Friday, March 31, 2023

The Vision (3.31.23): A good work wrought upon Christ


Image: Scene from the supposed Tomb of Lazarus in the town of Bethany (now known as Al Azaria, the place of Lazarus). Lazarus lived in Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha and Christ ate a meal there in the home of Simon the Leper two days before the Passover.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday sermon on Matthew 26:1-13.

When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me (Matthew 26:10).

Matthew 26 begins the passion narrative (the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the climax of each of the four canonical Gospels.

The inspired penman describes two assemblies. In the first, the chief priests and scribes and elders gather to plot against Christ (26:3-5), while in the second the disciples gather in the home of Simon the leper and Mary of Bethany anoints Christ’s head with precious ointment (26:6-7). The disciples criticize the woman’s lavish devotion to Christ, saying, “To what purpose is this waste?” (v. 8).

Christ responded, however, by saying, “Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me” (v. 10).

He begins by rebuking the disciples for, as he puts it, troubling this woman (v. 10a).

It reminds us of what he said when the disciples tried to stop parents from bringing their children to the Lord to receive his blessing. Christ had responded, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me” (19:14).

Sometimes even the disciples are prone to attempt to quench the Spirit’s moving, to impede those who are coming to Christ, to stop those who are giving themselves and all they have to him.

Christ then offers a commendation of this woman’s act by saying, “for she hath wrought [worked] a good work upon me” (v. 10b).

This is a very Jewish or Semitic way of saying things, wherein you give emphasis to something by repetition. So, you cry a good cry. Run a good run. Win a good win. And you work a good work.

He commends this woman for doing something that was very pleasing in God’s sight. It’s a reminder that there is a place for good works in the Christian life. We’re not saved by good works, but they do flow from us.

The commendation seems not merely to be for pouring out the precious ointment which prefigured the preparation of his body for burial (v. 12: “she did it for my burial”). She is commended for giving her love and devotion, even her life to Christ. As Paul urged the church at Rome in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Every believer is called upon to work a good work upon Christ by pouring out his life for him. Some indeed will look on with skepticism and cynicism, saying, “What a waste. How much more he might have been. How much more she might have accomplished in life.”

But Christ says, Why trouble ye my servant? For he or she has wrought a good work upon me.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, March 27, 2023

Review: David Pitman on Why I Preach from the Received Text


Thanks to Pastor David Pitman for sharing this audio version of his review and reflections on the book Why I Preach from the Received Text.


Friday, March 24, 2023

WM 273: Debate Review: James White vs. Thomas Ross: Part One



The Vision (3.24.23): Lessons from the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)


Note: Devtotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 25:31-46.

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:33).

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).

In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ teaches about the Son of man’s coming at the end of the ages and illustrates this with an analogy of a Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats.

Here are at least four things we might learn from this teaching:

First, there is coming a day when Christ will return with power and great glory as our Great Shepherd King and men from all nations must give an account before him.

Second, those who are truly his sheep will be placed on his right hand and will be called blessed by him, heirs of God, and they will be given a glorious kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.

Third, there will also be those goats who will be set on his left hand and told to depart to a place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Fourth, a key distinction between the sheep and the goats will be that the sheep give evidence that they have been justified by faith because of their love for the least of their brethren, and the goats will give evidence that they remain in their unregenerate state, dead in trespasses and sins, because of their indifference to the needs of Christ’s disciples even if they outwardly call him Lord.

As the apostle John said, “We know that we have passed from death unto life,  because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).

Let’s be clear about two other matters:

First, Christians are called to love and do good to all men. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. But we have a special duty toward our Christian brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering for Christ.

As the apostle Paul said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Second, the sheep were not made righteous by caring for the least of these their brethren. They were not justified by works. And the goats were not made unrighteous by failing to care for the least of these. They were not condemned merely for lack of works.

Rather, their fruit or lack of fruit revealed the state of their hearts. Christ said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt 7:20).

Finally, we must ponder, Whose side will you be standing upon? Will we stand with the sheep or the goats? We offer this final exhortation: Stand with Christ. Side with Christ. And stand and side with his people.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

WM 45 in Video Format: Is Acts 8:37 in the New Testament?

Here's another old WM podcast I posted to a video format this week. This pocast from 2016 examines the debate over the integrity and authenticity of the Ethiopian's confession in Acts 8:37.


WM 137 in Video Format: Are Reformed Baptists "Reformed"?


I posted a couple of old Word Magazine podcasts to video format this week. One was WM 137, a roundtable conversation from 2019 on the question, Are Reformed Baptists "Reformed"? reviewing the book On Being Reformed: Debates over a Theological Identtity.


Friday, March 17, 2023

The Vision (3.17.23): The Stewardship of Your Life


Image: Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (Le Penseur), model, 1880, cast 1901, bronze, National Gallery, Washington, DC.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's setrmon on Matthew 25:14-30.

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto him his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one….” (Matthew 25:14-15a).

“For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29).

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is aimed at all of us living in this present evil age, between Christ’s first advent and his second.

The Lord has sovereignly given of his endless store to each of us. And at the end of this age, he will come again and “reckon” with us as to our stewardship (25:19).

One interpreter suggests that if we take the talents to refer to spiritual abilities and gifts that the Lord gives to his people, “the main meaning of the parable is that every person receives from God certain abilities and potential that he is called to realize…. Each person has particular abilities—some have more, some have less, each according to his measure. God gives them initial capital that each must put into circulation” (Alfeyev, Parables, 388).

This same interpreter notes that in the application given in v. 29 one finds two emphases:

“The first stresses that man cannot remain neutral with God. He either moves forward or falls backward. As for the mission that God lays on each individual person, one cannot simply choose to play a waiting game: a person either does what God expects of him or not. Whoever does not fulfill God’s will, fulfills the will of the enemy.”

He adds: “The second part of the saying points to the fact that a man’s spiritual riches grows exponentially if he puts his talents to God’s service and the service of his neighbor. The more income he accrues, the more it grows… a person’s spiritual capital grows when he puts it into circulation” (Alfeyev, Parables, 389-390).

The final question then: What are we doing with the stewardship of our lives? It is well-worn Christian slogan, but no less true: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

There is also a warning here, as in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins: Don’t be a false professor. Don’t propagate a false understanding of God in your mind and heart.

Live for him. Serve him, with the best of the unique abilities that he has given to you, so that in the end you will hear his words of commendation and approval: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (25:21).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Augustine of Hippo, Harmony of the Evangelists.2.1-2: The Son (as was supposed) of Joseph

Image: Close-up, Jacopo Sansovino, Madonna and Child, c. 1550, painted and gilded papier mache and stucco, National Gallery, Washington, DC.

Greetings, this is Jeff Riddle, Pastor of CRBC, Louisa, Virginia and this is a series of readings from and notes and commentary upon Augustine of Hippo’s Harmony of the Evangelists.

Note: We are resuming this series after a one-year break (from March 2022).

We are in book 2 of 4. This second book is the longest in this work with some 80 chapters. It covers the events recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, with comparison to the other three Gospels, up to the Last Supper. These episodes will only be posted in audio (not video) format.

The Prologue:

Augustine begins by noting he intends to look into the four accounts of Christ in the Gospels and show how they are consistent with one another.

2.1: A statement of the reason why the enumeration of the ancestors of Christ was carried down to Joseph, while Christ was not born of this man’s seed, but of the Virgin Mary.

This book begins with an analysis of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Son of Man with respect to his true humanity. Augustine notes also “the heavenly and eternal generation” of Christ as “the only begotten Son of God. Matthew begins by tracing out the “human generation” in the genealogy from Abraham to Joseph, husband of Mary.

He notes that Joseph and Mary were married, though she was a virgin. They were an “illustrious recommendation” to “husbands and wives that they may share affections of the mind, with “no connection between the sexes of the body.” Augustine thus promotes his view that “carnal intercourse” is “to be practiced with the purpose of the procreation of children only.” Joseph was not the father of Jesus but had adopted him from another.

Augustine notes the statement from Luke 3:23 that Christ began his public ministry at “about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” Joseph could be called his “father” only if he was “truly the husband of Mary, without the intercourse of the flesh, indeed, but in virtue of the real union of marriage.”

2.2: An explanation of the sense in which Christ is the son of David, although He was not begotten in the way of ordinary generation by Joseph the son of David.

He begins by saying that even if Mary did not descend from David by blood, we could say he descended from David by virtue of his adoption by Joseph. Given, however, that Paul said, Christ was “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3), we know that Mary also descended directly from David. Given her connection to Elisabeth, she also came from the priestly line. Thus, Christ came “from the line of the kings, and from that of the priests.”


The Gospel story of Jesus begins with his human genealogy and his virginal conception.


Friday, March 10, 2023

The Vision (3.10.23): Applications from the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins


Image: First century oil lamp with original wick, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 25:1-13.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut (Matthew 25:10).

What applications can we draw from Christ’s parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)?

First, we are to be watchful as we live in “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4), never flagging in our zeal for the coming of Christ.

Christ closes with the exhortation, “Watch therefore” (v. 13a). We are to avoid the error of the foolish virgins, who were not prepared to live the Christian life for the long-haul.

I think one commentator got it right when he wrote, “The lamps that are lit are a symbol of spiritual intensity and vigilance, readiness to greet the Son of man who may come in any watch of the night. The lights that are going out, on the contrary, are a symbol of lack of preparedness for this meeting, of carelessness and irresponsibility” (Alfeyev, Parables, 371).

I remember as a younger Christian hearing often the warning that when we take up any activity or action in this life, we should ask ourselves, Would I be willing to be found doing this if Christ were to come in the midst of it? Or would it bring me shame and disgrace?

Second, there is a warning here against false professors.

The foolish virgins missed the coming of the bridegroom, “and the door was shut” (25:10b). They cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us” (v. 11), but the bridegroom responded, “I know you not” (v. 12). This echoes Christ’s teaching on false professors in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:21-23).

We find various calls in the Scriptures for self-examination (see 1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5-6; 2 Peter 1:10).

Here are at least four Scriptural tests by which we might examine ourselves:

First: the doctrinal test. Do you say you believe? See Romans 10:9; Acts 8:37.

Second: The ethical test. Are you striving to keep the commands of Christ?

John 14:15: If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 15:14: Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Third: The social test: Do you love the brethren?

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Fourth: The endurance test. Are you remaining in the faith?

Matthew 24:13: But he, that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

May we be like the wise virgins watching and ready when Christ, the Bridegroom, comes with power and great glory!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Jeff Riddle: Effectual Calling and Elect Infants (2016 Keach Conference)


This message was given at the 2016 Keach Conference held on Saturday, October 1, 2016 at Providence Reformed Baptist Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The conference theme was chapter 10 Of Effectual Calling in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). The message focused on chapter 10, paragraph 3.


Saturday, March 04, 2023

WM 272: Is there significance in the order of the NT books?



The Vision (3.3.23): But of that day and hour knoweth no man


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 24:36-51.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (Matthew 24:36).

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come (Matthew 24:42).

In the Olivet Discourse, Christ told his disciples that the exact time (the day and the hour) of his coming is not known even by the angels of heaven (those glorious creatures who serve as his messengers and ministers), but by his Father alone.

In Acts 1, just before Christ ascended in a cloud, some disciples asked him when he would restore all things. Christ responded, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (v. 7).

Such statements remind us that we should beware of and reject any prognosticators who pretend to predict when Christ will return in glory.

The Millerites (followers of William Miller) predicted Christ would come on October 22, 1844. They later referred to October 23, 1844 as “the great disappointment.”

In 1988 Edgar C. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer published a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. In it he predicted the “rapture” (the taking up of the saints of God before Christ’s coming) would take place sometime between September 11 and September 13, 1988. He reportedly said, “Only if the Bible is in error, am I wrong.” Of course, Mr. Whisenant, and not the Bible, was proven to be wrong.

Harold Camping of Family Radio first predicted the return of Christ would be on September 9, 1994. When that didn’t happen, he revised the prediction to September 29 and then October 2. He later predicted the return of Christ on May 21, 2011, and when that did not happen, he moved the date back to October 21, but again, it did not happen.

Spurgeon offered this comment on Matthew 24:36: "We need not therefore be troubled by idle prophecies of hair-brained fanatics, even if they claim to interpret the Scriptures; for what the angels do not know has not been revealed to them" (Commentary on Matthew, 373).

Our task is not to know when Christ will come but to be discovered as faithful and wise servants when he does come.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, March 03, 2023

William Greendyk: Literal or Dynamic Translation?


I also got to hear this talk in person in London last September. William Greendyk addresses the new TBS Spanish translation and issues related to dynamic equivalence in modern versions.