Monday, October 30, 2023
Friday, October 27, 2023
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
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Friday, October 20, 2023
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
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Saturday, October 14, 2023
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
Friday, October 13, 2023
Friday, October 06, 2023
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
Audio for messages 1-3 and the Q & A:
Wednesday, October 04, 2023
Tuesday, October 03, 2023
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:
“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:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 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!