and correspond with for the rest of your life are the abiding momentum of your consecration and service (147).

Let us find here today just a bit more momentum for our ongoing consecration and service to the Lord Jesus Christ!

Amen.