Friday, October 30, 2009

Why I Love Jesus Christ

For a while now I've had something tumbling around in my mind and pressing on my heart. It is a need to think more consistently and conscientiously about the glories of my Savior. Knowing how fickle my heart can be, I decided that it would be good for me to post once a week on why I love my Savior. I don't know how long I will continue this, but in the mean time I am glad for the opportunity to praise him.

So, on to the first reason.

I love Jesus Christ because he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:3).

Husbands Who Honor their Wives

The way men treat their wives shouts out their true character for all the world to hear. Christian husbands bring honor to God by showing honor to their wives, and we as men will be challenged from the Word of God this Lord's Day to live up to God's standard of husbandry.

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come (#708)
Fairest Lord Jesus (#21)
The Savior to Glory Is Come (#178)
Before the Throne of God Above (#177)
O Father All-Creating (#727)
Take My Life and Let It Be (#560)

Scripture Reading
Isaiah 62

Husbands Who Honor a Woman as a Fellow-Heir - 1 Peter 3:7

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Canons of the Synod of Dordt (Part 2)

Under each main point of doctrine, the Synod of Dordt delineated the errors which they were refuting. They wanted to make crystal clear what they believed the Scripture taught and what was incompatible with the Scriptures. Here are the errors which they rejected concerning the doctrine of election.

Rejection of the Errors
by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been Disturbed

Having set forth the orthodox teaching concerning election and reprobation, the Synod rejects the errors of those

Who teach that the will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire decision of election to salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decision has been revealed in God's Word.

For they deceive the simple and plainly contradict Holy Scripture in its testimony that God does not only wish to save those who would believe, but that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular people to whom, rather than to others, he would within time grant faith in Christ and perseverance. As Scripture says, I have revealed your name to those whom you gave me (John 17:6). Likewise, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48), and He chose us before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy... (Eph. 1:4).

Who teach that God's election to eternal life is of many kinds: one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and the latter in turn either incomplete, revocable, nonperemptory (or conditional), or else complete, irrevocable, and peremptory (or absolute). Likewise, who teach that there is one election to faith and another to salvation, so that there can be an election to justifying faith apart from a peremptory election to salvation.

For this is an invention of the human brain, devised apart from the Scriptures, which distorts the teaching concerning election and breaks up this golden chain of salvation: Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

Who teach that God's good pleasure and purpose, which Scripture mentions in its teaching of election, does not involve God's choosing certain particular people rather than others, but involves God's choosing, out of all possible conditions (including the works of the law) or out of the whole order of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as worthy of the reward of eternal life.

For by this pernicious error the good pleasure of God and the merit of Christ are robbed of their effectiveness and people are drawn away, by unprofitable inquiries, from the truth of undeserved justification and from the simplicity of the Scriptures. It also gives the lie to these words of the apostle: God called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:9).

Who teach that in election to faith a prerequisite condition is that man should rightly use the light of nature, be upright, unassuming, humble, and disposed to eternal life, as though election depended to some extent on these factors.

For this smacks of Pelagius, and it clearly calls into question the words of the apostle: We lived at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive with Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with him and seated us with him in heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages we might show the surpassing riches of his grace, according to his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:3-9).

Who teach that the incomplete and nonperemptory election of particular persons to salvation occurred on the basis of a foreseen faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness, which has just begun or continued for some time; but that complete and peremptory election occurred on the basis of a foreseen perseverance to the end in faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness. And that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, on account of which the one who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. And therefore that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits or effects of an unchangeable election to glory, but indispensable conditions and causes, which are prerequisite in those who are to be chosen in the complete election, and which are foreseen as achieved in them.

This runs counter to the entire Scripture, which throughout impresses upon our ears and hearts these sayings among others: Election is not by works, but by him who calls (Rom. 9:11-12); All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48); He chose us in himself so that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16); If by grace, not by works (Rom. 11:6); In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (1 John 4:10).

Who teach that not every election to salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the chosen can perish and do in fact perish eternally, with no decision of God to prevent it.

By this gross error they make God changeable, destroy the comfort of the godly concerning the steadfastness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scriptures, which teach that the elect cannot be led astray (Matt. 24:24), that Christ does not lose those given to him by the Father (John 6:39), and that those whom God predestined, called, and justified, he also glorifies (Rom. 8:30).

Who teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no assurance of one's unchangeable election to glory, except as conditional upon something changeable and contingent.

For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil's temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8:33).

Who teach that it was not on the basis of his just will alone that God decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation or to pass anyone by in the imparting of grace necessary for faith and conversion.

For these words stand fast: He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he hardens whom he wishes (Rom. 9:18). And also: To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matt. 13:11). Likewise: I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your pleasure (Matt. 11:25-26).

Who teach that the cause for God's sending the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely God's good pleasure, but rather that one people is better and worthier than the other to whom the gospel is not communicated.

For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day (Deut. 10:14-15). And also Christ: Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. 11:21).

* All quotations from Scripture are translations of the original Latin manuscript.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holy Subjection

Real Christianity is a mystery to many people. The way Christians live simply doesn't make sense according to the world's calculations. But we have learned Christ, and we follow in his steps, therefore the way we live makes perfect sense. This way of living as God's holy people does bring suffering, but it also powerfully accomplishes God's good plan.

One facet of living honorable lives for God is submitting ourselves to proper authority. This hits home, literally, in the husband/wife relationship. The Word of God has direct instruction on this which confounds the wisdom of this age, but which also works with a power the world knows nothing of. Come and commit yourself to God's way this Lord's Day!

Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
Now Thank We All Our God (#5)
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (#588)
A Sovereign Protector I Have (#615)
It Is Well with My Soul (#371)
Our Great Savior (#434)

Scripture Reading
Family Relationships Reflect the Trinity - 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Holy Subjection to Husbands - 1 Peter 3:1-6

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forming a More Perfect Union

This is just for fun.

Some time ago my wife and I discovered a "treaty" of sorts drawn up by one of our children (who shall remain nameless) after some disagreements had come up on sharing space. We got a good laugh out of it, and we are also extra glad that our children have to share space. It's good for them.

We, the citizens of the playroom and bedroom, in order to form a more perfect union, do hereby declare that A and B shall not come in the playroom during the time which C and D are dressing, the same opposite or vice versa.

B shall express at which times she would prefer privacy, likewise C and D shall have that privilege.

All citizens of the playroom and bedroom will not come in each other's rooms. They will be polite and bow to each other's wishes on privacy.

Signed, ________________________________________________________

No one signed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Canons of the Synod of Dordt

Once the Remonstrants had put forward their challenge, the Reformed churches of the Netherlands responded by convening a council (also known as a synod) to decide on these doctrinal issues. The majority of the council came from the Netherlands, but there were also voting members from eight foreign countries. These 84 members met in 154 sessions over the course of six months to consider the Arminian position in the light of Scripture. In the end, they completely rejected the five points of doctrine put forward by the Remonstrants. However, they felt it was inadequate to simply refute the Arminian position, so they also adopted a positive statement of Calvinistic beliefs. Thus their statement has been given the name "canons," which refers to a measure or standard of belief. It is important to remember that the synod did not attempt to give a full statement of belief. It only dealt with the five doctrinal points of dispute with the Arminians. It is from this that we get the popularly known "five points of Calvinism."

Besides publishing their canons, the synod endorsed the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, and ordered a thorough revision of the Dutch Bible from the Hebrew and Greek.

I'll reproduce here the first main point of doctrine.

The First Main Point of Doctrine

Divine Election and Reprobation

The Judgment Concerning Divine Predestination Which the Synod Declares to Be in Agreement with the Word of God and Accepted Till Now in the Reformed Churches, Set Forth in Several Articles

Article 1 - God's Right to Condemn All People
Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: "The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God" (Rom. 3:19), "All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).*[Scripture translations are from the Latin manuscript of the synod.]

Article 2 - The Manifestation of God's Love
But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Article 3 - The Preaching of the Gospel
In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15).

Article 4 - A Twofold Response to the Gospel
God's anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God's anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.

Article 5 - The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith
The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Likewise: "It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ" (Phil. 1:29).

Article 6 - God's Eternal Decision
The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For "all his works are known to God from eternity" (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act—unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just—of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.

Article 7 - Election
Election [or choosing] is God's unchangeable purpose by which he did the following:
Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ's fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.

God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace. As Scripture says, "God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, "Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

Article 8 - A Single Decision of Election
This election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God's will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Article 9 - Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith
This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of each of the benefits of salvation. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects. As the apostle says, "He chose us" (not because we were, but) "so that we should be holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

Article 10 - Election Based on God's Good Pleasure
But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, "When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad..., she" (Rebecca)" was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"" (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, "All who were appointed for eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

Article 11 - Election Unchangeable
Just as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing, and almighty, so the election made by him can neither be suspended nor altered, revoked, or annulled; neither can his chosen ones be cast off, nor their number reduced.

Article 12 - The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word— such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

Article 13 - The Fruit of This Assurance
In their awareness and assurance of this election God's children daily find greater cause to humble themselves before God, to adore the fathomless depth of his mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in return to him who first so greatly loved them. This is far from saying that this teaching concerning election, and reflection upon it, make God's children lax in observing his commandments or carnally self-assured. By God's just judgment this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling to walk in the ways of the chosen.

Article 14 - Teaching Election Properly
Just as, by God's wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election has been proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in Old and New Testament times, and has subsequently been committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures, so also today in God's church, for which it was specifically intended, this teaching must be set forth—with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be done for the glory of God's most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.

Article 15 - Reprobation
Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election— those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision:
to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.
And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.

Article 16 - Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation
Those who do not yet actively experience within themselves a living faith in Christ or an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ, but who nevertheless use the means by which God has promised to work these things in us—such people ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to count themselves among the reprobate; rather they ought to continue diligently in the use of the means, to desire fervently a time of more abundant grace, and to wait for it in reverence and humility. On the other hand, those who seriously desire to turn to God, to be pleasing to him alone, and to be delivered from the body of death, but are not yet able to make such progress along the way of godliness and faith as they would like—such people ought much less to stand in fear of the teaching concerning reprobation, since our merciful God has promised that he will not snuff out a smoldering wick and that he will not break a bruised reed. However, those who have forgotten God and their Savior Jesus Christ and have abandoned themselves wholly to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh—such people have every reason to stand in fear of this teaching, as long as they do not seriously turn to God.

Article 17 - The Salvation of the Infants of Believers
Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

Article 18 - The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation
To those who complain about this grace of an undeserved election and about the severity of a just reprobation, we reply with the words of the apostle, "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" (Rom. 9:20), and with the words of our Savior, "Have I no right to do what I want with my own?" (Matt. 20:15). We, however, with reverent adoration of these secret things, cry out with the apostle: "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways beyond tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Singing and Supping

Well, I'm wrapping up for tonight, but before I shut this computer down I thought I would post a couple interesting links I came across today that are relevant to our church. So if you need something to read before you hit the hay, here you go.

What about musical instruments in church? Bill Mounce, author of Basics of Biblical Greek, considers one Greek term and its implications.

And for another aspect of our corporate worship that is very important to us, Russell Moore pens a provocative piece entitled "Swine Flu and the Common Cup."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some Poems I Enjoyed Tonight

All by Wendell Berry, in his collection published as Given (2005). His theology is defective, but his observations are choice.


of the earth
of its own weight

A Passing Thought

I think therefore
I think I am.

The Leader

Head like a big
frequently thumped
and still not ripe.

Called to Follow in Christ's Steps

Last week we began to learn what it means to endure unjust suffering in a truly Christian way, and this Lord's Day we will cap that off with beautifully moving passage, 1 Peter 2:21-25. You won't want to miss it!

Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
O for a Heart to Praise My God (#70)
O Sacred Head Now Wounded (#139)
'Tis the Christ (#150)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)

Scripture Reading
Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Grace in Suffering Subjection (Part 2): Called to Follow in Christ's Steps - 1 Peter 2:21-25

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feminist Totalitarianism vs. Freedom in Christ

Back at the beginning of this year, I read the book Taken into Custody: the War against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family by Stephen Baskerville. This book was recently reviewed by Jennifer Roback Morse in the recently revamped journal The Family in America. She asks, "Has the American family court system become totalitarian?" Using the case of Alec Baldwin as an illustration, she answers unequivocally, "Yes." Here is her conclusion:

Fortunately, we have Professor Baskerville as the great theorist of the feminist influence within the divorce-industrial complex. He sees Marxist feminism for what it is: a totalitarian movement that seeks power and control over every aspect of people's personal lives. The claim of its foot soldiers to be the sole authentic advocates for women has been questionable for some time. But until Americans see that the goal of modern feminism is raw power, even its victims like Alec Baldwin will have trouble freeing themselves from its iron hand.

Feminism has always presented itself as "freedom" - freedom from outdated, oppresive patriarchal structures. But the feminist movement in America has produced tremendous bondage for fathers, mothers, and children, economic bondage, legal bondage, relational bondage. I simply want to point out here that any movement which seeks freedom apart from Christ is going to end up in bondage. This is because the ultimate source of bondage is sin.

Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin....So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34, 36, ESV).

The Five Arminian Articles (Part 3)

Article V
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.

With this final article, the Remonstrants set forward their beliefs concerning certainty of perserverance. They stated that, although grace is sufficient to preserve believers, it is uncertain from the Scriptures whether this grace may be lost through negligence.

Once again, in a little while we will see how the Synod of Dort responded to this teaching. But for now, I just want to illustrate the Arminian view of grace, as seen in Articles 2, 4, and 5. For the Arminian, grace is like a deep well of life-giving water in the middle of the desert. It is free for anyone who wants it, and you can never exhaust its supply. But you have to get to it, and if you leave it you will die. You decide.

This may seem to contradict what the Arminians confessed in Article 3. Arminians say it does not (for example, see here). I say it does. You decide.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Grace in Suffering Subjection

Christians know that we must be subject to authorities in our lives. But what about when that subjection is unjust, even involving suffering? What if we do what is right and still suffer for it? The Word of God ministers strong instruction, consolation, and support for just such a situation, and we will drink of that grace this Lord's Day. Please join us!

O God, Our Help in Ages Past (#49)
Though Troubles Assail (#45)
O Thou in Whose Presence (#451)
Day by Day (#457)
More Secure Is No One Ever (#613)
Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord (#627)

Scripture Reading
Raised with Christ in All of Life - Colossians 3:1-4:1

Grace in Suffering Subjection - 1 Peter 2:18-20

An Analysis of Rap

This week, Scott Aniol posted an analysis of rap, entitled "Can Rap be Christian?" In short, his answer is "No," but you need to read the whole series to understand why.

Can Rap be Christian? The Presuppositions

Can Rap be Christian? Believers and Depravity

Can Rap be Christian? Neutral Things

Can Rap be Christian? Culture

Can Rap be Christian? Evaluating Hip-Hop

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What Is a Normal Education?

Mark Mitchell, a home-schooling father and teacher of political theory, has penned a good article dealing with education. Although we could debate all the specifics of what he says, the strength of his approach is that he asks the crucial question - "By what standard?"

Parents, I encourage you to think long and hard about this question when it comes to training your children.

Simple Legal Brochures

The Christian Law Association can be a helpful resource for information on legal issues. Here is a page of free brochures you can download.

Augustine on the Age of the Earth

I have often seen Augustine cited against a literal reading of Genesis 1. But Benno Zuiddam argues that Augustine actually supported a young earth, and that this was the consistent position of the church until the Enlightenment.

Early Church leaders like Origen, Augustine and Basil were young earth creationists. This view was commonly held within the Church until the 19th century (including Aquinas, Bede, the fourth Lateran council in AD 1215 and Pius X). The Catholic Church of all times and places embraced the traditional doctrine of Creation from the day of Pentecost until the Enlightenment. In the Roman Catholic Church this even continued until the Great War.

(HT: Old Testament Studies)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Five Arminian Articles (Part 2)

Article III
That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”

Article IV
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can nei­ther think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible; inas­much as it is written con­cerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and else­where in many places.

In these two articles, the Arminians set out their view of saving faith and of resistible grace. Arminians have always believed that mankind has no natural ability to exercise saving faith, or for that matter, to do anything that is truly good. Everything good in man, they rightly attribute to the grace of God.

However, they also believe that God's grace "is not irresistible." By this they mean that a man may reject the gracious operations of the Spirit.

We will see later how the Synod of Dort responded to this doctrine. In the mean time, you may want to read the article "Does the Bible Teach Prevenient Grace?" by William W. Combs.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Clarifying the Gospel at the Lord's Table

As a church, we have begun to take much more seriously the proper administration of the Lord's Supper, which means that we have run head-on into some faulty notions that pervade American evangelicalism. These ideas are not only widely held on a popular level, they are also taught by Bible colleges and seminaries. Recently, I was given a copy of Henry C. Thiessen's Lectures in Systematic Theology (revised by Vernon D. Doerksen), which has been widely used as a textbook in Bible colleges. As I dipped into it here and there, I read this from Dr. Thiessen:

Baptism preceded the partaking of the Lord's Supper in the life of the early church as far as we know, but there is no command to that effect, nor is there any proof that believers were excluded from the Lord's Supper until they were baptized. Nor is there any proof that local church membership was a condition. This is 'the table of the Lord,' not the church's table. This is evident from the fact that the individual is asked to examine himself as to his fitness to come to the table; the church is not authorized to sit in judgment upon believers, except in the case of disorderly conduct, false teaching, or participation in unscriptural practices.

This provides a nice opportunity to interact with this position and to describe why it is biblically inconsistent. Let's break this statement down and take it piece by piece.

Baptism preceded the partaking of the Lord's Supper in the life of the early church as far as we know...

This statement is technically correct, but the phrase "as far as we know" makes it sound like this is an unsupported inference from Scripture. Actually, the record in Acts directly states, "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:41-42). We also have examples in Acts which connect believing with baptism. In Acts 8:12, "when they believed...they were baptized." In Acts 8:36, the Ethiopian eunuch's response to the gospel was, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized." The Scripture records that Philip immediately baptized him. In Acts 9, Saul (soon to be Paul) was baptized as soon as he came to other believers in Damascus (v. 18; cf. Acts 22:16). Therefore, our knowledge of the early church practice is stronger than Dr. Thiessen implies.

However, we have more to go on from the Scripture than merely the practice of the early church. We also have a body of clear Scriptural teaching which combines to make a very weighty case for baptism preceding the Lord's Supper. When we consider the New Testament teaching on baptism we find that since the Lord's Supper is for disciples, and since one cannot be a disciple without baptism, then it is impossible to come to the Lord's Supper without being baptized. I'm going to assume here that we agree that the Lord's Supper is for disciples, so I'm going to skip to the next proposition - one cannot be a disciple without baptism. Let me show you this from the Scripture.

First, the Great Commission provides one of the most important statements on baptism in the entire NT. The foundational command in Matthew 28:19 is to make disciples. This is followed by two participles which tell us the means for making disciples: "baptizing them" and "teaching them." How do we make a disciple of Jesus? We first baptize him and then teach him to keep all of Christ's commandments.

Second, this teaching is confirmed in Acts 2 when Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. When thousands in the audience were cut to the heart by the Spirit-empowered preaching about Christ, they asked, "What shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins." In response to this word, "those who received his word were baptized." Christian baptism has, since its inception, been inseparable from conversion. If one turns to Christ, then he is baptized. If one calls on Christ in faith for forgiveness of sins, then he is baptized (Acts 22:16). There simply is no dichotomy between being a disciple and being baptized. The church could only know that one was a fellow disciple by the fact that he professed his repentence from sin and faith in Christ through baptism.

Third, this teaching is further confirmed in that the apostle Paul took it for granted that all believers were baptized. In Ephesians 4:5, he appealed to "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" as the basis of the unity of believers. This appeal would be meaningless if there were people acknowledged as believers who were not baptized. In Galatians 3:27 he wrote, "For as many of you as were baptized have put on Christ." In Colossians 2:12 he said, "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead." The whole point of Romans 6 assumes that believers are baptized. The apostle's thought is grounded in the reality expressed by 1 Corinthians 12:13: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." Or, as we might expand on the translation: "For in the realm of one Spirit we were all baptized with the purpose of making us one body." Christ immerses all believers into the realm of the Spirit (as John the Baptist prophesied, Mark 1:8) so that we become one body.

Fourth, this teaching helps us to understand why the apostle Peter wrote that " saves you" in 1 Peter 3:21. When he made this statement, he clarified what baptism was all about. In fact, in this verse he comes as close as any NT passage does to actually giving us a direct explanation of baptism. He wrote, "...not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Baptism is not merely about getting our bodies cleaned off when we get dunked in water. (By the way, this confirms that it is not the mere act of going through a baptism ceremony that saves us.) Instead, baptism is designed by God to be "an appeal to God for a good conscience." It is an expression of faith that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be cleansed of sin and ultimately exalted with Jesus Christ.

Given this NT teaching about baptism, we can begin to see why the next statement by Dr. Thiessen misses the point entirely.

...but there is no command to that effect, nor is there any proof that believers were excluded from the Lord's Supper until they were baptized. Nor is there any proof that local church membership was a condition.

Arguing that there is no command to be baptized before partaking of the Lord's Supper is like arguing that since there is no command in my automobile owner's manual to have an engine in my car before I drive it, I don't have to have an engine. If I feel like driving it without an engine, then I can. But this is ridiculous because of the very nature of the way a car works. Nobody needs a command like this. A car comes with an engine for a reason. In a similar way, if we understand the very nature of discipleship in the NT, as stated in the Great Commission, then we don't need a command to baptize people before they come to the Lord's Supper. It is just the way it works. Being a disciple comes with baptism as part of the package.

Likewise, saying that there is no proof that local church membership is a condition for partaking of the Lord's Supper misses the point. To be baptized is basically to be admitted into the membership of a functioning church. Any church which would baptize someone, but then refuse him membership, is acting in self-contradictory ways. As in Acts 2:41, these things are inseparable links in a chain. Speaking in terms of NT thought, you can't have baptism without church membership.

Dr. Thiessen goes on to defend his position by saying, This is 'the table of the Lord,' not the church's table. This is evident from the fact that the individual is asked to examine himself as to his fitness to come to the table....

In this we have a false dichotomy. The fact that it is the table of the Lord says nothing about what the church's role in administering the table might be. Why can the Lord's authorization be directed only to the individual and not also through the church? Furthermore, the fact that the individual is asked to examine himself as to his fitness means exactly that and nothing more. It says nothing about whether the church also has a responsibility in the matter.

Certainly, it is possible for a church to take to itself too much or the wrong kind of authority. This error is writ large on the pages of history by the example of the Roman Catholic Church, and it has happened in Protestant churches, too. But the solution to this is not to strip the church of all responsibility and authority in the matter. Today, the much more common error is individualism, and individualism will destroy discipleship and Great Commission living just as surely and as thoroughly as any other error.

Dr. Thiessen concludes his statement in this way: the church is not authorized to sit in judgment upon believers, except in the case of disorderly conduct, false teaching, or participation in unscriptural practices.

Once again, Dr. Thiessen is technically correct in what he says. But in saying this, he actually undermines his whole point. It is exactly right that the church has the authority to sit in judgment upon believers in the case of disorderly conduct, false teaching, or participation in unscriptural practices. Since it is scripturally out of order for a person to be given the public status of a believer in good standing without baptism (and its inseparable companion, church membership), then the church has the authority to bar an unbaptized person from the Lord's Table. In no way is the church exceeding its God-given jurisdiction by doing this. Instead, the church is using its God-given authority to make clear what discipleship is. In effect, the church that properly fences the Lord's Table is proclaiming the pure gospel to a world that is desperately confused as to what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tradition and Church Planting

A couple weeks ago the blog published a little "epistle" that I wrote about being a traditional church planter. I did not link to it here immediately because I wanted to give time for the discussion there to taper off (not that there was a lot of discussion on it, but at least the article was interesting enough to generate a little discussion!). I would encourage you to read it and the discussion that followed and let me know what you think.

A Sermon for the President

The title of this Lord's Day sermon is:

A Sermon for President Obama, a Servant of the One True God

Enough said. Invite friends and come to worship the Lord.

Praise Ye the Lord (#42)
Praise the Savior (#17)
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim (#44)
Look Ye Saints (#163)
This Is My Father's World (#61)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)

Scripture Reading
The New Jerusalem - Revelation 21:9-27

See above

Update: You can listen to this sermon here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Discipled by Debt-Economics

Following up on the last post, I thought I'd throw in a word relating to an opinion piece in the New York Times by David Brooks. Brooks is not consistent at all, but he seems to have some conservative instincts which pop out from time to time. In this article, his conservative instincts are on the money...literally. He argues that America needs a moral revival in how we use our money, and he is right. You can read it all here.

But in relationship to the last post, let me make this connection. We are always going to be discipled by someone or something. If the church is not doing its disciple-making work, empowered by the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, in the authority of Christ, then the world will happily take up the slack. Early Americans, whether they were genuine believers in Christ or not, had largely been discipled by Christian ideals. That's why Brooks is exactly right when he says, "The early settlers believed in Calvinist restraint." Debt was abhorent to them.

But the "prosperity" of the last couple generations of Americans has been built on debt, and "Christians" have been well-taught in the world's economic school. Since we have not been discipled by the Word in our homes and churches, we have been discipled by debt-economics in our schools and corporations.

"Jesus and Me" Is Not Bible Christianity

Christ has commanded us to make disciples of all nations. The institutional form which he gave us to do this is the church, and the functional boundary markers of the church are baptism and the Lord's Supper. If you understand this, then you can see why a failure to fence the Lord's Supper dismantles the church as an institution and results in the failure to make disciples.

So few American "Christians" understand this, however. At HCBC, we are working hard to recover this absolutely crucial idea.

Since we have been working on this, let me share with you the thoughts and experiences of another pastor, Tim Bayly. He recently wrote:

Far and away the largest number of souls who have rejected Church of the Good Shepherd's doctrine in the past decade, investigating us but leaving for somewhere else, left because we require a believer be a member in good standing of some evangelical, Bible-believing church to join with us at the Lord's Table.

We fence the Table quite inclusively, really. I use the liturgy of the old Scottish Book of Worship and it's a balm for weak souls trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. But then, at the end, I warn off those who reject Christ's authority, rejecting the authority of elders over their own soul. If they believe they can relate directly to God, bypassing the ministry and authority of His Church, this rebellion disqualifies them from communing with us, I tell them.
Of course, I go on to show them how easily they may correct the matter...

He goes on to say,

The fruit of yesterday's and today's evangelicalism (which very much includes churches of my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America) hates ecclesiastical authority as much as domestic and civil authority. And everything they've been taught leads them to believe that "me and Jesus" is all there is. Thus their right to the Lord's Table comes directly from Jesus, Himself. Did He not command them, "This do ye in remembrance of me?" He's the One Who invites them to the Table--not any pastor or elder. How dare we bar them from obeying what Jesus has commanded. It's just not right.

Sadly, individual Christians have not come up with this on their own. They were taught it by their former pastors. Intentionally.

Well, the accounting's been done and the fruit of our complicity with the Me and Jesus, Plus Nothing theology is in. As the ARIS puts it: "The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion."

Precisely. I am completely convinced that the greatest obstacle to the gospel and the mission of Christ in Colorado Springs is not unbelievers. It is the "Christians" and "churches." This includes many "conservative" churches. Following Christ is thought of in largely interior and individualistic terms. People have been effectively discipled out of Christ's disciple-making institution, the local church.

Folks, our efforts to reclaim the proper fencing of the Lord's Supper are not an arcane, abstract exercise in theological hair-splitting. They are a passionate effort to do exactly what Christ commanded us to do - make disciples.

Souls are at stake.

The gospel is at stake.

The glory of Christ is at stake.

It is highly revealing that many Christians think that we can reclaim our society through political action and targeted para-church ministries, but don't have a clue about Christ's disciple-making institution and its fundamental tools - the Word and the ordinances.

Let's make a difference by showing the world (and by showing the "church") the real deal. Bible Christianity is church Christianity.