Friday, February 23, 2024

WM 301: Sermon Review: Gurry on the PA as a Spurious but "True" Illustration



The Vision (2.23.24): A New Commandment

Image: Harbor Street, ancient Ephesus, Turkey.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 2:7-11.

Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth (1 John 2:8).

In 1 John 2 the apostle tells his readers that he writes “no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment” (v. 7). Nevertheless, he then proceeds to call it “a new commandment" in v. 8.

What is this old, new commandment? The reference here is likely to the new commandment which Christ gave his disciples in the upper room in John 13:34-35, that they love one another as Christ loved them.

John was reminding his Christian readers of the special love and regard Christians are to have for one another, based on Christ's example. Christ, as the New Lawgiver, gives them this new commandment.

Friends, we are also being exhorted today to take up this new commandment. He has set an example for us. We should serve one another as Christ has served us.

It starts in the home in the way Christians husbands and wives treat one another, and it expands to the way Christian parents interact with all their children, but especially their believing children. How wonderful it is when our children are also our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It extends into our church in the ways in which we listen to, honor, and care for one another within the household of faith.

It extends to the way we treat Christian brethren in our sister congregations here in Virginia and around the world.

It will govern the language we use and the tone of our discourse on social media.

Do our actions reveal that we walk in the light or that we are walking in darkness?

What do you do if anyone, but especially a Christian brother, rubs you the wrong way? Can you plod? Can you continue to abide or remain in Christ? As John said, “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light…” (1 John 2:10).

We have an old, new commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us. And we have assurance of our faith if we obey his commandments (1 John 2:5; cf. John 14:15; 15:14).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, February 16, 2024

The Vision (2.16.24): We have an Advocate


Image: Ruins of the Library of Celsus in ancient Ephesus, Turkey.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 2:1-6.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

John addresses the recipients of this letter as “my little children” (cf. 1 John 2:12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). He has been their spiritual father, and they are children of God by the new birth (John 1:12-13).

To what end does he write? “that ye sin not.” John was not expecting perfectionism from the saints (cf. 1 John 1:8-10). He knew that on this side of the kingdom they would not be fully sanctified, but he wanted them to live victorious Christian lives in which they were no longer bound by the old ways of sin.

He also knew that in this life, with all their remaining corruptions, they would continue to come short of God’s glory, but when they did, he did not want them to be crushed by this but instead to realize that provision had been made for them.

So he continues, “And if any man [Christian man, believer] sin, we [believers] have an advocate with the Father….” The word rendered as “advocate” in Greek is paraklÄ“tos. It means a spokesman, an intercessor, a helper, a comforter.

Four times in the Gospel of John Christ used this term in reference to the Holy Spirit, and it is translated there as “Comforter” (see John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Paul likewise speaks of the Spirit in this way, describing the Comforter as one who helps us in our infirmities when we don’t know how to pray, and who makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).

In 1 John 2:1, however, the apostle John applies that term not to the Spirit but to Christ. Not only does the Spirit help us in our prayers, but so does Christ himself. He goes before the Father when we sin and serves as our advocate before the Father. We might imagine his advocacy for us before the Father as perhaps like this:

Father, remember, that this redeemed sinner is but dust.

O Father you have saved this man and promised to sanctify him.

O Father, remember that my blood was shed to satisfy thy wrath and for the forgiveness of this man’s sins.

When we sin and we are burdened down by it, John said that we are to remember that we have an Advocate with the Father who is “Jesus Christ, the righteous.” The word “righteous” is there to remind us that while we are sinners, our Advocate is without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The apostle Paul likewise declares that Christ is able to save “to the uttermost” those who come to the Father by him, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Christ is our Advocate!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, February 09, 2024

The Vision (2.9.24): God is Light!


Image: Winter morning, North Garden, Virginia, February 2024

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 1:5-10.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

John declares, “God is light.” What, however, does this mean? Technically speaking, the scientists will tell us that light refers to electro-magnetic radiation that can be perceived or detected by the human eye at certain wavelengths and which travels in a vacuum at 186, 282 miles per second.

The Bible tells us that God created light when he said, “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3, 14-16).

When John wrote, “God is light,” he did not mean to say that God is part of the creation. What he meant to say is that God is like light. This is true in at least two ways.

First, God is like the light in that he brings clarity and illumination.

Go into a dark basement and grope about and then flip the light-switch, and the things that were hidden are revealed as they are bathed in light. John is saying God is like that and knowing God is like that. Apart from God we are confined by fear and ignorance.

Second, like light God is powerful and even incomprehensible to mere men. Light can be so powerful that we cannot look directly upon it. Look at the sun directly and you will go blind. God is like the light in this way. He makes himself known to us, but we as mere men cannot look upon him directly, lest our senses be scourged.

This is what the hymn writer was getting at when he wrote, “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes….”

So, when John says God is light, he is saying God is THE only one who allows us to see all things as they truly are. And he is so great and so powerful that we mere men are in no wise able to look upon him directly and comprehend all that he is.

There is one more important part of this statement that needs emphasis. John says he, as an apostle, is conveying this because this is what he heard directly from Christ himself: “This is the message which we have heard from him….”

We might ask when Christ declared, “God is light”? If we look through the Gospels, we cannot find that statement, but we can find in John 8:12 where Christ said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and where he later said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).

At the beginning of John’s Gospel, the apostle refers to Christ as “the light of men,” adding, “And the light shineth in the darkness” (John 1:4-5). Later he says, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

God is light. Christ is the light of the world. When we see and know Christ, we see and know God.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, February 05, 2024

2024 Reformation Bible Society: August 3, 2024 @ Liberty Mountain Conference Center, Lynchburg, Virginia


You can learn about the Reformation Bible Society by visiting its website:

"The purpose of this Society shall be to foster and promote scholarly study, defense, and interpretation of the traditional Reformation text of Christian Scripture (i.e., the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament and Received Text of the Greek New Testament) by providing a medium for oral exchange and written expression of thought and reseach."

The theme of the 2024 Annual Meeting will be, "The Reformation Text and the Septuagint."

Plenary Lectures will be given by Russell Fuller, Jeffrey T. Riddle, David Kranendonk, and Christian McShaffrey.

Various short papers addressing the conference theme will be presented in breakout sessions, including papers by Albert Hemb, Matthew Vogan, Jonathan Arnold, Peter Van Kleecke, Jr., Brett Mahlen, and Patrick Morgan.

The deadline to submit short paper proposals for consideration is April 30, 2024.


Friday, February 02, 2024

WM 298: Article Review: T. David Gordon on Textual Criticism & the OPC



The Vision (2.2.24): Eyewitness of the Word of Life


Image: Ruins from the Basilica of St. John in Ephesus, built in the sixth century, supposedly on the sight where John the Apostle was buried.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 1:1-4.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, or the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

The early Christians were beset by problems on two sides. We might say they were fighting a war on two fronts.

First, there was the external struggle with non-Christians, whether with Jews who were casting Jewish Christians out of the synagogues, or with Roman authorities who saw Christians as a threat to the civil order.

Second, and perhaps even more difficult and destructive, there were conflicts within the Body of Christ. There was an internal front that involved a battle against false teaching and false teachers.

One of the greatest early struggles for authentic believers and for true churches was controversy over Christology. Namely, there were those who denied that the Lord Jesus had been a true man. Today the main problem is that people deny the true deity of Christ, but in the early days the more common problem was that they denied his true humanity.

They asked, How can you say that Jesus was true God and also say that he was a true man who was conceived in the virgin’s womb, who slept, hungered, thirsted, wept, perspired, and, most of all, who suffered and died on the cross?

Their explanation was that Jesus had not been a true man, but that he had only appeared to be a man. The Greek verb for to appear to be is dokeo. Later theologians would call those who denied our Lord’s true humanity, Docetists and their belief Docetism.

1 John is a writing from the Apostle John that was composed, in part, in order to help a group of Christians, a church, which had been stirred up by a group of false teachers who denied Christ’s true humanity. We get various clues about this throughout 1 John.

One clue of schism in this church is found in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us…”

Another huge clue of dispute is found in 1 John 4:1-3, which contains a call for discernment (“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”). Some had denied that Christ had come “in the flesh” (as a true man), and so, John says, they had a spirit of “antichrist” (opposing right teaching about Christ).

John wrote to provide these believers with a testimony that he, as an Apostle, was an eyewitness to the life of Christ, whom he calls “the Word of life,” and that Christ was and is a true man. He did not just appear to be a man. He was not a ghost, a specter, a spirit, a hologram, but a true flesh and blood man. If Christ had not been a true man he could not have sympathized with us in our weakness, and if he were not true God he could not have saved us to the utmost.

The Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle