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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

chains

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
 
________________

[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

 ___________________

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

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.

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“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

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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.

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