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2014 Keach Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 31, 2014 at 11:30 am

Keach2014 (1)

What?  The Keach Conference is an annual theology and ministry conference presented by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA).  It is open to anyone to attend.  There is no cost to attend, but participants are encouraged to pre-register.

When?  Friday evening-Saturday morning, September 26-27, 2014.

Where?  The 2014 Keach Conference will meet at the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, 7336 Riley Road, Warrenton, VA 20187.

What is the 2014 theme?  We are continuing our ongoing series through the Second London Baptist Confession.  This year we are on Chapter Eight  “Of Christ the Mediator.”

Who are the speakers?  The speakers will be Pastor Jim Savastio of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky and Pastor Earl Blackburn of Heritage Baptist Church of Shereveport, Louisiana.

How do I register? Cost: FREE, Web: Register Now!

What is the schedule?  The schedule will be as follows:

Friday evening, September 26 @ 6:30 pm (Session I):

  • Message: The Glory of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Message: “The Exclusivity of Christ” (LBC 8:2) & John 3:22-36 – Earl Blackburn
  • Fellowship and Literature Tables

Saturday morning, September 27 @ 9:30 am (Session II):

  • Message: “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life & Ministry of Christ the Mediator” (LBC 8:3)- Earl Blackburn
  • Message:  The Pre-eminence of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Question & Answer Session with the speakers
  • Lunch Break

Conference: Baptists, Confessionalism and the Providence of God

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

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November 13 -15th • Indianapolis, IN

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We are thankful and considered blessed to have such gifted men of God gathered together under one roof to discuss the various topics at this conference.  They range from all areas of expertise and knowledge, and personally hold to the doctrines as expressed in the
1689 Baptist Confession. You are sure to have every opportunity to get your questions answered.
1188380_origSam Waldron
Sam is one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY.  He also serves as the Academic Dean of and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies.
Sam received a Bachelor of Religious Education from Grand Rapids Baptist College in 1973, completed studies equivalent to a Master of Divinity at Trinity Ministerial Academy in Montville, New Jersey in 1982, and graduated from the Master of Theology program at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary in 1987.Sam enjoys reading, weight-lifting, walking, and spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. 
2343714_origSonny Hernandez
Pastor Sonny is currently the elder/teaching pastor at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
He has completed all the core requirements for the DMin and is pending completion in August 2014, from Tennessee Temple University. He has also earned a MDiv and a MATS from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.Sonny is deeply passionate about Scripture memorization, teaching the doctrines of grace, and studying theology that pertains to the 16th century Reformers, Puritans of early America, and Charles Spurgeon sermon writings.He has served in the Armed Forces since 1997, to include deployments to the United Arab Emirates and Iraq in support of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” He is currently serving as an Air Force Reserves Chaplain (Captain), and also serves as an adjunct university professor.
4358768_origGordon Taylor
Gordon served two Baptist churches as pastor during his almost 39 years of pastoral ministry. He was pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Greene, IA from 1969 to 1975. In May of 1975 he began a thirty-three year ministry at the Sycamore Baptist Church near East Moline, IL.While at Sycamore he led the church through a reformation, which culminated in adopting the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1987. The church joined RBMS in 1995 and ARBCA in 1998.Gordon was appointed by the churches of ARBCA to serve as Coordinator in 2008.  Gordon and Rayna have four children and fifteen grandchildren.
3609733_origDoug Barger
Doug Barger is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband of one and a father of two.  Doug received his ordination from the Bible Study Chapel – Independent Baptist (Indpls., IN) in 2005 where he served as an assistant/teaching Pastor under Pastor Cleve Morton.
In 2010 he received the blessing of Pastor Morton and the church to leave and help start
Reformation Baptist Church (Knightstown, IN) where he currently serves in various roles.Doug is the current director of the Indiana Baptist Historical Society and contributes/edits the Baptist Witness Journal, the societies’ flagship publication in addition to operating a masonry construction company and cattle farm.

 

Click here for more information

Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm

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The purpose of the SCRBPC is for the edification of confessional Reformed Baptist pastors and other interested men who are in the ministry or training for the ministry. The SCRBPC will function within the theological framework of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (2nd LCF) and The Baptist Catechism (BC).

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Does God love us just the way we are?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Persecuted Christians and You

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

μιμνῄσκεσθε τῶν δεσμίων, ὡς συνδεδεμένοι· τῶν κακουχουμένων, ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι.

Do we care about persecuted Christians around the world? I mean really care—so that we think of them often, feel for them, pray for them, and do what we can to alleviate their suffering. Unquestionably, it is God’s will that we should.

Many in the USA are ignorant and apathetic about international concerns generally. Materialism and narcissism, to name just two perverse aspects of our culture, conspire to rivet our attention to our own physical and psychological needs and desires. We are prone to become terribly selfish and frivolous in our daily routine.

When news of persecuted Christians does occasionally penetrate our protective cocoon, we may wince for a moment, but we find that dwelling on such things is too uncomfortable to indulge for very long. So we quickly dismiss them and return to our private world.

Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve loved one another perfectly. Those two composed the whole human family in those days. They lived as one, joined together in mutual service and concern. He looked out for her best interests, and she, for his. It was the way things ought to be.

After they sinned, their unselfish love was ruined, and malice made its early and disturbing appearance in their sons. Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. When confronted by God, Cain impudently said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” as if he had no moral responsibility to promote his brother’s best interests. All Adam and Eve’s children ever since, naturally conceived, have suffered the same depravity.

Enter the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we believe it, we know that God has renewed our hearts and begun transforming us into the brother-lovers we were meant to be. Our capacity and actual practice of love is progressively restored. This is one of the clearest signs of a real Christian. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13.35).

That means we discover true and deep feelings of compassionate concern for the welfare of other people, especially our fellow Christians. This is more than the remnant of natural humanity which is found to some degree even in unbelievers. For the sake of Christ our Lord, and because He loves them, our hearts yearn that sinners might be saved and saints might be blessed. This ethical yearning prompts us to redemptive and compassionate action on their behalf.

No one has a more legitimate claim on our concern than severely-persecuted Christians, wherever they may be found. They are especially precious in the Lord’s sight, and they suffer the greatest injustice. With them in mind, Scripture says the world is not worthy of them (Heb 11.38). And what could be more unjust than violence against others just because they love God and His Son, Jesus Christ? These sheep led to slaughter are treading in the steps of the blessed Savior, the Just One crucified for our sins. They are the excellent ones of the earth.

Consider the counsel of our text about our relationship with them.

Remember Them

“Remember them that are in bonds,” or, “Remember those who are in prison” (ESV). This exhortation stands opposed to our natural forgetfulness.

The context constrains us to understand this as referring especially to persecuted Christians. Both the historical situation of the original readers (i.e., somewhat persecuted, cf. 12.4) and the immediate context (11.1 ff.; cf. 13.1-2, 5-6) justify this interpretation. To “remember” them here is not just to think of them, but to “give careful consideration to,” “care for, be concerned about.”[1] The same Greek word is used in the same way in Gen 30.22 (LXX) and Luke 23.42. It couples loving consideration with practical action, the inevitable fruit of sincere concern (Jas 2.15-16). 1 John 3.14-19 powerfully insists on the linkage between true Christian love and good works.

Sometimes all we can do for some is to pray, but how can we do less than pray? And we should seriously consider what else we might do.[2]

Relate to Them

The rest of Hebrews 13.3 stresses our need for empathy and solidarity with our suffering brethren. Its parallelism helps interpretation. Remember:

them that are in bonds, as bound with them

them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves in the body

They are “in bonds” and thus “suffer adversity.” You are to remember them with the same compassion and concern as if you were right there with them, for, after all, like them, you are “in the body.” The likely idea is that in this life, you are vulnerable to the same kind of suffering, so theirs should be a matter of special concern to you. “Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings” (ANT). Our remaining sin makes us less concerned for others, so we need to put ourselves, mentally, in their place. When we are deeply touched like this, we will be more faithful to remember our brethren with a compassionate response, and be more like Christ. Amen.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com
 
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[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[2] One helping organization that has won the support of many discerning Christians is “The Voice of the Martyrs” (www.persecution.com).

Are church prayer meetings necessary?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

prayer

Matthew 18: 19-20  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The corporate mid-week church prayer meeting is all but absent in the churches of our day. The vast majority of churches no longer have one because they think it is either unpopular, irrelevant, or unnecessary.

Excuses for its cancellation abound. We often hear it said:

“The attendance is low, most people don’t come; we should not have a service that is unpopular with the people. It is a struggle for busy working people to make a mid-week prayer meeting; they don’t want it, and therefore we should cancel it.”

“Prayer meetings are irrelevant; we need to do the work of God through methods that are more relevant and impactful in meeting people’s needs and drawing them into the church. Prayer meetings are a relic of a bygone era.”

“A meeting devoted to prayer is unnecessary; we pray at church during our Sunday service and in our homes during the week, surely it is not necessary to pray more than this.”

The net result of such thinking is a dramatic reduction in corporate church prayer, to the point that prayer in the congregation is reduced to that which occurs in the morning worship, (most churches do not have an evening service on Sunday either) and focused, extended, and participatory prayer is entirely absent from the life of the church.

And yet, it is corporate, participatory, and extended prayer that is exactly what we desperately need in our day of spiritual weakness, apathy, and worldliness.

In the passage cited above, Jesus in the context is speaking of corporate church discipline, and corporate church prayer.

He expects that just as the church practices corporate discipline, that it will practice corporate prayer as well.

But must it practice it at a mid-week prayer service? Obviously, there is no command for it to do so, and it would be legalism to insist that it must. Some have prayer meetings on Sunday before or after the worship services, and some at other times.

But what must be insisted on is that the church needs to have times of focused, extended, and participatory prayer, and her failure to do so is a direct manifestation of her self sufficiency, complacency, and spiritual apathy.

We see prayer meetings of the church recorded in Acts 1:13-14, Acts 4:23-31, and in Acts 12:5,12. In each case, people did not just pray privately in their closets, but met together for corporate public prayer. The results were astounding in each case.

The early church understood the need for extended times of corporate prayer that were separate from and in addition to the regular corporate worship. We need to understand it as well. If you are thinking about canceling your prayer meeting, don’t. And if you don’t have one, start one up.

There are great benefits from doing so. Historically, revivals have begun out of corporate prayer meetings. Furthermore, they greatly deepen church unity – the people you feel the closest to, are the people you pray with the most. And most importantly, through them the Bride of Christ most intimately communes with her Lord, and receives grace from Him.

The spiritual condition of a church may be accurately gauged by her prayer meetings. If the spirit of prayer is not in the people, the minister may preach like an angel, but little will come of it. May God fill our prayer meetings with His presence, His power, and His Spirit, as His people gather to bow in His presence and seek His mercy and grace.

Pastor Max Doner
Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Lebanon, Oregon

Introducing the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 22, 2014 at 11:36 am

We Are Not Peddlers of God’s Word

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

David F. Wells

Churches which preserve their cognitive identity and distinction from the culture will flourish: those who lose them in the interests of seeking success will disappear.

In our churches we may have made a deal with postmodern consumers but the hard reality is that Christianity cannot be bought. Purchase, in the world of consumption, leads to ownership but in the Church this cannot happen. It is never God who is owned. It is we who are owned in Christ. Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can only be had as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not its retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christian are not its consumers. It cannot legitimately be had as a bargain though the marketplace is full of bargain hunters.

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word…” II Cor 2:17

No, let us think instead of the Church as its voice of proclamation, not its sales agent, its practitioner, not its marketing firm. And in that proclamation there is inevitable cultural confrontation. More precisely, there is the confrontation between Christ, in and through the biblical Word, and the rebellion of the human heart. This is confrontation of those whose face is that of a particular culture but whose heart is that of the fallen world. We cannot forget that.

David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Power’s: Christ in a Postmodern World, pg. 308-309

Addenda, Part 2: Clarification of “A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism”

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 15, 2014 at 11:29 am
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”
Proverbs 10.19

 

Wisdom and my innocence require brevity in this statement of clarification.

  • True love is the essence of biblical righteousness.
  • “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt 7.12).
  • Pastors and husbands ought to love and lead like Jesus without lording it over their charge (1 Pet 5.3).
  • Male chauvinism and egalitarian feminism alike pervert the plain sense of Scripture; we must not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12.2).
  • The abuse of truth is no excuse for rejecting it.
  • Beware of twisting another’s words and then cursing your pretzel.
  • “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14.22).
  • God hates oppression; He will expose and punish the finally impenitent on Judgment Day.
  • “Grace and mercy are never deserved” (R. C. Sproul).
  • My pastoral messages are fallible and should be received only insofar as they are consistent with Scripture. My errors should be rejected with a clear conscience,  while biblical truth ought to be received gratefully, however poorly it is presented.
  • Providence ordains that I should hear criticism, and even when it is unjustified, God uses it for my good and I should consider His purpose in it. I thank Him for all the comments He has sent me through you.
  • The divorce question is both complex and controversial, even among very discerning Christians, and no one needs me to make a pronouncement about it.
  • Online discourse should be loving, respectful, magnanimous, and rational.
  • May God deliver all His oppressed people from their abusers and preserve them while they suffer.
  • Let all churches firmly commit to a compassionate ministry of caring and to biblical church discipline in cases of domestic abuse.
  • I subscribe to the ecumenical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) and to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.
  • Rather than sustaining online debate, I ought to give priority to loving and leading my beloved wife and my precious congregation at Exeter, New Hampshire.

To my fellow Christians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor 13.14).

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

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Moderators of the RBF blog [not Pastor Meadows] have decided that readers have now had sufficient time and opportunity to offer their comments, so they are closed.

Church Planting and the London Baptist Confessions of Faith

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

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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

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