Friday, March 29, 2024

WM 303: The 900,000 Manuscripts of Mount Athos & the Failure of Textual Reconstruction


One modern scholar, Malka K. Simkovich, has recently suggested that there may be over 900,000 manuscripts at Mount Athos, Greece alone yet to be digitized and examined by scholars. Here are my thoughts on the insurmountable problems for those relying on a reconstruction method to "restore" the Biblical text.


The Vision: A New Status in Christ (3.29.24)


Image: North Garden, Virginia, March 2024

Note: Devotion take from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 3:1-6.

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God (1 John 3:1a).

John begins with an exclamation, “Behold,” that holds Biblical overtones. “Behold” is what men say in the Bible when they meet angels and encounter wonders. John utters this word as he thinks about his own salvation and that of others, with wonder and awe.

Notice three things stressed here: (1) The Actor, (2) the Action, and (3) the Recipients of the Action.

The Actor is God the Father. A former Muslim now a Christian pastor in London, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, notes that in Islam “you can know Allah’s law and will, but never his person or his character or his heart. He is a ruler not a friend” (God’s Love for Muslims, 21). Allah has slaves, but not sons.

For Christians, however, God is our heavenly Father. Christ taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Paul wrote to believers in Rome reminding them that they had been adopted by God the Father and so might address him in most intimate terms, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

The Action is the bestowal of God’s love (agape), divine affection, upon sinful men. One of the best known verses in the Bible declares, “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” (John 3:16). The apostle John makes a similar point in 1 John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

The Recipients are “us” (believers). John here places himself alongside all the ordinary and nameless individuals to whom he writes. The bestowal of God’s saving love is not aimless and directionless. It is not like an airplane that soars overhead and drops leaflets indiscriminately on all who are below. It is more like a letter that is purposely directed to a particular recipient, whose name is written down as the one addressed by the Father. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says God, “hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”

When we become believers through spiritual adoption our status is changed. God’s love is bestowed upon us. We are given “power to become Sons of God” through belief in Christ’s name (John 1:12-13). We become part of the family of God. We become children of God, and we become citizens of the heavenly kingdom. This change in status was not given to us by any merit in us, and it will never be revoked.

Like, John, we too can thus stand in awe, uttering, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called Sons of God.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Book Note: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Raising Children God's Way


About this book:

The author is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). He was a Welshman, a physician by training who was called into the ministry as a young man in 1927. From 1938 to 1968 he served as pastor of Westminster Chapel in London where he had a very influential ministry and drew large crowds to hear his expositional preaching series. Many of those sermons were published in various series. The Banner of Truth publishing ministry also began with the church at that time.

One of Lloyd-Jones’ most memorable sermon series was an exposition of the book of Ephesians (now published in 8 volumes by Banner of Truth). This booklet is taken from five sermons in that series taken from Lloyd-Jones exposition of Paul’s “household code” instructions regarding the relationship between children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4) (in volume 6 of the series).

After a brief publisher’s introduction, there are five short and highly readable chapters in the book, one from each sermon.

This format would easily lend itself to a five-part book study series.

The five chapters:

First: Submissive Children (3-20);

Second: Unbelieving Parents (21-34);

Third: Discipline and the Modern Mind (35-52);

Fourth: Balanced Discipline (53-68);

Fifth: Godly Upbringing (69-85).

This booklet is not a pragmatic approach to parenting. It is not “parenting in a box.” It is not filled with “five ways to teach potty-training,” or “three ways to make your kids eat healthy” kinds of advice. On the other hand, it does, especially in the last couple of chapters provide some very practical exhortations about parenting and, most importantly, it lays a Scriptural and doctrinal basis for Christian parenting.

If you work through the book, you might find the first three chapters a bit slow, but if you are patient, you will be especially rewarded in the last two chapters.

A description of each chapter and a bit more about the last two:

The first chapter (Submissive Children) focuses on Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” It talks about the contemporary problems of disobedient children (Things haven’t changed that much since Lloyd-Jones wrote, and perhaps they’ve become even worse!). One of the key points is, “It is unnatural for children not to obey their parents” (11). He emphasizes that the child-parent relationship is to reflect the Christian’s relationship to God Himself (14).

The second chapter (Unbelieving Parents) addresses an interesting subject, namely, how are believing children to treat unbelieving parents. Lloyd-Jones writes, “The obedience required of the children must be yielded to every kind of parent” (22). In our study this chapter led to some good discussion among the adults, including some who came from non-Christian homes, as to what our duties are to our own parents.

The third chapter (Discipline and the Modern Mind), as the title indicates, addresses the discipline of children. Lloyd-Jones draws a contrast between a “Victorian” approach that sometimes lacked flexibility and charity and a “modern” approach which often tends toward an overly permissive attitude. He suggests the modern secular view fails, because it lacks a Christian understanding of atonement, redemption, and regeneration.

The fourth chapter (Balanced Discipline) follows up on the third chapter, based on Ephesians 6:4a, “fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” It offers a series of seven practical (yet open) principles related to discipline:

First, “we are incapable of exercising true discipline unless we are able to exercise self-control” (56).

Second, in discipline a parent “must never be capricious” (57). We are not to be moody, unpredictable, changeable, and uncertain.

Third, “parents must never be unreasonable or unwilling to hear the child’s case” (58).

Fourth, “the parent must never be selfish” (59).

Sixth, “Discipline must never be too severe” (61).

Seventh, “We must never fail to recognize growth and development in the child” (62).

This chapter is a quote factory.

He summarizes his argument: “Discipline must always be exercised in love” (65).

“The child’s good is to be your controlling motive” (66).

“So you must look even at your own children primarily as souls, and not as you look at an animal that you happen to possess, or certain goods that you possess” (66).

“What if God dealt with us as we often do with our children!... There is nothing more amazing to me than the patience of God, and His longsuffering toward us” (67).

The fifth chapter (Godly Upbringing) focuses on Ephesians 6:4b: “but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Lloyd-Jones states, “When the child comes we must say to ourselves, we are the guardians and custodians of the soul” (70). Nurture refers to general care and admonition, especially, to our speech.

Four principles are presented:

First, nurture and admonition must be done in the home and by the parents. This duty cannot be handed over to the school. Some of the discussion here is directed to the “boarding school” system in the UK, but can be applied in any context. His main point is that the benefits of a good academic education should never outweigh the importance of parental spiritual nurture.

He even says, “We should be considering to what extent the system of boarding children away from home is responsible for the breakdown of morals in this country” (76). One wonders how this teaching was originally received. We might compare it today to a contemporary call for Christian families to leave public (government) schooling. He warns against the teaching of evolution and higher criticism of the Bible, adding, “The whole emphasis is anti-God, anti-Bible, anti-true Christianity, anti-miraculous, and anti-supernatural. Who is going to counter these trends?” (77).

Second, “Never be entirely negative and repressive” (79). Beware “a false Puritanism” (79).

Third, don’t make “little prigs and hypocrites” of your children (79).

Fourth, “we must never force a child to make a decision” (80).

More worthwhile quotes here:

“Christian parents must always remember that they are handling a life, a personality, a soul” (80).

“Do not bring pressure to bear on your children” (81).

“So our teaching must never be too direct, or too emotional” (81).

“Above all, there should be an atmosphere of love” (81).

Use “general conversation” in the home “conducted in Christian terms” (82).

The “Christian point of view must be brought into the whole of life” (82).

When questions are asked, parents “must not brush the child aside” (83).

“Then you can guide their reading” (84).

“What else? Be careful always, whenever you have a meal, to return thanks to God for it, and to ask his blessing upon it” (84).

“In other words to sum it all up: what we have to do is to make Christianity attractive…. We should create within them the desire to be like us” (84).


So, in closing I commend this book to you for personal reading or for group study in your church. I think you will find it profitable whatever your station in life.

I think you will be blessed if you take up this book and read.


Friday, March 22, 2024

The Vision (3.22.24): The Anointing of the Believer


Image: Morning view, North Garden, Virginia, March 2024

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 2:24-29.

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things (1 John 2:20).

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him (1 John 2:27).

In the epistle of I John the apostle writes to a church that is battling false teachers (antichrists) (2:18) and has experienced schism (2:19).

One of his words of assurance is to remind them that they have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The term in Greek is chrisma. It appears only three times in the NT and all three are in 1 John 2 (vv. 20, 27). It is translated as “unction” in 2:20 and as “anointing” in 2:27.

The best way to understand this term is as a reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In his public ministry Christ promised the disciples he would send “the Comforter,” “the Spirit of truth” to them who would “dwell with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17; cf. John 14:26; 16:13). Paul also writes to believers about the “Spirit of God” which dwells in them (see Romans 8:9, 11).

In v. 20 Christ said that with the unction of the Holy Spirit believers will “know all things.” This is especially related to discernment. With the Spirit’s help they will be able to know the antichrists and not to follow them. John reinforces this in 2:27, “the same anointing teacheth you of all things.”

John also says something in 1 John 2:27 that might be easily misconstrued. He states, “and ye need not that any man teach you.” Was Christ calling for some kind of radical egalitarian community where there would be no human teachers? Or where, perhaps, everyone was a teacher? To understand John’s meaning we must appeal to “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), as articulated in the Reformation principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture.

What does the NT convey about teachers in the church? Christ gives “pastors and teachers” to the church, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body” (see Ephesians 4:11-12). Paul noted that local church bishops are to be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). He stated that not everyone should be a master (teacher) (Hebrews 3:1). He also said that the one who is taught should support “him that teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6).

1 John 2:27 cannot be cherry picked to say that there is no role for teachers in the church.

John’s point, however, is to say that believers have a Teacher whose expertise and skill and power and influence will necessarily take precedence over every human teacher, and that is the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Since the believer has this anointing, he will be guided into discernment. He does not, for example, rely on the magisterium of the Roman Church or the magisterium of the secular academy, but upon the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not some “extra-ordinary” gift for only some believers. It is an “ordinary” gift given to all believers. We are thankful for the Holy Spirit which dwells in each follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and teaches him all things needed for life and godliness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, March 15, 2024

WM 302: The Failure of James White's Apologetic in the "Real World": RCC, PA, and Sola Scriptura



The Vision (3.15.24): The Spiritual Advantage of Knowing God's Providence


Image: Daffodils, Charlottesville, Virginia, March 2024.

Note: Devotion is taken from last Sunday's afternoon sermon on Lord's Day 10 Heidelberg Catechism:

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience, and experience, hope (Romans 5:3-4).

It is interesting that there are various apologetic ministries that are dedicated to upholding the doctrine of God as Creator. One thinks of ministries like Answers in Genesis.

I couldn’t think of any ministry offhand, however, that is specifically dedicated to the doctrine of God’s Providence. Maybe we need to found one that could be called “Answers in Providence.”

On Lord’s Day 10 in the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 28 asks, What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?

The answer given to the question illustrates why this catechism has been called a “book of comfort”:

Answer: That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.

This is very practical counsel. What is to be the Christian’s disposition or attitude in times of adversity (in the midst of frowning providences)? Patience.

And what is to be the Christian’s disposition or attitude in times of prosperity (in the midst of smiling providences)? Thankfulness. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.”

Maybe rather than asking, “How are you doing?”, Christians need to start asking one another, “Are you in a season of patience or in a season of thankfulness?”

One of the prooftexts provided for this teaching in the catechism is Romans 5:3-5. In Romans 5:3a, Paul says, “we glory in tribulations also.” He then proceeds in Romans 5:3b-4 to describe what we might call a “golden chain” of sanctification: tribulation produces patience; patience produces experience; and experience produces hope. Paul concludes, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

May the Lord teach us in all the providential circumstances of life to respond with patience and thankfulness.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, March 08, 2024

The Vision (3.8.24): They went out from us, but they were not of us


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on  1 John 2:18-23.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (1 John 2:19a).

The church addressed by the apostle in 1 John had likely suffered serious conflict over Christology, with some denying that Christ has come “in the flesh,” that is, denying his true humanity (see 4:1-3; cf. 1:1).

John goes so far as to call such persons “antichrists” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3).

As a result, this church had suffered schism, as these false teachers and others, perhaps even innocent ones (“they were not all of us”), were caught up in the fray and departed.

There are several things to learn here:

First, not all conflicts in the church are bad. Often churches have conflict for bad reasons, like inter-personal conflicts or the color of the carpet. But sometimes there is good reason to have conflict, if it means opposing false teaching.

Second, it is not always bad for persons to leave a church, if they hold views that oppose the teaching of Christ and are not willing to repent and learn the way that is right and Biblical.

We do not believe in peace at all costs. Obedience to Christ is paramount. Just as surgery, though painful, is sometimes needed to remove what brings harm to the body, it must be done. If the pain of surgery is avoided the end result might be something far worse, even death itself.

There is yet a third lesson. In this case, the “orthodox” camp apparently held the majority and prevailed. The antichrists departed. But it does not always happen that way. Sometimes it is the orthodox who must depart as the majority wrongly sides with error.

John addressed a situation like this in 3 John 9-10 where he makes mention of an antichrist teacher named Diotrophes who cast out faithful brothers from a church.

Luther and Calvin and thousands of other “Protest-ants” had to come out of the Medieval Roman church during the time of the Reformation.

I recently read a book written by a man named D. A. Thompson who in the early twentieth century had to come out from the Church of England due to compromise in that body.

We do not desire to be schismatic and fractious in spirit. But we must hold fast to Christ above all. We want no schism with Christ!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Saturday, March 02, 2024

The Vision (3.1.24): All that is in the world


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 John 2:12-17.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).

The apostle exhorts his hearers, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15a). By “the world [Greek: kosmos]” he does not mean the created order, or the people within it, but the fallen world as it sets itself up against Christ and his kingdom.

John proceeds to describe three things “that are in the world” in particular that are especially devious in deflecting and turning one’s attention away from Christ and his kingdom and toward the god of this world.

First, the lust of the flesh. This refers to fleshly cravings. God has given us lawful desires, but Satan causes those lawful desires to overflow their proper boundaries. Even as believers we have those remaining corruptions within us, and the lust of the flesh entices us. So Paul counseled in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality.”

Second, the lust of the eyes. This can take many forms including avarice, greed, and materialism. The barn-builder in Christ’s parable in Luke 12 was consumed with this lust and wanted to build for himself bigger barns to hold his possessions, but the very night he gained his desire, the Lord said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (v. 20).

Third, the pride of life. This has been described as “Boasting in one’s acts and resources”” (RH KJV Study Bible). Do we point more to ourselves and our supposed accomplishments or do we point toward Christ? Peter admonished, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

These things are not of the Father, but of the world, John says (v. 16b).

The last word in v. 17 is that the world “passeth away” along with its inordinate desires or lusts, but the will of God abideth forever. To which do we want to hitch or join our lives? That which is here today and gone tomorrow, or that which will never pass away?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle