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Superheroes In the Pew

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

Pew

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

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

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville

IRBS Continuing Education Program – Lecture Notes

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

IRBS

Definition of Key Terms and Phrases

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

Key Terms and Phrases

  • Natural Law

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

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

  • Moral Law

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

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

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

  • Positive Law

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

  • Ceremonial Law

Muller says:

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

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

  • Judicial Law

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

  • Three-Fold Division of Law

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

  • Three-Fold Use of Law

Muller says:

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

 Richard Barcellos
IRBS Continuing Education Program 

___________________________________________

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

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

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

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

[5] Muller, Dictionary, 173-174.

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

[7] Muller, Dictionary, 173.

[8] Muller, Dictionary, 320-21.

Gratitude for God’s gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Max Doner
Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Lebanon, Oregon

 

On the Depravity of Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James White
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church

Some Old Pics from the Metropolitan Tabernacle

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

Met-Tab-Rooms

 

Deacons

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Elders

Stop the Killing! (Against Fratricidal Publication)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Technological advance often outpaces ethics. Consider medical science, for example, where the expertise in extending “life” seems greater than the consensus about when and how this ought to be done. A similar problem arises in communications technology and social media. These introduce complex questions for our ethical consideration. This message begins to address a concern especially about publishing by means of blogs, while the biblical principles raised also have implications for circulated letters and physical books. Recent events have heightened our awareness of this need, but we intend a wide application.

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him (Gen 4.8).

Speak not evil one of another, brethren (Jas 4.11).

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another (Gal 5.15).

The dawn of human history witnessed a crime of epic proportions: brother-murder. As killing a man is homicide, and killing oneself is suicide, so killing a brother is fratricide.

Murder is heinous because every human being is created in God’s image. That makes murder­­ an unspeakably wicked crime, because it is attempted deicide. The malice behind murder is not only horizontal but vertical, directed against the untouchable God through His vulnerable images in this world.

Fratricide or brother-murder is an especially loathsome species of murder because it is a gross violation of the special obligations that brothers have toward each other. Hateful Cain asked God insolently, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4.9). As a matter of fact, Cain, you are! Matthew Henry remarked here that

A charitable concern for our brethren, as their keepers, is a great duty, which is strictly required of us, but is generally neglected by us. Those who are unconcerned in the affairs of their brethren, and take no care, when they have opportunity, to prevent their hurt in their bodies, goods, or good name, especially in their souls, do, in effect, speak Cain’s language (emphasis mine).

Godly Abram knew that close kinship was a great incentive for peace, when he said to his nephew Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren” (Gen 13.8), or, “we are kinsman” (ESV). Abram has physical kinship and physical strife in mind, but this principle applies even more urgently when the kinship and crimes are spiritual. Christian brethren are under the greatest obligation to love one another, and this precludes character assassination.

If and when pastors slander other pastors, this is especially evil for three reasons.

First, Scripture requires exemplary conduct from pastors. “A bishop then must be blameless” (1 Tim 3.2). We must be consistent, living illustrations of our Lord Jesus Christ’s own love and righteousness.

Second, a man’s reputation is a precious commodity, so the one who would rob him of this is a felonious thief. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov 22.1). Would we tolerate inter-pastoral debits from one another’s checking accounts? Would there not be an outcry if any of us hacked into another pastor’s bank account and stole thousands of dollars? It follows that there should be widespread recognition and denunciation of anything approaching online slander in tone or substance, which is worse than robbery.

Third, pastors wield the greatest influence for good or ill in the churches. A healthy church holds its pastors and their teaching in high regard. Slandering good men tends to undermine their influence, and this sets a bad, contagious example for the flock. Scripture says, “Everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6.40 ESV). Instead of reproving their people for evil-speaking, slanderous teachers set the pace. They tend to corrupt all their students.

Considerations like these from Scripture are important and relevant in times like these, and sadly, not purely theoretical. My thesis on this subject should hardly be controversial, but our judgment can become clouded in the heat of controversy. Let me state my thesis as plainly as I can.

Public, verbal attacks, whether by letters, blogs, or books, upon the reputation of any pastors in good standing, are wicked and ought to cease whenever they have been indulged.

If indeed my assessment is sound, then the word from the throne of God Almighty, who said, “Thou shalt not kill,” must be,

Stop the killing!

Let me briefly explain my longer thesis statement. By public I mean readily accessible to believers and unbelievers alike, and to people who have no legitimate and spiritual need to know. By verbal attacks upon the reputation of any pastors I mean derogatory ad hominem comments that can only tend to diminish whatever respect the hearer has for the men being criticized. I am not including respectful public interaction about doctrinal differences in my censure, nor benevolent reproof. Letters, blogs, or books are prime examples of media that may be circulated without any ethical consideration to restrict the number and identity of the readers. By pastors in good standing I mean men who are considered biblically-qualified and competent as pastors by true churches of Christ. By wicked, I mean these attacks violate the ethical standards of Holy Scripture and are therefore offensive to God and rebellious against the Lord Jesus Christ. By ought to cease, I mean that wherever it is found, publication of these things should cease and desist promptly. Blog posts should be deleted. Presses should stop and publishers should absorb the financial loss as a sacrifice for the good of the churches. Those who have sinned should make public confession, ask forgiveness of their readers, and practice godly communications in the future.

To avoid being misunderstood, I need to qualify what I am saying, and please note this well. Here we are dealing with a vast and complex case of casuistry. If he missed my qualifications, a reasonable hearer could absolutize my teaching and suspect that I object in principle to any reproof whatsoever of any pastor under any circumstances in a public forum, no matter how grossly and publicly that pastor has sinned. Indeed, I consider this sermon itself as an example of lawful, public reproof to whomever it fairly convicts. A reasonable hearer who overlooked my qualifications here and elsewhere in this message might also doubt that I would judge it proper ever to publish something of a vindication of a pastor who has been slandered. I want to go on record that my remarks should not be so extrapolated. This message is only an attempt to elaborate some initial biblical principles for application in these complex matters.

I have been meditating on these things for months, and there is much I would like to say. Many Scripture texts and biblical truths have a bearing on this complicated matter, but in a brief message like this we can only survey some of the most important ones. Three aspects of this topic demand our attention: first, the light of biblical law; second, the lightness of potential excuses; and third, the way forward from this kind of moral mess. Of necessity we must deal with each sub-point only briefly, and the first part on biblical law will occupy most of our attention.

THE LIGHT OF BIBLICAL LAW

First, then, let us consider the light of biblical law, or more specifically, the moral law in Scripture. The 1689 London Baptist Confession teaches that this law “continues to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall,” and “does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof,” and “is of great use to [believers] as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly, discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin” (Chapter XIX, “Of the Law of God”).

Now while in Reformed thought the Ten Commandments are emphasized as a summary of this moral law, it is found throughout Scripture in many precepts and prohibitions, not to mention appearing in more subtle ways in other genres of biblical literature. For example, we see true righteousness on glorious display in the gospel narratives of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What follows, then, in no particular order, are a few aspects of biblical righteousness that are more pertinent to the matter at hand. May the Lord awaken every conscience by His holy Word, and sanctify us for His glory.

The Law of Love or Benevolence

Let us start with the law of love or benevolence. While “love” is a term that can encompass the whole Christian ethic, I am using it here in a more restricted sense to denote that spirit and conduct which intend the good of one’s fellow man. This is a duty we owe to everyone, especially to those of the household of faith, and by inference, even more to the spiritual leaders among us. Clearly this is God’s will for us.

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).

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor,” or, it “does no wrong to a neighbor” (ESV). The word translated as “ill” or “wrong” seems to have the sense here of harm or injury (BAGD, LN 20.18). Please notice the universal negation, “love works no harm.” An ancient principle of bioethics is, in Latin, “primum non nocere,” and in English, “first, do no harm.” The wise physician makes a priority of considering the effect of any treatment on his patient. In general, a treatment that does more harm than good is ill-advised. Helping the patient and making him healthier is the goal. This same thing is true as a general principle in the spiritual realm. We should consider what effect our words will have on others, and “love does no harm.” The converse truth is that love seeks to help or benefit the other person in some way.

I am persuaded that a thoughtful, deliberate purpose to do the most good to all involved would diminish the communication sins of God’s people. Unethical attacks are an unholy malignancy in the body of Christ. When it comes to relations between spiritual leaders within the true church, our sincere benevolence must be conspicuous as a governing principle. Above all others in the church, pastors should be models of love in relationships with one another! Hateful words hurled in public are hurtful words and do not promote the cause of Christ.

The Law of Forbearance

Differences of opinion and personal provocations are inevitable in churches full of the sinful people that we all are, and therefore we have a great need to be patient with each other. This inner virtue and relational practice is required in many biblical passages, but consider how it is stressed in Ephesians 4.1-2,

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.

A meek and quiet spirit is valuable in God’s sight in all His saints, not just women, because it is the spirit of Christ Himself (1 Pet 3.4; Matt 5.5; 11.29). When one is truly meek, he is slow to take offense and puts up a long time with all kinds of annoyances from his fellow believers, whether those arise from healthy debate within the bounds of orthodoxy, genuine or perceived faults in the ways situations have been handled in the past, or being overlooked in the work of ministry while others are more highly honored. Patience among Christian coworkers is like oil that keeps the working engine cool and helps it to run efficiently. Without it there is friction and overheating, and the whole thing is liable to fail.

The Law of Privacy

When it comes to matters of dispute among God’s people, Scripture cautions us in general to keep things as private as we can in resolving the problems. Here are a few passages illustrating this.

Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away (Prov 25.9-10).

On this text, Allen Ross wrote,

It is best to keep personal quarrels private to avoid public shame. These verses also are in the form of an instruction with a motivation. The thought runs that if in an argument with your neighbor you reveal another man’s confidence, he who hears you will shame you and you will always have a bad reputation. To put it more directly, do not divulge secrets in order to clear yourself in an argument. The point involves damaging a friendship by involving others in a private quarrel (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5 [1991], emphasis mine).

In the well-known passage of Matthew 18.15-18, Jesus is more explicit about handling things in the context of a local church. His teaching implies a general principle that escalation of confrontations is very undesirable. If resolution is possible between two brothers alone, that is best. If not, then only one or two others should be brought in as witnesses, judges, and counselors, with every prayer and hope that the matter will be resolved and go no further. Only when both of these steps utterly fail should the whole local church be informed, and the implication is that even then we must be careful not to spread the bad news of a dispute any further than ethically necessary. I acknowledge that other biblical principles sometimes warrant informing others outside a local church in the interest of God’s glory and the church’s good.

The fact that someone else was the first to violate the proper bounds of privacy in a particular matter does not in itself justify open publication and give carte blanche permission to say whatever one will about it. There is always the danger that further public discussion will result in a wider than ethically necessary awareness of our shame. We must be exceedingly cautious and be sure we have biblical justification for any reproof of guilty parties before the world. “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with” (Prov 17.14).

The Law of Humility

A truly humble man is willing to be thought little of, and considered wrong, and even slandered and vilified, rather than lash out at others for vindication. Our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this supremely. “When he was reviled, [he] reviled not again” (1 Pet 2.23). This kind of humility also restrains us from self-promotion, speaking well about ourselves to further our reputation and influence. Proverbs 27.2 pithily exposes that sin when it says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” This saying prohibits proud boasting as unrighteous and unbecoming in a man of wisdom.

The relevance of this is apparent from the tone of much blogging about controversies involving men and their ministries. It is not hard to find examples which clearly violate biblical norms. A couple of them in Proverbs teach us that wisdom and humility put a restraint upon the tongue. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Prov 29.11). “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (Prov 12.16).

The Law of Testimony before the World

Paul rebukes Corinthian Christians for taking one another to court for settling disputes among them. He rebukes them because this blemishes the testimony of the Christian community in front of the world of unbelievers. The passage is 1 Corinthians 6.1-8:

1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? 4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. 5 I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. 7 Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? 8 Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Paul’s words are drenched in pastoral reproof. How dare you do this? “How dare you take your internal disputes ‘before the unjust,’ that is, unbelieving judges and the world, and ‘not before the saints,’ that is, within the bounds of your own local church?” After insisting that this particular local church is competent internally to resolve disputes of this nature, Paul complains that they air their dirty laundry “before the unbelievers” (v. 6). This is such a grievous thing that Paul says to them, “It would be better for you to tolerate real injuries in your midst than to wreck the church’s testimony (and thus diminish the good name of the Lord Himself) by these public disputes.” “Shame on you!” (v. 5), Paul says by the Spirit of God.

Of course our pastors have sinned in many ways. And often what seems a transgression would be seen in a much better light if the whole truth were known about what actually happened. But my dear brothers, malicious wrangling on the World Wide Web where every ill-disposed enemy of the Church of Jesus Christ can read it and use it against us is wrong, even where there have been real injustices. We must not send a massive shipment of military arms for free to the Devil and his minions! Love covers a multitude of sins, and so does zeal for the Lord’s glory and the world’s salvation.

Now there may be instances where public statements should and can be made righteously, which unbelievers may regrettably hear, but we ought to never resort to such an extreme measure unless other biblical principles absolutely constrain us to it.

The Law of Patience

The fact is that in this life there is no possibility of “setting the record straight” so that all the guilty parties are properly shamed and punished while the Lord’s innocent servants are fully vindicated. Only our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows everything perfectly, including everyone’s motives—which are absolutely critical to a just judgment—is competent to make sweeping judgments about who deserves praise or blame. The Lord knows that we are prone to “judge by appearances” instead of “with right judgment” (John 7.24 ESV). Even a man’s judgment of his own heart and ministry is not absolutely trustworthy, so how much less his assessment of another man! We must patiently await Christ’s return and entrust judgment to Him, as Paul urged in 1 Corinthians 4.4-5:

4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God (ESV).

Believe me, brethren, the Lord is watching, and Judgment Day will reveal the truth to the glory of Christ with His faithful servants. We can—we must—wait until then for the full vindication of the faithful.

The Law of the Golden Rule

What has been called “the Golden Rule” often brings amazing clarity to ethical decisions. Found in several biblical passages (Matt 7.12; Luke 6.31), we could paraphrase it this way, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” James calls this principle “the royal law according to the Scripture,” and says that if you really fulfill it, you are doing well (Jas 2.8).

Now I would ask any pastor who may be involved in attempts to shame his fellow pastors, “Is this the way you would like to be treated by others?” I didn’t think so! No critic is wholly innocent; who possibly could be? So why would we treat others worse than we want to be treated? The most discerning people can easily see that pastors abusing pastors is very wrong.

I had hoped to elaborate on several other aspects of biblical law:

  • The law of peacemaking (“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Matt 5.9; “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another,” Rom 14.19).
  • The law of a need to know (“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people,” Lev 19.16; “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter,” Prov 11.13).
  • The law of presumptive innocence (“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” 1 Cor 13.7 ESV).

But we have almost run out of time. I will be content with calling attention to one more law of biblical righteousness.

The Law of Survival

Like Jesus, we pastors ought to be consumed with zeal for the well-being of His church. We should be and do what tends to her health, strength, and genuine prosperity. Promoting her edification, defense, and genuine growth in stature, usefulness, and multiplication throughout the world must be our great concern.

This is why all Christians, and especially pastors, must be governed by the law of church survival. Whatever tends to destroy the brethren must be wrong. Those who devour the sheep are wolves, not pastors who lovingly sacrifice themselves for the good of the sheep.

Perverse talk is one of the most effective ways to ruin the church, and so it is high on the list of evils to be avoided like the plague. As Paul said, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal 5.15). We should avoid forming a circular firing squad!

THE LIGHTNESS OF POTENTIAL EXCUSES

It is proper that biblical law should have the preponderance of our consideration in these ethical matters, so the last two parts of this message are appropriately concise.

Consider next the lightness of potential excuses. The fallen mind is extremely inventive in rationalizing bad behavior. In the light of this principle, I would not be surprised if some were to raise various objections to my thesis.

First, one could make the excuse of history. “We need to have a history of these things so we do not repeat our mistakes.” Writing history is legitimate, but a true and faithful history of pastors and churches, for example, could be written without demonizing honorable men and ministries. Church historians are not exempted from the biblical laws I have explained and many more I have not mentioned.

One might offer the excuse of retaliation. “They started it, so they deserve what’s coming.” Even if I grant these two points, they do not allow for repaying evil with evil. Scripture explicitly condemns retaliation. “Recompense to no man evil for evil” (Rom 12.17). Frankly, this excuse sounds like what six-year olds say when mother tells them to stop fighting with each other. “He hit me first!” His bad behavior does not justify mine.

In controversies of this nature, three basic parties may emerge. First, there could be the malicious aggressor with his sympathizers. Others, offended, may gravitate toward a counter-attacker, even if he writes sinfully, because they agree with his point of view. Third, the most benevolent observers pray for an outbreak of peace. I stand in the third group and I would enlist as many as I can.

Curiosity could be offered as an excuse. “Whenever I travel around preaching, people ask me, ‘What is the problem between Pastor X and Pastor Y?’” And because of this kind of sinful curiosity, Pastor Z feels compelled to “spill the beans.” I can hardly believe any man of God would fall for this. The National Enquirer is a tabloid paper that used to have a slogan, “Enquiring minds want to know.” Anyone professing allegiance to our Lord Jesus Christ would be hard-pressed to justify anything that even remotely resembles a gossip rag.

The excuse of truth sounds noble. Offenders might boldly challenge their critics, “You show us anything that is not true in what we are publishing and we will correct it,” but that argument assumes a colossally-false premise that whatever is true may be righteously published. Anyone embracing that view, if he is not altogether wicked, would be suffering from a huge ethical blind spot.

Some might try the excuse of independence with the accusation of prejudicial favor toward the alleged offenders. Here is what I mean. Critics could feel justified because they are proving they have no ultimate loyalty to any particular man, and if we say anything in that man’s defense, we might be judged as his lackeys, unprincipled fawners over a charismatic leader. In response I say that we do not have to slander a man to be independent thinkers, and that godly pastoral relationships preclude backstabbing. There is a way to disagree without resorting to public shaming.

I would briefly mention the potential excuse of good intentions. People could argue that a good end sometimes justifies admittedly regrettable means. Listen carefully, my friends. It is never, ever, ever right to violate biblical law. The God who gave it to us is infinitely wise, and He has given us a sufficient rule to govern our behavior. Faith leads us to obey God even when the consequences of obedience seem disastrous. It is never right to do wrong. Nothing is more important than God’s honor, and God is honored when we practice scrupulous conformity to His revealed will. Sin is the greatest evil—greater than shame, greater than obscurity, and greater than martyrdom.

Finally, the promotion of formal church associations would be no excuse. Some strongly believe that biblical principle, a common confession of faith, and cooperative endeavor require formal church associations. Personally, I am not convinced of this, but I consider such associations to be a matter where very good men can differ charitably and peaceably. As such, it falls into the category of the “doubtful things” of Romans 14. Paul explains there how we can have unity in a church, and by implication, among the churches, where there is diversity of opinion on many controversial issues like this. But this much I know. Even if formal church associations were God’s will for us, they would not excuse public, verbal attacks, whether by letters, blogs, or books, upon the reputation of any pastors in good standing.

THE WAY FORWARD

Suppose that from a failure to appreciate these biblical truths many had sinned already, involving many people in their public misdeeds. What could and should be done? Let me briefly suggest the way forward in the light of God’s revealed will.

First, we must have ethical clarity about these things. “In thy light shall we see light” (Psa 36.9). With courage and conviction, we pastors need to shine the light of God’s Word on these matters until a strong, enlightened consensus dawns upon our churches and we recognize these God-dishonoring sins for what they are.

Second, we must combat these sins with all courage. The Holy Spirit exhorts us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5.11). It has been no easy thing for me to preach as I have, but my conscience constrains me to bear this heartfelt witness against sin, whoever is guilty of it. Paul’s Christian principles demanded he write some pointed things, but he did it with love, many tears, and a broken heart. I trust my disposition is like his. Let all pastors faithfully teach and warn in this area of concern. It will help if we present a united front for holiness.

Third, God calls us to private confrontation. When Providence has brought us into a closer personal fellowship with an offender, we have a duty to go meekly to him and plead that he reconsider his ways. We must try to restore him spiritually (Gal 6.1).

Fourth, when there has been sin, let there be thorough repentance and forgiveness. We “ought to . . . forgive [the penitent], and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Cor 2.7). However low the church’s condition, all is not lost. God’s Spirit is able to grant deep contrition and sincere reconciliation between aggrieved parties. The Savior is able to heal all the breaches among us. I know it is God’s will that these things should happen. Let us pray that they will.

Fifth, there should be ecclesiastical discipline for any stubborn offenders. Titus 3.10 says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him” (ESV). Should any pastor persist in slandering others even after faithful confrontation and calls to repentance, his own local church ought to relieve him of his office at the very least. Church members must not tolerate wicked pastors over them. “As for those [elders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5.20). Where a church has the advantage of elder plurality, leadership in pastoral discipline is especially the responsibility of the other elders. May God either reform or remove the offenders!

Finally, I am calling for exemplary publishing from now on. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4.29 ESV). The same verbal holiness is required of our writing as well. We really can preach the gospel, edify the brethren, and save our hearers without resorting to fratricidal publication. It is not only evil, but horribly counterproductive. Such controversies tend to be a draining distraction from giving ourselves wholly to our legitimate ministries as pastor-teachers. Let us not dedicate our time, intelligence, and energy to producing countless pages of malicious diatribes. Let us not give the devil a foothold among us! O, good Lord! Forgive us for any of this, and let us devote ourselves purposefully to Your holy service in the manner that pleases You. Amen.

*This is an edited transcript of a sermon delivered in May 2014.

Note: Please refrain from mentioning any specific pastors, churches, blogs, books, or associations in any follow-up comments. A focus on biblical truth in these ethical matters would be safest and most edifying.

—————————————–

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

 

Discrimination, Conscience, and Religious Liberty

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 5, 2014 at 6:21 am

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(This article was originally published on March 3, 2014 www.reformedvirginian.com)

Last week saw yet another major battle in the so-called “culture war.”  The State legislature of Arizona passed a bill to protect religious liberty in the face of mounting efforts to force conscientious objectors–Christians in particular–to participate in same-sex “marriage” ceremonies through their professions.  In other words, the legislators were trying to protect a Christian baker (for example) from having to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual ceremony and thus violating his conscience.  Other examples include a Christian wedding photographer or florist being legally protected from doing likewise.  Yet these examples aren’t hypothetical, but real instances in which the civil state sanctioned believers because they refused to violate their consciences.  And there will certainly be more of these cases over time.

Sadly, the Governor of Arizona folded to political and economic pressure.  It illustrated Matthew 6:24 quite well.  She vetoed the bill and “gay rights” advocates declared victory.  The Jacobin movement for “equality” is on the march and seemingly unstoppable.  It is not an exaggeration to suggest that secular humanism is now the state religion in America.  This is indeed a moral revolution, one which fomented rather slowly since the decade of the 1960s.  The Sexual Revolution (as it came to be known) is now entering its final stages, the redefinition of marriage itself being the last major offensive in this long cultural war to destroy what’s left of a once vibrant Christendom.  While the erosion of the Christian ethos has been a steady process, the movement to normalize homosexuality has taken off at a rapid rate over the past decade.  What began with the legalization of no-fault divorce has now morphed into a situation in which marriage is no longer recognizable.

In the debate over the religious freedom bill in Arizona, we heard the familiar mantra about discrimination and the need for “equal rights.”  Discrimination itself is spoken of today as if the term itself were a dirty word.  Yet what does it mean to discriminate?  Both the term as well as the practice are not inherently sinful.  In times past, we used to talk about discriminating between two things rather than discriminating against something.  Everyone discriminates in life, even if they don’t want to admit it.  Anyone who expresses any kind of preference is exercising a form of discrimination.  It is not an inherently hateful or wicked act.  Quite the contrary, the Word of God requires us to discriminate in all sorts of ways.  Yet even some professing Christians refuse to acknowledge this, submitting instead to the humanist dogma that “non-discrimination” is a virtue.

There are some voices in the visible church who actively opposed the Arizona legislation, citing this principle of non-discrimination and twisting Scripture in order to buttress their ideological commitments.  ”The church should not be promoting discrimination,” they say.  Yet the New Testament clearly requires the church to discriminate in all sorts of ways.  Every time a pastor administers the Lord’s Supper, an act of blatant discrimination is taking place.  And this is a good thing.  The Word of God tells us to fence the table, excluding anyone who is not a baptized believer in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:27-34).  Those who are under church discipline are also barred from partaking in the sacrament.  Of course there are other instances of legitimate discrimination which can be found in Scripture, but the sacraments are, in my mind, the most obvious and powerful examples.

Are there ever wicked examples of discrimination?  Absolutely there are, but the religious freedom bill in Arizona wasn’t one of them.  Simply put, this was a matter of defending the sacred rights of conscience of the citizens of that State.  The bill was intended to make sure that no Christian would be forced–by virtue of being a business owner–to celebrate the wickedness and depravity of others.  Yet absolute conformity to the moral revolution is demanded by the cultural and political Left in America.  Matters of conscience on this issue are seen as an impediment to what they view as inevitable progress.  Giving up Christian sexual ethics and smothering one’s own conscience have become the sacrifices necessary to participate in society, especially if you are a business owner.  Do this or go under.  This imposition will inevitably lead to the marginalization of the church within the broader culture.

Our increasingly secular society has no patience for the Christian conscience whatsoever.  The humanist argument goes something like this: “You may worship and carry on all you like within your church or home, but don’t live out your beliefs beyond those areas.”  This attitude fits very well within the modern American paradigm of life as a compartmentalized structure.  By contrast, the Christian life is interconnected in all its parts.  Jesus Christ is Lord over every aspect of our lives, including what we do in the workplace, how we relate to the civil magistrates, our choices of entertainment, and so forth.  Hence, it is impossible for the Christian to relinquish this or that area of life to the world without committing gross sin.  We would be guilty of idolatry and denying Christ before men (Matt. 10:33).  Our allegiance is to Christ above all else and that is the very basis of our conscience.

For a very long time, the church in America has taken religious liberty for granted.  Yet this was not always so.  I won’t labor the point by quoting numerous individuals from the Colonial Era or bringing up the history of religious freedom in gross detail.  Instead, I’ll just point out that the victories won for religious liberty in America (thanks in large part to Baptists and Presbyterians) are relatively rare in church history.  That we can still enjoy the freedoms we have today illustrates the fact that we’re living on borrowed capital from our ancestors.  This capital diminishes more and more each day.  Yet some in the church saw this coming along time ago.  In 1897, the Southern theologian Robert Lewis Dabney prophetically stated: ”You may deem it a strange prophecy, but I will predict that the time will come in this once free America when the battle for religious liberty will have to be fought over again, and will probably be lost, because the people are already ignorant of its true basis and conditions.”

While we should not idolize religious liberty by any means, neither should we diminish its importance or consider it superfluous.  We ought to pray often that God would soften the hearts of civil leaders (here and around the world) that the Gospel would not be silenced.  To be sure, the loss of religious liberty is not primarily a political problem.  It doesn’t begin with the civil magistrates.  The fact that there are those within the visible church who apparently desire to see the state trample the consciences of Christians demonstrates where the problem really is.  It’s noteworthy that the churches which fought for and sustained religious liberty were those which were also confessional.  When a congregation’s doctrinal statement can fit comfortably on a postage stamp (so that they don’t offend anyone), there’s not conviction there to stand for much of anything.  These are congregations which are tossed to and fro by every trend of worldliness.  As we are reminded in James 4:4, friendship with the world means enmity with God.

If the Lord’s hand of providence provides us with less religious liberty than we’ve previously had, then we must learn to be content with this.  I know that’s not an American way of looking at it, but our Christianity should always trump our favorite American virtues.  Ultimately, this is good for the church in our land.  There’s a time for standing up for our rights, but submission to our sovereign God is an essential part of the Christian life.  In Philippians 1:29, we are given the stunning reminder that suffering on behalf of Christ is a gift from Him.  It is an honor.  Let these truths simmer in our minds and hearts such that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may bear much fruit in the days to come.

Josh Dermer

Josh is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington DC and a member of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Warrenton, VA.

Men who achieve a degree of greatness are often polarizing figures

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 4, 2014 at 11:21 am

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Men who achieve a degree of greatness are often polarizing figures.  This is not only true in the realms of politics and popular culture but in the church as well.  Bland men rarely stir great passions, but men of  conviction and gift often do.  In recent days much has been written about one of the prominent preachers among Reformed Baptist.   That man is Albert N. Martin.  For four years he was my pastor and instructor in Pastoral Theology at the Trinity Ministerial Academy.

Much has been written about the public ministry of Pastor Martin.   There are sermons that resonate with me nearly thirty years after hearing them.  There are the dozens of Pastoral Theology classes that form the bedrock of my life and ministry.  But there are three anecdotes that I want to share that have left the most lasting impression upon me.

When I first came to Trinity in 1986 I was largely ignorant of Pastor Martin’s ministry.   I soon realized that Pastor Martin’s gifts and graces had set him apart from many other teachers and preachers.  I thought this is the sort of man that people will write books about in future years.  That being said one of my first impressions of Pastor Martin was given following a fellowship meal at the church building on Sunday night.  After most folks had left, I turned around and saw Pastor Martin cleaning the tables.  He was picked up the plates and cups that others had left behind.  There were no trumpets being blown, no clearing of the throat to make sure a 23 year old ministerial aspirant saw him serving–just a man looking out for others.

A second incident occurred in those early days as well.  Early one Sunday morning I received a call from Pastor Martin telling me that he was going to be preaching in PA that morning.  His wife was ill and he wondered if I might keep him company on the trip.  Of course!  In those hours, he took a young man (23) under his wing and close to his side.  He was not the powerhouse of the pulpit but an older friend and mentor speaking about life and struggles and keeping to the main things of life. A few days later he handed me the address of the family who had put us up for the day so that I could send them a thank you note.  He was subtly teaching me to be a Christian gentleman.

The third occurred on July 1, 1989, the day I got married.  I got married in Norfolk, VA and Pastor Martin did not attend.  But he did call my wife early that morning at her father’s house (I have no idea how he got the number) to let us know that he was thinking of us and praying for us on our big day.  The church had hundreds of members and yet he took the time on a Saturday morning to show that we were more than ‘numbers’ to him.  When the day comes that Pastor Martin goes home to glory, it will not be sermons that I remember—it will be acts of service and love seen by few.

The Lord bless and keep him at he enters a new decade!

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville

2014 Keach Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on May 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

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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: – Jim Savastio
  • Message – Earl Blackburn
  • Fellowship and Literature Tables

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

  • Message:  – Earl BlackBurn
  • Message:  – Jim Savastio
  • Question & Answer Session with the speakers
  • Lunch Break

The Presence of Christ in the Supper

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on May 2, 2014 at 3:09 pm

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The presence of Christ in the Supper we must hold to be such as neither affixes him to the element of bread, nor encloses him in bread, nor circumscribes him in any way, (this would obviously detract from his celestial glory;) and it must, moreover, be such as neither divests him of his just dimensions, nor dissevers him by differences of place, nor assigns to him a body of boundless dimensions, diffused through heaven and earth. All these things are clearly repugnant to his true human nature. Let us never allow ourselves to lose sight of the two restrictions. First, Let there be nothing derogatory to the heavenly glory of Christ. This happens whenever he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or is affixed to any earthly creatures. Secondly, Let no property be assigned to his body inconsistent with his human nature. This is done when it is either said to be infinite, or made to occupy a variety of places at the same time. But when these absurdities are discarded, I willingly admit any thing which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life. For the odium with which this view is regarded by the world, and the unjust prejudice incurred by its defence, there is no cause, unless it be in the fearful fascinations of Satan. What we teach on the subject is in perfect accordance with Scripture, contains nothing absurd, obscure, or ambiguous, is not unfavourable to true piety and solid edification; in short, has nothing in it to offend, save that, for some ages, while the ignorance and barbarism of sophists reigned in the Church, the clear light and open truth were unbecomingly suppressed. And yet as Satan, by means of turbulent spirits, is still, in the present day, exerting himself to the utmost to bring dishonour on this doctrine by all kinds of calumny and reproach, it is right to assert and defend it with the greatest care.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, John,  Institutes of the Christian Religion IV, xvii, 19.

 

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