Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Means of Grace

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm

sheddWGT

.The means of grace are means of sanctification. They suppose the existence of the principle of divine life in the soul: “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation” (Westminster Larger Catechism 154). The means of grace are administered within the visible church and to its members.1 Consequently, church membership is requisite to obtaining the benefits of the means of grace and sanctification. Some of these benefits cannot be enjoyed at all outside of the visible church: those, namely, connected with the administration of the sacraments and the fellowship and watch of Christians; and none of them can be enjoyed in their fullness by one who has not separated himself from the world by confessing Christ before men.2[1]

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1 WS: When the world of unregenerate men are said to have the means of grace, the means of conviction under common grace, not of sanctification under special grace, are intended: “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners, of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ” (Westminster Larger Catechism 155).

2 WS: Respecting the nature of the church, Calvin (dedication to the Institutes) presents the Protestant view in two fundamental positions: (a) That the church may exist without a visible form, because it is both invisible and visible. The former is composed of all who are really united to Christ; the latter, of all who profess to be united to Christ. The former has no false members; the latter has, as the parables of the tares and the net show. (b) That the visible form of the church is not distinguished by external splendor, but by the pure preaching of God’s word and the legitimate administration of the sacraments. The Romanist contends that the church exists only in a visible form and that this form is in the see of Rome and her order of prelates alone. Rome makes the invisible and visible churches identical and coterminous. For a concise and able statement of the prelatical theory of the church, see Jeremy Taylor’s consecration sermon.

[1] Shedd, William Greenough Thayer. Dogmatic Theology. Ed. Alan W. Gomes. 3rd ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003.

Whither Reformed Baptists? Part One

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Jim

It has often been stated that the Lord Jesus referenced only the church twice in His earthly ministry. The first time is in Matthew 16 wherein he stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church and the secondly in Matthew 18 wherein He envisions the necessity of church discipline against an impenitent member. In these two statements, it has been said, we have the church triumphant and the church militant (struggling). The history of the Church bears both these marks. There are glorious stories of triumph and grievous stories of shame, infidelity, and retreat.

For over thirty years I have been part of Reformed Baptist Churches. I have pastored one church for nearly 25 years and have sought to help other churches get planted. I have been involved in ministerial training in the US, Africa and the Far East. In recent months I have been thinking through the trajectory we, as churches, seem to be on. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. My plan, in these blogs, is to identify four areas of concern and articulate some course of action.

The first area of concern is that of future leadership. While there are numerous Calvinistic Baptist movements marked by vigorous and youthful leadership, our churches are not yet among their number. There are many of our churches where there are sole pastors and some of those churches are pastored by men of advancing years. Not only can they not find a fellow elder to bring about a biblical plurality, they do not know who will lead their flock in the decades to come. No pastor I know wants their churches to fade away when they are gone. They desire that God will replace them with robustly confessional men who love the Lord and His people and who will lead them to the green grass and cool waters of His Word for decades till they themselves are replaced.

What kind of men? We desire biblically qualified men who have a passion to selflessly shepherd Christ’s flock. We desire men of giftedness who will be able to feed the flock. We desire men of confessional conviction. That means, for us, men who embrace the truths of historic confessional Christianity with firmness, conviction, knowledge and joy. Men who embrace Baptist Covenant Theology. Men who love the Lord’s Day and are not ashamed of its place in the Moral Law. Men who believe in the centrality of the church and the commitment of members to it’s life together. If our churches are to remain committed not only to Orthodox and Reformed Christianity but to 1689 Confessionalism then we must do at least three things.

The first we must do is pray that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up laborers (Matt 9:38). As one has well said, only the God who made the world can make a gospel minister. Secondly we must invest in our youth. We must lay bare afresh what we believe and why we believe it and pray that the Lord will instill in them a passion for these truths they have grown up with in a way that does not lead to pride, judgmentalism towards brethren who differ, and isolation. We can and must be a people of narrow convictions and broad affections and associations. Thirdly we must act. Encourage young men to consider the ministry. Pastors need to look for men to mentor and invest time and resources in. Look to give younger men opportunities for ministry—prison ministries, nursing homes, homeless shelters, youth gatherings, Sunday School classes, and eventually morning or evening worship services. Lead the people of God in prayer for the rising generation with hope that God will own and bless His truth till His Son returns in glory.

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
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Fatal Sincerity

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on November 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Fatal

Sincerity is a popular god. Intentions are all that matter, not the objective truth, rightness, or goodness of what is done. Except Sincerity-worshipers repent, they will suffer disastrous consequences on the Day of Reckoning.

1 Chronicles 13 is the perfect Bible chapter to illustrate and vindicate my pastoral concern about this. It recounts a dark day in Israel’s history, when God’s holy people were very sincerely wrong and suffered for it. The shocking death of Uzzah stands in the sacred record as a neon warning sign about fatal sincerity.

One test of our own perspective on this matter is our internal response to the story. Idolatrous devotees of Sincerity are bound to be deeply offended—even enraged—by the story and the way it portrays God’s startling act. One example of offense taken is this profoundly blasphemous paragraph:

Well, well, well, look at how gracious God was for Uzzah’s loving attempt to keep the ark from falling to the ground. Does it surprise you that God killed Uzzah for trying to do a good dead [sic]? It doesn’t surprise me one bit because I’ve come to see God for what he really is; a hateful, unforgiving tyrant with no appreciation for his own creation.

http://noreligionrequired.com/tag/uzzah/ (accessed 19 Nov 2014)

See how this blasphemer characterizes the sinful act as “Uzzah’s loving attempt” and then arrogantly condemns God’s holy indignation and righteous judgment as evil! Good intention combined with effort are supposed to be good enough for God, and if not, then He’s at serious fault. Also notice the subtle suggestion that God is obligated to be perpetually “gracious,” failing to appreciate that grace is always given or withheld according to God’s sovereign pleasure. Every single instance of divine forbearance, forgiveness, and delight toward sinful people ought to be a matter of perpetual amazement to us. Uzzah’s death was just, and that is enough. Instead of changing his mind, this God-hating blogger just digs in because his warped perspective does not accord with God’s true nature and His ways with men.

On the other hand, if we approach this story in the fear of God, we must be deeply impressed with His holiness, Word, and true worship.

We would not for a moment denigrate sincerity, as far as it goes. Scripture emphasizes its importance, especially in divine worship (e.g., Josh 24.14; 2 Cor 1.12; Eph 6.24). Of course insincere worship is an affront to God who knows our inner motives better than we do.

But the Uzzah story makes the point with a vengeance that sincerity is not enough. For one thing, the record says they were careful to transport the ark in “a new cart” (v. 7) made just for this sacred service. Further, “David and all Israel played [were celebrating, ESV] before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets” (v. 8). Their intention was to honor God, and they went at it with much zeal and holy boldness. And even Uzzah, by extending his hand to steady the Ark (v. 10), surely purposed in his heart to please God and promote His glory. All this is granted, and emphasized here.

That is what makes the insufficiency of sincerity and God’s severe judgment stand out in bold relief. The sin that provoked God was a lack of faith, and perhaps of knowledge, and certainly of reverence. One writer aptly calls it “pious disobedience,” and explains,

The Levites, or, more particularly, the Kohathites, were expressly commanded to bear the ark. The manner of bearing it was also commanded. Rings were appended, through which staves were run. These poles, covered with gold, were to be supported on the shoulders of the bearers. They were forbidden to touch the ark upon pain of death (Num 4.15). Such was God’s command. In transporting it from the house of Abinadab, David infringed the divine command by directing the ark to be borne on a cart drawn by oxen (John Girardeau, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church, 1888).

Incidentally, God was gracious to His people on this occasion. Though the guilt of the sin was shared by all, only one man was struck dead. Then the Lord blessed them in their reformed worship (cf. 1 Chron 15.12-15).

Religious zeal without a spiritual knowledge of God’s Word is characteristic of the unconverted who are lost in their sins, like apostate Israel in Paul’s day (Rom 10.1-2). They persisted in an impossible ambition—to be righteous enough by themselves, without Christ, to earn God’s favor and blessing (Rom 10.3-4).

When it comes to religion, that just is what the fallen human nature is still inclined to do. It seems that the masses today tenaciously cling to the illusion that it does not really matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere in it. It does not matter how you worship, as long as you worship in your own way. All the religions of the world are “faiths,” rather than massive systems of idolatry and immorality resisting the one true faith of biblical Christianity (Eph 4.5). Just like the Jews of old, they are “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” the only righteousness that can justify a sinner, even Jesus Christ, given by grace alone and received by faith alone, plus absolutely nothing.

The Lord must be worshipped, then, “in sincerity and in truth” (Josh 24.14). If this phrase is not mere hendiadys, it may be adding biblical conformity to sincerity as a description of what the Lord requires of us—a conformity that is explicitly required in many other passages. Even as Reformed churches have confessed for centuries:

The acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures (1689 LBCF XXII.1).

The world hates this truth, but humble believers are grateful to escape the eternal punishment due to sincere but unscriptural worshipers. Ω

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com

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