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Church Planting and the London Baptist Confessions of Faith

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 14, 2014 at 9:16 am

1689

James M. Renihan[1]

Almost as soon as Calvinistic Baptists appeared on the scene in 1640s England, they demonstrated a whole-hearted commitment to evangelism and church planting.  They were not alone, for many of the Puritans expressed concern for the regions of their country not yet blossoming with Gospel assemblies.[2]  None of these men could be content enjoying their own privileges, but actively engaged in seeking to bring the message of Christ to others.

The growth of the early Particular Baptists[3]  is amazing. W. T. Whitley, in a 1910 article, estimated that in 1715 there were 220 Particular Baptist churches in existence in England and Wales, and about half as many General Baptist churches.[4]  Included in many of Whitley’s entries is a figure of approximate attendance.  After extensive comparisons with other extant records, Michael Watts concludes that the figures are generally accurate for the period.[5]  When one remembers that in 1641 there were no Calvinistic churches practicing believer’s baptism by immersion, the statistics take on much meaning.

Among the Particular Baptists, the work of church planting was often done through evangelists.  This was not an office in the church, though the men involved were often elders, but rather appointed emissaries charged with the task of spreading the gospel and establishing churches.  They carried with them authority from the sending churches.  Two early examples of the convictions present in these churches provide the basis for later actions.

In 1649, the church “meeting att the Glashouse” in London held a day of prayer “to seek the Lord that he would send labourers into the dark corners and parts of this land.”[6]  On the next day, John Myles and Thomas Proud appeared in their midst, concerned for the needs of Wales.  They were apparently baptized and sent, within a fortnight, back to Wales for the purpose of planting churches.  On 1 October 1649, baptisms began to take place, and the Ilston church was organized, having forty-three members by October 1650.[7]  Myles engaged in an aggressive plan to bring other churches into existence, so that within a year of the first baptism two more assemblies had been formed, and the first “General Meeting”[8] in South Wales was held on 6 and 7 November 1650.[9]  White, citing the Ilston church book, states that the commission given to Myles and Proud by the London church was “to gather a ‘company or society of people holding forth and practising the doctrine, worship, order and discipline of the Gospel according to the primitive institution.’”  He then comments,

The terms in which they understood their mission are of considerable importance: they saw their task not only as concerned with the conversion of individuals to Christ but also with the foundation of congregations rightly ordered according to what they believed to be the one, unchanging, apostolic pattern.[10]

 White is undoubtedly correct in this assessment.  The well-ordered church was so central to the redemptive purposes of God that any kind of evangelistic thrust must seek, as its highest goal, to establish new assemblies.  For these Welsh evangelists, one church was insufficient.  The needs of the countryside were so great that only the founding of many churches would satisfy.  This early perspective was active among the Particular Baptist churches.

The London church under the ministry of Hanserd Knollys sent Thomas Tillam[11] to another one of the “dark corners of the land,” the North (County Durham), in December 1651.  He was appointed to a lectureship by the “Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel” established by Parliament in February 1649/50,[12] and used this post as the base to plant a Baptist church in Hexham.  In seven months, sixteen individuals were baptized and a church was formed.  Tillam saw this as the great end of his mission:

upon the 21st day of the 5th month, 1652 . . . after serious consideration and some gospel preparation, a living temple began of these living stones. . . . These, solemnly giving themselves to the Lord and one to another, to walk in communion together, with submission to all the ordinances of the Gospel, I, Tho. Tillam, espoused to one husband; hoping that I shall present them a chaste virgin to Christ.[13]

The formula for church planting was at the front of this action.  Evangelism was not carried out simply to seek after conversions.  Churches had to be planted.  Those who received the gift of salvation were expected to become part of a well-ordered church.  The Baptists could not conceive of evangelism apart from church planting.  Converts were to be baptized, and formed into a church by a (to use Benjamin Keach’s term) “wise master builder.”

The difficulties of the Restoration Era hindered the spread of churches, but in the relative freedom of the 1690s, several attempts were made to form new congregations.  Benjamin Keach argued that ministers should be active in preaching in the towns and villages near where they were located, so that new churches might be planted.[14]  The Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, church ordained David Crosley as an evangelist in 1692 stating “we by virtue of authority given unto us by our Lord Jesus Christ, have called our Brother forth to preach the gospel and baptize wheresoever the Providence of God shall open a door to his ministry.”[15]  This “roving commission”[16] was not simply to preach.  It included the necessary attendant for converts, baptism, implying the next logical step, the formation of churches.

This evangelistic impulse was the driving force behind the 1689 London General Assembly’s initiative to begin a fund intended (along with other purposes) “to send Ministers . . . to preach, both in City and Country.”[17]  In the Narrative of the 1690 London General Assembly, the participating churches rejoice at the good work already done through the fund, “especially in Essex and Suffolk, where were no Baptized churches,” because the mission was so well received that “two churches are like to be gathered.”[18]  According to Murdina MacDonald, Richard Tidmarsh had been sent into those counties, with two new churches as the apparent result.[19]

These examples give some indication, at least from among the leaders of the movement, for the spread of their message and the desire to see churches multiplied.  For them, the church was not simply a society of holy people gathered for fellowship with one another, but was an instrument to bring light and life to the darkest places.  When they were able, they encouraged and engaged in mission efforts within their capabilities.  Undoubtedly, the relative poverty of many of the churches and their ministers hindered expansion.[20]  But efforts were made, at times with positive results.

The impetus for these actions was theological, embedded in the general Confessions published by the churches.  The first London Confession (1644) states,

Christ hath heer on earth a spirituall Kingdome, which is the Church, which He hath purchased and redeemed to himselfe, as a peculiar inheritance: which Church, as it is visible to us, is a company of visible Saints, called & separated from the world, by the word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of faith of the Gospel, being baptized into that faith, and joyned to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical injoyment of the Ordinances, commanded by Christ their head and King.[21]

It should be noticed that the church consists of believers, brought out of the world to faith in Christ by means of gospel preaching, baptized, and united together to enjoy the ordinances given by Christ.  This definition of the church is dependent upon earlier statements in the Confession describing the process and fruit of conversion:

Faith is ordinarily begot by the preaching of the Gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or capacitie in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in sinnes and trespasses, doth beleeve, and is converted by no lesse power, then that which raised Christ from the dead.

That the tenders of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free, no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the Law, but onely and alone the naked soule, as a sinner and ungodly to receive Christ, as crucified, dead, and buried, and risen againe, being made a Prince and a Savior for such sinners.

The same power that converts to faith in Christ, carries on the soule through all duties, temptations, conflicts, sufferings . . . .

All beleevers are a holy and sanctified people, and that sanctification is a spirituall grace of the new Covenant, and effect of the love of God, manifested to the soule, whereby the beleever . . . presseth after a heavenly and Evangelicall perfection, in  obedience to all the Commands, which Christ as head and King in His new Covenant has prescribed to them.[22]

The Baptists confessed that saving faith produced evangelical obedience, and this obedience was to be worked out in a gospel church.  Dead sinners are brought to life through the power of Christ attending the preached word, and the resulting believers, sanctified by the grace of the new covenant, give themselves to “obedience to all the Commands.”  The context for this obedience is the local church.  This theological progression is unavoidable in the Confession.  Churches are the result of Gospel preaching.  Their evangelism was not merely “soul-winning” but rather a full-orbed attempt to see churches planted according to the Word of God.

The Second London Confession is no different in its emphases.  The following words, found in paragraphs five and six of chapter 26 teach the same doctrine:

In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the World unto himself, through the Ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father; that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his Word. Those thus called he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or Churches, for their mutual edification; and the due performance of that publick worship, which he requireth of them in the World.

The Members of these Churches are Saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together according to the appointment of Christ, giving up themselves, to the Lord & one to another by the will of God, in professed subjection to the Ordinances of the Gospel.[23]

Christ calls sinners to himself, commanding them to be part of churches in which they demonstrate their obedience to his will.  These men could not conceive of evangelism divorced from churches.  The theology of evangelism itself required that converts be added to existing churches, or formed into new churches for the glory of God.  Nothing less would fit the case.

In order to account for the remarkable growth present among the Particular Baptists, one must remember this fact.  Evangelism is at the heart of the doctrine of the church.  New assemblies are planted as men and women are brought to faith in Christ.  In these Confessions, practical theology is the necessary concomitant to ecclesiology.  Doctrinal formulations are not merely theoretical constructions.  They have very important implications and applications for life and ministry.

Historic Baptist theology brought together theology and practice.  In the best puritan fashion, it was recognized that what we believe must influence what we practice, and that what we practice must rest on the theological truths we confess.  These men and their churches sought to be faithful to that principle.  As we strive to preach the whole counsel of God, and apply the principles of reformation in our churches, we must take hold of this perspective.  Church planting ought to be at the very forefront of our agenda.  In Particular Baptist Ecclesiology, the church was fundamentally the result of the personal and sovereign activity of Christ in calling sinners out of the world to salvation.  From its roots in the New Testament, it was intended to be a holy community, separate from the world and focused on heaven.  But, so important was the planting of churches that programs were established to promote their increase.  Funds were raised, men were ordained and sent, and new congregations were organized.  Does our theology of the church inform our evangelism?  What more can we do?

______________________

[1]James M. Renihan is Dean and Professor of Historical Theology at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido, California.  Some of this material is taken from his 1997 doctoral dissertation, “The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705: The Doctrine of the Church in the Second London Baptist Confession as Implemented in the Subscribing Churches.”

[2]Cf. Christopher Hill, “Puritans and ‘the Dark Corners of the Land,’” in Change and Continuity in 17th-Century England, rev. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 3-47.  Hill demonstrates that a concern for the spread of the Gospel (and its attendant influences) was a significant concern among leading Puritans in the first half of the seventeenth century.

[3]This is the title most commonly given to the 17th century Calvinistic Baptists.

[4]W. T. Whitley, “The Baptist Interest under George I,” Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society 2 (1910-11): 95-109.  Whitley based his statistics on a document known as the “Evans Manuscript,” supplementing it at several points.  The Evans Manuscript is held at Dr. William’s Library in London.  It was an attempt to list “every Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist congregation in England and Wales” in the period 1715-18.  A detailed analysis of its statistics is found in Michael Watts, The Dissenters (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978), 267-89, and in the Appendix, 491-510.  The quote is from Watts, 268.

[5]Watts, The Dissenters, 504.

[6] B. G. Owens, ed., The Ilston Book: Earliest Register of Welsh Baptists (Aberystwyth: National Library of Wales, 1996), 32.

[7] B. R. White, ‘John Miles and the Structures of the Calvinistic Baptist Mission to South Wales, 1649-1660’, in Mansel John, ed., Welsh Baptist Studies (Llandysul: The South Wales Baptist College, 1976),37.

[8]I.e. association.

[9]White, “John Miles,” 40; White, Association Records of the Particular Baptists (London: The Baptist Historical Society, 1971), 3-4.

[10]White, “John Miles,” 36.

[11]Ernest A. Payne, “Thomas Tillam,” BQ 17:2, (April 1957): 61-66; David Douglas, History of the Baptist Churches in the North of England, from 1648 to 1845 (London: Houlston and Stoneman, 1846), 8-69; E. B. Underhill, Records of the Churches of Christ, Gathered at Fenstanton, Warboys, and Hexham. 1644-1720 (London: Hanserd Knollys Society, 1854), 289-96.  Tillam used the phrase “dark corner” in the first entry to the Hexham records, and the church, in a letter sent to Knollys’ assembly in London, used the full phrase five months later, 289, 304.

[12]Underhill, Records, 304; Payne, “Thomas Tillam,” 61.  On the “Committee” see Hill, “Puritans and the Dark Corners,” 32-44.

[13]Underhill, Records, 289.

[14][Benjamin Keach], The Gospel Minister’s Maintenance Vindicated (London: John Harris, 1689), 92-96; cf. Keach, Exposition of the Parables: Series Two (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1991 reprint), 362-63, where he likened ministers to “planters” whose fruit is to be “planted in a visible church of Christ.”

[15]Peter Wortley, transcriber, “Church Record Book, Volume One 1670-1715” (Bromsgrove: Bromsgrove Baptist Church and The Baptist Historical Society, 1974), 51.

[16]W. T. Whitley, Baptists of North-West England, 1649-1913 (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1913). 76.  See also Frederick Overend, History of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Bacup (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1912), 71.

[17]A Narrative of the Proceedings of the General Assembly (London: 1689), 12.

[18]A Narrative of the Proceedings of the General Assembly (London: 1690), 4-5, emphasis in original.

[19]Murdina MacDonald, “London Calvinistic Baptists 1689-1727: Tension Within a Dissenting Community Under Toleration,” Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1982,  42.

[20]In the 1689 Narrative, this point is explicit.  They mourned the financial neglect of ministers who must be “so incumbred with Worldly Affairs, that they are not able to perform the Duties of their Holy Calling, in preaching the Gospel . . . .”  1689 Narrative, 5.

[21] William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1969), 165.

[22]Ibid., 163-64.

[23]A Confession of Faith: Put Forth by the Elders and Brethren of Many Congregations of Christians (London: Benjamin Harris, 1677), 87-88.  While usually referred to as the 1689 Confession, it was originally published in 1677.

Previously published in the Founders Journal and may be found at their website

Evangelism – What is it?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

gospel

 by Ernest C. Reisinger

Evangelism is the communication of a divinely inspired message that we call the gospel. It is a message that is definable in words, but must be communicated in word and power. “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” (1 Thess. 1:5). That message begins with information and includes explanation, application and invitation.

The information is how God, our Creator and Judge, in mercy, made His Son a perfect, able and willing Savior of sinners. The invitation is God’s summons to mankind to come to that Savior in faith and repentance, and find forgiveness, life and peace.

“And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).

The definition of evangelize is as follows: “To present Jesus Christ to sinful men, in order that they may come to put their trust in God, through Him to receive Him as their Saviour and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” You will notice that this definition is more than “winning souls,” or saving people from hell, or saving them from their personal problems, or from life’s casualties, and you will notice that the definition includes serving Christ in His church. Much present-day evangelism would not fit this definition.

Evangelism is a Good Work

We want to consider evangelism as a good work, and we must ask, “What determines a good work?” There are three things that determine when a work is a good work.

First, a good work must be done by a right rule, and in the case of evangelism, that rule is the Word of God. We must examine all we do and say in evangelism by the Word of God. That is going to be shocking and revealing, but, this will be our only appeal—the Word of God. The question is not going to be, “Does it work?” but, “Is it true?”—”Is it biblical?” The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system works because they get converts, but is it true?

Second, a good work must have a right end in view. What is that end? The glory of God! God’s grace, mercy, and power will be glorified in the salvation of souls, or, His righteousness, holiness, and justice will be glorified in the damnation of ungodly rejectors of His revelation. Therefore, our job is to be true to the message of evangelism, regardless of the results.

When a preacher of a church tries to effect that which only God can effect, it has shifted from God-centered evangelism to man-centered evangelism. Therefore, the end we must have in view in God-centered evangelism must be first and foremost, the glory of God. If our end is only man, then our evangelism will soon become man-centered, which represents most modern evangelism.

Third, a good work must have a right motive. What is the right motive in God-centered evangelism? There are two proper motives:

  1. Love to God and concern for His Glory.
  2. Love to man and concern for his good.

Both of these motives spring from the Ten Commandments. Let me explain what I mean. When Jesus was asked by the lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40). Here our Lord gave a summary of the Ten Commandments.

Now, I said our motive for the good work of God centered evangelism must be:

  1. love to God and concern for His glory, and
  2. love to man and concern for his good. Well, how do we glorify God?

We glorify God by doing His will—and it is His will that we spread His name and His message of His salvation. Jesus said He glorified the Father by finishing the work that the Father gave Him to do: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4).

He has given us the work of taking His message to all the world, thus our first motive must be love to God and concern for His glory. This is expressed in obedience to His revealed will. Therefore, if we are obedient to spreading God’s message, He will be glorified regardless of the results. The results are past our reach, past our ability, and, thank God, past our responsibility.

Our second motive — love to man and concern for his good — again springs from our Lord’s summary of the commandments, “…the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). If we really love our neighbor, we will want to share with him the message of salvation. I must add a personal note. The greatest good that has ever been done to me, or for me, in this world was done by the man who brought me the message of salvation, the message we call the gospel. He loved me; he was concerned for my good in this world and in the world to come. The Christ of this message changed my life, my home, and thank God, my destination.

In God-centered evangelism our motive is important. Evangelism is a good work; therefore, it must be done:

  1. by a right rule — the Word of God.
  2. with a right end in view — the glory of God.
  3. with a right motive — love to God and love to man.

I am convinced that many of our churches would not be in the spiritual condition they are in if our past evangelism had been done by a God-centered rule, with a God-centered end in view, and by God-centered motives.

Evangelism is a good work and, like all our work, will be tried as to what sort it is. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13).

From Today’s Evangelism.

Addenda, Part 1: Biblical Support of “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism”

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 11, 2014 at 3:05 pm

husband and wife

“Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” (Eph 6.24). I believe that this benediction rightly belongs to many who have criticized my catechism and me. I sincerely wish you all, my beloved brethren, every blessing in Christ.

The major concern is the catechism’s application to abused wives. Scripture testifies abundantly that our glorious God is full of compassion for the weak and oppressed, and that He is righteously zealous against their tormentors (e.g., Exod 22.21-24, among many similar passages). He hates the mistreatment that abused wives and many others suffer today. I adore and worship Him for this.

Many have pressed me to provide biblical support for the catechism; I gladly yield to them. The subject is complex, so please be patient while I address many important issues that have been raised. This post is only an initial response. Because God’s Word is most important and the need for biblical support is urgent, I present this first, before a statement of clarification which is planned for a subsequent post.

I begin by offering biblical support for the catechism as it stands. I remain firm in my conviction with many others that the catechism is faithfully scriptural in its content.

For convenience I reproduce the catechism in its entirety with the text of relevant Scripture citations after each question and answer, along with a little brief explanation. I have quoted several Bible translations with approval; the unmarked ones are from the King James Version.

I speak now particularly to you who are Christians, who believe the Bible is God’s Word, and therefore our authoritative rule of truth and righteousness. As I see it, the fundamental question before us is this:

Does the catechism faithfully convey biblical teaching?

If it does, it must necessarily be vindicated in the judgment of sound Christian believers. Anyone who admits that it faithfully conveys biblical teaching but objects to it anyway cannot be considered sound in the Christian faith.

Unbelievers, by definition, are skeptical of God’s Word, and even hostile to it. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom 8.7 ESV). Therefore we cannot reasonably expect a universal consensus among readers of this blog which probably includes many unbelievers. A more likely outcome includes some expressions of hostility to biblical truth. The Lord have mercy on us all.

In the interest of brevity, I have suppressed the urge to expound each biblical text as it relates to the points of the catechism. I beg my readers, with me, to pray for our mutual divine illumination. Let each study these verses carefully in their context with reverent meditation upon them. May the Lord give us all more light by His Word.

————————————

“A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism with Supporting Biblical Texts”

Q1.      What is the main point of my marriage to my husband?

A1.       To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the same point of my existence and all my circumstances.

“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 11.36).

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31).

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3.17).

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psa 73.25-26).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, though fallible, famously states the praiseworthy Reformed consensus in these words: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever” (Q/A1). Of course, the term “man” refers to all humanity.

Q2.      Can my marriage ever be the source of true happiness to me?

A2.       No, at best it can become an occasion of happiness, but all my joy is bound up and will remain forever in knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore my blessedness does not depend on the state of my marriage.

“Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb” (1 Sam 25.3).

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psa 1.1).

“Men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (Psa 17.14).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt 5.3-12).

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1.3-4).

Q3.      How can I glorify God and enjoy Him forever in my marriage?

A3.       By trusting God implicitly and doing His will in all things because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3.5-6).

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut 6.5).

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Psa 119.1-2).

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt 22.37-38).

Q4.      What is the most important thing about how I relate to my husband?

A4.       That I love him with gracious gospel love, respect him for his position over me, and submit to him as unto the Lord.

“Teach the young women . . . to love their husbands” (Tit 2.4).

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13.8-10).

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5.43-48).

“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matt 10.36).

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5.23).

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph 5.22).

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Col 3.18).

“Teach the young women . . . to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit 2.4-5).

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph 5.33).

Q5.      What is gracious, gospel love for my husband?

A5.       A supernatural love from Christ that is large, constant, and free, and that does my husband good and not evil all the days of my[1] life.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal 5.22).

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6.10).

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Prov 31.10-12).

Q6.      What is respect for my husband?

A6.       It is a conscious recognition of his special authority over me as my husband on the basis of God’s Word and the covenant I freely entered when I married him.

See Eph 5.22-23, 33, and Col 3.18, quoted under Q/A4, as relevant also to Q/A6.

“The Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant” (Mal 2.14), or, “your wife by covenant” (ESV).

“And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth. And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go” (Gen 24.57-58).

“And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich” (Ruth 3.9-10).

Q7.      What does it mean to submit to my husband as unto the Lord?

A7.       That I will cheerfully acquiesce to my husband in all things consistent with the revealed will of Christ, but no further, from a sincere desire to please my husband and Christ for my husband’s good and Christ’s glory.

This answer deliberately and forcefully asserts that not her husband, but Christ, is the sovereign Lord of each Christian wife. Her submission to Christ alone must be absolute and unqualified, and she must trust Him implicitly and without reservation in her entire relationship with her sinful husband. In any particulars where submitting and acquiescing to her husband is not “consistent with the revealed will of Christ,” she must (not just may) obey Christ instead and refuse her husband’s unrighteous wishes.

“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Gen 3.17).

Likewise, a wife must not disobey God in order to please her husband.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26).

Jesus specifically addresses men but this same requirement of absolute loyalty to Jesus applies to a wife also in relationship to her own husband. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29)—always and in everything when we are faced with a choice between the two.

Q8.      Will there be cases when I must obey Christ rather than my husband?

A8.       Yes, if ever my husband expects me to disobey any of Christ’s commands, but even then I must keep loving and respecting my husband as my husband while Christ always has my greatest love and loyalty.

Many texts already cited support the answer above, but consider Col 3.18 again: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” I completely agree with the comment of the New Bible Commentary (D. A. Carson, et al.) on this verse:

“The wives, as free and responsible agents, are asked voluntarily to submit themselves to their husbands since this is entirely proper (fitting has a Stoic ring to it but the motivation is entirely Christian). In the Lord means within the new fellowship of those who own Christ as Lord. Submission points to the wife’s calling to honour and affirm her husband’s leadership and to help him exercise his role within the family. It is not an absolute surrender of her will, for Christ is her absolute authority, not her husband. Nor is there any suggestion that the wife is naturally or spiritually inferior to her husband” (in loc.).

Q9.      What is the primary means by which I can influence my husband toward greater faith and obedience to God?

A9.       Setting a good example before my husband, without a word of nagging or disrespectful rebuke.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet 3.1-6 ESV).

“Some who do not obey the word” refers to husbands who are disobedient to God’s Word, and especially the case of an unbelieving husband. Peter states the case generally, without qualification or exception, but it would be unfair to blame him for that. “They may be won” refers to the hopeful prospect that they may begin to obey God’s Word. “Without a word by the conduct of their wives” contrasts an approach primarily verbal to one which is primarily exemplary. Peter is urging Christian wives to “respectful and pure” conduct for a good spiritual influence upon their unbelieving husbands. This conduct requires a focus on inward, spiritual beauty more than outward, physical beauty. That inner beauty he further describes as “a gentle and quiet spirit,” which is consistent with the evangelistic approach (deeds more than words) Peter has just recommended.

To inspire Christian wives, Peter appeals to the noble examples of other godly women—most notably Sarah, wife of Abraham. Christian wives must aspire to be like them without giving in to sinful fear that would hinder them in their holy calling.

“A wife’s nagging is an endless dripping. . . . Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife. . . . Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife. . . . Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife. . . . An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike” (Prov 19.13; 21.9, 19; 25.24; 27.15 HCSB).

Q10.    Does this absolutely forbid addressing my husband about his responsibility for faith and duty as a man, a husband, and a father?

A10.     No, but when it is right to address him about these things, I must speak the truth in love, with evident love and respect for him as my husband.

“But speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4.15).

“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father” (1 Tim 5.1 ESV).

“Let . . . the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph 5.33).

These verses obviously apply to a wife’s speech toward her husband.

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.     Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

No matter how wretched our circumstances, we have no reason to find fault with God who orders everything about our lives, including our suffering which He consistently tempers with His mercy.

“I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant” (Gen 32.10).

“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psa 130.3-4).

“Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this” (Ezra 9.13).

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8.7).

“If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (Job 9.20).

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam 3.22).

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3.10).

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath” (Psa 78.38).

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42.5-6).

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6.5).

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5.8).

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17.10).

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim 1.15).

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3.8).

“Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5.5).

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.8-9).

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess 5.18).

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5.20).

Q12.    How good a wife am I to my husband?

A12.     Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my husband as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the excellent wife that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my husband.

Our righteous Savior Christ is perfectly holy, and even the best Christian wife still has much remaining sin. Without forgetting His abundant grace to every true Christian, we must never forget our great and ongoing need for much progress in sanctification.

All the blessings that come to Christian believers are not God’s justice repaying us for our own personal merit, but rather God’s grace poured out upon us, despite our sins, on account of the merits of Jesus Christ for us. We stand in perpetual need of God’s free grace, and in Christ, we have His promise of this grace unto eternal life and blessedness.

On account of my sin, I deserve the wrath of God that Jesus suffered on the cross in my place. Anything better than that is God’s mercy and grace to me in Christ. My best service to the Lord is stained with sin, far short of Christ’s worth and example, though He accepts my service graciously. Every Christian should confess these things. Every Christian wife (and husband) should take this truth to heart. That is what I intended in Q/A11-12.

“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments” (Psa 119.4-6).

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Prov 31.10).

“Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered: “Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—while I was still searching but not finding—I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes” (Eccl 7.27-29 NIV).

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5.48).

“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21.36).

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7.18-19).

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7.21-23).

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (Jas 3.2 ESV).

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3.17-18).

Without denying the reality of the grace of Jesus Christ that forgives our sins and renews our souls, the greatest believers in all ages have readily confessed, sometimes in extravagant terms, their own personal depravity and fearful demerit on account of their sins. The biblical texts cited offer justification for this. Another striking example is found from Jonathan Edwards, who wrote, with his soaring powers of expression, the following words in his journal. It is noteworthy and instructive that he wrote these words while serving as an eminently godly pastor during the Great Awakening:

My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountains over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, ‘Infinite upon infinite—Infinite upon infinite!’ When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss, infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth. And yet, it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceedingly small and faint; it is enough to amaze me, that I have no more sense of my sin. I know certainly, that I have very little sense of my sinfulness. When I have had turns of weeping and crying for my sins, I thought I knew at the time, that my repentance was nothing to my sin (from “Remainder of Personal Narrative,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1).

This humble Christian spirit is required to sympathize with Q/A 11-12 of this catechism, especially when we are suffering great injustice inflicted by wicked people.

Q13.    How can I possibly love my husband so well, since he falls so short of the ideal husband, and I am such a sinful person?

A13.    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even this, for I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Also, I know that God has given me His Spirit and all-sufficient grace to help me to do all He requires of me.

“You don’t submit to your husband because he is worthy but because Christ is worthy” (quoted).

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4.13).

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2.20).

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5.24-25).

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4.10-13).

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12.9).

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ be pleased to grant more love, joy, peace, and unity among His true children by His Holy Spirit and the truth of His Word. Amen.

 D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com
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[1] As first posted, this catechism had “his” here, which I have now corrected to “my” following Prov 31.12. Obviously, after she dies, she cannot do him good in the sense intended here.

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A Christian Husband’s Marriage Catechism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 9, 2014 at 2:29 pm

husband and wife

Providentially, many Christian husbands are married to unbelieving wives. This is a great trial for them, especially if the woman is very ungodly. Pastoral counseling discovers that many of these brothers in the Lord are not clear about how God wants them to relate to their wives in such a case. I have prepared this brief catechism for some guidance, suggesting that he should memorize it and find supporting Scripture references for its counsel, with careful study of those passages.

I am convinced that even though these are basic biblical truths, many Christian husbands would know more peace and confidence in their God-ordained role if they called them to mind every day for practical application in their marriages. Also, these truths should prove helpful even when the wife is a godly woman.

May the Lord use this simple catechism to bless His precious sons in difficult marriages.

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

————————————

Q1.      What is the main point of my marriage to my wife?

A1.      To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the same point of my existence and all my circumstances.

Q2.      Can my marriage ever be the source of true happiness to me?

A2.      No, at best it can become an occasion of happiness, but all my joy is bound up and will remain forever in knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore my blessedness does not depend on the state of my marriage.

Q3.      How can I glorify God and enjoy Him forever in my marriage?

A3.      By trusting God implicitly and doing His will in all things because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Q4.      What is the most important thing about how I relate to my wife?

A4.      That I love her as Christ loves the church, living with her in an understanding way, with appropriate honor and respect for her.

Q5.      What is Christ-like love for my wife?

A5.      A supernatural love from Christ that makes me willing to give of myself for her good, seen and demonstrated in daily, practical acts, attitudes, and words of love.

Q6.      What is it to live with my wife in an understanding way?

A6.      It is to show her honor as the weaker vessel, being sensitive to her needs, fears, and feelings; to nourish and cherish her with the love and affection of Christ.

Q7.      Does any failure on my wife’s part to fulfill her duty of respect to me as her husband relieve me of the duty to love her sacrificially?

A7.      Never! Rather, it is a greater opportunity to show the grace and selflessness of such love.

Q8.      Will there be cases when I must please Christ rather than my wife?

A8.      Yes, if ever my wife expects me to neglect or disobey any of Christ’s commands, but even then I must keep loving and honoring her as my wife while Christ always has my greatest love and loyalty.

Q9.      What are the primary means by which I can influence my wife toward greater faith and obedience to God?

A9.      Teaching her the Word of God, praying for her, leading her with all love and humility in the way of righteousness, and setting a good example before her, without any bitterness in my heart or unkindness in my speech and conduct.

Q10.    Does this absolutely forbid reproving my wife about her responsibility for faith and duty as a woman, a wife, and a mother?

A10.    No, but when it is necessary to address her about these things, I must speak the truth in love, with all patient tenderness and affection for her as my wife.

Q11.    How good a wife is my wife to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for her every day.

Q12.    How good a husband am I to my wife?

A12.    Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my wife as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the Christ-like husband that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my wife.

Q13.    How can I possibly love my wife so well, since she falls so short of the ideal wife, and I am such a sinful person?

A13.    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even this, for I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Also, I know that God has given me His Spirit and all-sufficient grace to help me to do all He requires of me.

A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

marriage

Providentially, many Christian wives are married to unbelieving husbands. This is a great trial for them, especially if the man is very ungodly. Pastoral counseling discovers that many of these sisters in the Lord are perplexed about how God wants them to relate to their husbands in such a case. I have prepared this brief catechism for some guidance, suggesting that she should memorize it and find supporting Scripture references for its counsel, with careful study of those passages.

I am convinced that even though these are basic biblical truths, many Christian wives would know more peace and confidence in their God-ordained role if they called them to mind every day for practical application in their marriages. Also, these truths should prove helpful even when the husband is a godly man.

May the Lord use this simple catechism to bless His precious daughters in difficult marriages.

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

————————————

Q1.      What is the main point of my marriage to my husband?

A1.      To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the same point of my existence and all my circumstances.

Q2.      Can my marriage ever be the source of true happiness to me?

A2.      No, at best it can become an occasion of happiness, but all my joy is bound up and will remain forever in knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore my blessedness does not depend on the state of my marriage.

Q3.      How can I glorify God and enjoy Him forever in my marriage?

A3.      By trusting God implicitly and doing His will in all things because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Q4.      What is the most important thing about how I relate to my husband?

A4.      That I love him with gracious gospel love, respect him for his position over me, and submit to him as unto the Lord.

Q5.      What is gracious, gospel love for my husband?

A5.      A supernatural love from Christ that is large, constant, and free, and that does my husband good and not evil all the days of his life.

Q6.      What is respect for my husband?

A6.      It is a conscious recognition of his special authority over me as my husband on the basis of God’s Word and the covenant I freely entered when I married him.

Q7.      What does it mean to submit to my husband as unto the Lord?

A7.      That I will cheerfully acquiesce to my husband in all things consistent with the revealed will of Christ, but no further, from a sincere desire to please my husband and Christ for my husband’s good and Christ’s glory.

Q8.      Will there be cases when I must obey Christ rather than my husband?

A8.      Yes, if ever my husband expects me to disobey any of Christ’s commands, but even then I must keep loving and respecting my husband as my husband while Christ always has my greatest love and loyalty.

Q9.      What is the primary means by which I can influence my husband toward greater faith and obedience to God?

A9.      Setting a good example before my husband, without a word of nagging or disrespectful rebuke.

Q10.    Does this absolutely forbid addressing my husband about his responsibility for faith and duty as a man, a husband, and a father?

A10.    No, but when it is right to address him about these things, I must speak the truth in love, with evident love and respect for him as my husband.

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Q12.    How good a wife am I to my husband?

A12.    Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my husband as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the excellent wife that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my husband.

Q13.    How can I possibly love my husband so well, since he falls so short of the ideal husband, and I am such a sinful person?

A13.    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even this, for I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Also, I know that God has given me His Spirit and all-sufficient grace to help me to do all He requires of me.

 

Superheroes In the Pew

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Pew

If you were to ask the average Christian to speak of their spiritual heroes it would be common for them to bring forth the names of great pastors, preachers, and missionaries who have served faithfully and well in the Kingdom in the past or present.  They buy the books, listen to the sermons, follow the tweets, and read the biographies of these esteemed men and women.  I want to tell you bit about some of my heroes.  Many of them have never preached and certainly have not written popular books or blogs.  They have never spoken at conferences.   With the exception of a few dozen fellow churchmen, they are unknown in the wider Christian world.

My heroes consists by and large of the men and women of my church.  They are the faithful plodders of God’s Kingdom.  They love the worship of God and the ministry of His Word.  They work long hours in their spheres of labor, in the home and out of the home and yet make it a priority to come to services of worship and the times of prayer.  They have full schedules, are often weary and yet they come, not to be served, but, like their Master, to serve.  Some of my heroes face crippling diseases and have battled through crushingly dark providences.  I’ve seen them lose their jobs, lose their children, and their spouses.  I’ve seen the cost they pay to simply follow Christ.   I’ve seen men and women persevere when loved ones turn back to the world.  I’ve seen them bear with the faults and sins of others.  Their elders have at times disappointed them, their brothers and sisters have let them down.  Yet, they show a love that covers a multitude of sins.  They exemplify what it means to bear with one another and to bear one another’s burdens.   Unlike the heroes of the church or the heroes of our culture, they do not preach, they do not travel to foreign lands, they are not strange visitors from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man, they do not cling to walls or fly through the sky.  But they are my heroes, and one day, the King of Kings will say to them before the whole world, Well done!

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville

IRBS Continuing Education Program – Lecture Notes

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 17, 2014 at 3:15 pm

IRBS

Definition of Key Terms and Phrases

Doing theology involves utilizing terms and phrases that have evolved over time which attempt to encapsulate crucial biblical teaching. Technical terms and phrases are used to accommodate wide swaths of biblical truth into brief, theological short-hand. Before we embark upon a survey of Reformed theologians and the Confession of Faith on the law of God, it may be helpful to acquaint ourselves with the theological nomenclature typically utilized in such discussions. We will lean heavily upon Richard A. Muller’s Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, which I highly recommend.

Key Terms and Phrases

  • Natural Law

lex naturalis: natural law; also lex naturae; law of nature; the universal moral law either impressed by God upon the mind of all people or immediately discerned by the reason in its encounter with the order of nature. The natural law was therefore available even to those pagans who did not have the advantage of the Sinaitic revelation and the lex Mosaica [i.e., Mosaic law, which includes the natural law, though in a different form] with the result that they were left without excuse in their sins… The scholastics argue the identity of the lex naturalis with the lex Mosaica…according to substance, and distinguish them…according to form. The lex naturalis is inward, written on the heart and therefore obscure [due to sin], whereas the lex Mosacia is revealed externally and written on tablets and thus of greater clarity.[1]

The natural law is universal because God is the creator of all men. Natural laws are “founded on the natural right of God…(being founded on the very holiness and wisdom of God).”[2] They are “just and good antecedently to the command of God…”[3] They are commanded because just and good in light of who God is and what man is as His image bearer. It is “the practical rule of moral duties to which men are bound by nature.”[4] Due to man’s created constitution, this law is written on his heart, though now obscured by sin. Natural law is not acquired by tradition or formal instruction. This law was, however, promulgated (i.e., formally published) on Sinai, which differs from the natural law in form though identical to it in substance. Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.

  • Moral Law

Richard Muller defines Moral Law in Protestant scholastic thought as follows:

[S]pecifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[5]

 As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalogue had a unique redemptive-historical context and use, it is nothing other than the Natural Law incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant. This is one of its uses in the Bible but not all of its uses.

  • Positive Law

Positive laws are those laws added to the Natural or Moral Law. They are dependent upon the will of God. These laws are “good because God commands them.”[6] They become just because commanded. The first Positive Laws were given to Adam in the Garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:17), as far as we know. Subsequent Positive Laws are spread throughout the Old and New Testaments. Positive laws can be abrogated for various reasons. They are not necessarily universal or perpetual. Some obvious illustrations of Positive Law in the Old Testament are circumcision and animal sacrifices and two New Testament illustrations are baptism and the Lord’s Supper under the New Covenant. Neither circumcision, animal sacrifices, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper are either universal or perpetual.

  • Ceremonial Law

Muller says:

lex ceremonialis: ceremonial law; specifically, the ceremonial or religious regulations given to Israel under the Old Covenant, alongside the moral law of the Decalogue and the civil law of the Jewish nation, such as the Levitical Code. Whereas the lex moralis…remains in force after the coming of Christ, the lex ceremonialis has been abrogated by the gospel.[7]

 This aspect of biblical law is not based on creation but conditioned upon God’s purpose to remedy the plight of man due to sin. It is Positive Law, law added to the Natural or Moral Law and, in this case, for the purposes of redemption.

  • Judicial Law

The civil or political laws revealed through Moses for ancient Israel as God’s nation in the land of promise. Though the underlying principles of these laws (i.e., their general equity) are sill of moral use, the laws as stated have expired along with the theocracy.

  • Three-Fold Division of Law

This concept sees the Moral Law as based on creation and, therefore, perpetually binding on all men (though in differing ways) and the Ceremonial and Judicial Law of the Mosaic Covenant as supplemental to the Decalogue under that covenant. The Ceremonial and Judicial Law of the Mosaic Covenant is Positive Law, law added to the Moral Law for temporary redemptive-historical purposes. The three-fold division is based on the fact that the Bible makes distinctions between different types of law functioning under the Mosaic Covenant and views the principles of the Decalogue pre-dating its formal promulgation.

  • Three-Fold Use of Law

Muller says:

 usus legis: use of the law; as distinguished by the Protestant scholastics, both Lutheran and Reformed, there are three uses of the lex moralis. (1) …the political or civil use, according to which the law serves the commonwealth, or body politic, as a force for the restraint of sin. The first usus stands completely apart from any relation to the work of salvation and functions much as revelatio generalis…in bringing some knowledge of God’s will to all mankind. (2) …the elenctical or pedagogical use; i.e., the use of the law for the confrontation and refutation of sin and for the purpose of pointing the way to Christ. …(3) …the tertius usus legis, the third use of the law. This final use of the law pertains to believers in Christ who have been saved through faith apart from works. In the regenerate life, the law no longer functions to condemn, since it no longer stands elenctically over against man as the unreachable basis for salvation, but acts as a norm of dconduct, freely accepted by those in whom the grace of God works the good. This normative use is also didactic inasmuch as the law now teaches, without condemnation, the way of righteousness.[8]

The first use applies to all men. The second use applies to all men who come in contact with the written Word of God. The third use applies to believers alone.

Concluding Thoughts

This section has been devoted to defining our terms. No attempt was made to prove all the assertions of the definitions. It is simply offered to help us as we enter the thought-world of many theologians who have gone before us. In the pages that follow, we will come in contact with the terms noted above and the concepts they seek to embody. An attempt will be made in the biblical section to show how these concepts actually come from the text of Scripture.

 Richard Barcellos
IRBS Continuing Education Program 

___________________________________________

[1] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 175.

[2] Turretin, Elenctic Theology, II:2.

[3] Turretin, Elenctic Theology, II:2.

[4] Turretin, Elenctic Theology, II:2.

[5] Muller, Dictionary, 173-174.

[6] Turretin, Elenctic Theology, II:2.

[7] Muller, Dictionary, 173.

[8] Muller, Dictionary, 320-21.

Gratitude for God’s gifts

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.  1Kings 7:21

It has been my pleasure and privilege to know many fine pastors in the Reformed Baptist movement in the last 33 years, and each has had an influence in my life, on my understanding of the scripture, and on my pastoral work that has been of tremendous value. Without their contribution to my life, my ministry would have been poorer by far.

Such men have contributed greatly to not only my own ministry, but the ministry of many others as well. All of us pastors owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the influence that men of God have had on us individually, and on the Reformed Baptist movement as a whole, both in America and around the world.

But among the Reformed Baptist pastors that have had perhaps the largest sphere and degree of influence for good in our movement in the last several decades, two names stand head and shoulders above the rest: Walter Chantry and Albert Martin.

Both were contemporary pioneers in the fledgling Reformed Baptist movement that was coming to life in America, and both contributed immeasurably to the growth of both the number of men that came to Reformed Baptist convictions, and the number of Reformed Baptist churches that were founded as a result.

It was my pleasure to know both men personally, and each had a dramatic impact on my theology and ministry: Pastor Martin through his tape ministry, and Pastor Chantry through his books. But it was more than their teaching that had an impact – it was their personal kindness to me individually that made it clear that these men were not just teachers, but that they both had a heart for God’s servants that was compassionate and loving.

When I was going through some very difficult decisions regarding the impending death of my uncle, Pastor Martin took the time to give me personal counsel about the ethical issues that applied to medical decisions that I had to make, and provided both wisdom and comfort in what was a very difficult and confusing time for me.

When I was a young pastor, and in sore need of guidance in ordering my pastoral priorities and my ministry to my flock, Pastor Chantry took a day out of his schedule to drive 400 miles round trip to have lunch with me to provide that guidance.

It was my pleasure to attend various pastors’ conferences where each spoke on various occasions, and the unfailing effect of their warm pastoral preaching was to re-inspire each pastor there to more zealous and faithful service for Christ.

Each of these men have made a huge contribution to the Reformed Baptist movement, and inspired thousands to love and preach the reformed faith. Without them both we would have been much poorer and less knowledgeable than we are. Thank God for such gifts to His church. We remember them both with love and gratitude, and pray that the Head of the church may be pleased to raise up such pillars once again.

Pastor Max Doner
Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Lebanon, Oregon

 

On the Depravity of Man

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 12, 2014 at 10:49 am

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.” The great works of Christians down through the centuries are filled with the same testimony: man is the slave of sin, utterly undone outside of Christ. Even those whose theology did not measure up to the biblical standard could not help, in their prayers, to confess what they knew to be true: the fallen sons of Adam are dead in sin, incapable of even the first move toward God. Even more, they are filled with the effect of depravity and alienation from God: enmity and hatred toward His holy standards. This was a common element of Spurgeon’s preaching:

Now, the calling of the Holy Spirit is without any regard to any merit in us. If this day the Holy Spirit shall call out of this congregation a hundred men, and bring them out of their estate of sin into a state of righteousness, you shall bring these hundred men, and let them march in review, and if you could read their hearts, you would be compelled to say, “I see no reason why the Spirit of God should have operated upon these. I see nothing whatever that could have merited such grace as this – nothing that could have caused the operations and motions of the Spirit to work in these men.” For, look ye here. By nature, men are said to be dead in sin. If the Holy Spirit quickens, it cannot be because of any power in the dead men, or any merit in them, for they are dead, corrupt and rotten in the grave of their sin. If then, the Holy Spirit says, “Come forth and live,” it is not because of anything in the dry bones, it must be for some reason in His own mind, but not in us. Therefore, know ye this, men and brethren, that we all stand upon a level. We have none of us anything that can recommend us to God; and if the Spirit shall choose to operate in our hearts unto salvation, He must be moved to do it by His own supreme love, for He cannot be moved to do it by any good will, good desire, or good deed, that dwells in us by nature.

The “flip-side” of divine freedom is the fact that man, the great image-bearer of God, is a fallen creature, a slave to sin, spiritually dead, incapable of doing what is pleasing to God. Just as the great freedom of the Potter offends rebellious pots, so too does the Bible’s teaching on the inabilities of man due to sin. The fallen sons and daughters of Adam are most adept at finding ways to promote creaturely freedom at the cost of God’s freedom, while at the same time promoting the servitude of God to the whims and will of man. It would be humorous if it were not so serious: the pots gathering together and assuring each other that the Potter either doesn’t exist, or, at worst, will sit idly by while they take control and “run the show” themselves. Yet this is the impact of sin upon the thinking of man. Man suppresses the truth of his createdness and invariably attempts to find a means to “control” God. One wisely put it this way:

Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself….So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power-the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.

Truly recognizing one’s spiritual state is a gift of grace. Outside of God opening the eyes of the heart man thinks himself wonderfully pure, or at least acceptable in God’s sight. That is why the unregenerate person cannot understand the urgency of the gospel message: until they see the depth of their sin and the holiness of God, they find no reason to seek remedy for their condition.

Man’s religions consistently promote the myth of man’s autonomy: his absolute freedom to act outside of any eternal decree of God. “Man is the master of his destiny” seems to be the watchword of the religions of men, and even of many in Christendom today. How many times have you heard a preacher say, “In the matter of election, God has cast his vote for you, Satan has cast his against you, and now the final vote is up to you”? Such an assertion not only makes man’s choice equal with God’s, but it likewise places the final decision for what takes place in time squarely in the hands of man, not of God.
The Potter’s Freedom, pp. 75-77.

James White
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church

Some Old Pics from the Metropolitan Tabernacle

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 10, 2014 at 9:32 am

Met-Tab-Rooms

 

Deacons

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Elders

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